Monthly Archives: July 2011

Moran out with guns blazing against arms trade treaty

The National Rifle Association has made killing the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty its top priority, and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., is leading the fight. Last week he sent a letter signed by 44 other senators to the White House that warned “our firearm freedoms are not negotiable.” The treaty, which would need a two-thirds majority to pass the Senate, aims to bring some international standards to the trading of guns and ammunition. “Sen. Moran is a true champion of our freedom,” said Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist. “We are grateful for his leadership and his tenacious efforts on this issue, as well as the 44 other senators who agree with the NRA’s refusal to compromise on our constitutional freedoms.”

Don’t follow Washington’s lead on picking judges

Gov. Sam Brownback’s desired reform of judicial selection in Kansas hit a brick wall during the past legislative session — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Owens, R-Overland Park. As it is, a nonpartisan commission vets candidates for the Kansas Court of Appeals and Kansas Supreme Court, submitting three names to the governor. But reformers would give the governor the power to pick his own judges outright, subject to Senate confirmation. They point to the federal system as a good model. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, last week pointed to Steve Six’s politicized and derailed nomination to the federal appellate bench as a new argument against change. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Hensley told The Eagle editorial board.

Huelskamp loves a mike

Who knew that freshman Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp — whose hometown is Fowler, population 550, in southwest Kansas’ Meade County — would be so at home in front of a camera or microphone? As of Friday night, Huelskamp’s appearances for the week  stood at three on MSNBC, two on CNN and one each on CNBC, Fox Business, National Public Radio and American Family Radio.

So they said

“You won’t find a bigger risk-taker than a Kansan.” — Rep. Mike Pompeo (in photo), R-Wichita, who also told Human Events, “I eat and breathe small government and freedom”

“I think we won like two votes or something.” — House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, about the vastly outnumbered Democrats in the 2011 Kansas House, adding that he nevertheless enjoyed the session

“Very nice.” — Kansas State University president Kirk Schulz, asked what it’s like having a Wildcat as governor (Sam Brownback, class of 1979)

“Contributions have been a little behind our expectations.” — Clay Barker, executive director of the cash-strapped Kansas Republican Party, confirming its board has authorized borrowing up to $50,000 to pay expenses

Pro-con: Is tea party at fault if nation defaults?

If the nation defaults on its financial obligations, the blame belongs to the tea party Republicans. They had victory in their hands and couldn’t bring themselves to support House Speaker John Boehner’s debt-ceiling plan, which, if not perfect, was more than anyone could have imagined just a few months ago. The tea party got too full of itself with help from certain characters whose names you’ll want to remember when things go south. They include, among others, media personalities who need no further recognition; a handful of media-created “leaders,” including Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips and Tea Party Patriots co-founders Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler; a handful of outside groups that love to hurl ad hominems such as “elite” and “inside the Beltway” when talking about people like Boehner when they are, in fact, the elite (FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, Club for Growth, National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Prosperity); and elected leaders such as Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, head of the Republican Study Committee, and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who grandstand and make political assertions and promises that are sheer fantasy. Unfortunately for the country, which is poised to lose its place as the world’s most-trusted treasury and suffer economic repercussions we can ill afford, the stakes in this political game are too high to be in the hands of tea partiers who mistakenly think they have a mandate. Their sweep in the 2010 election was the exclusive result of anti-Obama sentiment and the sense that the president, in creating a health care plan instead of focusing on jobs, had overplayed his hand. Invariably, as political pendulums swing, the victors become the very thing they sought to defeat. — Kathleen Parker, Washington Post Writers Group

Why is the tea party intransigent on the debt ceiling? Why is the tea party pushing congressional Republicans so hard that we have a crisis? As the founder of Tea Party Nation, I feel confident in saying that the tea party understands what so many in Washington seem to have forgotten: We do not have a debt crisis. We have a spending crisis. There is only one way you get to a debt crisis — you spend too much money. Average Americans understand that the federal government is bloated. The government funds too many wasteful programs. There are too many programs and spending bills that exist only to help get senators or representatives re-elected. The tea party movement understands that if we allow Congress to borrow more money or raise taxes, all we are doing is funding the endless expansion of government. The left has accused the tea party of wanting America to default on its debt obligations. Nothing could be further from the truth. The tea party wants America to stop incurring debt obligations and to cut back on the wasteful spending already in place. — Judson Phillips, Tea Party Nation

Six deserved better from Roberts, Moran

Kansas Republican Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran may have succeeded Thursday in killing President Obama’s nomination of former Kansas Attorney General Steve Six to the 10th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. That’s no credit to either senator, because their fellow Kansan has the resume and reputation for the job, our editorial today argues. The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Judiciary gave Six’s nomination its highest rating. His professionalism and judgment have been praised by 29 state attorneys general, Republicans as well as Democrats. Six’s supporters have included five current and former deans of the University of Kansas School of Law and Deanell Reece Tacha, the Reagan appointee and former Kansan he would replace on the 10th Circuit. In his own letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee calling for Six’s confirmation, former Republican Attorney General Robert Stephan said Six had never let politics interfere with his responsibilities. Too bad the same cannot be said about Roberts and Moran.

Centrists aren’t helping budget debate

Though polls show that the vast majority of Americans are politically moderate, favoring a balanced approach to taxes, spending and government, that shouldn’t be confused with centrism, according to columnist E.J. Dionne. Centrism is “not a philosophy,” Dionne wrote. “It’s a position based on calculation. It doesn’t start with fixed principles. It measures where everyone else stands on some political spectrum at a given moment and then frantically adjusts. Because centrism is reactive, you never really know what a centrist believes. Centrists are constantly packing their bags and chasing off to find a new location as the political conversation veers one way or another.”

Roberts’ hoops dream

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., spent 20 minutes on the Senate floor Tuesday imagining aloud a basketball game he and President Obama might play as Roberts lobbied him to stop singling out the “general aviation industry as an example of big business that serves only the wealthy.” In the speech, as reported by the Hill newspaper, Roberts variously imagined how Obama might “go to the left corner and sink a three,” how Roberts might shoot and miss, and how Obama might steal the ball and “spot him 10.” He also described himself giving the president a “sort of nudge” under the basket and Obama throwing a “sharp elbow,” drawing a foul and asking Roberts to “quit talking, start shooting.” At the end of the story, Roberts went “down in defeat” but hoped to have made his point. The Wonkette blog cited Roberts’ speech as evidence that “this debt debate has officially caused everyone in Washington to go completely insane.”

McCain helped launch ‘bizarro’ politicians

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., ripped GOP lawmakers for promoting the “bizarro” idea that Congress could pass a balanced-budget amendment with its current representation. “That is worse than foolish. That is deceiving many of our constituents,” McCain said on the Senate floor Wednesday. But columnist Rick Horowitz blamed McCain for helping unleash such grandstanding by picking Sarah Palin to be his running mate in 2008: “Who was it who put pizzazz in the spotlight and pushed serious right into the orchestra pit? . . . ‘Dr. Frankenstein, call your office.’”

Could liberals do better than Obama in 2012?

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., thinks one result of this debt-ceiling fiasco should be a 2012 primary challenge for President Obama. But the Daily Beast’s Eric Alterman observes that “as angry as many liberals may be — and I count myself among them — the fear engendered by the craziness of the current Republican crop of candidates provides a strong corrective to any dreams of mounting anything more than a nuisance candidacy to challenge Obama. . . . Barack Obama is not going to be seriously challenged from his left any more than he is going to be impeached.”

Perry defends in-state tuition law; so should Brownback

Gov. Sam Brownback was understated in opposing the 2011 Legislature’s attempt to repeal the 2004 state law allowing children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at state universities and colleges — which failed again. If Brownback, who sponsored such a law in the U.S. Senate before voting against it, wants to be a bolder defender in the future, he might look to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s approach. The first-in-the-nation Texas law, which Perry (in photo) signed in 2001, lets kids pay the lower in-state rates if they’ve lived in Texas for three years and earned a GED or diploma from a Texas high school. Perry, who soon may join the GOP presidential field, told the New Hampshire Union Leader that he still supports the law. “To punish these young Texans for their parents’ actions is not what America has always been about,” Perry said. He’s right.

Nation on the brink — with a good beat

At least one person finds some humor in this debt mess. Arab-American comedian Remy Munasif has done a catchy viral rap video about it for the libertarian site (“$14 trillion in debt, but, yo, we ain’t got no qualms. Dropping hundred-dollar bills and billion-dollar bombs”). Meanwhile, Time blogger Alex Altman notes the challenge for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in getting the “hell no” caucus, including Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, to say “yes” to something. “The debt-limit debate is the showdown for which the tea party has been girding all along, the perfect forum for a principled stand,” Altman writes.

Congress sex-scandal score tied at 2-2 for 2011

Another month, another member of Congress exits over allegations of improper sexual conduct. This time it’s Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., who said Tuesday that he’ll resign “effective upon the resolution of the debt-ceiling crisis” and used the obligatory language about children, family, etc. Too bad he didn’t think about them before his alleged unwanted sexual encounter with an 18-year-old. For anyone who’s counting, the Republicans and Democrats are tied for sex-related resignations from Congress for 2011 (Wu and New York Rep. Anthony Weiner for the Democrats, Nevada Sen. John Ensign and New York Rep. Christopher Lee for the Republicans). Don’t members of Congress learn anything from others’ mistakes? Or does each really think he’ll be the one to get away with it?

Wasted ‘education’ on arts funding

Steve Anderson, budget director for Gov. Sam Brownback, suggested to the Wichita Pachyderm Club that conservatives could have been more vocal in defending the governor’s controversial move to ax the Kansas Arts Commission and its state funding. “In hard economic times,” Anderson said, “I would have thought that cutting funding for the arts would have been a fairly easy thing to do. Boy, I got an education up there at the Capitol.” The trouble is, Anderson and Brownback apparently learned nothing: Brownback ignored the public outcry, overruled the Legislature and, though he couldn’t kill the commission, zeroed out the modest funding lawmakers sought for it. And though Brownback just named six people to the commission, giving his appointees control, many still think the state now has disqualified itself from accessing $1.2 million in funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mid-America Arts Alliance.

Americans engaged in debt debate

There isn’t much to feel good about in the debt-ceiling debate, but here’s one thing: Americans are responding to the Monday speeches by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, by inundating the Capitol with calls and e-mails variously expressing support for specific proposals or the desire that lawmakers find compromise. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., reported having received 5,500 e-mails by midday today — “way above normal.”

Do conservative talkers care about country?

Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh (in photo) suggested Monday that President Obama “is either clueless or is himself a saboteur,” while assuring listeners that his own priority isn’t Obama’s defeat but rather “saving the country.” Last week New York Times columnist David Brooks described the conservative talkers’ mission differently: “The talk-radio jocks are not in the business of promoting conservative governance. They are in the business of building an audience by stroking the pleasure centers of their listeners. They mostly give pseudo Crispin’s Day speeches to battalions of the like-minded from the safety of the conservative ghetto. To keep audience share, they need to portray politics as a cataclysmic, Manichaean struggle. A series of compromises that steadily advance conservative aims would muddy their story lines and be death to their ratings.”

Castile inspired others

Wichita was shocked by the death Friday of Sue Castile at age 50. It was also diminished — because of Castile’s dedicated, caring leadership in the community since 2009 as executive director of Inter-Faith Ministries and, before that, as leader of Diversity Kansas for a decade. Her inspiring professional advocacy on behalf of the homeless and the poor, and for causes such as racial and ethnic understanding and equality, seemed to come from a pure and personal place. “The future of Kansas depends upon how we work together, how we see one another and how we lift up one another,” she once wrote in a letter to The Eagle. The best way to remember and honor her will be to keep doing all of that and more.

How can Republicans risk default?

As the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank notes, the members of what one GOP aide calls the “Default Caucus” in Congress are using “the language of gangster films: Do as we say — or the girl gets it.” James Miller, an economist at Smith College, observed: “Your hand is greatly strengthened if you can convince the other side that you’re crazy.” How can Republicans risk default on Aug. 2? By denying that they are: 53 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of tea partiers told the Pew Research Center that the deadline can be safely ignored. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said the president has “manufactured this crisis.” Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, even advocates for default in a Bloomberg commentary: “If the government defaults on its debt now, the consequences undoubtedly will be painful in the short term. The loss of its AAA rating will raise the cost of issuing new debt, but this is not altogether a bad thing. Higher borrowing costs will ensure that the government cannot continue the same old spending policies. Budgets will have to be brought into balance (as the cost of servicing debt will be so expensive as to preclude future debt financing of government operations), so hopefully, in the long term, the government will return to sound financial footing.”

Fireworks hotline won’t fix problem of scofflaws

Investing $1,000 to set up a special fireworks complaint line for Sedgwick County in time for next Fourth of July sounds like money well-spent. Even if very few people got a busy signal this July 4 when dialing 911 because of the crush of calls reporting illegal fireworks use, that was too many for public safety. Tragically, the victim of the motorcycle accident that 911 callers were trying to report later died. Two questions: Would people really know to call the proper fireworks hotline? And isn’t the real problem how little regard residents show for fireworks regulations, personal safety, neighbors’ property and common sense?

Poetic plea to save SRS office

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, the state’s poet laureate, came away from a recent public meeting about the Brownback administration’s planned closure of Social and Rehabilitation Services offices in Lawrence and eight other communities with something to say. She did so in the poem “The Moment it Happened,” which notes that “this is not the story of freeloaders buying steak with food stamps.” It concludes: “This is the story of a woman wheeling herself over the threshold to remind us that in this country, this Kansas we don’t sacrifice children. We don’t sacrifice each other. We reach into our pockets, we figure out ways to make something out of nothing, we open our arms, we cradle the hurt, and we rock to sleep the weary, recognizing in their eyes the moment our own world fell apart, and how someone was able to make all the difference by the simple miracle of being there.” Whether Kansas will continue to have a poet laureate is in doubt, given the governor’s veto of the Kansas Arts Commission’s funding.

In Wichita, more joblessness but less misery

Last week brought the depressing news that the Wichita area’s unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent in June from May’s 7.6 percent. Still, the area can be heartened by the improvement since June 2010, when unemployment was 8.6 percent. And though joblessness remains worse in Wichita than in other Kansas cities and the state as a whole (6.7 percent), Wichita prevailed in another recent measurement — the “Misery Index” calculated by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University using consumer spending, housing and labor data. According to the index released in late June, “people in the United States, as a whole, continue to be far more miserable than people in Kansas or Wichita,” and as of the first quarter of 2011, “Wichita now has a lower misery rate than Kansas.”

Find a productive future for Kansas Coliseum site

Good for the Sedgwick County manager and commissioners for reviving talk of how to make productive use of the former Kansas Coliseum complex, as well as whether to privatize operation of its money-losing Kansas Pavilions. Commissioners concluded last year that the pavilions are highly prized by the community as a home for horse and dog shows and swap meets, leading to a needed upgrade and commitment to keep them open through 2016. Especially with the issue over the site’s spotted skunk habitat now resolved, the county is right to be looking for ways to get the larger Coliseum complex out of mothballs and, preferably, onto the tax rolls.

Treaty replica will help tell Wichita’s rich story

Regrettably, it proved too costly and logistically difficult to mark the state’s 150th birthday by returning a peace treaty to the site of its 1865 signing by the federal government and American Indian tribes. But the next best thing is worth cheering: A replica of the 15-page treaty will go on permanent display Friday at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, 204 S. Main, along with an artistic depiction of the treaty signing and a video about the site, now 61st Street North and Seneca. The “perpetual peace” mentioned in the document proved elusive at the time, but the treaty and its signatures — including those of Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle, Kiowa Chief Satanta, Kit Carson, William Bent and Jesse Chisholm — can help tell the rich story of how Wichita came to be.

So they said

“Mr. President, you attacked tourism in Vegas, now Wichita’s aviation industry. What’s next on your list, oranges in Florida?” — Rep. Mike Pompeo (in photo), R-Wichita, on Twitter

“We call that in Dodge City ‘big hat, no cattle.’” — Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., complaining on the Senate floor Thursday about Democrats’ lack of a debt-ceiling plan

“We have . . . farm ponds declared ‘navigable waters.’ No self-respecting duck would even land there.” — Roberts again, criticizing federal overregulation

Pro-con: Democracy threatened by voter laws?

Democracy in America is under attack. Politicians in dozens of states are turning back the clock by denying the vote to their own citizens. Photo ID requirements, shortened early voting periods, limits on poll worker assistance, proof-of-citizenship requirements, restrictions on same-day registration and disenfranchisement of former felons — all disproportionately deny voting rights to people of color, people with disabilities, students, low-income workers and seniors. Proponents of voter ID laws claim that voter fraud is commonplace, yet multiple studies have shown that the problem is essentially nonexistent. And anecdotal evidence held up by these politicians is consistently debunked as myth. Voter identification is a convenient euphemism for voter suppression. A full 11 percent of voters currently do not have ID. Most of them are seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, the poor and students. In fact, about 1 of 5 nonwhite citizens and citizens older than 64 does not have government-issued ID. This is not about reducing fraud but part of a coordinated campaign of subtle intimidation intended to suppress the political will and empowerment of millions of Americans. — Wade Henderson and Mark Perriello, Progressive Media Project

Voter ID is a fairly simple concept. People vote. When they vote, some would like to have the voter provide proof that they are who they claim they are. Seems reasonable enough given the importance of voting. So, of course, it has been vilified by the national media, and Democrats have called it, you guessed it, racist. In fact, the Democrats believe that requiring people to prove they are who they say they are prior to voting is a “scheme” to win elections. Isn’t it great how Democrats automatically assume that minorities and the poor are Democrat voters? The issue should be a winner for Republicans, as it is something that the American people, by and large, support. As David Norcross, chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association, recently noted: “A June Rasmussen Poll had 75 percent of Americans believing voters should be required to show photo ID. This breaks down into 85 percent of Republicans, 77 percent of independents and 63 percent of Democrats.” In all, it’s pretty clear that the facts are on our side to finally make some real steps to helping prevent voter fraud. — Ben Howe,