Category Archives: Current Affairs

Bloomberg defends decision to clear out protesters

Nearly 200 people were arrested when New York City police cleared out the Occupy Wall Street encampment Monday night. The protesters received a temporary restraining order and are trying to return to the park. Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the decision to remove the protesters. “New York City is the city where you can come and express yourself,” he said. “What was happening in Zuccotti Park was not that.” He said that “health and safety conditions became intolerable” and that protesters had made the park unavailable to anyone else.

Don’t be late with census forms

census2010Thursday is when the U.S. Census Bureau hopes to have as many completed 2010 forms back from Americans as possible. As of Tuesday, response rates in Kansas and Sedgwick County were 56 and 50 percent, respectively, compared with the nation’s 50 percent. The cost-saving cause of boosting mail-in response has motivated the bureau to spend $338 million on ads in 28 languages and $2.5 million on a Super Bowl ad, and to reach out to the conservative demographic by sponsoring a NASCAR entry and tapping Marie Osmond to talk up participation in Las Vegas and on QVC. Why worry about conservative response? Because of the anti-government noncompliance promoted by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who thinks the data might be misused (though it’s unlawful to share information even with other agencies). Pondering the simple form, Time magazine’s Nancy Gibbs wrote: “Bachmann may think the census is too intrusive; I just wish it were more so. As long as we’re spending all this money to reach so many people, imagine what we could find out. Which do you favor, Leno or Letterman? Smooth or chunky? Faith or works? Liberty or equality?”

Top 10 issues of 2008

Here is our ranking of Top 10 issues of 2008 from today’s editorial:
1. Presidential election
2. Economy
3. Iraq
4. School bond
5. Coal plant
6. City manager search
7. City policies (TIFs, smoking ban, etc.)
8. Local elections
9. Child welfare (record number of child deaths, complaints about D.A. Office)
10. Casinos
We tried to base the rankings on political and policy issues that generated the most public passion, not just big news stories. Did we miss something, or get them in the wrong order?

Sound and fury in college debate

In my Friday column, I leap into the debate about a screaming, obscenity-laced confrontation between two debate coaches that ended up with one of them, assistant professor William Shanahan of Fort Hays State, dropping his pants, bending over and mooning his opponent with exposed underwear.

The shout-down happened at a tournament at Wichita State University earlier this year, and a video clip ended up on YouTube this month, where it quickly became a hit.

It seemed to me a pretty pathetic spectacle, and in keeping with the creeping lack of civility and restraint in our public discourse.

On Friday, Fort Hays State fired Shanahan over the incident. University president Edward Hammond said in a written statement, “Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, but these actions are not acceptable for someone who is representing our university.”

Shanahan told an interviewer: “Obviously it got out of control, but to be honest I thought I was in a safe house. I thought I was part of a community that handled its problems internally and that recognized the dangers of exposing ourselves — no pun intended — to the rest of the country. It is so difficult as a nonparticipant to understand what is going on in the debate round.”

Maybe that’s part of the problem?

Judging movies before seeing movies

Friday’s Eagle had a letter from Special Olympics Kansas decrying the new movie “Tropic Thunder” for “retard” jokes and calling for a boycott.

Here is Slate movie critic Dana Stevens’ response to a reader about the controversy: “You hold the view that the movie’s use of what advocacy groups are calling “the R-word” isn’t targeting people with disabilities; they hold the view that it is. But if the discussion is to go forward, shouldn’t everyone at least be willing to see the movie with an open mind toward the other side?”

She’s right that pre-emptive criticisms of movies often fail to judge the offending material in context.
One example: Critics who complain about the “racist” use of the “N-word” in Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” miss the author’s ironic use of the word and his larger point about its offensiveness and racism.

That artistic context may be utterly lacking in “Tropic Thunder.” I don’t know — I haven’t seen the movie.
But it’s satire. And as Stevens notes, “Satire is a notoriously difficult thing to police.”

Stephenson case isn’t just a personal matter

The stalking claim filed by a woman against Wichita State University baseball coach Gene Stephenson has been settled out of court. But the unresolved questions in the case likely leave many Wichitans and Shocker fans with lingering feelings of unease — and doubts about whether WSU has done enough to address this matter, our editorial Wednesday said.

WSU athletic director Eric Sexton has offered no comment on the Stephenson case and settlement except to call it a “personal issue.”

But it’s not merely personal. Stephenson is a highly paid, high-profile public figure whose reputation and conduct are closely associated with the WSU athletic program. That makes it a personnel issue.

Sebelius vs. the Comedy Central men

Here is the full text of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ letter to Stephen Colbert about his broadside against Canton, Kan. The Kansas City Star’s Prime Buzz blog also notes that after Jon Stewart blasted her Democratic response to the State of the Union address early this year, referring to her as a “cougar,” Sebelius sent Stewart a note and a T-shirt reading, “Don’t Fear the Cougar.”

20 years of Rush

rushRush Limbaugh celebrates the 20th anniversary of his national political talk show today. Columnist Brent Castillo wrote that Limbaugh is a successful because he “finds a balance between humor and politics” and he “stands for ideals that have made America strong.”

When defending gun rights led to a caning

sumnerJustice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in the handgun-ban case explored the historical context for the Second Amendment’s language on gun ownership. In the process, Scalia quoted from abolitionist Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner’s famous 1856 speech about “Bleeding Kansas”:

“The rifle has ever been the companion of the pioneer and, under God, his tutelary protector against the red man and the beast of the forest. Never was this efficient weapon more needed in just self-defense, than now in Kansas, and at least one article in our national Constitution must be blotted out, before the complete right to it can in any way be impeached. And yet such is the madness of the hour, that, in defiance of the solemn guarantee, embodied in the amendments to the Constitution, that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,’ the people of Kansas have been arraigned for keeping and bearing them, and the senator from South Carolina has had the face to say openly, on this floor, that they should be disarmed — of course, that the fanatics of slavery, his allies and constituents, may meet no impediment.” Three days later, in reaction to that speech, S.C. congressman Preston Brooks attacked Sumner and beat him with a cane into unconsciousness.

Casinos run good operations

gamblingIt’s encouraging that a Sunday Eagle article on the experience of Tunica, Miss., with the Sumner County casino candidates found that all three — Harrah’s, Marvel and Penn National — run good operations. All hire locally. All contribute generously to local charities. All have minimal regulatory violations.

The positive record should reassure Kansans wondering which one of the casinos will win the bidding for a Sumner County casino.

Seems that in practice, they’re pretty much the same.

It’s still unclear whether a casino will provide a net gain to south-central Kansas, but the article should at least quiet critics still predicting that any casino will bring economic ruin and rampant corruption to the area.

That hasn’t been Mississippi’s experience with these companies.

Iowa flooding man-made?

IowafloodDid humans have a hand in the recent flooding in Iowa and the Midwest? Yes, according to some land-use experts, who say practices such as plowing under prairies and buffer strips, channelizing creeks and streams, and installing drainage tiles in fields have enhanced runoff and made rivers more susceptible to flooding.

“We’ve done numerous things to the landscape that took away these water-absorbing functions,” said Kamyar Enshayan, director of an environmental center at the University of Northern Iowa. “Agriculture must respect the limits of nature.”

Not everyone agrees that the transformation of the landscape played that much of a role in the recent flooding. Mother Nature dumped a whole lot of rain on Iowa.

But it’s also clear that a lot of rain wasn’t absorbed or diverted and went straight into the rivers.

Gay rights directives prompted by court, convictions

patersonNew York Gov. David Paterson’s directive that state agencies must recognize gay marriages from other states or countries was prompted by a court decision in February, the New York Times reported. But Paterson has also been a longtime advocate of gay rights, which he, unlike many of his fellow African-Americans, equates to the civil rights struggle. “I’ve wanted to be someone in the African-American community who recognizes the new civil rights struggle that is being undertaken by gay and lesbian and transgendered people,” Paterson said.

Dole goes nuclear on McClellan

doleWow. Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole didn’t mince words in a ferocious e-mail he sent last week to Scott McClellan:

“There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don’t have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues,” Dole wrote. “No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits and, spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique.”

But Dole was just getting warmed up: “In my nearly 36 years of public service I’ve known of a few like you. No doubt you will ‘clean up’ as the liberal anti-Bush press will promote your belated concerns with wild enthusiasm. When the money starts rolling in you should donate it to a worthy cause, something like, ‘Biting The Hand That Fed Me.’”

Tell us how you really feel, Bob. If nothing else, he’s proved that he can still get in touch with his inner mean streak.

Americans driving less

trafficAmericans drove 11 billion fewer miles in March than a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation — the sharpest decline recorded since 1942.

Maybe it’s sinking in with consumers that gas isn’t going to get any cheaper and it’s time to conserve. Then again, check out this Eagle story that says local big truck and SUV sales are still going strong.

Remember the fallen

memdayToday the nation pauses to honor the fallen — the courageous Americans who heard the call to serve, followed it into harm’s way, and gave their all in defense of freedom. Our thoughts today are of the 54 Kansans killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and of their loved ones, for whom loss is a daily companion. We also feel the immensity of the debt owed to all those in the armed forces who have died protecting America’s liberty and security, not just in this century but over the nation’s history. It is because of their selfless valor that Americans are able to live freely and peacefully.

Miley’s shot a bit too revealing for G rating

cyrusIn the 24/7 media world of tween celebrities, maybe it was only a matter of time before wildly popular Disney star Miley Cyrus found herself overexposed.

The 15-year-old Cyrus has seemed squeaky clean and down to earth — a large part of her G-rated appeal. But an upcoming Vanity Fair photo spread that shows her bare-backed, clutching a sheet and looking bed-tousled has many people asking, “What were they thinking?”

Cyrus apologized to fans, saying she thought the shot was “artistic.” But she — and more to the point, her parents, who attended the photo shoot — aren’t media innocents. They should have known how fans would see the photo.

One state’s tanker deal is others’ disaster

tankerThe editorial board of Alabama’s Press-Register declared a new leader in the “Boeing political hyperbole contest over the selection of Northrop Grumman-EADS and Mobile for the $40 billion Air Force refueling tanker” — the statement by Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., that “Congress has a responsibility to correct one of the worst decisions in modern history.”

Its editorial went on: “Presumably that covers wars, pestilence, dictators, assassinations, environmental disasters, economic errors, political gaffes and the University of Alabama’s hiring of Mike Price as football coach.”

ll this would be funny, the board said, if Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, weren’t “threatening congressional legislation that would essentially take the contract away from Northrop Grumman-EADS. Now that would be a disaster.”

That would explain the smile

Here’s the photo that has had cable and the Internet buzzing because of the image reflected in Vice President Dick Cheney’s sunglasses. It only looks like a naked lady. Turns out it’s Cheney’s hand and fishing rod.cheney

A test case for new dog law

pitbullThe Wichita City Council members face their first test of the city’s new dangerous dog ordinance, in a case involving a pit bull that bit a 5-year-old girl in the face, inflicting wounds that required plastic surgery.

The owner is appealing the city’s animal control service recommendation that the dog be euthanized, saying the dog is a beloved family pet. But the dog has bitten someone before — the owner. And at an earlier appeal hearing, the city’s animal control supervisor, Dennis Graves, said he thought it likely the animal would bite someone again. That’s a potentally deadly situation, especially when a large, powerful dog breed is involved.

Heston a star for the NRA

hestonnra.jpg

Charlton Heston, who died Saturday at age 84, was not only one of the great movie icons but also an extremely effective spokeperson for the National Rifle Association, which he headed from 1998 to 2003.
The NRA benefited from his star power and dramatic, uncompromising stands for gun rights. In fact, his galvanizing attacks on Al Gore over gun control laws is credited by some with tipping the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000.

U.S. burned diplomatic bridges on Iraq

bookHere’s another cost of the war in Iraq: The Bush administration’s bullying of our allies and their diplomats created lasting “bitterness” and “deep mistrust,” according to a new book by Heraldo Munoz, Chile’s ambassador to the United Nations. Munoz claims that the administration threatened trade reprisals against friendly countries that withheld their support for the U.N. resolution on Iraq, spied on U.S. allies, and pressed for the recall of U.N. envoys who resisted U.S. pressure to endorse the war, the Washington Post reported.

“In the aftermath of the invasion, allies loyal to the United States were rejected, mocked and even punished” for not backing the U.N. resolution, Munoz wrote. But after the war started to fall apart, the administration needed some of those same allies to come to its aid.

Cartoon contest contenders

contestCongratulations to Don Bennett of Arkansas City, this week’s caption contest winner. Here are some of the others:
Karen Jerman of Wichita: “Now that is what I call splitting hares!”
Karen Wallace of Wichita: “Talk about road rage!” and also “Give me a call at 3:00 in the morning. . . .”
Richard Hopper of Derby: “Looks like the Dems are having a bad-hare day!”
Cliff Jayne of Wichita: “Where did I park my Airbus?”
Richard Julius of Belle Plaine: “March Madness! It’s fun to watch!”
Janet Cook of Wichita: “100 years right here!”
And this fine entry, which came in after the deadline so was disqualified, from Travis Metcalf: “There you go, Hillary! Give him that Wright hook!”

Spitzer’s resignation unavoidable

spitzer1.jpgNew York Gov. Eliot Spitzer had little choice but to resign, given that his career was based on integrity, justice and public accountability. He referred to his implication in a prostitution investigation as a “private failing,” but it was much more than that. As columnist Leonard Pitts wrote on today’s Opinion pages, Spitzer’s betrayal also hurts public life. “Do you know how hard it is to believe?” Pitts wrote. “To overcome cynicism and inertia and place fragile trust in the hands of someone who claims to represent values higher than expediency and self? . . . Do you know how much less likely you are ever to give belief again?”

Spitzer story a gift to late-night TV

spitzerHere are David Letterman’s Top Ten Eliot Spitzer Excuses:
10. Oh come on, like you were never involved in a prostitution ring
9. Hookers is fun.
8. Just trying to help the economy
7. Have you ever been to Albany?
6. It’s part of my new MTV prank show, “Spitz’d.”
5. Haven’t been myself since Roy Scheider died.
4. Uh, tainted beef?
3. Whether it’s a hooker or your wife, you’re always paying for it — you married fellas know what I’m talking about.
2. Wanted to be known as the Charlie Sheen of politics.
1. I thought Bill Clinton legalized this years ago.
For more Spitzer humor, try this.

So daylight saving time burns energy?

daylightSo much for Benjamin Franklin’s assertion that Paris could save an “immense sum” every year “by the economy of using sunshine instead of candles”: Researchers say that switching all of Indiana to daylight saving time in 2006, where just 15 of 92 counties had observed it before, has cost an extra $8.6 million in electricity bills. “The reduced cost of lighting in afternoons during daylight saving time is more than offset by the higher air-conditioning costs on hot afternoons and increased heating costs on cool mornings,” explained the Wall Street Journal. The article went on to clarify that Franklin had suggested “levying a tax on window shutters, ringing church bells at sunrise and, if that didn’t work, firing cannons down the street in order to rouse Parisians out of their beds earlier.”