Monthly Archives: February 2010

Jail solution within city isn’t off the table

jailbarsResponding to our Sunday editorial calling for better cooperation among Sedgwick County and Wichita leaders to solve the jail overcrowding problem, City Council member Lavonta Williams called The Eagle editorial board to second the sentiment, underscore the city’s engagement and add that USD 259 should be at the table, too, because any proposed site for a new work-release or day-reporting center also would affect neighborhood schools. “I just think that we need to look and weigh all options,” Williams said. Regarding County Commissioner Gwen Welshimer’s suggestion last week that “the city is not going to accommodate us anywhere within the city limits,” Williams said: “I just think that we have not said ‘no place within the city limits.’”

Woods shanked apology

tigerwoodsTiger Woods said some astonishing things in his statement to the media — fessing up to behavior he called “irresponsible,” “selfish” and “foolish” and saying he convinced himself “that normal rules didn’t apply” and he felt he “was entitled.” But his “televised news release” fell short, concluded sports author John Feinstein. “At a moment when the arrogance that makes him a great golfer should have been put aside, he couldn’t do it. Seconds after delivering his various mea culpas, he started lecturing the media,” Feinstein wrote. And he should have taken questions. “Woods, who says he now understands that he’s not above the rules of common decency, is still above answering questions from those who are paid to represent a public that has helped make him a billionaire. He still insists he’s entitled to a private life when no one has said he’s not. What he is not — and was not — entitled to is the secret life he led while passing himself off to the public as the devoted husband and father.”

Cheney’s done with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ too

cheneyIn between saying that he’s “a big supporter of waterboarding” and that President Obama owes his predecessor “a healthy dose of ‘thank you, George Bush,’” former Vice President Dick Cheney said something recently on ABC’s “This Week” that made uncommon sense to Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson: that it’s time to “reconsider” the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays in the military and that he believes the policy will change. “I think the society has moved on,” said Cheney, a former secretary of defense. “I think it’s partly a generational question.”
Robinson concluded: “Cheney’s burst of lucidity should help Republicans in Congress understand that there is no longer any reliable constituency for the troglodyte position on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ If a long-overdue policy shift that would allow gay people to serve openly in the armed forces is fine with three-fourths of the American public, the top officers in the Pentagon hierarchy and Dick Cheney, too, then the times aren’t just a-changing. They’ve already changed.”

Open thread 2/22

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Brownback leading on Iran regime change

brownbackofficialmugThe Obama administration’s support for Iran’s “Green Revolution” has been muted at best, even as pro-democracy demonstrators have been rounded up and executed. Good for Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., for introducing, with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the Iran Democratic Transition Act of 2010, which not only would “fully and publicly support” regime change but, as the Hill newspaper reported, also would “authorize nonmilitary assistance to pro-democracy Iranian opposition groups, create a special envoy for democracy and human rights in Iran” and “explore a mulilateral regional framework on human rights.”
Brownback said: “The biggest problem with Iran is not weapons or terrorism but the regime itself. This legislation would put the United States firmly and unequivocally on the side of the Iranian people.”

Obama’s numbers upside down in Kansas

thumbsdownKansas’ latest SurveyUSA poll, sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, found President Obama went from a 62 percent approval rate on Inauguration Day to a 62 percent disapproval rate this month, when his approval rate hit a new low of 35 percent (down 5 percentage points since January). Meanwhile, 56 and 52 percent of Kansans in the poll approve of the job performance of Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, respectively, while 47 percent approve of the job Gov. Mark Parkinson is doing. Those ratings represented gains of 5 points each for Brownback and Parkinson since January; Roberts’ approval rating was unchanged.

Open thread 2/21

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Conservatives riding wave of stimulus criticism

stimuluscheckPresident Obama’s year-old economic stimulus package has created one industry — that of stimulus criticism, noted Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank. He counted Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, among those “who have used the measure to build an assembly line of press releases,” quoting a Tiahrt release declaring that “the only thing the Obama stimulus plan has accomplished is building a bigger government.” Then there was Rep. Joe (“you lie”) Wilson, R-S.C., who offered a greeting card with the saying “Happy Anniversary, Stimulus” and the sentiment: “Wish You Came With a Gift Receipt.” Of course, Milbank observed, “there was a time when such statements would have been regarded as ‘talking down’ the economy.”

Pass robo-call restrictions

sixsteveGood for Attorney General Steve Six for continuing to push for restrictions on robo-calls, those automated phone calls that politicians and special interest groups make to citizens — often repeatedly throughout the day. “Although we are still nine months away from election day, my office is already receiving complaints regarding political robo-calls,” Six wrote last week. Legislation that Six recommended also would apply to companies but would allow exemptions for schools and organizations that already have relationships with the recipient of the call.

So they said

“There are flat-bottom boats that don’t have rudders, and it’s very difficult to steer them. They pretty much go where the wind blows them. I think Jerry Moran is a flat-bottom boat.” — Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, answering a question in Pittsburg about why he, and not Moran, is the better candidate for U.S. Senate

“Anything Washington, D.C., calls reform is a bad deal.” — Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, in Great Bend, touting his votes against the stimulus, bailouts, cap-and-trade, Cash for Clunkers, and health reform

“If we lower taxes in good times and don’t increase them in bad times, when do we raise them?” — Garden City school superintendent Rick Atha, at a meeting with legislators

Pro-con: Do blizzards disprove global warming?

CORRECTION Arctic MeltThe news of blizzards must send chills up the spines of global warming adherents, for whom this winter has been marked by discontent. Several of the movement’s high priests have been exposed as charlatans. The famed “hockey stick” chart — cited as indisputable evidence that the planet has been warming for a century — was exposed for fraudulently doctoring data to “hide the decline” in temperatures. When the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that glaciers were melting as a result of the selfishness of mankind, the claim turned out to be a fabrication. The left now must dig itself out from under more than just snow. Public acceptance of a massive cap-and-trade scheme to control carbon emissions shrinks as snowdrifts climb ever skyward. — Washington Times editorial

The 2009 U.S. Climate Impacts Report found that large-scale cold-weather storm systems have gradually tracked to the north in the United States over the past 50 years. While the frequency of storms in the middle latitudes has decreased as the climate has warmed, the intensity of those storms has increased. That’s in part because of global warming — hotter air can hold more moisture, so when a storm gathers it can unleash massive amounts of snow. Shouldn’t climate change make it too warm for snow to fall? Eventually that is likely to happen — but not for a while. In the meantime, warmer air could be supercharged with moisture and, as long as the temperature remains below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it will result in blizzards. It’s a mistake to use such storms to disprove climate change. Weather is what will happen next weekend; climate is what will happen over the next decades and centuries. — Bryan Walsh, Time

Open thread 2/20

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Late-night laughs

“President Obama has announced that he’s approving construction of two new nuclear reactors. And George W. Bush immediately stood up and screamed, ‘It’s nucular!’” — David Letterman

“A new Gallup poll found that 44 percent of Americans would vote for President Obama in 2012, while 42 percent would vote for a Republican candidate. If you are wondering about the other 14 percent, let’s just say Bieber fever has gotten a little out of control.” — Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama in Washington met with the Dalai Lama, despite strong objections from the Chinese government. China considers the Dalai Lama a threat to their sovereignty and warned that if Obama met with him, it would damage U.S.-Chinese relations. They’ve even threatened to stop sending us poisonous toys.” — Jimmy Kimmel

GOP would lose big with Palin

Palin 2008Sarah Palin “is not going to be president and will not be the Republican nominee unless the party wants to lose at least 44 states,” George Will wrote. “Conservatives, who rightly respect markets as generally reliable gauges of consumer preferences, should notice that the political market is speaking clearly: The more attention Palin receives, the fewer Americans consider her presidential timber. The latest Post-ABC News poll shows that 71 percent of Americans — including 52 percent of Republicans — think she is not qualified to be president.”

Was arrest of Taliban leader a bad thing?

holbrookeThe arrest of the Taliban’s top military commander by Pakistani and U.S. agents, and the arrests this week of two other senior Taliban leaders, have brought some mixed reactions. U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke (in photo) commended the Pakistanis for their role in the arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and the “deepening cooperation between us.” But there also is concern that Baradar’s arrest might hurt the Afghan government’s reconciliation efforts with the Taliban, which the United States has supported. Baradar was the only top Taliban leader supportive of peace negotiations, one Afghan leader told the New York Times. Some are also suggesting that Pakistan captured Baradar because it wanted to be part of the negotiations.

Open thread 2/19

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Debt-reduction commission better than nothing

cashGood for President Obama for issuing an executive order Thursday creating a bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. But it would have been much, much better if Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and several other senators hadn’t flip-flopped and blocked legislation establishing a commission. That measure would have required lawmakers to vote for or against the congressional commission’s recommendations and not ignore or amend them — as may end up happening with Obama’s commission. Still, some focus on debt reduction is better than nothing.

Restriction on abortion coverage was absurd

Once again, what many lawmakers say in support of limited government and the free market has failed to apply when the issue involves abortion. State Rep. Peter DeGraaf, R-Mulvane, proposed an amendment, which the Kansas House approved, prohibiting insurance companies from including abortion coverage in basic medical plans. Such coverage would have to be purchased separately (as if anyone plans to have an abortion). But unlike past debates, this wasn’t about the use of taxpayer money. This prohibition would have applied to private insurance companies offering plans to private businesses and individuals that are paid for entirely with private money. Fortunately, the absurdity and intrusiveness of the mandate became clear as other lawmakers proposed amendments prohibiting basic plans from covering smoking-related illnesses and erectile dysfunction medication, and the legislation was sent back to committee.
If lawmakers want to head down this path, there is no end to the moral mandates they could pass, such as prohibiting any basic plan from covering contraceptives or paying to treat HIV/AIDS. Or if they want to stick with tax dollars, how about prohibiting cities from maintaining roads in front of abortion clinics?

Conservatives oppose campaign-finance ruling

thumbsdownMany GOP lawmakers and business groups cheered the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month allowing unlimited political spending by corporations. But nearly three-quarters of conservative Republicans oppose the decision, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, and nearly two-thirds of them favor congressional efforts to limit spending. Overall, 8 in 10 Americans oppose the ruling, and 72 percent favor reinstating limits.

Open thread 2/18

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House needs to pass seat-belt law

seatbeltGood for the Kansas Senate for once again approving a primary seat-belt law. But as happened last year, the House could block the bill — which would be a costly mistake. A seat-belt law would save lives and qualify Kansas to receive $11.2 million in federal transportation money. House lawmakers need to stop being stubborn and approve this bill.

Kansas ranks high in well being

sunflowersmileGallup-Healthways ranked Kansas as No. 10 in its Well-Being Index 2009. The ranking is based on life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors and access to basic necessities. Hawaii ranked No. 1. Interestingly, nine of the top 10 states are in the Midwest and West, and seven of the 11 lowest well-being states are in the South. Oklahoma was No. 48.

Good reasons to end spring elections?

votingTwo aspects of a legislative proposal to move Kansas municipal and school board elections from spring to autumn are appealing. “If we can save money and increase voter turnout, I think those are two winning propositions,” said House Elections Committee Chairman Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center. But it would be hard to see these important contests forced to share the spotlight with elections for the Legislature, Congress, president, and statewide and county offices. More important, ending the separation would put nonpartisan city and school elections on the same ballots with partisan contests — confusing voters and stripping away what is, admittedly, the last pretense of nonpartisanship in some races. There also doesn’t seem to be a good fix on how much money would be saved.

U.S. ceding clean energy to China?

turbineChina isn’t only threatening the American recovery with its credit tightening and digital espionage. As New York Times columnist Bob Herbert noted, it’s also “sprinting past everybody else in the world, including the United States, in the race to develop clean energy.” Last year China became the globe’s biggest manufacturer not only of solar panels but also wind turbines, and is pursuing other renewable technologies. “That we are allowing this to happen is beyond stupid,” Herbert wrote. “China is a poor country with nothing comparable to the tremendous research, industrial and economic resources that the U.S. has been blessed with. Yet they’re blowing us away — at least for the moment — in the race to the future.”

Texas state board now rewriting history

prayinghandsReligious conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education are undaunted by their failed attempt last year to weaken state science standards. Last month, the board repeatedly amended state history standards in order to “bring Christianity into the coverage of American history,” the New York Times reported. Though such actions can be overplayed by the media, the board members themselves have a grand vision. “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next,” said member Cynthia Dunbar. Also, because of the size of the textbook market in Texas, what the Texas state board adopts can have a big impact on the rest of the country.