Front Page » Story Type: Opinion

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.

Brownback Wants You--

To procreate--if you're a woman.

An old story, from the April 12, 1999, edition of the Topeka Capital Journal has the headline: "Brownback: Abortion Partially to Blame for Social Security Woes." At the time a U.S. Senator, Sam Brownback, came to Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas, to speak to college students, high school students, senior citizens, and anyone else who had the noon hour free to listen to him.

I was still teaching at Butler. I was free between classes to go to the all-purpose room to hear what he had to say. I am the "older woman" who called Brownback out when he said women who got abortions were responsible for the shortfall in Social Security. I don't remember what he said in response to my remarks. I had a one o'clock class to get to, so I didn't hear any follow-up.

The New Kansas Education Czars

Recently, Gov. Sam Brownback and Kansas Board of Education member sent an opinion column, "New Teacher Policy Benefits Students." to state newspapers justifying their move to allow Kansas public schools to hire uncertified teachers for the six schools that applied for innovative school district status. The uncertified teachers would come from the ranks of "industry professionals."

I started teaching in 1965 in a Michigan country school. By then, I had enough credits to make me a college sophomore. I did not have enough credits to be certified as a teacher. Even so, the school, run by a few farm parents and uncertified by the state, hired me. I lasted one year. That's all it took for me to realize that that those students deserved a teacher who knew what she was doing.

According to an article in the Wichita Eagle Sunday, June 21, 2015, Sen. Michael O'Donnell and other Republicans who voted to raise consumption taxes may be vulnerable in the 2016 election for Kansas Legislature.

The article by Bryan Lowry, Eagle Topeka Bureau, quotes O'Donnell as saying he "has a target on his back" after voting "last week in favor of HB 2109, which increases the state's sales and cigarette taxes, among other things." O'Donnell says he voted for the bill because it included a sales tax cut on food a year later.

Even so, O'Donnell isn't the only Republican feeling the heat for voting in favor of what several news sources are calling the largest tax increase in the history of Kansas.

Every morning, I go out to the porch and pick up the Wichita Eagle, a paper I have subscribed to ever since I moved to the Wichita area in 1974. My husband joins me in reading the morning newspaper. He reads the sports section while I start with the first section and read through to the comics and puzzles.

Ever since Sam Brownback became governor of Kansas, the headlines on the front page of the Eagle have been a cause for consternation. After he won a second term, with a bunch of right-wing legislators following behind him, reading the front page news has become even more of a horror story. Edgar Allen Poe couldn't have written it any better.

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.

Legal Weed in Kansas?

Last year, a group from Wichita worked to garner enough signatures on a petition to get the question of legalizing marijuana in Wichita on the November 2014 mid-term election ballot. When Esau Freeman, one of the group's leaders, took the petition to Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman, she ruled that not enough of the signatures were valid. This, even though the ballots were counted in secret, so no one really knows for sure that this was the case. However, this is an issue for another blog.

This time Freeman and others made sure they got only the signatures of registered voters who were Wichita residents, a requirement for the issue to go on the ballot.

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