Monthly Archives: January 2007

Shouldn’t a $632 million tax cut be hard to miss?

State lawmakers last week learned that in a Kansas Chamber of Commerce survey of 300 business owners and leaders, a startling 46 percent overall and 32 percent of those in manufacturing said they were unaware that the state eliminated the property tax on new business equipment and machinery last year. Yet 31 percent of those surveyed cited too much taxation as a prime concern. The good news: 77 percent of the businesses that knew about the tax cut said it had encouraged new investment. For one, as Gov. Kathleen Sebelius noted in her State of the State speech: General Motors is making a $200 million investment in its Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kan., “thanks in large part to the elimination of this tax.”
Maybe business owners are too busy running their businesses to keep up with business news.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Open thread

Raising the stakes against Iranian agents

If you’re an Iranian operative in Iraq, your morning commute just got a little tougher.
The White House said Friday that U.S. forces in Iraq are now free to take whatever actions deemed necessary — including death — to counter agents aiding attacks on American troops.
The United States detained five Iranians in northern Iraq last month. If it’s been killing others, we probably won’t hear about it.
At first blush, it makes sense to raise the stakes for the Iranians — this is war. But a public announcement of the policy seems counterproductive, handing our foes a valuable propaganda card when a bullet meant for an Iranian operative inevitably hits someone who isn’t.
Posted by Dave Knadler

Discover the Ark River

Our editorial today gives belated props to those — including blogger Ben Huie — who are working to add new access points on the Arkansas River from west of Hutchinson through Wichita to Oxford. Organizers say the plan isn’t solely for canoeists, kayakers and fishermen. Some of the access points could be parklike places for people to hike, camp or just watch the river flow. As the editorial notes: “If we want people to discover and appreciate Kansas, we’ve got to provide access to it. This river plan is a great start.”
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Should public dollars fix classrooms only?

As lawmakers are acknowledging the need to do something about crumbling buildings on the state university campuses, some want to cut athletic facilities from the to-do list. The thinking is that funds could be raised privately for athletic buildings. Still, if universities chose to press the issue, they could argue that gymnasiums and stadiums are state buildings, and no less deserving of state care than classrooms. Meanwhile, the House-passed help this week — $15 million a year for five years — wouldn’t make much headway on the full $727 million work list. At that rate of investment, it would take half a century to finish the repairs needed now.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Did Roberts cave under Cheney’s pressure?

Vice President Dick Cheney exerted "constant" pressure on Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., then-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to delay a report on the White House’s alleged misuse of intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq, claims the new chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
Staff members of Cheney and Roberts are denying Rockefeller’s account. Roberts’ people blamed the delays on Democrats who kept expanding the scope of the investigation. The vice president’s spokeswoman called Roberts a "good chairman" of the committee.
But does "good" for Cheney in this case mean "compliant"?
And given what we know about Cheney’s hardball politics, is it that hard to imagine him pressuring Roberts? The bottom line: The country never got the promised and long-delayed report during Roberts’ watch.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

How many consultants are too many?

Sedgwick County Commissioner Gwen Welshimer recently said that local citizens are "sick of consultants." I think she’s right. But how many consultants are too many? I try to answer that question in my column today, by "hiring" a consultant.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Open thread

Cheney may be dour, but he’s upbeat on Iraq

Maybe Vice President Dick Cheney is trying to be the bad cop to President Bush’s good one. Or maybe he’s not been watching the same news as the rest of us.
How else can you explain Cheney’s combative tone Wednesday, when he cited “enormous successes” in Iraq and vowed that congressional opposition “won’t stop us” from sending more troops to Iraq?
Cheney, perhaps testy after a clash between his wife, Lynne, and CNN interviewer Wolf Blitzer last fall, also dismissed Blitzer’s reference to U.S. mistakes in Iraq as “hogwash.”
Quite a contrast from the somewhat chastened tone Bush has struck in recent weeks.
Posted by Dave Knadler

Of gay sheep, virgin dragons

A couple of news stories this week that some will probably claim are part of the liberal media’s agenda to promote homosexuality and undermine fatherhood: An Oregon scientist has been taking undeserved heat for his research on why about 8 percent of rams seek sex exclusively with other rams instead of ewes, the New York Times reported. And a Komodo dragon in England had five babies (see photo) even though a male has never been near her — the first documented virgin birth by a Komodo. What’s next, a story about dogs and cats living together?
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Brownback’s opposition to surge has its limits

Kansans may be having trouble reconciling Sen. Sam Brownback’s criticism of the troop surge plan with his lack of support for a Senate resolution opposing the surge. Speaking to reporters Thursday, he clarified his stand somewhat: “I think what we ought to be discussing now as these resolutions move forward is what we should support, not what we’re opposed to, and what we can pull together on, not what we’re divided on.” That means he might support a less partisan resolution drafted by Sen. John Warner, R-Va.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Wichita lawmakers voice SRS concerns

Two Wichita state senators raised some serious concerns about the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services during the confirmation hearing of Don Jordan as SRS secretary, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Republican Jean Schodorf (pictured) said she was concerned with employee burnout due to high caseloads and with patients falling through the cracks. “We’ve all heard the stories of someone being put off for months and months until something terrible happens,” she said. Democrat Donald Betts said that after hearing complaints from constituents frustrated with an SRS office, he personally visited the agency. “I was treated like a second-class citizen until they found out who I was,” Betts said. Jordan responded that it was his goal for staff members to treat one another and the people they encountered with respect. “I want to focus on doing the job right,” he said.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Thanks for a great meet-up

Thanks to all the bloggers (about 25) who attended the meet-up tonight. A good time was had by all. It was fun to meet some of you again and others for the first time. Thanks also for your good suggestions on how we might improve the blog.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Graver threat is in Pakistan

While we’re getting ready to surge in Iraq, Bush administration terrorism experts are saying that a graver and more immediate threat is in Pakistan’s tribal areas, where al-Qaida and Taliban fighters have regrouped. And the experts and an intelligence assessment given to Congress call for more troops and funding in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But we’re unable to adequately respond because, as one State Department official said, "we’re trapped in . . . this overwhelming Iraq focus."
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Why you shouldn’t count out Hillary

Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly offers several reasons why he likes the presidential chances of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., including her ability to raise "insane amounts of money" and her strength in the black community.
He also makes an interesting point about her perceived negatives: "She has nowhere to go but up. Seriously. Every nasty thing that can possibly be said about her has already been said. Her negatives may be high, but that’s mostly among Republicans who won’t influence her primary chances and wouldn’t vote for a Democrat in the general election anyway. Rush Limbaugh will spew his usual swill to the dittoheads, but for the most part all the old attacks will seem, well, old."
Cal Thomas also noted in a column in Wednesday’s Eagle that women voters could be a powerful force. "Some conservative Web sites are already claiming Clinton will unite the Republican base like no other Democratic candidate," Thomas wrote. "Maybe, but that base is too small to counter what surely will be a surge in female voters. A recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found that 6 out of 10 women were likely to support Clinton in her run for the White House."
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Open thread

Be there or be trolled

Tonight’s the big night for the WE Blog meet-up. Here are the how and where:
The Eagle building is located at 825 E. Douglas, across the street from Old Town. Parking and the entrance are behind the building. You’ll sign in with security, then walk to the front of the building, where you can either take the elevator or stairs to the mezzanine level.
We’ll meet from 7 to 8:30 p.m., most of which will be spent visiting with other bloggers. We’ll also do a short Q&A and a building tour for anyone interested. Hope to see you there.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Finders keepers on found cash?

The two Sedgwick County workers who turned in $17,000 they found in an old paint can deserve kudos for their honesty. But do they also deserve the money? That’s doubtful.
After their supervisors failed to trace the money, the workers sued the county, saying the money rightfully belongs to them. But the workers found the money while on the job, which argues for the windfall going to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility where they work. A better idea might be distributing it among worthy local charities.
You wonder if the legal route could have been avoided if the workers had received a small reward for turning in the money. What would it hurt? Honesty is its own reward, but sometimes a little cash doesn’t hurt, either.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

America isn’t playing well abroad

The state of America’s image abroad continues to sharply decline, according to a BBC poll released on the eve of the president’s State of the Union speech. In a survey of foreigners in 25 countries, only 29 percent thought the United States had a generally positive influence in the world — a decline from 36 percent with the same view in 2006 and 40 percent in 2005.
Poll analysts called it a “horrible slide,” and pointed to the Iraq war and global warming as two top issues where America’s influence is seen as negative. A common theme abroad is “hypocrisy” in U.S. policy, a gap between our stated ideals and our practices.
This historic loss of prestige, good will and influence is perhaps President Bush’s most damaging foreign policy legacy.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

How Moran got one of the best seats in the House

Having read in the Washington Post that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tex., “claimed her favorite seat on the aisle at 8:06 a.m. — 11 hours and 54 minutes before” Tuesday’s State of the Union speech — we wondered when Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, put dibs on his own aisle seat. Moran’s press secretary, Nicole Young, told The Eagle editorial board that the congressman secured the seat “after 5 p.m.,” passing the time by working on his BlackBerry. That positioned Moran to shake President Bush’s hand and wish him well as he entered the House chamber, have a brief conversation with Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, and then get the president’s autograph after the address.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Kerry takes the road less traveled

With nine fellow Democrats looking to occupy the White House in 2008, Sen. John Kerry has opted not to be the 10th.
Few Democrats are likely to mourn his decision. He’s been widely criticized for a lackluster presidential campaign in 2004, and Republicans seized on his infamous botched joke about Iraq last fall to further marginalize the man.
A wise choice, senator. Against Democratic stars like Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, your chances were probably pretty close to nil anyway.
Posted by Dave Knadler

War on drugs has been a whopper of a failure

"As a child growing up in Wichita, I learned to spot a failure when I saw one. And this one’s a whopper," Jack A. Cole wrote about the war of drugs in a commentary in Tuesday’s Eagle. Cole was an undercover narcotics officer with the New Jersey state police who now directs Law Enforcement Against Prohibition in Medford, Mass. Despite spending more than $1 trillion on the war on drugs since 1970, America hasn’t been able to arrest its way out of its drug problem, or halt the flow of drugs, Cole said. In addition, the war has diverted needed police resources from violent crime work. Cole supports a system of legalized regulation of drugs that he says is more efficient and ethical than prohibition.
U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren of Wichita plans to write a rebuttal.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Soldiers trusted national leaders

From the Democratic response to President Bush’s State of the Union speech by Sen. James Webb of Virginia:
"Like so many other Americans, today and throughout our history, we serve and have served, not for political reasons, but because we love our country. On the political issues — those matters of war and peace, and in some cases of life and death — we trusted the judgment of our national leaders. We hoped that they would be right, that they would measure with accuracy the value of our lives against the enormity of the national interest that might call upon us to go into harm’s way.
"We owed them our loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us — sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it."
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Open thread

Obama a secret Muslim terrorist?

After writing a column Friday weighing Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential prospects, I heard from half a dozen concerned readers passing along an e-mail letter they’d received that claims Obama is a secret Muslim, with radical terrorist ties!
This would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic and scurrilous. The e-mail is just a small taste of what right-wing smear artists have in store for Obama in the coming campaign.
For the record, Obama has been a practicing Christian for at least two decades. Here’s a site that thoroughly debunks the e-mail charges. A Washington Post story also finds no substance to them.
Posted by Randy Scholfield