Author Archives: Phillip Brownlee

Age split in polling on governor’s race

brownbackhandPaul Davis, Democratic candidate for Kansas governor.  2014One might suspect that younger adults would be the age group least supportive of Gov. Sam Brownback’s (left) re-election, given his stance on gay marriage and other social issues. But a new SurveyUSA poll, sponsored by KSN, Channel 3, shows younger voters as Brownback’s biggest backers. Though he trails Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis (right) by 8 points overall, 40 to 48 percent, Brownback leads by 15 points with voters younger than age 35. Brownback also has a 4-point lead with 35- through 49-year-olds. Davis leads by 13 points with 50- through 64-year-olds and by 20 points with those 65 and older. Also of note: Davis’ lead in the Wichita area is 7 points, nearly identical to the statewide results. Davis leads by 15 points with women and by 2 points with men. And on the issue of education, Davis leads by a whopping 58 points, 76 to 18 percent.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

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

Rick Perry Orders Dallas Cowboys to Mexican Border

Boehner Drops Obama Lawsuit; Says It Would Mean Doing Something

New Anti-Abortion Legislation Requires Doctors to Scale 18-Foot Wall Surrounding Clinic

Study Finds High School Students Retain Only One-Third of Obsolete Curriculum Over Summer

Royal Baby’s First Year Widely Considered Disappointing

Candidate endorsements being released

Recall ElectionThe Eagle editorial board has begun releasing its endorsements for contested primaries. Thursday’s endorsements were for Kansas House races in Sedgwick County. Friday’s will be for Sedgwick County Commission and District Court. Saturday’s will be for Kansas governor, secretary of state and insurance commissioner. On Sunday we will endorse for U.S. Senate and U.S. House. The endorsements that really matter are by voters in the Aug. 5 primary.

New jobs report is nothing to brag about

joblessKansas Labor Secretary Lana Gordon said the state’s new jobs report was good news. “With another month of private-sector job growth, Kansas continues its comeback from the recession,” she said. The problem is that job growth is much slower than the national average and lower than in nearly all the surrounding states. The June report showed private-sector employment in Kansas grew only about 1.3 percent over the past year. Nationally, it grew 3 percent. What’s more, Kansas was one of only nine states that had fewer jobs at the end of June than it did seven months ago. The unemployment rate in Kansas also increased slightly, to 4.9 percent, while the rate in Wichita rose to 5.9 percent.

It’s official: Riverfest was huge success

riverfestfireworks2014The official numbers show what Wichita already knew: The 2014 River Festival was a huge success. About 380,000 people attended the nine-day event (up 5 percent from 2013 and 30 percent from 2012). Also, 111,000 festival buttons were sold (up nearly 7 percent from 2013) and sponsorships increased 15 percent, which helped shore up the festival’s finances. Though the weather was threatening at times, the festival benefited from pleasant temperatures. This year’s concerts were big draws, and there was a good mix of new attractions and old favorites. Congratulations to Riverfest staff and its army of volunteers.

National media spotlight on Kansas (but not in a favorable way)

statesealMaybe former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum wasn’t exaggerating when he said last week that the “future of the free world” hinges on Kansas’ gubernatorial race. National media are certainly treating Kansas’ political and economic news as major stories. Click here to read excerpts from a few recent commentaries.

AFP explanation as disingenuous as mailer

clayton,stephanieIt shouldn’t be surprising that the group behind a disingenuous political mailer is also disingenuous about its purpose. Americans for Prosperity-Kansas sent out mailers blasting Rep. Stephanie Clayton (in photo), R-Overland Park, for voting “against our kid’s future.” The vote in question is the school finance bill that passed late at night this past session. It included the highly controversial (but AFP-backed) provisions to strip teachers of their state-mandated due-process rights and to give tax breaks to corporations for donating to private school scholarship funds. When contacted by The Eagle, AFP-Kansas director Jeff Glendening denied that the mailer had anything to do with helping Clayton’s conservative challenger in the upcoming GOP primary. Yeah, right. He also said – repeatedly – that the mailer didn’t say to “vote for or against” anyone. Why did he emphasize that so much? Because not saying those magic words means that AFP doesn’t have to disclose its funding sources.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

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

Everyone in Middle East Given Own Country in 317,000,000-State Solution

Voters Clamoring to Know if Female Political Candidate Is a Mother First

Fleeing Iraqis Relieved That Cheney Has No Regrets About War

Brazilian Government Posts Listings for 12 Soccer Stadiums on Craigslist

LeBron Congratulates People of Cleveland on Having Him Back

New Study Finds Most of Earth’s Oxygen Used for Complaining

Can’t conclude that tax cuts pay for themselves

taxcuts“The business boom predicted by tax cut advocates has not happened, and it certainly has not come remotely close to offsetting the static revenue loss from the legislated tax cuts,” Howard Gleckman wrote in Forbes magazine about Kansas’ declining tax revenues and sluggish economy. Gleckman concluded: “One can argue whether cutting taxes is a good thing. One can argue about whether government is too big. One can even argue about whether low taxes increase business activity. But one cannot credibly argue that tax cuts increase revenue or even pay for themselves.” Another Forbes contributor, David Brunori, argued that while Gov. Sam Brownback oversold the short-term benefits of the tax cuts, it “may be too early to know if the Kansas experiment is a long-term failure.”

Orman ad likely resonates with Kansans

orman,gregGreg Orman faces long odds running as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate in Kansas. But a campaign advertisement he released last week likely will resonate with many Kansans. It shows red and blue teams competing in a muddy tug-of-war contest. “Washington’s stuck between two parties who care more about winning than they care about our country,” Orman says in the ad, adding that “most Kansans just want government to live within its means and stop telling the rest of us how to live our lives.”

Secretary of state race also getting some notice

Scott Morgan, candidate for Kansas Secretary of State.  2014Kansas’ gubernatorial race is receiving a lot of national media attention, but the GOP primary in the secretary of state race also is starting to get some notice. Scott Morgan (in photo), who is challenging incumbent Kris Kobach, appeared this week on the “All In With Chris Hayes” show on MSNBC. Morgan, who served as a staff member to former Sens. Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum Baker, acknowledged that it will be difficult to win in a GOP primary, but he felt compelled to run. “At some point you have to stand up and say, ‘This isn’t us; we’re better than this.’” Morgan said that Kansans may not be flashy but we are decent. “We can be kind to each other,” he said, “and we don’t have to fan fear all the time.”

WuShock is unusual, but is it creepy?

wushockmascotWichita State University’s WuShock was named “the creepiest mascot” in a New York Post article this week. “Who knew a shock of wheat could be this angry?” the article asked. No. 2 on the list was the old Burger King mascot, with its leering plastic grin. OK, that one really was creepy. WSU wasn’t the only Missouri Valley Conference school to make the ranking. Little Egypt, the Egyptian hunting dog mascot of Southern Illinois University, was ranked the sixth creepiest. “Why not be more honest and call this one ‘Angry Mullet Head’?” the paper asked.

Davis backers include area school board members

davis,paulThe 104 current and former Republican officials who are endorsing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis (in photo) include several area school board members, reflecting the strained relationship between school districts and Gov. Sam Brownback. “As a 13-year local board of education member, I know four more years of the current governor will not be good for kids or Kansas,” Wichita school board member Lynn Rogers said. Other area GOP school board members include Gail Jamison, Sara McDonald and Kevin McWhorter of Goddard; Roger Elliott of Andover; and Janet Sprecker of Derby. Carol Rupe Linnens, former member of both the Wichita school board and the Kansas State Board of Education, spoke at the announcement event in Topeka Tuesday. “We need a governor who values our schools and makes them a top priority,” she said.

Brownback: Preserving environment is conservative, biblical

environmentGov. Sam Brownback noted in an NBC News interview that environmental issues haven’t “been an area of interest in my wing of the Republican Party – the conservative wing of the party.” But he argued that it’s a natural fit. “To conserve and be responsible for our natural resources is a very conservative position to take,” he said. “But it’s also about taking care of what God gave you.” In addition to his efforts to preserve the state’s water supply, Brownback noted the investment in Kansas in wind energy. “I think God gave us a beautiful place,” Brownback said. “He gave us a fabulous aquifer. And I think we need to be responsible with that and see that future generations can use that as well.”

No wonder farm groups aren’t backing Huelskamp

huelskamp,timThe decision by top Kansas farm groups not to endorse Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, speaks a thousand words about Huelskamp’s misplaced priorities and belligerent behavior. Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association refused to endorse Huelskamp, who was kicked off the House Agriculture Committee and has voted repeatedly against farm bills. And this wasn’t an insider decision; local committees in each county in Huelskamp’s district voted on whom Farm Bureau should endorse. Though Huelskamp’s combative, uncompromising style gets him bookings on cable TV talk shows, it has made him an ineffective representative for the farmers and ranchers in his district – and anyone else who wants to see results, not just “no” votes.

Maybe Brownback should avoid medical metaphors

brownbackofficialmugGov. Sam Brownback’s claim that Kansas tax cuts would act “like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy” hasn’t panned out. So he recently switched medical metaphors, likening the tax plan to going through surgery. “It takes a while to heal and get growing afterwards,” he told the Wall Street Journal. But the new metaphor is still providing fodder for critics. A New York Times editorial this week observed that “it’s not clear the patient can recover from this surgery,” noting that the state could blow through all its cash reserves by the end of this new fiscal year. Steve Thorngate wrote in Christian Century that “the operation was entirely elective, motivated by not necessity but ideology,” and he warned others to “look to Kansas and see what very concrete things happen when lawmakers choose to starve their own government.”

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

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

Environmental Study Finds Air in Chicago Now 75% Bullets

Criminal Prosecuted to Fullest Extent of Budget

People Who Call Obama Worst President Since Second World War Also Blame Him for Starting It

Bored Scientists Now Just Sticking Random Things Into Large Hadron Collider

Report: Half of All Americans Probably Should Have Thought of That Before They Opened Their Mouth

Tiahrt not impressed by 57 votes against Obamacare

tiahrtnewmugA campaign commercial by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, brags that he has voted 57 times against Obamacare. His GOP primary opponent, former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, isn’t impressed. Somewhere between the seventh and 57th vote they should have figured out it wouldn’t work, Tiahrt told The Eagle editorial board. The GOP House needs to pick its fights wisely, Tiahrt said, and use its power over the purse strings to get what it wants. Pompeo concedes that “there is a little bit of repetition” to some of the votes. But he told the editorial board that the Affordable Care Act is such an enormous change that House Republicans have an obligation to continue to make their case and express their vision.

Can’t blame all of revenue drop on capital gains

taxrevenueFormer state budget director Duane Goossen raised more doubts about the Brownback administration’s claim that federal tax policies caused the state to miss its revenue estimates by $338 million during the past three months. Even if $3 billion in capital gains income was shifted from the 2013 tax year to 2012 (which Goossen points out is highly improbable, as $3 billion would be the entire amount of capital gains income for Kansans in an average year), at most that might have resulted in a reduction of $147 million in state income tax collections in fiscal year 2014 (assuming that the entire amount was taxed at the highest rate). That’s less than half as much as the estimates were off. All total, Kansas collected $726 million less in tax revenue in the fiscal year that ended June 30. That’s more than the tax drop during the entire Great Recession, Goossen noted, when revenue fell $618 million during a three-year period.

Still too many Kansans lacking health insurance

doctoroutAbout 359,000 Kansans – or 12.6 percent of the population – were uninsured in 2012, according to a new report by the Kansas Health Institute. The national average was 14.8 percent. In Sedgwick County, the uninsured rate was 15.5 percent. Two-thirds of uninsured Kansans have family incomes above the federal poverty level ($23,050 annually for a family of four in 2012), KHI reported, and more than three out of four uninsured Kansas adults are working. Though the current uninsured rate is not known, more than 57,000 Kansans signed up for health coverage through the insurance marketplace, according to federal data. That total doesn’t include Kansans 26 and younger who are now receiving health insurance through their parents’ plans, as part of the Affordable Care Act. More than 75,000 additional Kansans could be insured if Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature would allow a federal expansion of Medicaid.

‘Religious freedom’ bill likely to be back

gayweddingcakeGiven that a recent federal appeals court ruling puts Kansas’ same-sex marriage ban in jeopardy, it’s not surprising that some are planning another push next legislative session to pass a “religious freedom” law. The Kansas House passed a bill this past session that would grant additional legal protections to those who don’t want to accommodate same-sex couples for religious reasons. But the bill immediately died in the Senate after opposition from the business community, gay rights groups and others who said the bill sought to legalize discrimination. “We are not going to let it die. We are very committed,” Wichita pastor Terry Fox told Associated Press. Thomas Witt of Wichita, executive director of Equality Kansas, also expects the issue to resurface next session. “I don’t think they’re going to stop their attacks,” he said.

Pro-con: Is soccer winning over Americans?

APTOPIX South Africa Soccer WCup US AlgeriaUnbelievably, World Cup soccer has become the topic of conversation around the watercooler at work. In recent weeks television ratings for the sport have soared, with games involving Team USA equaling the recent NBA finals and surpassing baseball’s World Series. Watch parties drew tens of thousands nationwide and huge crowds at AT&T Stadium in Dallas and Soldier Field in Chicago. This time around America embraced the “beautiful game” of stunning goals and incomprehensible offsides, joyous nationalism and comic-looking flops. For decades, kids in this country, as in the rest of the world, have grown up playing soccer. Drive through suburbia on the weekends, and you’ll see fields upon fields of tykes chasing a speckled ball. Until now, that’s where the infatuation has ended. Once kids stopped playing the game, they fell into the more traditional viewing habits of college football on Saturdays, the National Football League on Sundays, with a baseball and college basketball game when there was more at stake. Yet this time around more Americans checked out the World Cup than ever before, and they often enjoyed what they saw. For once you give the beautiful game a long look, as the rest of the world knows, it’s difficult to turn away. – Tim Wendel, Johns Hopkins University

Soccer is easy to mock. In what other sport can we compile a scorecard of the number of ersatz “injuries” or the time the supposedly injured players spent writhing on the ground? But I am not here to mock. I’ve tried to like soccer. It seemed like the open-minded thing to do. Let me set the stage: It is the summer of 1994 and I am a graduate student living in London. The dormitory in which I lived had a summertime influx of Italian students who, in a gratifying example of international outreach, insisted that I watch the World Cup with them. I did so, game in and game out, as an ambassador of sportsmanship and goodwill. And, to the joy of my newfound compatriots, Italy progressed all the way to the final against mighty Brazil. And so we watched what I was told would be the pinnacle of sporting endeavor. For 90 minutes we watched. And no one scored. We watched through extra time. And still no one scored. At last the game was settled through a shootout, in which the goalie guesses at which side of the goal the opposing player will kick the ball and dives in that general direction. Italy’s goalie guessed wrong and Brazil walked off the World Cup champions. A coin flip might have been slightly less dramatic, but the effect was pretty much the same. This helps explain why soccer may be the world’s sport, but not yet America’s. – Andrew G. Biggs, American Enterprise Institute

DCF also deserves rebuke in Henderson case

gavelSedgwick County District Court Judge Timothy Henderson isn’t the only one who deserves a rebuke. So does the Kansas Department for Children and Families. In addition to recommending that Henderson be censured for harassing women attorneys, the state’s Commission on Judicial Qualifications concluded that Henderson wrongly sent an e-mail informing officials with DCF that Wichita attorney Martin Bauer used to handle birth adoptions associated with Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller and had supported “gay adoptions.” The e-mail was sent to Jeff Kahrs, chief of staff at DCF, and Diane Bidwell, then head of DCF’s Wichita office. Bauer had handled some adult guardianship cases for DCF, but after receiving the e-mail, DCF removed Bauer and his law firm, Martin Pringle, from its appointment list. The commission ruled that Henderson “inappropriately mixed his personal views on sociopolitical issues” with his official duties. So did DCF.

Congress unlikely to pass budget on time

congressclockCongress is running out of time to pass a budget, and the likelihood of it doing so by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 is looking slim. “The House has passed only five of the 12 required appropriations bills while the Senate is batting zero on them,” the Concord Coalition reported. The fiscal watchdog group warned: “Failure to act in a timely manner risks another costly government shutdown or one enormous and unwieldy omnibus bill that lumps all unfinished business together.”

No surprise that KochPAC prefers Pompeo

pompeo2“KochPAC is proud to support Mike Pompeo for Congress based on his strong support for market-based policies and economic freedom, which benefits society as a whole,” Mark Nichols, vice president of government and public affairs for Koch Industries, told Politico. That’s not surprising, as the Wichita Republican has been closely associated, politically and ideologically, with Koch Industries. Some liberal groups even call Pompeo the congressman from Koch. But Koch had also been a longtime backer of Pompeo’s opponent, Todd Tiahrt. The former representative received nearly $330,000 from Koch’s political action committee and Koch employees during his eight terms in Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.