CC by-nc 2.0 Bernard Rose
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Are You Kansane?

I have an admission to make. I’m a busy guy. With a full-time job. And a part-time job. And side projects that don’t pay me anything but still require a load of time and attention. Somewhere in all that mix I like to eat, sleep, and at least try to do things that keep me sane. Right now especially, there’s a lot to talk about going on in Kansas, and as much as I want to write about all of it, it’s pretty damn hard to find the time, because I care far more about the quality of my output than the average newspaper or network news show. This isn’t fair to our fans and readers, and I think it’s a brake on something that has the potential to be much better with more voices in the chorus.

So, that said, are you Kansane enough to write for the site? I’m looking for a few good people willing to help take part in writing and sharing news and information on the site. Interested? Here’s a bit of information: Continue reading

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Current Events

You know, I can’t say whether or not we should take in Syrian refugees. I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad idea. I only know four things, and here they are:

  1. We don’t learn anything from history, apparently. It took the US until 1944 to formally start working to assist Jewish refugees attempting to flee Europe. Prior to that, we were actively turning them away, and only accepted as many as was allowed by previous immigration quotas. Because it’s easy to ignore a problem that’s not on our doorstep. Really worked out well, too, didn’t it?
  2. Yes, admitting refugees, particularly if they don’t have documentation, can pose a security risk. You know what else poses a security risk? Legally entering the country on a plain old passport or visa. People forget, the 9/11 terrorists all entered the country completely legally. Sure, we have to accept that refugees without documentation pose logistical problems for the short and long term, but those are solvable problems. By denying them entry simply out of fear that one of them may be a terrorist, just means that we’ve given in to our fear. It’s sad, and it’s lazy.
  3. Xenophobia is not a functional foreign policy model, nor is it a mindset to be proud of as seems to be the popular tone of some conservative Facebook posts lately. Sometimes the cost of freedom is accepting the risks that come with trying to be decent fucking human beings to each other, regardless of where we come from. Refugees are such for a reason. They have fled their homes, their belongings, family, and friends because it was the only viable way to stay safe. If you can’t sympathize with someone who sees an uncertain, homeless path as the best chance for their future in the face of war, rape, and death, something is emotionally disconnected in you. We can either set the bar for how to Do It Right, or be the indignant assholes and feed the image that we’re already being portrayed as in the Middle East.
  4. Immigration is a touchy subject in this country already, but to use arguments based on our problems with illegal immigration from our southern borders to defend disallowing Syrian refugees asylum – at least on a temporary basis – shows a gross lack of understanding of the distinction between the two issues which are very different in virtually every meaningful way imaginable.

I don’t know where that leaves us. I don’t know what a solution looks like for us right now. And it’s possible maybe the right thing really is to not let them into the US. I do know Kansas, or probably any state, wouldn’t be flooded with an unsupportable wave of Syrian refugees should we put together a policy to help. I know what Jesus would probably say about it though. And I’m pretty sure he’d say: “Americans, don’t be a dick, help those in need.”

On Refugees

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Current Events, Issues

Interesting commentary on the right to “bear arms” and the historical context of the phrase that ties it specifically to military service. It’s a long read, but there’s a lot of historical background on how we got where we are when it comes to gun control (and despite the source, the article is very level-headed).

The problem I see in the editorial though is that assuming everything about the historical context is correct, particularly the part about the militia being required to bring their own weapons (which they did), that means the individual needs to have the right to own that gun, in order to bear arms in the military sense. Otherwise, members of a militia can’t “bear arms” because they’d show up to service empty handed. The article also ignores the word “keep” in the amendment. The right isn’t to just “bear arms,” it’s to “keep and bear arms.”

One of the better takeaways, though, is the danger of “quote-sharing” on Facebook, as quotes without context are meaningless and easily distorted. Think before sharing your next meme.

There is not a single word about an individual’s right to a gun for self-defense or recreation in Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention. Nor was it mentioned, with a few scattered exceptions, in the records of the ratification debates in the states. Nor did the U.S. House of Representatives discuss the topic as it marked up the Bill of Rights. In fact, the original version passed by the House included a conscientious objector provision. “A well regulated militia,” it explained, “composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.” How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment; Politico Magazine

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Kansas, Politics

Schmidt said in a statement that the decision “could effectively and immediately shut off all funding for the judicial branch.” [emphasis mine] Kansas attorney general says judge’s ruling may jeopardize funding for courts, The Wichita Eagle

Please tell me there comes a point where we as citizens recognize how incredibly corrupt and undemocratic this posturing by Brownback’s administration is and demand better. I would genuinely like to see someone defend the principle they’ve decided to deploy to coerce the judiciary into compliance with their plans.

Hat tip to:

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Culture

“I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.” Thomas Jefferson, July 12, 1816

Jefferson on Change

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Issues, Kansas

That exercise isn’t in the official process for how the state hands out “extraordinary need” funds. Districts make such requests when enrollment jumps or property tax revenues are affected by falling property tax assessments.

Still, being efficient with tax funds is a good thing, so this request just forced the schools to comply and send a list. So how often did the GOP leaders use those reported efficiencies on Monday to determine whether a district got more money?

Never once. Gov. Sam Brownback’s battle with educators damages Kansas schools again, The Kansas City Star

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Issues, National

Here’s a thought, how about no taxation without representation? The IRS shouldn’t even have the power to redefine what taxable “income” is to begin with. Employment “perks” suddenly cease to be such when you discover your effective tax rate going up, even though you don’t make more money. If they manage this, what’s to stop them from going after other pre-tax contributions?

Currently, free meals for employees, spouses and their dependents are excludable from income under section 119 of the Tax Code if the meals are for “employee convenience” and are provided on the employer’s premises. The IRS is also looking to clarify section 132, which says an employee entitled under section 119 to exclude the value of a meal provided on the premises is treated as having paid an amount for such meal equal to the direct cost of the meal. No more free meals for tech workers? IRS advances project that could tax on-site food perks, Silicon Valley Business Journal

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Division of Democrat and Republican Party members over time.

Division of Democrat and Republican Party members over time.

This plot data comes from the study The Rise of Partisanship and Super-Cooperators in the U.S. House of Representatives by Clio Andris, David Lee, Marcus J. Hamilton, Mauro Martino, Christian E. Gunning, and John Armistead Selden. It’s easy to look at a plot like this and see just how little “working together” our Congress does now, compared to the past. It’s also easy to see that, and realize why we’ve become so dysfunctional. When leadership can’t work together, it’s like divorced parents who hate each other fighting over who gets primary custody of their kid, and their kid just wants to go live with grandma now.

In yesterday’s post, I shared a video of Jimmy Carter talking about the oligarchy in America. He made one extremely poignant comment which applies directly here. Because this model is not sustainable, and it will be part of what breaks the back of stable American democracy. While he was referring to stopping the corrupting influence of money in Congress, this same sentiment applies to the problems caused by extreme partisanship. He said:

“It’s going to take either a horrible, disgraceful series of acts in our country that will turn the public against it and maybe even the Congress and the Supreme Court.” Former President Jimmy Carter in an interview with Thom Hartmann on July 28, 2015

National, Politics

Congressional Partisanship Over Time, Visualized

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