Brownback Friday

John Brown mural in Kansas state capitol

News Item:

Disparaging tweet about Gov. Sam Brownback lands Kansas teen in principal’s office
By Suzanne Perez Tobias
The Wichita Eagle
Published Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011, at 6:06 p.m.
Updated Friday, Nov. 25, 2011, at 12:49 p.m.

On Tuesday, Sullivan was called to her principal’s office and told that the tweet had been flagged by someone on Brownback’s staff and reported to organizers of the Youth in Government program.

The principal “laid into me about how this was unacceptable and an embarrassment,” Sullivan said. “He said I had created this huge controversy and everyone was up in arms about it … and now he had to do damage control.

“I’m mainly shocked that they would even see that tweet and be concerned about me,” she said. “I just honestly feel they’re making a lot bigger deal out of it than it actually was.”

Sullivan said the principal ordered her to write letters of apology to Brownback, the school’s Youth in Government sponsor, the district’s social studies coordinator and others.

Karl Krawitz, the school principal, did not return calls or e-mails Wednesday….

It’s Brownback Friday, kiddies.

Brownback’s Thanksgiving Message
uploaded November 22, sensitively enough

Most of the blogospheric tut-tutting has focused on Sam Brownback, who, if you’ve followed him, is the most reactionary Republican you’re likely to find outside of Mississippi. As noted in ‘The Civil Cold War,’ 6 July inst.:

Fundamentally, the State of Kansas (or, rather, the “pro-life” fanatics controlling the state government, including former Über-conservative Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, Scourge of Pornography, now state Governor) has, with a nod and a wink, seceded from the Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, pretending through law to skirt the clear meaning of the famous 1973 ruling byde facto making abortion illegal in Kansas.

Note that no statutes were passed designed to make it more difficult to assassinate the dwindling-into-miniscule number of abortion medical personnel in the state. Hmmm.

Hoping for another Dred Scott? Certainly.

… Odd that “Bleeding Kansas” is, again, the center of the most extreme reactions to the burning issues of the Day — as it was in the days of John Brown.

And, kiddies, when people are ready to kill over imaginary babies, the possibility of rational and reasonable settlement of differences is a far country never to be espied.

Brownback certainly deserves a lot more attention for being even creepier than he is in this case [see here], but the CHILLING part of the story seems uncommented on:

Governor Peepers

[her] tweet had been flagged by someone on Brownback’s staff and reported to organizers of the Youth in Government program.

And by that, I mean that a high school senior from Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village was being spied on BY the Kansas government while attending a mock legislative assembly of the Kansas state government AT the seat of Kansas state government in Topeka, Kansas.

Nice civics lesson there, Gov.

Kansas geography: the high school is in an urban center just west of Kansas City, Missouri. Topeka is in Northeast central Kansas, with Wichita in central southeast Kansas. They represent the three large urban areas in Kansas.

Rural Kansas is not involved in this story, with the exception of all those high school students the Kansas Youth In Goverment program who were also in attendance.

Relying on experience, I would guess it was one of those long bus or van rides to Topeka, to a mock legislature, teaching student council members how incredibly tedious it will eventually be, when, having succeeded far short of their wildest dreams, the unglamorous and unbeautiful will run lawn signs and ice cream socials on a laundry list of pre-ordained positions and are elected to the state legislature.*

[* Not realizing that the prestige of an ex-state legislator is indistinguishable from the reputation of an ex-drunk. People are vaguely aware of the fact, but don’t much talk about it in polite company.]

I attended similar sessions in my Youth.

The governor’s staff was monitoring twitter traffic for the Brownback speech (obviously a real stem-winder, filled with excitement and thrills for the Kollected Kansas Kids.

That’s the crux of Brownback Friday. Not that the governor of a great midwestern state, Kansas — which is also filled with wonderful, fabulous people who don’t deserve the opprobrium of being associated with “the means justify the ends” throwback Brownback — acted like a peevish child, and ordered the disciplining of a teenage girl he was spying on.

But that he was spying on her in the FIRST place.

Let me say that again:

But that he was spying on her in the FIRST place.

Think about that for a minute. If he had been some assistant football coach monitoring a teenage girl’s twitter account, Faux Nation would be manning the ramparts, screaming about child rape and sexual stalking. But if it’s the highest elected official in the state, we tut-tut Brownback’s overreach — conveniently forgetting that this kind of overreach of administrative authority is the hallmark of the American high school experience — without condemning the machinery we’ve built that facilitated the shameful bullying incident.

I understand the savage machinery involved: my uncle was Undersheriff of Russell County, Kansas (Bob Dole’s hometown) and later in the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.*  And we have a chilling view of the future here, if we would only look.

[* The KBI, or FBI, Junior.]

We built an apparatus to keep us safe from terrorism, and instead it’s being used to punish schoolgirls for disrespecting a figure utterly worthy of disrespect. (As proven by his response TO her disrespect. QED.)

This is the machinery now directed against US. You and me. Pretend that you are a middle-class teacher or a truck driver who has decided to march in an Occupy Wall Street event. Now, read this:

When the police officers and sanitation workers reclaimed Zuccotti Park, Occupy Wall Street’s supporters cried, “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.” Whether the sympathizers or the critics really understand the idea and the method of the movement is a good question. The idea is utopian socialism. The method is revolutionary anarchism.

That’s from little Billy Kristol’s Weekly Standard (his daddy, Irving Kristol was literally the father of neoconservatism). Now, consider the spookocracy’s response to your protest if they misinterpret it as liberally.

Or this, from The Daily Beast:

The bill in question is called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). It would empower the Justice Department to seek court orders compelling a number of third parties – Internet service providers (ISPs), search engines, financial networks, and ad networks – to take action to cut off “rogue” websites based outside the United States. It also would give every copyright and trademark owner a mechanism to cut off the financial lifeblood of any site the rights owner thinks is facilitating infringement (or even just not doing enough to ferret it out). A simple allegation submitted to financial and advertising networks would be sufficient to start the process, and a lawsuit could follow if necessary.

What’s wrong with all that? For starters, the bill’s definitions of what constitute “rogue” sites are so broad that they could sweep in all kinds of lawful social networking platforms, cloud storage services, and online communications tools. Any site that allows users to participate by posting, commenting, or uploading material would be at risk of getting entangled in the bill’s wide regulatory net. Indeed, a site could be declared “dedicated to theft” even if it has no intent whatsoever to foster piracy, the site’s principal uses are perfectly lawful, and the site scrupulously removes pirated material when notified about it as directed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Nor does a site have to be located outside the US – and hence beyond the reach of ordinary copyright enforcement lawsuits–to be targeted. Even domestic sites would be at constant risk of allegations by whatever copyright or trademark owners are the most aggressive and litigious….

This falls in line with “net neutrality” — this weird Zuccotti Park shadow world of commercial/government interaction wherein your ‘free speech’ has to take place over commercial providers, who are being ceded and required, more and more, to act as government censors. That is where we’re heading.

Or, take a look here. It is all warp of the same woof in the weave.

In that world, a high school girl tweeting her boredom at a probably boring speech would be pre-emptively silenced by her service provider, who was being required to monitor objectionable information (speech and copyrights both become simple UNICODE or ASCII or ANSA characters, which is what is regulated). And, in such cases, censors always err on the side of caution.

As noted earlier in the week, the purloined political relations memo specifically proposed to deliver monitoring of “online media” accounts by all associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement as part of the “opposition research” to be conducted on behalf of the Bankers’ association.

What Brownback did falls eerily between that kind of political “opposition research” and the kind of homeland security monitoring that WAS taking place under CARNIVORE, then stopped, then … well, we don’t know, do we? Because all that stuff to protect us from Turbanity is shrouded in black ops and black box secrecy.

It is all of a piece. And what ought to chill us is that such a mechanism has been placed in the hands of nutballs like Sam Brownback. Both the police force, and the ability to spy privately, say, using a service provider or even your secretary.

Now, I have intentionally created the misimpression that the Homeland Security/FBI/KBI machinery was involved in this debacle. It wasn’t.

The Wichita Eagle story explains:

Brownback’s office discovered the tweet via a Web search for his name, officials said.

Niomi Burget, Brownback’s scheduling secretary, e-mailed a screen shot of the tweet to the Youth in Government sponsor at Shawnee Mission East, writing: “I don’t know if this was someone with your group, but thought if it was, you might want it brought to your attention.”

This should not lend us comfort.

We have created a police state that doesn’t require the police.

Unless called for.

Sweet dreams and Thanksgiving leftovers although not in that order.



A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.

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