Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Gov. Brownback Says Zombie Preparedness Month Starts Soon In Kansas

By Edward M. Eveld, The Kansas City Star (TNS)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Absent a zombie apocalypse before then, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback this week will sign a proclamation designating October as “Zombie Preparedness Month” in his state.

The ceremony is planned for Wednesday at the Capitol, a reminder of the need to be prepared for any emergency. Kansas Division of Emergency Management staff will be on hand.

“If you’re prepared for zombies, you’re prepared for anything,” Brownback said in a statement. “Although an actual zombie apocalypse will never happen, the preparation for such an event is the same as for any disaster: make a disaster kit, have a plan and practice it.”

During October, state emergency management staff and other public agencies will provide information and zombie preparedness challenges on social media.

Go to the and click on Kansas Preparedness Challenge. On Facebook, go to

(c)2015 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Daniel Hollister via Flickr

Tax Plan Passes Kansas House After Emotional Overnight Debate

By Bryan Lowry, The Wichita Eagle (TNS)

WICHITA, Kan. — A tax plan crawled to passage in the Kansas House in the early hours Friday morning, after Gov. Sam Brownback warned lawmakers that massive budget cuts would occur Monday if they failed to act on taxes.

The House began debate on a pair of bills at 1:30 a.m. meant to plug the state’s nearly $400 million budget hole. It did not pass until after 4 a.m.

Democrats castigated Republican leaders for holding the debate at such an hour when lawmakers are weary and most of the public are asleep.

But Republican lawmakers stressed the urgency of passing a bill now rather than later with the state staring down massive cuts if lawmakers failed to act.

The first bill scraped by with 63 votes, the bare minimum for passage, and the second initially fell four votes short.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Republican, invoked a rule known as “the call of the House,” which pauses the vote and requires the Kansas Highway Patrol to search for missing representatives. Merrick and other Republican leaders picked up their phones and aggressively pressed colleagues to back the bill.

“I need some movement,” the speaker emphatically said into his phone within earshot of reporters seated nearby.

The call lasted more than two hours before Rep. Blake Carpenter, a Republican, cast the deciding vote after 4 a.m. Carpenter left the House chamber before answering questions.

“Sometimes it’s hard to get 63 votes,” Merrick reflected after the bill passed. “That’s the way the process works. It’s a hard vote for Republicans raising taxes. It’s a real tough vote for me.”

Before the pair of bills can go to the governor’s desk the Senate will have to pass one of the bills, which isn’t guaranteed.

“It moves that last train down the track,” Merrick said about the House vote.

The two bills generate $384 million in revenue, which if added to other legislation passed this year, would fill the state’s shortfall and leave the state with a razor-thin $36 million ending balance in fiscal year 2016, which begins in July. House leaders are also counting on the governor to issue $50 million in unspecified budget cuts of his own to bring the total to $86 million.

(c)2015 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Kansas Secretary of Administration Jim Clark displays a flow chart of what it takes to set up new funds once a budget is passed. Sectretary Clark explained to a joint caucus of Republicans in Topeka, Kan., on Thursday, June 11, 2015, how long once a bill is passed for funds to flow to the recipients as the Kansas House and Senate are trying to fill a $400 million budget hole. (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/TNS)

5 Ways Republicans Dare You To Vote Against Them

In a sensible world, you wouldn’t be able to run on failed policies.

Economic gambits that led to massive inequality in the good days and a financial crisis that cost 8 million jobs in the bad days would be cast aside forever. Proposing a rehash of the foreign policy that destabilized the Middle East at the cost of thousands of American lives and trillions in treasure would exclude you from polite society. You wouldn’t, for instance, even consider backing the brother of the president who championed all these polices, especially a brother whose only major disagreement with that president would have left America with a net job loss, instead of just the worst job creation since the Great Depression.

In a sensible world, the guys who led us into Iraq to be “greeted as liberators” would be tarred and thumbtacked for suggesting that the poor should think about their life choices.

But we have to stop pretending this is a sensible world.

Since the early 1970s, America’s right wing has been bolstered by corporate America’s realization that its best investment was buying our government. By merging with the Christian right to foster the abomination known as Christian Libertarianism, business conservatives have created a movement that has taught itself how to sell its unpopular and cruel ideas.

Creating reality has brought Republicans to the verge of political power they have not seen in a century. It tricks millions into believing the stimulus — which prevented a Great Depression and created a green energy revolution that could prevent untold horrors — was a failure. The propaganda around Obamacare is so pervasive that even Republicans who’ve bought a plan in an Affordable Care Act marketplace, got a subsidy, and like their plan still hate the president’s health care reforms by a 74-35 percent margin. Meanwhile, the fiction that the Iraq War had suddenly been “won” after six years abounds. The only problem, Republicans have decided to argue, was that President Obama followed through on the agreement George W. Bush made with Iraq’s “democratically” elected government and didn’t insist on a permanent occupation of the country.

The power of repeating lies is undeniable. The power of repeating lies in a political environment of unlimited anonymous political spending, where the Koch brothers’ network alone plans to spend nearly a billion dollars to pick the next president — who will in turn pick up to four Supreme Court justices — should send out never-ending lightning strikes of fear across all of America.

Fortunately, Republicans’ fiercest opponents are themselves. Actual reality has proven to be a powerful countervailing force, when enough Americans vote. This is why you should expect an election filled with Bushian attempts to blur the differences between the two parties in order to encourage independents and discourage liberals. Despite that, there will be plenty of moments to call out the true differences between the two parties, besides one wanting you to have health insurance, voting rights, reproductive rights, and the freedom to organize, while protecting the sanctity of traditional… climate.

The truth behind the conservative mission to have America governed by big corporations is often exposed in the party’s most risible policies. Here are five ways Republicans reveal their cruel intentions and dare people not to vote for them.

Continue reading

1. Thinking opposition to “big government” equals opposing government programs.
Conservatives have effectively trained Americans to hate the idea of “big government.” President Bill Clinton recognized this as he said, “The era of big government is over,” even as he was engaged in a battle to defend Medicare from withering cuts. Since the 1990s we’ve learned that smaller government leads to bigger banks, bigger corporations, and bigger inequality. People still hate big government, but they love Medicare and Social Security. And when made aware of how many of us will end up being dependent on Medicaid as seniors, they love that too. Heck, they’re even learning to love Obamacare, despite about a billion dollars in ads designed to make them hate it.

Mike Huckabee recognizes the affection for these programs and seems to be spouting conservative heresy when he says that he wants to preserve them for older Americans. But that’s even Paul Ryan’s line. He continually points out that his Medicare reforms — which reveal the lie in all Republican health care policies by turning Medicare into a version of Obamacare with a public option — would only affect people 55 and older. And the fact is that breaking two systems that work as well as Medicare and Social Security threatens anyone who depends on them.

Weakening the safety net in order to cut taxes for the richest is the GOP’s Prime Directive. But denying the reality of these cuts to the seniors whose votes keep them in power is their only means of survival.

2. Hazing the poor.
If you have any passing familiarity with the Gospels or any trace of a conscience, you’ve probably wondered, “How did a movement based on the teachings of an abstinent socialist, 1 percent-bashing rabbi join forces with the ‘Greed is the greatest good’ followers of an abortion-loving atheist romance novelist like Ayn Rand?”

Well, Christian Libertarianism includes a reverence for money as an infallible means of God/free market deciding your worth. Winners reap tract homes, timeshares, and tax breaks. Losers suck on pain, poverty, and piss tests.

In Kansas, this is happening on another level.

The rich and their richresentative failure of a governor, Sam Brownback, have broken the state — literally — with tax breaks for the wealthy that were supposed to pay for themselves and instead bored massive holes in the budget. Someone has to be punished for this, and the obvious answer is the poor.

“The legislature placed a daily cap of $25 on cash withdrawals beginning July 1, which will force beneficiaries to make more frequent trips to the ATM to withdraw money from the debit cards used to pay public assistance benefits,” The Washington Post‘s Max Ehrenfreund wrote. “Since there’s a fee for every withdrawal, the limit means that some families will get substantially less money.”

But guess who will end up with more money? The big banks. That’ll learn ’em.

Continue reading

3. Playing games with women’s health.
When Scott Walker was facing a tightening re-election campaign, he made this ad which starts by saying he’s “pro-life” and then ends with him seeming to argue that the decision of when to have a child is ultimately a woman’s choice, which would suggest the opposite.

He, of course, wants to ban abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother. This is the official position of the Republican Party, one that only about 1 out of 5 Americans shares. So you see why he’d want to hide it. And now, of course, he’s pursuing a new limitation on reproductive rights as he faces a tough presidential primary election.

This strategy is also at play for Republicans who want to hide the fact that they want to reverse the historic expansions of contraceptive access in Obamacare by pushing over-the-counter birth control pills. This argument — which worked for Cory Gardner in Colorado — sells voters on what feels like a new right. But it’s actually a right to pay for something that’s now free for all women.

4. Running on war without consequences.
The Iraq War wasn’t just one of the worst strategic mistakes in American history. It was one of the most expensive. And was made even more expensive by financing it with debt. Not only was it the first war that didn’t see some element of new taxes to cover its expense, but it also followed two of the largest tax breaks for the rich in American history.

Separating war from its cost is a necessity. When Republicans ache for a return of ground troops to Iraq or a possible escalation to war with Iran, they’re never asked about the costs of such policies. We can’t afford to feed the hungry but we can always afford to feed the hunger for war.

Democrats did a decent job of pointing out the first “credit card” war in 2008. But since then Republicans have edged back to the same aggressiveness that marketed our post-9/11 failures. It’s time to corner the right on this again by proposing a law that requires any new wars include a progressive tax increase. Even if such a law is politically impossible or technically unworkable, it makes it clear that when Republicans are demanding new wars for questionable motives, we can’t just ask the 1 percent of Americans who serve in the armed forces to sacrifice for it. Since we’re all going to pay for it eventually.

5. Saying the only problem is that we’re not conservative enough.
Conservatism is magic. It can’t fail. It can only be failed.

Congressional Republicans are seeing lows in the polls that are usually reserved for Congress itself. Part of the problem is that the party’s base is unhappy with its leaders, imagining that taking over the Senate should have resulted in the repeal of Obamacare, an end to anything they want to call “amnesty,” and the president’s deportation.

In a new study, Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins find that “the rise of the Tea Party movement among Republicans in recent years has not been accompanied by an equivalent ideological insurgency among Democrats.” Democrats in disarray is a constant narrative, but the fact is that liberals are far happier with their party and their presidential frontrunner than Republicans could ever imagine.

Republicans depend on a fundamentalist base that regards all compromise as sin and a business community that recognizes that indulging its base too much wouldn’t just lead to economic catastrophe, it would lead to something worse — electoral defeat.

The right likes to pretend that conservatism only wins when it’s pure. But this ignores that its greatest victory in 1984 had more to do with economic growth of 6.8 percent than an embrace of conservative policies, as Democrats kept their majorities in the House and Senate.

Leaning to the center is an inevitability of a presidential campaign. But there’s evidence that suggests that if the GOP’s nominee leans too far in 2016, the party may crack.

Image: DonkeyHotey via Flickr

First Quote Jesus; Then Punish the Poor

Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker.” — Proverbs 14:31

It’s not my habit to start a column with a quotation from the Bible, but this one’s loaded with self-professed Christians, so why not?

In the mid-1990s, during my time as a metro reporter and feature writer for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, I started writing stories about people who lived in poverty.

I learned early to avoid certain words and descriptions that ignited the ire of certain readers who would rather shame fellow Americans for their dire circumstances than consider why so many of them live in poverty. And often just blocks away from our front doors.

As a columnist, I still sometimes fall back on those rules:

Unless crucial to the story, don’t refer to the flat-screen television in the living room or the car in the driveway, no matter how many miles are on it. A depressing number of people will want to know why a poor person needs a TV or an independent mode of transportation.

Avoid mentioning a tattoo unless it’s central to the narrative. Even then, brace yourself for the onslaught of angry readers demanding to know whether taxpayer money paid for that ink.

And just skip the part about the gold cross dangling around the neck of the grieving mother. I admit this is born of self-preservation. The number of people who are more interested in how she got her jewelry than how her son died will eat at your soul.

So here we are, facing another round of legislative attempts to humiliate poor people who can’t fight back. Lots of headlines but little noise from most of us. I’m not the cynic who thinks everybody’s heart has shriveled to stone. I do, however, worry that our exhaustion is fueling these heartless victories.

In Missouri, the pending House Bill 813 stipulates, “A recipient of supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits shall not use such benefits to purchase cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak.”

This bill was introduced by state Rep. Rick Brattin, who identifies himself and his family on his website as “devoted Christians.”

In Wisconsin, a new bill would dictate that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits could not be used to buy crab, lobster, shrimp, or any other variety of shellfish.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the Baptist preacher’s son who insists his marching orders come from God, wants to take it further: Anyone who applies for unemployment, food stamps or another assistance program would have to prove his or her sobriety.

“This is not a punitive measure. This is about getting people ready for work,” he said. “I’m not making it harder to get government assistance. I’m making it easier to get a job.”

In Kansas, we have Gov. Sam Brownback, who last year said, “Our dependence is not on big government, but it’s on a big God, who loves us and lives within us.”

Brownback just signed a bill into law that prevents welfare recipients from spending their assistance on “expenditures in a liquor store, casino, jewelry store, tattoo or body piercing parlor, spa, massage parlor, nail salon, lingerie shop, tobacco paraphernalia store, vapor cigarette store, psychic or fortune telling business, bail bond company, video arcade, movie theater, swimming pool, cruise ship, theme park, dog or horse racing facility or sexually oriented retail business.”

You might wonder whether there was any evidence of such widespread spending, but that would mean you’re in search of facts and you’re definitely not going to fit in with this crowd.

State Sen. Michael O’Donnell, also the son of a pastor who likes to mention Jesus when explaining his opposition to helping the poor, told the Topeka Capital-Journal last month: “We’re trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended. This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life.”

Democratic state Sen. David Haley’s response: “This is a troubling elitism here that this body is embracing during what, for many of us, is Holy Week. We really have to look in the mirror. We can’t say something on Wednesday and shift gears on Sunday and think somebody isn’t paying attention.”

As the late Rev. William Sloane Coffin once put it, “it is ironic to think of the number of people in this country who pray for the poor and needy on Sunday and spend the rest of the week complaining that the government is doing something about them.”

“Ironic” isn’t the word that immediately comes to my mind, but what do I know? I’m just a Christian-in-training, not one of those experts willing to insult our Maker.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz ( and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at 

Photo: Jerry Worster via Flickr