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11/3/2015

THE GOP AND THE RISE OF ANTI-KNOWLEDGE BY MIKE LOFGREN

Filed under: political musings, religion — Peg Britton @ 1:14 pm

The GOP and the Rise of Anti-Knowledge
October 29, 2015
by Mike Lofgren

This post was first published at Consortium News.

In the realm of physics, the opposite of matter is not nothingness, but antimatter. In the realm of practical epistemology, the opposite of knowledge is not ignorance but anti-knowledge. This seldom recognized fact is one of the prime forces behind the decay of political and civic culture in America.

Some common-sense philosophers have observed this point over the years. “Genuine ignorance is . . . profitable because it is likely to be accompanied by humility, curiosity, and open mindedness; whereas ability to repeat catch-phrases, cant terms, familiar propositions, gives the conceit of learning and coats the mind with varnish waterproof to new ideas,” observed psychologist John Dewey.

Or, as humorist Josh Billings put it, “The trouble with people is not that they don’t know, but that they know so much that ain’t so.”

Ben Carson, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination who opposed a Muslim being elected president.

[Ben Carson] is anti-knowledge incarnated, a walking compendium of every imbecility ever uttered during the last three decades.

Ben Carson, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination who doesn’t believe in evolution and says it is “scientifically politically correct” and a theory “encouraged by the adversary [Satan].”

[Ben Carson] is anti-knowledge incarnated, a walking compendium of every imbecility ever uttered during the last three decades.Fifty years ago, if a person did not know who the prime minister of Great Britain was, what the conflict in Vietnam was about, or the barest rudiments of how a nuclear reaction worked, he would shrug his shoulders and move on. And if he didn’t bother to know those things, he was in all likelihood politically apathetic and confined his passionate arguing to topics like sports or the attributes of the opposite sex.

There were exceptions, like the Birchers’ theory that fluoridation was a monstrous communist conspiracy, but they were mostly confined to the fringes. Certainly, political candidates with national aspirations steered clear of such balderdash.

At present, however, a person can be blissfully ignorant of how to locate Kenya on a map, but know to a metaphysical certitude that Barack Obama was born there, because he learned it from Fox News. Likewise, he can be unable to differentiate a species from a phylum but be confident from viewing the 700 Club that evolution is “politically correct” hooey and that the earth is 6,000 years old.

And he may never have read the Constitution and have no clue about the Commerce Clause, but believe with an angry righteousness that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

This brings us inevitably to celebrity presidential candidate Ben Carson. The man is anti-knowledge incarnated, a walking compendium of every imbecility ever uttered during the last three decades. Obamacare is worse than chattel slavery. Women who have abortions are like slave owners. If Jews had firearms they could have stopped the Holocaust (author’s note: they obtained at least some weapons during the Warsaw Ghetto rising, and no, it didn’t). Victims of a mass shooting in Oregon enabled their own deaths by their behavior. And so on, ad nauseam.

It is highly revealing that, according to a Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll of likely Republican caucus attendees, the stolid Iowa burghers liked Carson all the more for such moronic utterances. And sure enough, the New York Times tells us that Carson has pulled ahead of Donald Trump in a national poll of Republican voters. Apparently, Trump was just not crazy enough for their tastes.

Why the Ignorance?

Anti-knowledge is a subset of anti-intellectualism, and as Richard Hofstadter has pointed out, anti-intellectualism has been a recurrent feature in American life, generally rising and receding in synchronism with fundamentalist revivalism.

Journalist Michael Tomasky has attempted to answer the question as to what Ben Carson’s popularity tells us about the American people after making a detour into asking a question about the man himself: why is an accomplished neurosurgeon such a nincompoop in another field? “Because usually, if a man (or woman) is a good and knowledgeable and sure-footed doctor, or lawyer or department chair or any other position that could have been attained only through repeated displays of excellence and probity, then that person will also be a pretty solid human being across the board.”

Well, not necessarily. English unfortunately doesn’t have a precise word for the German “Fachidiot,” a narrowly specialized person accomplished in his own field but a blithering idiot outside it. In any case, a surgeon is basically a skilled auto mechanic who is not bothered by the sight of blood and palpitating organs (and an owner of a high-dollar ride like a Porsche knows that a specialized mechanic commands labor rates roughly comparable to a doctor).

We need the surgeon’s skills on pain of agonizing death, and reward him commensurately, but that does not make him a Voltaire. Still, it makes one wonder: if Carson the surgeon believes evolution is a hoax, where does he think the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that plague hospitals come from?

Tomasky expresses astonishment that Carson’s jaw-dropping comments make him more popular among Republican voters, but he concludes without fully answering the question he posed. It is an important question: what has happened to the American people, or at least a significant portion of them?

Anti-knowledge is a subset of anti-intellectualism, and as Richard Hofstadter has pointed out, anti-intellectualism has been a recurrent feature in American life, generally rising and receding in synchronism with fundamentalist revivalism.

The current wave, which now threatens to swamp our political culture, began in a similar fashion with the rise to prominence in the 1970s of fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. But to a far greater degree than previous outbreaks, fundamentalism has merged its personnel, its policies, its tactics and its fate with a major American political party, the Republicans.

Thanks to these overlapping and mutually reinforcing segments of the right-wing media-entertainment-“educational” complex, it is now possible for the true believer to sail on an ocean of political, historical, and scientific disinformation without ever sighting the dry land of empirical fact.Buttressing this merger is a vast support structure of media, foundations, pressure groups and even a thriving cottage industry of fake historians and phony scientists. From Fox News to the Discovery Institute (which exists solely to “disprove” evolution), and from the Heritage Foundation (which propagandizes that tax cuts increase revenue despite massive empirical evidence to the contrary) to bogus “historians” like David Barton (who confected a fraudulent biography of a piously devout Thomas Jefferson that had to be withdrawn by the publisher), the anti-knowledge crowd has created an immense ecosystem of political disinformation.

Thanks to publishing houses like Regnery and the conservative boutique imprints of more respectable houses like Simon & Schuster (a division of CBS), America has been flooded with cut-and-paste rants by Michelle Malkin and Mark Levin, Parson Weems-style ghosted biographies allegedly by Bill O’Reilly, and the inimitable stream of consciousness hallucinating of Glenn Beck.

Whether retail customers actually buy all these screeds, or whether foundations and rich conservative donors buy them in bulk and give them out as door prizes at right-wing clambakes, anti-knowledge infects the political bloodstream in the United States.

Thanks to these overlapping and mutually reinforcing segments of the right-wing media-entertainment-“educational” complex, it is now possible for the true believer to sail on an ocean of political, historical, and scientific disinformation without ever sighting the dry land of empirical fact. This effect is fortified by the substantial overlap between conservative Republicans and fundamentalist Christians.

The latter group begins with the core belief that truth is revealed in a subjective process involving the will to believe (“faith”) rather than discovered by objectively corroberable means. Likewise, there is a baseline opposition to the prevailing secular culture, and adherents are frequently warned by church authority figures against succumbing to the snares and temptations of “the world.” Consequently, they retreat into the echo chamber of their own counterculture: if they didn’t hear it on Fox News or from a televangelist, it never happened.

For these culture warriors, belief in demonstrably false propositions is no longer a stigma of ignorance, but a defiantly worn badge of political resistance.

We saw this mindset on display during the Republican debate in Boulder, Colorado, on Wednesday night. Even though it was moderated by Wall Street-friendly CNBC, which exists solely to talk up the stock market, the candidates were uniformly upset that the moderators would presume to ask difficult questions of people aspiring to be president. They were clearly outside their comfort zone of the Fox News studio.

The candidates drew cheers from the hard-core believers in the audience, however, by attacking the media, as if moderators Lawrence Kudlow and Rick Santelli, both notorious shills for Wall Street, were I.F. Stone and Noam Chomsky. Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus nearly had an aneurism over the candidates’ alleged harsh treatment.

It is when these forces of anti-knowledge seize the power of government that the real damage gets done.It is when these forces of anti-knowledge seize the power of government that the real damage gets done. Under Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Virginia government harassed with subpoenas a University of Virginia professor whose academic views contradicted Cuccinelli’s political agenda.

Numerous states like Louisiana now mandate that public schools teach the wholly imaginary “controversy” about evolution. A school textbook in Texas, whose state school board has long been infested with reactionary kooks, referred to chattel slaves as “workers” (the implication was obvious: neo-Confederate elements in the South have been trying to minimize slavery for a century and a half, to the point of insinuating it had nothing to do with the Civil War).

This brings us back to Ben Carson. He now suggests that, rather than abolishing the Department of Education, a perennial Republican goal, the department should be used to investigate professors who say something he doesn’t agree with. The mechanism to bring these heretics to the government’s attention should be denunciations from students, a technique once in vogue in the old Soviet Union.

It is not surprising that Carson, himself a Seventh Day Adventist, should receive his core support from Republicans who identify as fundamentalists. Among the rest of the GOP pack, it is noteworthy that it is precisely those seeking the fundamentalist vote, like Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, who are also notorious for making inflammatory and unhinged comments that sound like little more than deliberate trolling to those who haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid (Donald Trump is sui generis).

In all probability, Carson will flame out like Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and all the other former panjandrums of a theological movement conservatism that revels in anti-knowledge. But he will have left his mark, as they did, on a Republican Party that inexorably moves further to the right, and the eventual nominee will have to tailor his campaign to a base that gets ever more intransigent as each new messiah of the month promises to lead them into a New Jerusalem unmoored to a stubborn and profane thing called facts.

8/15/2015

A REMINDER TO THOSE WHO LIKE TO ISOLATE A QUOTE FROM THE BIBLE TO MAKE A POINT…FROM JAMES M. KAUFFMAN…

Filed under: prairie musings, print news, religion — Peg Britton @ 2:46 pm

It’s the middle of the night so I’ll shamelessly poach something I found at Naked Capitalism, it’s amusing.

Time for a change of pace. This came via e-mail from Marshall Auerback:

In her radio show, Dr. Laura Schlesinger (a popular conservative radio talk show host in the USA) said that homosexuality is an abomination according to the Bible Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, and was attributed to a James M. Kauffman, Ed. D.

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… end of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual unseemliness – Lev. 15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev. 1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev. 24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman, Ed. D.
Professor Emeritus Dept. of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
University of Virginia

4/7/2015

LOSING MY RELIGION FOR EQUALITY….

Filed under: prairie musings, political musings, print news, religion — Peg Britton @ 6:32 am

Losing my religion for equality

The Age
July 15, 2009

By Jimmy Carter

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

I HAVE been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices - as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphacize the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as preeminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

11/12/2014

BRITONS BELIEVE RELIGION DOES MORE HARM THAN GOOD…

Filed under: prairie musings, print news, religion — Peg Britton @ 12:51 pm

Huff post

By Jessica Elgot

More than half of Britons believe that religion does more harm than good, with less than a quarter believing faith is a force for good, the Huffington Post UK can reveal today.

Even 20% of British people who described themselves as being ‘very religious’ said religion was harmful to society, and a quarter of said atheists were more likely to be moral individuals than religious people.
The exclusive poll for the HuffPost UK reveals that just 8% of Britons describe themselves as very religious, with more than 60% saying they were not religious at all.

The eye-opening survey, that will reopen debate over the role and worth of religion to British society, found of the ‘non-religious’ people polled, more than 60% said they thought religion caused more problems than it solved.

The poll shows that more people believe being an atheist is more likely to make you a good person than being religious. In fact, one in eight Britons said atheists tend to be more moral, compared to just 6% who say atheists are less moral, challenging widely held beliefs that religion is one of the last remaining bastions of British morality.
________________________________________

5/18/2014

ROGUE STATE: HOW FAR-RIGHT FANATICS HIJACKED KANSAS

Filed under: prairie musings, political musings, Sam Brownback, Kansas, religion, GOP — Peg Britton @ 1:21 pm

ROLLING STONE POLITICS

Rogue State: How Far-Right Fanatics Hijacked Kansas
Gun nuts, anti-abortion zealots and free-market cultists are leading the state to the brink of disaster

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Mark Binelli
June 12, 2013 11:50 AM ET

For the past 12 years, the Kansas State Capitol has been under constant renovation. Most recently, its grand dome, which towers majestically over sleepy downtown Topeka, sprung leaks, forcing repair crews to cage the entire building with a blocky, ramshackle grid of scaffolding. From a distance, it looks like painful orthodontia, or perhaps a bad political metaphor.

Inside, though, one can’t help but be swept up by the bustling, civics-in-action buzz of the place. Groups of children on field trips are being led past murals of hearty Kansans surviving a blizzard, grazing cattle, leading kids into a one-room schoolhouse. Politicians and their staffers sit on benches nearby, conducting hushed confabs or chatting amiably with Capitol bureau reporters and red-badged lobbyists. None of this reeks of Machiavellian House of Cards amorality, perhaps because we’re surrounded by so many paintings of pioneers doing various things with wheat. In the gift shop, you can buy snowglobes containing tornados and Wizard of Oz characters.

And look, there’s the governor, Sam Brownback! The 56-year-old, a regular sight on Capitol tours, today happens to be wandering the corridor near his second-floor office. He’s holding a coffee mug and sporting one of his signature sweater vests – such pleasingly Capra-esque touches that one wonders if a wardrobe consultant was involved – and when his eyes alight upon an unfamiliar face, he beams and gives the visitor a pleasant nod.

Just a few years ago, Brownback seemed washed up. A devout Catholic who attends mass several times a week, he’d built a following among the Christian right as one of the most socially conservative U.S. senators of the Bush era, but his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 proved an embarrassing folly. Unable to raise money or make a dent in the polls after religious conservatives flocked to Mike Huckabee, Brownback wound up limping from the race before the first votes were even cast in the Iowa caucus.

But apparently, the notion of wielding executive branch power had become appealing. Two years later, he handily won the governorship, part of the class of Republicans elected in 2010 on a Tea Party-driven wave of anti-Obama sentiment.

Once in office, Brownback surprised critics and supporters alike with the fervor of his pursuit of power, pushing what reporter John Gramlich of Stateline described as perhaps “the boldest agenda of any governor in the nation”: gutting spending on social services and education, privatizing the state’s Medicaid system, undermining the teacher’s union, becoming the only state to entirely abolish funding for the arts, boasting that he would sign any anti-abortion bill that crossed his desk, and – most significantly – pushing through the largest package of tax cuts in Kansas history. His avowed goal is to eliminate the state income tax altogether, a move that many predict will torpedo the budget and engender even more draconian cuts in spending. “Other Republican-led states have experimented with many of the same changes,” Gramlich pointed out – the difference in Kansas being that Brownback “wants to make all of those changes simultaneously.”

Since Mitt Romney’s resounding defeat last November, much has been made of the supposed battle for the soul of the Republican party taking place at the national level, where pragmatic establishment types are attempting to win over minorities, women and young people by tamping down the most extreme elements of the Tea Party fringe and moderating stances on issues like gay marriage and immigration. The problem is, in places like Kansas (and Louisiana, and South Carolina, and North Dakota), that fringe has become the political mainstream. In fact, while strategists like Karl Rove urge moderation for the GOP, in Kansas, they’ve been taking the opposite tack. Last fall, Brownback and his allies – including the Koch brothers, the right-wing libertarian billionaires whose company Koch Industries is based in Wichita – staged a primary putsch, lavishing funds on hard-right candidates and effectively purging the state Senate of all but a handful of its remaining moderate Republicans. “The Senate was really the bulwark of moderation last term,” says Tom Holland, a Senate Democrat (there are only eight of them left) who ran against Brownback for governor. “With the moderate Republican leadership gone, that just got blown away.”

It’s been nearly 10 years since Thomas Frank wrote about the conservative takeover of his home state in What’s the Matter With Kansas? Back then, Kansas still had a Democratic governor in Kathleen Sebelius. But after last fall’s civil war, Kansas has emerged a more intense shade of red than even Frank imagined. The state legislature is the most conservative in the United States, and now there is absolutely nothing stopping the Brownback revolution – one which happens to be entirely at odds with any notion of the GOP adapting to the broader social and demographic changes in the country. If anything, these purists argue, Republicans lost in 2012 because the party wasn’t conservative enough.

No one can say that about Sam Brownback, who is rumored to be mulling his own presidential run in 2016 – and using Kansas as a sort of laboratory, in which ideas cooked up by Koch-funded libertarian think tanks can be released like viruses on live subjects. At a national level, the GOP remains stuck in a reactive position, pursuing executive branch “scandals” and blocking Obama’s policies with no real power to effect changes of their own, and so states like Kansas have become very important to the future of the party’s far-right wing. Consider it a test, a case study – proof, finally, that an unfettered hybrid of Randian free-market dogma and theocratic intolerance can create, in the bitter words of outgoing Senate President Steve Morris, one of the ousted moderates, an “ultraconservative utopia.” Of course, Morris ruefully added, “It depends on your definition of utopia.”

Back in April, Brownback was chosen to deliver the Republican response to the President’s weekly radio address. He invited listeners everywhere to “join us as we remake our country, not into a place that looks more and more like Europe. We don’t need to do that. We just need to become America again. And that is the rebirth we are doing.” In other words, the Koch brothers may have lost the big battle last fall, but in states like Kansas, they’re winning.

The legislative session in Kansas begins in January and typically only lasts for about 90 days, a holdover from a time when most of the citizen-legislators were farmers who could only make time for governing in the fallow winter months. Two floors up from Brownback’s office, spectators can watch the House and Senate proceedings from a gallery of stiff-backed pews. The chamber is the sort of grand, filigreed hall (fussy cornicework, pink marble columns, chandeliers fit for a castle) that makes you feel like you’re inside a giant wedding cake. The lawmakers work at curved desks that stretch back from the speaker’s platform like rows of teeth.

One afternoon in March, the Senate debated a bill that would prevent public employees from donating directly to union PACs from their paychecks. The wonkiness of the details helps disguise the fact that the bill directly targets public school teachers, part of a larger package of union-busting laws pushed by Brownback. (He’s also reclassified thousands of civil service jobs to eliminate union protection and set up public school “innovation zones” that would basically allow districts to ignore state laws surrounding curriculum, salaries and collective bargaining rights.) In order to finance his tax cuts, Brownback has cut education spending by the largest amount in state history. But in January, a state court ruled the cuts unconstitutional and ordered the government to restore $400 million of school spending. “It seems completely illogical that the state can argue that a reduction in education funding was necessitated by the downturn in the economy and the state’s diminishing resources and at the same time cut taxes further,” the court stated in its ruling. Brownback has responded on dual fronts: by appealing the ruling to the state Supreme Court and by pushing through a bill that would “reform” the way in which state judges were appointed – allowing Brownback, rather than a panel, to appoint judges directly, giving the governor direct power over the one branch of Kansas government that had been out of his control.

As viewed from the Senate balcony, the distinguished body is a sea of older, predominantly white men in navy blazers, their shiny bald spots forming an archipelago of pink desert islands. Ty Masterson, a freshman senator from the Flint Hills, presides over today’s debate. Unlike many of his colleagues, Masterson has a sharp suit and a full head of hair, and he speaks in an odd, husky purr, making even bland statements like “Senator from Wyandotte has the floor” sound more like he’s getting ready to whisper, “Turn over on your stomach now.” A realtor with six children and an A+ rating from the NRA, Masterson was made budget committee chair upon his election – despite the fact that he’d filed for bankruptcy in 2010 after his home-building business went under, ultimately only paying about $3,000 of the $887,000 owed his creditors. “Who better to lead out of the forest than somebody who has seen a lot of the pitfalls?” he told the Wichita Eagle at the time. Today, while Democrat Anthony Hensley, a public school special education teacher for over 30 years, thunders about how the union bill is an effort to silence the loyal opposition, Masterson fiddles with his iPhone. It turns out he’s checking college basketball scores, which he periodically announces to the chamber.

In the end, the bill passes, 24-16. Meanwhile, over in the House, they’re debating guns. A bill allowing public schools and universities to arm teachers, principals and other faculty members has easily passed, along with another bill, likely unconstitutional, maintaining that federal gun laws do not apply to guns manufactured and sold within Kansas’ borders (citing a tenuous argument that the federal power to regulate firearms only applies to interstate commerce.)

Freshman Republican Jim Howell, a trim 46-year-old Air Force veteran who represents suburban Wichita, has now introduced a bill that would force nearly all public buildings in the state to allow people to carry concealed weapons inside – unless those buildings hired armed security guards and install metal detectors, which, of course, would be prohibitively expensive for most cash-strapped municipalities. Gun-free “safe zones,” Howell insists, should actually be rechristened “dangerous zones.”

Howell is soon joined by an ally, freshman Republican Allan Rothlisberg of Grandview Plaza, a retired 30-year Army veteran who is the approximate shape and shade of a Red Bartlett Pear. Rothlisberg goes even further than Howell, arguing that public buildings which banned guns should be held liable for any shootings. When one incredulous Democrat asks if Rothlisberg is familiar with a recent “slaughter of 10-year-olds in Connecticut,” Rothlisberg drawls, “I’ve been familiar with slaughters of people in gun-free zones for years.” Later, he adds that the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech had been “absolutely [the school’s] fault.”

Up next: a shockingly reasonable amendment from retired judge John Barker, another freshman Republican, who stands up to argue that it might be a good idea to ban concealed weapons from court proceedings – say, emotional child custody cases, in which allowing aggrieved parties to carry weapons could be a recipe for disaster. Taking care to stress his bona fides as a “lover of the second amendment” and an 18-year hunter’s safety instructor, Barker goes on, “I’ve been a judge for 25 years and am proud to say I never carried a gun on the bench. Didn’t think I wanted to do that.”

During the voice vote on Barker’s amendment – which, of course, goes down to defeat – the no’s sound like boos at the Apollo. Finally, Lawrence Democrat John Wilson stands up to offer his own cheeky amendment. If gun-free zones are so dangerous, he argues sarcastically, why not get rid of the metal detectors and guards at the entrances to this very building, which wind up costing Kansas taxpayers upwards of $200,000 annually, and just allow everyone to carry concealed weapons in the state capitol instead?

Howell says that sounds like a great idea to him. The amendment passes overwhelmingly, as does the bill itself.

Kansas has a long tradition of producing pragmatic, centrist Republicans, from President Dwight Eisenhower to senators like Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum. In What’s the Matter With Kansas?, Thomas Frank notes that traditionally, the Kansas legislature was comprised of moderates, aside from “a small band of right-wing cranks who amused the citizenry by pulling an occasional filibuster on tax legislation.” He argues that the shift in focus came in 1991, during an “uprising that would propel those reptilian Republicans from a tiny splinter group into the state’s dominant political faction… wreck[ing] what remained of the state’s progressive legacy.”

That uprising centered around abortion. Operation Rescue, the fanatical anti-abortion group founded in 1986 by former used car salesman Randall Terry, first decided to target Wichita during its so-called “Summer of Mercy” in 1991 – focusing in particular on Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country who provided late-term abortions. In 2002, Operation Rescue moved its national headquarters to Wichita in order to stalk Tiller even more closely; the doctor was eventually murdered by an anti-abortion zealot in 2009, gunned down while working as an usher at his church.

Back in the summer of ‘91, thousands of anti-abortion activists descended upon the city, committing acts of civil disobedience, harassing women attempting to enter clinics and picketing residences of doctors. Protestors outside of Tiller’s clinic waved signs that read “Babies Killed Here” and “Tiller’s Slaughter House.” Operation Rescue’s tactical director bragged to The New York Times that “We know when Tiller’s using the bathroom.” Nearly 3,000 people were arrested; at one point, a quarter of the city’s police force was dedicated to handling the protests, and all of the city’s abortion clinics were closed for a week, until a federal court ordered them reopened.

The protest culminated with a massive rally at Wichita State University’s football stadium headlined by Pat Robertson and drawing a spillover crowd of 25,000. “This was where the Kansas conservative movement got an idea of its own strength . . . ” Frank wrote, “where it achieved critical mass.”

Thus mobilized, conservative Republicans swept into the state legislature in 1992 and never looked back. Four years later, moderate Republican governor Bill Graves appointed his own lieutenant governor, Sheila Frahm, to fill Bob Dole’s vacant Senate seat – but she was trounced in the primaries by the far more conservative Brownback, with the help of an eleventh-hour infusion of $400,000 from the Koch brothers.

When Brownback was elected governor in 2010, there was only one group of politicians standing in his way. Surprisingly, they were not Democrats – whose numbers in the Kansas legislature had dwindled so precipitously as to render them effectively impotent – but a small band of moderate Republicans, who balked at the most extreme elements of Brownback’s agenda and still had enough power in the Kansas Senate to gum up the works. And so when the 2012 Republican primary rolled around, Brownback and his supporters recruited an army of right-wing challengers and targeted the moderates with unprecedented alacrity. Not to mention cash: During the primary, outside spending from groups like Americans for Prosperity (a lobbying group founded by the Koch brothers), the Kansas Chamber of Commerce (run by former Koch employees), the Club for Growth and Kansans for Life totalled, according to varying estimates, somewhere between $3 million and $8 million.

One of the targeted moderates, Jean Schodorf, had served three terms as a state Senator. Her grandmother came to Kansas in a covered wagon as a homesteader in 1883; Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up on the land that would become the Schodorf family farm, and Schodorf and her brother still run a Little House On the Prairie museum. Her family has been Republican “since Lincoln created the party,” she says. But she wound up clashing with Brownback over abortion rights and his education policy; though she opposed a number of elements of Obamacare, she also voted against the notion of holding a statewide ballot referendum to repeal the law, considering the move a waste of taxpayer money since the health care law had already been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A 62-year-old Ph.D. who works as a speech pathologist, Schodorf had never before faced a primary challenge – but in 2012, in the second most expensive state Senate race in Kansas history, she was defeated by 27-year-old Michael O’Donnell, who had served for a single year on the Wichita City Council, and who still lived with his parents. O’Donnell’s father, a Wichita pastor, was an anti-abortion protestor who was arrested during the Summer of Mercy while protesting outside of George Tiller’s abortion clinic.  “Senator Schodorf’s a great lady,” O’Donnell told me. “She’s just in the wrong party.”

Dick Kelsey, another of the senators on Brownback’s enemies list, could not be questioned for his ideological purity. An evangelical preacher and a stalwart member of the conservative wing of the GOP, Kelsey had first entered politics in Indiana, where he helped recruit socially conservative candidates for Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the 1980s. He eventually moved to Kansas to open a Christian treatment camp for drug- and alcohol-addicted youth. When local politicos urged him to run for a newly open state legislative seat, he initially demurred. “But God was good,” he says, “and I ran and won.”

Kelsey served two terms in the House before shifting to the Senate, and in both chambers, he maintained a reliably conservative voting record on both fiscal and social issues. Then Brownback came into office. Kelsey figures he probably voted with Brownback 98 percent of the time, but he publicly opposed the governor’s budget after he realized it would lower his own tax burden to zero. “The bill was designed, frankly, to take care of Koch Industries,” Kelsey says. “I could see that it took money from very poor people and benefitted me, personally, too significantly. And I’m not poor.”

Groups like Americans for Prosperity outspent Kelsey by $200,000, a huge number in Kansas state politics. (Kelsey spent about $35,000 on his entire campaign.) Thirteen days before the primary, one poll showed Kelsey with a 20-point lead. “But 17 negative mailers later . . .” he says, chuckling ruefully.

Kelsey was also defeated. Of the 22 moderate Senators targeted, only five survived. It was a wholesale rout, a bloodbath. After the primary, Brownback told reporters that voters made a “clear statement . . . I think what you had is, the market functioned on Tuesday.”

“I think Brownback is fascinated by how easy it is to change things as governor, as opposed to being one of 100 U.S. senators,” a Topeka insider with ties to both parties tells me. “The current Republican legislature watched the moderates get executed by the Brownback machine. They know, and are no doubt regularly reminded of, how Brownback destroyed the career of a solid conservative like Dick Kelsey. And they know he’s capable of killing any one of them.”

The anonymous, single-story building that once housed George Tiller’s abortion clinic sits on an undistinguished stretch of highway service drive in Wichita, just down the block from a used car lot. To get inside, patients entered a gated driveway covered with signs reading “Premises Monitored Electronic Surveillance” and “No Trespassing.” The clinic has been closed since Tiller’s murder in 2009. On the lobby door, a sticker of a gun with a slash through it remains, once posted to let visitors know they weren’t allowed to carry concealed weapons inside.

This spring, Julie Burkhart, a native Kansan who worked alongside Tiller as a spokesperson and legislative activist, decided to reopen his clinic. Since the murder, there have been no abortion providers in Wichita, which has a metropolitan area with a population of 650,000; in fact, the only three abortion providers left in the entire state of Kansas were in Kansas City, 200 miles away.

One afternoon, I met Burkhart at the clinic, still several weeks from opening. An extension cord ran out of the SIGN IN window into a cluttered lobby, where a pile of forceps and a vacuum suction machine sat out from an earlier training. Burkhart is 46, with flowing, abundant red hair and the sort of taste in rings and beaded necklaces that makes her look like a bit of a hippie, which belies a steely tough-mindedness. Tiller’s harassment, she tells me, had been steady since the Summer of Mercy. There had been an assassination attempt in 1993, and she recalls sitting in his office and noticing a bulletproof vest.

“We really didn’t talk about the personal danger a lot, because I felt like it was maybe challenging for him to dwell on it,” she says. “You know, he didn’t set out to do this work. But I think the more he was involved in caring for women, the more he became wedded to the idea, and the fact, that women need safe, legal health care. And then it became a matter of principle.”

Burkhart introduces me to one of the doctors she has hired, a woman who wishes to remain anonymous. She’s been working as an OB/GYN in a small town for the past 10 years, delivering an average of 20 babies a month, and had never performed an elective abortion before. But the rhetoric coming from the right during the last election – “the War on Women, those nasty comments people were making about rape,” she says – made her think more seriously about ways in which she could contribute to progressive causes, beyond simply knocking on doors and asking for money. When I ask if any of her friends and family tried to talk her out of taking the new job, she says, “All of them. Most of whom have had abortions. They all want to see this clinic reopen. They just want someone else to do it. My mother had an illegal abortion before Roe v. Wade. Kitchen-table thing. Both of my sisters, too. All were married at the time, practicing contraception. People take precautions, but sometimes precautions fail. The pill is 98 percent effective when used perfectly – if you’re a robot. But not everyone is perfect.”

The “antis,” as Burkhart calls the local anti-abortion crusaders have already begun casing the building, typically in pairs. They’ve also shown up at Burkhart’s home twice, forcing her to take out a restraining order on one local preacher. She shows me a flyer that’s been circulating with her photograph on it. ADOPT AN ABORTION-HOMICIDE PROMOTER, it reads, continuing:

As an employee of the late abortionist Tiller, Julie Burkhart is responsible for the mass murder of thousands of innocent children. Now she wants to do it again! Adoption is the loving option, not only for babies, but also for adults who have lost their way. Join us in adopting abortion promoter Julie Burkhart who is conspiring to take the lives of precious children in Wichita again.

Chillingly, the flyer goes on to exhort readers to “do a public outreach” at Burkhart’s home – listing her street address – and notes that, “Lastly, please remind her that, ‘God hates the hands that shed innocent blood.’”

Pockets of progressive resistance remain in Kansas, in bigger cities like Wichita and college towns like Lawrence. But despite the inspiring bravery of women like Burkhart, opposing forces back in Topeka seem to have insurmountably marshalled against them. Brownback already signed a bill in 2011 that banned abortions after 21 weeks (claiming fetuses could feel pain at that point). New bills required abortion providers to show patients detailed images of fetal development and explain the supposed “link” (deemed bogus by the National Cancer Institute) between abortion and breast cancer; got rid of an exemption allowing late-term abortions if the woman’s mental health was at risk; and even officially declared that life began at conception. The latter bill was supported by freshman Republican Shanti Gandhi, a retired Topeka physician – and yes, he’s the great-grandson of that Gandhi – who called the point “indisputable.”

The Brownback revolution has not proceeded without hitches. Maintaining control of an insurrectionary movement is notoriously tricky, as is separating out the true-believing foot soldiers from the cranks and nutjobs. The antics of improperly vetted Tea Party candidates have redounded negatively on the GOP on a national level – creating an awkward tension, since the establishment also very much needs, and fears, the useful idiots making the loudest noises from the most unsavory fringes – and the same dynamic is at play in Kansas, where the Brownbackers might be wishing they’d been more careful with their previous wishes.

In the current legislative session, the House and Senate voted to rescind a 25-year-old ban on quarantining people with AIDS, and Rep. Steve Brunk of Wichita introduced a bill that would require cities that put fluoride in their water to inform customers that fluoridation lowers the I.Q. of children. The latter claim, of course, is patently false, but somehow fluoride has become a source of paranoia out in the chemtrail/Alex Jones corner of the wackosphere. A group with anti-abortion ties called Wichitans Opposed to Fluoridation actually managed to pass a ballot initiative last fall that would remove fluoride from Wichita’s drinking water. (”I don’t trust the water, period,” one voter told the Wichita Eagle. Said another, “People should be more responsible and brush their teeth.”) Last year, the state legislature passed a bill preventing United Nations’ Agenda 21 from being implemented in the state. Agenda 21 is a benign, two-decades-old UN resolution that called for worldwide cooperation in fighting economic disparity and protecting the environment, but has since become a black helicopter/One World Government bugaboo for Republicans like Rep. Bill Otto of LeRoy, who argued during the floor debate that since JFK’s assassination had clearly been committed by more than one shooter, well then, why couldn’t the Agenda 21 conspiracies also be true?

Brownback has found it difficult to keep hardcore Republicans in line on issues like wind energy, which has become a $7 billion industry in Kansas – a flat and blustery state well-suited to wind farms – and which Brownback supports. Rep. Dennis Hedke of Wichita, a geophysicist who works for the oil and gas industry (and a climate change denier), pushed a bill that would roll back a law requiring the state to meet certain renewable energy standards. Hedke also wants to ban any public money from being spent on sustainable development.

Last year, Brownback was forced to personally dress down Rep. Virgil Peck, an insurance salesman from southeast Kansas who publicly “joked” about how sharpshooters in helicopters had been so effective in killing feral swine, they should be used to hunt illegal immigrants. A Kansas political insider who wishes to remain anonymous was telling me this story when I interrupted and said, “I can’t believe he’d say that within earshot of a reporter.” My source went silent, then continued, “He said it in a House appropriations committee meeting.”

After the story made national headlines, Peck grudgingly apologized under pressure from Brownback. Still, it hasn’t exactly quelled his willingness to embrace controversial positions. Earlier this session, Peck was the only House member to oppose an anti-bullying bill, which passed 119-1. He later told a reporter from the Topeka Capital-Journal that “bullying legislation has always been a top priority of the homosexual group. I’ve never been a fan.”

When I visited Peck in his office, he greeted me effusively, with an accent that sounds less Midwestern than Deep South. He represents the rural Ozarks region in the far southeastern corner of the state, where he grew up. Around the capitol, he’s known for his loud sartorial choices. Today, he’s sporting a pretty amazing looking shirt-jacket combination, the former electric blue, the latter sherbert green, along with a red, white and blue lapel pin shaped like a cross. Peck tells me he was just writing an email, though there’s no computer on his desk, only a legal pad on which he’s been writing longhand. Sunlight pours through the big window behind him. For some reason, there’s also an overhead light on, so he almost disappears in the hazy brightness as I face him, his thick brown beard floating like the grin of a Cheshire Cat.

“The legislature has certainly moved right,” Peck says. “I’ve always believed Kansas voters were right of center – basically where I am – but in the past, a lot of conservative voters didn’t get out to vote, I think partly because of the choice of candidates.” Nationally, he thinks the problem in 2012 was simple: “We weren’t conservative enough. The establishment is what cost us that election, and Karl Rove needs to go away. As far as the soul searching, it’s like, good grief, guys, let someone else take over. We’ll find our way.”

Of course, for strategists like Rove, loose-talking Republicans like Peck – who casually refers to the president as “Barack Hussein Obama” during our conversation – are precisely the reason swing voters are being spooked by the GOP. Peck remains unmoved. “What bothers me is there are places in America that have gone so far to the left that they’d look at us as nutcases,” he says pleasantly. “I consider us in Kansas mainstream America – normal, red-blooded Americans who believe in the Constitution of the United States. Yes, we’re conservative, but we’re not a bunch of gun-toting cowboys.” A few moments later, he slides his chair back, and the wheel makes a loud cracking sound when it hits the plastic floor coaster. “That wasn’t gunshots, by the way!” he cackles.

Brownback himself made his name as “God’s Senator,” to quote the headline of a 2006 Rolling Stone profile – becoming infamous for doing things like holding up a drawing of an embryo during a Senate debate on stem-cell research and asking, “Are you going to kill me?” Last December, he made an official proclamation declaring a “Day of Restoration” on which Kansans should “collectively repent of distancing ourselves from God,” and staged a massive prayer rally in a public park near the governor’s mansion, telling the crowd, “I stand before you today, a leader of Kansas, and a sinful man, remorseful . . . Forgive me God, and forgive us.”

This can obfuscate the fact that Brownback has been equally zealous when it comes to the sort of free-market extremism pushed by monied and business interests – Brownback grew up on a farm, but married into one of the wealthiest families in Kansas – and represented most baldly by his radical, deeply regressive tax scheme. In many ways, the dust-ups over abortion and AIDS are distracting sideshows; though Brownback is certainly a true believer, a certain amount of distraction might even be the intent. What’s really important to the people running the show in Kansas – wealthy patrons like the Koch brothers – is the tax bill. Last year, Brownback hired widely discredited economist Arthur Laffer, who has been peddling supply-side theories since his work in the Reagan Administration, as a consultant on tax policy and drew up a budget that Republicans and Democrats alike considered precipitously austere. When it came to the size and swiftness of the tax cuts, the budget was also clearly financially unsustainable, a near-instantaneous deficit-bomb. The moderate Republicans who still controlled the Senate balked – until Brownback promised that if they just passed the bill, its problems would be fixed in the House. The Senators believed him, and allowed the bill to move to the House. Paul Davis, the leader of the House Democrats, remembers assuming there was no way his House Republican colleagues wouldn’t fix the bill, “Just because the fiscal note was so massive, and it was so irresponsible.”

Recalls Virgil Peck gleefully, “They passed something they didn’t think we’d pass. Basically, it was, ‘You won’t shoot the hostage.’ ‘Oh? Watch.’ And we did.”

Now that the bill is law, though, experts are predicting a $267 million deficit by the end of 2013 – down from a $500 million surplus. To mitigate the damage, Brownback was forced to ask conservatives to vote for a tax hike, making a temporary sales tax increase permanent. On the eve of the Senate vote, it was unclear if the governor had a full-scale revolt on his hands. Republicans were summoned to a secret, off-site strategy session held in a conference room in an office building in downtown Topeka. Brownback, looking peevish, showed up to rally the troops, despite the fact that it was his daughter’s birthday. “I know there’s a lot of history here,” he pleaded awkwardly, as the Senators feasted on barbecue from a buffet. “The sales tax, and the tax package last year, all have histories and legacies, and a lot of emotion goes into that. I’m asking you to look at the situation now, and what’s in the best interest for us, as a state, on a go-forward basis.”

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal had floated a similar “glide to zero” tax plan, but he recently threw in the towel after his approval rating began gliding in a similar direction, with voters reacting angrily to the deep cuts in services required to make the tax breaks feasible. Brownback might face similar problems – at the state level, Republicans have to balance their budgets, so they can’t just offer massive tax breaks and allow the deficit to balloon like their hero, Ronald Reagan. But for the moment, he’s hanging firm. Many, in fact, remain convinced that all of these experiments are being conducted with an eye toward 2016. “I very much believe that he wants to run for president,” posits Davis, the House Democratic leader, who is said to be mulling his own run for governor. “I think he is attempting to build a resume that will give him the ability to compete in a Republican primary.  And I look at a lot of these initiatives and I think they’re more targeted towards appealing to Republican voters in Iowa and South Carolina than they are to the betterment of this state.”

Brownback’s ideas aren’t the only ones being studied carefully by national audiences. His Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, garnered national attention last year as the creator of “self-deportation,” the immigration policy adopted by Mitt Romney, in which laws impacting undocumented workers would be enforced so punishingly that the workers would choose to return to their home countries. “Self-deportation” wound up on a long list of punchlines generated by the Republican primary circus – Kobach says he now prefers “attrition through enforcement” – but the Secretary of State remains a potent figure, handsome, articulate and very smart: Harvard undergrad, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, Yale Law School, a stint in the Bush Justice Department under John Ashcroft.

In other words, the guy doesn’t seem crazy. He’s actually quite charismatic, even likable if you ignore some of his policy arguments. And yet when we met, he scoffed at the way the Republican establishment has been looking to soften the party stance on immigration, calling that approach “simplistic and ahistorical.” Part of this has to do with his own bottom line, of course: He’s been drumming up a healthy side business hiring himself out to states like Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Missouri as a consultant and helping them to craft their own self-deportation laws.

But like many Republicans on the far right, Kobach also sincerely believes the GOP’s problems have more to do with image than substance. “You know,” he says, “the instinct of the talking head culture in media, the TV people who are pontificating about what the Republicans should or should not do, is always to say, ‘Well, it was an issues-driven thing.’ Because they live in the world of issues! To them, the whole world is framed that way. But in fact, every four years, the size of the American electorate almost doubles. Think about that. And the people who vote only once every four years, they’re likely to be much more driven by personalities, and by community efforts to mobilize them and say, ‘Hey, we really need you to get out and vote.’ Voters probably just saw Barack Obama as a more likable character than Mitt Romney.”

Jean Schodorf feels differently. After leaving office, in fact, she did something she’d never thought she’d do: She left the Republican party. “It was a very hard decision, harder than I ever thought it would be,” she says. “But I thought it was hypocritical, when they no longer stood for any of the issues I believed in.” Schodorf is fairly certain she’ll return to politics at some point, though she’s not sure in what capacity. “We’ve got to get through these next two legislative sessions,” she says drily, “and hope there’s still something intact.”

As for Brownback, well, his State of the State address in January seemed pitched not only to voters at home, but to a potentially broader audience. “When our country seems adrift, Kansas leads,” he said. “In an era when many believe that America has lost its way, Kansas knows its way.”

5/6/2014

A.WORD.A.DAY WITH ANU GARG

Filed under: prairie musings, religion — Peg Britton @ 9:49 am

A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

You can subscribe to wordsmith here and discover the magic of words.
“Growing up, I was raised as a Hindu. Not very devout, but one who went to the temple on special occasions. Also, I was told that all religions lead to the same god, even if they take different paths, just as many rivers merge in the same ocean.

I believed it all. In India, many Hindu festivals are official holidays (from holy + day), as are Christian, Islamic, and those of other religions. Schools, offices, and banks are closed on Diwali as they are on Christmas and Eid. Who can complain about the extra days off, after all? And if you have 330 million gods and goddesses already in the fold, what’s a few more? Bring ‘em all — it’s one big happy family.

Fast forward several decades. After I lost my religion, I read books of other religions. I read the Bible from cover to cover. I was shocked at what was in it. That’s when I understood why scientist and writer Isaac Asimov once said, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”

If you disagree with Asimov, please don’t get mad. Just read the book, the whole book, not a few cherry-picked verses. If you don’t have time to do that, check out this very readable summary by a man who read every single word of it and then wrote about it.

My reading of the book wasn’t in vain. I did get something out of it. This week we’ll look at words that originated in the Bible. Say hello to the five biblical characters whose names have become words in the English language. ”

There are many interesting things to learn about on this website.  Take a look.  It’s free.

4/19/2014

“FREEDOM OF RELIGION” FOR THOSE UNABLE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MEANS…

Filed under: prairie musings, religion — Peg Britton @ 8:22 am

December 30, 2013 By Allen Clifton
In this country, there are very few individuals who can rightfully call themselves “Constitutional scholars.”  Sure, there are people who know a decent amount about our Constitution, but being an “expert” on a subject is a completely different thing.

But wow, when it comes to politics, it seems everyone suddenly becomes an expert on the Constitution.

As for myself, I’ve never pretended to be an expert on our Constitution.  I’ve read over it a few times and often use basic common sense when assessing how it translates into our modern society.  After all, it was written in the late-1700′s.  Society is a little different now than it was then.

That being said, there are some areas of the Constitution that are pretty straight forward.  Our “freedom of religion” right found within the First Amendment is one of those pretty straight forward rights.  Well, at least to me it is.

There’s not really a whole lot to interpret:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

If our Founding Fathers had meant for “freedom of religion” to mean only Christianity, I’m pretty sure that would have been specified.

But it wasn’t.  In fact, the word “Christianity” is found nowhere in our Constitution.  Not even once.

The Founding Fathers were smart about this.  They kept religion out of government.  Just look at a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote concerning this very issue (emphasis mine):

To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.

Gentlemen

The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

Th Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802

Or the Treaty of Tripoli, written by John Adams:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..”

It’s pretty simple.  Government and religion are to remain separate.

See, “freedom of religion” means that in your personal life you are free to practice whatever religion you’d like.  As an American, if you want to be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or follow no religion at all – you’re free to do so!  Awesome, isn’t it?

Heck, like I’ve said before, you can subscribe to a new religion every single day of the week if you want.  This country isn’t allowed to establish laws based on any form of an establishment of religion.  Americans can practice their religion every waking moment they feel like doing so within their private homes or religious places of worship.

But what you can’t do, and what conservatives constantly try to do, is force your personal religious views on other people.  See, this is where conservatives don’t understand what “freedom of religion” means.

What it does protect is that privately you can practice whatever religion you want.  What it does not protect is a person’s attempt to force their personal religious views on others because they happen to disagree with them.  In fact, by doing so, that’s actually the opposite of the freedom of religion.

In fact, any law based on religious beliefs is actually a violation of the First Amendment.

This isn’t rocket science.

Let me explain it like this on an issue such as homosexuality.  If, as a Christian, I believe homosexuality to not be immoral, I’m right.  Just as someone who calls themselves a Christian, yet believes homosexuality to be a sin, is right as well.  See, that’s freedom of religion.  We might disagree with one another about what “Christianity” is, but when it comes to someone’s personal faith – there are really no right or wrong answers.

Now, if that person wants to tell someone else that they must follow their definition of what Christianity is by supporting laws which force them to do so, that’s a violation of the First Amendment.

Preventing someone from violating another person’s rights isn’t an attack on their rights – it’s preventing them from violating someone else’s rights.

These people are still free to believe however they want (no matter how ignorant those beliefs might be), they’re just not allowed to force others to follow the same “moral code” they claim to live by.

Do you see why religion and government should be kept separate?  It’s so much easier to say, “If you give one person a right protected by law, everyone should have that same right,” as opposed to trying to base laws on religious views that millions within the same faith can’t even agree upon — much less those of a different faith or no faith at all.

4/14/2014

AYN RAND AND JESUS

Filed under: prairie musings, political musings, religion — Peg Britton @ 6:34 pm

Republicans are Trying to Mix the Ideologies of Jesus Christ with an Atheist and That Doesn’t Make Any Sense
April 14, 2014 By Allen Clifton

Ayn-rand-jesus-christ.  It’s amazing to me how few conservatives know who Ayn Rand is.  Especially considering that she’s quite possibly the most influential person behind most of the Republican party’s economic ideologies.

She was a person who spoke out against social programs, believed that people should only worry about themselves, opposed big government and worshiped at the “glory” that is unregulated capitalism.  In other words, she’s the epitome of what most Republicans support economically.

Hell, Ron Paul named his son Rand Paul after the woman, and Paul Ryan has cited her as one of his key influences in his life.

There’s just one problem – Ayn Rand was an atheist.  Not that there’s any problem at all with being an atheist (more power to you) but there is a big problem with a political party that builds its social platform on “Christian” values while basing its economic ideology on that of someone who didn’t believe in God.

You can’t logically say that you want to be the party of “Christian values” while basing a large part of your platform on the beliefs of a woman who thought people who believed in religion were ignorant and foolish.

It doesn’t make any sense.

Think of it like a vegetarian opening a steak house.  You cannot base one entity on two conflicting ideologies.  But that’s exactly what the Republican party is trying to do.

They want to call themselves the party of “Christian values,” while supporting economic policies based on the beliefs of a woman who lived her life in direct contrast to Christianity.

(Oh, on a side note, Ayn Rand died poor living off Social Security.  So much for opposing big government programs and rallying for “personal responsibility.”)

Jesus Christ believed in helping the poor; feeding the hungry; opposing greed; believed in acceptance; taught to provide for the needy, all while preaching love and generosity.  Ayn Rand believed that we should only worry about ourselves, that the “self” is the only thing that matters and essentially charity was stupid.

You know, the exact opposite of the values for which Jesus Christ stood.

So when Republicans try to morph these two conflicting ideologies together, all I can do is shake my head.  I guess it’s a good thing their voters are often extremely ignorant to reality, history and facts – because trying to mix the philosophies of Ayn Rand with the beliefs of Jesus Christ doesn’t make any damn sense.

But that’s exactly what the Republican party is trying to do.

4/12/2014

RICHARD DAWKINS…

Filed under: prairie musings, religion — Peg Britton @ 9:25 am

dawkins.jpg

3/27/2014

IE…

Filed under: prairie musings, religion — Peg Britton @ 8:32 am

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3/3/2014

DWINDLING CHRISTIAN RIGHT TURNS INTO CORNERED ANIMAL, LASHES OUT AT CIVIL RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY

Filed under: prairie musings, Pro-life/Pro-choice, Civil/Gay Rights, religion — Peg Britton @ 8:15 am

AlterNet  / By CJ Werleman

February 26, 2014  |

Like a cornered animal, which turns instinctively to confront pursuing predators, the Christian Right, knowing it represents the views of an ever shrinking number of Americans, is engaged in an existential fight to the death. Veto or no veto, Arizona’s anti-gay bill is just another of its many efforts to transform America’s secular democracy into a tyrannical theocracy.

The Christian Right’s dirty little secret is they are acutely aware that changing demographics are running against them. While they may believe the earth is a mere few thousand years old, they’re not complete idiots. They can read polls, and the data tells them this:  millennials are abandoning religious belief. According to a recent Pew survey [3], one in four Americans born after 1981 hold no religious belief, which is nearly double the national rate of atheism. Other studies confirm this trend, including a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute showing more than half of non-religious Millennials have abandoned their childhood faith.

With this in mind, the nation’s radical religious fundamentalists see an ever-shrinking window to impose their Bronze Age worldview on the gay, atheist, liberal, immigrant, heathen, and science book-reading masses. The American Taliban is as deeply troubled by the thoughts of a gay man “sneaking a peak” of a heterosexual man in an NFL locker room as much as they’re freaked out over seeing Cam and Mitchell, the gay couple on “Modern Family,” adopt an Asian child. For the intellectual infants of the American species, progressive culture is nothing more than a 24/7 infomercial for gay sex and abortion. That frightens our unfriendly theocrats because biblical fundamentalists are more concerned with the goings on in the bedrooms of others than they are within the guilt-ridden, sexless confines of their own.

Salon columnist Brian Beutler writes that measures like Arizona’s  SB1062 bill have emerged in a number of states out of “a wellspring of conservative panic about the country’s abrupt legal and cultural evolution into a society that’s broadly tolerant of gay people.” He adds, “Rather than deny the shift, or stop at trying to reverse it in legislatures, the courts and at ballot boxes, conservatives are instead attempting to erect a legal architecture that will wall them off from the growing portion of American society that supports equal rights for gay people.”

These “religious freedom” bills did not arrive here overnight; they are three decades in the making. Prior to the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976, no serious presidential candidate ever claimed to have been “born again,” and the emphasis of faith for a politician seeking high office was as rare then as a candidate declaring his atheism is today.  When Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson established the Christian Right (aka the Moral Majority) in 1979, no serious political commentator believed they could play a significant role in electoral politics. The screenwriter Norman Lear joked, “The Moral Majority is neither the moral point of view, nor the majority.”

Long story short, the Christian Right swept Ronald Reagan into the White House in 1980. The Sarasota Journal wrote as much on Feb 9, 1981: “The merging of the political right with the religious right has taken the country by surprise.” It’s now 2014, and the most intellectually and morally stunted segment of American society continues to take this nation by surprise.

The Christian Right has not only moved from the fringes to become the main strain of the Republican Party; it is the Republican Party. These radicals continually surprise us for the fact casual political observers mistakenly believe they represent the far-right fringe. You cannot sugarcoat the fact that a majority of Republicans in Arizona’s House, and also a majority of Republicans in Arizona’s Senate voted for this anti-gay law. Likewise a majority of Republicans in Kansas’ House voted for a similar bill. They voted for it because they want the freedom to discriminate against individuals they claim the Bible finds abhorrent.

Worryingly, this act is a small part in a big pantomime to transform America into a theocratic nirvana–one that is absent gays, Muslims, immigrants, atheists, and science books. To achieve this, the instrument of choice is nullification. It is nullification of the federal government that weds theocrats together with libertarians and the neo-confederate movement. Since 2010, state legislatures have put forward nearly 200 bills challenging federal laws its sponsors deem unconstitutional. Typically, laws the nullifiers believe challenge “religious liberty,” the Affordable Care Act, and gun control.

In an editorial for Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall observes that since the election of Obama and the rise of the Tea Party, “there’s been more and more reaching back to the discredited ideas of nullification, interposition and even, at the truly fringe extreme, secession. They are each efforts to preserve power for disempowered minorities after they’ve lost battles in the standard majoritarian system. More simply, they’re workarounds to get out of the consequences of losing political fights. And by definition they are rearguard actions. American history and constitutional jurisprudence has consistently ruled against them.”

Marshall is right in part. But the point he misses is that elections are no longer determined by majority view, but rather by the availability of an endless pipeline of campaign cash, and on that social conservatives are no longer playing second fiddle to establishment Republicans. Thanks to Internet fundraising and changes to campaign finance laws, it’s now a case of the tail wagging the dog. According to the Federal Electoral Commission, Tea Party and social conservative groups raised nearly three times as much as GOP establishment groups in 2013, which is how you end up with a majority of Republicans in both houses of the Arizona congress voting for SB1062 in 2014.

Salon’s Beutler writes, “The bad news is that this phenomenon isn’t limited to homophobia, and doesn’t always masquerade as an exercise of religious freedom. As America grows more liberal, conservatives are retreating into a variety of interlinking, but isolated subcultures and, when necessary, making or manipulating law to insulate themselves from contact with the masses.”

The Christian Right’s ideology drives virtually all social policy debate within the Republican Party, whether it’s immigration, women’s reproductive rights, the death penalty, or same-sex marriage.

Chris Hedges says the Christian Right’s ideology calls for the “eradication of social ‘deviants,’ beginning with gay men and lesbians, whose sexual orientation, those in the movement say, is a curse and an illness, contaminating the American family and the country. Once these ‘deviants’ are removed, other ‘deviants, ‘including Muslims, liberals, feminists, intellectuals, left-wing activists, undocumented workers, poor African-Americans and those dismissed as ‘nominal Christians’–meaning Christians who do not embrace this peculiar interpretation of the Bible–will also be ruthlessly repressed. The ‘deviant’ government bureaucrats, the ‘deviant’ media, the ‘deviant’ schools and the ‘deviant’ churches, all agents of Satan, will be crushed or radically reformed. The rights of these ‘deviants’ will be annulled. ‘Christian values’ and ‘family values’ will, in the new state, be propagated by all institutions.Education and social welfare will be handed over to the church. Facts and self-criticism will be replaced with relentless indoctrination.”

While the Christian Right is becoming the dwindling minority, it remains an existential threat to civil rights, secularism and our democratic values. It’s a threat fueled by a seemingly unlimited supply of campaign finance, and a rabid base that believes it’s fighting for its place in a 21st-century world it can’t reconcile against an ancient book that says gays are an abomination. You know, like shellfish.

1/26/2014

LET 2014 BE THE YEAR WE START ACCEPTING ATHEISTS…

Filed under: prairie musings, religion — Peg Britton @ 12:12 pm

First of All …
Let 2014 be the year we start accepting atheists
January 18
By CINDY HOEDEL
The Kansas City Star

I don’t make resolutions, but January always inspires me. There’s something about the bright cold sunshine and the bare trees that reveals things that are hidden in spring, summer and fall.
Also, after the holiday hullabaloo subsides but before the ground yields to a spade, there is an enforced downtime, as a friend describes it, that fosters reflection on societal currents and how I fit in.

As I was hiking recently at Chase State Fishing Lake outside Cottonwood Falls, Kan., marveling at the grandeur of the rugged hills and thousands of geese sunning themselves on an ice-sheeted lake, I thought that in the same way that 2013 saw a tidal shift in attitudes toward gays in America, 2014 portends a wave of acceptance for one of the few remaining groups people feel justified in disrespecting: atheists.

One of my great heroes, open-water swimmer Diana Nyad, pried open the door a few inches for nonbelievers on Oprah Winfrey’s “ Super Soul Sunday” in October, after Nyad’s historic Cuba-to-Florida swim.

Winfrey challenged Nyad’s self-proclaimed atheism after Nyad described having feelings of wonder and awe, saying: “Well, I don’t call you an atheist then. I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery, that that is what God is. … It’s not a bearded guy in the sky.”

It’s hard to imagine Winfrey remarking to a guest who proclaimed herself gay, “Well, I don’t call you gay then.” That would be rude. But to tell an atheist she isn’t an atheist is OK somehow.

Nyad wasn’t having it. She told Winfrey, “It isn’t bearded, but there is inference with God that there is a presence. … I think you can be an atheist who doesn’t believe in an overarching being who created all of this and sees over it.”

According to Pew and Gallop, a lot of Americans agree with her. Gallop found the number of atheists has grown from just over 1 percent in 2005 to 5 percent in 2012. Pew found 1 in 4 Americans do not identify with a religion, the highest percentage ever. Among that group, 13 million Americans describe themselves as atheists, and 33 million say they have no particular religious affiliation.

I suspect a large number of the 33 million are in-the-closet atheists who don’t want to be the only person in their family, workplace or book club to use the “A”-word.

Let me go first: My name is Cindy, and I am an atheist.

Wow, that sounds weird. For decades, when the subject of faith has come up, I have given friends and acquaintances whatever answer I thought would make them comfortable without crossing over into outrageous lies.

My fellow nonbelievers know all the standard dodges: “I am very spiritual.” “I believe in God but not organized religion.” “I think there is a supreme being” and the new fave of atheists everywhere, “I love Pope Francis!” I am sure some people who say these things are actually spiritual and not atheists, but maybe not as many as you think.

Once at a cocktail party I told someone who asked about my faith that I was a Judeo-Presbyterian-Mennonite-atheist. I love the Jewish emphasis on learning and philanthropy, the live-and-let-live message of the Presbyterian services I occasionally attended as a child and the pacifism and service of Mennonites, but ultimately I think all religions are human inventions. Nothing wrong with that: Humans have created wonderful things. Look at Michaelangelo’s “David” and our Constitution.

I think religion expresses a human striving to live a virtuous, meaningful life. But you can lead a virtuous, meaningful life without religion.

A new church for the Godless called Sunday Assembly has been attracting crowds in 14 U.S. cities, including Dallas, Chicago and Nashville, but not Kansas City. They offer fellowship, social interaction and networking without the religious component. Scientific talks and pop songs replace Scripture and hymns. Their motto is “Live better, help often, wonder more.” What’s wrong with that?

Salon jumped on the atheist wave last week, posting a column with the headline “15 ways atheists can stand up for rationality.” Author Jeffrey Tayler argued, “There is no reason why we should shy away from speaking freely about religion, no reason why it should be thought impolite to debate it, especially when, as so often happens, religious folk bring it up on their own and try to impose it on others.”

I appreciate his logic — if it is OK to say you believe in God, it should be OK for me to say I don’t. But some of his suggestions sound confrontational; for example, opting out when invited to join hands and say grace before a meal. I think that’s just silly. I will keep on saying grace with friends and family who enjoy that, and we’ll skip it when they eat at my place.

Part of the reason a lot of atheists masquerade as “unaffiliated” came to light when Fox News host Gretchen Carlson used “atheists” to refer to Satanists on Twitter. Carlson’s innocent mistake reveals a misconception held by many people of faith: that not believing in God is the same as hating God or even worshipping the devil.

Not so. Just as gay marriage is not a threat to straight marriage, atheism is not a threat to religion.

Religious freedom means everybody is allowed to believe what they want. It’s time atheists are accorded the same respect as Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/01/18/4754413/let-2014-be-the-year-we-start.html#storylink=cpy

12/20/2013

POPE FRANCIS CONCERNED ABOUT BROWNBACK’S ECONOMIC AGENDA…

Filed under: prairie musings, Sam Brownback, religion — Peg Britton @ 2:54 am

Pope Francis expresses concerns about Brownback’s economic agenda
December 19, 2013

Tim Carpenter | The Topeka Capital Journal

Gov. Sam Brownback countered Monday characterization by Pope Francis of supply-side economics framing the governor’s approach to tax reform as a byproduct of “crude and naive” faith in a marketplace that feeds injustice and inequality.

Brownback’s three years in office have been marked by the adoption of hundreds of millions of dollars in personal and business income tax cuts touted by Republican lawmakers as the best way to help society as a whole.

The trickle-down philosophy’s champion is economist Arthur Laffer, who was hired by the Brownback administration to serve as an $80,000 consultant on tax policy.

“I think what a pope from South America is saying on this is that we shouldn’t have unfettered capitalism. I agree,” Brownback said in an interview. “I don’t think he’s saying you should tax and take all the money from the private sector and it should be run by the public sector.”

Brownback, who converted to Catholicism in 2002, has said the notion of separation of church and state in the United States ought not preclude politicians from stepping into the public square to express their religious ideals.

Pope Francis, in a lengthy “Joy of the Gospel” papal document released in November, said “some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.

“This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power,” the document said. “Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

This pontiff is known for personal advocacy on behalf of people living on fringes of society, and the document is viewed as a plea for Catholics to pursue profit ethically.

“Not all tax cuts are created equal,” the governor said. “If the government takes all the money and invests it, that might not work either.”

Brownback welcomed debate inspired by Pope Francis on issues touching upon religion and government.

In addition to economic policy, questions have been raised about the pope’s sentiment on abortion and gay marriage.

“They’ve been saying, ‘Well, is he not really pro-life? Does he believe in a different definition of marriage?’” Brownback said. “When you read what he says, no, he’s very pro-dignity of life and definition of marriage. He’s saying we don’t want to exclude anyone from looking at the Catholic church.”

7/28/2013

TIM HUELSKAMP…OUR FAVORITE BATSH*T CRAZY REPUBLICAN REP….

Filed under: political musings, Pro-life/Pro-choice, religion, GOP — Peg Britton @ 8:27 pm

Tim Huelskamp, our favorite batsh*t crazy Republican Representative from Kansas, is sponsoring an amendment (the Federal Marriage Amendment) to the Constitution that would define marriage as one man and one woman. The American Family Association, home to such crazies as Bryan Fischer, is all for it.

Undeterred by studies showing millennials leaving organized religion, that “young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” Huelskamp had promised such an amendment and he delivered on June 30 of this year. The last such attempt to force a religion down Americans’ throats failed in July 2006.

Just as a refresher, this is the wording of the proposed amendment:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

by Mike Muller

9/24/2012

OPINION BY BURDETT LOOMIS…SALINA JOURNAL 9/24/2012 A5

Eco-devo in Brownback era

9/24/2012
Sam Brownback this past week came to the KU Business School’s annual Chandler Lecture and rhapsodized about his tax-cut legislation.

“We are trying to create a pro-growth environment,” he said, as he defended the large and highly weighted (to partnerships, trusts, sole proprietors, etc.) tax cuts enacted last May.

Like some Texas hold ‘em poker pro, the governor has pushed most of the state’s chips into the pot, banking on the power of tax cuts to help us attract new investment to Kansas. In his homey metaphor, he said, “I want to win our (economic) league.”

To tell the truth, this goal of regional domination might have meant more before Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12 Conference.

The entire tax-cut philosophy rests on shaky ground, but state taxes unquestionably play some role in business decisions. Still, the quality of the workforce, the strength of schools, good transportation and various amenities are also significant. Indeed, any state seeking to attract new business must be seen as an attractive destination.

And there’s the rub.

Over the past two years, the Brownback-Kobach administration, which definitely is how the outside world views Kansas government, has done a tremendous job in making the state appear unattractive to exactly the kind of high-quality, financially sound firms and start-ups that would provide a powerful wave of good new jobs.

Most recently, we have experienced the fatuous “birther” controversy, which Kobach and his Objection Board needlessly fueled, to the point of legitimizing a trivial complaint that could have been dismissed with no fanfare. Rather, Kobach and his wingmen, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, extended the agony by seeking further documentation, only to have the request withdrawn. Across the country, the news stories and editorials were withering in their criticism.

In this case, Kobach won further adulation from his right-wing base, always valuable in some forthcoming primary election, while conveniently not being forced to make a pro-Obama decision that might alienate his most fervent supporters.

So, Kobach was a winner, Obama was a winner, to an extent, and the state of Kansas again became the butt of national — even international — jokes. Blessed by the presence at the hearing of Orly Taitz, the so-called “queen of the birthers,” Kansas was once more painted with the broad brush strokes of political weirdness and intolerance.

Such a portrait, of course, is just what the state needs in the wake of two decades of creationist controversies, unending Westboro Church protests, a governor whose administration monitors a student’s Twitter account and a secretary of state who flies around the country amping up a nasty, ego-satisfying campaign against any presence of illegal immigrants.

That’s not all. Remember the governor’s ill-conceived “marriage summit” and his $75,000 contract with discredited economics guru Alfred Laffer? Or, more recently, Kobach’s sterling anti-immigrant, anti-Sharia-law stances at the GOP convention?

All these incendiary statements, false steps and flat-out blunders encourage the thought that perhaps there has been a cagey plot to make prospective employers, along with thousands of well-qualified professionals recruited by NBAF and the KU Cancer Center, think long and hard about putting down roots in Kansas.

In contrast, as illustrated by Richard Florida’s “Creative Class” argument, it is good schools, lively cities, safe suburbs and thriving arts communities that attract the most innovative firms and the most accomplished professionals.

Who knows? Maybe cutting taxes to the bone will prove a great boon to the Kansas economy. But this narrow policy choice must navigate upstream against an unceasing flow of national news that makes the state look spiteful and stupid. I’m not sure we can lower taxes enough to overwhelm the torrent of negative stories that shows no sign of drying up.

– Burdett Loomis is a political science professor at the University of Kansas.

8/14/2012

POLL SHOWS FIVEFOLD INCREASE IN RANKS OF U.S. ATHEISTS…

Filed under: prairie musings, religion — Peg Britton @ 3:14 pm

Poll Shows Fivefold Increase in Ranks of U.S. Atheists
The survey also shows a downward trend in the number of people who say they are religious.
By Jeffrey Bloomer | Posted Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012

A new poll suggests that 1 in 20 Americans now call themselves atheists, a fivefold increase from the last time the survey was taken in 2005.

The Religion News Service reports that, to go along with the jump, just 60 percent of Americans now identify as religious, down from 73 percent the last time the Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism poll was taken seven years ago. The decline has also been felt in many other countries around the world, including double-digit drops in several European and North American countries.

Here’s the question pollsters asked 50,000 or so people from 57 countries and five continents: “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person, or a convinced atheist?”

Overall, the WIN-Gallup International-conducted poll found about 13 percent of respondents worldwide consider themselves atheists, and also showed notable disparities in atheism among faiths.

The stark findings set off some expected resistance, including a theory that the poll shows less a rise in atheists than in people who are willing to identify as one, especially with the rise of popular, outspoken skeptics like Richard Dawkins. Others questioned the poll’s international standards. (The complete poll and methodology are here.)*

Sharp as the rise in self-identified American atheists may seem, the poll also notes that the new findings merely bring the United States in line with Saudi Arabia, which also reports 5 percent convinced atheists. China remains the global leader, with 47 percent.

5/17/2012

BROWNBACK’S ONLY POLITICAL CONTITUENT IS GOD……………

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So, I ask….how is it working out for you with Brownback as Governor?  What he said he would do if elected President, he is doing in Kansas at will.  He said he would, and he is. When he runs again for President, he can show by example what he’s done to Kansas.  Brownback’s tax legislation will be the end of Kansas as we know it.

Here’s an example of his plan:
“Now, Brownback seeks something far more radical: not faith-based politics but faith in place of politics. In his dream America, the one he believes both the Bible and the Constitution promise, the state will simply wither away. In its place will be a country so suffused with God and the free market that the social fabric of the last hundred years — schools, Social Security, welfare — will be privatized or simply done away with. There will be no abortions; sex will be confined to heterosexual marriage. Men will lead families, mothers will tend children, and big business and the church will take care of all.”

He’s not kidding.  It’s already happening in Kansas in case you haven’t noticed. His only political constituent as governor of Kansas is God.

Read this to follow Brownback’s plan for our future…

5/15/2012

TEACHER/COACH JACK CONKLING’S ON LINE REMARKS ON HOMOSEXUALITY DRAW FIRE…

Filed under: political musings, LGBT, Civil/Gay Rights, religion — Peg Britton @ 11:07 am

Teacher’s online remarks on homosexuality draw fire
By Mary Clarkin - The Hutchinson News - mclarkin@hutchnews.com

A Buhler USD 313 teacher/coach has caused a stir by writing on his Facebook page last week that homosexuality is a sin and ranks in God’s eyes the same as the sin of murder.

The Kansas Equality Coalition criticized what Prairie Hills Middle School social studies teacher/Buhler High School assistant freshman women’s basketball coach Jack Conkling wrote. It also urged USD 313 to review its policy on social media and bullying, whether by students or teachers.

Jon Powell, chairman of the Hutchinson chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition, said Conkling’s “inflammatory statements” could make students think it’s OK to bully fellow students.

Powell termed the posting “reckless,” “dangerous” and “irresponsible.”

“What would Mr. Conkling say to a student who is getting bullied for being gay or lesbian?” Kansas Equality Coalition Executive Director Thomas Witt asked in a press release issued this week.

High school students are among Conkling’s nearly 600 Facebook friends. Some posted comments or reactions, pro and con, to his statement written May 10, in the wake of President Obama’s announced support for gay marriage rights.

It was a former seasonal employee at Hutchinson’s Salt City Splash, where Conkling works in the summer, who alerted the Kansas Equality Coalition to the Facebook statement. USD 313 Superintendent Dan Stiffler learned about it from a teacher.

Conkling wrote: “Gay marriage is wrong because homosexuality is wrong. The Bible clearly states it is sin.”

He also wrote: “It ranks in God’s eyes the same as murder, lying stealing, or cheating.”

“I wrote what I wrote for my Facebook friends who understand my heart and my intent,” Conkling said Monday. “I understand that there were some folks who didn’t understand my heart, and while that’s sad, it is what it is,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Craig Williams, principal at Prairie Hills Middle School, said the school does not have a Facebook policy for teachers.

“We’re looking into it,” Williams said, but said he could not talk about a personnel matter.

USD 313 had a technology committee already looking at a policy for staff and social media, according to Stiffler.

“Where do you draw the line?” Stiffler asked, describing the challenge of setting rules that do not infringe on a teacher’s First Amendment freedom of speech.

“I know that it’s kind of tricky,” said USD 313 Board of Education member Laura Dick, unaware Monday of details of Conkling’s posting.

The News was unsuccessful in reaching other board members.

Hutchinson USD 308 hopes to have a policy by the next school year specifically addressing staff and use of social media, according to district spokesman Ray Hemman.

Hemman, too, described it as “tricky.”

School districts want teachers to be professional, but staff also “have a right to have a life,” Hemman said.

“All this talk in the news about gay marriage recently has finally driven me to write. Gay marriage is wrong because homosexuality is wrong. The Bible clearly states it is sin. Now I do not claim it to be a sin any worse than other sins. It ranks in God’s eyes the same as murder, lying, stealing, or cheating. His standards are perfect and ALL have sinned and fallen short of His glory. Sin is sin and we all deserve hell. Only those who accept Christ as Lord and daily with the help of the Spirit do their best to turn from sin will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. There aren’t multiple ways to get to Heaven. There is one. To many this may seem close minded and antagonistic, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Folks I am willing to admit that my depravity is just as great as anyone else’s, and without Christ I’d be destined for hell, if not for the undeserved grace of God. I’m not condemning gay marriage because I hate gay people. I am doing it because those who embrace it will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And I desire that for no one.”

Facebook posting by Buhler USD 313 teacher/coach Jack Conkling

5/9/2012

OBAMA SUPPORTS GAY MARRIAGE…

Washington — President Barack Obama says he now supports same-sex marriage, ending months of equivocation on a subject with powerful election-year consequences.

Obama says he has concluded that it is important for him to affirm that he thinks same-sex couples should be able to get married. He says he came to the conclusion over the course of several years of talking to family and friends.

Obama has previously said his personal views of gay marriage were evolving, a stance that frustrated gay rights supporters.

Obama revealed his support for gay marriage in an interview with ABC News.

On the other hand…

An overwhelming North Carolina vote to define marriage as legal only between a man and woman dealt a strong blow to gay marriage supporters this week.

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There are some states where it makes no sense to hold the National Democratic Convention as there is so much un-Democratic sentiment regarding civil rights/equal rights/women’s rights ….North Carolina, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma…etc. being among them.  Charlotte et al will reap 160 million over it…
Stay tuned….it isn’t over yet.

3/27/2012

PA ASSEMBLY OF GOD CHURCH TRAUMATIZED ITS YOUTH GROUP….

Filed under: prairie musings, religion — Peg Britton @ 1:48 pm

The Glad Tidings Assembly of God church in Middleton, Pa., has sparked outrage after a teaching exercise traumatized its youth group and left some with physical bruises, WHTM TV reports.

A shaken 14-year-old told the station two men came into the room with guns, pulled pillow cases over some of their heads, and pushed them into a van.

“They pulled my chair out from underneath me and then they told me to get on the ground,” the unnamed girl tearfully told WHTM. “And I was the first person to go into the van. I had my hands behind my back they said ‘just do as I say and you won’t be hurt.’”

The “kidnapped” youth group was then taken to their pastors house, where it looked like the minister was being attacked.

The girl showed the station the bruises she suffered from the event, and claims the men laughed while she cried in the van.

Despite claims from officials that the incident was only meant to teach teens what it’s like to be a persecuted Christian missionary, there could be serious repercussions for the church.

“It’s actually quite serious,” First Deputy District Attorney of Dauphin County Fran Chardo told the station in a seperate report. “False imprisonment of a child, someone under the age of 18, is a second-degree felony punishable up to 10 years on prison.”

Since the teens never agreed to take part in the “lesson,” church officials could be in legal trouble for the incident. WHTM also reported the man who “kidnapped” the teens was an off-duty cop, using a real, but unloaded, gun.

In the midst of potential legal ramifications, Andrew Jordan, the church’s pastor, told WHPTV he will still continue to carry out this lesson, but he will ask for parental permission.

From the Huffington Post.

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