Hey, kids, Jimmy the Fetus here, your guide to moral values in the Midwest, helping everybody see that what we learned in Sunday school really matters.
I knew Newsweek was full of shit. There's no way you can flush a Quran down the toilet. It gets stuck every time. But I'm finding that if you tear out the pages in small batches, it gets the job done (but takes a damn long time).
Your joke is in really poor taste, and I wish you wouldn't send me letters in the future. Jimmy the Fetus cannot condone that kind of sacrilegious behavior, and I just want to point out to our Muslim readers -- particularly those most prone to blowing up things -- that we would never, ever treat a Quran like that. As The Kansas City Star recently pointed out in a story in its Faith section, Muslims react violently to the desecration of the Quran because it truly is the word of God, and if you were going to wipe your ass on a holy book before flushing it, you'd choose a less inspiring work like the Bible every time. I have to admit, I was actually kind of surprised when the Star made that point, but I can see now that, of course, it makes perfect sense. Really. As a matter of fact, my knees may not have solidified yet, but does anyone know the direction of Mecca?
Got a moral quandary? E-mail Jimmy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highway to Hell
The Pitch seems to have struck a nerve with its KC Strip column of May 26, which called Highway 71, also known as Bruce R. Watkins Drive, a "misguided monument to political correctness." The column got attention on local television and radio, particularly because the story revealed that one of the road's architects, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, now appears to understand that its freeway-with-signal-lights design may have been a mistake.
How dangerous is Highway 71? Over the three years from 2002 to 2004, the three intersections that interrupt traffic flow were the site of 443 accidents, 209 injuries and 2 deaths. Missouri State Rep. Craig Bland wants a study to determine how those numbers compare to other roads, a prelude to possibly removing the intersections by building overpasses. Bland gathered several highway and political leaders at a meeting in Kansas City on Saturday to discuss the possibility of changing the freakish freeway-highway hybrid that has so many Kansas Citians upset.
A highlight of the meeting: Romell Cooks, a federal highway official, praised Kansas City police for assembling a video to convince teenage drivers -- particularly minority motorists -- that safety belts are essential. Cooks noted how police were scaring young drivers with gruesome footage, describing in detail one scene that involved a young black driver who had been thrown clear of his car in a collision on Highway 71 -- only to be de-brained when another car ran over his head.
Still, not everyone had come to the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center to support Bland's efforts.
Mamie Hughes, who had served as the highway project's ombudsman for many years, practically scolded the small gathering for forgetting the highway's long, contentious history. The black community saw the road's construction as a slap in the face and demanded that it be "less than a freeway and more than a parkway," she reminded Bland, Cleaver, highway officials and community members who were present.
Cleaver made it clear that he hasn't forgotten the highway's history. He recounted that, at one time, he was perhaps the strongest advocate of the decision to plant three traffic lights at 55th and 59th streets and Gregory Boulevard in the middle of what otherwise looks and drives like a freeway. Cleaver was mayor of Kansas City then. He said, "I was for the lights, and that's how they got put in."
But today? "If people have changed their minds, I'll go with them," he told the gathering.
Two weeks ago, the KC Strip reported that a Missouri Department of Transportation spokesman was skeptical about making changes. He said building three overpasses would take up to $75 million just in construction costs. But Saturday, MoDOT district engineer Beth Wright told the assembly that the project could be done more cheaply. The highway department predicted that people would change their minds about the road, so overpasses have already been designed and right-of-ways purchased, making the project more affordable. She estimated that all three overpasses could be put in for about $41 million. (Former MoDOT Commissioner James Gamble, who was also present, said similar overpasses in rural areas are routinely done much more cheaply but for some reason get astronomical in the city.)
Wright said the state would have to hear a lot of noise from the affected areas in order to make a change a priority.
But it was clear that Hughes and other supporters of the present road configuration thought most of the griping was coming from white drivers who don't like stopping on the highway that takes them from the southern suburbs to downtown. Former city councilman and longtime gadfly Richard Tolbert challenged that view. The road is just as inconvenient for blacks living nearby, who have to cross the highway at intersections where the lights can take several minutes to change, said Tolbert (who is black). "It looks like a freeway. It's designed like a freeway. But it's probably the most dangerous road in America," Tolbert said.
Later, in the hallway outside, Hughes and Tolbert got into a finger-pointing session that reflected the current division in the community that had once been united in its design demands.
"You have to stop calling it a freeway!" Hughes told Tolbert.
"It is a freeway, Mamie. That's exactly what it is."