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Recent Kansas editorials

June 25, 2019

The Kansas City Star, June 21

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran thinks murder should have consequences. Why don’t his colleagues?

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran did the right thing again. He’s flying solo in that regard, as fellow Senate Republicans from Kansas and Missouri refuse to respond to Saudi Arabia’s role in the bombing of Yemeni civilians and in the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi with anything but faux frowns and real arms contracts.

Unlike Missouri Senators Josh Hawley and Roy Blunt and Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, Moran voted on Thursday to block President Donald Trump from using emergency authority to sell arms to the Saudis.

Sure, these resolutions will be vetoed by the president, who as we careen toward war continues to take his cues on Iran in part from his son-in-law’s buddy, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Yes, even though a U.N. report documents “credible evidence” that it was the crown prince, as the CIA has said “with high confidence,” who ordered Khashoggi hacked to death for criticizing him in print. What’s the buzz of a bone-saw between friends?

Trump is also taking cues on Iran from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a hawkish Kansan who in a time-honored pre-war move is trying to tie Iran to Al Qaeda. One recurring refrain in Trump’s 2016 campaign speeches that made sense was his argument against waging “endless wars” we didn’t need to be in. Now, though, his advisers seem to have talked him out onto a ledge and left him there, woozy and babbling about being “cocked and loaded.”

All of this only makes Moran’s willingness to stand up for the separation of powers and for democratic values more commendable — and the calculus of his colleagues more chicken-hearted.

“Congress has an important role in the oversight and approval of arms sales to foreign countries,” Moran said in a statement. “Today’s vote was to retain that power by preventing the bypassing of Congress, and ensure that partners who receive American weapons will respect American interests.”

He’s been consistent, also opposing arms sales to Bahrain and voting for a resolution against Trump’s plan to use emergency powers to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

“I believe the use of emergency powers in this circumstance violates the Constitution,” Moran said at the time.

Some people only talk about the Constitution, while others vote to defend it.

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Posted in the Topeka Capital-Journal, June 23

Corrections right to review book policies

The Kansas Department of Corrections has banned more than 7,000 books and publications from Kansas prisons. The list of banned publications has generated concern from the nonprofit Human Rights Defense Center, which acquired the list in response to an open records request.

Banned publications should be more carefully considered, by well-trained officials, to balance the educational needs of inmates with the safety of the corrections system.

It makes sense to keep some publications out of the hands of prisoners. Pornography, instructions for tattooing, guides to explosives and similar materials need to be kept out of prisons for the safety of inmates and staff.

However, the sheer number of banned publications and wide ranging content is concerning. In an environment with no internet, a ban on a publication is a complete isolation from the information it contains.

The list contains literary classics with well-established educational value. For example, Margaret Atwood’s classic, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the 1853 memoir “Twelve Years a Slave” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” are all on the banned list.

Many books about the prison system are banned. Publications on the list include the graphic novel, “Prison Grievances: When to Write, How to Write,” designed to help inmates navigate the correctional system and “Are Prisons Obsolete?” by Angela Y. Davis.

Some of the items on the list are simply head-scratching, among them, a collection of Broadway playbills, multiple art instruction books, Chris Gardner’s “The Pursuit of Happyness,” Pokemon game guides and multiple issues of Bloomberg Businessweek and Bon Appetit magazine.

A publication can get on the banned list if an inmate orders the book, and the Department of Corrections determines the book should not come into the prison system. Prisoners can appeal a decision they disagree with, but out of 1,622 appeals filed in the past 15 years, only 141 were successful.

As in all discussions of prisoner’s rights, it’s easy to look the other way when it comes to people who have committed crimes, but the vast majority of individuals in Kansas prisons will return to society. Their ability to reintegrate into our communities as productive citizens is partially a result of the tools we give them for success.

In response to the controversy generated by the list, including appeals from some of the authors of prohibited books, the Department of Corrections has pledged to develop a training program to teach staff about censorship standards, and re-evaluate some materials. Their response is appreciated.

Kansans should expect better.

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The Manhattan Mercury, June 21

Lessons learned upon being blindsided

The decision to move Country Stampede to Topeka is disappointing on several levels. There are a couple of lessons to draw from it, too.

The disappointment stems largely from the fact that the Stampede was a signature event in Manhattan, one that brought national attention and roughly $8 million in economic impact to our area every year. It was the kind of event that we like to be able to point to and say: See, we live in a thriving area.

We say “disappointment” because some of the facts of the matter leave us cold:

. First, it’s evident that Stampede had been concerned for years with the economics of the festival. The cost of talent had continued to rise, so it needed a better cost structure to continue to thrive.

. Second, it’s now apparent that Topeka had been courting the privately owned festival for years. The recent flood damage and danger at Tuttle Creek State Park, where Stampede had been held for 23 years, was the trigger that made the move happen.

. Third, it’s clear that the people in charge of the state park didn’t really care that much about keeping Stampede. They let the festival out of its lease without any penalties, and waived the clause that would have prevented Stampede from operating a music festival anywhere for 18 months if they walked.

. Fourth, there was not really anybody in Manhattan who was seriously tasked with keeping Stampede here. The Convention and Visitors Bureau is probably the entity with the most direct stake, but there wasn’t a contract or anything formal to make that stick. The CVB, Chamber of Commerce, city government and other official entities were left out in the cold when the announcement came in Topeka.

Perhaps we should just be grateful for the good times. It was a great ride, with the top performers in country music appearing here for an entire generation. Stampede officials were always gracious about Manhattan, and that continued even through Thursday’s announcement of the move. We can’t help but wish them well.

The lessons?

First, don’t ever take anything for granted. No explanation needed.

Second, it’s always best to assign tasks to specific people. Whose job is it, really?

It brings to mind the moment, in the early 2000s, when the federal government decided to realign and close military bases, and Manhattan basically tasked one person — John Armbrust — with coordinating our efforts. The end result was enormous growth at Fort Riley.

It takes a communitywide effort, of course, and usually lots of money. But the alternative — where Stampede stands up at a news conference to announce a move to Topeka, and nobody on the Manhattan side really knows what’s happening — is certainly not a pleasant one.

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