Front Page » Story Type: Advocacy

Kansas Women: The Breeder Class

Katha Pollitt, longtime Nation Magazine "Subject to Debate" columnist, has a new book out, How Pro-Choicers Can Take Back the Moral High Ground. I've read an excerpt of the book in The Nation, and I would like to buy the book, read it, and share it with my pro-choice friends.

In Kansas, the only thing that changed in the 2014 midterm elections was that the state legislature became even more infested with anti-choice legislators. Rep. Pat Sloop's loss was one of the disasters we suffered. Rep. Sloop, now in her 70s, has been a longtime fighter for women's abortion rights and stood up for women against anti-choice zealots in the Kansas House. Other pro-choice advocates, Rep. John Carmichael and Rep. Ed Trimmer did keep their seats. Carmichael won handily over his anti-choice opponent, but Trimmer pulled out only a 17-point victory over his fundamentalist church backed opponent.

With people like Mary Pilcher Cook, she of the pregnant-woman-behind-the-sheet sonogram in a House committee room fame, still in the Kansas Legislature, the going will be tough for those who believe women have the right to control their bodies and their lives. Hiding a pregnant woman behind a sheet is a good metaphor, in fact, for what happens to many women when they get pregnant.

Kansas for Sale?

Just yesterday, I was distributing flyers for a local candidate while wearing my Davis-Docking shirt. The Royals had won the pennant, it was a beautiful fresh fall-air day, and folks were mostly in a good mood. I came upon a fellow watering his plants, handed him a card and urged him to vote for my candidate and for Paul Davis and Jill Docking . As I walked on, he said derisively, "Oh, I see, Obama Democrats, eh?" "No, just Democrats--and fellow citizens, like you," I replied.

His remark could just be dismissed, except that we know exactly where that came from. His own misconceptions--and the latest TV ads. I am not trying to be pious here. I've been watching TV ads too. Who can escape the constant bombardment? Millions are being spent by NRA, Americans for "Prosperity," the Chamber of Commerce, outside campaign groups buying a force-fed stream of oversimplifications, exaggerations, character defamation, and outright lies.

In the Governor's race alone, nearly $8 million has been spent. Just one organization backing Brownback has spent $1.8 million. The Alliance for Freedom is a "Virginia-based group advocating limited government and a free market." There's the Koch brothers' philosophy. AFF is linked to Dick Cheney's family and Halliburton, the #1 war profiteer. They raked in our tax dollars while many Kansans died. Now those dollars rob us again.

Even worse, in most cases, we don't know who's giving to the PACs. We do know, however, that it's a great investment. Return on investment for most corporate lobbying and campaign contributions is 100% to 100,000%. For example, Big Oil's ROI was 5,900% when seeking fossil fuel subsidies. In 2003, Big Pharma's ROI was 77,500% on when they kept prescription drug prices high by barring Medicare from competitive bargaining.

It's outlandish. These secret, stealth millionaires think they can buy our trust. Trust for a governor and his sycophants who have papered the state with lies that cost us daily and dearly.

I'm no math whiz, but consider this easily understood comparison: 191,00 relatively well-off individuals in partnerships and limited liability corporations freed completely from income tax responsibility because of our Governor's ACTION. On the other hand, 182,000 people ineligible for Medicaid coverage, cut off from basic health care, because of this Governor's INACTION.

More numbers: As former Republican Senator and Secretary of State candidate Jean Schodorf points out, there are now 22,000 Kansans disenfranchised by henchman Kris Kobach. This makes voting crucial for the rest of us.

After all this, the Guv has the nerve to tell us, "The sun is shining in Kansas." As Barbara Shelly, KC Star columnist, says, "All politicians spin. . . . But I have never seen a public official lie as easily and as relentlessly as Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback." Says Republican Steve Morris, former Senate President, "During the past three and a half years, I have witnessed the decline of civil discourse in Kansas. . . . It is time to say enough is enough. It is clear that Gov. Brownback has very little regard for the truth."

Consider that this same Governor and sycophantic legislature passed a bill that would allow their wholly-owned and co-opted state apparatus to take over our Medicare entirely. Seniors and upcoming retirees, given KanCare's failure, is this what you want? Consider that this seemingly remote possibility could come to fruition if we send Pat Roberts and Tim Huelskamp back to Washington. Reason enough to vote for Orman and Sherow.

Finally, consider what ads now stoop to, including Salina's own non-resident, J.R. Claeys'. Personal attacks based on many-years-ago unproven allegations 
regarding personal behavior--not the issues of the day--to plant just enough doubt to get us to vote for them and against our own best interests--again. And then, they trot out those key fear-monger words--"Obama." "Liberal." "Agenda." And for the few remaining unquestioning Republican faithful, "Democrat." The message: Trust us, not them.

If only we could.

That day is long gone, leaving Kansans to face the acid test: Can millions of dollars convince us that an otherwise threadbare Emperor might, somewhere in there, have even one stitch of credibility remaining?

No matter what happens to the Royals, the far more high-stakes competition this October is the election. Will we get a read on the curveballs and knock the BrownBackers' pitches out of the park? Will we send Team Brownback packing?

We can't control a Royals victory or defeat. We can control who runs our state. So get out there and play ball.

Cheryl Sullenger--A Danger to Women

Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy advisor for Operation Rescue, recently wrote a column for the Wichita Eagle in response to a column by Julie Burkhart, director of South Wind Women's Clinic. Burkhart's column dealt with the requirement that doctors at clinics that provide abortions must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Sullenger refutes Burkhart's claim that such a requirement is not only unnecessary, it also hurts women. Because of such a law now in effect in Texas, several clinics have had to close, leaving many women having to travel far distances to get abortion services.

Carolyn Marie Fugit, ICT S.O.S Wichita board member and secretary, is busy organizing The Race for Freedom: To Stop Human Trafficking, set for Sept. 7, 2013. This fundraising effort is the second for the rescue organization, which celebrated its second birthday in March 2013. ICT S.O.S. works to coordinate the efforts of the multiple Wichita anti-trafficking groups. Board members also want to go beyond just rescuing girls. They want to help girls who have been rescued to get through the legal process that eventually get traffickers jailed.

Fugit said ICT S.O.S. works with government and social service agencies in order to look at the "big picture" of the trafficking epidemic locally and around the country.

Forked tongues stab public workers

Any hard-working, self-respecting wage earner knows payroll deduction has long been a fact of life. It's used for tax withholding, charitable giving like the United Way, health insurance premiums, cafeteria plans for tax deductions--and professional association (union) dues.

Now worker's unions are in the cross-hairs of Kansas' Koch/Brownback Buddies, and KKBB's first legislative target is payroll deduction. Teachers, firemen, police, etc. can join and pay union dues without it--but in the real, practical world, collecting dues to protect worker rights is made far more difficult.

The KKBB's know that, passing House Bill 2303 by a slim (68-56) margin. The bill bars using payroll-deducted public-employee money for any political purpose. Thus public workers will be outgunned in any kind of election--school bond, school board, legislative or gubernatorial. Corporations and big-money enterprises, however, remain free to influence the public unimpeded. We public employees--teachers, firemen, policemen--are told by the state what we can and can't do with our payroll-deducted money.

AND it will be 'enacted' immediately upon the Gov's signature, just in time to squash workers' voices in Slick Sam's upcoming assaults on responsible government.

So, how could any legislator defend a yes vote on 2023? They can't. But the language they use to 'defend the indefensible' as George Orwell put it is, well, Orwellian.

Orwell's books, 1984 and Politics and the English Language, and later, Edward S. Herman, political economist and media analyst, called it Doublespeak. Herman's book, Beyond Hypocrisy, defines Doublespeak as "the ability to lie, knowingly or unconsciously, and get away with it; and to choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don't fit [one's] agenda or program."

Here's the boiler-plate language ("clearing up some rhetoric") from 69th District's new J.R. Claeys: HB2303 "removes the State of Kansas from the responsibility of bookkeeping for public sector union political action committees (PACS)." Really?

In other words, our school districts, who have for years simply deducted dues from employees' pay like all other myriad deductions, simply won't do it--or if they do, the law will not allow workers to use any of said funds to lobby to protect their employment rights.

My school district is not, with all due respect, "the State of Kansas." It is my partner in education. And to see this as some burden on the state is just plain malarkey.

Also, says Claeys, the bill "allows union members to . . . contribute to a public sector PAC from the privacy of their home without outside pressure."

What universe does Claeys inhabit? It is hard enough, in a "right to work" state, to get teachers to join their local association. Kansas' law already ensures that public workers are not legally required to join the group negotiating their hours, working conditions, or compensation. The built-in temptation to "free-ride" ( which I myself once briefly indulged), makes it easy to forget that, without your association's solidarity, you do what The Man (or Woman) says.

In addition, some teachers' reluctance to join is heightened by already low salaries. (A goal of this administration?)

Claeys' implication of unbearable union pressure and a White Knight KS Legislature riding in to save the poor, downtrodden worker goes beyond implausible to ludicrous.

Another bill rumored ready for flash-passing, HB2085, would essentially dismantle professional negotiations, gutting the right of school and public employees to have a say in their wages, hours, and working conditions.

These bills do not spring fresh from legislators' foreheads. They're not from J.R., but from ALEC.

ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, backed by huge companies like State Farm, sends hundreds of pre-packaged, anti-worker, anti-citizen bills to all states. Some are passed. Some are not. Cumulatively, however, they bypass Congress and become de facto national legislation. For further information, google "The United States of ALEC."

Other area "representatives" also attacked workers through HB2023 and should hear from you. They are John Barker of Abilene, Susan Concannon of Beloit, Steven Johnson of Assaria, Don Schroeder of Hesston, Sharon Schwartz of Washington, and Troy Waymaster of Luray. There are others throughout the state.

Local Reps. Diercks, Christmann, Moxley and Schultz deserve kudos for voting against the bill.

The Senate's companion bill SB31 has not yet been voted on. Call regional Senators Elaine Bowers of Concordia, Jay Emler of McPherson, Tom Arpke of Salina, Tom Hawk of Manhattan, Mitch Holmes of St. John, Ralph Ostmeyer of Grinnell--or any other Senators--to tell them this travesty of a bill should be rejected. Thanks!

Tom Hayden, a leader of the student new left and antiwar movement in the sixties and a long-term activist, writer, and thinker for progressive politics, was keynote speaker at the 20th anniversary dinner of the Wichita Peace and Social Justice Center on Dec. 7 2012.

Friends University political science professor Russell Fox has written an insightful post on Hayden and his Wichita talk.

Here is Hayden's speech. (He also spent about an hour answering questions and then mixed informally, signing his books and visiting.)

[Dec 14 update: The first version of the video had some missing audio. It should be included in this take.]

WICHITA, Kan. - A few months ago, I was invited with other donors to tour the facility that now houses Episcopal Social Services, or Venture House, in Wichita. After the tour, we had lunch with Venture House staff members, who updated us on the programs available for people who came to the facility. I was curious to see what changes had taken place from the time I volunteered there in the summer of 1985. I was immensely impressed with the way the Episcopal Social Services programs have grown.

My husband and I moved to Wichita in April 1985. Because I had time during the day and was looking for something to do, I decided to volunteer at Venture House, which was the agency operated through Episcopal Social Services set up to help those who were down on their luck.

It's Not Your Water, Mr. Irrigator

BOGUE, Kan. - Fellow Kansas Free Press contributor and an Ogallala irrigator and I have had an interesting exchange over whether reducing appropriated water "rights" would constitute a "taking" as per the U.S. Constitution 4th Amendment.

As I believe I have reported, then KS Attorney General Carla Stovall was asked about that as one part of a question carried on my behalf by then KS Sen. Stan Clark. In essence, Stovall declined to answer plainly, but said it would depend on the circumstances. In the Cheyenne Bottoms case, both junior and senior water rights were reduced by the DWR without awarding a taking to senior right holders. To summarize, it was a voluntary settlement that avoided the courts. That could--but almost assuredly won't--happen on the scale necessary to end the mining of the Ogallala. What then, can be done?

In March of 2003, John C. Peck, highly respected law professor at KU School of Law, presented a paper in Kyoto, Japan, to the 3rd World Water Forum entitled: Property Rights in Groundwater--Some Lessons from the Kansas Experience.

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