Monthly Archives: October 2007

Who is not on the terrorist watch list?

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, is justified in raising concerns about the size and accuracy of the federal government’s terrorist “watch list.” A Government Accountability Office study released this week said the watch list contained about 755,000 names, though there may be some duplicates. But Lieberman said the list actually now contains about 860,000 names and has increased nearly 500 percent in the past three years. He said the size and rapid growth of the list “could call into question the quality of the list itself.”
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Sebelius role in coal plant denial a puzzle

Many critics of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s denial of a permit for two coal-fired power plants rushed to the judgment that it was a political decision made by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius with an eye toward a Senate seat or Cabinet post. But the governor’s office contends that Sebelius didn’t discuss the issue with Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby until a meeting with him an hour before his decision was announced.
“They met at no other time during this process, nor did they have conversations about it,” said spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Do not scare off global investors

Globalization is a dirty word in Washington, D.C., these days. Many politicians are hasty to make a blanket denunciation in the name of protecting American interests. However, history shows that a country’s economic growth is tied directly to its involvement in the global economy. Countries that have closed themselves off to the global economy, either out of fear or perceived self-sufficiency, have eventually experienced steady economic downturn.
As Robert J. Samuelson of the Washington Post notes, “If global investors fear that the United States might make its economy less open to foreign trade and investment, the result might be the very dollar panic that everyone fears.”
While politicians may believe themselves soothing to American ears, the international trade community is listening in and taking note.
Posted by Kristin Mehler

Community thread

Legislators should look at all-day K, teacher pay

With two key state panels urging the Legislature to fund all-day kindergarten and higher teacher salaries, both should be marquee education issues for the 2008 session. “It’s the two areas where we could make the most difference,” said Rochelle Chronister, who chairs the 2010 Commission. Earlier this month, the Kansas State Board of Education approved similar legislative recommendations.
About two-thirds of Kansas kindergarten students now attend all-day programs, in districts that have made it their own budget priority. Implementing all-day K statewide would take an estimated $75 million. And Kansas teacher pay ranks 38th among the states, $39,351 a year compared with the national average of $47,602. “If we’re going to make progress toward moving the average teacher salary up to the national median, we are going to have to put some more money in our schools,” said state school board chairman Bill Wagnon.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Sam warming up to Rudy

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., met with Rudy Giuliani Thursday on abortion and emerged saying he was "much more comfortable" with Giuliani’s stance. That likely will boost the former New York City mayor’s efforts to court religious conservatives spooked by his pro-choice past.
"Justices are key," Brownback said. "He’s stated publicly many times about his support for strict constructionists like, I believe he said Roberts. John Roberts is a personal friend."
Giuliani is labeled pro-choice, but he could appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Coal plant is just like a wounded deer

From my column today: Steve Miller, a spokesman for Sunflower Electric Power Corp., the company proposing the Holcomb plants, pulled out all the emotional stops in responding to ads attacking coal plants: "We’re like a wounded deer laying in the middle of the highway now," he told the Lawrence Journal-World. "So you can imagine everyone who wants to finish us off is throwing money in the pot right now."
Somehow I never thought of a massive coal-fired power complex as a wounded deer.
Or even an endangered species.
If so, this wounded deer has a truckload of highly paid lawyers in its corner.
I’m betting Bambi will survive.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Open thread 10/26

Do Phelps protests exceed bounds of First Amendment?

I’m curious how the Phelps lawsuit in Maryland will turn out. The freedom of religion and speech protections are broad, which makes me think the Phelps clan will win. But U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett told jurors at the start of testimony Tuesday that they must decide “whether the defendant’s actions would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, whether they were extreme and outrageous, and whether these actions were so offensive and shocking as to not be entitled to First Amendment protection.”
Posted by Phillip Brownlee

Clinton-Sebelius in ’08?

The Hillary Clinton campaign says it’s too soon to discuss a running mate, but that didn’t stop Democratic strategist James Carville from declaring his pick this week: “I have my candidate. Drum roll, please. Kathleen Sebelius,” he said on Dan Rather’s new show on HDNet.
“I’ve observed her, and she’s remarkable,” said Bill Clinton’s former campaign guru, touting Sebelius’ high approval ratings, her status as a daughter of a former Ohio governor, and that she “gets stuff done, successful in a red state.”
Kansas Republican Party spokesman Christian Morgan responded to the Topeka Capital-Journal: “I think it would be a guaranteed Republican victory.”
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Can city, Indian church work it out?

As a Reader Views letter says on our Opinion pages today, the city of Wichita’s preferred property for a south-side fire station is now owned and occupied by the Indian Southern Baptist Church at 1550 Denker St. “We’re trying our best to make an agreement,” City Council member Jim Skelton (in photo) told The Eagle editorial board, stressing that he hopes to avoid court action. Why not accept Cornejo & Sons’ offer to donate land for the fire station a few blocks away? To ensure quick response times, Skelton said, “east-west access is critical.” He also said, “It’s more important to have it at a proper location than putting it at a free site.”
Let’s hope some sort of accord is reached. City officials’ concerns are understandable, but the symbolism — City Hall trying to displace an American Indian church — is terrible.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

New party in charge, still no Phase II

Democrats rightly complained about how long Republicans, led by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., were taking to investigate what went wrong with the prewar intelligence on Iraq. Now, Republicans including Roberts are rightly complaining about how long Democrats are taking on the same Senate Intelligence Committee "Phase II" investigation. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who succeeded Roberts as chairman, said early this year that he wanted the report out by summer. Last week, he said it’s "chugging along very nicely," according to Congressional Quarterly’s CQ Today.
A statement from Roberts’ office cried foul at the apparent double standard: "The Democrats now control both houses of Congress. They are free to conduct whatever investigations they care to conduct. They are free to issue whatever reports they wish to issue. What a difference an election makes. Gone is the outrage. Gone are the smoking guns. And Phase II is nowhere to be found. The only thing different this time around is that nobody seems to care. Why is that?"
Whatever the reason, Americans should demand the vital report sooner rather than any later. Yes, the issue is complex, but three years is long enough.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Why Sam is meeting with the traitor Rudy

Sam Brownback didn’t have enough support to be a contender in the GOP presidential nomination race. But he had a strong ground operation in Iowa and impeccable pro-life credentials that could benefit any candidate he endorses. So there’s a buzz about the fact that Brownback is meeting with Rudy Giuliani today in Washington, D.C., to talk about abortion. Just last week, Brownback predicted Giuliani would not be the nominee because "he’s not pro-life."
Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University, told the Hill newspaper: "Brownback is very well- respected. It would give a lot of social conservatives and evangelicals cover if they want to support Giuliani."
Meanwhile, Giuliani has been catching grief from the New York City tabloids for saying that he was rootingfor the Boston Red Sox to win the World Series.
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Open thread 10/25

Waiting for political surge in Iraq

It’s good news that civilian and military deaths in Iraq are down for the second month in a row. The U.S. military surge appears to be having an impact in lessening violence and putting al-Qaida in Iraq on the run.
Our troops are doing their job. But what about the politicians?
As New York Times columnist Tom Friedman argues, the decline in violence does not add up to success in Iraq without a political breakthrough.
“It still feels to me as if we’ve made Iraq just safe enough for its politicians to be obstinate, corrupt or reckless on our dime,” he writes. Without a unified Iraqi government, “there is no one systematically consolidating whatever gains the surge has made.”
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Open door of opportunity

The DREAM bill before Congress is an easy way for our country to redeem, in some small way, the immigration fiasco we find ourselves in. The bill, which failed a crucial test Wednesday in the Senate, would allow eligible children — those who entered the country before the age of 16, have lived here for five years and have graduated from high school — to be granted legal status for six years. At that point, if the immigrant had spent two years in college, he would become eligible for legalization.
This bill wouldn’t open the borders. It simply would open the door of opportunity to young immigrants who were brought here and want to better themselves and their families.
Posted by Kristin Mehler

Ex-spy has harsh words for Roberts

Valerie Plame Wilson finally has her say, sort of, on the CIA leak case in the memoir “Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House.” (The CIA redacted many lines of her manuscript, which appear blacked out in the book.) Among those singled out for criticism is Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., then-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She was especially angered by a “horrifying” report by committee Republicans Roberts, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Kit Bond of Missouri. It concluded that Plame Wilson had suggested the CIA send her husband to Niger to check out claims that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium, and that his trip confirmed the claims. “In the coming months,” she writes, “many reliable sources told us that before the report was issued, there was considerable collusion between the vice president’s office and Senator Pat Roberts on how to craft the report and its content. So much for checks and balances and the separation of powers.”
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Straight talker, straight shooter?

John McCain’s vow to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell has become a signature line. He embellished it this week, telling more than 100 employees at a New Hampshire gun factory that he’d “bring Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell and shoot him with one of your products.”
After the applause, he added, “But only after he receives justice.” Then he said later to reporters, “I wouldn’t actually shoot him myself.”
Posted by Rhonda Holman

California wildfires evidence of climate change

Climate change is fueling mega-wildfires such as the ones scorching Southern California this week, according to one of the world’s foremost experts on fire ecology, professor Tom Swetnam of the University of Arizona.
He told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that climate change has raised temperatures by about one degree in the West, creating drier conditions and sparking a fourfold increase in wildfires.
Here’s a shocker: He predicts that the fires could destroy a majority of the West’s forests in coming decades.
Tom Boatner, the chief of fire operations for the federal government, said that climate change was driving unstoppable mega-fires that are 10 times the size of those he’s seen in the past.
As for climate change skeptics, “You won’t find them on the fire line in the American West anymore,” Boatner told “60 Minutes.”
We’re getting a glimpse of our climate change future out West. It isn’t pretty.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Due diligence on library site

The Wichita City Council was right to call Tuesday for a final look at potential library sites before approving one.
While the six-acre Watkins Steel site at Second and McLean appears to best meet the stated priorities for a new library, including parking for 500-plus cars and a high-visibility core location, it makes sense to make a final call for other proposals. Besides, the city might improve its negotiating leverage if other good sites turn up.
This is a big decision, and warrants due diligence.
“I just want to make sure that there’s nothing else out there,” said Mayor Carl Brewer.
Look twice, buy once. That’s a prudent approach.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Open thread 10/24

Romney gets his foes confused

If this was a strategic slip of Mitt Romney’s tongue, it was a beaut:
“Just look at Osam . . . Barack Obama said just yesterday. Barack Obama calling on, on radicals, jihadists of all different types to come together in Iraq,” Romney said Tuesday during a speech in Greenwood, S.C. More than once, he also said “Barack Obama” when he was talking about Osama bin Laden.
His campaign later called it “just a brief mix-up,” but it called to mind the shot of Romney posing in July with a supporter holding a sign reading, “No to Obama, Osama and Chelsea’s Moma.”
Posted by Rhonda Holman

Does it matter that Dumbledore is gay?

Author J.K. Rowling surprised and shocked fans last week when she revealed that Harry Potter’s mentor, beloved master wizard Albus Dumbledore, is gay.
You have to wonder: Why this bombshell revelation now? If Dumbledore’s sexuality is important to understanding his character, why didn’t Rowling overtly make it part of the story line, or even suggest it between the lines?
Is she just out to tweak the noses of social conservatives who still disapprove of the wildly popular fantasy series?
Most fans, of course, won’t care a bit.
Still, Rowling’s outing of Dumbledore, while it doesn’t seem like crucial information, does reinforce a major theme of the books: celebration of individuality and tolerance of those who are different.
Posted by Randy Scholfield

Obama trips up on gay rights

Barack Obama’s musical tastes are getting him in trouble with gay activists. Obama’s “Forty Days of Faith and Family” tour is to culminate this weekend with a gospel concert in South Carolina, featuring singer Donnie McClurkin, a Pentecostal minister who believes homosexuality is a lifestyle that can be corrected. Obama’s choice has been blasted called “shameless and reprehensible.”
In effort to avoid ostracizing conservative Southerners, Obama has kept McClurkin on the program, saying, “I strongly disagree with Rev. McClurkin’s views and will continue to fight for these rights.”
Many liberals are unconvinced.
Posted by Kristin Mehler

Mandated tutoring must help more kids

The Wichita school board seemingly had no choice Monday but to approve a $1.37æmillion patchwork of private tutoring, without regard to whether that was the best way to help lagging students in Title I schools. It’s unfortunate that the No Child Left Behind law left the district no discretion.
As district critics would point out, if USD 259 had not been listed as “needing improvement,” it wouldn’t be in this position. But raising assessment scores is the highest of district priorities. Now, officials also must do everything possible to see that more than the projected 20 percent of eligible students participate in the private tutoring.
Posted by Rhonda Holman