Sunday, January 22. 2012
No Weekend Roundup this week: I've been preoccupied with crunching Pazz & Jop numbers, and more on that in a day or two. Meanwhile, I'm not sure there's been much to focus on. The week, after all, was dominated by the White Folks Primary in South Carolina, and I'm sick and tired of listening to those malcontents griping about how we need to go back to "the principles this country was founded on" -- how can the heirs of John Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, John Calhoun, and Strom Thurmond say such a thing without choking? Romney's collapse was especially amusing, although exit polls show he did manage to win his class (indeed, all those with income over $200,000), and as far as the Republican Party is concerned, that's all that really matters. Still, from all the TV coverage you'd think South Carolina was even whiter than North Dakota, and prosperous too -- whereas in fact it's so poor companies like Boeing move there to escape the high wages they have to pay in Kansas.
Speaking of Kansas, I have open a bunch of open tabs concerning Gov. Sam Brownback's state income tax plan:
The last piece sums up the Brownback-Laffer scheme thus (my emphasis added):
There are more articles with more details, including numerous case examples of how the proposed changes would hit the bottom lines of various taxpayers (plus Crowson's view, here on the right). But in looking for typical examples, the articles avoid the white elephant in the room: the tax-free carve out for business income. Although a lot of people who would catch a break there are small business owners who don't make much money, virtually everyone in the state who does make a lot of money -- starting with billionaires like Charles Koch and Phil Ruffin -- gets a free pass.
Of course, the argument is that we need those businesses to create jobs and keep the economy running. Still, how much thought went into this? Laffer, who was paid $75,000 for consulting, is possibly the biggest fraud in American history, having largely invented supply-side economics while sketching on a napkin. Brownback holds prayer vigils in Topeka to seek divine guidance for his policies -- or maybe he just hallucinates them then prays they work?
The idea of using tax breaks for incentives is venerable and easily overdone, but the key idea is that you're trying to encourage people to do something they wouldn't do without the incentive. We have tax breaks to get people to donate to charities, or to finance more expensive homes than they need -- two items that come to mind because Brownback is planning on ending them (and, by the way, the non-profits and realtors are none too happy about that). But do we really need special incentives to get businessmen to try to make even more money?
I could see coming up with a package of breaks (and even subsidies) to help people start new businesses -- there would be lots of ways to do this that would be capped by business size and profits so they wouldn't automatically flow up to benefit the richest. The net effect of the Brownback-Laffer plan is to accelerate the flow of wealth to the very same people who already have way more than they know what to do with, while sticking everyone else with the bill.
As the last two articles pointed out, not even the Republicans that dominate the state legislature could stomach all of this, so they came up with their own nefarious plan. It's bad enough, but nothing like what Brownback, Laffer, and God (or maybe Koch) came up with.
Sunday, November 27. 2011
Crowson's editorial cartoon in the Wichita Eagle today, on Boeing's tanker scam bait-and-switch. In their big PR push to dislodge EADS's winning bid and rejigger the $35 billion contract in their favor, the PR flacks at Boeing had upped their usual 1,000 job promise to 7,500 -- counting all sorts of multiplier effects, something Republicans never believe in unless they hear it from a defense contractor. Now that the deal is done Boeing's decided maybe they don't need Wichita after all -- although there's always the suspicion that they may just be angling for yet another bribe, something they've repeatedly done in the past.
Molly McMillin has another article on Boeing in the paper today: Analysts: Loss of Boeing Would Hurt City, Region. Not much new there. One thing the analysts didn't factor in was the extent to which Boeing's presence corrupts local politics, but that was the subject of an anonymous Opinion Line comment:
Probably no Weekend Roundup today, but I do hope to get something else up this evening. One Kansas-themed story likely to lose out in the shuffle is Brownback Complaint About Student Tweet Lands Kansas Teenager in Principal's Office. As someone who's been there for doing something like that -- admittedly, long before Twitter made it easy to do and easy to get caught -- I can only applaud Emma Sullivan. Also, quote another Opinion Line commenter:
By the way, driving around Wichita a couple nights ago, I came upon several small roadside signs proclaiming "Christmas Doesn't Suck!" If Brownback's concerned about language, well, that horse has left the barn.
Tuesday, November 22. 2011
Lead article in the Wichita Eagle today: Molly McMillin: Boeing Studying Future of Wichita Site. Lloyd Stearman founded Stearman Aircraft Corporation in Wichita in 1927. He later sold it to United Aircraft, which spun it off as a division of Boeing in 1934. During WWII the federal government built a huge expansion to Boeing's Wichita plant, where Boeing produced its legendary series of heavy bombers: B-17, B-29, B-47, B-52. From WWII up to 2005, Boeing was the largest employer in Wichita, and for most of that period Wichita was Boeing's largest plant outside of the Seattle area. In 2005, Boeing spun off most of its Wichita operations using the private equity firm Onex: the resulting company is called Spirit Aerosystems, and it continues to manufacture for Boeing. At the same time, Boeing retained its military division in Wichita, which is conveniently adjacent to McConnell Air Force Base. McConnell is the home base for the air force's KC-135 tanker fleet. Boeing has lobbied feverishly to replace the tanker fleet with new planes based on Boeing's now-obsolete 767 airframe, and we've been blanketed with promises of how many jobs the new tankers would bring to Kansas. As the article explains:
However, now that Boeing has prevailed over EADS in the tanker bid war, Boeing is having second thoughts. Much as 19th century railroads were more in the business of accumuliating government real estate subsidies, Boeing's manufacture of aircraft is just bait for their real mission, which is to auction off jobs for bribes. While there is no doubt that one big reason Boeing recently tried to move its 787 airframe production from Seattle to South Carolina was fervor for deunionizing its work force, the clincher was South Carolina coughing up a billion dollars for the favor of having its citizens underpaid by Boeing.
I've despised Boeing's tanker scam ever since its inception -- in its first incarnation it was presented as a lease program, as if the federal government couldn't finance its own purchases. The entire campaign has been as prime an example of crony capitalist corruption in Washington as you can imagine, but should be opposed for the simple reason that the last thing we should spend money on is a capability that would make it easier to get involved in wars around the globe. Needless to say, Kansas politicians signed up to the corruption immediately, and unconditionally. And, typical to form, their arguments highlighted all the promised jobs.
I've been saying all along that the jobs argument was bogus. In particular, nobody factors in the fact that the new tankers will eliminate all the jobs keeping the old tankers flying. Those old jobs are concentrated in Wichita -- some at Boeing, most at McConnell -- and it would be uneconomical to ever try to move those jobs. However, the jobs supporting the new tankers could be moved anywhere. As we've seen with the 787, Boeing feels no obligation to go with the workers who've built their planes in the past. (In fact, Boeing moved their headquarters from Seattle to Chicago so executives wouldn't feel any compunctions about laying off local workers and tanking their local economy.)
So this "study" is just the other shoe dropping. This comes less than a week after Bombardier started to shake down the city, county, and state governments to pay for a plant expansion in Wichita, or face the consequences of the (Canadian) company moving its work elsewhere. This portends yet another shakedown:
Back in Reagan's "greed is good" 1980s we somehow bought into the logic that companies have no reason for being other than to suck up as much profit as possible for their investors. Now we see that the logical end of this concept is that a plant in Kansas which exists exclusively to service the military, not exactly a pinch-penny buyer, will be shut down because workers in Kansas are too unionized and make too much money -- unless, of course, the local taxpayers cough up more cash than any other area that covets the ever-shrinking jobs. But we've been "chipping in" for Boeing for decades now. The only thing one can reasonably conclude is that they're insatiable: that no matter what sweetheart deal you cut them, they'll always come back for more.
The only way to put an end to this practice would be to pass a nationwide law that would tax all the gain out of local government deals, so companies would have no incentive to play off one locale against another. (Plus it would help to make unions the norm rather than the exception.) If Kansas politicians wanted to stop looking like fools they'd take the lead on this. On the other hand, asking Sam Brownback, Pat Roberts, Jerry Moran, Todd Tiahrt, Mike Pompeo, et al. to stop acting like fools feels like a dream.
Thursday, September 1. 2011
Front page story in the Wichita Eagle today is a wrap-up for the record-breaking heatwave this summer. Yesterday was Wichita's 50th day with temperatures of 100F or above, which ties the all-time record set in 1936. Yesterday wasn't even close: it hit 108F, a record for the date and a full 30 degrees above the average high. Of course, it takes one more day to break the tie, so the Eagle took a chance and preemptively proclaimed "Today is 51 days at 100° or above": actually, a pretty safe bet, with the forecast calling for 104F (according to the weather page) or 107F (the figure quoted in the article). Writing this a little after noon the current temp is already 100F. (The article is here, but I don't see the graphics or charts online.)
The 100 degree days were: May 9 (the earliest 100F day ever; 1 total for May); June 3-8, 19, 25-26, 29-30 (11 in June); July 1-3, 5, 9-12, 15-24, 26-31 (24 in July, tying the 1980 record); August 1-3, 5, 7, 16, 18-19, 23-24, 26, 28, 30-31 (14 in August); and today September 1 with tomorrow forecast for 100F. It is expected to cool off after that, with a high of 81F for Sunday, 79F for Monday. That may be the end of it, or may not: September is usually pretty hot here at least midway through. The longest streak was 10 straight days July 15-24, then followed by 8 more July 25-August 13 (so make that 18 of 19 days). By that point the grass was totally burnt out, but 8 sub-100F days from August 8-15 with frequent rain revived things a bit.
Of course, the heat wasn't only here: Oklahoma got hit as bad, and Texas maybe worse. Most days the weather map showed a big red blob, sometimes centered on Wichita but more often centered or shaded to the south. (Today's map shows most of Kansas and all of Oklahoma over 100, but only about half of Texas.) The heat has been accompanied by drought, just like the global warming models project. We've had 16.24 inches of rain, which puts us down 7.85 on the year.
The rest of the big articles in the Eagle today were about guns. Sedgwick County commissioner Richard Ranzau pushed through an order to permit concealed carry in most county-owned buildings (at least the court house is still off the list), saying: "As a result of this resolution, the citizens of Sedgwick County will not be any less safe than what they are today, but they will be freer. That, my friends, is a good thing." The state law has given landlords the option of prohibiting concealed guns on their properties, and quite a few took advantage of that when the law passed. Only about 30,000 permits have been handed out, so the gun-toters are at most a tiny percentage of the population, but they've been relentlessly against those limits. I haven't seen any researh showing that more guns in public has done much harm or any good, but I don't see how carrying a gun signifies freedom without also intimidating and endangering the public. (Article: here.)
Still, for the worst example of gun madness, see: Gunfights to ring through the streets of Cowtown on Saturday:
Read that last sentence again, carefully. The fact is that Kansas sheriffs were pretty aggressive about prohibiting guns from their towns in the 19th century -- a large part of the reason why it's possible to reenact more gunfights in one day than were actually enacted in the better part of a century. So the main effect here is to mythologize and romanticize a falsely remembered past, as well as to elevate gun-fueled slaughter to entertainment status. Good thing there's no one in Kansas insane enough to bring a real gun to the event and join in on the fun. Just the same, I'm going to pass and stay clear. I'm even a bit worried in that I live less than a half-mile from the theme park -- usually, by the way, an interesting place to visit. But then I'm one of those people who whenever he sees "celebratory gunfire" wonders where all those bullets will eventually land.
Wednesday, August 31. 2011
Looking at the Wichita Eagle this morning I was struck by the sheer number of strangely disturbing headlines. It's like we've entered into some kind of Twilight Zone. Some examples:
There's also a Cal Thomas column on Libya but I can't begin to make sense of it. But toward the end he wants to send the NTC a bill for "the help we've given it, directly and through NATO"; then adding, "This is a practice we also should apply to other countries seeking our assistance." Best idea he's had in a long time, but maybe we should do a credit check first. The GDP of Afghanistan is less than $30 billion, and we've blown through 15 times that much helping them ($450 billion), adding $120 billion (4 times their GDP) per year now. It's rather hard to see how they can afford us, but then it's also hard to see how what the US is doing constitutes help.
By the way, hit 100F yesterday. Forecast is for 104F today, 105F tomorrow, so that 1936 record will soon be history. Last time Kansas had a summer this hot we voted overwhelmingly for FDR. We've lost our minds this year too, but I've yet to see anything good coming out of it.
Thursday, August 4. 2011
Got a break in the weather yesterday: after a high of 104F, some initially small thunderstorms formed in southwest Kansas, and by 10PM they amassed into a pretty huge one. It hit Wichita with straightline winds in excess of 70MPH, dumping heavy rain and a smattering of hail on the city. Looked pretty ferocious when it blew through here, with small limbs ripping off and slamming into the house, and sheets of rain sometimes splashing buckets-full of water straight at the window. Still, no big problem here until it started to let up a bit and the electricity failed. This was about the time the storm hit the near east side of town: most of the major photo-worthy damage followed a line along Hillside from Wichita State University, where a 35-foot tree was plucked up and flung against the side of a building, to south of Kellogg where a couple of roofs were peeled off the tops of houses.
Not much to do around here with no electricity. The computers and the stereo are all on UPS units, so we shut them down gracefully, then pulled out some flashlights and tried to read a bit. We got power back after a little more than an hour, and started to put things back together but ten minutes later it failed again. An hour-plus later the power came back again, but only for a couple minutes. That happened again later, then around 3:30AM it came up and held for a while, until falling down again around 5AM. That time it was only down for a few minutes, and after it returned it stabilized (either that or I finally slept through the rest). No real damage here, but I gather that throughout the city there were dozens of power lines blown down, and for that matter dozens of traffic light poles. No idea how many trees, or how many buildings were damaged.
We did at least get some rain: 2.25 inches, enough to reduce the deficit on the year by about one-third. And it was a bit cooler today, at least in the morning. (The Eagle is reporting that the high temperature was 104F, but I didn't notice it over 98F today.) More storms were forecast today, but none came (yet: radar shows a big, nasty-looking string in far west Kansas). Friday forecast is for 99F; following week is all 100F+, with or without scattered storms. For all the bad weather we've had, last night was the hardest.
Update: The Wichita Eagle this morning said the high was 95F yesterday. I believe they get their figures from the weather station at the airport. My WeatherUnderground reports come from a station at 25th and Amidon in northwest Wichita, which is a bit closer to where we live. The latter station has tended to run a bit hotter lately; e.g., it's reading 99.9F now, whereas the weather feed to my computer is reading 93F (but may be delayed; at 2:36PM it's still warming up).
Wednesday, March 30. 2011
The Wichita Eagle was full this morning of the wonders the Republicans in Topeka are turning out. They've passed two new anti-abortion bills -- they sure want to make sure the fetuses of Kansas realize they feel their pain. They also passed the bill requiring photo ID to vote and a birth certificate or passport to register. They want to make voting as intimidating as possible, you know, lest the wrong kind of people try to do it. Not sure why they're so worried about that in Kansas, but they no doubt have more tricks up their sleeves.
When I got up I figured I should post something on all this. Now that the day is shot, I still figure I should, but don't have time or energy to track down all the links. I'm not big on the notion that the world is full of evil, so I really don't understand the Republicans. I mean, part of it I can understand -- they're greedy, power hungry, short-sighted, fond of received ideas that are actually nonsense. But why are they so obsessed on taking rights away from people? Is there any limit to how much they'll strip away from the poor? Why are they so hellbent on wrecking government? preventing people from getting an education? How can they really want to live in a world run by people like themselves?
Life's tough enough without having to spend all your day fighting back against spoiled idiots who just want to spread ruin.
Saturday, March 5. 2011
Wichita Eagle ran an AP article today titled "Ex-Joint Chiefs head discusses 9/11" (no link). Filed from Garden City, KS. The Chief was Gen. Richard Myers, who presided over the Iraq War under George W. Bush. Addressing a Chamber of Commerce banquet in Garden City, KS, he said:
The speaker, on the other hand, spent his whole career in the fantasy world of the US military, trying to invent problems that can supposedly be solved by blowing shit up, poisoning the world community and making America a symbol of blundering stupidity, ill will, and incredible waste.
As for Garden City, of course they are preoccupied with real problems. Surrounded by feed lots, their problems are so real you can't help but smell them. Of course, in the Chamber of Commerce conclave the only thing anyone can smell is money, which must seem even sweeter than the perfume routinely sprayed around the outskirts of town to confuse the stench.
Thursday, November 4. 2010
Dion Lefler/Jeannine Koranda: GOP's Big Victory Comes with Big Responsibilities: While most of the country is looking forward to political gridlock, Kansas has completely exposed itself to one-party dictatorship, without even the old comfort of knowing that some sane Republicans were in the mix:
There's a long list of dirty work the House Republicans have been frustrated on during the last eight years with Democratic governors (not that I'm all that sure about Mark Parkinson). The article has some, and a second article focused on a coal-fired power plant near Holcolmb in far west Kansas that has been held up. And they'll gin up some more. (Kris Kobach, our new secretary of state -- i.e., the guy in charge of keeping Democrats away from the polls -- likes to brag about his role in writing Arizona's unconstitutional profiling law.)
Alex Pareene: The Sad Tale of the Democrats Who Hated the Unemployed: This is the link to an article I mentioned in passing in yesterday's post.
Thursday, October 14. 2010
The other night I saw back-to-back ads for the two party candidates for the 4th Congressional District here in Kansas. The seat has been held by Republican Todd Tiahrt since 1995. Before that it was held for comparably long stretches by Democrat Dan Glickman and before him by Republican Garner Shriver. It is a district that could swing either way, but tends to stick once it's swung. First up was the Republican Mike Pompeo. His ad consisted of a spreadsheet where on the left column he said something trivial about himself, then on the right column he said something flat-out ridiculous about his Democratic Party opponent, Raj Goyle. For instance: "conservative" vs. "ACLU liberal," "US army" (he is a veteran) vs. "Obama's army," "M-1 tank" vs. "liberal think tanks." In other words, he's a lying simpleton, which seems about par for his party.
Then came Goyle's ad, where his big pitch was that as a State Senator he had voted with the Republican Party 80% of the time, because "good ideas have no party." Goyle is a smart guy, has a bunch of smart guys working for him, has access to serious money, and is one of the few Democrats with a legitimate chance of capturing a Republican seat this year, so presumably he knows what he's doing. He may be right that in this year in this state he needs to clutch as tight to the right as possible while remaining the lesser evil, and he may be right that in this year in this state the very fact that he's running as a Democrat is all the plus his base needs. He's certainly carved out a position where he's much closer to the center of public opinion on virtually every issue he cares to acknowledge -- which, by the way, does not include the crippling waste of war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On the other hand, why should we care if he's the lesser evil if he doesn't even hint that Republicans represent real evil in this election? With Republicans operating in lockstep, if they seize the House this election they'll not only obstruct anything progressive Obama attempts; they'll shut the government down, do whatever they can to shred the economy. The only brake on their activism is the likelihood that their disruption will backfire -- that they'll make rather than break Obama's reelection. Still, that's a lesson they usually have to learn the hard way, especially given that the same basic tactics have brought them back from defeat in 2006-08 to the brink today.
I've never felt so indifferent about an election -- not even Gush-Bore when I voted for Nader but secretly hoped Gore would win, because at least there I could discern a difference (even if Gore didn't have the guts to stand up for it). The difference here is not only much less but much less significant. Pompeo is basically a bought-and-paid-for Koch lackey, getting much of his money straight out of Koch's front group. He will follow the GOP line straight over the cliff, while grabbing as much graft as he can lay his grubby hands on. But if we don't beat him now, we'll get another chance in two, four, six years, however many it takes. On the other hand, if Goyle gets elected, he will not only be the worst Democrat in the House, a dependable vote for the Republicans "80% of the time"; he'll be the face of the Democratic Party in Wichita two, four, six years from now, until he gets bored and runs for higher office or cashes in his chips and snags a cushy job working for one of his benefactors -- and as long as that takes, there will be no progress in getting Kansas Democrats to run on platforms that their constituents need and deserve, and to point out the truth about the future horror the Republican Party is campaigning for.
Wednesday, August 25. 2010
Tim Potter: Wichita's graffiti law stirs up worries. My sister's son, Ram Hull, was in the news Monday, stirring up resistance to a new law likely to be approved next week that would criminalize possession of "spray paint, broad-tipped markers and other potential graffiti tools on or within 100 feet of public property." The photo shows Ram violating this law by sketching in a public park. Schools are public property too, although there may be some kind of exception for art students -- at least as long as the city can afford to keep art in the curriculum.
Seems like a parody of other laws which give the police broad discretion to hassle people they take a dislike to. I haven't talked to Ram about this, but one thing I'm struck by is that he has the perspicacity to imagine being the victim of the law -- that he just doesn't see it as something that will be applied to other people. In doing so, he also shows more respect for law than others have who mostly see it as a club for attacking people they don't like.
PS: For much more on this, including some art, goto www.civilmarkers.org.
Saturday, July 17. 2010
Dion Lefler: Goyle pushes bipartisan solutions: Kansas politics has regularly been hitting new lows this year. With elected governor Kathleen Sebelius safely tucked away in Obama's cabinet -- taking her away from an open senate contest she was heavily favored for; after all, as long as Obama's in the white house, who needs electable Democrats running for other offices? -- the current Kansas governor was elected lieutenant governor as a Democrat but was previously chairman of the state Republican party. Still, even he has frustrated the state lege from passing America's most draconian anti-abortion bills, so Sam Brownback is giving up his senate seat to do his duty in Topeka. Meanwhile, two of Kansas's three Republican congressmen are running for Brownback's senate seat, or for a cushy job as a corporate lobbyist, whichever comes last -- see Crowson's cartoon for a glimpse at how that's going. Tanker Todd, who's been my hands-down pick for worst member of congress for 16 straight years now, is pretty certain to lose the vote, and win back his job as a Boeing corporate flunky, no doubt with a big payday -- especially if the tanker deal he's devoted so much of his life to comes through.
That leaves Tiahrt's seat vacant, with a wide open Republican primary between Florida multimillionaire Wink Hartman and Tiahrt crony Mike Pompeo, with a couple of minor candidates way short of money -- Jean Schodorf, one of the saner Republicans around, is likely to finish a distant third. On the Democratic side the probable candidate is Raj Goyle, an impressive (and impressively well funded) campaigner to picked off a pretty safe Republican state senate seat a few years back. One interesting point here is that Goyle seems to have raised more money thus far than any of the Republicans -- Hartman is real close, but that's mostly because he's taking money from one pocket and putting it into the other. Especially interesting, given that Tiahrt typically out-raised his opponents by 10-to-1. On the other hand, Goyle is running his campaign so far to the right that he practically belongs in the same strip as Tiahrt and Moran. Of the two state senators in this election, the one who voted to stave off the latest anti-abortion travesty wasn't Goyle; it was Schodorf.
The link above gives you a quick rundown on Goyle's campaign. (For more on the money, see here.) Goyle is "proud to be a fiscal conservative." He voted against a regressive sales tax hike that was the only way the governor could keep the state government from collapsing. He thinks all it's going to take to get the economy going again is tax cuts and small business loans. His yap on closing tax loopholes that export jobs amounts to nothing. If anyone really wanted to halt the offshoring of jobs, the thing to do would be to balance the trade deficit, not the budget.
Other than the budget balancing, there's little of substance to say about Goyle. He's smart, ambitious, flexible, opportunistic -- someone you can never trust or admire, but may wind up voting for when facing a Republican like Hartman or Pompeo. He may even do something worthwhile, but right now he's running to be the bluest dog in Washington. Right now I'm not sure the aggravation is worth it.
PS: The comments with few exceptions are appalling. Must be the readers are getting into the spirit of the season.
Sunday, March 28. 2010
Richard Crowson, in the Wichita Eagle today:
The details have to do with Kansas Republicans -- the aside comment deals with Sam Brownback's run for the governorship, which has been the only restraint the last eight years against the far right's machinations -- but if you didn't live here and didn't know the specific news stories you might think they're about your own Republicans. One thing about the GOP is that they march together -- you can't imagine a 3x3 matrix of donkeys in step, even though Obama is the one they all say wants to be a fascist dictator.
Tuesday, March 23. 2010
Judy L Thomas: Democrats' offices across U.S. attacked: Wichita's Sedgwick County Democratic Party headquarters was one of many sites attacked in the last couple of days in a wave of vandalism, the right's juvenile response to Congress passing an inadequate and long overdue health care reform act. Mostly bricks thrown to smash windows thus far: one brick in Rochester, NY carried Barry Goldwater's "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice" quote. Obviously, "extremism" is a word that suggests acts more ominous than vandalism. The violence implicit in the right's hysteria has never been far from the surface: Jim Geraghty (approvingly) characterized the whole right as "voting to kill." It's a short step from the sentiment to the act, one that needs no more than a few cracked individuals to turn into serious terrorism.
Of course, you're always going to have cracked individuals -- even if it does seem we have more than our fair share. What makes them such a public menace is the way the Republicans and their media thugs have run their scorched earth campaign against health care reform. First, they have totally misrepresented what is in the bill; moreover, they recast it in starkly emotional terms, and they've posited themselves as the last-gasp defenders of our way of life. Now that they've failed within the law they're practically begging their followers to take the law into their own hands. In fact, they've been cultivating the idea of popular revolt against tyranny ever since they came up with their Tea Party scam. So of course this sort of vandalism is going to happen. And of course far worse is going to happen. The only way to dampen it is to hold the leaders responsible. And by leaders I'm not talking about Mike Vanderboegh; more like Michael Steele, Mitt Romney, and the ghost of Barry Goldwater.
Friday, January 22. 2010
Justin Elliott: Tiller Stalker: Ex-AG's Crusade Against Kansas Abortion Doctor Revealed in New Complaint: Ex-AG is Phill Kline, who merited a minor profile in Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas? even before he became a one-term attorney general. (He was defeated running for re-election by former Republican Johnson County district attorney Paul Morrison, who switched parties to run against him. Morrison then resigned in some sort of mistress-money scandal, by which time Kline had maneuvered his way into Morrison's old job -- the county Republican party was able to appoint the replacement without letting the county vote. Kline soon lost that job too.) Nothing here is really news: it was obvious at the time that Kline was obsessed with Dr. Tiller, and that his main preoccupation was using his office to harass Tiller. Still, if you're not familiar with the details, read the piece.
Probably just a coincidence that Kline is back in the news the same week jury selection has started for the trial of Scott Roeder for murdering Tiller. Roeder's defense attorneys kicked off the trial by trying to use it to subpoena Tiller's business records -- even the man's murder becomes an excuse for a fishing expedition. The attorneys also argued that Roeder's defense will be what they called "imperfect self-defense": that he drove 200 miles to shoot an unarmed Tiller in his church to defend unidentifiable fetuses from their imminent slaughter by Tiller. It will be embarrassing if the jury buys that logic.
No one has established a connection between Kline and Roeder yet, but you have to wonder if they even looked. Both legendary anti-abortion activists hail from the same Johnson County, along with their most notorious competitor, Senator Sam Brownback. It seems unlikely that Kline and Roeder never crossed paths: even though their methods differ, they share a common contempt for the law. Brownback, by the way, is giving up a safe Senate seat to run for governor. It's hard to think of any reason why he should do so other than his desire to use the executive power of the state to advance his holy war against abortion. It will be sad and painful if that happens, but it seems inevitable, if for no other reason than that the Democrats have yet to find a substantial candidate to stand up against this fanaticism.