Kansas

The Brownback Way

Naota (at right), tugs on the electrical cable rectally feeding a sex toy designed to look like his father (bottom), while MiuMiu the cat catches some rays. (FLCL episode 4, 'Full Swing')

“In a development that falls somewhere between ‘I can’t believe he hadn’t done this already’ and ‘My God, what a monumental prick,’ Brownback issued an executive order Tuesday removing gender identity and sexual orientation from the classes of protected Kansas government employees, which include race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry or age.”

Luke Brinker

Because what would we do without Kansas?

The critique is fairly straightforward; Luke Brinker of Salon opens with the basic review:

Confronting a $344 million budget deficit following the failure of his supply side economic experiment, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is a busy man these days, further slashing education in a state that had already imposed among the largest cuts in the nation, gutting the state’s pension system, and diverting funds from vital infrastructure programs in an effort to clean up the mess his tax cuts for the wealthy created. But amid all this, the governor still has time to deal with other matters, as he demonstrated today, with a quintessentially Brownbackian assault on the civil rights of LGBT Kansans.

Steve Benen wraps it into a larger consideration of conservative “culture warriors”:

Anyone tempted to believe Republican officials are slowly giving up on their staunch opposition to gay rights received quite a wake-up call this week. Much of Alabama is defying the federal courts on marriage equality; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) are talking about amending the U.S. Constitution; and in Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has decided to roll back LGBT protections for no apparent reason.

Or perhaps a more bland description, you know, like an actual news article from Jonathan Shorman for the Capital-Journal:

Then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, signed the order in 2007 prohibiting discrimination against most state employees on the basis of sexual orientation, The Associated Press reported at the time.

The order required agencies under the governor’s direct control to ensure they have programs to prevent harassment against gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and people who have had surgery for sex changes. It covered 25,000 of the 41,000 state employees.Sam Brownback loves riding gays' asses.  (FLCL episode 4, 'Full Swing')

On Tuesday, Brownback issued a new executive order canceling Sebelius’ order.

“This Executive Order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did,” Brownback said in a statement.

“Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the legislature and not through unilateral action. The order also reaffirms our commitment to hiring, mentoring and recognizing veterans and individuals with disabilities.

In other words, equality in America should be subject to the kind will of supremacists. Just like Brownback’s deep Christian faith instructs him to usurp God’s authority on Earth. Recent generations have included in their puerile instruction from parents that the commandment about not taking God’s name in vain pertained to things like not saying, “God damn it!” or, “Jesus Christ! what was that?”

Governor Brownback reminds exactly the cost of that sinful deception; he should not take the Lord’s name in vain. Just like he pretends to supersede the U.S. Constitution, he also acts to supersede Jesus fucking Christ.

Then again, this is Kansas we’re talking about. Hateful megalomania seems epidemic in the Sunflower State.

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Kansas, Like Only Kansas Can Do

In this May 3, 2010 photo, attorney Kris Kobach poses for a photo in Kansas City, Mo. When politicians and police across the county want to crack down on illegal immigration, they often reach out to Kobach, a little-known Kansas attorney with an Ivy League education who is the architect behind many of the nation's most controversial immigration laws. Kobach helps draft proposed laws and, after they are adopted, trains officers to enforce them. If the laws are challenged, he goes to court to defend them. His most recent project was advising Arizona officials on a new law that empowers police to question anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Do we really have to re-introduce the one and only Kris Kobach? You know, the Kansas Secretary of State who consults around the country on development of anti-immigration and vote-fraud laws? The Birther who threatened to keep President Obama off the 2012 ballot in the Sunflower State?

Right. That one.

During last year’s election, the Kansas Secretary of State chastised U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, complaining to the media that Kobach’s office had referred examples of voter fraud to the Kansas-based federal prosecutor, but Grissom has refused to prosecute. Worse, Kobach said the U.S. Attorney didn’t “know what he’s talking about” when Grissom said voter fraud doesn’t exist in Kansas.

The AP reports today that when Kobach made these claims, he appears to have been brazenly lying (thanks to my colleague Tricia McKinney for the heads-up).

[I]n a Nov. 6 letter sent from Grissom to Kobach and obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request, the prosecutor responded that his office received no such referrals from Kobach, and chided the secretary of state for his statements.

“Going forward, if your office determines there has been an act of voter fraud please forward the matter to me for investigation and prosecution,” Grissom wrote. “Until then, so we can avoid misstatements of facts for the future, for the record, we have received no voter fraud cases from your office in over four and a half years. And, I can assure you, I do know what I’m talking about.”

Wait, it gets worse.

Kobach now concedes that when he said he’d referred voter-fraud cases to the U.S. Attorney’s office, he had not, in reality, referred voter-fraud cases to the U.S. Attorney’s office. But, the right-wing official told the AP, Kobach’s predecessor had alerted the federal prosecutor to two relevant cases and Grissom ignored those referrals.

It turns out, that’s not true, either: federal investigators looked into those 2011 allegations and, as the AP report noted, they concluded they were not voter fraud.

Or so explains the inimitable Steve Benen, whose narrative is as compelling as always. It is drawn from an Associated Press article, which for its own part explains:

Grissom told the AP last week that Kobach never replied to his letter.

“We want to uphold the integrity of the voting system and people’s ability to exercise their right and have their voice heard as part of the process,” Grissom said. “And we have the ability, we have the resources, to prosecute any case in which someone believes there has been any voter fraud or voter misrepresentation.”

Kobach acknowledged in an email to the AP last week that his office never has sent suspected voter fraud cases to Grissom, citing instead what he said was inaction on cases referred by his predecessor.

Grissom said the FBI determined two cases referred before Kobach took office in January 2011 were not voter fraud.

Kobach said last week that his office “felt it would be more productive to refer cases first to Kansas county attorneys rather than sending them first to Mr. Grissom’s office.”

“That is the approach we have taken for the last few years,” he said.

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Kansas, Failing to Cope

Great Seal of Kansas (detail)

It is a Kansas thing:

A federal judge Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit alleging that science standards for Kansas public schools promote atheism and violate the religious freedoms of students and parents.

(Associated Press)

There are a number of questions one might wonder about, but perhaps it is time we pause to consider what, exactly, these religious fanatics are doing to their children.

That is to say, we are accustomed to the fundamental argument, and it really does seem a matter of one being unable to tell the difference between unlike things. Thirty years ago groups representing parents, churches, and politicians unleashed a daily spiel about how children were not smart enough to listen to music.

Here’s one: Have you heard Trans Siberian Orchestra? Okay, you know that song they play toward the end of the set, called, “Believe”? It was first recorded in 1990 by Savatage, and describes the epiphany of an unfortunate soul stumbling into the light. But think about that for a minute, one of our best new Christmas songs comes from a band once denounced on a regular basis as being satanic.

Sometimes it seemed a matter of simple jealousy; the “Christian” version of pop music does not seem to carry very far outside its dedicated audience. Those who remember the South Park episode “Faith Plus One”, and the crack about how Christian pop sounded like lust songs about Jesus, need only look back to this time in order to understand where that joke comes from. Brief moments of exposure over the years suggest it hasn’t gotten any better, but if one had to guess without knowing who Stryper was, would “Calling On You” sound like an appeal to salvation or begging for some fumbling teenage intimacy?Stryper

It was a futile effort to keep children away from popular music, but it also made one point clear: These people do not believe their kids are smart enough to listen to pop music.

Over the years, religious advocates have humiliated themselves. Christian censorship advocate Bob Larson demonstrated himself unable to comprehend liner notes, and, furthermore, could be caught rewriting the lyrics to some of the songs he complained about in order to make musicians sound scary.

The psychopathology of the underlying parental fear is open to certain argument, but functionally speaking the argument was clear: I do not trust my child to be smart enough to resist what I find objectionable and scary about the music. It is what it is.

But here is a new proposition: I do not trust my chiled to be smart enough to resist what I find objectionable and scary about science.

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Brought to You by the Letter ‘A’

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI01), promoting his budget agenda.

The life cycle of bad ideas is a curious thing.

No, wait, no it isn’t. Something about history repeating itself and not being smart enough to recognize the point goes here. At any rate, Simon Maloy tries to explain a thing or two about the latest revival of supply-side mysticism:

they love cutting taxes for rich people, and they’re also enthusiastic deficit scolds. There’s a seemingly irreconcilable tension in that worldview that arises from a straightforward assumption: cutting tax rates for the people who pay the largest share of taxes will result in the government taking in less revenue.

The way they get around this dilemma is through the magic of dynamic scoring. Basically, when they calculate the cost of a tax cut, they assume that cutting taxes will produce an explosion of economic growth that will actually result in higher tax revenues. Cutting taxes, therefore, won’t increase the deficit – it could actually lower it! This is, to put it mildly, a contentious idea. Dynamic scoring on its own isn’t a particularly controversial practice, but strong proponents of supply-side economics vigorously abuse it in order to make some ruinous economic proposals seem palatable.

One of the biggest adherents of dynamic scoring is Rep. Paul Ryan, the incoming chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. The most recent of his celebrated ultra-conservative budget proposals made enthusiastic use of dynamic scoring in order to achieve balance in 10 years while simultaneously slashing tax rates and boosting defense spending. When you just assume that lowering tax rates will supercharge economic growth, anything becomes possible.

This is hardly news: The presumed increased revenues resulting from tax cuts are simply presumptions.

Those who remember Voodoo Reaganomics occasionally scratch their heads and wonder, “What? We’re still having this discussion?” And those who remember the financial crisis that started with the Bear Stearns collapse in 2007 can always blame it on the president who was elected in 2008 and didn’t take office until 2009. The idea is simple enough, that if the government takes less money in taxes, that money will produce even more in taxes under lower rates by staying in the consumer and business economies. The result, of course, is a widening gap between rich and poor, a private business sector that has become so privileged it feels the products and services it offers in exchange for money are merely obstacles they must overcome in order to get what is rightly theirs—namely the money in your pocket—and a resounding, persistent failure to produce the promised returns. All of these, of course, are why Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI01) calls “dynamic scoring” by another moniker, “reality-based scoring”.

You see, sometimes a joke is funny because it’s true. In the Republican Party, a fantasy is true because it sounds funny.

In this photo taken Sept. 6, 2014, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks in Hutchinson, Kansas. The writing is on the wall for gay marriage bans in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina after federal appeals courts that oversee those states have made clear that keeping gay and lesbian couples from marrying is unconstitutional. But officials in the three states are refusing to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses without a court order directing them to do so. It could be another month or more before the matter is settled. In a political campaign debate Monday, Brownback vowed to defend his state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal court hearing is scheduled for Friday.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)No, wait, that’s still not right.

The thing is that we have an ongoing supply-side experiment in progress, and that is called Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback and his supporters—self-described (ahem!) “Brownbackers”—have produced not the fantasy results but, rather about what you might expect. Fiscal affairs in Kansas government are a bit sensitive at the moment, but don’t worry, the fantasy math says things will work out okay in the end.

Strangely, Mr. Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2012, is considered something of a budget wonk.

Perhaps they have the wrong vowel.

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Maloy, Simon. “Paul Ryan’s ‘reality’ problem: Why his justification of ruinous supply-side tax policies is warped “. Salon. 1 December 2014.

Another Look at Voters and What They Just Voted For

The U.S. Capitol is pictured at dawn in Washington D.C. on Oct. 15, 2013. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

And that’s where the confusion kicks in. The American mainstream strongly backs the same policy agenda Democrats want, but that same mainstream just elected a Congress that will make it impossible for Americans to get what they say they support.

Steve Benen

It might seem to need some unpacking, but in truth the point holds.

There is, for instance, the temptation to point out the Senate shift, and remind that this was the “mainstream” in places like Iowa, where voters clearly prefer uneducated, tinfoil trash and threats of sedition from elected officials. Or Kansas, where voters are cheering on the destruction of the state government. Or Colorado, where 2010 saw Sen. Michael Bennet win a narrow victory, but only because it was a statewide election, and just enough voters were offended at the idea of sending a prosecutor who aids and abets rape to the U.S. Senate; it should be noted that in the state’s Fourth Congressional District, Colorado voters had no qualms about sending the abettor to the House of Representatives. Of course, voters in the states’ Fifteenth Legislative District also sent a paranoid, homophobic exorcist to the legislature, and in the overlapping Fifth Congressional District, returned Rep. Doug “Tar Baby” Lamborn to the House in celebration of ignorance and hatred. Looking at the Senate swing, it’s easy enough to fall back to the comfort that, for the most part, Democrats lost where they were expected to lose.

But a broader picture of voters can also be found in the midterm election; Republicans made enormous gains in state government across the nation. Certes, in a state like Washington, where ballot measures were the only statewide votes, things went about as expected; we don’t match the national trend, but that in part is because we had nothing to do with the question of Senate control.

But it seems this will be the defining legacy of the 2014 midterms. Voters said they want something, and then voted against it. At this point, we cannot begin to explain the result without accounting for irrationality in the psychopathology of everyday life. A dialectic of neurosis might explain the preference of party labels over real results, but is it a twisted identity politic or something deeper, like a craven need for perpetual Manichaean dualism? Close, low-scoring contests are the height of professional sportsα, but disastrous for political outcomes.

It’s easy enough to express what just happened in the sense that Republicans just won big in an election. The harder answer is to figure just what that actually means in terms of voters. As to governance, the answer is clear: The ability of governments in the United States to function appropriately will be further degraded as Republicans move forward feeling empowered to prove their thesis that government just doens’t work.

It is, furthermore, easy enough to say we want nice outcomes. It is harder to accomplish those nice outcomes, though, and nearly impossible for voters to admit that, no, they don’t really want that stuff. And that, too, might well emerge from a dialectic of neurosis, that people only say they want good outcomes because they fret about what the neighbors would think if they came right out and admitted what they’re really after.

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α The basic principle: Offense wins games; defense wins championships. Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer … you name it, the principle holds. And let’s face it, outside the SEC, most American football fans are pretty much sick of sixty-point blowouts.

Benen, Steve. “NBC poll: Public attitudes clear as mud”. msnbc. 20 November 2014.

¡Godzilla! Oh, Wait … It’s Just Marriage Equality

Justice is blind ... just kidding.  No, really, did you read the Sixth Circuit ruling?  Jaded eyes, jaded eyes ....

And then there is this:

Today, November 19, U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in Montana, striking down the ban on marriage between same-sex couples in the state.Marriage Moves Forward in Montana!

The ruling is set to take effect “immediately,” the judge ruled, meaning that same-sex couples in Montana should be free to marry now.

The Attorney General said shortly after the decision that he will appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Attorney General could also seek a stay from Judge Morris, but as we’ve seen time and again this month – from the 4th Circuit, from the 9th Circuit, and even from the United States Supreme Court – judges have repeatedly rejected requests for stays, because there’s no good reason to delay the freedom to marry.

(Hiott-Millis)

Dan Savage gloats, of course, but here’s the thing:

Slog’s resident trolls would erupt every time I ended a Slog post about marriage equality with “We’re winning.” They LOL’d at my delusions, they sneered at my efforts to buck up supporters of marriage equality, they trolled a little harder. They called me a cockeyedmouthed optimist. That was then. This is now: 35 states, motherfuckers. And, thanks to a “loss” before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit—the only U.S. Court of Appeals decision that hasn’t backed marriage equality—we’re headed back to the Supreme Court.

Reading through the Sixth Circuit decision against marriage equality is a fascinating exercise in depression. We knew that a decision against same-sex marriage would require some degree of juristic contortion and acrobatics, but what the court gave us was the metaphorical equivalent of ceremonial magick.

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Dangerous Cartooning

Detail of 'xkcd' (#1449) by Randall Munroe, 18 November 2014.

Jokes can be dangerous.

No, really, think of it this way: Sure, you just started with a harmless joke about the Slide Mountain Ocean, and a fine joke it is. But how long before they work intercontinental Red Rover into the Kansas high school science curriculum?

What? Six thousand years is a helluvalot less than four and a half billion.

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Detail of xkcd #1449, by Randall Monroe, 18 November 2014.

An Occasion When You Don’t Want the Punch Line

Appetite for destruction.

Stop reading now.

The owner of a nursing home in Washington State was arrested last week after police say a hidden camera caught him sexually assaulting an 83-year-old woman who has dementia.

(Hanson)

Signs, signs. To wit, you know it’s a sign that you need new friends when you see a lede like that and think, “Hey, G needs to read this!”

No, really. Do you even want to know why he needs to read it?

That’s what I thought.

A woman who was sexually assaulted and set on fire was in critical condition Monday, and police turn to the public for help in finding her assailant.

(Associated Press)

Again, you don’t really want to know.

A correctional officer in Ferguson, Missouri, is accused of raping a pregnant woman who was in his custody.

(Murdock)

I promise, you really, really don’t want to know; suffice to say, we might doubt my associate’s answer will ever be known.

But there is a common theme that goes beyond the (ahem!) mere observation that these are all sex crimes.

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Hanson, Hilary. "Nursing Home Owner Caught On Tape Sexually Assaulting Resident: Cops". The Huffington Post. 17 November 2014.

Associated Press. “Kansas Woman In Critical Condition After Being Sexually Assaulted, Set On Fire”. The Huffington Post. 17 November 2014.

Murdock, Sebastian. “Ferguson Correctional Officer Jaris Hayden Raped Pregnant Woman, Lawsuit Alleges”. The Huffington Post. 17 November 2014.

The Shadow Over Kansas

The Capitol of Kansas, in Topeka.

Kansas will face a $279 million budget shortfall by July, far worse than state officials had thought before a new revenue forecast Monday that will force Gov. Sam Brownback and legislators to consider spending cuts.

Associated Press

The news only gets worse from there, you know.

Look, we are an American community.

Quick, someone tell the folks in Kansas. Wait, what’s that? They don’t care?

I realize Brownback has an “R” after his name, but the fact that Kansans actually re-elected this guy, despite the option of a credible and experienced challenger, and despite the disaster of his signature issue, is kind of amazing.

Of course, let’s not forget Art Laffer, the Republican economist who helped shape Brownback’s plan, who’s perhaps best known for his “Laffer Curve” which says tax cuts can pay for themselves. He, of course, feels vindicated, not because the Kansas plan is failing, but because Brownback won re-election regardless of his performance.

(Benen)

In this photo taken Sept. 6, 2014, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks in Hutchinson, Kansas. The writing is on the wall for gay marriage bans in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina after federal appeals courts that oversee those states have made clear that keeping gay and lesbian couples from marrying is unconstitutional. But officials in the three states are refusing to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses without a court order directing them to do so. It could be another month or more before the matter is settled. In a political campaign debate Monday, Brownback vowed to defend his state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal court hearing is scheduled for Friday.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)As tempting as it might seem to rub our hands in curious satisfaction and chuckle deep in our throats like supervillains about to watch mindless, ant-like humanity destroy itself, the simple fact is that we’re Americans, not supervillains. And what Kansans are doing to themselves ought to be their own business, except, like masturbation, it becomes a problem when you visit your kinks on other people who don’t want anything to do with the mess you’re making.

And that’s the thing. Not every Kansan stays in Kansas, and the longer this goes on the more and more noticeable it will be when the young generation shows up in other states, with less education, and suffers in the job market. That is to say, even if we find some justification to say we’re just fine with the Sunflower State willfully squandering the futures of its youngest generation, everybody else is going to have to take up the slack.

We can’t just build a border fence and pen them in. That’s just not what Americans do.

But at the same time, these are the United States of America, after all. If general decency is insufficient, then think of the inconvenience this sort of thing might cause you in a future not so distant.

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Associated Press. “Kansas faces $279 million budget shortfall by summer”. KSN. 10 November 2014.

Benen, Steve. “Brownback’s economic failures start to look even worse”. msnbc. 11 November 2014.

Another Detail

USCapReflection

A certain point works its way to the fore; but does it really matter?

The conservative narrative of a nationwide Republican wave is incubating in these states, where Democrats are underperforming Obama. It must therefore be true that allegiance to Obama is a decisive factor everywhere.

But that narrative cannot account for the GOP’s remarkable underperformance in Georgia, Kansas, and Kentucky. Mitt Romney won those states by eight points, 22 points, and 23 points respectively. Right now, also respectively, Republican David Perdue is leading Democrat Michelle Nunn by two to six points; GOP incumbent Pat Roberts is running behind Independent Greg Orman by about a point; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is leading Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes by three to five points. Grimes is outperforming McConnell’s 2008 challenger Bruce Lunsford, who lost by six points in a Democratic wave year. Kraushaar attributes this better-than-the-fundamentals resilience to “her attempts to appease both the party base and more-conservative voters in her state,” which have been “painfully awkward.”

If I had to, I’d put money on Democrats losing all three. But you have to be really invested in a certain conception of politics to explain races that close in states that red as evidence of a national anti-Obama wave. Or to attribute their losses to insufficient Obama bashing.

(Beutler)

That is to say it would seem this should be obvious to any reasonably attentive political observer, but the preponderance of evidence suggests otherwise. It is, however, somewhat gratifying to know that we aren’t the only ones who noticed.

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Beutler, Brian. “It Won’t Be Obama’s Fault When the Democrats Lose the Senate”. The New Republic. 30 October 2014.