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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."

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.

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."


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!

Wow! You didn't know that?

kris-kobach.jpgBOGUE, Kan. - Normally, next month is October. Go to your calendar. Lift the September sheet so's you can see October clearly.

Now carefully count the number of Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If you've done it right, there should be five each. So what, you ask? Come back to the present. Kiddo, next month is a rarity.

For the coming 823 years, only this year will October have five Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. A good Christian lady in Dodge City assured me she got that from a reliable friend. Pass it along at the coffee shop, but make sure you tell where you learned it. Right here. With luck, all good Americans will know before election day.

Think I'm joking? Yeah, well, our Secretary of State Kris Kobach checked it out.

Egg Him

COLBY, Kan. - I would furnish a case or two of eggs to a group of you women to hurl through the door into Rush Limbaugh's broadcast studio.

koch-industries.jpgWICHITA, Kan. - The Koch brothers. Wichita's gift to the right-wing 1%. Recently, just before the Feb. 18th Occupy Koch-Town demonstration, Wichita Eagle reporter Roy Wenzl did a long, front-page piece on the Kochs and the death threats they had received. These death threats, according to Charles Koch, came from left-wingers in response to their support of Scott Walker's attack on public employee unions and the Kochs' alleged ties to the Keystone Pipeline. Charles Koch had his say in the article, denying any monetary interest in Keystone, and said his support of Walker and other right-wing politicians was minimal.

Wenzl, a reporter who is known for writing in-depth human interest pieces, quoted Koch and Koch employees at length, He included only a few rebuttal comments from the Occupy Koch-Town demonstration leaders. Even though I'm not involved in either of the groups that organized the demonstration, the Sierra Club and Occupy Wichita, I know many of those people and I know their actions are open to the public. Their opposition to right-wing policies may be noisy, but it does not include violence or take the form of death threats. When I saw the picture in the local section of the Eagle, Tom James, a Wichita poet and musician, was pictured playing his guitar and leading the group in a song. It looked more like the peaceful anti-war marches that I'd participated in the '60s than a threatening demonstration.

Is Kansas Free Press Relevant?

two-men-talking-reading-newspaper.jpgCOLBY, Kan. - Kansas Free Press is a little more active than its mother media site, Everyday Citizen. The publisher's original intention, I believe, was to allow Kansans to put more local concerns and opinions up for discussion on this site.

I've been around a lot of years, all in Kansas, and I have been made aware of issues and events that I was not aware of, until I read it here. The comment section is certainly not limited to Kansans.

The comments, quite often, are much more detailed and revealing than the original articles. That is good. Most of us regular writers are hoping to get a dialogue going to help people become more involved in society's everyday happenings. Some visitors might think we, the writers, are all cheerleaders praising ourselves. But as you'll discover, we sometimes get into some pretty heated debates amongst ourselves.

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