Colson: A freak-out in Kansas — it can happen everywhere
Reading about recent political developments in The Jayhawker State, I was reminded of lyrics from Frank Zappa’s prescient 1966 song, “It Can’t Happen Here” on the “Freak Out” album by his early band, The Mothers of Invention.
The song goes like this: “Who could imagine (various weird background vocals and noises) that they would freak out (more noises, including repeated croaking of the words ‘freak out’) somewhere … in Kansas,” followed by repeated croakings of the word, Kansas (which is the Jayhawker State, in case you were wondering).
Yeah, I know, you kind of have to hear the tune to get it in any deep and meaningful way, and I heartily recommend you check it out on YouTube.
Anyways, I sure as hell could never have imagined what’s going on right now in Kansas, a state I have yet to visit and, after reading what I came across last week in the news, I hope never to visit, ever.
Nope, I could never imagine what goes on in Kansas, certainly not when I was 15 and the aforementioned album came out (interestingly, that was the same year as publication of Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” about a heinous crime in, guess where, Kansas).
But now I need not imagine anymore, it’s a published fact that there are efforts by Kansas’ Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his Republican, Tea Party-controlled legislature to essentially undo the constitutional separation of powers between the executive, judiciary and legislative branches of state government.
A raving lunatic by the name of State Sen. Mitch Holmes (not related to Sherlock, probably not even to Johnny of porn-film fame) has introduced legislation that effectively tells the state’s judiciary, “You go along with every law we pass, or we’ll kick you off the bench.”
The proposed legislation, known as Bill 439, provides that any time a judge tries to strike down or modify a law passed by the Tea Party-controlled legislature (both houses, by the way), that judge is instantly and automatically subject to possible impeachment procedures.
That’s right, if the legislature passes some law that the state courts feel is unconstitutional or just plain wrong, the judges of Kansas would be legally constrained from doing anything about it for fear of losing their jobs.
As noted by the appropriately-named website, freakoutnation.com, this is not the first time the nutballs in the Kansas statehouse have tried to muzzle or castrate the state’s judiciary.
Last year, the elected leaders of the state tried to emasculate the judicial branch by threatening to cut its funding statewide if the state Supreme Court dared to rule that a certain 2014 law was unconstitutional.
The Kansas Supremes, however, called that bluff and the legislature backed down.
So now, the teabaggers whom the Kansas electorate has, in all its wisdom, put in control of the state government, are moving to broaden their powers by overriding one of the basic tenets of the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution — the separation-of-powers doctrine that provides the checks and balances needed to prevent despotic politicians from enshrining their regressive, bigoted agendas through illegal means.
According to the Kansas City Star, not exactly a leftist revolutionary organ, the proposed law “smacks of desperation” and was prompted by recent Kansas Supreme Court rulings concerning “school finance, abortion, criminal cases and political spats” that went against the Tea Party grain.
And it is probable that, if the bill is approved and makes it to the desk of the Koch-brothers’ puppet, Sam Brownback, he will sign it as a shortcut method of stacking the state courts with cronies and pliable hacks.
Quoting Holmes as accusing the state high court of “overreach” in its rulings, the KC Star rejoined that it was citizens who filed suits in the recent school-finance case and others — citizens who were not happy with the legislature’s actions but were unable to make their voices known in the heavily gerrymandered districts long controlled by Republicans.
Of course, it further angered the teabaggers when a lower-court judge concluded the legislature had acted in ways that were “destructive of our children’s future,” and the Kansas Supremes agreed and forced the statehouse to rethink its anti-education legislative agenda.
In case you are wondering why what happens in Kansas should matter to you, think a little harder and you’ll realize that already the nation is going the way of Kansas.
Already, Republicans elected through gerrymandered and rigged elections all across the country, and emboldened by their own kind of overreach, have let it be known they will not give a hearing to any Supreme Court nominee that Barack Obama comes up with to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Spitting and screaming their way into power, the teabaggers and their ilk have made it clear that the only kind of “activist” judges they will tolerate are those whose activism is in lock-step with anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-progressive ideals.
Think about it. Even if you never wanted to live in Kansas, the way thins are going, we soon may all be stuck there.
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It was inevitable, right? Wine in space.