Thursday, March 5, 2015

Brownback's Harriet Myers

I really don't mean to pile on the Governor and the Republicans. That's one reason I've been strangely quiet on this blog lately. 

There's just so, so little coming out of Topeka (and even less from Washington) lately deserving of praise, or even commentary. The stuff with which I agree devolves into a public relations nightmare.

Someone PLEASE PLEASE let's have a talk about how the Governor's Office is handling communications with supporters. I give you this graphic:

Why yes, it appears to have been drawn on a napkin and then sent to the four corners of Kansas through a spam email.  It does show that the Kansas school finance formula is a disaster, but approximately seven people who open spam emails read it. (A few posted it on Facebook, where it was universally ignored. Good job, PR geniuses.)

Sorry, I know I've been hard on the Guv's recent public relations efforts. Brownback team, this is coming from a friendly place. I want you to suck less. 

But I digress: What I really wanted to talk about here is Brownback's nomination of Kathryn Gardner for Kansas State Court of Appeals. Long before the Wichita Eagle started writing hit pieces about whom the Governor overlooked in his nomination (here), I heard rumblings about how disappointed some Republicans were with the nomination.

Mostly, the concern, and I consider it very, very valid -- is that the bulk of Gardner's legal career has involved being a law clerk. (Which is better than my legal career, but still. The Governor isn't nominating me for a seat on a high court. So...) She has very few legal writings to give the general public any ideas of how she will adjudicate.

Now, I'd like to trust that Brownback knows this woman and nominated her because she's a brilliant legal mind. But I don't know that, and because of her lack of legal opinions, I can't make that leap.

Now, if I could be assured that the legislature and the executive branches are always going to be controlled by reasonable conservatives, I might be quasi-OK with nominees cloaked in darkness.

But we all know that at some point in the future, a slimy liberal will be elected as Governor and liberals may stake a claim to a few more seats in the legislature. And when they do, I don't want them to be able to nominate and seat some sketchy character without a paper trail just because, well, BROWNBACK DID IT TOO.

I am not saying Gardner is sketchy. She's probably super nice and likes puppies and babies and attends the Topeka Catholic Church. Oh wait, even Brownback, a Catholic, doesn't attend the Catholic Services -- not that it matters. She probably attends Topeka Bible Church as most Brownback appointments these days do. (I actually don't know whether Gardner does, but if I were a betting man, I'd put a few bucks on her being a regular guest at TBC.)

Seeking a Gubernatorial Appointment? I know a church you MAY be interested in attending. (And if you don't attend church, that's something you should be doing whether you're seeking a job or not.)








Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Who the Governor actually hates...

Cue unending news cycle about how Gov. Sam Brownback hates the LGBTQTOOMANYLETTERS community. 

The editorials (and the whining. Good heaven, please make the social media whining stop.) are going to suggest Brownback hates gays. They're wrong.

The story clearly illustrates for whom the Governor has obvious disdain: Conservative legislators.

Brownback said he rescinded an order banning state discrimination against the Letter People, because former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius instituted the directive "unilaterally." As he inserted a rusty knife into the backs of conservative legislators, Brownback said such changes should be made by the state legislature.

It's hard to find the right words. I want to be respectful, but I also want to launch spitballs at the Governor. And I want to put bags of poo on the porches of whoever is advising him.

I don't actually disagree with the Governor's logic. Brownback said the Sebelius directive created a special class of people. True.

Brownback, in signing his order, said this "ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional 'protected classes' as the previous order did." 

On that, we can agree. But the timing. Oh, the timing. Brownback has been Governor for 4-plus years at this point. The fact that he waited a few weeks into his second term reeks of strange political

maneuvering. Clearly, Brownback was worried the change might affect his chances at re-election. So he waited.

If policy changes are necessary, if they're right, then a principled leader makes the changes, no matter the political consequences.

But since Brownback is obviously concerned with political consequences -- he should have taken a second to consider what his policy change will do to conservative legislators who are up for re-election in two years. They will be asked to defend Brownback's decision. And they're damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Brownback further twisted the knife by telling news organizations that this sort of policy change belongs to the legislature. This is true, but now there's proposed legislation to make the change through statute. So now legislators aren't only going to be asked to defend the Governor, they're going to be asked to vote on emotionally-charged, ill-timed legislation. 

This isn't the first time Brownback has stuck his foot in it at legislators' expense. His school allotment cut announcement came straight out of left field, with the vast majority of legislators learning of the Governor's proposal at the same moment the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle learned of it. Hence, some of the absolute disaster I wrote about yesterday.

Meanwhile, had Brownback had legislators in mind at all, he would have announced broad sweeping cuts to all department allotments -- not just education. That would have allowed legislators to say they preferred to use a scalpel rather than an axe on the budget. They could have "negotiated" the exact same thing the Governor wanted. Yes, Brownback would have taken political heat, which he is already -- but conservative legislators, who, once again have to stand for re-election in a very short time, would have some cover. 

The media is going to weave a compelling tale about how Brownback hates LBGTQ people, and like always, they're going to miss the point. No gay state employee is going to lose a job over this change. But you know who just might? Conservative legislators. 

Brownback doesn't hate gays. He hates the Kansas Legislature.


 

Monday, February 9, 2015

WHY ARE WE ALWAYS BEHIND THE 8 BALL?? Why? Why?

 Unless you've been living off-the-grid in a shack on the side of a mountain, you've recently been bombarded by public school shills threatening to recall Gov. Sam Brownback over cuts to school funding.

Their response to the $45 million in cuts is laughable. They're using a Moveon.org petition to recall the recently re-elected Governor. Their odds of success are slightly lower than my chances of winning Wednesday's $450 million Powerball lottery.

But the silly petition is getting some traction. Recently, I have seen perfectly sane people bemoaning the "cut." 

And now I'll explain why normal people have been drawn in to this irritating circus of misinformation. It is the fault of conservatives and the Governor. I'm sorry, but it is. 

That's right, you dear conservative, need to take a small sliver of the blame for this.

Anyone with two functioning brain cells and the tiniest bit of information could see this news story coming. Kansas revenue was short of projections and public education receives more than 50 percent of the revenue pie. Of course, education funding was going to take a hit. And as surely as night follows day, the liberal media and KNEA shills were going to use that fact to bludgeon the Governor. This should not have come as a surprise. 

Media loves bad Brownback photos
What I find continually shocking is conservatives are always two or three days behind the running media narrative. I don't get it.

First, Kansas GOP leaders should long have been saying one likely reason for the revenue drop is a change in federal capital gains rates, caused by the President's forced expiration of some Bush tax cuts.

(I realize they tried, but not hard enough. One must search hard to find that explanation, and one must be wiser than a turnip to understand it.)

Try harder, GOP and Governor. Mentions of the forced expiration of Bush tax cuts and its effect on Kansas' budget should have been dropped into every single press release on the budget -- FROM DAY ONE. 

For the general populace a truth must be repeated several times before it sinks in. Liberals have to hear a truth about 60,000 times before they even consider it or attempt to refute it.

More importantly, the fact that this is a cut to an anticipated increase can not be repeated enough. Despite the perceived cut, Kansas schools will still receive more in state funding than they did last year.

Why, oh why, did the Governor's Office wait what seemed like three days before mentioning the fact? 

And let's talk about that mention: It was mentioned in the weirdest, strangest, most awkward way. I received a personal email from the Governor's Office. It appeared in my email as from "Melika Willoughby (GO)." The "(GO)" stands for Governor's Office and the email address attests as  much.

But from there, I can't figure out exactly to whom to attribute the email.

It reads:

"My fellow Kansan,

"As you may have heard, Governor Brownback announced additional budget reductions yesterday.  Here is what the Kansas mainstream media won't be reporting.  The Legislature significantly increased spending on schools in the budget bill last year.  Six months later, the Governor and Legislature were given a $63.6 million dollar bill above the budgeted increase as the Kansas Department of Education underestimated the fiscal note for the school finance bill passed last year. This is one example of why the school finance formula needs to be replaced. 



Yesterday, a reduction of $28 million to school districts was announced.  Even after the reduction (to the increase), school districts are still getting $177 million more this school year from state funds than last school year.  What about the concern of reductions during the school year?  The reserves of school districts have grown significantly over the last few years.  At the following link, there is a listing of each school district's reduction (of the increase) under the heading 1.5% General State Aid Reduction.  In the column to the right of the reduction is each district's cash reserves that are in accounts they are statutorily allowed to move over to cover classroom operating costs."

And then there are some links -- one to each school district's reduction in increase and another to a Wichita podcast.

The email is unsigned.

This public relations response is baffling to me. If you're going to be a full-day behind, why bother responding? Seriously. Responding when you're this far behind the narrative only serves to keep a damaging narrative front and center.

Conservatives (and the vast majority of Kansans -- who not only voted for Brownback, but did so overwhelmingly) know that our public schools are bottomless pits of spending. No amount of money yanked from our pockets and diverted to indoctrination camps will ever be enough to keep the KNEA happy.

There's barely a blip in the pupil-teacher ratio. In 2009, there were 14.4 students per teacher in Kansas schools. Now there are 15 students per teacher. That's according to the Kansas Department of Education. (More information is here at Wichita Liberty.) I'm just spit-balling here, but maybe that fact should get a mention from the administration up front -- as in the day the cuts are announced, rather than a day or two later. Despite the wailing of teachers and their sycophants, the sky isn't falling.

A savvy administration could harness some of the power of the press, but for reasons I will never understand, this administration chooses not to. 

(Dear administration friends, the next time you're about to do something that you know is going to be controversial, please, please phone a friend. Or email one.)

It may be time for Brownback to keep a public relations firm on retainer. (Or if he is, maybe it's time to find another one??? I mean no disrespect to Brownback's myriad of public information officers, but come on!!! We all knew what the response to the "cut" announcement was going to be.)

And here's where conservatives get a healthy dose of the blame for this unflattering narrative: Where on earth are you, conservatives? Social media is flooded with stupid links to that Moveon.org petition. There is very little opposing information in the comments sections or in status updates to these stupid posts.

I first started seeing links to the petition of ignorance from my KNEA-active friends. They have a very selfish reason for posting such nonsense, but their incessant teeth-gnashing is now gaining some traction. I am noting apolitical, but quietly right-leaning friends now posting and signing this ridiculous petition.

Why? Because when the petition first began circulating, no one was soundly and loudly posting facts to dispute it.

This should serve as a lesson to legislators. While I agreed whole-heartedly with recent tax cuts, thinking people understood that spending cuts had to happen (at first) in order to stabilize the budget. (Over time, tax cuts generate additional income as businesses add people and increase their own spending. Key words: Over time.) 

Legislators should have cut spending BEFORE they cut taxes. And it should be noted, I believe there's still room for additional cuts. Kansas doesn't have a money tree. I can speak from personal experience, working people and the middle class are hurting right now and have been for some time. State and federal spending MUST be cut to preserve our way of life, and tax cuts should follow -- eventually leading to increased revenues.

I have to believe the vast majority of Kansans, who recently re-elected Brownback, understand what's going on here. And I'm not sure what those (paltry few) who voted for Paul Davis expected to happen if Davis received the nod. Budget revenues were trending low before anyone cast a ballot in 2014. Voters understood that budgetary concerns were likely to mean cuts somewhere or tax increases. Davis would likely have added tax increases, if he could find enough legislators to support them. (Unlikely). Brownback was likely to pursue cuts. Voters had a clear choice and they made it -- two months ago.

Still, I wonder: When will conservatives learn? 

The silent majority isn't the majority for long if it remains silent.








Friday, February 6, 2015

Brownback advocates for tax increase

 I hate to pile on Gov. Sam Brownback today as the mob is restless about the tiniest of cuts to schools. (To listen to the mindless rally of the libs -- and their uninformed friends -- you'd think the $44.5 million in cuts was going to close schools. A closer look at the numbers shows that for the vast majority of schools the cuts will be less than 2 percent of their budgets. How about buying fewer pencils?  Or foregoing new football uniforms? That ought to cover it.)
But I digress. 
One proposed solution to raise some cash: Brownback has suggested adding taxes to cigarette and liquor sales. 
I mean this as nice as possible: That is the silliest solution in the history of well, history. Conservatives -- heck, even liberals -- recognize that an increase in cigarette and liquor taxes in Kansas will likely mean less revenue for the state. A very large percentage of Kansans live within a few miles of neighboring states. (Hi, Missouri!)
The biggest proponents of the Brownback tax hike are Missouri convenience store owners. (Note to Gov: They aren't your constituents.)
And don't even get me started on the sheer stupidity of using the tax code to induce certain behaviors. I hate.hate.hate that. I don't like it when liberals do it, and I expect better of conservatives. If we don't like cigarettes and/or liquor, let's ban them outright rather than taking a bigger slice off the top. That only puts government in the awkward position of having to encourage behaviors in order to pad their bottom lines. It's D-U-M dumb.
Fortunately, Brownback's proposed tax hike appears to be dead on arrival. (No word yet on how many angry phone calls David Kensinger will dish out before the Legislature's budget battle is complete.)
Though it appears to be going nowhere, someone in the Brownback administration (and perhaps the Governor himself) should be taken to task for reneging on a foundational promise to the electorate -- fewer taxes, not more.
As one astute emailer who shall remain nameless said, "Not only is (Brownback's) proposal incredibly stupid policy for a supposedly staunch economic conservative, but it also demonstrates an alarming degree of political cowardice that might entail further problems down the road."

Commence caterwauling in 4..3...2..

I am not sure where to even start with this article in the Wichita Eagle.

Um. Mr. Lefler, your bias is showing.

In this "news" piece, Lefler writes about some teacher's union people hyperventilating because a legislator, Sen. Mitch Holmes of St. John, suggested that moving spring municipal and school board elections to the fall would reduce teacher-union influence in local elections.

In a press release, Holmes said, "The teachers unions do not want to give up the majority they currently enjoy in low-turnout, off-cycle elections. But this act is not about protecting incumbency or special interest groups. It is about giving community members representation in local issues."

The state's largest teacher's union is opposing the bill, the Help Kansas Vote Act. (These bill names. Whatever.)

What interest do teachers unions have in legislation about the timing of local elections? There really shouldn't be any. However, the fact that they're opposing the bill, which would likely increase voter turnout, pretty much proves Holmes' point.

Of course, Lefler doesn't bother to make that connection in his hit piece against one of the most rational pieces of legislation in play this year. (That's one reason, I'm doing it for him here, reader.)

For what it's worth, the teacher union mob leader, Mark Desetti, said the union opposes the bill because in addition to changing the date of local elections, it would make local elections partisan.

Again, I have to ask, what interest is that of teachers? (I think we know the answer, because Holmes gave it to us.)

The bill, which hasn't yet been assigned a number, is a good thing -- especially the timing piece. 

My stomach turned when I started hearing about local 2015 candidates approximately two minutes after the 2014 General Election. There was no time for a victory lap or just a rest from the constant barrage of campaign nonsense. Personally, I could use the breather.

You know who else could use a few days between a general election and a spring, local election? The folks who work in the county election office. 

As an added bonus, the consistency of a November election every year would result in more consistent voters. 

Leave it to the people who throw a temper tantrum about how challenging it is to show an identification at the polls, to screech like banshees about making voting easier by establishing a consistent date. I don't get liberals, and on the off-chance I ever start "getting" them, please, direct me to the nearest mental institution for observation.

Now, the partisan election piece: I do prefer to know from which side of the aisle my representatives on all taxing bodies hail. I have voted for Democrats for local office. It's not necessarily my preference, but I have seen far, far too many conservatives on local bodies who are, for example, awesome on social issues but can't pull their heads out of their behinds where finances are concerned. Socially, they're Republicans, but fiscally, they may as well be tax collectors for the welfare state.

Local governments and school boards are rarely required to set policy about social issues, and in the rare instances when they are or attempt, the state legislature has the authority to make them see the light. A good example is the conceal and carry legislation that is (not quickly enough) requiring city halls to remove those stupid "Gun Free Zone" signs. (Because nothing scares a criminal out of a violent act faster than a sign.)

Most voters are wise enough to pick their candidates based on their stances on issues -- especially local candidates and issues. Joe Schmoe may be the greatest conservative the right has ever seen, but if he wants to run in Small Town, Kan., he probably ought to be very supportive of the sales tax plan to build a new park. (Or whatever.)

According to the abhorrent Eagle story, there's a third provision in the proposed legislation that would revoke a state law requiring candidates' names be rotated on ballots. 

My feelings won't be hurt if they toss that particular portion of the bill, but otherwise, this legislation is a much-needed improvement, regardless of what the mouthpiece for the teachers union says.

(Apologies to Bryan Lowry, whom I originally said wrote the article. It was Dion Lefler.) 

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article9366713.html#storylink=cpy

You're for free speech or you're with the terrorists

This bill should never have seen the light of day. Never. 

House Bill 2234 would force Kansas community colleges and state universities to implement policies that prohibit professors from using their titles when contributing to newspaper opinion peices. 

No legislator will admit authoring this attack on free speech, but the Topeka Capital-Journal theorizes-ish that the author is either Virgil Peck or Steve Huebert. Those two have assumed circling firing positions. 

Look, there are a LOT of liberal professors polluting the airwaves and newsprint with their stupidity. And I realize America doesn't look as pretty as she once did, but we still believe in free speech, right? 

Peck told the Cap-J that he didn't offer the bill and then did an about-face saying he sometimes introduces bills in committee as a courtesy. As a courtesy to whom, sir?

Yes, legislators sometimes offer bills as courtesies to constituents, but legislators can also say no. 


If (and that's a BIG if) someone actually asked Peck or Huebert to introduce this attack on the First Amendment, the should have told them, yeah, no. Not going to happen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

K Yo wins an award. I am so not swooning

Le sigh.

K. Yo has won an award for a cause that causes the bile to rise.

Here's how you know it's a nonsense award: It's called the PROMISE Award, aka, the 2015 Head Start Protecting Opportunities for our Most Important Students Early Award.

The bureaucrat who came up with the title probably spent at least $1,000 in federal staff time just naming it. 

This probably isn't a secret, but in case it is: I am no friend to Head Start. The program is a federal pre-school program designed to begin the public indoctrination process a little earlier. 

Taxpayers have dumped more than $180 billion into Head Start programs since its inception in 1965. And what do we have to show for it? (I mean, other than a KYo award?)

Answer: Not a whole lot. A report (using data collected in 2008 but released in 2012 *red flag!* *red flag!*) revealed that despite billions in expenditures, Head Start had little to no impact on the cognitive, emotional, health or parenting practicing of participants.

Not only did the report show virtually no improvement in educational outcomes, but by some measures, access to Head Start was harmful to children!! I am not making this up.

Kindergarten teachers of those students who started Head Start at the age of three were less prepared in math skills than the children who skipped Head Start.

 The obvious response to this failed program is clearly, clearly more spending. 

In a press release, Yoder essentially said he works hard to ensure the continued funding of such a critical program.



"I've seen firsthand at schools in my district that Head Start is a vital program that invests in our children's future by providing them an avenue to a good education that may not be there otherwise," Yoder said. "As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I've worked hard to show my colleagues the value of early childhood education, so that it remains a top priority."

First, I would like to note that there's a significant difference between "early childhood education" and Head Start. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

Second, I note the Head Start data and report here. (Scroll to the bottom and click the .pdf link at the bottom, if you'd like to bang your head against a wall by reading it.) 

The report and data suggest something other than what K. Yo reports. You're welcome to buy his story. I mean, he has visited Head Start programs throughout the Third District, "reading to students and visiting with parents and administrators." So maybe Yoder knows better than the federal data repository.

According to Yoder, Kansas has 8,130 Head Start enrollees supported by more than $56 million in annual funding, or $6,880 per student.

At some point, we need to start basing funding decisions on educational outcomes instead of pie-in-the-sky "hope." 

I'd rather have an extra $180 billion in the till, or better yet, back in taxpayers' pockets than a program designed to encourage better educational outcomes that doesn't produce.