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Good News on the Budget Frontiers

My native state, Kansas, has so little money that the governor cancelled the state arts program, tried to eliminate all funding for family planning, slashed budgets for judicial support staff–putting court dates far into the future for many defendants–and even eliminated funding for a place that cares for severely brain-damaged adults, including many returning veterans.  However, good news! He has enough money to monitor every mention of his name on the World Wide Web, including a tweet by a suburban KC teen who told all 65 of her followers that “he sucked.” Today, Emma Sullivan has 11,000 Twitter followers, thanks to Governor Brownback: the gov went to her high school principal after finding the tweet and demanded that Ms. Sullivan provide a written apology.  The principal agreed.

I’ve been interested to read some of the worldwide coverage. Of course this story makes perfect pundit-fodder, and many pundits have sternly chastised Ms Sullivan for her rudeness in saying Mr. Brownback “sucks.” Perhaps she should have said, in 140 characters, “The governor’s style closely approximates that of Attila the Hun, or perhaps the angel of death, and our state will bear the scars of his destructive scythe for decades to come.”

(As of today, after the story went viral, the governor and principal have decided they “over-reacted.” Ms Sullivan need not apologize. The gov said free speech was our most “treasured” freedom. I don’t know if this is the place to point out that the First Amendment, which guarantees our freedom of speech, includes that pesky little separation of church and state clause. Which Mr Brownback apparently thinks is a fly speck on the Constitution, since I’ve been told that a number of his staffers begin meetings by saying, “I’m a Christian and we start meetings with Christian prayer.” The Kansas legislature also has a chaplain who hands out photocopies of Bible texts and commentary to state agencies to start the week with a bang. No money for the arts, but plenty for photocopying religious tracts.)

Closer to my current home, Chicago, our state attorney general went to court to enforce the state’s parental notification law for pregnant teens seeking abortions. In going to court to support the law, Ms Madigan, whom I’ve always liked and supported, went a little overboard: she said the state constitution’s guarantee of citizens’ rights to privacy doesn’t include our right to abortion.  Meaning that women’s bodies are not our own, that the state has an overriding interest in regulating us.  I think the logical next step is a law requiring all abortion providers to operate in open-air tents so that everyone can watch. Like Kansas, Illinois has major and serious budget issues, but, like every other state in the union, not to mention the U.S. Congress, the only legislation our state gets really enthusiastic about is how to add ever more burdens to women of all ages who want contraception or abortion services. (As of November 30, the state supreme court has agreed to hear Ms Madigan’s arguments and has further decided to let some conservative Catholic groups testify with her.)

I forgot another arena where we have a lot of enthusiastic legislation: making it illegal for citizens to video cops. When police sprayed pepper spray into protestors’ eyes on the UC-Davis campus, they claimed it was in response to student violence. A video of the scene showed no crowd violence, just a row of seated people getting sprayed as if they were aphids on the tomatoes. In a November 28 column, Leonard Pitts recounts the story of Emily Good, who was arrested for videotaping a police traffic stop in front of her house. He goes on to detail a number of jurisdictions that are passing laws against photographing the police in the performance of their duties.

We are a society under constant surveillance by our government. We’re a society gripped by fear, and there’s nothing like surveillance to add to paranoia. But we’re also a society with huge economic problems. I’d love to see our legislators grappling with those problems for a change.

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  • the Bag Lady

    What is this world coming to? There are so many things wrong, can it ever be fixed? Of course, what seems wrong to some people seems perfectly acceptable to others.
    Someone recently told us that here in Alberta our provincial government has passed a law that says we will be fined up to $5,000.00 for asking any government official/employee what they are doing. Say, what?? I have not yet found any documentation to back this up, but am still looking! If we are not allowed to question our government, isn’t it time to stop paying them with our taxes?

  • Kiki Rosenberger

    Making it illegal to visually record police officers in the performance of their duties is frightening. Doesn’t anyone remember the NAZIS? If the police are doing their jobs correctly, they should have nothing to worry about!

  • Lesleyx

    Sounds like Mr Brownback ought to be renamed Mr Brown-nose!

  • Penthorn100

    Hope you are well Sara. No posts from you for a while. Hopefully you’re having a rest. Best wishes for 2012.

  • Mark Anders

    For a person from Europe it is quite enlightening to see, from where leaders in Moscow or Singapore get their ideas. Or is it the other way round? Anyway, the regime in Teheran will rightly feel justified.
    So much to a society built on fright – and not on education.

  • Bongobimbo

    Thank you, Sara, and thanks also to V.I. who carries your necessary views to a wide audience!  You are indeed a Sister.  I’m a white woman, almost 76, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam era–and an incurable activist, like you, starting with civil rights in the Southern university where I was majoring first in physics, then in linguistics.  Don’t get arrested by Southern police.  Almost the entire Unitarian Fellowship of the university got “invited” to depart and go to some other college, including me.  In the Navy I kept my membership in NAACP & AIM and subscriptions to NATION, RAMPARTS and, of course, Bill Gaines’ MAD, but after 12 years I resigned from a Naval officer’s career in 1968 with a blunt letter, “I object to U.S. foreign policy, most specifically to the war in Vietnam.”  Where I now live, Philadelphia, I’ve been very active with peace veteran groups and in my Unitarian Universalist church’s Social Justice actions.  With other Grannies for Peace I helped set up a tent at OCCUPY PHILLY at Dilworth Plaza, where a homeless woman lived. The city broke its word and the tent city was smashed down by the cops just before Christmas. (Merry Xmas to Philly’s homeless; apparently nobody at City Hall was thinking of a Jewish mother who had to give birth in a stable.)  OCCUPY is still well and growing and I went to 2 rallies just last week plus MLK Day of Service where I led a construction team re-doing the chairs in a day center for homeless women & their kids.

    I was born in Iowa, next door to your birth state, have lived in 15 states, including Illinois–from ages 5 to 9 in Chicago’s Austin while my 8th grade dropout father, who ran away from home at 13, finally got an education in Industrial Engineering at Armour Institute, and my bookkeeper mother worked as a company accountant during WWII.  We cheered at both Cubs & White Sox games, supported the Cubs in their pennant year of 1945.  In 1950, living in Wisconsin, I fell for the Go-Go Sox led by Paul Richards and it’s been the Sox ever since.  The year they won the pennant, what a series!  I loved Chicago, our 2-flat with the downstairs Italian neighbors, a John Dewey designed neighborhood public school where we studied propaganda in 4th grade by analyzing a short version of “Mein Kampf” and where 5th grade girls studied electric wiring, wood shop and (as I recall) auto upkeep while the boys had to take cooking, sewing and child care. On Saturdays Mom and I took the L to Marshall Fields, the big downtown Chicago library, the Museum of Science & Industry with its “coal mine” (my uncle was a miner in Pennsylvania), Field Museum, the children’s opera & ballet, private piano lessons and lessons via a kiddie scholarship at the Art Institute.  Dad took me to the Armour campus–now IIT, I believe–and to Northwestern where he studied whatever law industrial engineers needed to know,.  Best of all was the fascinating mixed ethnicity of our neighborhood–several religions and largely second-generation Americans of Italian, Polish, Lithuanian, Swedish, Irish, English, German and Greek heritage, but no African Americans until long after we moved away.  Back in Chicago as a kid, since I was a redhead, cops stopped traffic to let me and my redheaded all-Irish best friend cross the street. If they’d known we were Protestant they might have thrown us under a truck.  

    My son grew up in mixed neighborhoods, too.  Although also fair haired with a bright red beard, he carries his father’s Italian-Swiss-Austrian heritage as well as my Scots-Irish-German-English-Shawnee, and he’s been married for almost 13 years to a lovely computer engineer from Korea.  Unfortunately they and my almost-9-year-old granddaughter live across the continent in Silicon Valley, although we manage to visit now and then and email frequently.  I’ve lived in three racially mixed neighborhoods–and they were the most neighborly neighborhoods in a long lifetime of moving around from Chicago to Wisconsin, Miami to San Diego, Pearl Harbor to Newport, Michigan to Texas.  These multiethnic locales were in Arlington, VA, Austin, TX, and most recently, Mount Airy in Philadelphia, the nation’s most successfully integrated neighborhood–skin color, religions, age, gay-straight, singletons & families, mixed marriages.  Mount Airy spoiled me with its boisterous friendliness and activism, but, ugh, it’s going overpriced white yuppie.  So after living there 15 years, I left behind my beautiful garden last August and moved with 3,000 books and two dozen musical instruments into an all-elders apartment complex with about 75 other neighbors, 71 of whom are African American.  I have the joy of listening every day to my neighbor across the hall, an operatically trained soprano in her 80s, run through her scales. I expect she could still break crystal and hope that V.I. can sing as well when she’s in her 80s.  I’ve been a singer, too, semiprofessional during the folk revival, have conducted three UU choirs and done a little composing.  But I took my graduate work in Medieval studies with a specialization in dissenting movements–religious, political, economic and social–, worked for many years in environmentalism and alternate energy, then in computer training and health, and have about 20 books, all nonfiction, to my credit, as author, editor or illustrator.

    Keep V.I. active, please.  We females of both the human and canine species need your stories! Thank you for everything you do.

  • Thank you for sharing your fascinating story with me, and others who come to this blog. Your energy and courage are awe-inspiring and I feel much honored that VI speaks to you.

  • sonja foxe

    #1 Mark out VI’s office(s) in Wicker Park and the Loop and home locations west Lakeview just south of Belmont

    #2 — Cousin It’s (June 9, 1947) adoptive father just passed (97 yo) …

    #3 — I would like to profile you for an astro journal … you can use my researches as a basis for structuring your biography

    #4 — I think Cousin It’s bio parents were Joseph Kennedy, Sr. & Norma Jeane Mortenson —

    Cousin It’s husband is connected and packs heat.

  • Herta

     Perhaps one of the reason for not video taping the police is the possibility of retribution from criminals or their friends.

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