Monthly Archives: November 2009

Airbus also a hero?

flybywireThe new book “Fly by Wire” contends that Capt. Chesley Sullenberger wasn’t the only hero involved in landing an U.S. Airways jetliner on the Hudson River last winter. Journalist William Langewiesche writes that the unsung hero is Bernard Ziegler, a French test pilot who talked Airbus into developing “pilot-proof” airliners. Langewiesche argues that the “fly by wire” automation on the Airbus A320 meant that gliding into the Hudson didn’t require “unusual skill” by the pilots. But Sullenberger responded that the book “greatly overstates how much it mattered” that the plane was an Airbus and not a more conventional Boeing.

Harness nation’s creative edge

Though many people expect China to dominate this century, best-selling author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says that America still has a key advantage over China: imagination. “What your citizens imagine now matters more than ever because they can act on their own imaginations farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before — as individuals,” Friedman wrote. But Friedman fears that U.S. politics has become so polarized that we are unable to effectively solve long-term problems and harness our creativity. “A great power that can only produce suboptimal responses to its biggest challenges will, in time, fade from being a great power — no matter how much imagination it generates,” Friedman wrote.

Whose ‘unchecked spending’?

budgetcutMuch of the reaction to Gov. Mark Parkinson’s budget cuts has avoided finger-pointing and aptly reflected the fact that Kansans are all in this mess together. Two phrases in the otherwise appreciative statement from the Kansas House’s GOP leadership team stood out, though: “the unchecked spending and government growth that occurred under former Gov. Sebelius” and “a broken budget” that Parkinson’s “predecessor refused to acknowledge.” Surely House Republicans haven’t forgotten that their party controlled both chambers of the Legislature, and therefore the state budget, under all six years of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ administration, just as it has since 1993.

It’s the stupidity about the economy

duncecapIt’s not “the economy, stupid,” that is souring voters, as former President Clinton’s campaign staff used to say. “It’s the stupidity about the economy in Washington and on Wall Street that’s driving most voters berserk,” wrote Forbes columnist Dan Gerstein. He contended that rather than focusing on fixing the financial system and getting Americans back to work, Democrats are fixated on making history with the health care bill while Republicans “seem equally obsessed with making health care a political albatross for the Democrats.” Gerstein noted how the big debate recently was whether abortion coverage would be banned in the health care bill. “I don’t mean to belittle the seriousness of the issue,” he wrote, “but is abortion coverage really a pressing priority when unemployment is at its highest rate in 25 years and many experts are warning that another crippling financial collapse is in the offing?”

Open thread 11/24

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Huckabee felt costs of campaign

Huckabee 2008Mike Huckabee, still on his 64-city tour to promote his book “A Simple Christmas,” had bipartisan criticism for some of his fellow contenders for the White House in 2008, noting that while he was trying to figure out how to cover his house payments and health insurance while campaigning, he also “was paying their salaries to run against me” and helping cover their health care and pensions. “Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Tom Tancredo, Sam Brownback, John McCain — name ’em all,” Huckabee told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They all had government jobs. They never showed up for work. And they kept their jobs. If you did that, do you think you’d still get a paycheck?”

Goldman Sachs ‘apology’ hollow

blankfeinLloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs, issued an apology of sorts last week for his firm’s role in the subprime mortgage crisis. The investment bank also announced a $500 million program to invest in small businesses. But as McClatchy Newspapers reported, $500 million is only 2.5 percent of the $20 billion in bonuses that Goldman is expected to pay its employees next month. And a New York Times editorial noted that Blankfein never said exactly what he was sorry for or to whom he was apologizing. If Goldman is really sorry, the editorial said, it should make a multibillion-dollar donation to the federal Bureau of the Public Debt.

Moore has had enough of House

moore,dennisWith Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Lenexa, reportedly ready to give up his 3rd Congressional District after six terms, is Kansas looking at an all-red delegation in 2011? Moore, who grew up in Wichita and was Johnson County’s district attorney for three terms, has survived aggressive GOP attempts to unseat him for the past decade in the heavily Republican district. The rush of heavy hitters interested in succeeding Moore include state Rep. Kevin Yoder, state Sen. Jeff Colyer and former state Sen. Nick Jordan. Moore will release a statement on his own future later today. With three open House seats and one open Senate spot, Kansas’ congressional delegation will see more turnover in 2011 than it has since the 1990s, potentially leaving one-term Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, as the senior House member.

Too many exemptions

taxcutsKansas Revenue Secretary Joan Wagnon continued to press her case last week that the state has given up enough revenue in tax cuts and exemptions for now — nearly $10 billion since 1993. She advocates banning new sales-tax exemptions and rescinding some existing ones, likening a tax break to a state handout. “Ask some hard questions instead of saying. ‘Oh, they sound like a nice organization,’” she said at a discussion in Topeka. “Enough is enough; we can’t do any more of these. We need to stop. We’re just simply forcing that property tax higher and higher.”

Open thread 11/23

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Let immigrants run

starr,kenIt’s time to amend the Constitution to allow naturalized citizens to run for president, Pepperdine University law school dean Ken Starr said last week during a visit to the University of Kansas School of Law. Starr, a former federal judge and solicitor general best known for leading the Whitewater-Lewinsky investigation, noted that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (born in Austria) and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (Canada) are among those constitutionally barred from the White House. “I think that was a very understandable provision at the founding, but it has long since outlived its usefulness,” Starr said.

Late-night laughs

“President Obama said that the people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy if our debt continues to grow. And Americans were like, ‘Uh, way ahead of you, dude.’” — Jimmy Fallon

“Liz Cheney said on Fox News that her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, should run for president in 2012. In fact, that’s apparently in the Mayan calendar too, you know. Cheney becomes president, and then the whole world ends. That’s exactly what happens.” — Jay Leno

“President Obama’s first state dinner at the White House is going to be held in honor of the prime minister of India. Guests are encouraged to wear black tie and to bring any laptops with tech problems.” — Conan O’Brien

Health care reform would save state money

CB106307Some GOP governors blasted health care reform last week, saying that it would result in crippling costs to states. But an analysis released last week by the Kansas Health Policy Authority concluded that the proposed reforms could save Kansas up to $50 million per year. The net savings would come in part from shifting some Kansans out of Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and into a private insurance market. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the reform bills could extend coverage to up to 240,000 uninsured Kansans.

Open thread 11/22

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Minority status in Senate; majority approval at home

Overall, Kansans seem to approve of how Republican Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts are doing in the Democratic-controlled Congress. In the latest SurveyUSA poll, co-sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, Brownback had a 52 percent approval rating, up 4 percentage points from September, and 54 percent approved of the job Roberts is doing (equal to his September rating). Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson’s approval dropped from 53 to 44 percent in the same poll — suggesting that even if he had decided to run against Brownback next year in an effort to stay at Cedar Crest, Parkinson could face an uphill fight.

Jail consultants straining patience

jailhandsinbarsGood for Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh for continuing to question the wisdom of giving an out-of-state consulting firm another 18 months and $228,000 to do the work it has yet to do under an earlier 10-month, $124,616 contract — reduce the Sedgwick County Jail’s population by 25 percent. Jail overcrowding is a hard problem to fix, especially when so many inmates are in the jail for reasons the county can’t control. But if commissioners decide next month to give Justice Concepts Inc. another chance, they need to better explain to the public why this isn’t throwing good taxpayer money after bad.

So they said

parkinsongov“What we do as Kansans when we struggle is that we pull together and we work through our challenges. We don’t typically sue each other.” — Gov. Mark Parkinson, to KSN, Channel 3, calling a possible schools lawsuit unproductive

“When you’re half the budget and the budget goes to hell, you’ll get your share.” — Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, on the necessity of K-12 cuts

“What happened to the money and where did it go? We’ve given it away. That’s the short answer.” — Revenue Secretary Joan Wagnon, partly blaming tax breaks and incentives for the state’s fiscal problems

“Good luck to the Jayhawks. I say that having gone to the Duke Law School. Please don’t boo too loudly, because it will be misinterpreted.” — Former Clinton independent counsel Ken Starr, speaking at KU

ACORN stole election?

acornIn the wake of the disputed 2000 presidential election, many Republicans thought that election reform was a nonissue and that Congress shouldn’t be telling locals how to run their elections. Nine years later, with a Democrat in the White House, 52 percent of Republican voters surveyed by Public Polling Policy said they think ACORN stole the 2008 election for Barack Obama. The polling firm concluded: “The constant harping on ACORN by Republican politicians may sound nutso in some circles, but it certainly has hurt the organization’s image and it looks like the anti-ACORN message may resonate with a decent portion of the American electorate.”

Open thread 11/21

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Pro-con on Obama’s China visit

obamachinaFrom the start, President Obama dispensed with China-bashing and declared the need for a strong bilateral relationship with China to tackle the many problems that confront the world, not least the economic downturn, climate change, nuclear proliferation and terrorism. His two Chinese-American Cabinet members, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, were among the first high-ranking officials to visit Beijing and begin the dialogue on collaboration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first trip after taking office was to China. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has also made an official visit, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has been to China more than once. Obama’s actions have brought results. China’s Premier Wen Jiabao went to North Korea and came back to report that Pyongyang was ready to re-enter the six-party talks, subject to the United States being willing to conduct direct bilateral discussions. This is a refreshing change from the unilateral approach of the Bush administration. — George Koo, New America Media

Creating jobs for Americans is President Obama’s top priority. Yet he left China with little to show in further opening the world’s fastest-growing economy to greater U.S. imports. Perhaps Obama’s three-day visit at least created enough good will with Beijing’s tight-lipped leaders to later achieve his goal of reducing China’s blatant discrimination against foreign firms. The president promised last September that the United States “cannot go back to an era where the Chinese . . . just are selling everything to us.” More than three-quarters of the $400 billion in trade between the countries is one-way from China. But as old China hands like to say, “You don’t change China; China changes you.” And Obama seems to have fallen for many of the Communist Party’s old excuses for selective protectionism. Even boosting U.S. exports by 1 percent to a country with 1.3 billion people would create close to 200,000 American jobs. — Christian Science Monitor editorial

Will GOP contenders be nice to Obama?

Aptopix Obama 2008 PrimaryGOP governors ended their meeting in Texas on Thursday by cautioning the party’s 2010 candidates to go easy on President Obama. “We need to be careful. We need to treat the president respectfully,” said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, noting that the nation’s first African-American president enjoys a “residuary of good will.” Somehow it’s hard to imagine that warning will be heeded by conservative media or by conservative candidates in red states such as Kansas, where Obama’s approval rating was just 41 percent late last month (in a SurveyUSA poll co-sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12).

Bad timing on mammogram recommendation

mammogramThere may be good science behind a federal task force recommendation that women in their 40s don’t need annual mammograms, but it was bad timing for the Obama administration. Coming in the midst of the heated debate about health care reform, the recommendation became instant fodder for those claiming that the government is going to ration health care and get between patients and their doctors. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius responded Wednesday that the task force does “not set federal policy and they don’t determine what services are covered by the federal government.” But that’s unlikely to quell concerns.

Open thread 11/20

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Questions linger about Coliseum

kansascoliseumSome questions left over from Thursday’s editorial on the Kansas Coliseum’s uncertain future, in the wake of the Sedgwick County Commission’s vote against negotiating with any developer right now:
– How could the committee reviewing the proposals not take into consideration the fact that its preferred developer, North American Management-Kansas, also is involved in trying to get approval for a Native American casino nearby?
– The public outcry over the proposal last summer to close the Coliseum complex came from the groups that use its pavilions for dog, horse, gun shows and more. Where were the passionate defenders of the Britt Brown Arena? Do they have any ideas for how to keep it open and productive?

Moran correct about Cuba

moranThe campaign of Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, looked childish and desperate in sending out an e-mail falsely claiming that Senate rival Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, had been endorsed by the Communist Party USA. But as Washburn University political science professor Robert Beatty hoped, perhaps the incident may lead to an intelligent discussion about U.S. policy. Perhaps — though probably not. As Moran correctly argues, decades of U.S. embargoes haven’t brought an end to communist rule in Cuba and actually may have helped prop it up. Lifting some trade and travel bans to Cuba would benefit Kansas farmers and could help spread democracy.