Saturday Morning: What’s The Matter With Kansas?

Kansas Wheat Field

I spent my early childhood in Lawrence, Kansas while my dad was working on his Ph.D. at KU. We lived in the married student housing, which consisted of a group of wood frame former army barraks painted yellow. They called it “Sunnyside.” As a child I just loved the place. My mom remembers how the dust would blow up through the floorboards and the clothes would be dry before she even finished hanging them on the clothesline. I remember it as a kind of paradise where there were plenty of other kids around and vast fields nearby where we could run and play to our heart’s content. In those carefree days of the 1950s, parents didn’t feel they had to watch their children every minute. We didn’t need play dates, we just ran outdoors and joined the fun. We had a lot of freedom then.

I can still recall the simmering summer afternoons when all the adults were sheltering indoors and we wore ourselves out climbing the jungle gym and hanging upside down or wandering through the fields looking for arrowheads or relaxing in the shade of a giant oak tree where someone had nailed boards together to make a tree house. We’d climb up there and enjoy the view from on high.

welcome to kansas

One of my clearest memories is the joy I’d feel when, after driving up to North Dakota with my family to visit my grandparents we’d cross the Kansas border and the “Welcome to Kansas, the Sunflower State” sign, and I’d know I was back home at last. I’d survey the wheat fields waving in the breeze, the distant horizon, the endless highway, straight and flat, where if there was a speed limit sign all it was 100 mph.

Yes, I loved Kansas, as only a child can love a place. When we moved away to Ohio, I was broken-hearted and homesick and for a long time I begged my parents to take us back there.

I guess these memories are the reason it hurts my heart to hear about what is going on in Kansas today. I suppose it was always a conservative place, but today it has become cruel and mean-spirited. Look at the news from my old home state this morning.

Kansas passes anti-abortion bill declaring life begins ‘at fertilization.’ The Christian Science Monitor reports:

Kansas legislators gave final passage to a sweeping anti-abortion measure Friday night, sending Gov. Sam Brownback a bill that declares life begins “at fertilization” while blocking tax breaks for abortion providers and banning abortions performed solely because of the baby’s sex.

The House voted 90-30 for a compromise version of the bill reconciling differences between the two chambers, only hours after the Senate approved it, 28-10. The Republican governor is a strong abortion opponent, and supporters of the measure expect him to sign it into law so that the new restrictions take effect July 1.

In addition to the bans on tax breaks and sex-selection abortions, the bill prohibits abortion providers from being involved in public school sex education classes and spells out in more detail what information doctors must provide to patients seeking abortions.

Yes, the War on Women continues, and the Kansas legislature is apparently determined to beat out North Dakota as the most dangerous place for women to get pregnant.

The measure’s language that life begins “at fertilization” had some abortion-rights supporters worrying that it could be used to legally harass providers. Abortion opponents call it a statement of principle and not an outright ban on terminating pregnancies.

“The human is a magnificent piece of work at all stages of development, wondrous in every regard, from the microscopic until full development,” said Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Leavenworth Republican who supported the bill.

Except if you’re a female human, and then you’re just a baby-making machine. Or perhaps Sen. Fitzgerald doesn’t even think females are human beings at all.

Steve Fitzgerald

Steve Fitzgerald

Here’s another report on the bill from Kansas.com: Senate passes anti-abortion bill after bitter debate touching on Taliban and slavery

During Friday’s debate, Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, said any abortion at any stage of pregnancy “results in a dead human child.”

He also characterized the Roe vs. Wade decision that protects a woman’s right to an abortion as “probably the worst decision ever to come out of this Supreme Court or any Supreme Court, including the Dred Scott decision.”

The Scott decision in 1857 ruled that African-Americans were not citizens, could not become citizens and could be bought and sold as merchandise. The ruling hardened positions on both sides of the slavery issue and helped lead the country into Civil War.

Fitzgerald also objected to a statement in Monday’s debate by Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, who accused anti-abortion Republicans of pushing “narrow Taliban-like philosophies on our state’s persons.”

“I particularly would like to point out the backhanded disrespect that is being paid to the pro-life people with the assertion the other day of being Taliban-like, which I think is unconscionable and intolerable, and with the assertion that the pro-life groups have no regard for the children already born,” Fitzgerald said.

Hayley said he was sorry to offend anyone on the “pro-life” side, but

“That’s a glaring example and maybe I’ll recede because it’s so harsh, but it does bring into crystal clear focus how many people feel repressed, especially women, by some of the views that emanate from this chamber … that are telling women that they cannot do with their own bodies.”

Also, Haley, an African-American whose family was profiled in the historical book and television mini-series “Roots,” said Fitzgerald’s comparison of Roe v. Wade to the Dred Scott decision was misplaced.

The article also lists a number of components of the bill. For example, it requires doctors to falsely tell women there is a link between abortion and breast cancer, makes it illegal to deduct abortion costs from state income taxes, and removes “mental health” as a reason for getting “a mid-to-late term abortion.

As an antidote to all this madness, I found a couple of editorials in Kansas papers that show that not every Kansan has been possessed by demons–or whatever has made these right-wingers so hateful.

Perhaps as a reward for the state’s ongoing leadership in the War on Women, Republicans chose Kansas governor Sam Brownback to give the Republican response to President Obama’s weekly address today. There’s an editorial in the Kansas City Star that completely shreds Brownback’s speech.

Wrong address: Unexcused absences of candor and logic

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has been tapped to deliver the weekly Republican address today. Expanding on a popular theme, he will talk about how, while Washington remains a mess, GOP governors are straightening things out.

Unfortunately, some of what Brownback says in his address (which was pre-recorded and embargoed until 5 a.m. Saturday) is exaggerated or misleading.

Like this: “The year I became governor, the state began the fiscal year with just $876.05 in the bank — less than $1,000 and it projected a $500 million deficit. Two years later we had a $500 million ending balance — and did it without tax increases.”

Not exactly.

Read the details at the link.

And from the Lawrence Journal Tribune, Opinion: Economic schemes likely to hurt Kansas.

Kansas has no mountains, great lakes, forests, deserts, sea coast, tropical climate or large cities to attract people. Kansas agriculture and energy sectors are far too efficient to support a large workforce. Manufacturing continues to decline in the U.S. and Kansas. We get some synergistic growth from Kansas City, Mo., but it is limited by fragmentation of the metro area. Consequently, for over a century, Kansas population has grown slower than the rest of nation.

Despite those disadvantages, our real standard of living has been well above average. How did we do it?

We did it with stable, effective, traditional, conservative economic development programs — we invested in people and infrastructure. We delivered those investments through a reasonably honest, efficient and frugal government. And we had a balanced tax structure to pay for it.

brownbacksam102

But now Brownback is following in the footsteps of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

First, they’re abolishing the income tax. Then to pay for it they’re making massive cuts in education, highways, health care and any other pot of money they can grab on to. According to their “Laffer curve” ideology, sooner or later, a spurt of growth is supposed to follow.

Next, adding direct injury to reckless experiment, Brownback keeps turning away federal dollars and jobs. He abolished the Arts Commission — goodbye $1.3 million a year in grants and perhaps 50 jobs. He rejected a $35 million health grant — goodbye 200 to 300 job-years.

Movement conservatives are also opposing federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would mean goodbye to an estimated $500 million a year and 4,000 jobs. That would be the biggest single Kansas economic development program — ever. Let’s pray Brownback doesn’t kill Medicaid expansion.

Not satisfied with defunding education, movement conservatives want to punish teachers by silencing their representatives, removing negotiation rights, politicizing curriculum, replacing public schools with private schools and imposing yet more outside testing

As to poor people, Brownback proposed abolishing the earned income tax credit and the food tax credit. He is also dismantling government service agencies by renting their functions out to profit-making companies — companies that, perhaps coincidentally, make large campaign contributions. Early reports speak of heavily degraded service delivery.

Leaving no economic niche undisturbed, movement conservatives want to abolish regulations that support family farms and ensure phone service in rural areas.

These radical and destructive plans are contrary to common sense. And they’re contrary to experience: Every high-income state makes large public investments in education and other services. And they’re dead opposite to mainstream economic theory.

Also they’re contrary to Kansas public opinion. For example, polls have consistently shown that Kansans oppose cuts in education and will even support tax increases if necessary to maintain education.

Sorry to quote so much, but I thought it was powerful and important enough to reproduce in full.

OK, I’ll end there and turn the floor over to you and any topics you have on your mind. Please post your links in the comments–I promise to click on every one!

Just for the hell of it, here are a couple of photos from our time in Lawrence. On the left is my mom with my little sisters and our “barracks” in the background. Below on the right a picture of all three of us girls reading. I’m the one in the middle.

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37 Comments on “Saturday Morning: What’s The Matter With Kansas?”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I hope everyone has a wonderful spring weekend!!

    • RalphB says:

      Have a beautiful day BB! Wonder if the country realizes what a huge mistake was made in 2010 putting these idiots in power? And if they don’t, what will it take for the general population to notice what’s happening?

      • bostonboomer says:

        You too, Ralph. I think people are starting to realize it, but I’m a natural optimist. I hope I’m right.

      • RalphB says:

        BB, Your description of that glorious childhood in Kansas was great. It took me back to my own rural childhood and how wonderful it was to be a free kid. My almost fondest wish is that my grandchildren could have that but it’s just not doable now. Sigh …

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thanks. Things were so different then. I know there were bad people, but we felt so safe and we had so many opportunities to explore our world without adults interpreting it for us.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        That was a beautiful story BB, and reminds me that most of us still cherish the memory of that special place from our childhood known as “home”. Thank you for sharing that sweet recollection, even if it was prompted by the Dumb-cluckers in the KS GOP Legislature.

        Everyone have a great weekend

      • NW Luna says:

        Wasn’t it wonderful to grow up running around in the fields and have trees to climb? Thanks for that fond description.
        What lovely pictures of you, your Mom and your sisters.

    • I love your memories of Kansas BB, and those pictures of your childhood are wonderful!

  2. ecocatwoman says:

    This is happening in every Republican controlled state. I have to hope (hopelessly??) that at some point the electorate (if they’re still allowed to vote) will wake up & send these political prostitutes packing. However, how long will it take to undo the damage they will have done? Will an entire uneducated generation be lost? Will we be the new North Korea in the near future?

    • RalphB says:

      We’d be like N Korea if it were up to Brownback and his kind. It could take decades to fix all the things these dunderheads are screwing up. It takes longer to build than to tear down.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        Yes, once schools, medical care, the social safety net, our tax systems and infrastructure are dismantled and/or sold to the highest bidder it could take 50 years or more to approach recovery.

        I referenced North Korea for 2 reasons. One – the horrendous conditions that nearly all North Koreans live under. Two – besides Kansas, there are NC, LA, TX, ND, WI, FL, OH, PA (have I left out any Republican controlled states??) moving in the same direction.

        And, personally, I agree that these actions in the Kansas legislature mirrors the Taliban. Religious have pretty much everything in common except their religion. Treating women as property is the first priority.

  3. hyperjoy says:

    Re the abortion legislation – those men and their female accomplices are really deep into what’s none of their damn business. Which is, unfortunately, par for the course for them. When are we going to rise up and vanquish their rule?

    Love the pictures – they’re sweet and so are your memories of Lawrence, Kansas.

  4. Delphyne says:

    I really like this post, BB and your description of your love for Kansas. I love the pictures you put in, too – I recognized you immediately. You haven’t really changed much!

    I, too, grew up in the ’50s when kids were not monitored all of the time. I escaped to the woods and the river which surround the little town I grew up in and where I currently reside after returning from a 33 year stay in California. I think if I were growing up now, I’d be crazed without the freedom to wander in the woods unattended and left to my own devices. Our town is so small and really safe that I don’t understand parents driving their kids to school when it might take 5 minutes to walk there. Some of them are afraid the kids will be kidnapped if they walk to school. You can read about our town on Wiki – it’s quite an unusual township.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winfield_Township,_New_Jersey

    As to what Kansas is now – it’s shocking the hatred that is so visible, without any hint of shame. Brownback must be part of those conservative Catholics who hate people who are different from themselves in any manner. Glad to see those push backs – there will always be those of us “rebels” who will speak up and do something about the chafing yoke around our necks. Especially we December babies!! 🙂

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks, Delphyne. It’s nice to hear about other people with similar memories of growing up without all of today’s anxieties.

      Brownback is a horrible excuse for a human being, IMO. When he was in the Senate, he was one of the Republicans who hung out with “The Family” on C Street.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Here’s a quote from Langston Hughes, who also spent his childhood in Lawrence, KS:

    “Lawrence has a wonderful hill in it, with a university on top and the first time I ran away from home, I ran up the hill and looked across the world: Kansas wheat fields and the Kaw River, and I wanted to go some place, too. I got a whipping for it.”

  6. Riverbird says:

    Good post, BB. I grew up in North Dakota and my heart hurts when I hear how right-wing it has become.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks, Riverbird. Me too. I was born in North Dakota and have lots of precious memories from there too. My parents both were born and raised there and we went up there to to see the old places twice before my father died. My mom is 87, but she’d still like to go back up there again.

  7. Sweet Sue says:

    We boomers were so many that kids could rove around in gangs, and there’s safety in numbers.
    I don’t think kids have that, today, there are fewer children.
    Lovely post, BB.

  8. Delphyne says:

    Mark Bitman from the NYT posted this article about Hitler’s food taster – and yes, she is still alive. Remarkable story.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/hitler-food-taster-margot-woelk-speaks-about-her-memories-a-892097.html

  9. jawbone says:

    Another link to the Must See Obama video from April of 2006, which is the earliest record of his stating it is necessary to cut SocSec, etc.

    This one has a couple grafs transcribed, plus a PDF of the full transcript.

    Also, there’s a Harold Meyerson analysis of the neolib Dems’ idea of what our economy should look like, also from 2006.

    It was called the Hamilton Project quite deliberately and with full comprehension that it was anti-New Deal, anti-Great Society, anti-War on Poverty. And they’ve won — poverty level is now higher than in 1965. Barry has done the job he was picked to do.

    Boy, how we were all snookered, even if we didn’t vote for Obama. I think very, very few knew just how deeply he was into Corporatism.

    What to do, what to do…. Where to turn, who to work with…. How the hell do we replace or rework the Dem Party?

    Gaius Publius had posted on Americablog about this video in December of last year, but I missed it. He highlighted some brief quotes:

    “The forces of globalization have changed the rules of the game.”

    “The coming baby boomer retirement will only add to the challenges.”

    “Too many of us [on the left] have been interested in defending programs the way they were written in 1938[.]“

    “Most of us are strong free-traders.”

    He hat tips Tiny Revolution. for the contemporaneous post on 4/6/2006. I cringed because this was knowable before Obama won the nomination. I recall trying to find out more about this somewhat nebulous young senator, googling and googling and not finding anything like this. But I guess I didn’t make it to the last page of the google links? Ack.

    Tiny Revolution’s take is well worth reading.

    Gaius Publius also links to his post back in August 2011 of a Ken Silverstein article analyzing Obama’s Corporatist bent.

    Here’s that Ken Silverstein piece from Harper’s in 2006 I keep referring to. I’m quoting (with permission) the introduction in full, since that story tells the tale. Note two things:

    ■ Obama uses a green event to paint himself freely with liberal cred (look familiar?)

    ■ The only call to action from Obama is to support his BigAg corn state ethanol agenda. The only one.

    For Silverstein, Obama is a known made man at that point, and Silverstein wrote this in 2006, way before Obama announced for president. A great story and a great read (my emphasis)….

    My bet is that Obama fer sure OK’s that awful pipeline. He is a big time Corporatist employee after all. What could change him to saying no? I have no good ideas on that.

    Repubs are not going to impeach him. He’s the gift that keeps on giving — to them. And to Big Money, Big Corporations, Big Powers That Be.

    I’m focused on this video because it does explain Obama’s actions which are so at odds with his electioneering image (except for the few slips and the brazen comments to private high roller fund raisers). People must be made to see what he really is.

    • jawbone says:

      My apology for not realizing the Silverstein article in available as PDF microfiche only and also to subscribers only.

      Any Harper’s subscribers here?

      • dakinikat says:

        I used to subscribe to it but I had a horrible time getting it delivered to me after Katrina. They didn’t deliver mail that was sent at that postage rate for like two years and I just finally gave up.

  10. mjames says:

    Oh, what darling pictures! Love them!

    When I drove west with my daughter 20 years ago, Kansas seemed surreal to us. The land and sky seemed to blend into one and the sky was so huge, so that it looked like, if you kept driving, you would drive right into the sky!

    • hyperjoy says:

      The land and sky seemed to blend into one and the sky was so huge, so that it looked like, if you kept driving, you would drive right into the sky!

      I saw that same illusion twice. Once while driving through South Dakota, the other time while driving over a bridge in New Jersey that rose high over a bay just off the Atlantic Ocean.

    • bostonboomer says:

      MJames,

      That’s what I love–being able to see all the way to the horizon. North Dakota is the same way. I wish I could have seen the great plains before humans plowed them all up. The natural grasses are so beautiful in the places that they have been preserved.

      Indiana, where we finally ended up is pretty flat too, with a few more trees–but you can still see to the horizon when you drive out in the country. I love that big sky feeling.

  11. dakinikat says:

    Check out Cannonfire’s latest on the possibility of little Kim delivering a dirty suit case bomb to the US.

    http://cannonfire.blogspot.com/2013/04/does-north-korea-have-portable-nuclear.html

  12. Fannie says:

    I enjoyed reading about your fun filled childhood days in Kansas and North Dakota, probably as much as you did writing about it. Though I have never been there, I have always been amazed at the beauty of nature. I loved seeing your photos. You were happy to be surrounded by books, bet you had spelling games with your little sisters too.

    It always fun to go back to home towns, but you realize that alot of people and places you knew are gone, and you fast forward to the now, and it’s depressing as hell in Kansas.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I think Lawrence is still OK, because it’s a university town. That’s considered the sinful part of Kansas because there are so many liberals. There are people like us everywhere trying to mess things up for the wingnuts. We will win out in the end!

      • dakinikat says:

        My grandparents were in Kansas City when I grew up … I don’t recall that being crazy but most of my mom’s family were in mo.and my dad’s family were in ka.

  13. Fannie says:

    And speaking of depressing……….I heard that Rick Warren of the mega church in southern California, that his son committed suicide at 27 years. According to tv he had suffered depression for 27 years…………what? I remember Rick Warren telling women they should stay with their abusive husbands, that somewhere in bible something led him to believe that……..all I could say was wtf? And yes, like this person committing suicide, I think there will be plenty more girls and women suffering from depression in Kansas, you get the religious nuts making it worse for them, and making them feel guilty and bad, and ugly and like they are less than human, we will see the increase in mental illness due to their war on women, and their to control over women. They intend on creating a world of madness for women who decide to control their very own lives. I hate to say it but it’s coming, and how sad many homes, and communities will be.

  14. NW Luna says:

    Glorious and heartening story here, to inspire women around the world:

    Women hit back at India’s rape culture

    A self-defence group in Lucknow have a simple message to the men who make their lives a misery – stop it, or else. ….

    From a core membership of 15, ranging in age from 11 to 25, they now have more than 100 members, intelligent and sassy and with a simple message for the men who have made their lives a misery: they will no longer tolerate being groped, gawped at and worse. Their activities are a lesson in empowerment. ….

    The men watch sullenly as they pass, like wolves who have just discovered the sheep are armed. No one risks a word.