Red State Blues--Again

Yes, here we are again. Election time around the country. Not for president, this time, but for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as for state offices everywhere. For those of us who are Democrats in Kansas, that leaves many opportunities for muting the TV when campaign ads come on.

In Kansas, the governor's race has garnered interest from around the country. The Kansas economy falls farther and farther into the toilet, thanks for Gov. Sam Brownback's belief in economist Arthur Laffer's economic theory that if you cut taxes to the bone for the wealthy, somehow the state, or the country, will magically become more prosperous. What gets left out of Laffer's theory is that public services also get cut to the bone. When one looks at what has happened to public education, social services, police and fire protection, and the maintenance of such things as city parks and streets, one can see the havoc the adoption of Laffer's economic policy has wreaked on our state.

In response, Paul Davis, a Democrat and the candidate I'm supporting, has mounted what seems to be a successful campaign against Brownback. According to some polls, he's outpaced the governor by eight points, with the primary just around the corner. He's also managed to bring in more money in contributions than Brownback has. Of course, we still haven't heard from the Koch machine in this race, and it's inevitable that it will be engaged as the general election grows closer.

With the Kansas primary only a month away, it  looks like Senator Pat Roberts has "Lugared" himself with what the right-wing media outlet Breitbart,com  called a "Freudian slip" in an interview on radio station KCMO and reported on July 3 in the DC insider newspaper The Hill saying he returns home to Kansas "every time I get an opponent"  and proclaiming that he doesn't measure his voting record by "how many times I sleep wherever it is."

I copied and pasted from Rep. Huelskamp's news letter the following.

"On Thursday afternoon, a strong bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives joined me to pass America's Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2014 (HR 4457). This needed bill encourages small business job creators to invest new capitol in equipment. This bill would lock in Section 179 expense levels at $500,000 allowing small businesses to plan with certainty." They joined you or did you finally decide to join them? You've been on the negative side, even with your own party leaders on many issues. Isn't that what cost Kansas any reprentation on the Agriculture Committee?

Thank you Tim, for supporting something 'bi-partisan' that might benefit someone in the middle income category. I surely hope the Tea Party radicals don't hang you out to dry for crossing the line and cooperating with those liberal Dems.

I'll give credit and say thanks, regardless of sex, race, orientation, religion, politics, etc. to anyone who supports what I think is a good bill or practice.

Now Rep. Tim, can you tell us where you've been these last several years that you didn't know the Vets were having problems with their access to Veteran's benefits? I've known some personally that were not getting very good access down through the years. They had those problems before Barack Obama was ever heard of on the national scene in politics. Those problems have existed through all administrations, whether Democrat or Republican. I'm also of the opinion that the lowest income level Vets had more problems than someone with money and social or political clout.

Were you too busy fighting Obama and any program he might have suggested or backed? You have bragged about not compromising or giving ground on any issue that didn't suit the extreme right conservative line. Stalemate to the point of bankrupting the national economy certainly doesn't appeal to me as being what your constituents really need.

I don't know whether Rep. Huelskamp will ever read this or not. But, I hope someone does and will confront him on these issues.

Post Feminism

My oldest granddaughter graduated from the University of Kansas last weekend with honors in English and German. She wrote her honors thesis on feminist attitudes, then and now. I was able to read it when I went to Lawrence for the graduation celebration, and I found myself surprised at some of the attitudes she unearthed.

She based the thesis on interviews of women representing various generations. I was probably the oldest woman she interviewed, with her scholarship hall friends being the youngest. When I was in my early 20s, I read Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique with my third baby on my lap. As I read, I had that "click" of recognition that so many feminists in the late '60s and early '70s talked about. I realized the feminist movement gave a name to what I'd been looking for most of my life.

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.

In the interest of expediency and cost savings, I think we should turn our state, county, and local governing bodies over to the Kochs. Doing so would allow us to cancel expensive elections and eliminate voter fraud as an issue.

Drought: We Can Learn from Job

Out here on McDowell Creek there was a beautiful snowfall a few days ago, rain the next day, a cloudburst last night, and now fog today. While runoff is gathering in puddles, our hope is growing: Maybe it won't be a drought year after all.

"A drought has a long tail," my neighbor told me back in 2012, the summer without rainfall. "We're not out of it yet," he told me when the rains came that fall.

He was so right. Even though we had some good rains in 2013 and above average snows this February, we have also had, just about every day for at least three years now--wind.

In preparation for leasing our pastures to a cow-calf operation, we checked our ponds. We were shocked! Our black lab Deci walked right across pools that not too long ago we couldn't reach the bottom of, not even with a canoe paddle stretched straight down. Our prospective renters were people we wanted to work with, but we had to tell them no. Our ponds were just too low.

In fact, all of our water sources--seeps, springs, McDowell Creek itself--are looking puny. The likely culprit--that constant wind. It must be causing evaporation that's greater than whatever amount of precipitation we receive. Things just keep getting dryer and dryer.

So we might be in for it again this year. We dread the thought of lack of water--what it does to soils, plants, animals, and people.

But if it is another dry year we have to recognize that it's part of the package of living on the tall grass prairie.

You don't get the one without the other.

A recent article in the Wichita Eagle cited a U.S. Census Bureau study that said, "More people have been leaving Kansas than moving here over the last four years, new Census figures show." From 20010 to 2013, Kansas had a net population loss of almost 10,200 people.

Some of that loss can be blamed on the recession that hurt the economy all over the country. However, as the economy has rebounded, one only has to look at the policies put into place by Gov. Sam Brownback and the merry band of extremist Republicans in the Kansas legislature. Those folks have put everything from the Kansas public education system to preserving Kansas wildlife in peril. Along the way, they have worked to pass laws that would take away local control on everything to gun restrictions to votes on gambling casinos.

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