Monthly Archives: April 2007

Delegation stepped up for WaterWalk, riverfront

Good for the Wichita-area legislative delegation for making the case to a conference committee Thursday for extending Wichita’s ability to use sales tax and revenue bonds for WaterWalk and the river corridor improvements. Both chambers still must vote on it, perhaps today, but the measure allows Wichita a specific extension for STAR bonds, which admittedly have been abused elsewhere in the state. City Hall officials said that without action, this top priority for downtown Wichita would be at risk. Now that progress is so visible both on WaterWalk work and the riverfront upgrade, this is no time for failure.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

About to debate like it is already 2008

Ready or not, the first presidential debate of 2008 — and the earliest ever — will happen tonight in South Carolina, where an expected eight Democratic contenders will try to make an impression with 60-second answers in 90 minutes, not counting commercials. As a historian said, it’s not going to beat “Survivor” (actually, it starts an hour earlier). But “it just gives a couple of top people a chance to make a gaffe,” said political scientist Larry Sabato. That will make it precious fodder for what’s already being called the Blog Election.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Surge is working — if you do not count car bombs

Turns out that U.S. officials who have been saying that the troop surge is working haven’t been counting all the Iraqis killed by car bombs. Huh? President Bush tried to explain: "If the standard of success is no car bombings or suicide bombings, we have just handed those who commit suicide bombings a huge victory." Huh? Who said that zero car bombs was the definition of success? The issue is whether the surge is helping make Iraq safer and more stable, not how people are killed.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Does subpoenaing Rice cross the line?

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform authorized a subpoena of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It wants her to speak on the claims made by President Bush in his 2003 State of the Union speech about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger. "I do think that there is a difference between oversight and overreaching," a White House representative responded. Did the Democrats cross that line in subpoenaing Rice for information that has long been discredited?
Posted by Ross Stewart

Open thread

Halberstam saw Iraq, Vietnam parallels

David Halberstam, the legendary Vietnam War reporter who died this week in an auto accident, was an American hero. He helped bring something new to journalism — a willingness to challenge official military and administration accounts of war — that has served the American people well.
Tuesday’s testimony about the military’s deception on the death of Pat Tillman is a prime example of why journalists must question official sources.
According to the New York Times obituary for Halberstam: “His reporting, along with that of several colleagues, left little doubt that a corrupt South Vietnamese government supported by the United States was no match for Communist guerrillas and their North Vietnamese allies. His dispatches infuriated American military commanders and policy makers in Washington, but they accurately reflected the realities on the ground.”
In short, Halberstam set a standard for journalistic courage that, unfortunately, was lacking in the lead-up to and fawning early coverage of the Iraq war.
“I just never thought it was going to work at all,” Halberstam said of Iraq earlier this year. “I thought that in both Vietnam and Iraq, we were going against history. My view — and I think it was because of Vietnam — was that the forces against us were going to be hostile, that we would not be viewed as liberators. We were going to punch our fist into the largest hornets’ nest in the world.”
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Tiahrt amendment needs an overhaul

If America learned anything from Sept. 11, it’s that law enforcement officials need to share information and connect the dots. In that respect, there are real flaws with the Tiahrt amendment, we argued in this editorial.
The law, sponsored by Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, denies public access to gun crime data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Supporters argue it protects the identity of undercover cops and ongoing investigations.
But New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other critics point out the law restricts access to local law enforcement, too, denying them a powerful crime-fighting tool.
Tiahrt himself believes that the ATF has “misinterpreted” the law in withholding aggregate gun crime trace data, research studies and other information from local law enforcement agencies.
That was never the intent of the law, according to Tiahrt spokesman Chuck Knapp.
If so, then it’s time to fix the law.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Last chance to fund a presidential primary

If Kansans want a presidential primary in 2008, they had better say so — and fast. Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh notes that the public so far hasn’t had much to say about the Legislature’s refusal to spend $1.6 million on a primary next year. And with the wrap-up session under way, time is short to save the primary. “At some point, you have to decide that elections and democracy are important,” Thornburgh said. True, but this may not be that point, because the presidential selection system is so money-driven and front-loaded as to make Republican Kansas irrelevant.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

How could anyone not care about Darfur genocide?

The good news: The Kansas House should be able to vote after all on divesting the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System from companies that provide funds to or otherwise support the Sudanese government, which is complicit in the slaughter in the Darfur region. The Senate approved the measure unanimously in March, and House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, has promised to bring it up during the wrap-up session. But Neufeld has got to be kidding in saying that the measure is popular among lawmakers “not so much because they care about the Sudanese, but it’s a great political position to take. I’m not sure it’s a good position for KPERS.”
The heartbreaking facts on the ground make it impossible not to care about the Sudanese — or should. And other states have divested from Sudan for the same reason that so many, including Kansas, divested from South Africa during apartheid — divestment works.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

No need to lie about Tillman, Lynch

Facts quickly gave way to fictional public relations in the wake of the death of Pat Tillman and the rescue of Jessica Lynch, as members of Congress heardthis week. What’s shocking is how lying about both episodes seemingly came so easily to military officials and went so far — Tillman posthumously received a Silver Star based on a fabricated story of his death in Afghanistan, actually by friendly fire, and Lynch’s rescue in Iraq was turned into a quickie TV movie. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced plenty of real examples of valor and sacrifice. When it inflated and rewrote the facts in a grab at public glory, the military did a disservice to all its warriors.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Even jail food should have standards

Most people understand that the Sedgwick County Jail isn’t a fine dining experience. "Have it your way" isn’t done there.
But it’s not right that two county commissioners found the food almost inedible when they dropped in Monday for a surprise lunch: Gwen Welshimer said the meatball and mashed potato entree was "not something you feed human beings." Kelly Parks got an upset stomach.
Jail food is by definition institutional and doesn’t aspire to culinary artistry, but it should at least be nutritionally complete, healthy and edible — especially considering that most county jail prisoners are awaiting trial and haven’t yet been found guilty of a crime.
This jail food sounds like cruel and unusual punishment.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Kucinich tilting at Cheney windmill

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, presented articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney Tuesday . "I believe the vice president’s conduct of office has been destructive to the founding purposes of our nation," he said. The articles state that the vice president deceived the American people and subverted the national security interests of the United States.
So why go after Cheney instead of President Bush? Kucinich said that he wouldn’t want to see Cheney become president if Bush were removed from office.
In any case, Kucinich’s quest doesn’t have the backing of his colleagues in Congress.
Meanwhile, Vermont state senators voted last week to call for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney.
Posted by Patrice Hein

Open thread

Actually, anti-gaming lawmakers received the most money

Seven Wichita-area lawmakers wrote a commentary published on Sunday’s Opinion pages suggesting that “good, old-fashioned political corruption” might be behind the Legislature’s expansion of gaming. Why would politicians agree to the revenue-sharing terms, they asked, if there “wasn’t something more personally appealing in the process?” Of course, one reason might be that survey after survey has shown that the public wants expanded gaming. But as to the “personally appealing” claim, it’s actually anti-expansion lawmakers who have received the most campaign money. Anti-gaming interests gave $259,500 to the current lawmakers since the start of 2001, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported, while pro-gaming organizations contributed $158,125.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Never say never: Sunday liquor sales at last

Good for the Wichita City Council for voting 5-1 Tuesday to allow liquor sales on Sundays. Now the market, rather than City Hall, will decide which days of the week these businesses are open. And the timing makes good fiscal sense: If opponents get the 6,701 signatures from registered voters needed to put the issue on a ballot, it can be on the same Aug. 7 ballot as the Sedgwick County casino question. The process seems to be working as it should — though two years after the Legislature said it could.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Government can’t pick and choose religious symbols

The Wiccan pentacle has been added to a list of approved religious symbols for headstones by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This change was part of a settlement of a lawsuit against the VA by plaintiffs represented by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
It usually takes a few months for a petition by a faith group to win the department’s approval, but the Wiccan symbol took 10 years and a lawsuit to gain acceptance. Discrimination was the main factor of the delay, the group believed, and it is apparent that some Americans do hold a bias toward Wicca. For example, when he was Texas governor, George W. Bush opposed allowing Wiccans to worship at Fort Hood, Texas, telling “Good Morning America” in 1999 that “I don’t think witchcraft is a religion.”
But as the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, stated after winning the settlement Monday, the plaintiffs “wanted precisely the same treatment that dozens of other religions already had received from the department, an acknowledgment that their spiritual beliefs were on par with those of everyone else.”
Posted by Ross Stewart

Accord for county and Episcopal Social Services

No one would say it’s been easy, but the dispute between Sedgwick County and Episcopal Social Services at least has been resolved. The County Commission’s agenda today includes an agreement with the agency about the county’s $1.3 million purchase of its building at 233 S. St. Francis to make way for the downtown arena, setting July 8 as the agency’s deadline to move. The county’s first $500,000 appraisal and offer was far from what the agency needed to find another building. Even now, ESS won’t find a permanent home for several years: It’s buying the building being vacated by the Breakthrough Club, then planning a capital campaign to build and move elsewhere downtown two or three years from now. “It’s important that we’re easy to find,” Sandra Lyon, CEO of Episcopal Social Services, told The Eagle editorial board. It’s also important that, throughout this challenging transition, the county and community help this vital social-services provider in every way possible.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Family literacy program a great benefit to schools, community

Despite all their rhetoric about promoting English, state lawmakers are unlikely to provide additional funding this session for adult English language classes. But to its credit, the world’s No. 1 automaker — now Toyota, not General Motors — has stepped up in Wichita.
The company is unveiling today its Toyota Family Literacy Program at three Wichita elementary schools — Park, Colvin and Stanley. The program — which is a partnership of Toyota, the school district, Wichita State University and the National Center for Family Literacy — teaches English to Hispanic parents of elementary schoolchildren. This training helps the parents improve their job skills and helps them better engage in their children’s education.
Wichita was one of five cities selected this year (out of 155 applications) for the three-year, $600,000 initiative, and about 50 Wichita families are already in the program. Being picked is “quite a tribute to Wichita,” Sharon Darling, president of the National Center for Family Literacy, told The Eagle editorial board. It certainly is.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Is airtime worth preventing a Phelps protest?

Radio host Mike Gallagher (in photo) has given the Phelps clan three hours of airtime on his talk show today in exchange for their not picketing the funerals of the Virginia Tech students. He made a similar arrangement to keep the Phelpses from protesting at the Amish schoolchildren’s funerals.
I wouldn’t have made the deal, but here’s why Gallagher says he did it: "I truly feel called, on a spiritual level, to allow my radio show to be a tool that prevents these angry, hateful people the opportunity to hurt grieving families. I fully comprehend the arguments against doing this (‘giving in to terrorists,’ ‘allowing them a national platform,’ etc.), but my heart is telling me to do something positive here. If my radio show can prevent a circus atmosphere of protests, counterprotests, police protection and media coverage from taking place in front of churches where grieving families are trying to say goodbye to their loved ones, then I think that’s a good thing."
What do you think?
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Toyota: the heartbeat of America?

After more than seven decades on top, General Motors Corp. is no longer the world’s top-selling automaker. Toyota sold2.35 million cars and trucks in the first quarter of 2007, while GM sold 2.26 vehicles. Besides having relied too much on the SUV market, GM faces retiree pension and health care costs that Toyota doesn’t — so a comeback could be difficult. But Toyota’s biggest competitive advantage and its key to success, BusinessWeek reported, is its "deeply ingrained commitment to manufacturing excellence."
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Open thread

Dismissal, response in ethics complaint were predictable

As expected, a state panel tossed out a dubious ethics complaint against Sedgwick County District Court Judge Paul Clark, saying that it “contained no facts evidencing judicial misconduct.” Also as expected, the anti-abortion group that spearheaded the complaint, Operation Rescue, responded by questioning the integrity of the panel’s investigation and saying that “Kansas’ judiciary has almost become a laughingstock in the rest of the country.”
The group, along with Kansans for Life, is now back to pressuring lawmakers to force Attorney General Paul Morrison to refile misdemeanor charges against Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller that Clark dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. But the last thing politicians should do is to insert themselves into an ongoing criminal investigation.
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Council should approve Sunday sales

The Wichita City Council last week deferred until today a decision on allowing Sunday liquor sales. It should approve this ordinance change from the bench and let the free market work seven days a week.
A dozen surrounding communities have approved Sunday sales, so Wichita already has Sunday sales — just not in a way that’s convenient for consumers or that benefits Wichita retailers.
Some local liquor store owners oppose the change, saying they don’t want to work extra hours for an uncertain economic advantage.
But no one is forcing them to open on Sundays. The new ordinance simply allows retailers who do see an economic benefit in Sunday sales to open on that day.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Maliki stepped up on stopping wall

The construction of a three-mile long wall that would have separated a Sunni Arab enclave from surrounding Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad was wisely halted Sunday by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Baghdad shouldn’t become another Berlin or Palestine, if at all possible.
“There are other methods to protect neighborhoods,” Maliki said.
Maliki didn’t like something the United States set in motion, and he stopped it. Could this be a baby step toward independence?
Posted by Ross Stewart

Candidates providing too much of the wrong information

The new campaign trend is for candidates to bare their souls, diseases, past relationships and other intimate details to the public, the New York Times reported recently. In some cases, the purpose is to “come clean” before the media blow things out of proportion. In others, the purpose is to make the candidate seem more like regular folks who have problems.
Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy went to great pains (literally) to conceal their poor health. Now, it seems that health problems and family trauma can earn the candidate sympathy votes.
But instead of debating a candidate’s past pot smoking in college or failed marriage, we should be asking what kind of skills he has to lead us into a peaceful and prosperous future.
Posted by Patrice Hein