Monthly Archives: March 2007

Open thread

‘War on terror’ has created a culture of fear

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter, wrote in the Washington Post that the Bush administration’s use of the term “war on terror” has created a culture of fear in the United States. And it was intentional. “Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue,” he wrote.
Posted by Patrice Hein

Child behavior studies should look at indulgent parents

The results of the longest study of American children in day care were published this week. The study followed more than 1,300 children from birth to age 16 to track the effects of day care on children’s behavior.
“The effect was slight and well within the normal range for healthy children,” according to the report. And as expected, “parents’ guidance and their genes had by far the strongest influence on how children behaved.”
But 16 years of observation and research didn’t provide much practical information to guide parents. A more useful study might look at the effects of indulgent parents on children’s behavior.
Posted by Patrice Hein

Nature or nurture?

We knew about identical twins, where a fertilized egg divides to form two embryos with the same genetic makeup, and fraternal twins, where two eggs are fertilized by two different sperm, resulting in twins no more alike than any other siblings. Now researchers have found a third type that they are calling semi-identical, in which two sperm cells fertilized one egg cell. The resulting twins were one with typically masculine genitalia and the other with sexually ambiguous genitalia.
This discovery, along with the Vanishing Twin Syndrome, in which an embryo can be absorbed by its twin — and take on some of its twin’s genetic characteristics — raises questions about the nature or nurture of homosexuality. Is it really a “lifestyle choice” when it can be the result of how an egg cell develops?
Posted by Patrice Hein

Deja vu on Iran hostage crisis

For those who remember the Iran hostage crisis during the Carter administration, the current standoff over 15 captured British sailors is bringing back familiar sights and feelings: Westerners paraded before cameras, threats of show trials, demands for apologies, etc.
The staged TV "confessions" and other stunts are a clear violation of prisoner treatment under the Geneva Conventions.
The situation is turning into a major test of wills that some fear could erupt in military conflict if either side miscalculates or makes a mistake.
Let’s hope this can be defused diplomatically.
But this incident once again underscores Iran’s cynicism and contempt for international norms, and illustrates why pursuing diplomacy with Iran isn’t an easy or certain course.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Barnett lost bet on gambling

State Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, an opponent of expanded gaming, rolled the dice Wednesday in requesting that the Senate vote on approving the House gambling bill. He was betting that supporters didn’t have the 21 votes needed. Turns out they did, so now the bill is headed for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ signature.
"I never really thought I’d be making the motion to concur for our state to expand gambling to the extent we’re about to step into," he told the Topeka Capital-Journal. "That’s life. That’s one of those risks we all take."
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Open thread

Nonpartisan election is supposed to be nonpartisan

The upcoming elections are nonpartisan. Yet the Sedgwick County Republican Party sent out a mailing this week urging citizens to “vote Republican April 3rd.” It listed the GOP candidates for Wichita mayor, Wichita City Council and Wichita school board. In the District 5 City Council race, it said that both candidates are Republicans and encouraged voters “to support the candidate of your choice.” Gee, thanks.
Don Younglund is one Wichitan who received the mailing and didn’t appreciate the injection of partisan politics into city and school elections. “I am totally livid,” he said.
With good reason.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

No more House-ordered prosecutions

If the appalling legislative effort to force Attorney General Paul Morrison (in photo) to prosecute abortion doctor George Tiller really is over, that’s a victory for the separation of powers and the rule of law. Some say the mandate fell victim to a procedural problem; others say it was only for show, timed to Tuesday’s anti-abortion rally at the Capitol. In any case, Morrison can now do his job as he sees fit, which is what voters overwhelmingly elected him to do. Lawmakers, if they were serious about doing their jobs, would repeal the 1879 provision allowing the House to direct the attorney general to proceed with a prosecution.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Being a ‘loyal Bushie’ was part of the job

The much-anticipated Senate testimony by Kyle Sampson (in photo) hardly brought clarity to the U.S. attorney firings — beyond underscoring how terrible Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, his staffers and the White House have been at keeping their stories straight. One statement by Sampson, Gonzales’ former chief of staff and the man who used the term “loyal Bushies” in a key e-mail, said a lot about the whole mess, though: “The distinction between ‘political’ and ‘performance-related’ reasons for removing a United States attorney is, in my view, largely artificial.”
Posted by Rhonda Holman

National Geographic captures Kansas’ beauty

Kansas photojournalist Jim Richardson has a glorious 22-page spread in the April issue of National Geographic magazine. Richardson’s photos illustrate an article detailing the exquisite beauty of the Kansas Flint Hills.
Having grown up on a farm near Belleville, Richardson knows that Kansans tend to suffer from an inferiority complex. He was determined that the photos of the Flint Hills would rival those of any other American landscape — whether it be the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains. He succeeded.
Posted by Patrice Hein

Obama has caught up to Clinton

A recent Harris Poll indicated that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has caught up to Hillary Clinton. The poll of 2,776 U.S. adults surveyed between March 1 and March 12 showed that 41 percent of them would consider voting for Obama — the same percentage who said they would consider voting for Clinton. In February, Clinton led 45 percent to 37 percent.
Posted by Ross Stewart

What do you mean, no ‘Law and Order’ reruns?

Actor-turned-U.S. senator-turned-actor again Fred Thompson is thinking about running for president. But if he does, say goodbye to some “Law and Order” reruns.
Election law requires that TV stations give candidates equal airtime. And that likely would mean networks wouldn’t rerun episodes of the crime show, in which Thompson portrays District Attorney Arthur Branch, the Washington Post reported.
Thompson may run as a law and order candidate, but “Law and Order” will run only if he isn’t a candidate.
Dun, dun.
Posted by Patrice Hein

Casino gaming beat odds, coming to Kansas

If I were a betting man, I’d have wagered that a gambling bill wouldn’t pass this year. Yet, against long odds and after more than a decade of trying, the House and Senate have now approved casino gaming in Kansas. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius plans to sign it.
The measure still requires voter approval in the host counties. But given that Sumner County has already approved it and will get a casino if Sedgwick County voters don’t approve it, Sedgwick County voters have almost no choice but to approve it — a casino is going to be built, so it ought to be here, where we can share the revenue and get the jobs. The real battle will be whether the new casino will be located in Wichita, Park City or elsewhere within the county.
There will also be lawsuits to try to block the bill; opponents argue that the state constitution requires the state to actually operate the casino, and not to contract that out to private companies. But that seems unlikely to succeed.
So, ready or not and like it or not, casino gaming is coming.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Smear money sinks Swift Boater

Senate Democrats were right to deny the nomination of Sam Fox (in photo) to a foreign ambassador post, in light of his $50,000 donation to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that ran the ugly smear campaign against Sen. John Kerry in 2004.
The White House withdrew the nomination Wednesday after it became clear Fox didn’t have the votes on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which Kerry serves.
The Swift Boat episode was a scurrilous low point in American politics, and anyone who helped finance it isn’t fit to hold a diplomatic post.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Open thread

A Kline mural in the Statehouse?

“You see John Brown over here holding it up,” said James Conrad, pastor at First Baptist Church in Shawnee, during the anti-abortion rally at the Statehouse Tuesday, pointing to the mural of the abolitionist holding a Bible. “I really would like to see a mural of (former Attorney General) Phill Kline holding it up right next to John Brown over here, because Phill Kline upholds the word.”
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Use Patriot Act wisely, or prepare to lose it

Interesting how FBI Director Robert Mueller chose to blame his management and agency rather than the USA Patriot Act in Senate testimony Tuesday about the FBI’s shocking misuse of the authority to gather phone, e-mail and financial records on Americans without a warrant. “The statute did not cause the errors. The FBI’s implementation did,” Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee. Still, in light of the abuses, the new Congress needs to ensure that the Patriot Act’s far-reaching tools are necessary.
Some of Tuesday’s talk did seem premature: The suggestion from Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., that the FBI’s spying powers might be better trusted in the hands of a new agency. Surely new bureaucracy isn’t the answer.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Poll looks grim for Mayans

A Survey USA poll contains grim news for Mayor Carlos Mayans: He hasn’t made up much ground since his double-digit loss to Carl Brewer in the mayoral primary. The poll found that 58 percent of likely voters plan to vote for Brewer and 36 percent for Mayans. And as in the primary results, Brewer led across the board, in every demographic category.
That’s a huge gap for Mayans to close with less than one week left before the general election.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Pilshaw should consider herself warned

The attorney for Sedgwick County District Court Judge Rebecca Pilshaw said she “will be very careful to conform her conduct” to suit the state’s Commission on Judicial Qualifications, which recently gave her two “cease-and-desist” orders over her handling of two criminal cases. She’d better make some changes. Pilshaw also came in last among 26 Sedgwick County judges in the 2006 survey evaluating the court conducted by The Eagle and the Wichita Bar Association. The only woman on the local bench, she could face trouble should she run for re-election next year. So could Judges Warren Wilbert and Richard Ballinger, who received similar orders from the commission last year related to a sexual harassment complaint by a Courthouse employee.
But that’s how our county’s system of electing judges works. And why it works, some would argue — because judges have to answer to voters.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Morrison should make decision on Tiller case, not lawmakers or activists

Kansas House members weren’t elected to be our state’s top law enforcement officials, and they haven’t reviewed the case against Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller, nor are they qualified to do so. So the last thing they should do is intervene in a criminal investigation and force Attorney General Paul Morrison to refile 30 misdemeanor charges against Tiller.
Yet the House Federal and State Affairs Committee approved a resolution Monday that would compel Morrison to file the charges. The measure now goes to the full House — which should reject it.
The resolution is being promoted by some anti-abortion activists and groups. But they don’t speak for the large majority of Kansans who voted for Morrison last November because they trust his judgment.
Morrison has a responsibility to carefully review the Tiller case, which he says his office is doing. And if there is evidence of a crime, he should work with Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston to file the appropriate charges, which he promises he will do.
But he shouldn’t file charges because of pressure from anti-abortion activists. And lawmakers shouldn’t interfere with the investigation because of that pressure. They need to stick to doing their own jobs.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Congress, public want timetable for Iraq

Both the U.S. House and Senate are now on record wanting to set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq. The House voted last week to end most American military involvement by the end of August 2008. Then the Senate voted Tuesday not to remove a withdrawal date from a military spending bill (which hasn’t passed yet). The public agrees; 59 percent said they support compelling U.S. forces to leave Iraq by August 2008, according to a Pew poll.
"When it comes to the war in Iraq, the American people have spoken, the House and Senate have spoken," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. "Now, we hope the president is listening."
President Bush is hearing, but he isn’t listening. He is still vowing to veto any bill that includes a timetable.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Open thread

Gates wanted to close Gitmo

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates sought to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the New York Times reported. The Wichita native argued that the facility had become so tainted abroad that its legal proceedings wouldn’t be viewed as legitimate.
Gates’ effort was supported by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but was opposed by Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who objected to moving detainees to the United States. Guess which side prevailed with President Bush?
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

They voted for a casino vote before they voted against it

A number of Wichita-area GOP lawmakers in the Kansas House strongly objected to our Tuesday editorial, which noted that all but one of them voted against the House-passed bill to give voters in Sedgwick County a chance to decide whether they want a destination casino. The lawmakers disliked how the legislation came to be written and voted on, and variously suggested it was a “garbage bill” that would be bad for the area economy and good only for the casino industry. They criticized its inclusion of Sumner County and exclusion of Harvey County, where voters also have approved a casino, and other nearby counties. Much of their criticism of the process was valid — ideally, such major legislation should not bypass committee hearings and be voted on in the wee hours.
Some understandably wanted credit for having voted instead for a failed constitutional amendment to allow privately owned casinos in Kansas — which would have given all Kansas voters a say on expanded gambling, not just those in four areas of the state. Here is that credit: The Republicans who voted for the constitutional amendment but not the other bill were Reps. Steve Brunk, Brenda Landwehr, Joe McLeland, JoAnn Pottorff and Jason Watkins of Wichita; Rep. Steve Huebert of Valley Center; Rep. Dick Kelsey of Goddard; Rep. Ty Masterson of Andover; and Rep. Ted Powers of Mulvane. It would be great if Kansas voters had the opportunity to fix that constitutional glitch someday.
Until then, though, do these lawmakers really expect local voters to believe that they’d all warmly welcome a Sedgwick County casino, if only the bill was right?
Posted by Rhonda Holman