Tuesday, March 10, 2015


I read this morning that “in politics, stupidity is not a handicap.” I’m not sure who said it. Some people attribute it Napoleon Bonaparte. Whoever it was knew a lot about politics.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been looking at some of the proposed legislation coming out of Topeka. Reading it has led me to believe that stupidity may even be a requirement for some Kansas legislators.

Even when the intentions are good, the stupidity at the heart of some of the proposals is palpable. On February 17th, the Topeka Capitol Journal ran an investigative report on the death of four year old Mekhi Patrick Dean Boone, who died from what state officials described as the “worst case of child abuse they have seen.” According to the log at Children’s Mercy Hospital, “There is not a 2 inch part of his body that doesn’t have bruises. He was beat to death.”

Mekhi Boone died needlessly, at the hands of his father. But there’s more to the story. Mekhi’s mother has filed a civil lawsuit claiming that “outrageous conduct of the state of Kansas and one of its contractors (T.F.I. Family Services) caused the death.”

The litigation is slowly working its way through the system. In a recent response to Mekhi’s mother’s claim that the state and T.F.I. violated Mekhi’s due process rights, the state made the following counter-claim – “These answering Defendants affirmatively assert that the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not require these answering Defendants to protect its citizens from private violence.”

The response was stunning. It reeked of callousness, indifference, and bureaucratic nonsense.

It’s clear. The entire system failed Mekhi Boone.

The child welfare system is in desperate need of a fix, not only in Kansas but all around the country. The Los Angeles Times, for example, filed a report on February 28th that outlined the egregious failures in the California system. Many Los Angeles foster parents have given up on getting support from the system. In one case cited, a foster parent told the agencies, “Take me off your list. I gave up on you guys.” When he was asked why, he replied, “I could never get the social worker to call me back.”

It had the ring of tragic familiarity.

Here in Kansas, Senator Forrest Knox from Altoona offered a “remedy,” in the form of Senate Bill 158, which would prohibit any potential foster parent from either smoking cigarettes or having alcoholic beverages in the home. The senator’s intent was noble, but his solution to the foster care problem in Kansas was patently stupid. Few, if any, Kansans could ever become foster parents under those guidelines. 

The root of our foster care problem is the bureaucracy. That’s what needs to be bulldozed, not potentially good foster parents.

Representative Virgil Peck took stupidity to an even higher level when he championed HB2234, which would make it illegal for a college professor to use his or her title in a newspaper column or op-ed when the opinion concerns a legislator or a candidate for public office. In a fit of generosity, Representative Peck did leave room in the legislation for professors to use their credentials in opinions about newspaper editors, garbage collectors, carpenters, dentists, day laborers, media magnates, and other assorted serfs.

Finally, proving that stupidity can be limitless, someone in the legislature has proposed an amendment to K.S.A. 25-306(B). The proposed change would prohibit any candidate for political office from withdrawing from the ballot after a primary. The only exception allowed would be death.

Of course, we all know the reason for the proposal. Its champion should have called it the Chad Taylor amendment.

I’ve given the matter some thought and I’ve decided we need to amend the proposed amendment. Let’s just leave deceased candidates on the ballot. Really! Corpses couldn’t do any worse than some of our current crop of living, breathing elected officials. In fact, corpses might even do better.

Dead candidates might even add a bit of spice to our interminably dull political campaigns. The clever marketing strategies would be endless… “Dead Man Running,” for example. If the corpse’s opponent happened to be a guy named Ted, we could see yard signs that read, “VOTE DEAD, NOT TED.” If a corpse were to get elected, we could have it embalmed, stuff it full of straw, dress it up in a Brooks Brothers suit, and prop it up at one of those legislative desks at the capitol. 

For those who think my idea isn’t workable, I have question. Do you think a corpse could do a better job than Virgil Peck and his cohorts?

I rest my case.

Will Rogers once asked, “If stupidity got us in this mess, how come it can't get us out.” I think he actually knew that subsidizing stupidity in politics can only make things worse, but left it up to us to figure it out.

Apparently, we Kansans haven’t learned that lesson yet.

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