Culture, Kansas

In an annual survey measuring “well-being,” Kansas has gone from 17th (2012), to 20th (2013), and last year jumped down over 20% to 32nd.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals across the globe to create a unique view of societies’ progress on the elements that matter most to well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. It is the most proven, mature and comprehensive measure of well-being in populations. New State Rankings Reveal Top 10 Highest and Lowest Well-Being States, Gallup-Healthways

Culture, Politics

Just a thought for the day. I think there’s always room for healthy discussions on topics like evolution, or climate change, etc. Areas where there’s at least some disagreement about aspects, even when it’s from outliers or fringe research. That is what science is all about, after all. Asking and answering questions through evaluation, testing, and reporting. But one of the big problems is how intertwined politics has become with science, especially with regard for willful ignorance of the process, outright disbelief of results, and attempts to legislate (or coerce) scientific position.

Science has a lot in common with religion, as far as it comes to its involvement in social order. In the same way that religion and politics don’t mix, neither do science and politics. Science needs to go where the questions take it, and be answered and refined through a process that has literally worked for thousands of years. Legislators only job with regard to science, is to promote it. This is a directive specifically stated in the Constitution, as a matter of fact.

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8; The Constitution of the United States of America

This clause outlines a specific action to be taken by Congress under the issue of General Welfare. The reason for that action is also clear though, that we, as a society, have an obligation to promote science and the process, no matter where those answers may take us. Science will be wrong occasionally, no doubt, but the process it goes through is well suited to allow and correct for that over time. Politicians would do well to remember this, and we would do well to remind them.

Politics and Science

Kansas, Politics

Voter fraud is bad. Voter fraud is something we should try to prevent. That said, Kansas does not have a voter fraud problem. Kobach uses voter fraud as a carrot to dangle in front of an easily mislead voter base. And then this comes up (after the elections, of course):

The Associated Press obtained [U.S. Attorney Barry] Grissom’s response to Kobach. It included this gem: “…So we can avoid misstatements of facts for the future, for the record, we have received no voter fraud cases from your office in over four and a half years. And, I can assure you, I do know what I’m talking about.” Kris Kobach exposed in phony Kansas voter fraud claim, The Kansas City Star

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Issues, Kansas, Politics

CARE-ing for Children

So, a lot of talk lately about Senate Bill 158 – the “Leave it to Beaver” bill that supposedly rewards good, clean, churchgoing families who foster children. Something seemed odd about this bill in the media, especially with regard to the “churchgoing” part, and I thought it deserved a little closer look and scrutiny. It turns out, I was right. What’s more interesting, though, is that it’s still a bill with problems, but people are focusing on the wrong parts.

Folks have criticized the proposed CARE program for it’s emphasis on rewarding the “traditional, ideal American family.” Some of that criticism is not wrong. After all, even in the 1950’s, Leave it to Beaver did not represent the “normal” family. They were a constructed ideal, used to market an image (not to mention products) that was emphasized by the times. It was during this time, for instance, that the Cold War was escalating and we were neck deep fighting against Communism while our populations were migrating to the suburbs. We were prosperous, but tense. People looked to things like television for comfort, so it was natural to use this medium to push agendas. Continue reading

Kansas, Politics

Though stopping short of fully admitting his tax-cut plan is failing Kansas, Brownback is attempting to patch our budget problems by raising taxes on alcohol and tobacco. But, this is again an example of ego getting in the way of making good policy, since sin taxes are inherently regressive in nature. As a result, if this passes, those already struggling in Kansas will suffer the worst, while the well-off will continue to be well-off. Plus, sin taxes are designed to try and discourage the sin. There are people that will quit smoking and decrease drinking, thereby negating gains. Not to mention that many populated areas like KC, Ft. Scott, and Pittsburg can easily border-hop to Missouri. Bottom line, we’re letting bad decisions lead to worse decisions.

Brownback wants to raise tobacco and alcohol taxes to help eliminate a projected shortfall of nearly $600 million in the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The state’s budget problems arose after lawmakers aggressively cut income taxes at Brownback’s urging in 2012 and 2013 to stimulate the economy. Kansas committee review bill to boost taxes, Topeka Capitol-Journal

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Culture, Kansas, Politics

Taste the Rainbow

I try to be fair. I try to be balanced. I want to be these things. I will make an effort here. That said, sometimes you just have to call out bullshit like you see it, and point it out as the hypocrisy that it is. To this end, I bring you our lord and savior governor, Mr. Sam Brownback. Mr. Brownback, I do not like you. I think you are a shitty leader. I do not hide this, and I am far from ashamed of it. (What I’m getting at here is that this article is going to be pretty ranty, so fair warning.)

To that end, most folks who care are now aware that Mr. Brownback recently revoked an executive order that afforded anti-discriminatory rights to the LGBT community in Kansas, among other groups (it’s hard to miss, since it’s made it from state media, to the LA Times, CNN, and more). Let’s look at it from his end, though. The rationale used is one that doesn’t have great counterpoint, which you would think is a good thing. First, there’s the idea that we shouldn’t be carving out special interest groups when it comes to rights and privileges. This is certainly fair enough. I make this point when talking about “hate crimes.” Assault is already assault, for instance. Let the judge consider motivation when sentencing, the law itself doesn’t need to treat one different from another. But anyway, the point isn’t without merit and is pretty easy to defend on its own. Continue reading

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Highway to Hell

About a month before the election last year, Governor Sam Brownback made an announcement in Arma, KS that, at the time, I openly called bullshit on. It looked like a publicity stunt, and it smelled like a publicity stunt. His opponent, Paul Davis, even made an incredibly prescient statement that “the enhancement project could unravel if the Brownback administration withdrew funding from the state’s T-Works transportation program to fill budget gaps left by unexpected revenue shortfalls associated with the governor’s income tax cuts.”

The reason I said that, was because Crawford county has been begging for the completion of the 69 expansion for quite some time, and it’s also one of the largest Democrat concentrations outside of Lawrence, Kansas City, and Wichita. However, there’s been a very vocal debate over the issue from folks along 400 Highway. The timing of the announcement was far too convenient to be anything but pandering. As Davis worried, Brownback did exactly what was predicted in raiding the highway fund (though the administration has maintained that planned expansion projects won’t be impacted… for now). Continue reading

Kansas, Politics

So, this is a thing that’s trying to get pushed through. I’m super interested in how they think this isn’t a pretty direct first amendment violation.

Actually, I know how they “think” it isn’t (hint: it has to do with universities technically being a government job, which is why the legislation only deals with issues that revolve around government commentary, so apparently working for the government is grounds for restricting commentary on it).

“Both the U.S. and Kansas Constitutions allow for unfettered freedom of speech and of the press. Those sacred documents don’t say ‘except if you’re a college professor who has an opinion.'” Kansas bill would ban use of writer’s job title in newspaper opinion pieces; The Kansas City Star

Update: While reading another article on this topic, I came across this GEM.

“I introduce bills in committee sometimes when I’m asked out of courtesy. It’s not because I have any skin in the game or I care about it. I’m not even sure I introduced it, but if he said I did, I did,” [Rep. Virgil] Peck said. Legislation bans professors from using titles in newspaper columns; The Topeka Capitol-Journal