Monthly Archives: June 2010

Inflatable rules are a ‘big step forward’

inflatablesThere are some good ideas in a proposed new city ordinance aimed at better safeguarding children on inflatable bounce rides. Among the proposals are requiring anyone using inflatables to receive training in setup, safety and emergency procedures; requiring owners or operators to inspect inflatables more often than once a year; and establishing more specific requirements for ride inspections. The death of a Wichita boy who fell from an inflatable ride in March brought to light the lax oversight and regulation of inflatables. As Kurt Schroeder, Wichita’s superintendent of central inspection, noted, these proposed new regulations are a “good start and a big step forward.”

President Clarence Thomas?

thomas,clarenceNoting that Justice Clarence Thomas is silent on the Supreme Court bench but “charismatic and compelling” in other public settings, writers David Lat and Kashmir Hill urged him to challenge President Obama in 2012. “Thomas could be the GOP’s new standard-bearer,” they wrote. “He has enviable name recognition, both as a long-serving justice and as the author of the best-selling 2007 autobiography ‘My Grandfather’s Son.’ And he has already survived the nasty political attacks that marked his 1991 confirmation hearings.” His poor childhood, experience as a Missouri assistant attorney general and in the Reagan administration, and even his summer RV vacations around the country further qualify him, they added. “And, if he won in 2012, Thomas could appoint conservative justices of his choosing,” they wrote.

Open thread 6/24

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Keep pavilions open

coliseumThe Sedgwick County Commission should support a proposal to keep the Kansas Coliseum pavilions open until at least 2016. The fate of the pavilions has been in some doubt since the county mothballed Britt Brown Arena earlier this year and the commission declined to pursue private proposals to redevelop the complex. Last year, County Manager William Buchanan suggested closing the pavilions to save money. The pavilions have been a bit of a financial drain on the county, but raising fees could lessen that. The county also needs to value the larger economic benefit that the horse and dog shows and other events at the pavilions bring this community.

Obama made right call on replacing general

mcchrystalPresident Obama made a tough but correct decision today in accepting the resignation of Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal (in photo) as the top American commander in Afghanistan. As Obama noted, the disparaging remarks that McChrystal and his staff made in a Rolling Stone article about top administration officials undermined the “unity of effort” needed to succeed in Afghanistan. Obama also made a wise choice in nominating Gen. David Petraeus to replace McChrystal. McChrystal has been an outstanding soldier, but as Obama explained, the military’s code of conduct needs to apply equally to everyone, including generals.

Liberal anguish is bizarre

crybaby“American liberalism has always had a reputation for fractiousness and frantic self-critique. But even by those standards, the current bout of anguish over the Obama presidency seems bizarrely disproportionate,” wrote columnist Ross Douthat. Many on the left complain that President Obama compromises too much and isn’t aggressively liberal enough (while conservatives and tea partiers argue the opposite). Douthat contends that the problem is liberalism’s inflated view of what it thinks a president can accomplish, and the struggling welfare state worldwide. “It’s not that he hasn’t done a great deal for liberals during his 18 months in office,” Douthat wrote. “It’s that liberalism itself may be running out of time.”

Open thread 6/23

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The ‘pure’ Kansas election night that might have been

parkinsongov“It’s now officially a tragedy that Mark Parkinson isn’t running for governor,” wrote Topeka Capital-Journal columnist Ric Anderson, responding to Parkinson’s rousing speech describing a “pure Kansas night” at the recent Symphony in the Flint Hills concert (reprinted in Sunday’s Opinion pages and also captured for YouTube). Anderson wrote: “If the speech doesn’t make you proud to be a Kansan, you need to go to your doctor — right now — and have your blood checked for traces of Missouri.” True, Anderson concluded, Parkinson’s recent success in pushing through a budget-balancing sales-tax increase “might have made him unelectable. And his policy-over-politics credibility might not have materialized if he hadn’t stuck to his promise not to seek election. Parkinson the candidate probably wouldn’t have been quite as spicy in his Flint Hills speech, for instance, especially his jabs at Missouri. But after listening to that speech, I can’t imagine a more pure Kansas night than if Parkinson and Brownback would have squared off on Nov. 2.”

Support recycling center

recyclingcenterThe success of the Pro Kansas Miller Recycling Center shows what dedicated citizens can accomplish. Imagine how much more it could do with more support. The center, 725 E. Clark, has more than doubled the amount of recycling it receives and processes since it first opened in 2004. It would like to expand its operating hours to more than three days a week, but needs more volunteers and financial support to do so.

Mayors disagree on response to oil spill

giulianilookingrightFormer New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (in photo) blasted President Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil spill. He told Fox News that “it appears as if nobody has been in charge,” and he complained that “it doesn’t make sense for us to elect a president who hasn’t had executive experience.” But current Mayor Michael Bloomberg noted that the oil companies have the expertise to stop the spill. “People expect the president to solve everything,” Bloomberg said. “He can’t put on a scuba suit and go down and stop this well.”

New political bosses just like the old ones?

Wall StreetFormer presidential candidate Ralph Nader argued that there was little difference between Republicans and Democrats — that they both bow down to corporate masters. Though that’s an overstatement, there’s some truth to it when it comes to regulating Wall Street. The Sunday Eagle reported that Democrats are among the most vocal advocates for weakening a plan to regulate derivatives, and that Democrats are receiving the most campaign cash from securities and investment interests. As a New York Times editorial noted: “They are catering to corporate interests that prefer the status quo — and write big campaign checks.”

Open thread 6/22

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Come together or sue on education funding?

schoolfunding“Kansas has faced some extremely challenging times over the past two years, but we cannot sue our way out of them. We must come together and find solutions,” Gov. Mark Parkinson told the Lawrence Journal-World. He was criticizing plans by a coalition of 72 school districts, including Wichita, to file a lawsuit in October over school funding. But Alan Rupe of Wichita, the trial counsel for Schools for Fair Funding, said the state has failed to meet its mandated obligations. “Kansas law and the Kansas Constitution require that schools be funded to adequate levels,” he said. “That simply has not happened and our kids’ future again depends on the court system making the Legislature live up to its statutory and constitutional responsibilities.”

To kids, Leahy was more than a local TV star

leahyFor thousands of kids growing up in Kansas in the ’60s and early ’70s, Tom Leahy Jr. was as famous as “Captain Kangaroo” or anyone else on national network television, and Leahy’s “Major Astro” character as renowned an astronaut as Neil Armstrong. Leahy’s “Major Astro” welcomed us home from school, and his “The Host” character scared us on weekends during movie airings. Leahy, who died Friday at age 87, was a natural performer with a gift for communicating with children. Like the late Henry Harvey (aka Santa Claus and “Freddy Fudd”), Leahy had a starring role in many Kansans’ childhoods. Too bad local stations don’t make TV personalities, or their shows, like that anymore.

Keep even loathsome speech free

phelpssignWhile noting the “agonizing” facts of the case brought by the father of a fallen Marine, the Washington Post applauded Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for refusing to join Kansas Attorney General Steve Six and 47 other states in supporting the lawsuit against the Fred Phelps clan’s protesting of military funerals, which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear next fall. The Post editorialized: “The sensible way to deal with Mr. Phelps and his followers is by using the same regulations the authorities generally use to contain other obnoxious groups of protesters — racists, neo-Nazis, skinheads. Keep them at a distance from which they cannot disrupt their targets, provide adequate police presence to deter violence, and let them spew. That approach ensures that in the free marketplace of ideas, their hate speech will fall on deaf ears.”

Open thread 6/21

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Westar also unhappy with Kansas Chamber

thumbsdownGov. Mark Parkinson wasn’t the only one upset with a Kansas Chamber of Commerce official for claiming that “radical environmentalists” were the beneficiaries of Parkinson’s veto of a legislative provision about greenhouse-gas emissions. So was Westar Energy, which urged Parkinson to veto the bill. As a member of the Kansas Chamber, Westar expected to be consulted before the chamber took such a position, Jim Ludwig, Westar’s executive vice president, told The Eagle editorial board. But Ludwig, who said he was “disappointed and irritated,” did laugh about how he’d “never been called a ‘radical environmentalist’ before.”

Will cell-phone ban be next?

cellphoneincarKansas’ welcome new law banning text-messaging while driving — which Gov. Mark Parkinson formally signed last month and ceremonially signed Monday to honor the activism of the Wichita Mayor’s Youth Council — may not be enough for Kansans, judging from a new SurveyUSA poll sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12. Of those polled, 52 percent said that driving while using a cell phone should be outlawed and 77 percent said the state, rather than local governments, should decide the issue (though 75 percent said using hands-free cell phones is OK). The new law enables officers to stop and warn those they see texting while driving; as of Jan. 1, the offense will draw a $60 fine. But if the SurveyUSA results are to be believed, there shouldn’t be a lot of stopping going on — 79 percent of those polled said they “almost never” text or e-mail while behind the wheel.

Open thread 6/20

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Majority of non-churchgoers are Christian

prayinghandsThree out of five U.S. adults who don’t attend church are self-described Christians, according to a recent Barna Group survey. “Within this group, women outnumber men; boomers and their elders outnumber the young; downscale adults double the number of upscale unchurched; conservatives are more common than liberals; and whites outnumber minorities by nearly a three-to-one margin,” the report stated. According to past research, a main reason that people avoid church is a negative past experience in church or with church people.

Cheaper to see it here

arena1A recent letter in The Eagle claimed that people “can drive to Tulsa to see an act and save a fair amount over what they’d spend to see the same act at Intrust Bank Arena.” Not so, at least judging from ticket prices for some events upcoming at both Wichita’s arena and Tulsa’s BOK Center. Ticket prices align for Michael Buble, the Jonas Brothers, Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts, and Wichitans can pay less to see Celtic Woman and Rush. Factor in gas and other travel expenses, and it’s even cheaper to catch a show here.

So they said

rove2“In between him and a camera and in between him and applause was not a great place to be.” — Former Bush adviser Karl Rove (in photo), criticizing Rep. Jerry Moran during an Overland Park event for Rep. Todd Tiahrt

“If you didn’t do what Karl Rove wanted you to do 100 percent of the time, you were punished for it. Well, that’s not a democracy and Jerry Moran is nobody’s lapdog.” — Moran campaign spokesman Dan Conston

“There is a significant possibility that a vote on ‘Obamacare’ was passed by a stolen seat.” — Kris Kobach, candidate for Kansas secretary of state, doubting the legitimacy of the election of Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.

Pro-con: Should Congress pass disclosure act?

shhhhOn Jan. 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out 100 years of established law and legal precedent that protected the integrity of our political process against direct campaign expenditures by big-money special interests. The most important things Congress can do in response to this ruling are to increase transparency and shine a light on the special interests trying to influence elections. That is why we have introduced the bipartisan DISCLOSE (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections) Act. The bill requires the disclosure of political spending by special interests, keeps foreign-controlled companies from affecting America’s elections, and ensures that entities that receive large amounts of taxpayer money can’t turn around and spend that money in campaigns. The DISCLOSE Act ensures that Americans will know when a company or labor union is seeking to influence campaigns. It prevents special interests from hiding behind third-party groups, sham organizations and dummy corporations by requiring the heads of organizations to “stand by their ad” the same way political candidates must take personal responsibility for their ads. — Reps. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Mike Castle, R-Del., Washington Post

The cynical decision by House Democrats to exempt the National Rifle Association from the latest campaign finance regulatory scheme is itself a public disclosure. It reveals the true purpose of the perversely named DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175): namely, to silence congressional critics. Congress can’t help itself. Incumbent politicians yearn for legal duct tape for their opponents’ mouths. The DISCLOSE Act is a doozy of a muzzle. It would impose onerous and complicated “disclosure” restrictions on organizations that dare to engage in constitutionally protected political speech and on corporations that dare to contribute to such organizations. The DISCLOSE Act isn’t really intended to elicit information not currently required by law. The act serves notice on certain speakers that their involvement in the political process will exact a high price of regulation, penalty and notoriety, using disclosure and reporting as a subterfuge to chill their political speech and association. It is a scheme hatched by political insiders to eradicate disfavored speech. — Cleta Mitchell, Washington Post

Open thread 6/19

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Afghanistan strategy in doubt

afghanistanPresident Obama may not be ready to draw conclusions about the success or failure of his Afghanistan surge, but a variety of pundits are. “There is no overall game plan, no real strategy or coherent goals, to guide the fighting of U.S. forces. It’s just a mind-numbing, soul-chilling, body-destroying slog, month after month, year after pointless year,” wrote New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, who blames Obama for never clearly defining the mission and the American people for zoning out while more than 1,000 U.S. troops have died. The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl cited the “failure of European governments to follow through on pledges to contribute in crucial areas such as training,” the “divergence between U.S. interests and those of (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai,” and the “continued absence in the U.S. command of a clear and coherent plan for pacifying southern Afghanistan.” Columnist George Will noted that the discovery of $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan “will encourage the perception that the U.S. engagement there has something to do with economic aggrandizement, will aggravate Afghanistan’s pandemic corruption and will intensify the Taliban’s determination to prevail in a place where even good news has, like a scorpion, a sting in its tail.”