Monthly Archives: April 2008

Sebelius right to reject weak coal compromise

coalplant24.jpgAs expected, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius today rejected the “compromise” coal plant proposed by legislative leaders. “The latest proposal still builds two large coal-fired plants, with the purpose of sending 83 percent of their energy out of the state, and creating nearly 10 million tons of new carbon dioxide each year,” Sebelius said. She also noted that the bill still puts the Legislature “in the middle of the regulatory permitting process in a manner not found in any other state in the union.” Another objection that hasn’t received much attention is that the proposal releases Sunflower Electric Power Corp. “from Kansas Corporation Commission oversight — thus removing all protection their customers have from massive rate increases.”

Instead of this weak compromise, Sebelius is proposing a true middle ground of building the one plant that was approved earlier.

Friedman slams gas tax holiday

gasoline1.jpgNew York Times columnist Thomas Friedman slammed the plan offered by presidential candidates Sens. John McCain and Hillary Clinton to fight high gas prices by suspending the federal gasoline tax for a few months, calling it “so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away.”

The political pandering, he said, will only increase our debt to China and continue a transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia. “This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering.”

McCain faces electoral challenges, too

mccainDemocrats are understandably worried about their prospects in November, given how much Hillary Clinton and Jeremiah Wright have weakened Barack Obama. But Frank Rich of the New York Times noted that John McCain has his own electoral challenges to worry about. Will anti-war Ron Paul supporters vote for McCain? How about all those religious conservatives who still hate McCain’s guts? And what about the millions of new voters Obama has helped register in the Democratic Party? Rich also noted national trends that are going against the GOP:

“A Democrat won the first round of a special congressional election in Mississippi, even though the national GOP outspent the Democrats by more than double and President Bush carried this previously safe Republican district by 25 percentage points in 2004. A Gallup poll last week found Mr. Bush’s national disapproval rating the worst (69 percent) for any president in Gallup’s entire 70-year history. For all his (and Mr. McCain’s) persistent sightings of ‘victory’ in Iraq, the percentage of Americans calling the war a mistake (63) also set a new record.”

Open thread 4/30

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Miley’s shot a bit too revealing for G rating

cyrusIn the 24/7 media world of tween celebrities, maybe it was only a matter of time before wildly popular Disney star Miley Cyrus found herself overexposed.

The 15-year-old Cyrus has seemed squeaky clean and down to earth — a large part of her G-rated appeal. But an upcoming Vanity Fair photo spread that shows her bare-backed, clutching a sheet and looking bed-tousled has many people asking, “What were they thinking?”

Cyrus apologized to fans, saying she thought the shot was “artistic.” But she — and more to the point, her parents, who attended the photo shoot — aren’t media innocents. They should have known how fans would see the photo.

Delegation won fight on aviation fees

cessnaThe Senate went into this week’s debate on revamping the air traffic control system having negotiated away the worrisome prospect of fees on general aviation’s airport use. Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback and Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, deserve praise for fighting hard against that funding method, which would have hurt Wichita’s planemakers by driving up the costs of owning and flying their products. Both the Senate proposal being debated and the House version, passed last year, would fund the new Global Positioning System for tracking air traffic through an increase in the tax on jet fuel used by noncommercial aircraft. Among the other pluses in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill: a three-hour limit on the amount of time airliners can hold passengers captive on a runway.

District says old school too small, costly to fix

How could the Wichita school board vote Monday to sell the former Carter Elementary to the Catholic Diocese of Wichita at the same time the district proposes a $350 million bond issue to build new schools? Interim superintendent Martin Libhart acknowledged that was a “fair question,” telling The Eagle editorial board Tuesday that the decision was based on Carter’s small capacity (200 students), location, lack of air conditioning and cost of needed renovations. When the district closed Carter in 1996, Libhart said, “it was becoming costly to maintain and even more costly per pupil.” He also said the district’s overcrowding is such that new schools are needed in the core and on the perimeter, not on East 15th Street. And “as nice a facility as it is for its age and the purpose it would serve for the diocese, it would cost quite a bit to renovate it to our standards,” Libhart said. The diocese will acquire it through a lease-to-own deal for use by Holy Savior Academy, currently in the city-owned former Magdalen School at Woodlawn and Kellogg.

Obama repudiates comments and pastor

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Barack Obama said he gave his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the benefit of the doubt when Obama earlier repudiated comments excerpted from some of Wright’s old sermons. But after Wright’s incendiary comments Monday, Obama tried to leave no doubt today that he was repudiating both Wright and his views. “His comments were not only divisive and destructive but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church,” Obama said. “They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and beliefs.” Obama specifically denounced Wright’s “ridiculous proposition” that the U.S. government was involved in creating AIDS, Wright’s support of National of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and Wright equating U.S. wartime efforts to terrorism. If Wright thinks Obama’s previous denunciation was “political posturing,” then “he doesn’t know me very well,” Obama said, adding later that Wright’s comments are “completely opposed to what I stand for and where I want to take this country.”

Obama said he wanted to be very clear that “Rev. Wright does not speak for me.” But Obama’s political opponents won’t be so willing to cut those ties.

Clinton leading McCain, but is she most electable?

clintonthumbsup1.jpgHillary Clinton has surged ahead of John McCain by 9 percentage points in a hypothetical general election match, according to a new Associated Press/Ipsos poll. Barack Obama leads McCain by 2 points in the poll.

The poll strengthens her argument that she is the most electable. However, other surveys and exit polls indicate that Obama would get most of Clinton’s supporters if he faced McCain. The New York Times reported that according to surveys of Pennsylvania voters leaving the polls last week, “Mr. Obama would draw majorities of support from lower-income voters and less-educated ones – just as Mrs. Clinton would against Mr. McCain, even though those voters have favored her over Mr. Obama in the primaries. And national polls suggest Mr. Obama would also do slightly better among groups that have gravitated to Republicans in the past, like men, the more affluent and independents, while she would do slightly better among women.”

Slattery comes out swinging

slatterycampaign.jpgCriticizing the “breathtaking incompetence” of GOP leaders and saying “Let’s light a candle for change in Kansas,” Democrat Jim Slattery officially launched his campaign today against Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. Slattery, who served Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District from 1983 to 1994, must first win the Democratic nomination over Lee Jones of Overland Park in the August primary. To win in the general election, Slattery would need to overcome Roberts’ popularity and flush campaign fund, as well as Slattery’s 14-year absence from the state to work as a D.C. lobbyist. But Slattery is a credible challenger and could make this the state’s first competitive Senate race in a dozen years.

Kansans wrong on wage bill

equalpay.jpgMost members of Congress realized the glaring unfairness of expecting employees to know and formally complain about wage discrimination within 180 days of their employers’ decision to discriminate against them, the upshot of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear. But the majority support in the Senate last week was insufficient to put the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to a vote, with senators including Kansas Republicans Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, to their discredit, among those standing against the bill. Similarly, when the law passed the House last summer, it did so without the votes of Kansans Todd Tiahrt, Jerry Moran and Nancy Boyda.

Opponents, mostly Republicans, say the bill would invite lawsuits – a phony argument, as columnist Clarence Page explains on the Opinion pages today. In fact, because salary comparisons are impossible for most American workers to obtain, what the failure to pass the bill invites is more wage discrimination.

Open thread 4/29

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Dole should condemn ad

doleelizabeth.jpgIt’s disappointing that Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., has refused to condemn an inflammatory campaign ad sponsored by her state’s GOP. The ad, which John McCain repeatedly has condemned, tries to tar two Democratic gubernatorial candidates by linking them to Barack Obama and his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. “I’m just not going to get into refereeing a third-party political ad that has nothing to do with my race,” Dole said. But the North Carolina Republican Party has plenty to do with her race. And as the state’s highest-ranking GOP leader, she should have the standing to stop the ad and the moral courage to criticize it.

Last laughs from Bush 43

bushband.jpgPresident Bush took his last turn at the mike at a White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner on Saturday, also conducting the Marine Band. Noting his daughter Jenna is getting married in two weeks, he said: “Please excuse me if I’m a little sleepy. At 3 a.m. this morning, the red phone rang. It was the damn wedding planner.”

Other highlights:

  • “Sen. McCain is not here. He probably wanted to distance himself from me a little bit. You know, he’s not alone. Jenna is moving out, too. The two Democratic candidates aren’t here either. Sen. Clinton couldn’t get into the building because of sniper fire, and Sen. Obama is at church.”
  • “It’s an interesting crowd. You know, just think: Pamela Anderson and Mitt Romney in the same room. Isn’t that one of the signs of the apocalypse?”

Get ready for more Wright sound bites

wrightpbs.jpgThe Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s pastor, was impressive in a thoughtful hour-long interview on PBS Friday. He explained how the snippets of video excerpted from a couple his old sermons and played over and over on cable TV shows were taken out of context to portray him – and by extension, Obama – as unpatriotic and fanatical. Unfortunately, most Americans probably didn’t watch that interview. Instead, they will hear more sound bites from his weekend NAACP speech or his speech today to the National Press Club – such as his refusal to condemn Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Obama shifting campaign style

obamabasketball.jpgKarl Rove – bless his heart – offered Barack Obama some tips on how to get his mojo back. They included redoing his stump speech, stopping the political attacks and talking more about his policy proposals. “Americans want to see your passion and commitment to things they care about, in ways that give them confidence you’re up to the job,” Rove wrote.

But Obama’s campaign already has retooled. Rather than holding so many of the giant campaign events, Obama is doing more town hall-style meetings and is reminding voters of his modest upbringing and his work as a community organizer. And as Rove recommended, he is backing off criticism of Hillary Clinton.

If Obama dropped out

obamacrowdUntil now, the calls to “drop out” have been directed at Hillary Clinton, whose road to the Democratic nomination has a math problem. Recognizing she won’t do that, Slate writer Chris Wilson calls for Barack Obama to bail, saying that “if he’s really serious about representing a new kind of politics, now is the time for him to prove it in the only meaningful way left. Moreover, were he to play it right, dropping out now nearly guarantees that he’ll be elected president in 2012.” According to Wilson’s scenario: Obama regains “his messiah creds by making the ultimate sacrifice for the good of the party.” His followers are so furious that they refuse to help Clinton, who loses in November. The base then turns its ire on current party leaders, allowing Obama to install his loyalists and deny John McCain re-election in 2012.

Open thread 4/28

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McCain’s tax cuts add up to deficit bloat?

mccainJohn McCain on the stump is proposing $650 million a year in tax cuts, a move that would either swell the federal deficit or lead to drastic cuts in domestic spending, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

McCain’s tax cut plan, “much of it benefiting corporations and upper-income families,” also would make permanent the Bush tax cuts (in a former life as a deficit hawk, he voted against them twice).

McCain says he would cut $160 billion annually from the federal budget to pay for the revenue loss, but few believe that’s possible — the figure is equal to the total 2007 expenditures of the departments of Education, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice and State.

Europe also ignoring coal plant threat

coalplantIt’s not just China and India who are building scores of new coal-fired plants. Despite their green image, European countries are planning to build some 50 coal-fired plants in the next five years, according to the New York Times.

Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and Great Britain — lured by rising oil and natural gas prices and cheap coal — all have new “clean” coal-fired plants in the works, despite scientists’ growing alarm over climate change.

Like their U.S. counterparts, the plant owners tout “clean coal” technology, but the reality is that commercial technology for capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide remains years away — and may never be feasible.

Without a moratorium on new coal plants, warns prominent climate scientist James Hansen of NASA, controlling climate change may be impossible.

EPA scientists ‘under siege’

scientistAn update on the Bush administration’s war on science: More than half of Environmental Protection Agency scientists who responded to a recent survey said they experienced political interference in their work, reports the Los Angeles Times.

EPA scientists have complained bitterly about Bush administration flacks who repeatedly water down language on climate change or ignore toxic chemical findings that impose costs on industry.

The survey shows that the agency is “under siege from political pressures,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Open thread 4/27

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Moore foresees Sebelius presidency

sebeliusflagFilmmaker Michael Moore endorsed Barack Obama last week, linking what he sees as Hillary Clinton’s failure to the moment she “voted to start this bloody war” and decrying her reference to Louis Farrakhan in the Pennsylvania debate. “How sad for a country that wanted to see the first woman elected to the White House. That day will come — but it won’t be you,” Moore told Clinton, writing on the Huffington Post blog. “We’ll have to wait for the current Democratic governor of Kansas to run in 2016 (you read it here first!).”
When asked by The Eagle editorial board about Moore’s prediction, Sebelius joked, “With friends like that. . . .”

One state’s tanker deal is others’ disaster

tankerThe editorial board of Alabama’s Press-Register declared a new leader in the “Boeing political hyperbole contest over the selection of Northrop Grumman-EADS and Mobile for the $40 billion Air Force refueling tanker” — the statement by Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., that “Congress has a responsibility to correct one of the worst decisions in modern history.”

Its editorial went on: “Presumably that covers wars, pestilence, dictators, assassinations, environmental disasters, economic errors, political gaffes and the University of Alabama’s hiring of Mike Price as football coach.”

ll this would be funny, the board said, if Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, weren’t “threatening congressional legislation that would essentially take the contract away from Northrop Grumman-EADS. Now that would be a disaster.”

Obama is a Mac, Clinton a PC

mapcThe latest pop culture comparison of the Democratic presidential candidates is that Barack Obama is a Mac and Hillary Clinton is a PC. It started out as a style comparison, with Doug Kendall writing in the Huffington Post how Obama is young, hip and inspiring, while Clinton is “like that old-reliable PC that we keep on our desks.” But the New York Times reported that the analogy also works with the candidate’s Web sites. Obama’s Web site is much cooler and more harmonious than Clinton’s site.

While the comparison isn’t flattering, Clinton can take comfort in that PC far outsells Mac. As the Times noted, “PC, no doubt, would win the Electoral College by historic proportions (with Mac perhaps carrying Vermont).”