pope lectured his audience on the evils
of contraception. (UPI June 9.) In a predictably sexist harangue, he proclaimed:
"If man's right to life is violated at the
moment in which he is first conceived
in his mother's womb, an indirect blow is
struck also at the whole of the moral
order which serves to ensure the inviolable rights of man."
It was a pleasant surprise to see
a local commentary on the
editorial page of the Houston
Post (July 10). It would seem a natural
function of our local papers to present
Houston's news media have never
exactly been known for a hardhitting, skeptical approach to reporting the nation's adventures into space.
It doesn't take much thought to see why
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ranks second only to the oil
industry on local news organizations' list
of sacred cows.
But during the recent saturation coverage of the fall of Skylab, the Post sent up
record-high gushers about NASA's adventure out of space. Wednesday, July
11, the day the most massive object humans have ever sent to orbit the planet
was expected to crash, science writer
Jim Maloney described the troubled
The Post commentary is a numbing illustration of
how a "distinguished scholar-scientist'9 is not
necessarily able to communicate in plain English.
Unfortunately, the pleasure was shortlived. The commentary, by Norman
Hackerman, president of Rice University,
is a numbing illustration of how a
"distinguished scholar-scientist" (Post
description) is not necessarily able to
communicate in plain English.
Hackerman's article, "There is no
energy crisis," begins with the words
"The title is not at all poly anna, but
is instead realism." It's all downhill
from there, as he tries to explain why the
present energy situation should be viewed
"The effect of approaching the present
state of affairs as a long-term problem
rather than as a reaction to a crisis is
to begin the necessary adjustment to the
real problem. Instead of a series of debilitating oscillations, the system should be
damped while a modicum of control is
"This will permit true long-term
responses to be focused and put in place.
If the latter are truly available, it will be
enough then to upgrade again our
standard condition to a state to which we
had become accustomed.
"... But consider that the oscillations leave each of us at the mercy of an
uncontrolled system and provides no
basis for planning our own activities, the
latter impinging on our freedom to an
even greater extent."
Note that his "latters" are unfettered
by "formers" and his "oscillations . . .
provides." Even "polyanna" would frown
"Without question there are in these
words irritating, perhaps ignorant arguments," he admits. "Yet it seems clear,"
he continues, "that the proper approach
is to consider the current condition as
the normal one rather than that of the
past few decades, and one with which
we can be more at ease since it eliminates non-existent dilemmas."
The Post informs us that Hackerman, former president of the University of Texas, is "Chairman of the
National Science Foundation. He was
awarded the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Chemists in 1978." So
maybe he can eliminate non-existent
One wonders, though, why the Post
did not have Hackerman eliminate them
on the Sound-off page rather than the
commentary page. Were the editors
perhaps intimidated by his credentials?
Commentaries are a valuable part of
a newspaper. They communicate a point
of view. If that point is obscured by poor
use of language, it becomes difficult to
accept its validity.
This is the only point made clear by
craft in the lead of a page-one story as
"the derelict space station which has
done everything asked of it." (Poor
thing!) The headline on the continuation of the story inside read, "Skylab
likely to land today."
Portraying the imminent plummeting
breakup of the multi-million-dollar satellite as a landing was not the worst of it,
though. In an article Tuesday on upcoming television coverage of the space
station's demise, the Post's C. W. Skipper
offered a terse, tortured tribute to technology. Skipper had just the puffery to
describe the potentiaDy disastrous 77-ton
smash-up. He dubbed it simply "Skylab's
The phone company has a secret, and they're not about to
tell you what it is unless you
already know what it is.
The secret is, you are entitled to have
a dual listing in the phone book. That
means that if you and your spouse are
now listed under John Smith, you are
entitled to be listed as John and Mary
Smith (or Mary and John Smith) at no
The Federal Communications Commission ruled three years ago that phone companies must provide a free dual listing for
customers who request it.
Southwestern Bell spokesperson Ken
Brasel draws a blank when it comes to specifics. He is not aware that his company
must provide this service. He "presumes"
that there was a need, and that the phone
company is filling that need voluntarily.
"It's there," he said, "and all people
have to do is ask for it." So ask for it.
They certainly are not going to offer it.
The deadline for the next Houston directory is AUGUST 17. So call the phone
company if you would like a dual listing.
After all, Brasel says, "It's nothing
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