Monthly Archives: November 2012

Disconnect on global warming

An area of Arctic sea ice bigger than the United States melted this year, and ice cover reached “a new record low” in the area around the North Pole, according to a report released this week by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization. Droughts covered nearly two-thirds of the United States this year, as well as western Russia and southern Europe. The Arkansas River in Wichita (in photo) is at its second-lowest level in the 78 years the United States Geological Survey has been keeping records, and the Mississippi River is so low that it is halting some barge traffic. Climate scientists are predicting more devastating storms like Hurricane Sandy due to shifting weather and air patterns caused by global warming. Meanwhile, the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank funded heavily by oil companies, is working with the American Legislative Exchange Council to write model legislation for states such as Kansas to repeal renewable-energy mandates.

Filibusters already shutting down Senate

Some Republican senators are threatening to “shut down the Senate” if Democrats change Senate rules to limit the use of filibusters. But the impetus for such a change is that GOP senators already have been shutting down the Senate by their abuse of filibusters. So far during President Obama’s first term in office, there have been nearly 250 GOP filibusters, nearly twice the number of Democratic filibusters during George W. Bush’s first term. Both parties should act like adults and not abuse filibusters. But given recent history, some reasonable restrictions on when and how filibusters can be used may be in order.

‘Self-deportation’ policy is ‘crazy’

Donald Trump blasted Mitt Romney’s support of the “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants (a policy developed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach) as “crazy” and “maniacal.” “It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote,” Trump said (actually, 71 percent). He said that Democrats don’t have a good policy for dealing with illegal immigrants, “but what they did have going for them is they weren’t mean-spirited about it.” He said Republicans need clear proposals that address “people wanting to be wonderful, productive citizens of this country.”

No testing ‘cover-up’ by state education officials

Contrary to the claims of outgoing Kansas State Board of Education member Walt Chappell of Wichita, state education officials are not involved in a “massive cover-up.” They are not “gaming the system” to dupe parents and the public into thinking that our schools are better than they really are. There is no conspiracy. The Kansas assessments were peer-reviewed by the U.S. Department of Education and haven’t been dumbed down. Such irresponsible claims are why Chappell has been ostracized and rebuked by his fellow state board members – and likely why he lost his re-election bid in the GOP primary by 22 percentage points.

Secession petition is symptomatic of what ails nation

The nearly 1 million Americans who’ve signed online secession petitions, including one for Kansas with more than 8,700 names, may be merely blowing off steam after a bitter election defeat. But advocating secession as a remedy is symptomatic of what ails the nation, our editorial today argues. With the election over and the winners and losers identified, people should be pulling together at all levels to work through divisions. The nation and its economy cannot afford more of the partisan sniping that has debilitated Congress and pitted red states against blue ones.

Tear gas in Old Town targeted usual trouble spot

After all the measures by the Wichita Police Department and City Hall to address the shootings and other trouble in Old Town, including recent ordinance changes, it was discouraging to see things reach the point that police used tear gas to disperse a crowd. In another incident, a confrontation between a nightclub patron and a bouncer ended with the patron’s hospitalization for a broken nose and multiple lacerations. Four new surveillance cameras, paid for by business owners, should help police efforts in the nightlife district. But it’s important to note that Old Town’s problems continue to involve mostly the 200 block of North Mosley and the early morning hours when bars close – meaning the public safety problem, though serious, is also isolated.

Thou shalt not misspell Ten Commandments

Oops. A new Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds has two misspelled words and a punctuation error: “Sabbath” came out “Sabbeth,” “maidservant” ended up “maidseruant,” and “neighbor’s” is missing the apostrophe. Columnist John Kelso suggested an additional commandment: “Thou shalt not drop out of school until thou has completed eighth grade.”

Kansans have little in common with national voters

How much do Kansas voters differ from voters nationally? A lot. Political science professor Bob Beatty noted some of the striking differences reflected in exit polling, including: Mitt Romney won the male vote in Kansas by a whopping 40 points (69 to 29 percent). Nationally, Romney won men by 7 points (52 to 45 percent). Among younger voters, ages 18-29, Romney won by 13 points in Kansas (54 to 41 percent), while nationally Obama won those voters by 23 points. One big difference between Kansas and national demographics is race. Nationally, white voters made up 72 percent of all voters, and they went for Romney by 20 points (59 to 39 percent). In Kansas, whites were 87 percent of all voters and went for Romney by 31 points (64 to 33 percent). White men went for Romney by 27 points nationally (62 to 35 percent), but in Kansas 74 percent of all white men voted for Romney, giving him a 50-point advantage over Obama.

Some GOP movement on taxes

A few Republicans are backing away from the Grover Norquist pledge to never, ever raise taxes no matter what. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, New York Rep. Peter King and a few other lawmakers have indicated that they would support some revenue increases (preferably by eliminating deductions and tax loopholes rather than by raising rates) as part of a deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” But many GOP lawmakers are still scared that violating the pledge will result in a tea party challenge during their next election.

Most states will have one-party control

Though the federal government will remain divided – with Democrats controlling the White House and Senate, and Republicans in charge in the House – most state governments will be controlled by one party next year. Twenty-five states (including Kansas) will have Republican governors and Republicans in control of both houses of their legislatures, while 15 states will have Democratic governors and Democrats in control of their legislatures. One consequence of one-party control is that it can spotlight conflicts within a party, columnist Michael Barone noted, citing Kansas as an example. “The key event in Kansas politics this year was the defeat of moderate state senators by Republicans in the August primary,” he wrote. “The November election was irrelevant.”

Don’t expect a kinder, gentler Huelskamp

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, may be making postelection noises that sound like a willingness to compromise, but don’t expect every House conservative to do likewise. “Pretty much everyone in our conference is returning with a bigger margin of victory than the president of the United States. He certainly doesn’t have a mandate,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, told the National Journal’s Ben Terris, saying he reads the election as a reason to fight harder for his principles. Terris wrote: “ For Huelskamp and other House Republicans, it doesn’t matter much that Obama won re-election. What do they care if Democrats ran up their numbers in states such as California and New York? The only way Huelskamp could lose his job in his rural Kansas district is if someone claiming to be more conservative beat him in a GOP primary.”

Polls show support for raising taxes on rich

Despite the fact that President Obama campaigned on raising taxes on the rich, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that “Republicans in the House and Senate think we have a voter mandate not to raise taxes.” But new opinion polls show again that the public supports higher taxes on the wealthy. A Hart Research survey found that 56 percent of Americans support ending the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000, while 39 percent favor continuing the cuts for everyone. Meanwhile, exit polling in eight swing states also showed even more support for ending the tax cuts for the wealthy, ranging from 57 percent in Florida and Ohio to 64 percent in Nevada and Wisconsin. Even Fox News commentator and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol argued that the GOP should be open to a tax increase on the wealthy. “It won’t kill the country if Republicans raise taxes a little bit on millionaires,” he said.

Too many were disenfranchised by voter-ID law

Of the 80 Sedgwick County voters who showed up at the polls this month without a photo ID, 61 failed to later provide proof of their eligibility to vote and saw their ballots disqualified – not many, considering that 180,000 people in the county voted. But those are people whose votes would have counted in any election before this year, when Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s law requiring photo ID to vote took effect. And if you add up the number of such voters across Kansas’ 105 counties – seven in Reno County, eight in Saline County, 12 in Marion County, 16 in McPherson County, etc. – the tally of uncounted votes is significant and troubling. Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, wrote in an online comment regarding McPherson County: I “recall that during the hearings on the voter ID law (which I supported at the time) all we heard was ‘one case of voter fraud was one too many!’ However, throwing out the votes of 16 U.S. citizens who were guaranteed that right under the Constitution in just one county is no big deal? Yes, it is. It would be 16 more votes lost than all of the actual voter fraud cases Secretary Kobach could find in the 2010 election – which was zero.” Mah, who narrowly lost her re-election bid this month, told The Eagle editorial board she intends to continue her scrutiny. But Kansans also will need lawmakers willing to safeguard the right to vote in Kansas. Last week Kobach characterized the 717 provisional ballots cast statewide because of photo ID issues as evidence that the new law is a success.

So they said

“It might make people feel better – that’s what the president’s about, making people feel better – but at the end of the day, it’s going to cost us jobs.” – Rep. Tim Huelskamp (in photo), R-Fowler, on NPR, about raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans
“Loren G. ‘Sam’ Lickteig passed away on Nov. 14, 2012, of complications from MS and heartbreaking disappointment caused by the Kansas City Chiefs football team.” – obituary in the Kansas City Star

O’Donnell’s timing best for council

State Sen.-elect Michael O’Donnell is doing the right thing in resigning from the Wichita City Council effective Dec. 31, which will allow District 4 voters to elect someone in April to serve the remaining two years of the term. But Mayor Carl Brewer and his fellow council members also should choose an interim member to begin serving in January, so that southwest Wichita has uninterrupted representation on the council. Let’s hope that the next duly elected District 4 representative will prove willing to serve on the City Council longer than 14 months before seeking another political office.

Drought led to lower-than-planned water rate hikes

The historic drought is one reason that Wichita water rate increases won’t be as steep as anticipated in 2013. The dry summers have meant more irrigation and higher revenues for the underfunded water utility. So the Wichita City Council was able to approve increases last week of 3 to 7 percent, instead of the projected hikes of 10 to 15 percent. The 2013 rate plan also includes a two-year delay in growth-related capital projects, which seems appropriate given the slowed place of home construction and the city’s budget challenges. It addresses the unfairness of charging residential users more for water so that business and wholesale clients can pay less. And it was good to hear council members discussing how to help those who can’t pay their utilities. City officials should not expect citizen gratitude for the higher water rates, but they are doing a good job of getting the water utility’s finances under control.

Kansas delegation members opposing Rice

Kansas Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita; Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler; and Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka; were among the 97 House Republicans who signed a letter to President Obama opposing “any efforts to nominate Ambassador Susan Rice for the position of secretary of state.” The lawmakers contend that Rice’s public comments after the attack in Benghazi “either willfully or incompetently misled the American public.” However, intelligence officials have said that Rice relied on information provided to her by the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus charge that some of the GOP criticism of Rice smacks of sexism and racism.

Treasury Secretary Bair?

With Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the way out of President Obama’s Cabinet, one of the names being mentioned is that of Republican and former Kansan Sheila Bair. “The former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is a fearless, intelligent reformer who already knows how banking regulation works – and how it can be simplified and strengthened,” wrote Forbes contributor John Wasik. Because Wall Street would lobby against her, Wasik doubts Obama would nominate her or the Senate would go along if he did. But “Sheila Bair would not only be the new sheriff in town, she could help prevent a second round of what is the biggest swindle in human history. She’s one of the few people in Washington who could take the bull by the horns,” Wasik concluded.

Happy Thanksgiving

The release this month of Steven Spielberg’s movie “Lincoln” has put the spotlight back on our nation’s 16th president, an Eagle editorial notes. In addition to helping push through Congress the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery, President Lincoln also set apart the last Thursday of November as a national “day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” Even in the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln realized that our nation had much to be thankful for – as is also the case today.

Democrats may be misreading the future

The liberal conventional wisdom is that “Republicans are now Radio Shack to their Apple store, ‘The Waltons’ to their ‘Modern Family,’” columnist Ross Douthat wrote. But they may be misreading the future. “The progressive bias toward the capital-F Future, the old left-wing suspicion of faith and domesticity, the fact that Democrats have benefited politically from these trends – all of this makes it easy for liberals to just celebrate the emerging America, to minimize the costs of disrupted families and hollowed-out communities, and to treat the places where Americans have traditionally found solidarity outside the state (like the churches threatened by the Obama White House’s contraceptive mandate) as irritants or threats. This is a great flaw in the liberal vision, because whatever role government plays in prosperity, transfer payments are not a sufficient foundation for middle-class success.”

Obama, Romney, Democrats get approval bump

The favorability ratings of President Obama, Mitt Romney and the Democratic Party all increased after the election, while the GOP’s ratings stayed mostly flat. In a new Gallup poll, 58 percent of those surveyed had a favorable opinion of Obama (up from 55 percent before the election), and 50 percent had a favorable view of Romney (up from 46 percent). Democrats had a 51 percent favorability rating (up from 45 percent), while the Republican Party had a 43 percent rating (up from 42 percent).

After defeat, GOP still has reasons for optimism

Though Republicans failed to regain the presidency and lost seats in both the U.S. House and Senate, the future isn’t as bad for the party as some contend. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote that the GOP has reasons for optimism, including: The party’s superstars (Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan) are coming of age, there is a historic number (30) of GOP governors, and “presidential politics in the post-World War II era tend to be defined by the pendulum effect.”

Is it only GOP rhetoric that is the problem?

When speaking last week at the Kansas Agri Business Expo in Wichita, talk-show host and 2008 GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (in photo) blamed the GOP’s loss this election on the harshness of Republican rhetoric, not on the party’s underlying message. Huckabee has been more sensitive about issues of poverty and race than many Republican leaders. But is it really only the tone that is the problem, not the message – particularly on immigration and women’s issues? At a book-signing event in Kansas City, Mo., this past weekend, Huckabee criticized “the Republican Party’s complete abandonment of Todd Akin.” Huckabee stood by Akin after the Missouri congressman said that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Kansas Chamber can be at odds with local concerns

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce’s new president, Mike O’Neal (in photo), said that the focus of his organization is on what benefits the state as a whole from a business perspective. “There may be times there’s a local issue that affects you that may not fit squarely with the legislative agenda at the state level,” he told members of the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce last week. The Kansas Chamber’s push for tax cuts, regardless of the impact on schools and other important services, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars it spent trying to defeat local legislative candidates have caused a number of local chambers to pull out of the state organization. O’Neal also said that he does not believe there will be a state budget deficit, even though state revenue estimators recently forecast a $705 million drop in tax collections next fiscal year.

Southwest flights are great news for Wichita

It is great news – both for business and leisure travelers – that Southwest Airlines has committed to operating five daily flights from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, starting June 2. The discount carrier will have two daily flights to Dallas, two to Chicago and one to Las Vegas. The only unfortunate news in the announcement Monday was that Wichita will lose its three daily AirTran Airways flights to Atlanta. But the Southwest flights to three major markets will more than make up for this loss.