Monthly Archives: May 2014

Open thread (May 31)

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Tiahrt not sleeping well because of Pompeo?

tiahrtbackThe 4th Congressional District race suddenly became a lot more competitive now that former Rep. Todd Tiahrt is challenging incumbent Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita. It’s still unclear what Tiahrt’s case is against Pompeo. They both are very conservative and share the same views on most issues, including abortion. About the only policy difference Tiahrt has pointed to is Pompeo’s defense of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. Pompeo has a huge fundraising lead, but Tiahrt still has a lot of grassroots volunteers and is an aggressive campaigner. Tiahrt will also have to explain why he enthusiastically endorsed Pompeo in 2010 and 2012 but now thinks he should be voted out of office. When Tiahrt endorsed Pompeo in October 2010, he said three times that he’d “sleep well at night” if Pompeo replaced him.

GOP takeover of Senate could force it to govern

gridlockThough Congress’ approval rating has been at historic lows, most people like having divided control of Congress, which contributes to the current stagnation. Columnist John Dickerson argues that if voters really want change, they should try giving the GOP control of the Senate. Though that’s likely to result in all Obama hearings all the time, the GOP might also be forced to govern. “Republican strategists know the GOP has to shake the ‘party of no’ label, which means producing actual accomplishments,” Dickerson wrote.

Open thread (May 30)

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Guns still unwelcome at Riverfest

gun3Because much of the Wichita River Festival is held on city-owned property, the new state law preventing local governments from restricting open carry of firearms might seem to conflict with a rule in the event brochure: “Don’t bring weapons of any kind to the festival. The festival footprint is not a legal ‘conceal and carry’ or open-carry area.” But according to the city’s legal department, the festival grounds are controlled by private Wichita Festivals Inc., not the city. “They can establish the appropriate rules of conduct, which would include no open carry,” chief deputy city attorney Sharon Dickgrafe said in an e-mail. “However, they will have to enforce these provisions through their private security.” She added that Wichita Police Department officers “cannot be involved in enforcing regulations that exceed state law.” Though reassuring for many, the continuing gun-free policy surely will rankle those who think the right to carry shouldn’t be curbed anywhere for any reason. The new state law, by the way, goes into effect July 1.

Delegation united against study of climate change

CORRECTION Arctic MeltAll four U.S. representatives from Kansas voted last week to block the Defense Department from spending any money to study the effects of climate change and its impact on national security, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. The amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act also bars the Pentagon from implementing the United Nations’ Agenda 21 sustainable development plan, the subject of a one-world conspiracy theory pushed by some conservatives. Tom Brandt, spokesman for Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, said that Jenkins does not doubt the link between man-made carbon emissions and global climate change, calling the link “pretty undeniable.” He said the issue is who sets policy, Congress or the executive branch. The Defense Department has participated in the National Climate Assessment program since 1989, during the George H.W. Bush administration.

Open thread (May 29)

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GOP establishment, tea party learned from elections

teasign“The differences between the tea party and ‘establishment Republicans’ have largely concerned style and attitude rather than program and ideology, and these are easily finessed – especially because moods change,” columnist Ramesh Ponnuru wrote. “That’s why tea party candidates have so far beaten only two incumbent Republican senators in primaries in the past three election cycles. Those elections unified the party in two ways. Establishment Republicans learned that they needed to sound more tea partyish. And the tea party learned something about electability: In both cases (Joe Miller over Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, Richard Mourdock over Richard Lugar in Indiana), its candidate went on to lose the general election.”

Brownbacks are encouraging kids to read for fun

schoolreadingGood for Gov. Sam Brownback and first lady Mary Brownback for supporting Read Kansas Read. The annual reading program, which is a collaborative effort by the Kansas State Library system and Kansas State Department of Education, encourages children to read for fun throughout the summer. The top readers in each age division from the seven library regions in the state will be recognized by the first lady at the Kansas Book Festival in September. Jo Budler, the state librarian, said that Kansas libraries had more than 97,000 children and teens participate in summer reading programs last year. “I hope that we have even more visit their library and make reading a priority this year,” Budler said.

Big spenders didn’t prevail on renewable energy standards

turbinewindmillSupporters of renewable energy standards were outspent about 10-to-1 during this past legislative session, yet they were able to fend off six attempts to remove the standards, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Three groups backing the standards spent $62,040, according to a new report by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. In comparison, two groups that opposed the standards – the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance (which has ties to AFP) – spent $386,853 and $40,470, respectively, mostly on mass media advertising.

Open thread (May 28)

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Sheriff’s Office wise to pull out of training session

Good for the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office for pulling out as a sponsor of an anti-terrorism training session this week. The training is being conducted by John Guandolo, who resigned from the FBI after it was revealed that he had a sexual relationship with a confidential source. He has since made wild claims about the Obama administration, including that CIA Director John Brennan is a secret Muslim who was recruited by foreign intelligence agents. Muslims were understandably concerned about Guandolo training law enforcement officers.

Roy lived a full life of service

billroyBill Roy, who died early Monday at the age of 88, lived a full life of service. Roy served in the U.S. Air Force, as a Topeka physician (he delivered more than 8,000 babies), as a member of Congress, and as a community volunteer and devoted family man. Roy also wrote newspaper commentaries, some of which appeared in The Eagle. His last commentary in The Eagle was published April 20, 2013, and was about Jackie Robinson and the movie “42.” Roy wrote that “black athletes and musicians helped remove the blinders on white Americans’ eyes and let us see the scholars, scientists and leaders whose released talents make us a stronger nation today.” Roy’s talents made Kansas stronger. As Gov. Sam Brownback noted in a statement about Roy: “He served the people of Kansas proudly and well.”

Open thread (May 27)

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Looming election complicates city’s sales tax discussion

brewer,carlIt would be hard enough in any year to persuade Wichita voters to raise the local sales tax for any reason. But as the City Council sifts through the items that might be funded by such revenue, its deliberations are complicated by the calendar. Mayor Carl Brewer (in photo), who is term-limited, is cast in the role of lame duck. Behind the scenes, as well as on the bench, there is jockeying over who might run next spring to succeed him. Council members surely realize that a united front is their best hope of persuading voters this fall of the necessity of raising the sales tax to address some of the priorities, and that a failed ballot question would have political as well as fiscal consequences.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

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

Congress Reluctant to Cut Funding for Tank That Just Spins Around and Self-Destructs

GOP: Evil Mastermind Behind Benghazi Is Frail Old Woman With Brain Damage

Conservatives Praise Antarctic Ice Sheet Melt as Beautiful Expression of Free Market

Study: Average American Now Requires 3 Attempts to Get Up From Seated Position

Man Only Buys Products Made Right Here in the USA by Cheap Immigrant Labor

Three Sports Scientists Killed Attempting to Harness X Factor

Open thread (May 26)

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VA scandal is a real outrage

veteransday“What makes the VA scandal different is not only that it affected people at their most desperate moment of need – and continues to affect them at subpar facilities,” columnist John Dickerson wrote. “It’s also a failure of one of the most basic transactions government is supposed to perform: keeping a promise to those who were asked to protect our very form of government.” Unlike the many manufactured scandals in Washington, D.C., this one really is an outrage that needs sustained attention and pressure.

Open thread (May 25)

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Voters have until July 1 to switch parties

Recall ElectionLast week Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach reminded wannabe candidates for national, state, county and township offices that they must file by noon June 2 for the upcoming elections (though independent candidates have until noon Aug. 4 to file by petition). “Kansans who wish to serve their community by running for elective office need to be aware of this important deadline,” Kobach said in a statement. This year there’s another key date for Kansas voters – July 1, which is the newly accelerated deadline for changing party affiliation in advance of the Aug. 5 primary. In future election years, the party-switching cutoff will be even earlier, June 1. The deadline to register to vote is July 15 (don’t forget your proof of citizenship). Unaffiliated voters can still pick a party on primary day.

Keeper of the Plains looking great at 40

keeperbridgeA powwow aptly marked this month’s 40th anniversary of the Keeper of the Plains, the 44-foot Cor-Ten steel sculpture that was designed by Blackbear Bosin and dedicated on May 18, 1974. Bosin, a Kiowa-Comanche painter, made the Keeper a gift to the city. Given that it’s become the most treasured and identifiable symbol of Wichita, it’s hard to believe now that it cost just $28,000 to fabricate and install at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers. The dissent seven years ago over its updated surroundings, including its dramatic suspension bridges and “ring of fire,” has subsided, thankfully, with the Keeper’s plaza having become a favorite spot for visitors and locals alike. “It has conveyed everything I wanted to say,” Bosin once said. And 40 years later, the Keeper stands taller and prouder than ever, reflecting both Wichita’s cultural beginnings and aspirations.

So they said

robertsmug“Maybe the Kochs are to blame for the planes lost in the Bermuda Triangle. How about the volcanic eruption at Pompeii years back? Even, Mr. President, the futility of the Chicago Cubs.” – Sen. Pat Roberts (in photo), R-Kan., on the Senate floor last week, blasting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for pointing figures at the Koch brothers for climate change and California wildfires

“I kept hoping that the governor would eventually see the rationale behind getting those federal dollars. Those are our tax dollars that are going to Washington that are going to other states that are expanding coverage.” – Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, lamenting Gov. Sam Brownback’s refusal to expand Medicaid as MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes” examined Kansas’ sharp right turn

“It never surprises me that the most active governors have a dip in their popularity as their opponents go nuts.” – Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, in an Associated Press article about Brownback’s low approval ratings and re-election bid

“You serve food with integrity? How about serving people with integrity?” – Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, tweeting about Chipotle Mexican Grill having asked its customers not to bring guns into its restaurants, which Huelskamp also said showed Chipotle’s “disdain for the 2nd Amendment”

Open thread (May 24)

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Kansas didn’t anticipate tax revenue drop

taxrevenueKansas isn’t the only state that saw a big drop in tax revenue in April compared with the previous year. Personal income tax collections declined in 27 of 32 states for which Reuters was able to collect data. Many of those states anticipated the revenue drop. “But there is also New Jersey. There is also Kansas, Pennsylvania,” Lucy Dadayan, a senior policy analyst at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, told Reuters. “Their projections are more optimistic than the reality. They either have to cut services – have to cut on the spending side – or raise taxes.”

Congress hates to cut military spending

militarymoneyMembers of Congress come and go, but one thing never seems to change: Lawmakers hate to cut spending on military programs, weapons and equipment, no matter how outdated or ineffective. That’s particularly true if the spending is connected to their home districts. The House, including many tea party members and all four Kansas delegation members, defied the wishes of the Pentagon – and circumvented its own budget caps – by voting to maintain funding for the Cold War-era U-2 spy plane and the A-10 Warthog plane, to keep open several military bases, and to keep 11 Navy cruisers and an aircraft carrier in service. “Congress simply undid all of the department’s cost-saving measures and slashed readiness accounts without offering alternatives,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking minority member on the House Armed Services Committee.