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Manhattan, KS. Many have struggled during the past 6 years of the Brownback administration to find their voice as the radical conservatives in the Kansas Legislature set about to dismantle the State of Kansas we loved. Finally, in the 2016 election cycle, Kansans began taking back the state from the ALEC minions who had been elected under Brownback's watchful eye. But there is still much work to be done to reverse the unjust tax system and give back the financial support our public schools and universities need to educate our future generations. The Kansas People's Agenda hopes to give voice to those who are opposed to the direction the State of Kansas has taken under Brownback.

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Manhattan, KS. Over 200 Kansans attended the Kansas Center for Economic Growth's Rise Up Kansas Rally at the Capitol building in Topeka on December 8th. The rally focused on rolling out a new tax policy for the state by reinstating a top income tax bracket for people earning more than $40,00 a year, eliminating business tax exemptions, increasing the gas tax, taxing Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) and lowering sales tax on food. It would formally end Brownback's "March to Zero" income tax commitment as a starting point in addressing the gaping $350-million shortfall in the current fiscal year (that ends in June 2017) and a projected $580 shortfall for the next fiscal year.
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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."

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.

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.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansans will have an opportunity to make sense of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act at the third annual community forum on health care on August 2nd at the Manhattan Public Library Auditorium beginning at 7:00 pm. Janet Witt from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) will be the featured speaker at this year's event.

The Affordable Care Act envisioned an expansion of Medicare to insure the uninsured but the court decided the federal government couldn't force state to expand their Medicare program, even if 90% of the cost of expansion was going to be paid by the federal government. This has lead to a string of Republican governors saying they won't implement the ACA, including our own Governor Brownback.

Kansans Ask, 'Where is Kris Kobach?'

TOPEKA, Kan. - On February 15, Kansans presented hundreds of Freedom of Information requests to Secretary of State Kris Kobach asking where has he been since taking office in January 2011.

Kobach has made many trips outside the state to promote his extreme, anti-immigrant agenda. He continues to "moonlight" as an attorney for city and states where his anti-immigrant legislation is undergoing court challenges.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Kansas women are truly "going through hell" living, working and coping with the repercussions of Brownback's chosen policies, but we must keep going! NOW is not the time to give up!

The grassroots response and outcry surrounding the recent domestic violence debacle in Topeka reminds us of the power that we hold. Women's rights advocates and supporters are capable of changing public policy. This is possible in our local communities and at the state level. We must be diligent, ever watchful and forceful in our response to injustice.

A Reproductive Roast!

WICHITA, Kan. - Governor Brownback has certainly been no friend to reproductive justice in Kansas. He has signed numerous anti-choice bills into law, which have resulted in several lawsuits. The women of Kansas have discovered that we must fight harder than ever to keep what remaining rights and access we have within our state. This fight does not begin and end with each legislative session, it must carry on throughout the year. Kansans must stand in support of those organizations fighting for reproductive rights in spirit, with action and with contributions.

It is a full time, high energy fight for our very rights and freedoms. Freedoms that are seemingly eroding by the minute. As the roasting of our rights commences from the governor's mansion, Kansas NOW is planning a fundraiser to enable them to continue to fight for the women of Kansas.

Join us as we serve up some BBQ, dish some dirt on the radical right and party like socialist swine...

Bluegrass Is Coming

A moving moment that year came when McCutcheon, Tom Chapin, and others, with Linda Tilton signing, led the crowd in the grandstand in a rousing rendition of, "The Great Storm Is Over." Everyone in the crowd that night needed a chance to come together, without the bitterness of politics and hate, and sing as one voice.

WICHITA, Kan. - It's in the air along about the middle of August. Even though we're still in the heat of summer, and this particular summer has been brutally hot, an undercurrent signals sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the Walnut Valley Festival, which has taken place in Winfield, thirty-five miles south of Wichita, on the third weekend in September for the past thirty-nine years. This coming Sept. 14-18, forty years of bluegrass will once again fill the Winfield air and double the population of the town for one weekend.

To the Winfield natives and those of us who have attended for most of those years, the Festival is just known as "Bluegrass," as in, "Are you going to Bluegrass this year?" Or people will ask, "Will I see you at Winfield this year?" We know what they mean and, yes, I will be there.

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