Monthly Archives: February 2010

Argument continues over who is most conservative

Moran-TiahrtRep. Todd Tiahrt (right), R-Goddard, and Rep. Jerry Moran (left), R-Hays, are championing their 96 percent ratings for 2009 by the American Conservative Union. Though they tied, Tiahrt announced in a press release that he was the most conservative member of the Kansas delegation because he has a lifetime ACU rating of 95 percent (Moran has a 92 percent lifetime rating). Moran responded by noting that he received a 96 percent rating in 2009 from the fiscally conservative Club for Growth, while Tiahrt received a 29 percent rating.

Open thread 2/28

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Help for Open Door helps community

homeles5Good for the majority of Sedgwick County commissioners for stepping up Wednesday on short notice to help United Methodist Open Door’s effort to transform a building at Second and Topeka into a comprehensive resource and referral center for those facing homelessness. The county’s pledge of $500,000 in matching funding over five years should help Open Door secure a much larger grant from the Mabee Foundation and get on with the renovation. Another $500,000 from the Kansas Health Foundation will further serve Open Door’s one-stop referral center, which is one of the goals of the city-county Taskforce to End Chronic Homelessness. Commission Chairman Karl Peterjohn voted against the funding, citing concerns about tying the hands of future commissioners and even suggesting such public funding deters religious efforts on behalf of the homeless. But “I don’t see this as us helping the religious community,” said Commissioner Gwen Welshimer. “I see them helping us, because we’re responsible for the social services in this community and were it not for them, we would be facing the dilemma of how to handle this alone. So I see this as a great help for Sedgwick County.”

So they said

morrissteve“This is the first time in my political life that I’ve sensed that an election is predetermined.” — Senate President Steve Morris (in photo), R-Hugoton, on the gubernatorial race between Sen. Sam Brownback and little-known state Sen. Tom Holland

“I’m concerned the president may be suffering from hearing loss.” — Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, responding to President Obama’s release of a health care plan costing “$79 billion more than the old one”

“It’s like driving through Kansas on the interstate (something I’ve done many times): long, vast stretches of boredom punctuated by the occasional brief promise of excitement that would require detouring from the planned route.” — Syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg, on Thursday’s health care summit

“Like Joseph, we will store up in the seven years of abundance to be prepared for the seven years of drought.” — State Treasurer Dennis McKinney, testifying in favor of a constitutional amendment creating a state rainy-day fund

Pro-con: Was Congress right to raise debt ceiling?

deficitThe nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office forecasts unemployment of 10, 9.1 and 7.2 percent, respectively, for 2010-12. That means millions of ruined lives and permanent scars that will persist for years and possibly decades — in the form of increased poverty, lower educational levels, mental illness, suicide, crime and other social ills. The stimulus is estimated as having saved 1.6 million to 2 million jobs, whereas we are down about 8.5 million jobs since the recession began. Bottom line: We need more stimulus, not less. This is not the time to be worrying about deficits or national debt. It is clear that there is no short-term problem with running large deficits in a weak economy: Investors are buying up even long-term U.S. Treasury bonds at remarkably low real interest rates. Clearly, the markets do not perceive that our government is heading into risky territory with its debt. Interest payments on the debt are currently just 1.4 percent of gross domestic product. — Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Every time Congress sets a new debt limit, the government quickly reaches it and Congress responds by raising the limit again. The surge in debt financing will make it more difficult for the economy to improve, as more tax dollars go to finance interest payments, leaving fewer dollars for other needs. A second storm cloud is the aging of the baby boom generation: Americans born between 1946 and 1964. The first baby boomers already have started collecting Social Security and will become eligible for Medicare next year. If the government borrows money to pay these long-promised benefits, as seems likely, federal debt could skyrocket. A third challenge is the growing reluctance of foreigners — notably China — to finance the deficits by acquiring ever-more Treasury securities. The solution to such tensions is painfully obvious: control spending and stop running massive deficits. But as we saw as Congress voted to raise the debt limit once again, that obvious solution is politically beyond Washington’s grasp. — R.D. Norton, American Institute for Economic Research

Open thread 2/27

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Tiahrt in the clear

tiahrtnewmugAt last Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, can stop worrying about an ethics inquiry and its potential threat to his U.S. Senate campaign. According to U.S. House ethics committee reports obtained by the Associated Press, Tiahrt and six other current or former members of the House Appropriations Committee violated no ethics rules related to defense appropriations and companies represented by the now-defunct PMA Group lobbying firm. That means Tiahrt was accurate in predicting in January that he would be “fully exonerated by March 2.” That also neutralizes ethics as a talking point for Tiahrt’s rival for the Senate seat, Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays.

Justice Obama? Clinton?

supremecourtbldgWhen President Obama must nominate another justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, he should consider himself, wrote George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen. “Though Obama has struggled to find his footing in the White House, his education, temperament and experience make him ideally suited to lead the liberal wing of the court, especially at a time when a narrow conservative majority seems increasingly intent on challenging progressive economic reforms for the first time since the New Deal.” If nominating himself would be too much — and it would — “he could gamble and promise Hillary Rodham Clinton that he won’t run for re-election in 2012 in exchange for a pledge of appointment to the next vacancy.” It would be awkward for Obama to sit on a court alongside two justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, whose confirmation he voted against in the Senate. But it’s not crazy to see Obama following the path of “William Howard Taft, who became chief justice after serving as president and decided that leading the court was a far better job than leading the country.”
Meanwhile, Daily Beast writers Mark McKinnon and Myra Adams recently nominated Clinton for the next court opening. “She’s as smart and as qualified as any prospect her party could nominate,” they wrote.

Summit showed that bipartisanship, civility should be possible

Obama Health Care OverhaulThursday’s health care summit in Washington, D.C., didn’t result in Republicans and Democrats holding hands and resolving all their disagreements, and there was a fair amount of posturing. But it did show that people can have thoughtful, respectful conversations about this crucial issue. And it showed how, despite all the partisan rhetoric, the two sides share many approaches and goals in health care reform. Now, if they could just agree on what they agree on.

Open thread 2/26

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Smoking ban miracle

smoking2Just like that, the Legislature has passed a statewide indoor smoking ban. And once Gov. Mark Parkinson signs the bill and it goes into effect on July 1, all Kansans will be able to breathe easier in public places, including bars. It’s unfortunate that some Wichita restaurants will lose the investment they made creating a separated smoking area, though it was inevitable that Wichita’s partial ban would be overridden as more people see how full bans in other states have improved health and haven’t harmed businesses. It also would have been better if the Kansas ban didn’t exempt state-owned casinos, but the new law will be a huge improvement to public health. As was said during a previous Winter Olympics: “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

Hartman takes early lead

hartmanThe first SurveyUSA poll in the GOP primary race for the 4th Congressional District finds businessman Wink Hartman far out in front, with 36 percent of the support compared with 11 percent for state Sen. Dick Kelsey of Goddard and 10 percent each for state Sen. Jean Schodorf of Wichita and businessman Mike Pompeo. Businessman Jim Anderson earned 6 percent of the support. Fifteen percent of those in the poll, sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, said they were undecided. The winner in the August primary will take on either state Rep. Raj Goyle of Wichita or Robert Tillman of Wichita to determine a successor to Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

Petraeus against torture, wants Gitmo closed

US Iraq PetraeusFormer Vice President Dick Cheney is a “big supporter of waterboarding,” but Gen. David Petraeus is not. “I have always been on the record, in fact, since 2003, with the concept of living our values,” he said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And I think that whenever we have, perhaps, taken expedient measures, they have turned around and bitten us in the backside . . . Abu Ghraib and other situations like that are nonbiodegradables. They don’t go away. The enemy continues to beat you with them like a stick in the Central Command area of responsibility.” Beyond that, Petraeus said, the approved interrogation methods work, so torture isn’t needed. Also unlike Cheney, Petraeus favors closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

GOP’s turn to provide health care solutions

healthcarereformGOP lawmakers slammed President Obama’s blueprint for health care reform, so the burden will be on them to offer real solutions when they meet with Obama at a televised health care summit today. An earlier House GOP proposal had some good ideas for curbing costs but would not have significantly reduced the number of uninsured and would not have prohibited insurance companies from denying claims or coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Sky-high premium increases announced this month in California and other states — in some cases as high as 39 percent — show what can happen when people aren’t required to have insurance. The problem is that, because healthy individuals aren’t buying insurance, high percentages of people in the plans have major health problems, which cause the policies to become more and more costly.

Open thread 2/25

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State senators look strong in ‘Big First’

barnettjimhuelskampThe first SurveyUSA poll in the GOP primary for Kansas’ 1st Congressional District looks most promising for state Sen. Jim Barnett (left), R-Emporia, and “undecided,” which each garnered 23 percent support. In the poll, sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, Sen. Tim Huelskamp (right), R-Fowler, had 16 percent, followed by former Sam Brownback aide Rob Wasinger of Cottonwood Falls with 8 percent. None of the other four Republicans in the race — Sue Boldra of Hays, Tracey Mann of Salina, Monte Shadwick of Salina and Marck Cobb of Galva — managed more than 5 percent support. The candidates are vying to replace Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

Is Brownback a ‘highway hypocrite’?

brownbackmugSen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., is featured in an advertisement by the Democratic National Committee about “highway hypocrites.” The ad notes how Brownback and other GOP lawmakers voted against the stimulus bill but have sought stimulus funding for their states or bragged about the local jobs that the stimulus money has created. The liberal Web site ThinkProgress.org documented how 114 GOP lawmakers have tried to take credit for stimulus spending. The Wall Street Journal also reported on more than a dozen GOP lawmakers who supported stimulus-funding requests, often praising the job-creating potential of the spending.

Roberts and the waterboarding tapes

robertsmugWhen Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee, did he consent to the destruction of tapes showing CIA officials waterboarding terror suspect Abu Zubayda? A recently released CIA document says he did. But Roberts’ office denies it, saying that he was briefed but didn’t “assent to the destruction of any videotapes” and calling on the Justice Department to release “all the memoranda that exist regarding briefings for all members of Congress.” The document describes how Roberts “winced” upon hearing how suspected USS Cole bombing mastermind Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was interrogated by “the cocking of a pistol (reportedly unloaded) near his blind-folded face, and the brandishment of an electric hand drill.” According to Politico.com, a Justice Department special prosecutor is looking into whether the CIA broke the law by destroying the waterboarding tapes, which might have been used as evidence in a trial.

Open thread 2/24

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Hope for bipartisanship?

brown,scottIt’s unlikely that Monday’s Senate vote on a job-creation bill signaled a return to bipartisan lawmaking in Washington, D.C. Nonetheless, it was good to see five GOP lawmakers, including newly elected Sen. Scott Brown (in photo), R-Mass., vote to override a GOP filibuster of the bill, which provides tax credits and exemptions for businesses that hire new employees. The majority of GOP lawmakers were mad that Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev., separated these reforms from a larger proposal and refused to allow amendments.

House second-guessed a painless cut

tuttlecreekThe state is flat broke, which is why the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks decided to close the west entrance to Tuttle Creek State Park near Manhattan to save $50,000. The department also said a single entrance would deter crime and improve traffic monitoring. Instead of applauding the department’s cost-saving move, though, the House voted 59-57 last week to reopen the entrance. State Rep. Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys, said he was skeptical about the stated savings and would rather the department let an administrative job go unfilled and “keep the entrance open for the public’s benefit.” To which Topeka Capital-Journal columnist Ric Anderson responded: “Hmm. Wonder how Kansans who are at risk of losing social and medical services would prefer that money be spent?”

Paul was big winner in CPAC poll

Paul 2008 Reagan DinnerRep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, was the big winner in the presidential straw poll at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. Paul was picked by 31 percent of CPAC poll participants, followed by Mitt Romney with 22 percent, Sarah Palin with 7 percent and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty with 6 percent. Nearly half of the attendees at this year’s conference were college students, who provide a large base of support for the libertarian-leaning Paul. Conference attendees also gave President Obama a 98 percent disapproval rating.

America is, too, governable

reaganColumnist Charles Krauthammer scoffs at those wondering if America has become ungovernable. He notes how the same question was raised during the Carter administration, yet Ronald Reagan and then Bill Clinton were able to govern the nation and pass major reforms. “Under a president with extensive executive experience, good political skills and an ideological compass in tune with the public, the country was indeed governable,” he writes.

Open thread 2/23

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Actress defends ‘Family Guy’

familyguySarah Palin was upset with the cartoon series “Family Guy” for having a character with Down syndrome who said she was “the daughter of the former governor of Alaska.” Palin’s real daughter Bristol called the writers of the show “heartless jerks.” But the 39-year-old actress who played the character — and who has Down syndrome herself — criticized Palin for not having a sense of humor. “In my family we think laughing is good,” said Andrea Fay Friedman (in photo). “My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life.” Gail Williamson, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles, which assists films and television series in casting actors with the disability, defended the show’s portrayal of the character. “Within ‘Family Guy,’ the character was fully included, well-rounded, dynamic, not dealing with stereotypical Down syndrome issues,” she told the New York Times.