Monthly Archives: September 2006

Open thread

White House in a ‘State of Denial’

Bob Woodward’s new book, “State of Denial,” reportedly describes a White House that ignored urgent warnings from Iraq, dismissed assessments from U.S. commanders in Iraq, and was so dysfunctional that President Bush had to tell Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to return the phone calls of then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
The book also reports that former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card twice urged Bush to fire Rumsfeld — once with the support of first lady Laura Bush. But Bush didn’t do it, in part, Woodward reports, because Vice President Dick Cheney and political adviser Karl Rove told him not to.
More excerpts from the book, which isn’t released until Monday, will appear in the Washington Post this weekend. Woodward is also doing an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Another complaint about Kline’s comparison

State Sen. Donald Betts, D-Wichita, seconded our complaint about Attorney General Phill Kline’s likening of an anti-abortion member of his staff to Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King, calling on Kline to “refrain from using the titans of the civil-rights movement to advance his personal political agenda.” In response, Kline told the Associated Press Thursday, “What I’ve stated is that this nation has a long history of respecting civil disobedience and peaceful protest. And what I mentioned was that Rosa Parks was engaged in such, and I respect her for that expression.” Respecting civil disobedience is one thing, but the issue is whether it was wise for Kline to hire Bryan Brown as his consumer affairs chief in 2003, after Brown’s dozen arrests and failure to pay a $61,000 court judgment in Indiana.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Time to give higher ed its due

During the fiscal crisis and school finance crisis, Kansas’ higher education system had to wait its turn for greater legislative attention and funding. But in the meantime, as we observed in an editorial, tuition hikes have pushed more and more burden onto students and their families, and the problem of deferred maintenance projects on campuses is up to more than $600 million. A new Kansas Board of Regents study also showed that the state’s portion of tax dollars supporting higher education has declined from 49 percent in 1985 to 29 percent last year, as the portion of funding that universities get from tuition has risen from 15 percent to 23 percent.
Some lawmakers will oppose more money for higher ed — perhaps by arguing, as Rep. Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, has, that the universities have sought more independence and that employers now care less about degrees than specialized training. But as we argued, “most Kansans will see it as the state’s responsibility to give higher education the resources necessary to keep buildings in good condition and attract top professors and students.”
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Wichitans need to stop whining

Bob Hamrick has a commentary in today’s Eagle urging his fellow Wichitans to stop whining about the Rolling Stones concert. Some of the naysaying includes: Tickets cost too much. So what if we got the Stones, so did Missoula. They still haven’t sold out the stadium. And now, no one has heard of the opening band. “Nothing is ever quite right here in River City,” Hamrick wrote.
Our editorial today also notes that those who seem to take pleasure in arguing that there’s nothing to do in Wichita certainly can’t say that this weekend — if they ever can. Besides the Stones concert, options include the first Kansas Book Festival today and Saturday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, the Downtown Chili Cookoff and the Great Plains Renaissance Festival. There are also concerts, a rodeo, theater performances and much more.
As Hamrick put it: “All you have to do is show up, shut up and listen.”
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Torture bill will end up in court

It’s not surprising that the New York Times editorial board opposes the detainee interrogation bill that the Senate approved Thursday night. But its editorial Thursday is worth reading, because it provides a concise list of what it sees as the bill’s biggest flaws — including “a dangerously broad definition of illegal enemy combatant” that could give a president the power “to apply this label to anyone he wanted.”
One thing that seems clear is that the bill will end up in court. In fact, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (in photo), R-Pa., is counting on that. He had said the bill was “patently unconstitutional on its face” and tried to amend it. Yet he ended up voting for it anyway, explaining that “the court will clean it up” by striking the habeas corpus provisions, the Washington Post reported.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Open thread

Name that religious extremist

As part of an editorial calling for tighter limits on funeral protests, the Daily Union in Junction City asked readers to pick which quote goes with which source: Al-Qaida’s Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, or Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps.
It’s harder than you’d think. Here are the quotes:
A) “Death is better than living on this earth with the unbelievers among us, making a mockery of our religion.”
B) “Stay tuned — it won’t be long and you will have so many dead bodies . . . that you won’t be able to bury them.”
C) “Regardless of how the world has changed after (Sept. 11), ‘Death to America’ will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: Death to America.”
D) “The world and the United States of America . . . in particular, have deeply corrupted themselves and incurred the wrath of God.”
E) “Your doomed destiny will be annihilation, misfortune and abjectness.”
F) “God hates the U.S.A. and America is doomed.”
G) “The Bush presidency was a bunch of cocky fools. . . . They threw themselves, their people and their nation into a sea of fire from which they are uselessly trying to secure themselves.”
Answers: A) Bin Laden, B) Phelps, C) Nasrallah, D) Phelps, E) Ahmadinejad, F) Phelps, G) Zawahiri.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Hard for Iraqi police to stand up when building is falling down

The $75 million police training facility in Iraq, which was to be a key part of U.S. efforts to help Iraqis take control of their own security, was so poorly constructed that feces and urine now rain from the ceilings in student barracks, and the campus may need to be partially demolished, the Washington Post reported. “This is the most essential civil security project in the country — and it’s a failure,” said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. “The Baghdad police academy is a disaster.”
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Next Congress needs to aim higher

The phrase “do-nothing Congress” is used so often that one wonders if it has always applied and always will. But as the 109th Congress prepares to adjourn this weekend, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein offer some depressing context in a Los Angeles Times commentary. The 11 appropriations bills are unfinished. More than 25 of the year’s fewer than 100 days in session have seen no votes scheduled before 6:30 p.m., and the typical congressional workweek now lasts from Tuesday evening through noon Thursday. Of greater concern to the authors, though, is how Congress increasingly pushes through “sloppy and ill-considered legislation” to score political points. “The framers wanted Congress to move slowly and deliberately,” they write. “But today, it is common to spring on the House and Senate a 1,000-page bill that has not been through any vetting process. With little notice and no time for anyone to read the bill, much less absorb or analyze it, with no amendments allowed, the leadership demands a party-line, up-or-down vote. This is a formula for poor oversight and worse law.”
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Fresh paint won’t fix Cowtown’s maintenance problems

A few of the health and safety violations the city of Wichita found at Old Cowtown Museum seem petty. But many others are quite serious and, according to a letter given to Cowtown’s board this week by City Manager George Kolb, could endanger visitors and staff. Granted, it isn’t easy to keep mice, cockroaches and rain out of old, wooden buildings. But the letter revealed that Cowtown’s maintenance problems are sizable and won’t be fixed just by slapping on a fresh coat of paint.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Fox, Wright not answering the calls

The decision by local conservative pastors Joe Wright and Terry Fox to end their talk radio program, “Answering the Call,” is the latest setback for Fox in his aim of reaching a larger audience with his fire-and-brimstone political message.
The duo say their top-rated weekly radio program, launched two years ago, can’t find enough financial supporters willing to underwrite the $10,000 monthly needed to stay on the air.
The cancellation seems to be yet more fallout from Fox’s departure from Immanuel Baptist Church, where he was blamed, among other things, for diverting mission money to the radio program.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

British intelligence document also grim

A leaked British intelligence document reportedly supports the findings of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate: that the war in Iraq has increased extremism. “Iraq has served to radicalize an already disillusioned youth, and al-Qaida has given them the will, intent, purpose and ideology to act,” the BBC quoted the document as saying. The document also accuses Pakistan’s intelligence agency of indirectly supporting terrorist groups including al-Qaida — a claim that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and a representative of Britain’s ministry of defense denied.
Meanwhile, Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with President Bush Wednesday night and pledged increased cooperation in fighting terrorism. The two neighboring leaders had been blaming each other for not doing enough to combat extremism and to find Osama bin Laden, who each thinks is hiding in the other’s country.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Guv candidates don’t earn green colors

The Kansas Sierra Club isn’t endorsing either Gov. Kathleen Sebelius or Republican challenger Jim Barnett in the upcoming election, our editorial today reported. Neither has exhibited “environmental leadership,” according to the group’s latest Planet Kansas newsletter.
The group is especially disappointed in Sebelius’ lack of action in developing Kansas’ wind power potential, which is rated among the highest in the nation. Among other things, it would like to see her push for a renewable energy portfolio, which would require utility companies to develop a percentage of their energy from renewables such as wind and solar by a target date.
The governor recently told The Eagle editorial board that she is a big supporter of renewable energy, including wind, but what has she actually done during her term? Nothing bold. Her efforts to moderate the controversy over siting wind power in the Flint Hills by setting up a regional buffer zone is a modest accomplishment at best.
“She needs to lead the way,” said Sierra Club spokesman Craig Wolfe.
Barnett met with the group and expressed support for renewables as an economic development opportunity for Kansas, but his record wasn’t impressive enough to warrant support.
Would the club — often associated with liberals and Democrats — be comfortable endorsing a Republican? Absolutely, said Wolfe. It would and has in other state races.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Death threats over evolution

The federal judge who struck down the decision by the Dover, Pa., school board to teach intelligent design in science classes, John E. Jones III (in photo), told a Lawrence audience Tuesday that he spent a week under protection of federal marshals due to death threats — a “sad statement,” he said, on the lack of public understanding of the role of judges. “These criticisms point at something in the way that both the pundits and the public tend to perceive judges. It is false, it is debilitating and if unchallenged, I believe it will ultimately tear at the fabric of our system of justice in the United States.”
Jones added another good caution: “As we spend time, as we did in the Dover case, debating what to put in the science curriculum in our schools, we had better start paying attention to the curriculum of civics and government, as well as history.”
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Campaign ads are emphasizing negative

Here’s a sad testament to these politically testy times: Of the 30 or so campaign ads rolled out across the country Tuesday in contested congressional races, three are positive. According to the New York Times, the unflattering subject matter goes beyond voting records and campaign donations into personal finances, business histories and even old student writings, presented with lots of “shadowy images, breathless announcers, jagged music and a dizzying array of statistics, counterstatistics and vote citations.” By comparison, Kansas’ air wars in the gubernatorial and attorney general races seem pretty tame so far.
Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, doesn’t appear to have been included in the Times’ review, likely because his race isn’t considered to be competitive. But Tiahrt has a positive commercial up this week that emphasizes jobs and his efforts to keep the U.S. economy competitive.
Meanwhile, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ new ad expresses her disappointment with Jim Barnett’s anti-immigration commercial.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

At least Fitzgerald worked cheap

Revelations that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, not some partisan gun-slinger, outed CIA agent Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak have people wondering what will become of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s related perjury case against Vice President Dick Cheney’s former top aide, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, which goes to trial early next year. If the investigation by Fitzgerald (in photo) now fizzles out, at least it will have been comparatively cheap. According to NBC News, the three-year probe has cost $1.5 million, compared with independent counsel David Barrett’s decade-long, $23 million probe of former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros, and Ken Starr’s $64 million investigation of Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Health insurance is the best employee benefit

The good news is that the 7.7 percent increase this year in health insurance premiums is the lowest increase since 2000. The bad news is that it is still twice the annual rate of inflation.
Currently, the average annual family premium is $11,480. This is too much for many employers to absorb. As a result, since 2000, the percentage of firms offering health benefits has fallen to 61 percent from 69 percent.
Some employers are trying to help themselves and their employees by offering plans with high deductibles and employee health savings plans to place more of the burden upon the employee. This may be an answer for some, but many can’t afford to get sick with a $2,000 annual deductible.
Posted by Angie Holladay
doctorout photo

Comedy Central and the president of Pakistan

Anyone catch “The Daily Show” Tuesday night?
Granted, Gen. Pervez Musharraf was there to hawk his book “In the Line of Fire,” but it was still remarkable. He was the first sitting president to appear on the show.
The Pakistani seemed relaxed — and frequently amused — as he sipped tea with Jon Stewart. Asked who would win if George Bush and Osama bin Laden both ran for election in Pakistan, Musharraf chuckled and replied, “Both would lose miserably.”
Posted by Dave Knadler

Show should go on — including severed heads

In Europe, a new controversy has broken out over free speech, this time over a Berlin production of Mozart’s opera “Idomeneo,” which was canceled for fears that Muslims would violently object to a scene in which King Idomeneo comes in carrying the severed heads of Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha and the sea god Poseidon.
It’s good to hear that Berlin’s Deutsche Oper is reconsidering its decision to cancel.
Ali Ertan Toprak, a representative of Germany’s Shiite Muslim community, told reporters he didn’t agree with calling off the production. “We can’t be defensive in this way against terrorism if we want to live in a free and democratic society,” he noted.
The West needs to stop apologizing for perceived insults to hypersensitive Muslim radicals and start championing its free-speech values. Don’t let Islamic radicals shout down Western ideas — or, worse, scare us into cultural self-censorship.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Open thread

Sebelius not sure what to do about Phelps

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview with The Eagle editorial board last week that she was discouraged by the persistent backward image of Kansas held by some outsiders — and pointed to funeral picket Fred Phelps as a major contributor to that negative image.
But she’s chosen not to speak out against Phelps, she said, because she doesn’t want to give him what he thrives on — publicity. Still, she sounded a note of frustration. “I don’t know what to do about Fred,” she said. “I’ve never known what to do about Fred.”
Meanwhile, one of Fred’s daughters, Margie, had a Reader Views letter in The Eagle Tuesday complaining about how the family’s funeral protests have been portrayed. She vowed that her clan would never be silenced, “because the prophets of God can’t be shut up.”
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Now Mel Gibson has really done it

So much for Mel Gibson being the Hollywood darling of the religious right. “The Passion of the Christ” director first went on his notorious drunken, anti-Semitic rant. Now he has compared the Mayan civilization depicted in his new movie to the United States, which he suggested was in decline. “What’s human sacrifice if not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason?” he asked.
Conservative radio talk show host Michael Medved responded: “If these anti-war comments are the beginning of an ill-considered, organized campaign to get back into the good graces of the Hollywood establishment that gave him the Oscar for ‘Braveheart,’ so he can show he’s not different from them and march arm-in-arm with Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, there will be a great deal of disgust from the people who have enjoyed Mel’s movies in the past.”
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Coffee is cleared, but is the hot topic back?

Clearer minds have prevailed as the government lifted the 6-week-old liquid restrictions, allowing airline passengers once again to pass through security checkpoints with a small bottle of hand cream, and to carry on drinks purchased after they’ve gone through security. This makes travel much easier for many people.
However, does this mean Sarah’s Bakery owner Steve Habtemariam needs to worry again about Starbucks, which put on hold its plans to open a store in Wichita Mid-Continent Airport because of the security restrictions?
Posted by Angie Holladay

Bolton back talk cure for what ails U.N.?

Americans briefly set aside their partisanship and joined in denouncing what Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said about President Bush last week at the United Nations — a phenomenon that inspired the Crowson’s View editorial cartoon Sunday. But Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., went further than calling Chavez’s comments “despicable” on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday. “I would say that this is an argument to get John Bolton confirmed as our U.N. ambassador,” McCain said, about Senate Democrats’ continued opposition to making Bolton’s recess appointment official. “He’s smart, he’s tough, he would respond to these guys. And he could talk back to these two-bit dictators who have the airfare to New York.”
Posted by Rhonda Holman