Tag Archives: postaday2011

Why Can’t Kansas Get Any Good Press?


I’ve been away for awhile. Frankly I haven’t had any inspiration to write lately, but a couple of weeks ago I heard a ridiculous story concerning my home state, and today I read another. Both received national news coverage. Just like when our state Board of Education decided that teaching evolution wasn’t important, these stories make us look crazy.

I was listening to “All Things Considered” on NPR a couple of weeks ago and heard an interesting story about our state capital of Topeka. Apparently, prosecuting domestic violence cases is just to expensive. It’s so expensive that the municipal court of Topeka can’t afford to do it. It’s so expensive the Shawnee County District court can’t afford to do it. So what did these two groups do? The district court told the city of Topeka that they would only prosecute cases outside of Topeka. If it happens in Topeka the municipal court was responsible. It seems pretty cut and dry, but Topeka had an ace up its sleeve.  The city council simply repealed the municipal domestic violence statute. Now the municipal court has no authority to prosecute these cases.  As city manager Dan Stanley points out, this doesn’t make domestic violence legal because it is still covered by state law. The problem with this situation is that the two parties simply fought with each other rather that trying to find a mutual solution. Instead, they fought and ended up in a situation that is truly not beneficial to anyone.

This brings us to the story I just read about 25 minutes ago.  Kansas Governor Sam Brownback apparently had some ‘splaing to do. At a Youth in Government event in Topeka, Brownback made some remarks. A senior at Shawnee Mission East High School (home of the Lancers) made a tweet during his remarks with the hashtag (I hate myself a little for using that term) #heblowsalot. Brownback’s staff saw the tweet and called the school. The student ended up in the principal’s office and was told to write a letter of apology.

Now the Governor is apologizing for his overzealous staff, and saying the right to free speech is a “treasured freedom.” I think Gov. Brownback did the right thing. I don’t really have a problem with what his staff did. They should be monitoring social media that involves the Governor. I don’t know why they called the school. They probably shouldn’t have but that is a minor offense. My real problem is with Shawnee Mission East and principal Dr. Karl Krawitz. At what point did the school believe they have any right to order a student to apologize for a comment made on the internet. The student concerned is an adult and has all the constitutional rights of a  U.S. citizen. There is no reason that she should have spent any time in the principal’s office, and certainly no reason the school should have told her she should apologize for voicing her opinion. If anything Dr. Krawitz owes her an apology far more than  Governor Brownback.

Well, I hope my beloved home state gets some better press in the future, but it does feel good to be back.

One last thing, Herman, another woman, give it up man.

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A Comment on Citizen Cain


The Black Walnut strikes again. Just two days ago, Herman Cain, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and Republican presidential candidate, shocked the political world by coming in second in a Bloomberg/Washington Post poll. All the talk was about whether this was for real. Then today in a Wall Street Journal poll he’s leading the field. That’s right according to the Wall Street Journal, Herman Cain might just be the front-runner in the Republican race for president. It’s much to early to be sure, but this race is getting interesting. I have a lot more to say about Herman Cain and his stance on the issues, but as I was reading this article on the WSJ website I noticed there were three hundred or so comments. I decided to read a few. I came across the usual Obama-hating stuff like this by “Joseph Wootten”:

“Herman Cain is by far the most genuine person to be a serious presidential candidate since Reagan. The Bushes were Harvard / Yale elitists. Clinton was a “Rhodes Scholar” (ok maybe his mamma hooker had something to do with that). Obama is a full-fledged “Affirmative Action” case president (I would love to see his transcripts). And Romney is the perfect Hollywood “Country Club Republican”. It is truly refreshing to see an actual accomplished human being have a chance to become president. I am fully on board the Cain Mutiny!”

I love that he put Rhodes Scholar in quotes like it’s not a real thing. Anyway, one commenter called “John Mason” called Cain, “the right wing’s answer to the Rev. Al.” I thought that was pretty funny.

Normally I don’t read the comments on major publications because they tend to be absurd. There is a lot of people saying what they believe while giving no support for their arguments, and a lot of people just being childish. So you will understand my surprise when I came across this comment by “Li-Shi Chen”:

“Certainly Cain makes this GOP race interesting and he is throwing ideas, such as his 9-9-9 proposal out there for debate. This is a good thing.

However, most US voters and in particular more recently GOP voters seem all-to-often willing to anoint some superhuman and elect him (or her) to ride in like a knight in shining armor to solve all of the US’s problems. I am sorry, but the problems the US faces today are far beyond the scope of a one-man show to fix them all. It is not even an issue of leadership anymore as we have seen that the party opposite the president in power (in the Bush years, the Democrats and in the Obama years, the Republicans) will only do what is good for them and not put what is good for the country first. Perhaps that is why people suddenly like Cain, whose statements seem to suggest he is not going to compromise, with his background and attitude more in like with the tradition of a tough-talking CEO.

However, this tough-talking omnipotent CEO image is a dangerous one though for a democracy like the US. In a company, a CEO may talk tough, but his constituents are often either paying customers or shareholders who invest in the company for similar, often narrow reasons. A country and its citizens are anything but that and unlike a company, which can be bought out, the leader of a nation has to ensure that the nation lives on forever, long after they step down. CEOs today are definitely not such long-term thinkers, nor do they need to be. Presidents have to be such long-term thinkers, however, as well as also understanding that global politics is not necessarily addressed in terms of market share nor win-loss.

I am sure Cain will continue to say the right things on the economy and that is no unimportant thing as the economy is in a shambles. However, voters will also need to see a much more substantive debate on his views over issues such as North Korea, Israel, terrorism, the US’s dependency on foreign oil, Russia and a variety of military threats around the world, among other things. America really should not ignore those issues just to get a candidate it thinks it likes now to throw out of the of White House a candidate it thinks it no longer likes.

This is not to say Cain is the wrong man. However, presidential candidates as well as presidents need to be both flexible on the murky issues and steadfast on the clear ones. If Cain can be this, then good luck to him. Meanwhile, voters may want to keep in mind that the candidate they often admire before November as being steadfast and firm often translates into being hardheaded and stubborn after the following January.”

That was an unusually thought out comment. Chen (who I assume would just be considered a Communist by “Joseph Wootten”) makes some very good points.  The debate in this race has so far centered around the economy which is probably the issue that the candidates can influence the least. Foreign policy will be very important in the coming years. The Israel-Palestine problem has shown no inkling that it is going away. Republicans and the public as a whole need to think about that and not let the economy blind us into a bad decision.

Kansas City Under Occupation


That’s right, the Occupy Wall Street movement is making noise in the heartland. According to the Kansas City Star, a group of around 300 protesters are camped out at Penn Valley Park across from the Kansas City Federal Reserve building. They had various signs and people speaking and all of that. The question still looms over this entire movement though. What do they want?

The answer doesn’t seem to be even remotely clear. I’ve heard various reports on these protests from different places in the country. To me it seems that people are just mad. The groups seem to have some diversity in political ideology, though it’s hard to tell how much. They seem to not like the idea of “corporate personhood” or the large amount of corporate influence in our elections.

I’ve yet to decide what I think of all of this. The footage I’ve seen looks like young people who want real change. Think of the beginnings of the Tea Party. It was a bunch of people who got upset over government bailouts of corporations and a ballooning deficit. They talked about fiscal responsibility and people from different sides of the political spectrum were involved. Then the ultra-right hijacked the movement using vast sums of money and turned it away from balancing the budget. Suddenly, The Tea Party was about cutting government spending and lowering regulations and taxes. Those who were not staunch conservatives left, and we had a national movement spouting talking points for billionaires and corporations. It is still to be seen if this movement will suffer the same fate from the right or the left.

After reading the piece on the Star’s website I took a look at some of the comments. One guy tried to somehow make an argument using Abraham Lincoln. I’m not sure why. Anyway, I came across this comment by playon266:

“as they all celebrate by making calls, taking pictures, and sending texts on their smart phones (made by big corporations, on carriers that are big corporations)… and then while driving home in their car or truck or hybrid (all made by big corporations), they’ll stop at Wal-Mart (a HUGE corporation) and buy cheap food (from corporate food producers) and cheap imported products (from big FOREIGN corporations)… and they’ll think they made an impact. Interesting…”

He makes a point. Corporations exist because we support them. If no one  went to Wal-mart, we would not complain about the evils of Wal-Mart. Playon662 misses the point however. These protesters don’t want corporations to be eliminated, they want them to get the same treatment we do. They want them to pay taxes. They want them to have less influence in our political system. They want the everyday citizen to pay less in taxes than the corporation with a multi-billion dollar profit margin.

Two pieces were written at the Kansas Free Press, about the Occupy Wall Street protests. One, by Christina Stein, celebrates the activism and drive of the protesters. The other, by Ken Poland, questions whether these protesters have the knowledge and ability to exact change. You should read them both.

It is too early to know what these protests will accomplish, if anything. One thing seems sure; the protests are spreading. The coming days will show if Americans are truly angry, and if they are, will politicians listen?

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Andy Rooney Says Goodbye


It is said that all things come to an end. Television journalism just had one of those moments that proves it. Just a few minutes ago, Andy Rooney finished his last regular commentary piece and the CBS news show “60 minutes.” It’s a sad moment in many ways. For over 30 years, every sunday night, Mr. Rooney would spend a few minutes telling people what was on his mind. You may have liked it, or you may not have. Rooney didn’t really care, he was going to tell you what he thought and that’s how it was. I always enjoyed listening to Andy Rooney. I think he had the greatest job in the world. Face it, he was blogging’s inspiration. He didn’t report the news like a journalist. He didn’t just talk about politics and current events like a coloumnist. He was unlike any other coloumnist or journalist, because he just talked about what was bugging him that particular week.I hope they don’t try to replace him, because you really can’t. TV’s grumpy old man can’t be replicated. Rooney’s segment wasn’t great because it was some guy talking about whatever was on his mind. It was great because it was Andy Rooney talking about whatever was on his mind.

Prior to his segment he was interviewed by Morley Saffer. It was interesting to see Andy in a casual setting, becuase you realized that Andy Rooney on TV was also Andy Rooney in life. He said some interesting things. He believed he was more of a Democrat than a Republican, although he would object to being called either. Looking back, he really enjoyed covering World War II as an Army reporter. At the same time you could see the sadness in his eyes when he talked about friends he lost in the war. He doesn’t give autographs, because “what kind of idiot what’s my name on a piece of paper.” You got the sense that if you met him in public you’d think he was a jerk, but he’s not. He’s just a famous guy, that isn’t comfortable being famous.

All in all, Andy Rooney was a television icon. Through the years he contributed so much to television and journalism. It was an inevitable day. So there is nothing left to do but say “Thank you Mr. Rooney.” At least you inspired me, and I promise if I ever have the chance I won’t ask for your autograph.

A Constitutional Question


I’ve done a pretty bad job of posting lately. My interest in politics has been tested throughly. I’m just tired of the same arguments coming from either side over government spending and taxation. The Tea Party has thoroughly destroyed my faith in Congress, and the American public. I will talk more about that in a later post. Today, I want to pose a question. It’s a question I thought of a long time ago, but never got around to asking. First, a little reminder of our recent history.

Back in March, all the talk was about Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker was trying to push a bill that stripped the collective bargaining rights of public employees. State Senate Democrats fled in an effort to obstruct him. In the end the bill was passed, but not without gaining significant national attention and a repeated FOXNews claim that was completely wrong. In the last six months, I’ve been mulling this issue over in my head. Education is very important to me. I’ve been a public school system employee. I have strong views about the issue. Personally, I don’t believe that public school teachers have the awesome, easy job that conservative talking heads say they do. I also believe that we should be encouraging people to become teachers not discouraging it. Having the smartest people want to be teachers is good. Education in the cornerstone of everything we do.

All that aside, I thought of an argument that makes the repeal of public employee’s collective bargaining rights is unconstitutional. This argument maybe crazy. It may have been addressed already. I would genuinely like to know what you think. So please leave comments below. As long as their civil and honest of course.

The 1st Amendment to the Constitution says:

     “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We’re going to focus on the last part of that amendment. The government cannot abridge our “right to peacefully assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”  The way I read that is that collective bargaining is a right of public employees. Collective bargaining is people assembling (as a union) and petitioning the government over grievances (such as pay, working conditions and so on.)

I know that a strict constructionist view of the Constitution would not allow this, because it doesn’t talk specifically about collective bargaining, but collective bargaining didn’t exist. I believe we have to view the Constitution in the era it was written in, and decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. Let me know what you think.

Okay, Let’s Talk About Jobs


Well, as I mentioned in my last post Bank of America is planning to lay-off thirty thousand employees over the next couple of years. This news was announced with stunning irony, on the same day that President Obama sent his recently announced “American Jobs Act” to Congress. So, the talk in politics is all about jobs. What can Congress, or the President really do to create jobs in this country? The answer is. . . not much.

All the talk is about the record of job creation a person has. Rick Perry is touting the economic success “he’s had” in Texas. Mitt Romney is taking shots at him about it, and all the Republicans are blaming President Obama for the economy. John Boehner gave a speech today in Detroit basically outlining the fact that congressional Republicans aren’t going to work with the President. Unless, of course, he does whatever they want. Their ideas are the same tired ideas they’ve had for years, but I will deal with that later.

There is an idea that is more broad and it needs addressed. The American public has a huge misconception about the role of government in the economy. We talk about a President’s record of creating job, but the truth is that president’s don’t create jobs. Unless, they require the government to hire more people. George W. Bush, for example, created the job of Secretary of Homeland Security. President’s can only provide incentives, like tax credits and tax cuts, for employers to hire more people, but that won’t work.

Take a look at it this way. I’m CEO of the Worldwide Widget Corporation, J. Pierpont Finch. We sell two million widgets a year that are produced in two factories employing 100 people. The accountants come to me and say if we build a new factory and hire 50 more people, we’ll get a tax credit. What would you do? If your smart you’d go to the sales team and ask, “If we build a new factory how many more widgets can we sell?” If they say there is no more demand for widgets, you would be crazy to spend the money on a factory and employees that you don’t need. You would be throwing money away. Yes, the government is going to reimburse you for some of it but then your stuck with a factory that is a drain on your profit.

Now, if the sales team comes to you and says, “If we build a factory and hire some people we can sell one million more widgets and our profit will grow 50%.” What would you do? You’d build the factory, and I bet you would do it even if you weren’t getting a tax credit. You’d build it because it is good for Worldwide Widgets.

The President and Congress have no actual role in that decision. Only one thing does, and that is demand. The economy isn’t a physical thing. It is the compilation of all of the uncountable transactions that take place between people and business every day. The mood of the masses drives the economy. President Bush issued rebate checks to American taxpayers. If you filed a tax return you got a $600 check if you were a single person and a $1200 check if you filed jointly. That could stimulate the economy, but only if people spend that money. If the public puts it in their savings for another day, it doesn’t do anything until that other day.

That means that people are the economy. We make it succeed or fail, grow or retract. Capitalism is built on people spending money. That’s why consumer confidence is so important. If we believe the economy is going well and we can afford to spend money, then things will be okay. Christina Stein wrote an interesting article about this at the Kansas Free Press.

I’ve said before that the best way to stimulate the economy would be to eliminate taxes on the poorest people. Poor people are unique in that they are the only group of people who spend every dollar they have. The middle-class, and the wealthy don’t do that. They can afford to have a savings or a retirement account. If you give poor people more of their paycheck, a lot of money will immediately be returned into the economy.

The real truth about the economy is that it hinges on the behavior of people. Presidents don’t control that. Congress doesn’t control that. If you vote on the state of things now, you are voting for the wrong reasons. We need to be voting for the person who is thinking about the future. We need to look at a candidates vision, intellect, and drive. We need to take our eyes off of today and think about tomorrow, and pick the right person to lead us there.

A Debate, A Speech, And Oh, My God, I Forgot Claude Rains


The past couple of days have been eventful in the world of politics. There was a Republican debate, a presidential address to Congress, and shortly thereafter we kicked off the NFL regular season. I’m not sure what it says about this country that the President had to schedule his speech around a football game to make sure people watched, but that’s what happened. Scheduling aside, there is much to talk about.

First, the debate. I didn’t watch it. I have read the highlights. I probably should have watched because it is the first one Texas Governor Rick Perry has participated in, but I wasn’t that interested. Mostly, I didn’t care because the Republican party is not going to nominate anyone that I would consider voting for.  Michele Bachmann claimed she would get the price of gas down to $2 a gallon. I thought that was interesting. I’m sure her reasoning is that if we open the whole country up to drilling we’ll find enough oil. In reality that is nonsense. The price of gas is largely dependent on the price of oil and we will never find enough to compete with the national oil companies of countries like Saudi Arabia. I thought the small exchange between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry about job creation was funny. Perry pointed out the Micheal Dukakis had a better job creation record than Romney did as Governor of Massachusetts. Romney shot back that former Texas governors Ann Richards and George W. Bush had a better record than Perry. Personally, I believe that shows that governors don’t have a whole lot of power over job creation.

Jon Huntsman would be interesting candidate, but I don’t think he has a chance. He might not be a bad choice for VP. He is a seasoned diplomat, and the eventual nominee is almost certain to lack foreign policy experience. Why won’t they have that experience? The answer is simple. Rick Perry is going to be the nominee. I don’t have a doubt about it. He really is the best candidate that the Republicans can put forward. He’s got all the conservative bona fides. He’s got all the folksy appeal. He’s George W. Bush on steroids. Unlike Bush he’s a real Texan. He went to Texas A&M (though his grades weren’t that great.) With the economy stagnating and job creation basically non-existent, he has all the ammunition to take down President Obama. Obama’s problem is simple. His argument is more complicated. Perry can tout his record of job creation in Texas. On the surface this record looks good, but if you look deeper you find that most of those jobs are low-paying and don’t have benefits like health insurance. Obama’s problem will be that most people don’t look deeper.  On NPR’s “All Things Considered”, a Democratic strategist from Texas called Rick Perry, “the best, most talented politician to come out of Texas since LBJ.” If that’s true this election should be something to watch. Which brings us to the President’s speech.

Frankly, I didn’t think it was one of his best. I don’t believe it was particularly well-written. He told Congress to, “pass this bill,” far too often. From a policy standpoint, however, I think he is doing the right thing. His proposals will help everyday Americans. The middle class that doesn’t get talked about nearly often enough will benefit from the bill. The extension of the payroll tax cut, and unemployment benefits are good ideas. The fact that it won’t add to the deficit (which the president pointed out more than once) should make it palatable to Republicans. The President pointed out that the proposals in the bill have been supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the past. That, along with the fact that it won’t add to the deficit, should make it harder for Republicans to oppose it as another “government spending binge.” I firmly believe that the President has the best interests of the American people in mind. Yes, he has a political incentive as well. Job creation and a growing economy will help his reelection effort, but I think in this case he really wants to improve things for the people. We will see what Congress thinks.

Finally, I made a horrible omission. In my last post I recommended the film “Casablanca.” I talked about how the movie contained anything you could want. I talked about the amazing screenplay, and I talked about the stellar performances of all the cast members. To my dismay, I failed to mention Claude Rains. Claude Rains, in the role of “Louie” is absolutely one of the best parts in the movie. He even delivers the unforgettable line, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” So, I must apologize for my error, and once again recommend that you see “Casablanca” It is one of the best films ever made.