Monthly Archives: March 2012

A favorable opinion of Ike memorial

Frank Gehry’s proposed design for the planned national memorial honoring Dwight Eisenhower has been panned by the Eisenhower family and many commentators and critics, including at a congressional hearing Tuesday. They object to its nontraditional design and its portrayal of the 34th president and leader of the Allied forces in World War II as a Kansas boy. But Louis Galambos, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and an editor of “The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower,” argued in a Wall Street Journal commentary that Eisenhower was a “quiet master of change” who would be well-represented by the innovative design. “It is fitting that Frank Gehry emphasizes Abilene in the Eisenhower Memorial while simultaneously celebrating the changes that Ike brought to the nation that now seeks to honor him and his legacy,” Galambos wrote.

Cabbies should wear shirts

Cab drivers can have a big impact on visitors’ impressions of a city. So the Wichita City Council is wise to look at having drivers attend customer-service classes, as well prohibiting them from smoking in their cabs. And though it should be obvious, apparently the city also needs to require that cab drivers wear shirts. Cab companies worked with the city on the new requirements, including increasing annual fees to make sure the city covers the cost of regulating cabs.

Ryan not backing down on Medicare overhaul

Though surveys showed that the public opposed a GOP proposal last year to privatize Medicare, the author of the plan, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., isn’t backing down. He released a new budget plan today that would require those who retire a decade from now to purchase either traditional Medicare or private insurance through a government-run exchange. “Forcing health plans to compete against each other is the best way to achieve high-quality coverage at the lowest cost,” Ryan wrote in a Wall Street Journal commentary. Critics noted that the GOP budget plan would cut taxes while reducing  health care and social safety net spending on the poor and middle classes.

Obama lagging with big donors

Though President Obama is a big lead on his Republican rivals in fundraising overall, he is “struggling to draw in big-dollar donations, with half as many people writing large checks to his campaign than at this point four years ago,” the Washington Post reported. The article added: “Obama lags behind Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in finding donors willing to give $2,000 or more — a surprising development for a sitting president, and one that could signal more worrisome financial problems heading into the general election.”

Few Kansans balk at buckling up

There was a time when many Kansans thought seat belts were for sissies. But a recent SurveyUSA poll, sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, found 88 percent of Kansans surveyed claiming to use their seat belts all the time. Only 6 percent said they never buckle up, including 10 percent of men and 18- to 34-year-olds. As for the state’s wimpy $10 fine for not wearing a seat belt: 46 percent said it was too lenient, but 39 percent considered it about right.

KU wins social media, academic March Madness

The University of Kansas’ come-from-behind win Sunday kept its hopes alive for another NCAA men’s basketball championship. If the tournament were decided based on which school’s fans are most tuned in to social media, KU would have already won, the social media site reported. That determination was made by the communications agency Schwartz MSL and was based on a formula that combined followers of a school’s team on Facebook and Twitter, then divided that number by total student body population. KU scored a “Social Media Power Ranking” of 5.2 – based on 18,000 Twitter followers and 137,000 Facebook fans – just ahead of Duke University. KU would also win the national title if it were based on academics. The website Inside Higher Ed rated KU first for the classroom performance of its athletes.

Missouri should learn from Kansas about caucusing

Missouri’s GOP caucuses last Saturday – which had to be shut down in some places due to arguments and which resulted in no clear winner – won the “worst-run contest” title in the 2012 nominating process, wrote Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post. She thinks Missouri and some other states should be punished for running terrible caucuses. “It’s a disgrace, actually, that in location after location the state parties are unable to run an efficient election for the presidential nominee,” Rubin said. “The Republican National Committee should seriously consider penalizing these states for 2016 and/or getting rid of caucuses altogether.”

Legislative prayers shouldn’t be political

The prayers offered at the start of each day’s legislative session are supposed to be ecumenical and not political. But every once in a while some invited pastor doesn’t follow the guidelines. In 1996, former Wichita pastor Joe Wright prayed a political prayer that has been widely circulated on the Internet. Last Thursday, Father James Gordon of St. John Vianney in Maple Hill near Topeka used the prayer time to lobby against abortion and same-sex marriage and for religious freedom. Some pastors may think it compromises their integrity to not speak out on certain issues. But if that’s the case, there is a simple solution: Don’t accept the invitation to pray. As Wichitan Thomas Witt, the executive director of the Kansas Equality Coalition, responded to Gordon’s prayer: “Using prayer to launch political attacks against one’s opponents is unacceptable.”

Offensive chant fit a pattern in Mississippi

A blogger for the Nation thought the Southern Mississippi band’s chanting of “Where’s your green card?” at Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez last week had “about as much in common with normal rowdy fan behavior as a glee club has with a lynch mob.” Dave Zirin continued: “The chant, first and foremost, was both racist and stupid, given that Rodriguez is actually from Puerto Rico, and therefore has citizenship. But given that the state of Mississippi’s Republican electorate just voted for Rick Santorum, who recently said that Puerto Rico could only be a state if everyone learned and spoke English, their actions should anger but not surprise.” He also noted that the game was played on the same day the Mississippi House passed a “deeply punitive, racial-profiling anti-immigration” bill championed by Gov. Phil Bryant.

No rush to require proof of citizenship

It sounds as if the Legislature will ignore Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s urging to start requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote in June rather than January. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee held its final scheduled meeting of the session Thursday without voting on the legislation. That’s just as well, because the state Division of Motor Vehicles said last week that the $40 million computer upgrade allowing electronic transfer of related documents won’t be ready until August. And the threat of voter fraud, despite Kobach’s fearmongering, will be just as negligible in January as in June.

Mayor’s personal invitation to Obama can’t hurt

Good for Mayor Carl Brewer for seizing the opportunity of a few minutes alone with President Obama Monday in the Oval Office to tout the community’s priorities and personally invite the president to visit Wichita. The conversation may not prompt Obama to schedule a visit to the largest city in our deep-red state, even if it happens to be the birthplace of his mother. But at least it can’t hurt the cause of getting the president and his administration to stop singling out general aviation and its customers for damaging criticism and proposed tax hikes.

Lesson in failing to communicate or read bills

Given the partisan environment in Topeka, it was surprising and heartening to see a bipartisan House investigative panel decide unanimously Thursday to dismiss the complaint against Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, over what led to the House’s 122-2 vote last month in favor of a property-tax-relief measure Ward had proposed. Whatever happened that day, lawmakers clearly were confused about what they were voting for, and that’s no way to make good law. Legislators should come away from this flap with new determination to be as clear as possible with one another and as informed as they can be about the bills up for vote.

Dole as a Democrat?

At age 88, former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole (in photo) shouldn’t have to explain himself anymore. But plenty of Republicans will want to know why, according to a new book by former Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, Dole said in 2010 that Specter did the right thing in switching to the Democratic Party in 2009 and added, “I probably would have done the same thing.” As Specter puts it, “He said I faced a dead end with what was happening in the Republican Party.” The memoir by Specter, “Life Among the Cannibals: A Political Career, a Tea Party Uprising, and the End of Governing As We Know It,” will be published later this month. Specter was born in Wichita, and Dole and Specter both graduated from Russell High School.

Pro-con: Are Islamic political parties a big threat?

The recent rise of Islamic movements in Egypt, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere are generating profound new challenges for the United States. These groups, which include the Muslim Brotherhood and Nour Party in Egypt and al-Qaida-inspired jihadists in Yemen and Libya, are anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-women, anti-Western and, indeed, anti-modern. At their most extreme, they seek to restore the region and convert the world to seventh-century life during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. The ascendancy of Islamic forces, whether at the ballot box or on the battlefield, raises serious questions about whether they would scrap such key building blocks of regional stability as the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and create more safe havens in the region for anti-Western terrorists. – Lawrence J. Haas, American Foreign Policy Council

Islamic political parties are assuming roles in the new order in Arab countries. Will these parties hurt American interests in the region? Depends on what you consider to be our interests. Tunisia, the country where the political change began in late 2010, seems to be doing quite well so far. Islamists are part of the political process there, but Tunisia elected as president a secular candidate who seems to enjoy general support. If by American interests in the Middle East one means access to oil, there is probably no problem. Whoever has oil needs to sell it. Saudi Arabia is as Islamic as it gets, and it is happy to cash our checks. – John B. Quigley, Ohio State University

Brownback receives ‘sarcasm bombing’

Gov. Sam Brownback’s staff deleted a “sarcasm bombing” of negative comments from his Facebook page this week. Many of the comments were explicit and mockingly treated Brownback as if he were an expert on women’s health issues, the website Mashable reported. One of the deleted comments: “I just called your office, and they wouldn’t let me schedule a pap smear. I’m confused, aren’t you taking care of all this now?”

GOP isn’t a crazy party

“The longer the primary campaign drags on, the more its noise and nastiness are being cited as proof that Republican America has gone crazy,” columnist Ross Douthat wrote. But he thinks that Republican primary voters have been thoughtful and methodical, as they have considered and then rejected various candidates. He contends that the biggest problem with this year’s primary is that the GOP stars didn’t run and the electorate “was left to choose from a roster of retreads, mediocrities and cable-news candidates. And given their options, Republican voters have acquitted themselves about as sensibly, responsibly and even patriotically as anyone could reasonably expect.”

Obama gives up on picking KU

President Obama heeded the plea of University of Kansas coach Bill Self and didn’t pick KU to win it all, instead predicting an NCAA men’s championship game in which North Carolina defeats Kentucky. Obama accurately picked North Carolina in 2009, but wrongly called it for the Jayhawks in 2010 and 2011. “They broke my heart each year,” he told ESPN. The Hill newspaper noted that the president’s “selections heavily favor states that are likely to be in play during his re-election bid.” Plus, the Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte. The president had Wichita State and Kansas State losing in the first and second rounds, respectively, and the Tar Heels ousting Kansas in the Elite Eight.

Outstanding news about Hawker Beechcraft

All of Wichita can second the cheer that went up among Hawker Beechcraft employees over the company’s decision not to close Plant 1 after all. The move, stemming from a joint partnership of the company and the Machinists union, spares hundreds of jobs from elimination or outsourcing. In a statement, the HBC Joint Partnership Steering Committee said: “In order to reduce lead time, improve response time and optimize cost, fabrication and assembly operations will be streamlined and balanced between our facilities. Plant I plays a critical role in this strategy.” With uncertainty still dogging the aviation-manufacturing sector – and lots of industry speculation about Hawker Beechcraft’s future under new CEO Steve Miller – such an optimistic sign comes as a boost to the community and its standout aviation workforce.

Forbes contributor blasts tax plan, calls for FairTax

Louis Woodhill, a member of the leadership council of the Club for Growth, wrote a commentary for Forbes magazine arguing that Kansas “desperately needs fundamental tax reform to increase its rate of economic growth.” But he blasted the budget proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback as an astonishing example of “clueless conservatism” and said that his tax-reform plan is “literally designed to fail.” Woodhill contends that it is “insane” that Brownback’s plan focuses on cutting individual income taxes, “because economic growth is most sensitive to the tax rate on corporate income.” And he said that phasing out income taxes merely “prolongs economic weakness.” His recommendation is to replace the state’s personal and corporate income taxes with a sales tax. “In other words,” he wrote, “Kansas needs to enact the FairTax at the state level.”

Roberts wanted pay freeze to pay for spending

On Tuesday the U.S. Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to use money saved by extending the pay freeze on federal workers to fund other spending. Roberts wanted the money to pay for energy projects, an adoption tax credit, and tax deductions for college expenses and for state and local property taxes, the Washington Post reported. Not surprisingly, federal workers weren’t happy. “It is fundamentally wrong for federal employees to be required, again, to serve as the automatic teller machine for programs that have nothing to do with deficit reduction,” wrote Beth Moten of the American Federation of Government Employees. “Enough is enough.”

Look who is helping pick the GOP nominee

Mississippi and Alabama are in the headlines today for their GOP presidential primaries Tuesday. But it’s worth noting the type of voter who went to the polls in those states. Only 12 percent of Republicans in Mississippi think that President Obama is a Christian, and a stunning 52 percent think he’s a Muslim, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-affiliated firm. Only 14 percent of Alabama Republicans think Obama is a Christian, and 45 percent think he is a Muslim.

Welcome Cabela’s to Wichita

South-central Kansans have been waiting a long time for a Cabela’s, the Nebraska-based chain that is equal parts outdoors retailer and tourist attraction. A public-private partnership helped bring the 80,000-square-foot store to 21st and Greenwich, where it’s anticipated to be part of a sales-tax and revenue bond district focused on sports. Here’s hoping the opening festivities, to include Gov. Sam Brownback, draw the attention and buying power of the region’s outdoor enthusiasts and lead to a long, successful run in Wichita for the landmark retailer.

Don’t assume tornado sirens can be ignored

It’s great news that Sedgwick County’s system of 147 sirens is about ready to go site-specific, so that authorities can target a storm’s path rather than sound all sirens when only a corner of the county is threatened. Expected to be operational by April 2, the $1.25 million upgrade also will necessitate an attitude shift in the population, which has tended to assume most sirens could be safely ignored. County residents have to start understanding that each siren they hear is meant for them and their neighborhood.

Obama hurt at the gas pump

The economy and jobs numbers have been steadily improving, and oil imports are down while domestic energy production is up. Nonetheless, rising gasoline prices are helping sour the public’s opinion of President Obama. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 65 percent of Americans disapproved of Obama’s handling of the situation with gas prices, and 59 percent disapproved of his handling of the economy. Obama’s overall job approval rating dropped to 46 percent from 50 percent last month.

Justice Department blocks another voter-ID law

The U.S. Justice Department has blocked Texas’ voter-ID law. It did the same thing to South Carolina’s law in December. The move doesn’t immediately affect Kansas’ voter-ID law because Kansas isn’t required to receive Justice Department approval for voting changes, unlike Texas and South Carolina and other states that have had a history of voting-rights violations.