Vaccinations have risen in Kansas and Missouri as more residents line up for shots, amid fears they could become the delta variant's latest victim or in hopes of snagging a cash prize. But even the accelerated pace of inoculations in recent days comes with a sobering reality. It's highly unlikely that either state will be able to vaccinate itself out of the current wave of infections. Given delta's contagiousness, the dream of ever achieving herd immunity remains far away, if not out of reach. An analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination data by The Star suggests it wi...
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Kellyanne Conway has some harsh words for her husband George in her forthcoming memoir.
The former White House adviser to Donald Trump published a memoir, "Here's the Deal," that's due out Tuesday, and she complains bitterly about her husband George Conway -- who emerged as one of the former president's loudest conservative critics, reported Axios.
"I had two men in my life," Conway writes. "One was my husband. One was my boss, who happened to be president of the United States. One of those men was defending me. And it wasn't George Conway. It was Donald Trump."
She described her husband as "sinister" in at least two instances, according to published excerpts.
"What are you doing, George?” I asked him plainly and calmly. I got the same answer every time ... 'You work for a madman,' George would say in a loud, sinister voice," Conway writes.
"Like everything George did during this time," Conway continues, "I found out about it after it happened or as it was happening. It was sneaky, almost sinister. Why not own it, share it, sneer in my face with a copy of tomorrow's Washington Post op-ed or next week's Lincoln Project ad?"
"Night after night, I would come home from a busy day at work," she added. "While I was minding dishes, dogs, laundry, managing adolescent dramas and traumas, George would be just steps away from me, tucked away in his home office, plotting against my boss and me."
Secretary of State Scott Schwab believes election security requires vigilance due to evolution of cyber threats, but the voice of Kansas’ top election official revealed a touch of exasperation when conversation pivoted to uninformed people dedicated to shaking public confidence in voting systems.
Schwab said Kansas had conducted 300 post-election audits without uncovering a single failure. Still, he said, people were pushing theories of voter misconduct that fell short when it came to leaping from suspicion to fact.
“Folks from out of state have come in and insulted the Kansas election system,” Schwab said on the Kansas Reflector podcast. “And, they haven’t read our laws. They’ve never been here on Election Day. They’d never watched the tabulation process. They’ve never been a poll worker.”
He also recalled a conversation with a man who claimed to be in possession of a “formula” proving election fraud in Kansas, which could have been of interest to the attorney general.
“I said, ‘Thank you, I needed evidence to go to Derek Schmidt with. Show it to me,’ ” Schwab said. “He goes: ‘I don’t have it right here.’ ”
The Kansas Legislature adopted a collection of new election policies during the 2022 session, and Schwab said he had no objection to the Legislature’s efforts to make certain every legal vote was counted.
In the background, however, was a national movement stoked by election skeptics who declared — without evidence — the United States was awash in fraud.
“I believe our computer systems are safe in our office, but that doesn’t mean I just can walk away and move on to the next thing,” Schwab said. “We constantly have to monitor and work with Homeland Security in the the Kansas National Guard to make sure our systems are secure. But it goes beyond that. It is just making sure that people have confidence in the election.”
Eager for second term
Schwab, first elected secretary of state in 2018, is seeking a second term in the statewide office. He has a Republican opponent in the Aug. 2 primary — Scott Brown, a former member of the Johnson County Commission. On the Democratic Party’s ledger, Jeanna Repass is the lone official candidate.
The secretary of state in Kansas serves as the central authority on elections and plays a role in assisting the 105 counties in voting operations. The office of secretary of state also maintains records of Kansas businesses.
Schwab said most of the day-to-day work in the office had to do with business filings. Four years ago, he campaigned on a pledge to create a one-stop online method for people to create business entities. The computer system in the secretary of state’s office dedicated to the business registration proved inadequate, he said. Transition to a new system won’t be finished until 2023.
“We found out we had couldn’t get done in four years,” Schwab said. “We want to make sure we complete that campaign promise.”
Under the state’s antiquated IT system, investors interested in opening a Hays restaurant would file an LLC form with the secretary of state. But companies seeking a restaurant permit had to go through the Kansas Department of Agriculture. The Kansas Department of Revenue had permits for the sale of liquor and wine. If there were employee issues, the Kansas Department of Labor would could get involved.
Otherwise, Schwab said his office would work in a second term to update Kansas statute books to weed out outdated language. He said some laws on the books were a century old and conflicted with more recent law.
The Kansas Supreme Court last week affirmed constitutionality of the Legislature’s redistricting maps for the 125 House and 40 Senate seats. The House is up for election in 2022, while the Senate won’t be on the ballot until 2024.
In addition, the state Supreme Court rejected a lower court judge’s decision the redrawn congressional map violated the Kansas Constitution. The substantive legal question centered on the GOP-controlled Legislature’s vote to split Democrat-rich Wyandotte County between two districts in an effort to make it easier for a Republican to carry the 3rd District served by Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids. The Legislature also moved Lawrence from the 2nd District to the rural, expansive 1st District.
“We’re glad as election officials that it’s finally settled, because we gotta get that election calendar out to our clerks,” said Schwab, who ran unsuccessful for Congress in 2006.
The filing deadline for statewide offices, including secretary of state and U.S. Senate, remained June 1. The deadline for the four U.S. House districts, the Legislature and the state Board of Education was pushed back to June 10 due to the legal scramble.
Schwab said there was merit to each of three proposed amendments to the Kansas Constitution appearing on statewide ballots in 2022. Each constitutional reform was endorsed by two-thirds majorities of the Legislature, and each in one way or another defined political authority in Kansas.
In the Aug. 2 primary, registered voters in Kansas have an opportunity to decide whether to let stand a decision by the state Supreme Court that identified a right to abortion in the state constitution’s Bill of Rights. The section emphasized by the justices: “All men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Under the state court’s decision, abortion would remain legal in Kansas even if the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Roe v. Wade case establishing a national right to abortion.
Schwab, who has opposed abortion while serving in the Kansas House member and as secretary of state, said the opinion placed in jeopardy existing or future Kansas law restraining abortion.
“It could get to the point where really … whoever does a pedicure is more regulated than an abortion doctor, which is terrifying. And it just depends on how the pro-abortionists how far they want to take it,” Schwab said.
The Nov. 8 general election ballot in Kansas affords voter the chance to decide whether the constitution ought to require county sheriffs to be elected. Schwab said popular election was a better method of choosing a sheriff than appointment by county officials.
In addition, this fall’s ballot includes an amendment to enable the Legislature to reject or suspend administrative rules or regulations crafted by state agencies.
Schwab said he recalled what it was like to be a state legislator frustrated with regulatory actions of Democratic administrations.
“I served under Kathleen Sebelius for six years and then Mark Parkinson for two,” he said. “Some of these rules and regs like this is a policy discussion for the Legislature.”
Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: email@example.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.
"Shocking." That's the word being bandied about in both news coverage and social media reactions to a nearly 300-page report released on Sunday that details both extensive sexual abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and a thorough effort to cover it up by the denomination's leadership. As Christianity Today bluntly noted, the convention had "a secret list of more than 700 abusive pastors," but "chose to protect the denomination from lawsuits" rather than the victims or potential future victims in the pews. Instead, protecting predators became the norm, and victims of abuse were frequently blamed. One victim, whose abuse started when she was 14, "was forced to apologize in front of the church," but forbidden to name the pastor who had forcibly impregnated her.
The situation is, indeed, horrific. It's a minor miracle that this report even happened. Activists have been clamoring for it, but have faced a massive institutional resistance from the leadership of America's largest single Protestant denomination. One cannot help but marvel at the nerve of some Southern Baptist leaders who engaged in the coverup. SBC general counsel Augie Boto, for instance, responded to victims and their allies by accusing them of being part of "a satanic scheme to completely distract us from evangelism." Boto even appeared as a character witness for a Nashville gymnastics coach who was convicted on charges of molesting a 10-year-old girl.
But for feminists, none of this is shocking in the slightest. It lacks the element of surprise that the word implies. Not just because this whole situation is a retread of the sex scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, right down to the pattern of reassigning predatory pastors to new churches where they can begin abusing a fresh group of unsuspecting congregants. Like the Catholic Church, the SBC is one of the most virulently anti-choice religious groups in the country. Opposition to reproductive rights and tolerance for sexual abuse go together like peanut butter and jelly.
The common thread linking the two, of course, is male supremacy, or, to use an old-fashioned feminist term, patriarchy. As Laurie Penny writes in her new book "Sexual Revolution: Modern Fascism and the Feminist Fightback," it's a culture that's "comfortable letting men get away with sexual violence but determined not to let women get away with consensual sex." Indeed, to say "comfortable" might be an understatement. Sexual violence and anti-choice ideology are rooted in the same tendency to see women (and often children) as objects to be used and discarded by men, who have no rights or autonomy of their own worth respecting.
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I call it the "grab 'em by the pussy" ethos, named after the most memorable line in Donald Trump's infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, in which he bragged about routinely sexually assaulting women. Trump, of course, also appointed three of the Supreme Court justices who will likely be part of a majority vote to overturn Roe v. Wade sometime very soon. There's a tendency in the mainstream media to treat the religious right's support of Trump as being reluctant, as if they'd held their noses to back this compulsively promiscuous sexual predator, in exchange for these judicial appointments. In reality, polling shows that white evangelicals — many of them Southern Baptists — are by far Trump's most enthusiastic supporters. One of his earliest champions was Jerry Falwell Jr., who may be disgraced now but during the 2016 campaign was probably the most famous Southern Baptist figure in the country. There's nothing "transactional" about the relationship between Trump and evangelicals: It's true love.
Let's stop pretending that the religious right's support of Donald Trump was reluctant. Evangelicals are the most enthusiastic fans of a compulsively promiscuous sexual predator: It's true love.
Of course, just as Liberty University was eventually forced to dump Falwell, Southern Baptists and the larger evangelical community must maintain the pretense of objecting to the sin of sexual abuse. Some, such as the female-led activists who pushed for this investigation, even mean it. But the enthusiasm for Trump, whose own bragging confession was backed by more than two dozen women attesting to his abusive ways, is part of this larger misogynist pattern. It's not just the tendency to look the other way when men commit sexual violence. It's about contempt toward women who dare to assert autonomy over their own bodies. Whether that means saying no to pregnancy or saying no to sex, in the eyes of a male-dominated church, the right to make the decision simply isn't hers.
In Boto's diatribe accusing women who speak out against sexual violence of being in thrall to a "satanic scheme," he also argues that the women "are not to blame," because they are supposedly helpless in the clutches of the devil. (And clearly need strong male guidance to deliver them from Satan.) Adopting an attitude of pity or condescension toward women — who can't even make decisions on their own, the poor things — is a favorite tactic of anti-choicers who want to evade accusations that they want to prosecuted or imprison women who have abortions. For instance, many defenders of the new Texas abortion ban claim they have no desire to punish women for abortion, using language that frames women as overgrown children, easily swayed by emotion, who don't possess the maturity or intelligence to make their own decisions.
This patronizing dismissal of women's intellectual capacities, however, is mostly a cover story for a deep hatred of women who think they have a right to self-determination. That becomes evident in this 288-page report on the SBC, which is full of stories from sexual abuse survivors who say that when they spoke out about their abuse, they were the ones attacked and demonized. And while proponents of abortion bans may swear up and down they have no intention of arresting women for abortions, as soon as they think they can get away with it, the cuffs come out.
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There has been a lot of handwringing and promises of improvement from SBC leaders in response to this report. One would do well to be skeptical. After all, one of the top contenders to be the next SBC president is Tom Ascol, a right-wing preacher who has pledged to turn back the supposed "wokeness" plaguing the church. Ascol has described allegations of systemic sexual abuse within the church as a "nebulous" concept akin to believing in "the existence of an invisible leprechaun." Instead, he argues, the answer for sexual abuse "is found in the seventh commandment, 'You shall not commit adultery.'" Adultery is not even a criminal offense, let us note.
Ascol is not quite so dismissive of the evils of abortion, of course. While sexual predators are just a flavor of adulterer in his book, a woman who gets an abortion has "contracted a murderer to murder," he says, and should should face homicide charges. Unlike adultery, homicide is very much a crime. On one hand, it's refreshing that Ascol doesn't even pretend, like so many anti-choicers do, that he doesn't want to prosecute the 800,000 or so people who get abortions every year. On the other hand, this demonstrates that the SBC is not likely to budge on its commitment to being a male supremacist organization. That likely also means more of the same refusal to take sexual abuse seriously, the same contempt for victims who speak out and the same focus on protecting men accused of abuse. One report, no matter how "shocked" we pretend to be, is not nearly enough to alter the misogynistic foundations the Southern Baptist Convention is built upon.