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Steve McIntosh Report Blog

Posts from October 2013


Trick or treat
My brothers and I enjoyed Halloween about as much as any kids could back in the fifties and sixties. We didn’t think much about ghosts and goblins; we were focused on trick-or-treating.
There never was much candy around our home. We might see some hard candy in a stocking at Christmas. But tasty chocolate bars were rare. So when October 31st rolled around, we were more than ready. Costumes? I think we went as hobos every single year. We couldn’t afford anything fancy, and we always had plenty of crumby old clothes.
Up and down the streets we went … running from house to house … until we’d hit everyone within walking distance. We trundled home tired and happy.
Later we examined our loot. We took a good bite out of our stash Halloween night. We tried to hide the rest from each other, but it was impossible. Sooner or later, someone raided someone else’s candy bag.
We tried to make the candy last until Thanksgiving … but never even got close.
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Our thought for today is from Steve Almond:
 
“Nothing on Earth is so beautiful as the final haul on Halloween night.”
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People: Steve Almond




 
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Political embarrassment in North Carolina
How did this guy get to me a precinct chairman in the Buncome County, North Carolina Republican Party? His fellow Republicans turned on him quickly, calling his comments “inappropriate and highly offensive”.
Don Yelton left his post after he was asked to resign, but refused to apologize for the comments he made on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.
Yelton said North Carolina’s new Voter I-D law would “kick the Democrats in the butt”. He went on to say that if the new law hurts “lazy college kids”, “so be it”. Yelton also said: “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it”.
If this is the way this guy talks on national T-V, what does he say in those local Republican meetings behind closed doors?
No political party wants one of its members doing a Junior Samples/Archie Bunker impersonation on a network television show.
ope
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Our thought for today is from Elbert Hubbard:
 
“Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.” 
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Topics: Politics
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Locations: Buncome CountyNorth Carolina
People: Don YeltonElbert Hubbard




 
The computer culture
I’ve watched with some amusement … mixed with concern … the fumbling of the Affordable Care Act rollout. I don’t see it in a political way … one more reason to bash the president … but as an indication of the power of the computer culture.
Chances are you are hearing this commentary or reading it on a computer. It’s a relatively simple procedure that I do every day, using computer programs we’ve operated several years. It’s consistent and it’s clean. But what if something goes wrong?
We have people in the building trained to make the computers go when they stop. That’s as sophisticated as I can be on computers.
Over the past few months we’ve seen huge government computer problems at the federal and state levels, as well as our local election office.
We rely on these things for nearly everything in life. Most of us just hope they work, because about all we know to do is reboot.
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Our thought for today is from Queen Juliana of the Netherlands:
 
“I can’t understand it. I can’t even understand the people who understand it.”
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People: Juliana




 
Welcome to the party, Jill
Last week Kansas Democrat gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis announced that his Lt. Governor running mate is Jill Docking, Wichita financial planner. Having known Jill Docking for several years, my observation is that the ticket is upside down.
The Docking name may help. Jill is married to a former Lt. Governor whose father and grandfather were multi-term governors. But it’s been a while since a Docking was on top in Kansas politics.
Jill Docking lost a U-S Senate race in 1996 to the man she and Davis hope to unseat, Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Recent polls have given Brownback approval ratings in the 35 to 40% range, but he is still a conservative in what’s become one of the most conservative states in the union.
Jill Docking brings name recognition, intelligence, and political savvy to the Democrat ticket. She’ll also need to bring several million dollars in campaign cash and the will to use that money ruthlessly when the time comes.
Even then, the Democrats’ chances of winning are a huge long shot.
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Our thought for today is from Art Spander:
 
“The great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter a chance to do something stupid.” 
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Topics: Politics
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Locations: Kansas
People: Jill DockingPaul DavisSam Brownback




 
Should we fix Social Security?
I would like to see some minor changes in the funding and payouts on Social Security now, to keep the program solid for decades to come.
I know I am clearly in the minority, although I’ve heard many experts and former lawmakers say it’s essential to deal with entitlements if we ever want to bring down our national debt. Current lawmakers don’t have the political courage to do anything at all. 57 million Americans receive checks from Social Security, while 161 million support the system through payroll taxes.
A Pew Research Center survey indicates 45 to 46 percent of Americans favor keeping spending the same for Social Security. 41% want to increase spending, with only 10% calling for a decrease.
I find myself among the 10%.
Last year’s negative cash flow was 55 billion dollars. Social Security’s reserves will be fully depleted by 2033.
I want my children and grandchildren to know I was one of the few who favored fixing the problems while they were still fixable without much pain.
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Our thought for today is from Warren Buffett:
 
“I violated the Noah rule: Predicting rain doesn’t count; building arks does.”
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Challenge for America's young adults
The report from Opportunity Nation was anything but optimistic. The bipartisan coalition advocating greater economic mobility reports nearly six million young Americans are neither in school nor working, about 15 percent of those aged 16 to 24.
Opportunity Nation says idle youth are missing an opportunity to build skills they will need later in life or to use knowledge they acquired in college. Without those experiences, the report predicts they are less likely to command higher salaries and more likely to be an economic drain on their communities.
The study also finds that the number of families living in poverty has increased in 49 states, while household median incomes fell in 45 states last year.
Wow! Talk about a gloomy report!
Obviously, the figures reflect a terribly sluggish economic recovery after a recession that may have been far deeper than most folks realize.
Young people who are ambitious and driven will do well under most any economic conditions. But as a group, it appears our 16-to-24-year-olds are facing serious challenges.
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Our thought for today is from Euripides:
 
“Whoso neglects learning in his youth, loses the past and is dead for the future.”
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Narrowing the focus
President Obama wants to narrow the focus … asking Congress to finish a budget, an immigration overhaul, and a farm bill by the end of the year. Doesn’t sound like too much to ask, so why do I have my doubts?
Will the Obamacare issue rise again to spoil bi-partisan efforts to get the government on task? Texas Senator Ted Cruz says he won’t rule out another shutdown – quote – “I will continue to do anything I can to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare”.
It has been obvious to many Americans for many years that federal spending must be controlled. But when we talk about controlling the biggest portion of that spending – entitlements – our courage begins to wane. How many of us pre-retirees are willing to support Social Security adjustments that may hit our own pocketbooks?
I favor making those entitlements adjustments now, so that my wife and I won’t get clobbered in retirement in the future … and so Social Security will be there for our children and grandchildren.
ope
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Our thought for today is from Alan Kay:
 
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” 
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From crisis to crisis
The Congressional “fix” is temporary. It gives our government a few weeks to finally accomplish something on spending and debt control. Why am I not very optimistic?
I wonder if the battle over Obamacare took attention away from that 800-pound gorilla: the debt limit?
In my opinion, Representatives and Senators should now focus on putting the nation’s fiscal house in order. Let the past few weeks be a wake-up call: delaying adjustments in entitlement spending has become criminal. Our lawmakers must do their jobs … now!
Ever-increasing debt is not the answer. We need an annual budget that allays uncertainty about what’s going to happen next. That will take some of the shackles off the markets and business.
The problem is still entitlements. Until our lawmakers can muster enough political courage to take on that issue, we will lurch from one crisis to the next.
If there are any genuine leaders in Washington, let them come forward now … not to resist and obstruct … but to solve and correct.
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Our thought for today is from Herbert Rappaport:
 
“I hope that while so many people are out smelling the flowers, someone is taking the time to plant some.”
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Topics: Business_FinancePolitics
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Locations: Washington
People: Herbert Rappaport




 
Congress approval ratings
The turmoil in Washington the past couple weeks has resulted in approval ratings dropping for President Obama. But Congress … and specifically Republicans in Congress … have taken a beating.
Frankly, this is nothing new … congressional approval ratings have been abysmal for years. This last round simply plumbs new depths of disapproval. Americans are annoyed with the legislative branch of their federal government, which seems to be totally dysfunctional.
And yet … we don’t seem to be that upset with our own representatives. Republican incumbents have a permanent lock on the two U-S Senate seats from Kansas. There don’t seem to be any serious challengers to our four Republican U-S Representatives.
Kansas voters don’t seem to be hell-bent on throwing the bums out. Looks like Kansans like the bums we have. And that seems to be the case across the U-S.
In the last election, 91% of House members and 90% of Senate incumbents won re-election. We talk disapproval, and vote approval.
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Our thought for today is from Henry Kissinger:
 
“Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.”
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Topics: Politics
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Locations: KansasWashington
People: Henry KissingerObama




 
Obamacare: is your hair on fire?
The rules of health care are changing and that has many Americans upset. How has the Affordable Care Act affected you?
An interesting letter to the Wichita Eagle was written by a man from Andover who claims to have been in business for 47 years. He claims rates for his company’s insurance plan have dropped by 5% … the first decrease in 15 years. He says he is not laying off any workers from his small company, and he hires and fires based on demand and not tax laws or the minimum wage.
He writes that “The Affordable Care Act deserves a chance to succeed”.
My wife works for a very small company that will not be impacted by Obamacare. Shelley’s on my company’s plan, and we have seen no dramatic changes in our coverage or premiums.
We’re still going to our family doctors and dentists.
In spite of the Obamacare scare, our hair is not on fire.
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Our thought for today is from Amy Tan:
 
“You see what power is – holding someone else’s fear in your hand and showing it to them.”
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More poll results
I don’t want to see the United States governed by public opinion polls. On the other hand, any savvy politician ignores these surveys at his own peril.
A recent Associated Press/G-f-k poll indicates 40% of Americans think the Obamacare rollout is a flop. 20% say it’s gone somewhat well and 30% didn’t know what to say.
Another poll by the same service gave President Obama low marks. Respondents say the President is not decisive, strong, honest, reasonable, or inspiring. Four out of five describe Republican lawmakers as unlikable, dishonest, and not compassionate, refreshing, inspiring, or innovative.
The AP-Gfk surveys echo many other recent polls. I agree with much of the opinions on the President and the G-O-P lawmakers. What Republicans need to remember is that Obama’s been elected twice and will not run again. But Republicans will run for office. Voter perception-be-damned would not seem to be an effective vote-gathering strategy.
Republicans need to figure out how to balance strong political beliefs with the need to attract more voters.
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Our thought for today is from Garrison Keillor:
 
“I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it.”
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Topics: Politics
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People: Obama




 
Measuring our anger at politicians
In their efforts to please a few, our politicians have succeeded in displeasing many.
A recent Gallup Poll indicates only 18% of Americans are satisfied with the way the United States is being governed … down from 32% just last month. That is the lowest government satisfaction rating since Gallup began asking the question back in 1971.
Meanwhile, the dissatisfaction level in the survey rose to 81% … from 67% last month.
Another Gallup Poll indicates that dysfunctional government is now our nation’s biggest problem, with 33% of respondents affirming. Dysfunctional government has surpassed the economy at 19%, unemployment at 12%, the deficit at 12%, and healthcare at 12% as the nation’s top problem.
I wonder if any of our elected officials are aware of these polls.
Hey, you in Washington … four out of five Americans are dissatisfied with your job performance. And they’re saying dysfunctional government is America’s biggest problem.
Hello! Is anyone there?
ope
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Our thought for today is from Mark Twain:
 
“The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.” 
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Topics: Politics
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Locations: Washington




 
Those amazing budget deficits
Some economists will tell you a federal government budget deficit is not such a bad thing, and can at times even be a good thing. I’ve always been skeptical. I was quite pleased a few years back when Uncle Sam actually balanced the books for a while.
I wonder how many people are aware that the federal budget deficit has actually been coming down the last few years? The Bush deficit ballooned from 458 billion dollars in 2008 to a trillion-four in 2009, after the Great Recession hit. The projected Obama deficit for 2013 is 973 billion, though the Congressional Budget Office says it may be as low as 642 billion. It could be down to 577 billion dollars by 2015. Not great … but headed in the right direction at least.
As a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product, annual deficits have been dropping steadily for several years.
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Our thought for today is from Mark Twain:
 
“Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”
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Topics: Politics
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Encouraging good health
Last week the Sedgwick County Health Department presented a plan to promote better health in the community … saying 30% of Sedgwick County adults are obese. The plan encourages better eating habits and more exercise … the usual stuff … with a nod toward the bike paths as a good place to ride and work out.
Commissioner Richard Ranzau saw it as one more effort to increase people’s dependence on government programs. The plan presented was largely educational and no action was taken to force people to exercise.
Ranzau stated health is a personal matter and indicated his disfavor with government efforts to promote better health.
Well … mental health can have a huge impact on public safety, without considering its impact on individuals and families.
Obesity and other physical health problems also have a huge impact on healthy citizens who wind up paying for unhealthy citizens through higher health costs all around.
I must say short of ordering all citizens into a massive physical education class, a little public education might to do some good.
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Our thought for today is from Mark Twain:
 
“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” 
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Leadership
This week Starbucks C-E-O Howard Schultz offered to buy a beverage for every customer who buys another customer a beverage at Starbucks. In a memo to staff, Schultz wrote that the idea is to help fellow citizens “support and connect with one another, even as we wait for our elected officials to do the same for our country”.
Of course, Schultz’s promotion is highly unlikely to change any hearts and minds in Washington, but it does demonstrate what is sorely lacking among our elected officials: creative thinking and leadership. It seems people who focus their attention on advancing their own agendas and winning re-election don’t have much time for devotion to solving problems before they become hair-on-fire crises.
Blame whomever you wish, but think for a moment about true leadership. Study Lincoln and you will find a man who ignored the criticism of his enemies and tried to engage them to achieve higher goals. I know we have no Lincolns today in Washington, but his example of unselfish leadership is the gold standard, it seems to me.
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Our thought for today is from Dwight D. Eisenhower:
 
“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.”
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Locations: LincolnWashington
People: Dwight D. EisenhowerHoward Schultz




 
What do Americans think about the shutdown?
The results of a recent C-B-S News poll give us a snapshot of how Americans are reacting to the shutdown in Washington.
72% of Americans disapprove of shutting down the government due to differences over the health care law. Republicans are divided; 48% approve, 49% disapprove. 57% of Tea Party supporters approve of the shutdown. Disapproval is much higher among Democrats and Independents.
44% of respondents blame Republicans for the shutdown, 35% blame the President and Democrats.
43% say they are angry with the way things are going in Washington.
73% think Congress’ priority should be to get the government back up and running, while 21% think the priority should be to stop the health care law. Two-thirds -- 66% --think any budget agreement should be separate from funding for the health care law.
This week the Wichita City Council was dealing with a long-term drought plan … preparing for the future. What a contrast to Washington’s crisis-to-crisis approach to national issues!
 
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Our thought for today is from Peter Drucker:
 
“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
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A class reunion
More than 600 of us graduated from Wichita West in 1968. We are an unusual group. We love reunions. We’ve had eight now … every five years. Last weekend we celebrated 45 years since we left the Princeton of the Prairie. We did it up right.
We started with a Thursday night reception that filled the patio at Heroe’s in Old Town. We were asked several times not to block the entrance.
Friday night 120 of us showed up at our classmates’ Carol and Mike Kreager’s home in Riverside.
Saturday afternoon about 20 of us lunched at the Nuway on Douglas. Saturday night we packed the banquet room at Rolling Hills Country Club for dinner, an amusing program, and dancing. A spontaneous conga line snaked into the lobby.
I talked with several people I hadn’t seen since we left school. We had guests from the West High classes of 1959, ’65, ’66, ’67, ’69 … and one who will graduate in 2016.
Our reunions are outstanding. I can’t explain it. I guess we just like to party.
ope
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Our thought for today is from an unknown source:
 
“Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance.” 
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Topics: Education
Locations: Old Town
People: Carol KreagerMike Kreager




 
Does government work at all?
I can feel the frustration level growing. Americans give their federal lawmakers approval ratings in the 10% range, and it’s an assessment well earned. On the biggest issues our nation faces, those people in Washington repeatedly dig in their heels, refuse to compromise, and blame their opponents.
Yes, it’s childish. But we continue to elect people who basically promise that they are going to poke their fellow lawmakers in the eye with a sharp stick. If you want to earn a vote in Kansas, rant against liberals and President Obama. Portray yourself as more conservative than any other politician on the planet and promise to never, ever put the national interest ahead of your own political philosophy and goals.
There are Americans who believe all government is bad and civic disruption is acceptable in the promotion of their particular views. Sounds a bit like anarchy to me.
Why don’t we all ask ourselves one simple question: is this nonsense working?
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Our thought for today is from Robertson Davies:
 
“There is no nonsense so gross that society will not, at some time, make a doctrine of it and defend it with every weapon of communal stupidity.”
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Topics: Politics
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Locations: KansasWashington
People: Obama




 
America's health care mess
The intentions were good: sign up as many Americans as possible for health insurance to bring citizens better health care and lower the cost. Health costs have been skyrocketing for years, and the uninsured have been using emergency rooms for treatment … at a huge cost to the rest of us.
President Obama went through private insurance companies to try to accomplish better health care. His political opponents fought it from the start, lost in Congress, and the Supreme Court, but came back to partially shut down the federal government over the issue last week.
Meanwhile, Obamacare moves forward with glitches on the exchanges that should have been expected.
From the beginning I thought the plan was much too complicated. I feel expensive health care could have been addressed in less radical ways. I agree with some parts of the plan that protect the consumer.
The ball’s rolling now. Those Americans impacted by new health care rules are going to have to find a way through, even as the politicians continue the fight.
 
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Our thought for today is from Mark Twain:
 
“By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean.” 
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The shutdown: winners and losers
The partial federal government shutdown is great drama, but its actual impact is negligible, it seems to me. After all, essential government employees have not missed a paycheck … including the politicians who manufactured this theatrical production.
And there’s more to come with the debt limit extension looming this month.
So who wins? The Democrats who stand their ground for health care? The tea party Republicans who demonstrate their willingness to do whatever it takes to get their way? How about the moderates who are trying desperately to make government work?
Is there a presidential hopeful waiting in the wings with a ready-made platform for 2016?
Is there someone ready to campaign on the promise of fiscal sanity and more efficient government? Will the voters even pay attention?
The real losers in this game of chicken are the people we elected. They’re going out every day intent on proving that their 10% approval rating is no fluke … they’re earning it!
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Our thought for today is from Shimon Peres:
 
“If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact … not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.”
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Topics: Politics
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People: Shimon Peres




 
A busy day for Wichita
Ever hear the complaint “there’s nothing to do in Wichita”? Well, this past Saturday there was plenty!
Of course, it rained early Saturday and when I arrived at the Wagonmasters Downtown Chili Cookoff at 10 a-m the sky was cloudy and there was a brisk wind from the north. But when official judging began at noon the sky had cleared and the wind disappeared. It was a beautiful day for several thousand people to taste chili for charity. I was honored to be this year’s potentate. It was great fun!
Earlier in the day, runners showed up for the Race for the Cure. The Flight Festival was also going strong Saturday afternoon and evening. That evening … Rockin’ the Roundhouse at Wichita State.
I can’t recall a single day when so much was happening in Wichita at so many different locations.
It appears that everybody behaved themselves and just had a good time on a gorgeous Saturday in the Peerless Princess of the Plains!
 
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Our thought for today is from Woody Allen:
 
“Most of the time I don’t have much fun. The rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all.”
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Remembering the plane crash
When the plane crashed in Colorado on this date 43 years ago, the Wichita State University football program was not exactly on firm footing. The previous season the Shockers won two games. And the season before that – 1968 – the Black and Gold went winless.
31 people … including 14 players … died when the plane crashed in 1970. The surviving players and coaches finished the season without a victory. What else could they do?
The program struggled on for another 16 years. The Shockers played some tough teams over that span, with flashes of excellence. But the lack of a powerful, winning program over the years meant fewer and fewer fans in the seats at Cessna Stadium.
With different leadership the program might have survived. But Shocker football is a nearly-unavoidable game of “what if” … beginning with “what if that plane hadn’t crashed?”
Kansas State football made a tremendous comeback when they found Bill Snyder to lead the way. W-S-U never found a Bill Snyder, I guess.
ope
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Our thought for today is from Sophocles:
 
“To revive sorrow is cruel.”
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Topics: Disaster_AccidentSports
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Locations: Colorado
People: Bill Snyder




 
The growing Wichita school district
Wichita public school enrollment is at its highest level since 1975 … 51,169 students.
That’s up 530 students from last year. U-S-D 259 enrollment has grown by more than 2,300 students over the past decade.
Biggest growth was in the district’s elementary school enrollment this year, with an increase of 328 students. South High School reports an increase of 114 students.
Enrollment is used to determine the school district’s per-student state funding, which is $3,838 for every full-time student.
Wichita is one of the largest urban school districts on the plains. The enrollment growth we’re seeing is not unique. The size of our school-age population is growing, and that means record enrollment levels across the country through at least 2020. That comes from the National Center for Education statistics.
Remember that funding for education makes up the largest share of the Kansas Legislature’s budget every year. Are lawmakers prepared for the growth in the state’s schools?
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Our thought for today is from Mark Twain:
 
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
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Topics: Education
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