Archive for June 2009
Some days ago I informed one and all I am on vacation … driving to the West Coast. I added that while I would be taking time off, a good reporter is "on" 24/7 and must constantly be on the lookout for interesting stuff to write about. I found something on Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona.
But first, it must be said that Missourinet News Director Bob Priddy told me I should not BWV – Blog While Vacationing – unless there is a connection to Missouri. Ergo … I start off by telling you I attended the Arizona Diamondbacks-Texas Rangers game Tuesday night in downtown Phoenix. St. Louis native and University of Missouri alum Max Scherzer was on the mound for the Snakes, pitching six strong innings for the win. Now that is a Missouri connection!
Okay … onto some political stuff …
While the Missouri General Assembly called it a session more than a month ago, the Arizona Legislature is still at it, having just completed its work on a new budget. I visited with some of the scribes who cover politics in Arizona and exchanged war stories. They seemed to like the fact that Missouri has a constitutional end to its legislative session while Arizona does not.
They also informed me that there was often disagreement between Arizona's Republican-controlled House and its Republican-controlled Senate over fiscal issues … like the budget. They asked if that happened in Missouri and I assured them that in Missouri there are NO disagreements between the Republican-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate - In Missouri it's all out war!
As for the actual proceedings … I sat in on a bit of the goings on in both the Senate and House and found it's a lot like what we have back in the thriving Metropolis of Jefferson. Each chamber begins the day with a prayer followed by the pledge of allegiance. Then, before getting down to actual business, the members request unanimous consent to introduce special guests – much like Missouri's Capitol.
There was even a protest outside the Capitol … with a group of people complaining about not getting enough from the government … just like Missouri's Capitol.
Now to a profound difference between THEM and US. Members of both the House and Senate have laptop computers – ON THEIR DESKS – and nobody seems to mind that lawmakers a century ago didn't have access to the Internet.
What is a little odd is that just about everyone in the galleries (including yours truly) was working an IPhone or its ancestor – the Blackberry. What is disturbing is that some phones in the gallery actually rang during the floor debates … causing lawmakers to stop for a moment while the final bars of "When the Saints Go Marching In" wafted through the chamber. But no one brought down the gavel and ordered people in the gallery to turn off their phones! Can you imagine Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, while presiding over the Senate, standing by and saying nothing about a phone going off?
So, what have we learned today? We have learned that while the Missouri Senate does not allow members to use computers on the floor and Arizona does … Missouri's respect for decorum wins the day as cell phone ringing in the gallery is not tolerated. We have also learned that people who want something from the government – any government in any state – can be counted on to show up and protest that they're not getting what they consider to be their fair share. Finally, we have learned that Mizzou alum Max Scherzer is a heckuva pitcher.
Until we chat again …
– Steve Walsh
A look ahead to Monday and a program note.
Our senior U.S. Senator – one Christopher "Kit" Bond – is guest hosting CNBC's Squawk Box – which is billed as the network's signature morning program that brings Wall Street to Main Street.
The Senator will be joined by Squawk Box anchors Becky Quick, Joe Kernen, and Carl Quintanilla … as well as other special guests throughout the show.
It'll run from 6:00 to 8:00 Missouri time.
Last, but not least … I am taking leave of my post for a couple of weeks and am heading to the West Coast. But I'll be checking in regularly to keep track of what is going on in the Missouri political world. And if something strikes me as interesting I'll blog. So, if you want to reach me, drop me an e-mail. Stay cool!
– Steve Walsh
Earlier this week we posted a number of pieces from Missourinet's Brent Martin as he attended the Current Strategy Forum in Rhode Island. The gathering has now concluded and Brent has filed one final piece.
There is an irony to this final post about the Current Strategy Forum which was held at Newport, Rhode Island this week. I have returned to my home in Jefferson City, pondering all that was said and attempting to summarize the lessons learned. One of the struggles I faced during my stay was relating a forum sponsored by the Naval War College to an audience in Missouri, which is far from a Navy state. As I write, West-Central Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton addresses the 520 graduates of the Naval War College during a ceremony held on Dewey Field at Naval Station Newport.
I was invited to stay and cover the Congressman’s address, but having spent enough of Learfield’s money (and my wife Tami and daughter Mackenzie having spent enough of our money), I had to decline and return home, missing an obvious Missouri-tie to the week’s events.
The information provided the Public Affairs Officers who so graciously helped me during the week indicates the scope of the CSF. According to a press release by the Navy, "The Naval War College’s missions today are developing strategic and operations leaders, helping the Chief of Naval Operations define the future Navy, strengthening maritime security cooperation and supporting combat readiness." The War College offers a 10-month postgraduate course not only to Navy officers, but officers in all branches of the military as well as to civilian federal agencies and international naval officers. The graduating class this year includes 298 members of the Navy, Marines, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard as well as civilian government employees. It also includes 115 international students from 65 countries. Many of the questions asked of speakers during the CSF came from officers in foreign militaries studying at the War College.
Naval War College President, Rear Admiral James "Phil" Wisecup, wrapped up the two-day event by telling attendees that as he considers what was discussed during the 48 hours of the CSF, he’s processing the information shared, information both broad in its range of topics and deep in its quality of analysis. The CSF attempts to accurately assess the status of the United States in the world today and consider what challenges the nation, especially its military, might face in the future.
It began with an incredible overview of the confidence-shaking world financial crisis which brought the nation horribly close to another Great Depression. The talk by Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff reminded everyone that the country’s overall strength and security is tied closely to its economic viability. As difficult as this current recession has been, it is incredibly similar to other economic crises in the past, according to Rogoff, who said we shouldn’t be lulled into believing the economy is different this time. He said the country ignored numerous warnings of a pending recession, stating, "We had all of the red lights blinking." Rogoff said he believes the worst is behind us, with stocks typically taking three years to recover. He added that he worries about the government’s "stunning rise in debt" that he believes will spark inflation.
One of the themes which threaded through the CSF was accurately assessing America’s status in the world. All who broached it stated it was a difficult topic. America stood astride of the world after the Second World War and became the counterweight to the Soviet Union in a Cold War that posed grave threats to world peace. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, leaving America as the lone Super Power. It seemed a new day had dawned and it had. Only it wasn’t the day we had expected. Terrorism rose throughout the world, but shook us awake to its deadly nature on September 11th of 2001. Now America faces multiple threats from rogue governments in North Korea and Iran, but also from terrorist networks and cells just as lethal, but more nimble than past opponents.
Still, making an accurate assessment of the current state of affairs and accurately predicting the future is nearly impossible. That reminder came from Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins University who stated we really cannot identify trends and problems that the nation might face in the future.
"I don’t think humanity walks into the future, we back into it," Eliot told the CSF. To illustrate the point, Cohen played what he called "Decade Leap Frog".
He called June of 1909, a century ago, the high summer of European civilization. Europe dominated the world and was at peace. In 1919, Europe is shattered, great Empires have vanished, communism has taken over Russia. Eliot stated no one could have predicted that a decade earlier. He noted that in June of 1929, the Stock Market had not yet crashed, reconciliation between Great Britain, France and Germany had taken place and Russia had been marginalized. In 1939, the Great Depression had severely weakened governments and a new form of totalitarianism had arisen under the leadership of Adolph Hitler in Germany, threatening everyone. The game continues with the incredible promise of one decade fading into chaos and conflict in the next.
State Department Director of Policy Planning, Anne-Marie Slaughter, seized upon the theme of the Current Strategy Forum 2009, "Seizing Strategic Opportunities: Challenging the Paradigm" in her address. Slaughter said it is an incredible time to be considering such things. She identified three broad areas where she sees the paradigms of how we analyze the world shifting. The biggest shift, in Slaughter’s view, is from a hierarchical world to a horizontal world. Nations can still pose threats, but terrorism poses a deadly threat to which governments find difficulty responding. The second big paradigm shift, according to Slaughter, is from alliances to partnerships. She said formal alliances with their broad agreements and requirements have faded into the background with less-formal partnerships now being formed to address specific issues. The third paradigm shift outlined by Slaughter is the shift from an inter-state world to an inter-people world. She said there remains classic power politics, inter-state conflict, but non-state actors, such as terrorists, now can threaten a nation’s security.
One of the most interesting speakers at the CSF wasn’t a member of the Obama Administration, a military officer or an academic. Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and founder of the nonprofit Central Asia Institute, has been sought out by the military for his cross-cultural expertise in Afghanistan and Pakistan. His foundation promotes education, especially for girls, in the remote regions of the two countries.
Mortenson told CSF attendees that ignorance is the real enemy in the volatile region in which the United States military is working to uproot terrorists. He said the Taliban is trying to drive a wedge between the youth of the region and their elders, breaking the bond that would keep the youth from becoming terrorists. He says radical Islamic leaders peel the youth from their families and villages, break those bonds and teach a new ideology. He said that if America wants success in the battle against terrorism, it must think in terms of generations, not decades, presidential cycles or military rotations. Mortenson calls it a very difficult, long, tedious, but beautiful process. He said he is convinced that education has to be one of the top priorities.
Mortenson said that though the majority of terrorists are young boys, the key to disrupting their recruitment is the education of girls. He said the education of girls changes society in that remote region of the world. The reason, according to Mortenson, is that when girls become educated, it reduces infant mortality, reduces the population explosion and improves the quality of health, which improves their overall lives. Also, girls will teach their mothers how to read and write, which breeds a more civil society. Mortenson said the cultural impact has been noticed by the Taliban, which has been targeting schools the last three years, bombing more than 500 schools in Afghanistan and 320 schools in Pakistan. About 80% of the schools destroyed are schools for girls. Mortenson says the Taliban fears the pen more than the sword.
Perhaps this might seem to be a lengthy blog. In truth, it only scratches the surface of the discussion that took place at the Current Strategy Forum, a discussion that takes place every year in Newport, Rhode Island as the Naval War College pauses to consider our place in the world and our role in maintaining peace.
Hot on the heels of this week's announcement that the Missouri Republican Party is filing an ethics complaint against Secretary of State and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Robin Carnahan … the Missourinet newsroom began receiving phone calls from Democrats here in Missouri and in Washington. These folks wanted to know why we ran the Robin Carnahan story but have done little with their news releases regarding Congressman and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Blunt.
I personally received not one … not two … but three calls over the course of two days. And while discussing politics was and always will be entertaining, the callers were unable to convince me their Blunt stories were newsworthy … and I was unable to convince them of the merits of our decision-making process.
The first concern raised by the Democratic callers – that the filing of an ethics report is not a story – must be dismissed. The story was covered by most Missouri media including the Missourinet, the Associated Press, the Kansas City Star, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The claim by a couple of the callers that this is a nuisance complaint might or might not be true … but the fact is Missouri's Secretary of State (or someone representing her) will have to respond to this official complaint – and that certainly makes this newsworthy.
Now to Roy Blunt. Democrats in Missouri and Washington have been working overtime sending out press releases regarding the southwest Missouri Congressman and what he is doing that Dems feel is not only bad, but newsworthy. One such item, this week, involved Blunt's opposition to a bill that included what is referred to as a "poison pill" – an unwelcome and often unrelated addition to legislation a lawmaker might otherwise support.
This was the case with legislation that tied troop funding to a $108 billion line of credit for the International Monetary Fund. House Republicans opposed the IMF provision and, therefore, rejected the whole package. At this point the Dems began shouting Republicans were not supporting the troops. It is true that when George W. Bush was President it was Republicans who would tie agricultural and other issues to troop funding bills and they would dare Democrats to vote against funding the troops. But wasn't the new regime in Washington supposed to change all that? Perhaps we haven't really had much "change" after all.
I asked one of the Dems with whom I spoke why President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress didn't simply come up with a "clean bill" for everyone to consider – not a bill weighed down with riders that have nothing to do with supporting our troops. One responded that this is how things are done in Washington. Doesn't that speak volumes?
I suggested that if the people in charge had put up a "clean" troop funding bill … and Blunt and other Republicans had opposed it … we would have a story – a great story. But this is nothing more than "Inside the Beltway" political games being played … and no one should be surprised that there is frustration because of the Missouri media's reluctance to play along.
– Steve Walsh
An improved version of an agreement to bring the Kansas City Chiefs' training camp from Wisconsin to St. Joseph has been approved by the Missouri Development Finance Board … and the Chiefs will stay in St. Joe for at least ten years.
The finalized agreement has the Missouri Development Finance Board awarding the Chiefs $25 million in financial incentives to relocate. In exchange for that the Chiefs agree to contribute $10 million in proceeds from the sale of the tax incentives to help Missouri Western State University build a new $13.4 athletic facility on its campus.
The Chiefs would use the facility for about three weeks each summer … with Missouri Western students, faculty and community members getting the chance to use it the rest of the year.
An earlier agreement from the MDFB only guaranteed a five year stay for the team at Missouri Western.
– Steve Walsh
Missourinet's Brent Martin is in New England attending the Current Strategy Forum in Rhode Island. And he has written yet another entry – his third – for the Missourinet Blog. So, here goes.
Ok, ok I planned to write a lengthy blog about the Current Strategy Forum sponsored by the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. That blog will come, but not yet.
The day has been long, the flight comes early in the morning and my energy is low. Also, I don’t want to shortchange all that I learned these last couple of days. I had no idea what the CSF would be. Now that I have experienced the two days of discussion about America’s role in the world, the threats and dangers it faces and how it should respond to a rapidly changing world, I am nearly overwhelmed.
I came to Newport at the invitation of West-Central Congressman Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. When I would disclose that I worked for the Missourinet and lived in Jefferson City, Missouri, far from any ocean, I got some looks. That is, until I mentioned that I came at the invitation of Congressman Skelton. That seemed to be magic. Everyone here seems to know the Congressman and hold him in great respect.
The reaction of many of my fellow attendees is that it will take a while to fully digest all of the information shared. Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, urged attendees from the Naval War College to take time to think, which he says is needed now more than ever. I am no student at the War College, but feel I have taken a crash course. I plan to think about what I have learned and write more later.
– Brent Martin
A rumor making the rounds in the thriving Metropolis of Jefferson has Governor Jay Nixon vetoing part of a budget bill that would give millions of dollars of funding to the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia.
In fact, Senator Kurt Schaefer of Columbia is urging residents of Boone County to call the Governor's Office to ask that money not be withheld. He's doing it through those popular robo calls. Just about anyone with a phone in Boone County has received or will receive a call asking that the Governor be called.
I called the Senator to learn from whence this information came … and he told me the source was "very reliable" and that he could not divulge any name.
A quick check with Scott Holste at the Governor's Office provided no confirmation … and no denial, either. Scott gave me the standard line that the office of any Governor is bound to give at this time of year: The Governor and his staff are going through the budget line by line. He added Missouri is facing challenges … and that every item is being looked at closely.
I spoke to Scott around 2 o'clock on Wednesday and he could not tell me how many calls the Governor's office had received.
– Steve Walsh