Monthly Archives: April 2012

Liberals are ideologues, too

“One of the great differences between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives will freely admit that they have an ideology,” columnist Jonah Goldberg wrote. Instead of being honest, Goldberg argued, “liberals speak in code when they want to make an ideological argument without conceding that that is what they are doing.”

Plenty of spoofing at annual press dinner

Few were spared spoofing at Saturday’s annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, which featured talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel. For his part, President Obama noted that he and GOP presidential rival Mitt Romney actually have a lot in common. For example, they both graduated from Harvard University – though Obama noted that Romney has two Harvard degrees to Obama’s one. “What a snob,” Obama joked, alluding to a comment former GOP candidate Rick Santorum once made. Obama also had fun with some of the conspiracy theories about him – such as winking when he stated that he was born in Hawaii – and about GOP criticism of his having eaten dog meat when he was a boy living in Indonesia. “What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?” Obama asked. “A pit bull is delicious.”

Moran successfully defended kids’ right to work on farms

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., argued in a Politico commentary against a Labor Department proposal to regulate youths’ farm work, saying it would prevent kids under 16 from cleaning out stalls or rounding up cattle and also “limit a youth’s exposure to direct sunlight if the temperature reaches a certain limit once you factor in wind velocity and humidity.” Though Moran had co-sponsored a bill to block the new rules, it proved unnecessary. On Thursday the White House abandoned the idea. The push-back and relief were bipartisan. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., tweeted: “Our work to stop dumb rule on children working on farms succeeded! Rs & Ds from farm states came together and common sense won.”

It’s unseemly to use redistricting as a political shield

Yes, moderate Republicans in the Kansas Senate are fighting a battle to survive and retain control of the chamber, going against powerful forces including Gov. Sam Brownback. But it’s disappointing that they persist in trying to use redistricting to shield themselves, again advancing a map in committee Friday that would move several districts’ boundaries and prevent conservative challenges in the August primary. As one of those would-be challengers to a senator, state Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, said earlier last week: “If you’re doing what people asked you to do, there should be no problem with running against someone.”

Things looking up for Cessna

It’s good news for Wichita and its aviation workforce that Cessna Aircraft Co. is recalling or hiring about 150 employees and increasing its sales force. Though Cessna’s hiring won’t offset the latest 350 layoffs at Hawker Beechcraft, it is one welcome indicator that the market for general aviation is showing signs of renewed life. Cessna also has seen recent upticks in orders, deliveries and revenue, helping boost owner Textron in potential investors’ eyes.

Governor’s job-approval flat at 34 percent; Kobach at 32 percent

The latest SurveyUSA polling sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, found the percentage of Kansans who approve of Gov. Sam Brownback’s job performance the same as in February, 34 percent. That compares with 51 percent last summer. Meanwhile, 44 percent of those polled April 20-23 said they disapproved of the governor’s performance, down from 50 percent two months ago. The other job-approval numbers in the April poll of 510 registered voters (42 percent Republicans, 33 percent Democrats) showed little change in two months: Sen. Jerry Moran, 44 percent; President Obama and Sen. Pat Roberts, 43 percent each; and Secretary of State Kris Kobach, 32 percent.

Hard to argue for less TSA scrutiny

Because it’s a “she-said-they-said” incident, it’s hard to know exactly what happened earlier this month when Michelle Brademeyer’s 4-year-old daughter went through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. As described by Brademeyer on Facebook and recounted widely via media, the encounter cast the TSA agents as insensitive at best and overzealous at worst. Safeguarding the airplanes from terrorism shouldn’t necessitate terrifying 4-year-olds. But the stakes are high and TSA’s vigilance has worked, making it hard to argue for less scrutiny. In a SurveyUSA poll, co-sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, just 29 percent of Kansans surveyed said the screening was too thorough, while 62 percent said they thought relaxing security would make sabotage easier.

Welcome back to Wichita

Congratulations to John Bardo on being selected as the next president of Wichita State University. And welcome back to Wichita. Bardo, who was chancellor of Western Carolina University from 1995 to 2011, was chairman of WSU’s Department of Sociology and Social Work from 1978 to 1983. His wife, Deborah, is a Wichita native. It will certainly be a challenge to fill the shoes of retiring WSU president Donald Beggs. But Bardo has impressive credentials and knows Wichita. It will be good to have him back.

So they said

“I would refer to my notes, but I can’t see them. And I’m wondering if there’s a phone book or something I could sit on. It’s a very intimidating chair.” – diminutive Rep. Lynn Jenkins (in photo), R-Topeka, whose testimony to a House subcommittee on a railway tax-break bill was complicated by a tall table and low chair

“The water’s over there.” – Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., touting the heat of his “Prairie Fire” recipe (cream-cheese-filled, bacon-wrapped peppers) at the March of Dimes Congressional Cookoff in Washington, D.C.

“I pray for both sides, Lord, today, the losers and the winners. All the winners are not angels, and not all the losers sinners.” – Kansas Senate Chaplain Fred S. Hollomon, in his invocation opening the Legislature’s wrap-up session

Tax cuts shouldn’t wreck state budget

Lawmakers need to heed Gov. Sam Brownback’s caution about cutting taxes: Don’t cause budget problems. The plans that both chambers passed, and the deal negotiators reached last week, could wipe out the state’s ending balance and possibly lead to more cuts to schools and social services. Retired Wichita State University economics professor William Terrell also is challenging the wisdom of cutting income taxes, which are about half of the state’s revenue. He studied the nine states with no personal income tax and determined that they either have other large revenue sources not available to Kansas (such as Wyoming’s vast coal supply) or have tax systems that are extremely regressive.

Pro-con: Should U.S. take military action in Syria?

As Syrian dictator Bashar Assad continues his slaughter, the issue is not whether more forceful U.S. action to stop him is risk-free. The issue, instead, is how the risks and potential rewards of more forceful U.S. action to stop Assad’s slaughter stack up against those of a continued U.S. reliance on sanctions and diplomacy that offer few prospects of success. Military action has a proven track record. In the Balkans in the 1990s and Libya last year, the United States and its allies demonstrated that we can, in fact, stop a slaughter with little risk to U.S. forces. With each passing day, Assad grows stronger, more emboldened and more likely to survive. Only a U.S.-led effort can stop the slaughter and alter the outcome of this horrific disaster. – Lawrence J. Haas, American Foreign Policy Council

The concept of “Responsibility to Protect” – the idea of recent origin that the international community should protect a population from its own government – was invoked in Libya. But that concept includes one critical criterion. Any proposed action holds the prospect of bringing more good than the harm that inevitably accompanies military action. The Syrian resistance is not unified. Its goals apart from overthrowing Assad are unclear. Giving them the wherewithal to fight better may just turn what we now see into full-scale civil war in which the resistance elements might still be at a disadvantage militarily. Difficult as it may be to bring the parties together, negotiations for a political transition offer the best hope. Once the parties realize that the standoff will not end to anyone’s advantage, they may, however reluctantly, be willing to talk. – John B. Quigley, Ohio State University

Traditional Republicans aren’t going away without a fight

Reports about the demise of GOP moderates apparently were exaggerated. Nearly 50 former GOP legislators have formed Traditional Republicans for Common Sense. The group is particularly concerned with funding cuts to education and proposals to raise taxes on the poor while lowering taxes on the rich, viewing these as moral issues. The group also is concerned about efforts by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and others to purge the remaining moderates from the Legislature. “Deep-pocketed special interest groups are spending millions of dollars attempting to buy the 2012 elections and silence voters,” said Rochelle Chronister, a former representative and former Republican Party chairwoman. “We will not allow that to happen without a fight.”

Delay on developmentally disabled is positive step

Good for the Brownback administration for agreeing to postpone until Jan. 1, 2014, the inclusion of long-term care for Kansans with developmental disabilities in its KanCare reform. Though many advocates for the developmentally disabled want the services to be permanently carved out of KanCare, the delay will give the administration some time to prove that its reform will work as promised before experimenting on this vulnerable population. “We believe that allowing another year of discussion and input from the developmental disability community will make them comfortable with the program and allow us to craft solutions to the concerns they’re expressing,” Brownback said in a statement. Some may question whether the real motive for the delay is to derail a legislative push to postpone the entire KanCare reform. Regardless, it’s a positive step from an administration that had stubbornly acted as if it knew better than anyone else.

Gingrich couldn’t change his stripes

Newt Gingrich is finally facing reality and is expected to formally end his campaign for president next week. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote that Gingrich’s campaign was a microcosm of his three-plus decades as a national political figure: “unpredictable, brilliant (at times), undisciplined, fun, funny and, ultimately, mystifying. The big lesson from Gingrich’s campaign? Tigers don’t change their stripes.”

Illegal yard signs make city look trashy

Compared with all the serious problems facing this state and nation, illegally placed yard signs seem trivial. Yet the signs make Wichita look trashy, so it’s good that the city is looking at new ways to deal with the problem. A city ordinance already bars placing signs in public rights of way, but many people – including past candidates for district judge and Wichita City Council – either don’t know the law or don’t care. At a minimum, the city needs to do an information campaign to better educate people. It also should consider doing what Kansas City, Mo., did and allowing citizens to remove illegally posted signs.

Officials quick to reaffirm safety of beef

The state’s political leaders were quick to reaffirm the safety of beef after the announcement this week that mad cow disease was discovered in a dead dairy cow in California. No meat from the cow was ever headed for the food supply, and the disease isn’t transmitted through milk, experts say. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., issued a joint statement with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., saying the fact “that we’re hearing about this discovery and that there was never any threat to consumers in this case shows that the mechanisms in place for protecting our food supply worked as intended.” Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and the state’s four U.S. representatives also said in a statement that the announcement “reaffirms the fact that our food-safety system works.” Gov. Sam Brownback said Tuesday that consumers should remain confident that beef and milk in Kansas are safe, adding that he “had beef for lunch.”

Kobach glossed over divide on immigration

Secretary of State Kris Kobach glossed over the differences he has with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on immigration issues, telling Kansas media that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney could “embrace both of us and go merrily along to win the election in November.” But Kobach has made clear that he doesn’t support a key element of Rubio’s GOP DREAM Act, which would grant visas (not citizenship) to young illegal immigrants who had been brought into the country, provided they are high school graduates and don’t have criminal records. Unless the immigrants go back to their home countries and get in the back of the immigration line, the policy amounts to “amnesty,” Kobach said in the Washington Post, adding that “amnesty allows someone who is illegally in the country to remain but with lawful status – that gives the illegal alien what he has stolen.”

Legislature has chance to keep courts open

It was an act of faith for Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss (in photo) to delay two of the five furlough days he’d planned for the state court system in the wake of the Legislature’s failure last month to approve supplemental funding. The remaining furloughs are now scheduled for May 24-25 and June 7-8. But they shouldn’t be necessary. GOP legislative leaders need to demonstrate that the chief justice’s faith in them is not misplaced, and quickly approve more money when they reconvene today in Topeka. Considering the state’s improved revenues, there is no justification for even one more day of closed courts and delayed proceedings.

Kobach still wants voting change; court rejects Arizona law

Secretary of State Kris Kobach is still pushing lawmakers to change the date when new voters will have to provide proof of citizenship in order to register. The requirement is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, but Kobach wants it to start this June 15. Meanwhile, last week an 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Arizona’s law requiring evidence of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote, saying the requirement violated the National Voting Rights Act. A three-judge appellate panel also struck down the law last October.

Merger can make sense, provided codes aren’t weakened

It’s encouraging that Wichita, Sedgwick County and union officials are nearing agreement on a plan to merge code-enforcement offices. The worthy goal is to create a “one-stop shop” for builders so they don’t have to deal with two offices. The union has raised legitimate concerns about whether the city’s codes would be weakened to match the county’s. But Mayor Carl Brewer has said that won’t happen. Though it’s smart to try to make it easier for builders and others to do business with local government, that shouldn’t come at the expense of protecting homeowners.

Don’t waste time on Shariah bill

The Legislature has more than enough on its plate when it returns this week. It shouldn’t waste time on a bill targeting Islamic law, known as Shariah. Out-of-state activists have bombarded some state senators with e-mails urging them to pass the bill, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. But the bill doesn’t provide any new protections that don’t already exist in the Constitution. So the only purpose of the bill is to pander to some people’s fears. And as University of Kansas law professor Raj Bhala noted, “Sometimes the worst legislation is spawned by fear. This is an example of that.” Bhala also warned that such legislation might hurt the state’s image and ability to do business with other countries. “If we are trying to promote business in Kansas,” he said, “we ought not be enacting legislation that will turn business away.”

Kudos for Clinton from Gates

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is getting a surprising amount of positive attention these days, via the “Texts from Hillary” meme and otherwise. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates added his applause in an essay as part of Time’s list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World,” describing Clinton as tough, indefatigable, patient, smart and knowledgeable and calling her an “idealistic realist and a superb secretary of state.” Gates, a native Wichitan who is now chancellor of the College of William and Mary, said Clinton “has made a singular contribution to strengthening this country’s relationships with allies, partners and friends; rallying other countries to join us in dealing with challenges to the global order, from Libya and Iran to the South China Sea; and reaching out to people in scores of countries to demonstrate that America cares about them.” Meanwhile, Gates is still getting recognition. He will be the first individual to receive an honorary doctorate degree from Kansas State University when he speaks at the university’s graduate school commencement on May 11.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

The following satirical headlines come from borowitzreport.com and theonion.com:

Gingrich Urges Romney to Drop Out so He Can Focus on General Election

Fox News Wins Pulitzer for Fiction

Republicans Reveal That Entire Presidential Race Was a Prank

Greece Buys Mega Millions Ticket

Backup Health Care Plan Involves Nation Sharing One Big Jar of Ointment

Florida Police Warn Public Against Taking Law Into Own Hands Unless It’s That Law Specifically Designed for You to Do That

Citing Safety Concerns, Somali Pirates Refuse to Board Cruise Ships

Charlotte Bobcats Still Practicing for Some Reason

Is Romney ‘Ko-bachtracking’?

Anti-immigration crusader and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been identified as an unpaid adviser to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the source of Romney’s view that “the answer is self-deportation.” But the nature of their relationship got murky last week. When Politico asked the Romney campaign whether Kobach was still an “adviser,” a Romney spokeswoman e-mailed back: “supporter.” Later, Kobach told ThinkProgress: “No, my relationship with the campaign has not changed. Still doing the same thing I was doing before,” which is “providing advice on immigration policy” and communicating “regularly with senior members of Romney’s team.” In response, though, President Obama adviser David Axelrod tweeted: “Kobach botches Mitt maneuver. Refuses to be Etch-a-Sketched away!” Slate political reporter Dave Weigel called it a case of “Ko-bachtracking.” The New York Times’ Lawrence Downes observed: “Latino voters. The Kobach crowd. Mr. Romney can try to have one or the other, but probably not both.”

Would cutting taxes hurt Kansas’ bond rating?

Kansas has one of the best bond ratings in the nation, which helps keep its borrowing costs low. But that could be at risk based on the tax-cut plans being considered, Bloomberg News reported. “This has got to be one of the more worrisome trends in state and local finance,” Chris Mier at Loop Capital Markets in Chicago said about plans by states to cut taxes when their finances are still recovering from the recession. Bob Campbell, who oversees about $300 million in Kansas bonds at American Independence Financial Services in Wichita, warned that Kansas’ bond returns could be in jeopardy if there aren’t “verifiable offsets for reducing the revenues.” But he added he was optimistic that politicians “will be prudent and will follow the same kind of path they have over the years.” Others aren’t as optimistic, as Moody’s placed Kansas on a negative watch.