Monthly Archives: January 2010

Worried about campaign-finance ruling

lobbyist“The Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision last week giving American corporations the right to unlimited political spending was an astonishing display of judicial arrogance, overreach and unjustified activism,” columnist E.J. Dionne wrote. He scoffed at the court’s conclusion that a corporation, a creation of laws passed by governments, should be entitled to the same free-speech rights as an individual citizen. And he worried that corporate lobbyists will now be able to threaten lawmakers that if they don’t support a taxpayer bailout or particular tax exemption, they face  millions of dollars in negative ads. And that applies to foreign-owned corporations, too. “Imagine what an enterprise owned or influenced by the Chinese or Russian governments might try to do to a politician who campaigns too ardently for human rights?” Dionne wrote.

Buffett still sold on Bernanke

buffett,warrenSenators in both parties have made noises about refusing to confirm Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to a second term. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, thinks Bernanke should have seen the economic collapse coming and that the Fed needs a “fresh start.” But investment king Warren Buffett (in photo) thinks dumping Bernanke would be a bad move by senators, telling Fox Business Network: “They ought to get down on their knees every night and thank the Lord that Bernanke was there through this. I mean, he took some unprecedented actions. He took them quickly. He kept us from going right into the precipice. There’s no question in my mind about that.”

Huckabee the winner

Huckabee 2008According to Public Policy Polling, President Obama would lose to Mike Huckabee if the 2012 presidential election were held today, with 44 percent of the vote to Huckabee’s 45 percent. Obama’s hypothetical loss is a first in the firm’s monthly polls. He would still beat Mitt Romney by 2 percentage points and Sarah Palin by 8 points.

Open thread 1/25

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Moran on tea partiers

teasign“The national media has made it seem like these people who are attending town hall meetings and tea parties are crazy and don’t know what they’re talking about. These are normal, everyday Americans concerned about their country. These are good things.” — Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, speaking last week in Basehor

Biden favored Biden, too

bidenOne of the many nuggets about the 2008 campaign in the new book “Game Change,” by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, concerns what then-Sen. Joe Biden said when he heard that he, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius probably were being vetted to be Barack Obama’s running mate: “If that’s the group, I’m the guy.”

Brown couldn’t make it in Kansas GOP

brown,scottFrom all the excitement about Scott Brown and his stunning upset in Massachusetts’ Senate race, you’d think he fit the GOP’s conservative ideal. But he doesn’t. “Brown fits in well in pro-choice, pro-gay marriage Massachusetts. If Brown entered a Kansas GOP primary race, he’d be run into Colorado on a rail,” wrote Fort Hays State University political science professor Chapman Rackaway in the Hays Daily News. “Somehow I doubt the National Republican Senatorial Committee is going to encourage their candidates to start favoring abortion and gun control on the trail this year.”

Open thread 1/24

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‘Avatar’ gripes are in eye of beholder

Avatar2“It’s really become this Rorschach test for your personal interests and anxieties,” author Rebecca Keegan said about the variety of groups taking offense with the movie “Avatar.” The New York Times reported that the movie, which is setting box-office records and won the Golden Globe award for best picture, “has been criticized by social and political conservatives who bristle at its depictions of religion and the use of military force, feminists who feel that the male avatar bodies are stronger and more muscular than their female counterparts, anti-smoking advocates who object to a character who lights up cigarettes, not to mention fans of Soviet-era Russian science fiction, the Chinese and the Vatican.” The Chinese think the movie is “a parable for Chinese people whose dwellings have been forcibly razed by local governments to make way for new construction.”

Jury selection more private than not

gavelWhen The Eagle editorial board gave credit to Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert for responding to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling by opening part of jury selection in the Scott Roeder trial to the media, we were hoping for better than we got: less than two hours of openness on Thursday afternoon, after five days of closed questioning. So much closed-door time, including the attorneys’ final striking of jurors, leaves a lot to wonder about, especially when the private questioning was promised to be reserved for “sensitive personal issues.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 last week that the Constitution’s guarantee of a “speedy and public trial” means judges may not ordinarily close their courtrooms during jury selection, setting aside the conviction of a Georgia man for cocaine trafficking. “Trial courts are obligated to take every reasonable measure to accommodate public attendance at criminal trials,” the high court said.

So they said

jenkins,lynn“The only thing we should be capping is the hot air coming out of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.” — Rep. Lynn Jenkins (in photo), R-Topeka, referring to the cap-and-trade bill

“His proposal was the opening pitch. It was never intended to finish the game.” — Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, on the Legislature’s cold response to the governor’s proposed sales-tax increase

Conan “O’Brien gets 45M buyout — that would cover Kansas’ 10 percent Medicaid cut — twice.” — Lawrence Journal-World reporter Scott Rothschild, on Twitter

“Is it just me or does Martha Coakley look and talk like Kathleen Sebelius?” — Vicki Holland Tiahrt, wife of Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, on Twitter

Pro-con: Time for states to legalize marijuana?

marijuanaLet’s get this marijuana thing over with, shall we? California took the next step toward decriminalization in a 4-3 vote by the Assembly Public Safety Committee — the first legislative body in the nation supporting recreational pot use. AB390 would overhaul the state’s marijuana laws and allow possession, sale and cultivation of marijuana for people 21 and older while imposing a $50-an-ounce sales tax, much like taxes on tobacco and alcohol. The billions in revenue this would generate might be one way for the state to help solve its budget problem. Law enforcement is largely opposed. But if you legalize it, criminals will move on to something else. Crooks can’t compete in the free-market transaction of legal goods and services; otherwise they’d be legitimate businessmen. And if organized crime tried to duck the sales tax by selling bootleg buds, they’d face far more serious foes. The one thing more venomous than a drug cartel is the IRS. (Just ask Al Capone.) — Bruce Maiman, Sacramento Bee

The California bill to legalize and tax marijuana is being marketed as a revenue raiser. The Board of Equalization estimates that the state could reap up to $1.3 billion, and proponents have wielded the budget crisis to boost support. Polls show 56 percent of Californians back legalizing marijuana. Across the country, the numbers are somewhat lower, but nevertheless momentum is building for a reconsideration of marijuana laws covering both medicinal and recreational use. Many states now treat marijuana offenses as mere infractions, not subject to jail time. The American Medical Association recently reversed its long-held position and urged more research into the drug’s properties. Still, for California to purport to legalize marijuana unilaterally raises several serious concerns. For one thing, to do so simply because the state faces a budget crisis would be a rash and reckless way to make public policy. More important, states don’t not have the authority to take such a step. Marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, deemed by the federal government to have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical value and to be illegal to use under all circumstances. — Los Angeles Times editorial

Open thread 1/23

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Late-night laughs

“It’s hard to believe President Obama has now been in office for a year. And you know, it’s incredible. He took something that was in terrible, terrible shape, and he brought it back from the brink of disaster: the Republican Party.” — Jay Leno

“Obama’s pick to head the TSA withdrew his name because he performed an illegal background check on his ex-wife’s boyfriend. Still, that’s an improvement from the TSA’s normal procedure: not performing background checks.” — Jimmy Fallon

“Scott Brown made a victory speech where he mentioned his two daughters were available. At least this explains his campaign slogan, ‘Scott Brown, creepy for Massachusetts, creepy for America.’” — Conan O’Brien

Even left is fed up with Obama

angryIn a blog post headlined “He Wasn’t the One We’ve Been Waiting For,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote, “I’m pretty close to giving up on Mr. Obama, who seems determined to confirm every doubt I and others ever had about whether he was ready to fight for what his supporters believed in.” Krugman wishes House Democrats would pass the Senate’s health bill, “which isn’t what they wanted but is vastly better than nothing.” And Congress can’t and shouldn’t try to pass reform incrementally, he said: “Ban discrimination based on medical history, and you get an adverse-selection death spiral, in which healthy people opt out and premiums soar. You can’t solve that without both requiring that healthy people buy insurance and helping those with lower incomes afford the premiums.”

Legislative thrift should start under the dome

capitaldomeWith all due respect to state lawmakers: Are they nuts? The state is facing a budget emergency bad enough to necessitate a 10 percent cut in Medicaid, 3,700 public school job cuts, and the closing of two prison units and 18 Kansas National Guard armories, among other recent reductions. Yet the Senate Ways and Means Committee this week rejected Gov. Mark Parkinson’s recommended $2.2 million cut for the Legislature, opting for a $1.1 million cut instead; that proposal now heads to the full Senate. Meanwhile, the Legislature’s GOP leadership delayed its much-touted plan to cut the legislative budget via 10 unpaid furlough days, blaming technical issues. As state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said about the resistance to the governor’s legislative budget cut: “If we are in a hole, do we want to keep digging?”

Open thread 1/22

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Enjoy state’s teams while they’re hot

wsubballHow great is it that Kansas has three competitive men’s Division I basketball teams? Any one of them might break fans’ hearts at any time, of course. But seeing the Wichita State Shockers beat No. 20 Northern Iowa, the No. 10 Kansas State Wildcats upset No. 1 Texas and the No. 3 University of Kansas Jayhawks stay strong in defeating No. 25 Baylor has brightened the gloomy mood this week and given Kansans a case of early-onset March madness.

Court ruling could bring surge of cash

moneyfallingThe U.S. Supreme Court may have been correct today in overturning laws, and its own past decisions, limiting spending by corporations to support or oppose federal candidates. Though supporters of campaign-finance laws question how unlimited spending  is a free-speech right, it can take money to get out a message. But the result of the 5-4 ruling could be costly, with even more money pouring into politics.

Big surprise: Edwards is the father

edwardsfingerheadThe only real surprise about the news of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards having fathered a child with a former mistress is that he finally admitted it. Edwards repeatedly had denied that he was the father. But an aide who’d claimed to be the father is getting ready to release a tell-all book. Edwards is also still under investigation about whether he used campaign money to cover up the affair.

Are Democrats in a big hole?

donkeys“Why does the term ‘circular firing squad’ seem to pop up after every Democratic defeat?” wrote columnist E.J. Dionne. “Those Democrats whose mistakes led to this fiasco know who they are. If they don’t take responsibility and instead just try to shift all the blame to someone else, they will prove themselves unprepared for the work they now have to do to get their party out of this hole.”
But columnist Eugene Robinson disagreed with “overheated commentary that this was the end of the world.” Robinson wrote: “From the Democratic Party’s point of view, losing the Senate supermajority can’t be construed as a net positive. But being left with an 18-vote majority isn’t usually the sort of thing that throws a party into abject despair.”

Open thread 1/21

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Free-market support for eliminating tax exemptions

taxrevenueThough many lawmakers seem to be afraid to even talk about eliminating sales-tax exemptions, Wichita blogger and free-market advocate Bob Weeks supports the idea. He argues that eliminating exemptions would simplify the tax system and increase its transparency and neutrality. “This reform would be a good thing to do even if we’re not in a tight budget year with legislators desperately looking for revenue or savings,” Weeks wrote.

Design texting bill for swift passage

textmessageThe word out of a Kansas House hearing Tuesday was that the best means to passing a ban on texting while driving would be a stand-alone bill, rather than a measure that doubles as a primary seat-belt law or makes other changes. “If you stick all this other stuff in there you’re going to lose support,” said House Transportation Committee Chairman Gary Hayzlett, R-Lakin. Three law enforcement agencies and even cell-phone companies support the ban, which would bar all drivers from using wireless devices to send text messages after July 1 and impose a $100 fine as of July 1, 2011. Kansas Peace Officers Association lobbyist Ed Klumpp had a good answer for those who question whether a texting ban is enforceable: “If you’re sitting there holding your cell phone and you’re doing a lot of typing on that thing and you’re never putting it to your ear and your lips are never moving, we in law enforcement call that a clue.”

Late-night laughs

“In 2009, the FBI reported a 20 percent decrease in the number of people robbing banks. There was, however, a huge increase in the number of banks robbing people.” — Jimmy Fallon

“The Shady Lady brothel in Nevada has a 25-year-old man named Marcus, and he’s become the first legal male prostitute in American history. Well, the first one not elected to the United States Senate, of course.” — Jay Leno