Archive for May, 2014

In Thursday’s post, in which I said VA secretary Erik Shinseki and President Barack Obama would both pay a price for the mushrooming VA scandal, I qualified my criticism of Obama by saying I was glad he was president instead of John McCain or Mitt Romney.

I said…I say I said, and, ahem, I quote:

“Overall, while Obama hasn’t been able to get much done through the legislative route, he has been able — mostly through regulations and administrative policy — to improve the lot of the poor and keep wealthy individuals and big corporations from constantly getting their way.”

And wouldn’t you know it? A New York Times story published Friday (and picked up by The Kansas City Star) provided a perfect example of what I was talking about.

The story said that Obama will unveil on Monday a plan to cut carbon emissions from the country’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent.

The plan will be the centerpiece of a new regulation written by the Environmental Protection Agency. Obama won’t be seeking (and won’t have to get) legislative approval because the Republicans would never go for it. But in this case, at least, thank God for the power of the administrative branch.

The article said the regulation would be “the strongest action ever taken by a U.S. president to tackle climate change and could become one of the defining elements of Obama’s legacy.”

Cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent, the story continued, “would be the most important step in the administration’s pledged goal to reduce pollution over the next six years and could eventually shut down hundreds of coal-fired power pants across the country.”

If somebody would have just taken my picture, you’d see me standing and applauding.


Sustainability is an area where the Tea Party has scared moderate, right-thinking Republicans shitless. Ironically, though, it’s Republicans whom the Democrats and Obama can thank for introducing the formula, called cap and trade, that is at the core of the new regulation.

Carbon cap and trade works like this: The government will set limits on the amount of carbon that can be emitted. The limit, or cap, is allocated or sold to firms in the form of emissions permits, which represent the right to discharge a specific volume of carbon. Industries can buy and sell — trade — their permits within the finite “carbon market.”

This “free market” approach is seen by many as more palatable than an outright carbon tax.

But back to the Republicans…

The Times article explains that none other than Romney was the key architect of a cap-and-trade program in nine northeastern states. The story says that in establishing the program, Romney worked closely with a top Massachusetts environmental official, Gina McCarthy, who now is — well, shiver me timbers! — EPA administrator.

California is the other model for successful cap-and-trade programs, and its sponsor was former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The California law caps emissions of heat-trapping fossil-fuel pollution from power plants, factories and oil refineries, with a goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.


During his presidential campaign in 2012, of course, Romney disavowed the cap-and-trade program that he had initiated. He could have touted it as one of his greatest achievements, but, in his effort to become “conservative enough,” he decided to run from his legacy.

And where did the backpedaling get him? Nowhere except in a corner where he sacrificed whatever authenticity he had to start with.

That’s why I’m not really too worried, even if the Republicans take back the Senate in November.

I don’t see a Republican out there — other than maybe Chris Cristie, whose stock has dropped precipitously — who will have the guts to stand up to the Republican right wing and take his chances appealing to those Republicans who trade in common sense, instead of fear and loathing.

In the long run, I’m convinced, all the chips will fall into place: Democrats will retain the White House in 2016; they will again have a Senate majority; and the Democratic president can go on implementing policies and regulations that keep the Koch brothers, their fellow one-percenters and the right-wing nuts from running roughshod over the middle class and the poor.

It’s still a beautiful country, isn’t it?

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The Veterans Affairs scandal looks worse every day, and it’s reflecting more and more badly on two individuals all the time.

The two, of course, are VA Secretary Erik Shinseki and President Barack Obama.

It’s got to be criminal, doesn’t it, when 1,700 veterans are placed on unofficial waiting lists for primary care appointments to conceal the fact that they were not going to get in to see a doctor within 30 days — the VA’s stated goal?

And why were officials at the Phoenix VA so eager to conceal the true time lags between requests for appointments and actually getting in to see a doctor? So they would remain eligible for workplace awards and pay raises.

It makes me want to cry and scream at the same time.

Oh, and Shinseki, he’s mad, too. Remember?

Any allegation, any adverse incident like this makes me mad as hell,” he told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee two weeks ago.

shinsekiTrouble is when he made the statement, his lips were barely moving and nary a face muscle moved. Most of the time he doesn’t appear to be breathing air or pumping blood.

His committee performance prompted the “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart to say, “Your ‘mad-as-hell’ face looks a lot like your ‘oh-we’re-out-of-orange-juice face.’ ”

(If you want to see Shinseki’s sterling performance before the Veterans Affairs Committee, click here.)

This is a guy — a retired, four-star general — who has headed the VA for five years and apparently has learned little or nothing about the inside workings of his department. You can only conclude that he hasn’t been holding his top administrators accountable, and, in turn, they haven’t held lower-level employees accountable.

It starts and ends at the top. And it’s clear that this guy’s continued time as VA secretary should be measured in minutes or hours, not days or weeks. (I hope he’s out by the time this goes to press.)

As for Obama…he is almost equally accountable because he appointed and kept in place a secretary whose department was unraveling.

When he was a candidate in 2008 and after he was inaugurated, Obama sure talked a good game about the importance of medical care for veterans. Here’s what he said on March 19, 2009.

For their service and sacrifice, warm words of thanks from a grateful nation are more than warranted, but they aren’t nearly enough. We also owe our veterans the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned.  We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America.  It is a commitment that begins at enlistment, and it must never end.

But we know that for too long, we have fallen short of meeting that commitment. Too many wounded warriors go without the care that they need. Too many veterans don’t receive the support that they have earned.

Too many who once wore our nation’s uniform now sleep in our nation’s streets.

Currently, there is no comprehensive system in place that allows for a streamlined transition of health records between DOD and the VA. And that results in extraordinary hardship for a [sic] awful lot of veterans, who end up finding their records lost, unable to get their benefits processed in a timely fashion.

I can’t tell you how many stories that I heard during the course of the last several years, first as a United States senator and then as a candidate, about veterans who were finding it almost impossible to get the benefits that they had earned despite the fact that their disabilities or their needs were evident for all to see.

Sounds great, uplifting, like a lot of other stuff in Obama’s speeches. But apparently there was little or no conviction or intent to follow through. Otherwise, Obama would have been keeping close tabs on Shinseki and the VA, and he wouldn’t have been so surprised by news of the scandal.


I want to qualify this criticism of Obama by saying I’m glad he’s the president, instead of John McCain or Mitt Romney. On the matter of veterans care, McCain probably would have been a lot more diligent than Obama has been, but I don’t think we would have seen anything different with Romney. I don’t think he has an empathetic bone in his body.

And, overall, while Obama hasn’t been able to get much done through the legislative route, he has been able — mostly through regulations and administrative policy — to improve the lot of the poor and keep wealthy individuals and big corporations from constantly getting their way.

We saw Obama stick with Kathleen Sebelius and Health and Human Service secretary long after the Affordable Care Act sign-up debacle. With Shinseki, Obama probably will try to delay making a change so that, once again, the mud will have a little time to dry before it splatters on his face.

To me, the VA situation is a more serious setback for Obama than the botched insurance sign-ups. That was a first-time, one-time challenge that any administrator could have blown. But this, obviously, is one of those situations where the foundation of a major department was crumbling right under the noses of people who should have known better and chose to avert their eyes — some of them, anyway.

For the first time, I’m thinking Republicans could take control of the Senate at the November elections. I don’t like it; I think it would be awful. But, man, some high-level people in the Obama administration have dropped the ball pretty badly in recent years. A lot of older, angry white people will be going to the polls in November.

As I’ve said before, demographics are working strongly against the Republicans long term, but in the short term, the people who are genuinely mad — mainly those older white folks — are probably going to hold sway.

News on the Donald and Shelly Sterling: The New York Times is reporting tonight that former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has agreed to pay $2 billion for the Los Angeles Clippers, according to a person briefed on the negotiations.

The Times’ story said: “The Sterlings’ are said to be expediting the sale of the team before next week so they can be part of the negotiation process and, more important, reduce a massive capital gains tax liability.”

“The Street” reported that the NBA Board of Governors is set to meet Tuesday and vote on whether both Sterlings’ ownership interests could be terminated. If 75% of the league’s owners voted to rescind the Sterlings’ ownership group, the Sterlings could no longer control the sale or the terms, although they would be entitled to the proceeds.

Do you know how much Sterling paid for the team in 1981?

$13.5 million.

The Street said that if the NBA took control of the sale, the Sterlings would be responsible for paying a capital gains tax of 33.3% on the difference between $2 billion and $13.5 million. But if the Sterlings are in control of the negotiations, they might be able to reduce their potential tax liability by $500 million or more when the sale is finalized.

As we all know, sometimes life just isn’t fair. This is a classic case. Donald Sterling is clearly a racist, but he’s going to make hundreds of millions of dollars on this transaction. His wife, who will likely divorce him, will also make several hundred million dollars. (She is co-owner.)

…A wise, now-deceased uncle once told me: Expect the unexpected. How true, eh?


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At night, when he’s by himself in his spacious third-floor quarters at 20 West Ninth Street, Bishop Robert Finn is probably having trouble sleeping.

I don’t think he’s having trouble sleeping because he was convicted of covering up priest sexual abuse — the only Catholic bishop anywhere to have earned that distinction. No, I think he’s counting sheep because he’s afraid that Pope Francis is closing in on him and about to remove him from his post.

I wrote three months ago that the true test of Pope Francis would be “what he does about the cancer embodied by Bishop Robert W. Finn.”

On Monday, after months of relative silence about the clergy sexual abuse scandal, Pope Francis told reporters that three bishops were “under investigation” for their roles in the clergy sexual abuse scandal. One of the three, the pope said…

“has already been found guilty, and we are now considering the penalty to be imposed.”

He didn’t name the bishops, and he did not elaborate on the details of their cases. His comments triggered widespread speculation about the identities of the three bishops. Some writers said they thought Finn could be one of the three, while others said he probably was not.

In my opinion, however, Finn’s photo is right at the center of Pope Francis’ dartboard.

I don’t think the pope could have been clearer. Finn has been convicted in court (of a misdemeanor), and while he has received his civil punishment (two years’ probation), the Catholic Church has not handed down any discipline.

To me, that’s what Pope Francis was talking about when he said “we” are considering the penalty to be imposed.” He was talking about “we, the church,” not the state of Missouri, which has already spoken.

In the February post that I referenced earlier, I said that Pope Francis had been extraordinary as a “feel good” pope. But I questioned whether he had the courage and conviction to “gut the fish” by firing Finn. The pope could go a long way toward answering that question, I said, by making a “zero tolerance” statement on clergy sex abuse and by firing Finn.

Well, during that in-flight press conference, Pope Francis said in very strong language that he would not tolerate clergy sex abuse:

“Sexual abuse is such an ugly crime… because a priest who does this betrays the body of the Lord.”

Strong words…but he didn’t stop there. He went on to compare the sexual abuse of children by priests to a priest performing a “satanic mass,” and he said there would be no “daddy’s boys” and “no privileges” when it came to the church investigating sex scandals.


I have told friends and others that as long as Finn remains in office, it is a stark symbol of the church continuing to sweep its dirt under the rug.

Every day that Finn remains in office is another day of perpetuating the agony being endured by the parents of children whom the Rev. Shawn Ratigan photographed indecently, and lusted after, while he was pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in the Northland.

And every day Finn remains in office is another day of Finn getting away with failing to stop Ratigan dead in his tracks long before the bulk of his damage was done.

The church’s failure to remove Finn by now is shameful. The time for “investigation” is long past. Pope Francis needs to bring the hammer down NOW!


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I’ve been thinking about what to do with these poor Republicans, since it’s clear from this blog that Kansas City doesn’t want them. (See multitudinous comments from last post.)

Fortunately for the Republicans — and us here in KC — I have come up with a solution:

I suggest they look to an area that has not one city but more than one. So, I nominate the great Quad Cities.

Yes, the Quad Cities — Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Rock Island and Moline in Illinois.

quadWikipedia (my go-to source for just about everything) says there’s actually a fifth Quad city — East Moline — so I think we should start calling them the “Cinq” Cities. Done! And better yet, as far as my proposal goes.

Those are all Republican-tilting cities, I presume, being relatively small cities in Iowa and outstate Illinois, so we could expect the residents to receive them with open arms.

Here’s one of the beauties of this proposal: To avoid the hassle of sealing off an entire city for a week, the Republicans could move the convention around — one day in Davenport, one in Bettendorf, etc.

That would give the convention a fresh look every day, not only for the conventioneers but also for the zillions of people who will be watching this scintillating drama (Who will they select?) on national TV.

In addition, the residents of any one of the four (five) cities wouldn’t need to have their particular city sealed off all week. You’d seal off Davenport one day, Bettendorf the next, etc. (See the pattern I’m getting at?)

We could call the entire extravaganza “The Republican Shuffle.”

Now, I’m not saying this is the perfect solution because there is that business of hotels and strip clubs. I doubt that there are enough of either to go around in the Cinq Cities.

However, I’m sure buses could be arranged to carry the Grand Ol’ Party boys over to Cedar Rapids on the Iowa side and Rockford and Springfield on the Illinois side. Hell, if they would knock off work early one day, they could even truck on over to Chicago — a mere 175 miles east.

Essentially, under my plan, we’d turn over a goodly portion of western Illinois and eastern Iowa to the GOP. But, like I say, the fun would be all over the place. Almost everybody in a 200-mile radius would get a piece of the action.

And I ask you: Don’t we want the Republicans to be comfortable and have a good time?


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I guess it’s good news that Kansas City is one of four finalists for the Republican National Convention in 2016.

Even if we don’t win, it puts our name up there with Denver, Cleveland and Dallas, the other finalists.

But one thing that I saw in Friday’s KC Star story about us being a finalist stopped me cold and planted significant seeds of doubt about how good of a deal the convention would be for Kansas City.

Consider these two paragraphs that reporter Dave Helling wrote:

But it would also mean an increased police presence and disruptions for residents.

Kansas City officials have already started talking about the need for a downtown security perimeter for the convention, which could close access to about 70 downtown blocks. Some parts of the downtown loop would likely be closed, including the highway under Bartle Hall…

In an April 5, kansascity.com article, Helling expanded on the subject of a security perimeter:

Kansas City officials have already started talking about downtown’s security perimeter, which would probably be heavily fenced and guarded during the days leading up to the convention and during the week-long gathering.

One early guess: More than 70 downtown blocks would have to be closed, from Charlotte Street to Washington Street, from Ninth Street to Truman Road.

Some parts of the downtown interstate loop might also be closed to traffic for a week or more. Parking would be a nightmare — or nonexistent.

Downtown workers may want to start planning their 2016 vacations if Kansas City is awarded the convention.

“It’s going to have an impact on Kansas City in terms of getting into and out of downtown,” said City Manager Troy Schulte. “I think the city can handle it. But, yeah, it’s going to be inconvenient.”

In fact, Schulte said, the city is already talking about moving City Hall’s functions elsewhere during the convention because the building would probably fall inside the secured area. The Jackson County Courthouse would be difficult to reach as well.

…My reaction? Why don’t we all just get on Greyhounds and go to Columbia, St. Louis and Springfield for a week?

Close off to regular traffic that part of the city between Charlotte, which is east of the government buildings, and Washington, which is west of Broadway? And close off I-670 under Bartle Hall?

Sounds like we’d effectively be converting downtown into a private preserve for convention delegates, the media and connected others.

I well recall the 1976 Republican National Convention, and nothing like that took place; delegates and residents shared the streets, highways and sidewalks. Sure, times are different, but what’s being discussed is beyond the pale.

We already have the “one percenters” in our society, and we do not need two tiers of urban occupiers — the delegates who would have carte blanche and the rest of us who would be restricted to the periphery, like the crowds behind the ropes at professional golf tournaments.

Looks to me like the price to be paid in inconvenience could easily be as high as the two main benefits: Kansas City being featured on the national stage and an influx of outside spending.


On an unrelated matter, the best letter to the editor that I have seen about Kansas City International Airport appeared last Friday, May 25.

The writer was Dallas Garr of Emporia.

Garr wrote:

My relationship with Kansas City International Airport is different from most of the readers who have shared their thoughts on the opinion page.

I do not live in the immediate area, so I will have no voice in deciding the future of the airport.

I travel strictly for pleasure not business. Being a leisure traveler may give me a slightly rosier view of the airline industry as a whole compared with someone for whom it is simply another day at work.

I have seen the inside of airports throughout the United States, Europe and the Caribbean. After visiting these modern, efficient facilities and then returning home to KCI, I have only one request:

Please build a new airport in Kansas City.

The main argument I hear to keep the airport as is involves the fact that it is a short walk from your car to the gate. I would argue that a short walk to nothing is worse than a longer walk to something.

KCI gives a lasting first impression to many visitors to your city. It its present state, that impression is not a good one.

— “A short walk to nothing.”



I read on tonyskansascity (on a post of a few days ago) that longtime KC Star police reporter Christine Vendel is leaving The Star early next month and moving to Harrisburg, PA, where her husband, a police officer, has taken a job. The couple has children.

That will be a loss for Kansas City and also for the newspaper business. Vendel has given The Star and its readers outstanding coverage of crime and cops matters for 21 years, and she had the trust of the Kansas City, MO, Police Department, which is important if a reporter is going to get the inside story behind crimes.

The problem for Vendel — and the newspaper business — is that Harrisburg, where she has taken some sort of job, is a city of about 50,000, and the journalistic opportunities cannot be very bright. Small-townish itself, Harrisburg is between Pittsburg and Philadelphia, both of which are unheralded newspaper cities. The Pittsburg Post-Gazette has never been an upper-tier newspaper, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, while it has seen greatness, has fallen hard the last 10 years. Later this month, it will be the subject of a court-ordered auction between its two warring owners.

But thanks to Vendel for many great stories and reliable and interesting crime reporting over the years. And good luck to her and her family in PA.



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I went to my first Sporting Kansas City game last night, and I think I’ve got an interesting story to tell.

Our Sportin’ boys played Toronto FC, and I hope I’m not giving away the drama when I tell you the game ended in a 2-2 tie.

Obviously, a tie isn’t the interesting part. It still is like kissing your sister…And, God, how I wish I had one…Or even a brother!

But already I’ve gotten away from the interesting story I said I had, so enough about my personal regrets.

Several weeks ago my financial adviser called and said he was sponsoring a night at Sporting Park for his clients and would I like a couple of tickets? Why, sure I would! Mrs. JimmyC will be out of town, I told him, but I’ll find someone to go with.

And, oh, he adds, the section we’re going to be in…the drinks and food are covered.

Well, now, I thought, this Sporting Kansas City thing is looking more promising all the time!

So, earlier this week I started asking friends — one at a time, of course — if they were interested in going to the game Friday night.

The excuses came cascading in: I’m going out of town; I’ve got a cold; I’m booked; my brother is coming into town; my feet hurt.

Well, I made that last one up, but you get the picture. So, as I headed for the game by myself — me, myself and I — I’m thinking of how I’ve got to tell my adviser, “I feel bad because I couldn’t find a taker and the $60 ticket went to waste.”

But then good fortune struck. As I stood on the corner across from the stadium, waiting for the light to change, a middle-aged guy next to me sidled up and said, “Got an extra ticket by any chance?”

Immediately, I sensed a kindred soul, because — as most of you know — usually I’m the guy who’s trying to score a ticket outside a sporting event.

“As a matter of fact, I do,” I said and produced the ticket, which was in the Coors Light section at one corner of the stadium.

“Let me pay you for it,” the guy said, opening his wallet.

“No,” I said, “I got it from my financial adviser, and now it’s yours.”


Frank — his name was — proceeded to tell me he was an old hand at the games…knew where all the sections were…and offered to take me to the Coors Light section. As we walked, we quickly became bff’s (that’s the right term, isn’t it?), and it dawned on me that it would be no problem, and not dishonest, to just introduce Frank to my adviser without telling my adviser that I’d just made the guy’s acquaintance on the curb five minutes earlier. That way, my adviser — Grant, his name is — would think I had put the ticket to good use…Again, nothing dishonest, just letting Grant draw his own conclusions.

So, as Frank and Grant shook hands. I told Grant that while I was a neophyte when it came to soccer, Frank knew all about it. “That’s what you want,” Grant said, smiling, before going off to make sure other clients were taken care of.

Then I told Frank — a KCK resident who is his 50s and graduated from Bishop Ward High School — that I knew a lot about KCK because I had run The Star’s KCK bureau from 1995 to 2004. That seemed to strike a chord with Frank, who said, “I know you!…Well, I don’t know you, but I remember your name.”

Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. But just like with Grant, what difference did it make?

A few minutes later, Grant circled back around to exchange a few words, and, innocently enough, Frank just about blew the lid off the bff scenario.

Out of nowhere, Frank points to me and says, “I recognize him! I know who he is now!”

Grant looked at him kind of funny, then at me and let out a forced little laugh, as if to say, “What’s that? Hah, that’s a good one!”

After Grant wandered off, none the wiser, Frank and I sat down in a nearby section — the Coors Light section being full — to watch the game. I’d been taking in the crowd, and it was almost completely Anglo-Saxon…which meant just one thing: Johnson County.

Being a lifelong, dedicated urbanite, I was a bit nervous about the crowd because who knows what kind of weapons might have been hauled into the park from Olathe, Overland Park, Shawnee and maybe even Mission Hills? Hell, for all I know, somebody could have smuggled in an old-time mace — one of those spikey things the knights wielded back in the Middle Ages.


clockThe game itself was quite different than a Royals or Chiefs game. For one thing, the game consists of two 45-minue periods, and the clock doesn’t stop. So, most people actually watch the game, and there’s not nearly as much running to the concession stands as there is at Kauffman Stadium or Arrowhead.

If play stops because of an injury, the clock keeps running, and the referee keeps track of the length of the stoppage. At the end of the period, the announcer tells the crowd that the teams will play so many minutes of “stoppage time” to compensate for the injury time.

Oddly, though, the clock doesn’t indicate how much “stoppage time” is left; only the referee knows, and he apparently likes to keep it a secret.

Last night, four minutes were tacked onto the first period and five to the second.

Another thing that is different about the soccer games is that, mercifully, there’s no Kiss Cam, Hot Dog Run, Garth Brooks or video-board images of fans mugging for the camera and thrilled with their five seconds of fame.

At Sporting Field, it’s all about the athletic contest on the field, and I’ll tell you, the Royals could take a lesson in that regard from Sporting Kansas City.


The first period was scoreless, but it went by quickly, even with the extra four minutes.

In the second period, Sportin’ scored first; Toronto matched it; and Sportin’ got another goal with about eight minutes left in the game. The crowd was happy, and things were looking good. But, then — wouldn’t you know it? — a Toronto player headed one in during the first minute of “stoppage time,” and then, all of a sudden, stoppage time stopped and the game was over.

With nothing more to cheer about, the fans began filing out. It was very weird. All that hoopla, and then nothing.

On the same curb where we had begun our great adventure, Frank and I bid each other a fond farewell. I headed back to Kansas City, he to his nearby KCK home…And everybody else got on I-435 and headed back to Johnson County.

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My Uncle Johnny must be banging on the lid of his coffin, trying to get out.

He devoted nearly 30 years of his life to his beloved General Motors, traveling around central Kentucky, calling on Chevrolet dealers and selling them all Chevy models.

Never mind that he held GM stock that was worth $80,000 at one point but was worth $800 when he died a few years ago. He still loved the company.

gmBut look at GM now. It has utterly disgraced itself. For 10 years, from 2004 to early this year, management employees knew there was a problem with ignition switches in certain models suddenly switching off when bumped or jostled. GM has said that it knows of 13 deaths tied to the failure of ignition switches, which caused Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions to lose engine power and deactivate air bags. The number of deaths could be higher, of course.

In a Sunday New York Times story, Transportation Secretary Anthony R. Foxx said GM’s unwillingness to share information about defective switches with regulators most likely resulted in lives lost.

“Literally, silence can kill,” Foxx said in a news briefing.

During its decade of silence, GM even made significant upgrades to the part sometime in 2006 but did not give the new part a new number and didn’t issue any recalls, thus continuing the cover-up.

An Automotive News article in March quoted former GM engineers who said the company’s reports to federal regulators describe a sequence of events that was fundamentally at odds with standard operating procedure.

The article said:

Not assigning the new part number would have been highly unusual, according to three people who worked as high-level GM engineers at the time. None of the engineers was involved in the handling of the ignition switch; all asked that their names not be used because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“Changing the fit, form or function of a part without making a part number change is a cardinal sin,” said one of the engineers. “It would have been an extraordinary violation of internal processes.”

Early this year, the cover-up spun out of control, and GM began recalling millions of cars. At least 2.6 million of those recalls involve Cobalts and Ions.

Last Friday, the U.S. Transportation Department fined GM a record $35 million for failing to disclose problems with the ignition switches. GM agreed to the fine and also agreed to report safety problems faster and let government regulators oversee its safety operations.

GM is now desperately trying to counter what looks like irreparable damage to its reputation. Recently, the company created the position of first vice president in charge of global safety; it has recalled a total of 13.8 million vehicles (more than five times the number of cars and trucks the company sold in the U.S. last year); and chief executive Mary Barra has told a congressional committee in April that the company was intent on swiftly rooting out the problems and fixing them.

So far, the scandal doesn’t seem to have had a significant effect on sales. GM reported that it delivered 254,076 vehicles in the United States in April 2014. Total sales were up 7 percent compared with a year ago. Fleet sales were up 5 percent, and retail sales were up 8 percent.

You can expect more developments and more details to unfold, however, and it will surprise me if GM doesn’t lose a significant amount of market share in the months ahead.

The damage is already being reflected in GM’s stock price, which has sunk about 20 percent so far this year.

I can tell you this…I will never buy another GM product. (Haven’t owned one in more than 25 years, anyway.) A 10-year cover-up? It’s a certifiable outrage. Plenty of other good auto options exist, and it wouldn’t bother me if the company sank into the abyss.

I sure miss my Uncle Johnny, but I’m glad he’s not around to see this.


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I’m sure most of you have heard about The New York Times firing its executive editor, Jill Abramson, last week.

It surprised the heck out of me when I heard about it while vacationing in Washington D.C., but after learning more about what triggered it, it was clear that Abramson had to go.

The Times’ great media columnist David Carr laid all the cards on the table Monday. The backdrop was that Abramson, the first female executive editor at The Times, and Managing Editor Dean Baquet — who has now succeeded Abramson in the top newsroom job — had been at war for some time.

POLITICO reported last year that earlier in 2013 Baquet once slammed his fist against a newsroom wall after Abramson privately chastised him for the paper’s coverage not being “buzzy” enough in the days or weeks before the reprimand.

The POLITICO story went on to say this:



“In recent months, Abramson has become a source of widespread frustration and anxiety within the Times newsroom. More than a dozen current and former members of the editorial staff, all of whom spoke to POLITICO on the condition of anonymity, described her as stubborn and condescending, saying they found her difficult to work with. If Baquet had burst out of the office in a huff, many said, it was likely because Abramson had been unreasonable.”

It didn’t hurt that Baquet apparently is just the opposite of Abramson — supportive and solicitous of employees and, consequently, well liked.

Now, if otherwise successful, a top editor can get away with being stubborn and condescending, but you can’t get away with making a fatal personnel mistake.

What Abramson did was attempt to bring in a senior editor at The Guardian of London as a co-managing editor for digital. That would have put the prospective hire, a woman named Janine Gibson, on equal footing with Baquet. Trouble is Abramson didn’t tell Baquet about her intention. It’s not clear if she told Sulzberger, but she would have had to get his approval for the hiring at some point.

Carr called the secretive hiring attempt “a big tactical mistake.” Baquet, he said, “was furious and worried about how it would affect not only him but the rest of the news operation as well.”



That prompted Baquet to go “all in,” as they say on poker TV, by going to publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and saying he would leave the paper if Gibson’s hiring went through.

It was the ultimate bold play, but Baquet was holding the silver bullet — Abramson’s overt attempt to circumvent him — and Sulzberger chopped her head off and elevated Baquet, who is the first African-American to become executive editor of The Times.

The firing triggered “a gleeful frenzy in Manhattan media,” as Carr put it, with Abramson being stoutly defended by several writers. Inside the newsroom, the eruption sparked considerable anxiety, according to Carr, particularly among female employees who are wondering if The Times is “a fair place to work.”

But here’s what I love about The Times…In the larger scope of things, the masthead revision probably will make very little difference in how the paper operates.

Here’s how Carr explained that:

“We have a talented executive editor, a stable if challenged business outlook and a very dedicated audience. To the extent that The New York Times does anything remarkable, it emerges from collaboration and shared enterprise. It’s worth remembering  that its legacy begets an excellence that surpasses the particulars of who produces it.”



Carr experienced the importance of that sense of shared enterprise before he was hired. He recalled being interviewed by then-managing editor Gerald Boyd, and Boyd being skeptical of Carr’s lack of daily experience and “my more noisy tendencies.”

But Carr, being quick on his feet and blessed with extraordinary perspective, realized what Boyd wanted to hear and said, “I understand that if I come to work at The New York Times, the needs of the many will frequently supersede the needs of the one.”

And with that, Carr was in…And now, with a brand new executive editor, The Times rolls on.

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I’m just back from Washington D.C. and Baltimore on a sightseeing trip. It was my first time ever to Baltimore and first time to Washington since the early 1970s. On that trip, I was drinking heavily and chasing girls (yep, girls), and the only “landmark” memory I have is of being on the National Mall.

I was so out of touch with the historical importance of D.C. that I didn’t even remember the relative positioning of the Washington Monument and the Capitol.

But after three full days of navigating the streets and landmarks of D.C., I now have a beautifully full perspective of what’s there and what’s where.

I also know that I’ve never seen traffic like that anywhere else…I’ve never driven the streets of New York, so I can’t say Washington is the worst anywhere, but it’s really bad.

On Friday, after a heavy, early-morning rain, it took us a about 90 minutes to go about five miles on 16th Street, as we drove south from Silver Spring toward D.C. Exasperated, I had my traveling companion drop me off at Dupont Circle and took the Metro into town. He headed off to the National Air and Space Museum’s exhibit at Washington Dulles International Airport, and I got to the Voice of America building at 3rd Street and Independence Avenue about noon.

Now, you might be wondering, “JimmyC, what the hell are you doing driving in D.C., when you should be taking the Metro rapid transit system?”

Well, yes, renting a car (a ridiculous, two-door Mustang convertible) was unwise…but necessary. My companion has a bone-on-bone right knee, and he was only good for about 100 yards at a time walking. Problem was he didn’t realize how bad his knee was until he got there and started walking around. Thus, I did a lot of dropping off, parking and picking up.

We stayed in Silver Spring, which is about 10 miles north of D.C. and home to an old and dear friend, Ernie Torriero, a reporter for The Kansas city Times from 1981 to 1985. He’s now a Web editor at the Voice of America. VOA is a massive operation, which purveys news around the world in 44 languages. It’s got the equivalent of several metropolitan-daily newsrooms. The different “desks” look just like newspaper newsrooms, with employees sitting in cubicles, tapping away at keyboards.

As I said, we also visited Baltimore, spending the first and last days (Wednesday and Sunday) in the Baltimore Harbor area.

In contrast to Washington, Baltimore’s tourist attractions are relatively accessible by car. One of the highlights of the harbor area is Fell’s Point, a historic waterfront neighborhood along the harbor’s north shore and east of the Inner Harbor, a big tourist area. With its cobblestone streets, brick sidewalks and rows of bars and restaurants, Fell’s Point has “the air of a seafaring town,” as Wikipedia describes it.

Another great harbor attraction is Fort McHenry, home of “the-dawn’s-early-light” bombardment by the British in the War of 1812. (My knowledge of U.S. history is about as deep as a teacup, and at the fort I learned that neither side really won the War of 1812. Rather, the U.S. “won the peace,” holding off those nasty redcoats in their campaign to retake America.)

Well, enough narrative and historical reflection…On with the photos!


The Capitol dominates the east side of the National Mall from up close and…




This house can be difficult to spot and get to.


The Washington Monument anchors the west end of the Mall.


Trite to say, but it’s awesome.


As much infamous as famous…the Watergate building.


Same for this building…Ford’s Theatre.


An underground attraction — the Metro rapid transit system. This is the Dupont Circle station.


One of the Smithsonian museums, the National Museum of the American Indian.


The Spirit of St. Louis, at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.


This is where we take a break from museum hopping.


On to the exclusive Georgetown area.


Cast-iron steps are a Georgetown hallmark.


One of JFK’s favorite restaurants was Martin’s Tavern in “downtown” Georgetown. He proposed to Jackie here. A plaque in the booth attests to it.


We shift to Baltimore — the harbor, at Fell’s Point, just east of the Inner Harbor.


“Broadway Square” at Fell’s Point.


The cobblestone streets contribute to a seafaring atmosphere. P1030635

This is the first photo I took on the trip, after we missed a turn and ended up in a decayed row-house area in Baltimore.

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Remember when Kansas City made the deal for Sprint Center with Anschutz Entertainment Group, and Anschutz promised to try to get either a National Basketball Association team or a National Hockey League team as the anchor tenant for the new center?

To the chagrin primarily of the Talk Sports Radio fellas, it never happened…hasn’t even come close to happening.

But you know what? We should all be grateful that neither the NBA nor the NHL has come to town.

I’m going to tell you the main reason in a minute, but first here are a couple of things to consider:

The NHL is about a dozen years behind the National Football League in terms of head injury awareness and prevention…And the NFL was about a dozen years behind the curve when it got its head out of the sand. So, the way I see it, the NHL is — or will be in several years — about a generation behind.

The NHL still condones pugilism on ice. The people who run the NHL can’t pull themselves back from indulging those fans who buy tickets primarily to see guys drop the gloves and duke it out. The game itself is good, partly because the action is fast and almost continuous, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch those players glide, skid and do 360s on the ice. But overall, it sucks because league officials put fighting over safety.

Then, there’s the NBA. My, God.

The Los Angeles Clippers franchise, the doormat of the league, is worth $500 million to $1 billion? Hell, we’re going to get a single terminal at KCI for that much!

Business Insider reported last year that the average ticket price for a non-premium seat in the NBA was $50.99 per seat…As tennis great John McEnroe would say, “You CANNOT be serious!”

But here’s the kicker.

The SportsMonday centerpiece in today’s New York Times was about how the final minutes of NBA playoff games drag on interminably. The headline was “An Eternity in Seconds,” and the headline was an illustration of a large sundial inscribed with the Latin words “Terminus Est Aeturnus,” or, The End is Eternal. (I believe the correct spelling is “aeternus,” with a second “e,” not another “u.”)

clockReporter Richard Sandomir said that in a recent game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors, it took nearly 18 minutes to make it through the final 60 seconds of the game.

Eighteen minutes for one minute of play! Aeternus, indeed.

The culprits were timeouts and TV commercials. Sandomir wrote:

“Action on the court unfolded in two-, four-, six- and nine-second bursts, save for one sequence that flowed for all of 33 seconds.

“The six timeouts requested in the game’s final 22.5 seconds illustrated how the clock bent to the vagaries of coaching strategy and TV’s dominion over big-time sports.”

Sandomir cited a second example: The final  one minute and 23 seconds of last Friday’s game between the Clippers and the Oklahoma City Thunder took 12 minutes and 43 seconds.

Of course, the NBA isn’t the only pro sport in which games go on and on. Baseball games have gotten progressively longer — although, thank God, they are not governed by a clock. And National Football League games, which used to be played in under three hours, now last an average of about three hours and 15 minutes.

Here’s a statistic for you: A 2010 Wall Street Journal study of four NFL broadcasts showed that the average amount of time the ball is in play on the field during an NFL game is about 11 minutes.

Holy Mother of the Hour Glass!

Let us count our blessings, then. At Sprint Center, let’s go forward with a steady diet of concerts, circuses and college basketball games. Even without the NBA or the NHL, it’s still one of the most successful arenas in the country.

Makes me think those Anschutz people knew what they were doing all along.

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