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SPOTLIGHT
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Peeling back the political curtains

Published on -10/12/2012, 10:04 AM

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A woman teacher in a different faith tradition has a challenging definition of a warrior, one well aligned with Jesus' teachings. Warriors are those who vow to take care of one another, even if that means "swimming out beyond our comfort zone."

In this way, we can go "beyond enslavement to success and failure, praise and blame."

Present Kansas politics seem to allow precious little space for such noble warriorism. Rather, it seems devoted to a "winner take all" model.

Take former Senator Sam's approach to governing our state. Recently, he "invited" 18 (count 'em) lobbyist organizations to a Senate Contribution Soiree. Fourteen Senate candidates, all proven malleable to the gov's agenda -- including all the extremists unseating moderate Republican senators -- were its beneficiaries. The implication of his invitation, at $1,000 per candidate, or a total cost of $14,000 for each lobbying organization, was to pony up or give up.

Give up, that is, any thought of staying on the good side of this administration, the result of the "unclean sweep" of 2010.

Some reflection is required to appreciate the potential effect of this power play. Handed directly to Senate candidates' campaigns, it means an $18,000 "direct deposit" enabling all manner of mass mailings, ads, and other expenses -- essentially "free money" to them. To run against them is to climb Brownback Mountain. To imagine Brownback candidates exercising their free vote against coming Brownback rewrites of law -- -and the Constitution -- seems at least unlikely.

If enough of these candidates are elected, extreme measures comparable to Brownback's tax reform will be rammed through. This law has been correctly labeled a "complete travesty" by Sen. Pete Brungardt. To quote Ed Flentje, the highly regarded and widely published Kansas researcher and political culture commentator, "The facts speak loudly. Brownback and his legislative allies have dramatically shifted the state tax burden from higher-income Kansans onto lower-income Kansans."

As if that weren't enough, District 24 Senate candidate Tom Arpke recently blamed Brungardt for reintroducing the gov's tax plan, ignoring the fact Arpke himself voted for it in the House. Brungardt's action was intended to seek a compromise, but wound up with the senator himself compromised.

To paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It takes brass to accuse someone (falsely) of what you're guilty of yourself."

But let's not just simply blame Sam or Tom or other legislators who birthed this pig and now try to cover it up with lipstick. For full awareness, we must look beyond state boundaries to meet ALEC.

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a group which itself pays no taxes, under the guise of being a "social welfare organization." ALEC is essentially responsible for ramming through national extremist right-wing legislation, tax-wise and otherwise. ALEC not-so-simply provides supplicant state legislators with "model legislation." With the wheels greased, legislators simply introduce ALEC's bills.

Two state legislators are on its board. Ray Merrick, a former state rep and now a senator, is running unopposed for a new House seat. He's also running for speaker of the House. Sen, Susan Wagle will likely (if Brownback's senators are elected) be the next Senate president.

ALEC is the real Wizard of Oz, hidden behind Sam's curtain. It twists state legislators' knobs till it gets the right setting. The rest is cruise control.

If you do nothing else, please go online for a 30-minute study of ALEC at billmoyers.com/segment/united-states-of-alec.

This indispensable overview explains why you have a vote, but no voice. It is brought to you by PBS -- the Big WatchBird Mitt Romney wants to get rid of.

Mitt's zeal is understandable. If you found out the truth, you might understand what's being done to you.

There might be, for example, more publicity about Kansas City's AMC theaters, which moved across town to Kansas, so they could pocket all of their employees state tax withholding, costing Kansans up to $47 million. Not to mention that the money goes to its Chinese owners.

Jesus said you cannot have two masters. You must choose -- God or Mammon. It seems Sam's faith tradition is the latter. Knowingly or unknowingly, Brownback's warriors cast misled votes, against us and for the interests that enslave them -- and us.

As warriors for the common good, we battle for freedom, not slavery. Equality, not discrimination. And fair treatment for all.

If the present regime chooses to go with us, then fine. If not, they need to be replaced, by vote and by citizen action.

It's the warrior's way -- and the peacemaker's.

David Norlin, a resident of Salina and McCracken native, is a retired English and communications professor from Cloud County Community College and chairman of the Salina Human Relations Commission.

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