The birthday guy is on the right…
KANSAS CITY STAR: Sam Brownback is playing politics with rural schools in Kansas
September 11, 2014
By Mary Sanchez
Kansas City Star
My mother attended a one-room schoolhouse in Kansas.
Her rural education is the type that Gov. Sam Brownback dredged into his re-election campaign with an opportunistic bit of rhetoric. Brownback is calling for the ouster of Leawood Republican John Vratil from a state committee looking into efficiencies of Kansas schools as districts try to weather funding cutbacks.
The claim is that Vratil, a former vice president of the state Senate, is gunning for consolidating rural schools. It’s a charge made by taking a 2011 comment Vratil made, extracting it from broader context and spinning.
It’s a contrived issue, intended as bait for rural votes, especially in western Kansas. Vratil was appointed to the committee by Democrat Paul Davis, who is running against Brownback. So by association, it’s a political jab at Davis.
Rural schools have long struggled with dwindling populations and budgets. They don’t need Brownback’s campaign to know it.
Mom’s stories of her childhood near Madison were classic, almost “Little House on the Prairie” to my ears. She walked country roads to school, sometimes trudging against the harsh Kansas wind and snow. Plenty of stories included the bull that always scared her, sometimes charging at flimsy fencing.
But guess what. That school is long gone, closed decades ago as fewer families farmed and more moved to towns closer to Emporia.
Times change. Populations shift. Tough calls about budgeting and buildings are not new. Consolidation at times is both inevitable and prudent. That’s partly why the committee that Vratil sits on, the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission, was formed by the Legislature.
And Brownback is the cause of some of the recent belt-tightening by not replacing federal stimulus funding and by his tax policies.
All districts, in Wyandotte and Johnson counties as well as those farther west in the state, struggle to meet vastly diverse student needs with fewer dollars.
Besides, Brownback’s administration pushes innovative programs to draw younger, college-educated people to sparsely populated areas. So he acknowledges reality in one portion of his policymaking and then tries to ignore it for campaign spin.
The man who wants to remain governor of the entire state should be above such tactics. All Kansas children deserve a quality education, no matter their home address.
I’m a liberal. I live in a red state, in a red city, in a red Palace.
I stand for liberal principles:
…free public education K-12 for all, and affordable higher education
… the decision to have an abortion is a personal choice of a woman regarding her own body and the government must protect this right. Women have the right to affordable, safe and legal abortions, including partial birth abortion
…the freedom to practice any religion or no religion without threat of violence
…the death penalty should be abolished.
…church and state should be completely separate. The rule of law is different from and better than theocracy. Religious expression has no place in government
…respect for and equal rights for all minorities including LGBTs Marriage is the union and right of two people who love each other.
…equality for women in every walk of life as men now enjoy
… free or low-cost government controlled health care
…a market system in which government regulates the economy. Government must protect citizens from the greed of big business
… the use of embryonic stem cells for research
…euthanasia should be legalized
…Individuals do not need guns for protection; it is the role of local and federal government to protect the people through law enforcement agencies and the military. Additional gun control laws are necessary to stop gun violence and limit the ability of criminals to obtain guns
… The government must produce a national plan for all energy resources and subsidize alternative energy research and production…
…Welfare is a safety net which provides for and protects the needs of the poor. Welfare is necessary to bring fairness to American economic life.
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Life at the Palace continues to be interesting, fun, restful, worry-free, calming, easy, and pleasant. I checked in here as a new “inmate” nearly two years ago and haven’t found anything here to worry about since my arrival. I hardly have to turn a finger except for doing my laundry, a little light house work and occasional meal/snack preparation. Since I have my main meal in the dining room at noon, there is little I have to do in the kitchen. Sharon from housekeeping comes every two weeks and cleans my apartment. I’ve also been fortunate to be surrounded with people I like very much and many have become close friends.
My apartment has everything I need or want in the way of comfortable amenities. It is spacious, bright and airy, with good temperature control. When a light bulb burns out, someone from maintenance comes promptly and replaces it. They repair anything that needs fixing, at no charge.
I rarely shut the door to my apartment. I like having it open so people feel free to come and go as they please and it gives me a feeling of being better connected to the outside world. I feel very safe here, safer than anywhere I’ve ever lived. I try to remember to close my door to the hall at night, but I tend to forget rather often. I trust people who live and work here. There is no reason why I shouldn’t.
The social event of the day is the noon meal which most of us attend with anticipation and regularity. We sit with essentially the same group of 15-20 people every day. As in every society, you gravitate to those with whom you share common interests and enjoy being around. It doesn’t take long to become good friends with one or another of your choosing. Whereas it is common to see friends occasionally, or with planning in the “outside world”, here I live on the same wing on the same floor with my besties and see them every day. Life is very good in the Palace and I don’t wish to live anywhere else but here.
There isn’t a lot I find to blog about. It’s not as if I were involved in numerous activities as I once was that would be of interest to readers. The kind of news I deal with these days is “stuff” like “both elevators are finally working at the same time” which is a relief as it shortens the wait time to be elevated from one floor to another. It’s a big deal if you live here and can’t walk the stairs, but hardly interesting.
Having family and friends come to visit is wonderful. Monday evening Todd and I went to the Seoul USA Korean Restaurant where we had an authentic Sicilian dinner prepared by Tim Bobbit..with help from wife Joomi. It was the 13th “International” night and those who attend are regular diners at the Korean Restaurant. You have to work…or eat… your way up the ladder to get invited to attend. They can only serve 45 people so it’s a pre-pay deal to get a spot reserved for you on International night. They are mostly “regulars” we see every month. We join Ann and Terry Headrick, Martha and Kent Buess, Marsha Stewart and Mary Lemon at the back table that we reserve every month. We frequently see Denny and Connie Helvey, Danee and Travis and David Helvey as they love eating there for the International dinner too. As the restaurant is closed to other diners, we take our beverage of choice, which is usually a bottle or two of wine. Joomi usually treats us to one of her Korean drinks too which are fruity and good.
Next month will have a typical Indonesian dinner prepared by Chef of the Night, Venny Afianti Baily. The menu hasn’t been finalized (and that doesn’t make any difference to those of us who attend), but Venny thinks it will probably include appetizers, vegetable pancake, avocado smoothy, chicken stew, fish of some kind, Joomie’s special drink and dessert.
The Presbyterian Manor Annual Soup Supper is Friday October 24th starting at 4:30. We serve chicken and noodle soup, chili, relishes and pie either to eat here or carry out. Pre-purchased tickets are $6.00 and slightly more at the door. The proceeds this year will go towards the purchase of a van designed to transport our wheel chair-bound residents to various activities. That is not possible now, so we’re all hoping for a good response to the dinner to assist in this worthy cause. Had this vehicle had been available yesterday, some of our residents who need wheel chair transportation could have made the trip with others to Rolling Hills Zoo and Museum.
We had a nice, generous rain last night, but now the sun is shining brightly…and I need to go run some errands.
Thanks for tuning in…
Brownback and The Family
by Bob Grover
The Emporia Gazette 9-8-2014
How can someone claim to follow Jesus yet not support programs that fight poverty and benefit the needy?
This is a question directed at Sam Brownback, and a possible answer is provided in Jeff Sharlet’s book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (Harper Perennial, 2008). Journalist Sharlet describes in detail the history, leadership and beliefs of this secret organization of which Brownback is a member.
Brownback was introduced to the Family (also called the Fellowship) while interning for Bob Dole the summer before his senior year at Kansas State University. Brownback stayed in touch with Family members and was invited to join when he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in 1994. Understanding the mission of the Family provides a glimpse of Brownback’s beliefs that drive his behavior as governor.
The Family includes such current government leaders as Chuck Grassley (Iowa), James Inhofe and Tom Coburn (Oklahoma), Bill Nelson (Florida), and Mark Pryor (Arkansas). Other members include former senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Pete Domenici of New Mexico, along with former Kansas Representative Todd Tiahrt and Watergate participant Charles Colson.
The Family is the group behind the National Prayer Breakfast, initiated as the Presidential Prayer Breakfast during the first year of the Eisenhower administration in 1953. It has been described as “the most powerful group in Washington that nobody knows.”
Its membership roll is secret; it collects no official membership dues and issues no membership cards. Members are urged not to commit to paper any discussions or negotiations occurring in their work related to the Family.
Prayer groups, or “cells,” are the core group within the family. The cell is unknown to the public and has veto power over each member’s life. Each member promises to monitor the others for deviation from Jesus’ will. Brownback told author Sharlet “that the privacy of family cells makes them safe spaces for men of power … .” Power is a key to understanding this Family.
Within the cells men develop a covenant with each other, and therein lies the power. Their premise is that when two or three agree and act as one, they have power.
Jesus is at the center of the Family, but this is Jesus the leader, not the Savior. Jesus provides the Family a model for organization; with James, John, and Peter closest to him, he encircled himself with other disciples along with a larger contingent of followers. Jesus taught the fundamental principle of creating a social order — commitment. Jesus said that his followers had to put Him before other people, even father and mother, and put Him before oneself.
Surprisingly, the Family also claims Hitler, Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Bin Laden, Mao and even the Mafia as models that used covenants to gain and exercise power. The jarring contrast between Jesus and these other brutal leaders seems of little importance to the Family.
Another Family hero is King David of the Old Testament. David slept with Bathsheba, another man’s wife, and killed her husband; however, God favored David — he was chosen. The implication is that if you’re chosen, you are not to be judged.
The Family believes that God’s covenant with the Jews has been broken, and they consider their members the “new chosen” — chosen by God to be leaders.
Because they believe that they are God’s new chosen, the Family members are provided with what Sharlet calls “divine diplomatic immunity.” It’s like a blank check to do whatever they believe they are called to do.
What are they called to do? The long-term goal of the Family is a worldwide government under God. Douglas Coe, the Family’s leader since 1969, has said, “We work with power where we can, build new power where we can’t.” (p. 121)
Although members of the family may be members of a denomination (Brownback is Catholic), their belief system is different than the theology of mainstream Christians. The Family prefers to think of themselves as “followers of Jesus,” not Christians, and free of the trappings of religious denominations.
Unlike most followers of Jesus, the Family is interested almost entirely in Jesus as leader and the way he was able to generate a successful, worldwide social movement. They show little interest in following Jesus’ teachings to help the poor, feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
As a member of the Family, Brownback has adopted their values, and the Family ultimately is about power. Knowing about Brownback’s affiliation with the Family helps to explain his motives and actions as Kansas governor.
We live in a remote rural area, 15 miles from the nearest stores. It’s winter wheat heartland that thrived thanks to homesteading in the late 19th Century. “Quarter sections,” 160-acre parcels, typically supported multi-generational families who contributed to vibrant small towns with churches, schools and businesses. Farmers walked behind plows pulled by mules, forming co-ops in their common interest to protect themselves from rapacious railroad corporations and buyer cartels. They depended upon horses and carriages to do business and access social life. More fortunate children went to land grant colleges and returned home with new skills to be with siblings and grandparents.
As agriculture came to depend increasingly on petroleum-based production with ever larger machines and fertilizers, these towns withered. A family came to need to farm many square miles to get by.
There were advantages of course. Constant bonebreaking labor became a distant memory, crop and disaster insurance protected against the vagaries of droughts and deluges, life spans increased. Electrification and telephones arrived, thanks to the efforts of forward-looking leaders.
However this progress came with a steep price. Schools became ever more distant. In the 105 counties in Kansas, eighty or more have smaller populations than they did in 1920. Children departed rarely to return save for funerals and holidays. In the midst of prosperity, services declined.
Corporations and their lobbyists insisted that “public services” be heavily subsidized for the benefit of affluent consumers and they targeted delivery sectors where the largest profit margins were to be found. Fifteen years ago, when I moved here, UPS serviced us only in fair weather, Fed Ex not at all, and DHL was unaware of our existence.
At the same time corporate America demanded public subsidies, it attacked core services, demanding exemptions from taxation. Networks of paved roads disappeared. Polling places were “consolidated” away to remote towns. Public schools were attacked with vouchers and “chartered” competition draining our tax revenues. Hours of postal operation diminished and proposals now stand to close every office within fourteen miles, an erosion propelled by special interests. Even cell phone services withered, thanks to industry consolidation and concern for stockholder-driven “acceptable” profit margins and “bottom lines.”
We’re dying out here. We’re being excluded from modern life.
One of the remaining bulwarks against this erosion of our quality of life is net neutrality. We can get Internet service, not on a par with South Korea or Finland of course, but at least with smaller Midwestern cities.
I lived in Barrow, Alaska, before I moved here, and was acutely aware of being a second class citizen in the information age. Though we were a town of 4,500 people, we depended upon a paleolithic 9.5 baud server. I would open the New York Times or Anchorage Daily News website, and take a shower waiting for it to come up. After clicking on a story, I’d cook breakfast and hoped by then that the article had slowly arrived.
Industry’s proposals to destroy net neutrality are a regression to that electronic caste system. I don’t want multinational corporations deciding what we can read and how long we have to wait to read it. Please don’t abandon us. We’re still part of America, even if Verizon and Comcast choose to commercially disenfranchise and exile us.
Bluff City, KS 67018-7630
By Adam Liptak
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reflects on the Supreme Court’s recent rulings, she sees an inconsistency.
In its gay rights rulings, she told a law school audience last week, the court uses the soaring language of “equal dignity” and has endorsed the fundamental values of “liberty and equality.” Indeed, a court that just three decades ago allowed criminal prosecutions for gay sex now speaks with sympathy for gay families and seems on the cusp of embracing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
But in cases involving gender, she said, the court has never fully embraced “the ability of women to decide for themselves what their destiny will be.” She said the court’s five-justice conservative majority, all men, did not understand the challenges women face in achieving authentic equality.
Justice Ginsburg is not the only one who has sensed that cases involving gay people and women are on different trajectories.
photo by Kim Fair
STUDENT OF LIFE
Peg Britton embrances new experiences
by Erin O’Donnell, free lance writer and editor
from Community Matters a publication of Salina Presbyterian Manor
Posted September 2, 2014 HERE.
Peg Britton embraces new experiences
Peg Britton’s Internet connection has taken her all over the world.
The gift of lifelong learning is that you’ll never be bored. That’s what Salina Presbyterian Manor resident Peg Britton discovered even as a child. “I guess it’s because I have a curiosity about how things work. I always have,” Peg said.
As a young adult, Peg pursued her education with vigor even as discrimination threatened her goals. She attended the University of Kansas, graduating in 1950 with a degree in architecture that many male students and professors didn’t think she should have. “They came out and told me it was not a place for women, and I told them they better find a place for me, because I’m staying,” Peg said.
After school, Peg embarked on her career, beginning with Edward Tanner Architects in Kansas City. In 1976, she and a friend designed and built her 4,256-square-foot modern home in Ellsworth. She lived there for more than three decades, before moving in 2012 to Salina Presbyterian Manor – or, as Peg fondly calls it, “The Palace.”
No matter where she is, Peg says she’s never far from the Internet, keeping in touch with friends and current events around the world. She has been sharing her own “back road adventures, community commentary and essays” via her blog, KansasPrairie.net, for more than 12 years, far longer than most bloggers on the Web today.
Peg’s 5-year-old granddaughter was the first to introduce her to computers about 20 years ago. “I realized she had a computer and I didn’t. She said, ‘Grandmother, I think you’d enjoy a computer. We could do things together.’ And I thought, that sounds wonderful.”
Peg said she made countless friends online from around the world, some of whom have come to visit. She especially likes getting to know young professionals and says they learn a lot from each other. “I’ve always had a lot of younger friends because we had more in common,” she said. “They’re going to be our leaders. I place my hope in those people.”
Recently, Peg said she heard of a retirement community where residents taught English to foreign students online using the Skype video chat application. That’s something she’d like to try. “I’ve just never stopped,” Peg said. “I’ve always helped wherever I could.”
“A lovely article. An incredible woman and one of my favorite people on the planet!”
“Same Peg I have known since high school.”
Francis E. Carr says:
“I’m so happy and proud to say I know and love Peg Britton.”
Roger Novak says:
“Peg, you are a remarkable lady. Never afraid to take on a challenge. Always proactive. You should be very proud.”
Mackenzie Britton says:
“I was that young granddaughter encouraging her to get a computer! Knowing she tackled a male-dominated field helped inspire me to earn a degree in computer engineering. Such a role model and amazing grandma too ”
“Peg’s a wonderful lady who’s a bundle of fun! Her wit and intelligence are inspiring!”
Shirley A Turner Raney says:
“Go get it girl. Learning and helping are good for you and good for those helped. I love to learn and respect you for that. We must help those who will be telling us what to do. LOL Nice article.”
Ginger Kippes says:
“Enjoyed reading all about you, Peg. I know what a super person you are because, of course, I am your house-mother! Love you, Gin”
Jennifer Byer says:
“Go, Peg! By a stroke of good fortune, I stumbled across Peg’s blog a few years ago. She had posted an entry about my great-uncle Hat Barofsky, whom I’d never met. She put me in touch with friends who knew some of my Ellsworth relatives, and rest is history, as they say. Thank you, Peg!”
Deb Divine says:
“Wonderful description! Did not know you are the architect of your fabulous house! Love it.”
Veda Hoffhaus says:
“You go, girl!”
“You go girl………….and you have!!”
Ally Britton says:
“I’m Peg’s daughter, Ally
I can’t begin to say what a wonderful mother, best friend and idol she is.
She passed on her great genes to her three children and taught us so many things.
She taught me to be an individual and to love life with morals and respect for others.
At 86, you couldn’t ask for a cooler mom that has kept up with the times and has supported me in my endeavors.
Because of her, I’m a fee spirit. Love you bunches, mom.”
Salina Presbyterian Manor | 2601 E. Crawford | Salina, Kansas 67401-3898 | 785-825-1366
We’re gearing up for the Soup Supper. People are selling tickets by the dozens and residents are signing up for various work details that go in to the preparation of the what is known around Salina as the place to be on Soup Supper night.
“October” at Salina Presbyterian Manor means one thing: Soup Supper. Our 34th annual Soup Supper will be held from 4:30 to 7ish p.m. on Oct. 24th. We hope you too will come to eat in or carry out.
Chicken noodle soup, chili, relishes, pie and cinnamon rolls are on the menu for this event, a tradition as old as the Manor itself. You won’t leave hungry.
This year, the baked goods and craft sale promises to be larger than ever. If you are able to donate pies for the dinner or baked and canned goods for the sale, please call the Manor for details. Residents have again crafted a quilt that will be offered as a special donation item. Items will be donated for the silent auction.
Residents, volunteers, artists and donors work together to make this event a success. It is truly a civic event.
This year, in a slight change of direction, the proceeds will be used to buy a bus that will transport our wheel chair residents. All other proceeds and donations go the Good Samaritan Fund that underwrites our mission of providing lifelong care to our residents even should they outlive their financial resources.
We hope to see all of you here.
Thanks for tuning in…
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