By Peter Gottschalk, Los Angeles Times
April 16, 2014, 5:47 p.m.
The news that a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan is suspected of shooting and killing three people near Jewish community centers in Kansas seems at first glance like a disparaged past flaring briefly into the present. Americans like to imagine that the KKK belongs to a long-gone South and anti-Semitism to a distant 20th century. Sadly, this better reflects a naive faith in the nation’s history of religious tolerance than the realities experienced by many religious minorities. Although the KKK has evolved and its membership has dwindled, it remains part of an American legacy of religious intolerance.
A central tenet of U.S. nationalism rests on a notion of welcoming huddled masses, but the idea of American exceptionalism also runs deep. When Americans have imagined their country’s uniqueness as defined racially, religiously or culturally, those outside those parameters are immediately suspect. Sadly, religion has often served as the catalyst for prejudice.
Despite all of the progress made so far on LGBT rights, on Tuesday, Louisiana voted to uphold the state’s anti-sodomy law, 67-27, despite it being ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, in their landmark 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision.
In its decision, the court ruled that laws prohibiting sodomy seek “to control a personal relationship that, whether or not entitled to formal recognition in the law, is within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals.”
Unless you live in Louisiana?
In fact, in addition to Louisiana and Texas, Idaho, Utah, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas and Oklahoma have all maintained their own anti-sodomy laws, despite their direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s decision. In three of these states — Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas — such anti-sodomy laws pertain exclusively to “homosexual conduct.”
The Louisiana bill in question, HB12, proposed to amend “crime against nature…” and was introduced in January by State House Representative Patricia Smith (D-Baton Rouge). Although it seems painfully obvious that there is no reason on Earth to maintain such a law, Smith’s proposed bill was a direct response to the targeted arrests of gay men in her district who were profiled and lured by undercover police to agree to consensual sex. At least 12 men have been arrested in this “sodomy sting” since 2011, despite the fact that prosecutors refused to bring charges in every single case.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach - the mastermind behind anti-immigrant and voter suppression legislation throughout the country - joined radio host Joyce Kaufman yesterday at an event hosted by the anti-immigrant group FAIR, where he currently holds a top legal position.
Kobach has been on a media blitz recently defending Kansas’ strict voter ID law, which requires people registering to vote to present a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship, a requirement that has left tens of thousands of Kansans with incomplete registrations .
Kaufman, who is based in Florida, told Kobach, “I can’t imagine how many widows are voting for their dead husbands.”
“Yeah, it happens all the time,” Kobach replied, going on to explain that people who die or move out of state often stay on a state’s voter rolls.
Kobach’s conflation of out-of-date voter rolls with fraudulent voting is common among advocates of voter suppression laws. While fraudulent voting is extraordinarily rare - including in Kansas - Kobach has used the threat of such fraud to push faulty voter roll purges in states across the country.
Kobach went on to claim that those who cite the disproportionate effect of voter ID laws on people of color are in fact themselves making a “racist argument.” “You’re telling me that because of a person’s skin color, he’s less able to find his birth certificate?” he asked. “That’s just crazy to make that argument.”
In fact, numerous studies have shown that voter ID laws disproportionately affect minority communities and are often passed in response to an increase in minority voting.
- See more at: rightwingwatch.org
A hospital technician accused of causing a multi-state outbreak of hepatitis C last year is set to plead guilty in New Hampshire federal court in exchange for a prison term of 30 to 40 years.
A plea agreement filed Monday says the deal would allow David Kwiatkowski (kwiht-KOW’-skee) to avoid criminal charges in Kansas, Maryland and Georgia.
Kwiatkowski is accused of injecting himself with the painkiller fentanyl using stolen syringes, then replacing the drug with saline before the tainted syringes were used on patients.
The Court may agree to hear one or more abortion cases in its next term. For the most part, these cases have their roots in the Republican landslides in the 2010 midterm elections. At the time, those electoral victories were largely portrayed as being based on economics; the Tea Party was often described as almost libertarian in orientation. But soon after new state legislators took office it became clear that social issues, and especially abortion, were among their highest priorities. In state after state, those Tea Party lawmakers passed new restrictions on abortion, and as the restrictions have taken effect challenges to them have started to work their way through the courts.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, nineteen states passed forty-three new restrictions on abortion in 2012—on top of ninety-two restrictions passed in 2011. The most recent changes came in Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. A Guttmacher report states that the restrictions were in four general areas:
Mandating unnecessary medical procedures. The best known of these practices is requiring an ultrasound before any abortion, so that the woman is compelled to listen to a fetal heartbeat. Eight states now require these ultrasounds.
Increased regulation of abortion providers. These rules, notably strict in Michigan and Virginia, require abortion providers to have hospital-like facilities, while leaving other, similar outpatient institutions untouched.
Hospital privileges. Three states—Arizona, Mississippi, and Tennessee—recently added requirements that abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
Limits on later abortions. Louisiana and Arizona have banned abortion after twenty weeks, and other states are weighing similar restrictions. In a law scheduled to go into effect this summer, North Dakota effectively banned abortions after six weeks.
Good luck on the national stage with goobers like Brownback and Kobach leading the pack. There are days like this when being from Kansas is a very distinct embarrassment.
As we detailed yesterday, dozens of states are considering bills that attempt to nullify federal gun laws. One such bill became a law last month in Kansas. It exempts “Made in Kansas” guns from federal regulation and makes it a crime for federal agents to enforce federal law.
Attorney General Eric Holder recently wrote to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, saying the law is “unconstitutional,” and that the U.S. is prepared to sue Kansas to prevent the state from “interfering with the activities of federal officials.”
Now, Brownback has fired back.
In a letter to Holder yesterday, Brownback wrote: “The people of Kansas have clearly expressed their sovereign will. It is my hope that upon further review, you will see their right to do so.”
Local news reports have highlighted an estimate from Kansas’ attorney general that defending the new law in court could cost the state $225,000 over the next three years. Attorney General Derek Schmidt did not immediately return a request for comment.
“Our office has received more than 300 emails and calls in the last two days from Kansans and Americans from around the country thanking the governor for his response,” Brownback’s spokeswoman, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, wrote in an email. She also cited the many favorable comments on the governor’s Facebook page.
Kansas’ Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped draft the new law, also released a response to Holder’s letter. “As a former professor of constitutional law, I ensured that it was drafted to withstand any legal challenge,” he wrote.
Republican radicalism thrives here in Kansas, the reddest of red states, and within our state, in the reddest counties, and our brand of red-state radicalism does not bode especially well for the future of rural Kansas.
The antics of Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp, who represents many of the state’s rural residents, threaten the federal spending on which these Kansans heavily rely. And Gov. Sam Brownback’s perilous experiment in eliminating the state income tax has placed state services in jeopardy and eventually will push more school funding onto property taxes, driving the high property tax burdens of rural residents even higher. Curiously, voters in the reddest counties of Kansas cheer the loudest for both Huelskamp and Brownback.
Recent news stories in the Kansas City Star and the Boston Globe highlight the hypocrisy of red-state radicalism. The Star found the fiercest critics of federal spending also were big-time “takers” of federal spending. The Star focused on Sumner County, part of the Wichita metropolitan area, and reported in 2010 “the U.S. government spent roughly $189 million in Sumner County, almost $7,900 for every man, woman and child who lives here. That’s an estimated 40 (percent) to 50 percent more, on average, than each county resident paid in federal taxes.”
The Globe reporter traveled to Hodgeman County in rural southwest Kansas and interviewed residents attending a public forum for Huelskamp and later at a downtown coffee klatch in the county seat of Jetmore. Those interviewed applauded their congressman for saying “no” to federal spending and refusing to compromise on spending even with leaders of his own party. His obstinance got him booted from the House Agriculture Committee last year, leaving Kansas without a representative on the committee for the first time in memory.
Hodgeman County might provide a useful prism for viewing federal spending in rural Kansas, as more than half of the state’s 105 counties have fewer than 7,000 residents.
It seems like every time the Sunflower State pops up in my news feed, it’s for something like this: House Bill No. 2366, a proposed law that would make it illegal to use “public funds to promote or implement sustainable development.”
Kansas, the place where I spent my formative years skipping school to go fishing in farm ponds, is populated with thoughtful stewards of the nation’s breadbasket. It also has a habit of turning reason on its head. The state famously dropped evolution from its educational curriculum in 1999, along with the age of the Earth and the history of the universe, for good measure.
Now the state’s “Committee on Energy and Environment” is proposing a law that would prohibit spending on anything that won’t set Kansas on a course to self-destruction. House Bill No. 2366 would ban all state and municipal funds for anything related to “sustainable development,” which it defines as: “development in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come.”
If this definition sounds familiar, that’s because it was lifted verbatim from what’s commonly referred to as the Brundtland Report, one of the seminal documents in the modern practice of sustainability. The Brundtland Report was the product of a four-year commission set up by United Nations member countries who were increasingly concerned that the world’s resources were being squandered and its environment spoiled.