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Highway Robbery

Kansas citizens are indebted, twice. They owe a debt of gratitude to Ed Flentje and Insight Kansas, for fully reporting their other debt.

Their other debt, in dollars, totals $4.5 billion with a B, to be exact. That debt will be paid by them and their children for untold years to come -courtesy of their "conservative" leaders.

Says Exodus 34:7, "the sins of the legislature shall be visited on their children and their children's children, unto the third and the fourth generation." Or something like that.

By now, Kansans should be used to the dark-of-night skullduggery perpetrated by those who pose as leaders, but are really mere lackeys for the big-bucks-boys.

Six lines buried deep in a 700-page appropriation bill last spring gave the Kansas Department of Transportation unlimited authority to issue debt. KDOT borrowed $400 million, the largest single highway bond in state history. For roads, allegedly.

But in December, the Guv and KDOT bank silently 'swept' said $400 million into the general fund, for a total of $436 million last year. Bad as that is, they have been at it for awhile. Total Brownback raids of KDOT: $1.6 billion. And get this: KDOT can continue borrowing without further authorization for the next year and a half!

So much for their old saw about living on the family budget. It's time to put your friendly local legislator on notice.

Adding insult to injury, $400 mill is a mere finger in the dike of the $700 million hole Sam's unfair and indefensible tax program has created so far.

We Kansas plains folk have a plain and simple name for this--highway robbery!

Back in the frontier's darker days, we knew what to do with such brigands. Today, we just elect 'em.

Until next time.


Syria-ously, Tim?

Tim Huelskamp finally arrived in Salina Nov. 23rd, after town-hauling it all over West-Central smaller towns. Speculation was, he didn't want to face more critical questions likely in more populous areas.

Turns out, he didn't have to worry. Such stage shows masquerade as 'listening' tours, but primarily feature the representative front and center. They are held during most people's working day, with resulting attendance consisting primarily of retirees, other Republican office-holders, business folks with potential benefit from federal sausage-making, and standard-bearers of the rep's fan club.


Room for dissenting views is largely overshadowed, if the rep is even moderately skilled in the art of question deflection, non-sequitur creation, and appeals to his base's basest emotions. Tim is.


Despite his "Front Lines of Freedom" newsletter claim that, "Saline County residents were especially concerned about the threat of ISIS," I saw little of that, but plenty of contradictions in his barriers to Syrians fleeing for their lives.


His drumbeat that we are the land of freedom seems not to apply to Syrians--unless they are Christian.


From all evidence, he hasn't consulted Jesus' actual stance on such exclusions. Nor did he specify a litmus test. Syrians wearing crosses? Syrians taking loyalty oaths to Jesus?


More strands of his threadbare analysis frayed when confronted by a KWU student, afraid she might not be reunited with her Indian husband. Who will we let in?


This Republican stock-in-trade fear is much harder to maintain when confronted with a real person in a wedding picture--or lying drowned on a beach.


To paraphrase John Oliver, only one wave of refugees did huge damage to the existing population. It began in 1492.


I could only hear, as a descendant of immigrants in Tim's Town Haul, Pogo drowning Tim out. "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Whose efficiency is it, anyway?

Kansans: Ready for an insurrection? We are, after all, being asked yet again to bend over, this time to closely examine Brownback's bottomless budget pit--before being kicked into it for burial.

How big is the hole? First year after Brownback's tax giveaway: $700 million. 2015's Deficit: $800 million. Looming cuts: $120-$350 million. "One of the worst reserve funds in America." State budget: "Running on fumes."


Instead of admitting their obvious failure, our clueless leaders have hired an outside firm, Alvarez & Marsal, to find "efficiencies." Really? First they pull the money rug from under you, then make you sacrificial lambs fed to wolves.


Estimated cash reserves to end this fiscal year: $5.6 million. Amount to pay A&M: $2.6 million.


Cluelessness reigns. House Speaker Merrick is "excited" about it. Appropriations Chairman Ryckman's inappropriate editorial letter says, "Close collaboration between A&M and state employees is the only way" to succeed. In other words, state workers, "We're about to fire you or cut your salary, but get in line or you'll get worse." The corporate cutback/cutthroat model guarantees poor or no service for Kansans. Merry Christmas!


Will schools be cut? "Nothing is off the table right now," says A&M.


Alvarez & Marsal's record speaks for itself. St Louis: 16 schools closed; custodial and food services outsourced; bus routes redrawn, kids walking; academics "gutted"; accreditation lost. New Orleans: 7,000 teachers fired, charters replace all public schools. Other clients: North Carolina, where churches declared "Moral Mondays" to confront legislator's cuts. Puerto Rico, a bankruptcy basket case.


In all states, promised savings questionable. Study costs often doubled, or more.

A&M's Brownback donations: $2,000 in 2010 and $1,000 in 2014. Brownback didn't pick them, but remember those private emails. . . . .


Kansans: Wake. Up.


The foxes are eying your roost in the hen house.

Straight Shooters in Topeka

One quiet morning in my sunlit living room, I heard it on the radio, from Reuters. "Kansas Senate to consider Senate Bill 45, to allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit." Hair raised on the back of my neck. Black clouds sent the room into darkness. Trying to remain calm, I stuck my head outside. Nope, no armed ruffians patrolling the streets, yet. But knowing how hastily our legislators have acted on bad ideas before, who knows? They could be out there. I silently mused at the irony of calling it Senate Bill 45. Why not SB 30-ought-6? Or SB Ak-47? Or SB M-16?

With a sigh of relief, I found they hadn't passed it yet. But then, sitting right there in my calm, weapons-free, quiet living room, I pondered, and had a revelation. The clouds parted. Light hit me, blinding as Saul's on the Road to Damascus. We Kansans are smart, so we surely elect smart people. My careful analysis finally detected the method in their madness.

Think of the benefits! My friend, for example, hates bureaucracy, so he's dead set against getting a permit. With this law passed, no problem. Weapons are easy enough to find. And here's a solution to his pesky neighbor dog barking till all hours of the night. Simple. One well-aimed shot should do it. If the neighbor objected, well, my friend would still have his peacemaker at his side--but hidden, of course, in case he really needed it.

If the neighbor's a faster draw or better shot, well, that's kind of immaterial, in the larger scheme of things. As we all know, our legislators have their eye on the larger picture, and so should we.

It's a pure matter of the free market measuring out beneficial outcomes, without the clutter and fuss of regulation and the cost of hiring government employees or law enforcement to oversee or enforce such regulation. Humans can sort out situations like this, or as some say, God will do it.

No, this innovative legislation is aimed at the larger economy. Clearly, the legislators envision more expansive horizons. Imagine for a moment the whole vast new industry of shops gearing up for more detailed weaponry training. Quick-draw would be a new skill, but people would pay, say, $500 a pop. Simple marksmanship could bring $250.

Training could occur on new shooting ranges, like the one recently denied a permit in Saline County. With the new law in place, neighbor's objections to such ranges would certainly be beaten back. It could become a weekend sport as popular as boating or baseball.

People compelled to keep their skills updated would guarantee a constant flow of income for entrepreneur gun and ammo salesman, trainers, shooting range operators, and a new category, camouflage experts. Granted, some customers might die, but simple fear would guarantee a continuing flow of new customers.
And we entrepreneurs could cash in. Given Kansas' new no-tax campaign to encourage business growth, I could incorporate, start partnerships with concrete companies, and build underground shelters featuring a year's supply of food and water. My patented new innovation: a rotating, bullet-proof-glass, gun turret. This would allow customers to take out pesky neighbors or hungry, angry area refugees coming for my shelter and supplies. They'd be no match for my perimeter alarm system.

After all, if Kris Kobach can profit, why not us? Kobach already cashed in on his new M-16-like Minute Man assault rifle, kept free from federal regulation by the Kansas 2013 law he helped write. He's no fool, so I'll buy some of Kris's guns to arm my gun turret. That way, we can both share in the profits, tax-free.

I am so proud of this legislature. They simply cannot be outdone in their effort to make us a free people. That is, I thought so till this morning, when I read that Oklahoma is considering a bill to allow guns into the halls of their legislature. Oklahoma's free-wheeling legislation will allow enforcement of the people's will--and right now! Why can't Kansas pass such fine laws?

It's all fun to watch, but it's the weekend and I'm bored. Till next week's legislative session, I guess I'll just go back to my calm, weapons-free, quiet living room, make some tea, listen to music, read, and wait for Armageddon to finally get here. Or write Sam Brownback to tell him how grateful I am that he got rid of those pesky moderates.

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.

http://www.motherjones.com/files/Brownback_630x700.jpg


Guarding the Kansas Henhouse


Life on my grandfather's farm in some ways epitomized the rural farm life I still envision as the ideal Kansas life. Neighbors helped each other, there was plenty of fresh air and beautiful country. Everywhere there was (with small exceptions) an atmosphere of trust.

If there were problems, they could usually be handled 'in-neighborhood.' Until they couldn't. For example, one neighbor raised a large number of chickens. Although he knew wild critters ran the creeks nearby, he was confident his hen house and collie dog were sufficient for protection. Until they weren't.

One day the farmer awoke, dressed, and walked out to feed his chickens. Only half were left. Both farmer and chickens were traumatized. The slaughter was widespread and ugly. Few spots were left unbloodied. Feathers still drifted, as if still frantically attempting escape, in the early morning breeze. The hens never knew what hit them.

Years later, we Kansans awoke to a much larger, more devastating, raid. The Kansas Teagislature, at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning, raided the public treasury of up to 10 million dollars annually, handing that $10-million gift to corporations (they deduct 70%) to siphon off from public schools to private schools, for "scholarships." This allows them to teach their choice of curriculum to their choice of students, at your expense.

Not only that, they simultaneously slaughtered teacher's due process rights, courtesy of our own non-Senator, Republican Tom Arpke. That due process chicken house had been safe for 60 years--yet both blows to public education were done in one dastardly late-night raid.

With no opportunity for debate, the amendments to the Education Funding bill can only be characterized as a surprise attack.

The process echoed Sam Brownback's earlier perversion of the legislative process. The one which shot a cannonball through the general welfare. The "experiment" making Kansas perhaps the leading example of irresponsible, regressive, unfair tax policy. The tax giveaway handing tank car loads of state money over to--not 1,900, not 19,100--but 191,000--that's One-Hundred-Ninety-One-THOUSAND relatively well-off partnerships and limited liability corporations.

Making it worse, they didn't ASK for it. Many or most would just as soon have that tax money kept to help others in the state. But the Brownback/ Americans for Prosperity/ American Legislative Exchange Council juggernaut of lies-in-advertising seems to have blinded enough Kansans to this reality: The chickens--no, in this case a huge nest of foxes--have come home to roost in their hen house.

According to the Kansas City Star, "Urged on by conservative special interests such as Americans for Prosperity, Republican leaders pressed hard to eliminate due process rights for teachers." The AFP agenda often mirrors that of ALEC, and both are heavily funded by the right-wing big-bucks boys. The Nation previously reported that "untold sums of cash" have been poured into ALEC by the Koch brothers.

But Kansans are waking up. Hopefully in time to clean up the bloodletting and restore the hen house population.

We Kansans remember Sam Brownback's calling in a large group of lobbyists to demand they donate to his list of replacement candidates. Brownback's chosen frozen replaced legislators who actively asked questions, who did not knuckle under to the Brownback/AFP/ALEC agenda, who served the people, not Sam's special-interest underwriters. Thus did hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars in false advertising subvert the will of the people. The latest example: A television ad showing the Guv cavorting with kindergartners while his cohorts undercut public education. Kansans should not buy it.

We Kansans remember the raids on education and social services, the huge budget hole in the ship of state, sinking it under waves of debt, the general lack of compassion, concern--or sanity--in the making of public policy.

We Kansans now recognize similar local 'anti-tax' candidates who have no clue about sound public policy, who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

We Kansans take little comfort in the discovery that ALEC has now sired a little (big) brother, the "American City County Exchange (ACCE) that will target policymakers from "villages, towns, cities and counties." Thus could some already clueless local lawmakers become even more susceptible to deception.

But we Kansans still have the vote. As Richard Crowson, Wichita media commentator, recently noted, "If you're just blaming cowardly, anti-education legislators, you are wrong. Our Legislature was not beamed to earth from another planet. They were elected." And they can be un-elected.

There's more than one way to guard a henhouse.

No bull about climate change

I, for one, am grateful for Salina Journal editor Roshana Ariel's comments and research. Agree with her or not, she is direct, honest, self-revelatory--and offers many new perspectives for consideration. Most importantly, she doesn't pretend to be chief surfer on any ideological wave.

Her October 19 column had a lot of meat on it, and in it. Plenty of food for thought, from the Hamburger Project's future lab-produced meat to Allan Savory's TED talk, where he claimed we can save the world from becoming a desert--and even mitigate global warming-- through better livestock grazing. That's one tall order.

Especially because beef has always been problematic. Many argue that the most direct protein delivery is straight from plant to stomach, bypassing all the energy and cost, in dollars, water, and calories, to raise cattle or other livestock. Yet steakhouses proliferate, and many fast food chains are still thought of as 'hamburger joints,' even though they serve chicken strips and salads. There is no denying the appetite for beef.

In pursuit of this appetite, staggering acreages are planted to water-thirsty and input-hungry corn, much of which goes (after our other addiction, automobile ethanol) to feed cattle. Far-too-cheap permits for livestock grazing on federal lands remains controversial and contributes to habitat destruction.

Compounding those negatives is the demand for greater and greater production of bigger and bigger cattle.

Perhaps the ugliest example of this trend taken to extremes is the new Belgian Blue. Anyone asking, "Where's the beef?" need only google "Supercow" to get an idea of what the beasts look like. Their sculpted, heavily muscled appearance, known as "double-muscling, " is a heritable condition which results in increased numbers of muscle fibers. It is One. Big. Ugly. Cow. So big it can barely stand on its own. Although leaner (a virtue, for some producers), the beef yield per cow is huge.

This big cow trend, however, has come into disfavor among some cattlemen who have been inundated by large dollar requirements for grain, antibiotics, and other inputs. Back even in 2010, the Kansas Rural Center hosted a Kansas Graziers Conference to investigate raising smaller animals. As presenter Kit Pharo then said, "(Many) Western Kansas ranches were put together and paid for with 350-lb. calves, and now those same ranches are struggling to make it with 600-lb. calves."

So, in the midst of all this doom and gloom for the cattle industry, comes Allan Savory, whose news is, well, savory. At its heart, Savory's recommendation is for 'rotational grazing,' which utilizes moving cattle to different pastures, whether permanently fenced or with mobile electric fence, or moving them by cow herders. All this controls grazing impacts for the health of the land, the animals, and the people who raise and eat them.

I first became enamored of Savory because of an email from Tim Hobson. Tim, now deceased, was one of the most persistent researchers and evangelizers in the Resilience Group. One day last year, he sent out Savory's TED talk to the group for discussion. Savory grabs attention particularly with his claim that wise grazing practice can not only reclaim deserts, but likely reduce spreading deserts, thus combatting global warming.

Other farmer/cattle raisers echo his claims, though not focusing on the climate change argument. Kit Pharo practices rotational grazing. Joel Salatin, featured in recent food films "Fresh" and "Food, Inc.", grazes rotationally. As he states on his Polyface Farms website: "This natural model heals the land, thickens the forage, reduces weeds, stimulates earthworms, reduces pathogens, and increases nutritional qualities in the meat." A former college colleague of mine, now full-time farmer/stockman Dale Strickler, regularly has a graziers' forum at the Kansas Rural Center. When I phoned, he confirmed his long-term and beneficial use of the moving-paddock practice.

Heartening news, all round. Certainly, reclaiming desert land is a goal few would reject.

But the rub comes in Savory's claim that this can be a solution to climate change--not to mention his added claims of increased productivity, water infiltration and utilization, nitrogen availability and carbon sequestration (two possibly competing claims).

As some scientists pointed out in our Resilience discussion, peer-reviewed studies reject such sweeping claims. Convincing as Savory's TED talk is, gripping graphics and swelling music do not a convincing argument make.

It's good to seek solutions. It is, however, unwise to pin our hopes on any magic bullets. Savory or unsavory, the only way to work our way out of world-wide threats to our existence is by working together intelligently, not savior-seeking. And that's no bull.

Roots of the n-word

While N-word dialogue has slackened following Saline County Commissioner Gile's use of it recently, the word still has great power. So, let's look inward at the N-word.

To reach a much deeper path to understanding, simply go to Ad Astra books, order Wendell Berry's book "The Hidden Wound," and read it. As Berry himself notes, it will be work. But you will be far better for it. In the interim, I offer my poor, feeble glimpse (inspired by Mr. Berry) into our "hidden wound."

Racism is not a racial problem. It is a cultural problem. An economic problem. An environmental problem. And most of all, a human problem.

The root of our "racism" is not racism. Rather, it is our desire to be superior to our condition. We whites brought Africans here for one reason: to exploit and dominate this New Earth. We discovered early on that living upon this sacred ground requires work. Hard work. Back-breaking work, at times.

Early on, we created a society which values 'beautiful people' who need not work. Picture old-time Plantation owners and Southern Belles. Fast forward to today. Whether buying vacation timeshares in order to make ourselves into leisure kings and queens once a year, or buying homes and cars we clearly cannot afford--or simply dreaming of it--we conjure a life vision devoid of drudgery. This remains the American Dream.

The back-side Janus-face of our forward-looking, hoped-for prosperity, however, is cast in a shadow of darkness. In our pride, we assigned hard work (deemed demeaning) to black Africans. We could only bring them here against their will, utilizing extreme force, by convincing ourselves they were inferior. By circular logic, they were inferior because they did the work--and they did the work because they were inferior. Thus did we become prisoners of our self-created fiction.

Separated from hard work and clear insight, we lost our connection to the land itself--a connection sustained by slaves we regarded as chattel. (Biblically, women were referred to as chattel. That status surfaces innumerably in tragedies such as the Bangladesh clothing factory collapse, death toll now nearing one thousand, where our "cheap, chic" clothes from Wal-mart and the Gap are made.)

Our lost earth-connections have caused us to create the term "nigger." A nigger was someone of inferior status, yet knowledgeable in the ways of the earthy world. Nigger street sense, however, escaped the effete sensibilities of masters in ivory towers. And it still creates a dynamic bond with fellow niggers, who get what the white mastuh has no clue about.

Thus a book well-read by the rebellious scholars of my generation was "The Student As Nigger." In an academic world controlled by administrative masters of various stripes, the metaphor was contagious and powerful. As a master text of 60's student movements, it challenged us to escape--or embrace--our niggerhood. We learned a lot about the world's realities in the process.

It approaches blasphemy to imply that those of us in the student movement encountered anything like the oppression visited upon our black brothers and sisters. But our awareness of nigger-ism, a sense of brotherhood with those "under the yoke," remains vital to this day. As the priorities of the powerful take ever-greater precedence over everyday citizens, we are now paying, and have perhaps always paid the price.

As blindingly stupid as it was for whites to enslave the black man, it took equal stupidity to fail the lessons of the indigenous about living in, on, and with this land. Our very structures, aimed at freedom, instead consigned us to our own prison. Elevating an assortment of minorities into a racially equitable distribution of college degrees and professional salaries has not elevated our understanding of the problem.

We could have kept our connection to the very ground we walk on.

But we did not.

Slavery came too easy, and we have been trying to shed its yoke ever since. If we completely accepted the black race's humanity, we would not accommodate an alien people--we would receive into ourselves a poignantly missing half of our own experience, vital and finally indispensable. We have so far denied that, at great cost to ourselves and everyone.

We are not able to 'set free' our red and black sisters and brothers, let alone any other fellow-creatures of whatever size, shape, or hue. Until we recognize in them their distinctive full strength and grace, we will not set anyone free--least of all ourselves.

Yes, the n-word holds power over us--but only because we have let it.

Unfit, Unfair

Last week's online Kansas City Star led with this headline: Unfit by any standards, legislators run amok."

The story began, "The Kansas Legislature has made many jaw-dropping moves these last few months, but a Senate vote this week leaves us especially agog. By a 25-14 vote, senators agreed to eliminate property taxes for many of the state's private gyms and health clubs."

Forget your workout at the local gym. Let's exercise our minds here. The trail to truth is full of crooks and snags, but together we can get there.

This exhibition of favoritism is worthy of outrage on its own merits. But with full knowledge of the Governor's dramatic giveaway of income taxes, the consequent impoverishment of the state, and the ensuing blow of the property tax hammer on all of us, this bill exempting a private enterprise, thus enriching them at our expense, is especially egregious.

As for the Senate, why would, and how could, they? As is evident elsewhere in state politics, $$ are involved--45 thousand of them, to be specific. Even more specifically, the $45,000 donated by Rodney Steven, part owner of Genesis Health Clubs, to Senate Republicans. His $$ influence was also evidenced in his and Genesis' home base, Wichita. He sought tax-free financing from the city for an expansion of his clubs in 2004, only to have the city back out of the deal. Steven filed a lawsuit over the perceived broken promise, but the city won.

That didn't stop his dogged determination to buy politicians, local or state. Steven and Genesis each gave maximum donations to Wichita Republican Sen. Michael O'Donnell, bolstering his campaign with $4,000 as he successfully unseated incumbent Republican Sen. Jean Schodorf (who has since left the Republican party) and beat Democrat Timothy Snow in the general election. Not content to stay local, he also sent maximum donations to Senate President Susan Wagle and Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce.

His thirst for special privilege was evidently not quenched by his liberation from state income taxes. The Governor's special tax program had already eliminated taxes on profits for 191,000 businesses, including several of Steven's Genesis Health Clubs.

Since then, in a supposed attempt to 'level the playing field,' Steven has sought to force the YMCA to pay tax or some payment in lieu of taxes. (Even though the Y, and other non-profits, make genuine efforts to make exercise affordable across a wide range of income levels.)

"Continuing to shrink the tax base in the face of severe spending cuts," said Steven in 2011, "really makes no sense." His efforts two years later make us doubt his sincerity. If actions speak louder than words, his more likely 2013 quote would be, "To hell with the tax base, we need our special privileges."

The property tax break will cost the state treasury an estimated $4 million. And that's not the half of it--well, a bit more than the half of it. The original proposal, rejected by the Senate, was for an additional $3.4 million in sales tax exemptions. It's like used-car dickering: Start with a really high price tag and make an outrageous cost more palatable. Except used-car for-profit rehabilitators are much more honest than Steven's used-body rehabilitation program, at state expense, i.e., at ours.

North Central Area Senators voting for it were Sens. Arpke, Bowers, and Ostmeyer. Senator Emler voted against it. We can't account for the other Senators' votes, but perhaps Senator Arpke's can be explained by his attitude toward corporations expressed in the recent legislative forum, to the effect that he thinks "corporations can do whatever they want with their money." And he seems eager to help them get more of ours to accomplish it.

Despite the Senate vote, it's not too late. SB72 has been referred to the House Taxation Committee. Contact your local representative and tell them such special breaks have no place in state policy.

Perhaps it's time for an Exodus from Genesis?

And as importantly, from the dogma that all private business is hallowed, and by definition provides much more efficient and superior service than publicly-funded entities--like community fitness centers and schools.

As for the Senate, as the Star article put it, "The new conservative majority has lost any standing to lecture Kansans about the need for fiscal responsibility."


Know Thine Enemy

On our Iraq War's 10th anniversary, here's James Madison:

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. . . . . . . No nation [can] preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

And Anne Gerrels, NPR reporter on Iraq:

"It was a terrible waste of money and lives. You know, Iraqis certainly don't love us any more for what we did there. We really have gained very little. . . . . . The situation is far from resolved. . . . . .The country is sliding more and more into an authoritarian regime. It is a tinderbox waiting to explode again."

Rachel Maddow's new book Drift, cuts to the sources of war, whose billion leeches now suck our very life-blood in this National Insecurity State.

We wouldn't put up with it, except we are always fed a 'Good Enemy.' When everything is a War (on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on drugs, on terror), caution and reason fly out the window.

Maddow tells of her Massachusetts small-town pumphouse, recently enhanced by National Security Dollars. About seven homes are actually on municipal water. Yet the pumphouse's entire half-acre is now ringed by an 8-foot-tall, chain-link, barbed-wire-topped fence, complete with electronically-controlled, motorized gate.

This waste is small potatoes, however, compared with nationwide ultra-high-security office space, enough to fill twenty-two US Capitol Buildings: seventeen million square feet of offices in thirty-three handsome and generously funded new complexes powered up twenty-four hours a day, where an army of nearly a million spies on the world and our homeland. It's as if, says Maddow, "we turned [all] of Detroit and Milwaukee into high-security-clearance spooks and analysts."

Its crown jewel is Liberty Crossing, in Washington's Virginia suburbs-- an 850,000-square-foot complex housing the National Counterterrorism Center. A $30 billion annual intelligence budget boosted by 250 percent has created "a clean, well-lighted edifice, concealed by GPS jammers and reflective windows, where intelligence collected by 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies under government contract is supposedly coordinated."

Will Congress cut this bloated budget? No. Our fear of The Enemy keeps it in place, while schools close, services are cut, and highways and bridges decay to dust.

It is not our enemies who have cut us off at the knees. When you hear of Salina's local economic boon from UAV's, consider that military drones were 5% of military flying vehicles in 2005, and now constitute one-third of the fleet. Consider that they are used for surveillance as well as killing. And consider that they may be tested over Salina.

Our history of bad choices goes back to Ronald Reagan and before. Reagan understood the power of The Enemy and exploited it. He lost his early primaries. No one wanted a misguided cowboy actor for President. Yet, when he proclaimed we were losing the Panama Canal (yet another misguided statement), bellowing "Uncle Sam is not going to retreat with his tail between his legs," he won every one.

Under his presidency, fact-free folk from Paul Nitze (arms control advisor) to William Casey (CIA director) kept him on a hard-right, fear-fueled track.

These ideological predecessors encouraged George W. Bush's Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight to limber their muscles proclaiming Saddam's "mushroom cloud" WMD.

Such baloney can cause great harm. It felled Phil Donahue, the only commercial media critic of the war, who was fired from MSNBC.

To truly know our Enemy, we must avoid deception. Anthony Dimaggio, author of Mass Media, Mass Propaganda, put it well:

"When academics, journalists, pollsters, and politicians. . . . consciously ignore moral challenges to U.S. foreign policy, then [rational dialogue is] difficult, if not impossible. Without such dialogue, it [is] difficult to . . . . challenge and reject official propaganda, misinformation, and lies. On this 10-year anniversary, that dialogue is needed more than ever if [we hope to limit] future wars of aggression." And, I might add, to limit threats to our freedom.

As Pogo said, "We have met the Enemy--and he is us."

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