Front Page » Monthly Archives » Archives: November 2009

university-of-kansas-ku-1.jpgLAWRENCE, Kan. - Although some would say KU football coach Mark Mangino's high water mark was winning the Orange Bowl in 2007, I think the defining moment for Mangino came earlier that season when Kansas overcame decades of futility to thrash Nebraska 76-39 in Lawrence on November 3, 2007. Nebraska had never had any team, ever put up 76 points on them.

My brother and his son, along with hundreds of other fans, waited outside the locker room after the game for Mangino to exit the stadium. When Mangino appeared, he was mobbed by the fans like a rock star. He could barely get to his car, as fans praised him for ending decades of frustration at the hands of the Cornhuskers.

But that was then. This is now. In sports, like in politics, people want to know: "What have you done for me lately?"

TOPEKA, Kan. - Mark Parkinson, Kansas' 45th Governor, is the tallest Governor we've ever had, and possibly the brightest. And he's proving, during his short tenure, to be one of the best. During the worst state budget crisis in memory, Parkinson is being praised by both sides of the aisle for stepping up to the plate and making unpopular budget cuts.

Parkinson seems to be the consummate anti-politician. He's not running for anything, so he's not asking for, or taking, campaign donations. He has his own money, so he doesn't panhandle for freebies like some politicians. He doesn't make wiseacre remarks to belittle the opposition. He just wants to fix things.

Parkinson's deepest roots are Democratic. His family in Scott City, Kansas was always active in Democratic politics. Parkinson's father chose the Republican party---perhaps just to be a maverick. And his father grew to a powerful position in Washington in Republican politics. Growing up, Parkinson saw both parties up close.

As a WSU student, Parkinson threw down the gauntlet and challenged longtime Republican State Representative Ben Foster in the Republican primary. Foster no doubt scoffed at the young upstart. But Parkinson walked. And walked some more. And knocked on more doors, and more doors----the Wichita Eagle called his efforts "indefagitable". He barely lost to Rep. Ben Foster. And Parkinson now acknowledges that had he won that race, it would have "ruined his life."

I'm with Joe

n75336892920_1753803_2013536KANSAS CITY, Kan. - This is a piece I've been wanting to write for awhile now, with Joe's name appearing as a possible candidate for the KS-03 race I figured there is no better time to do so.

Before I start I want to make it clear that I do not know if Joe will jump into the race or not, I have no 'inside' information on this and think that this is a big decision for him to make with his family. With that being said if Joe is to jump into the race I am completely behind him and I think he would be great. I've wanted to write this because I feel that Kansas City, KS/ Wyandotte County often are left to handle themselves both by state politics and the state party. Candidates in KCK often run their own campaigns and don't get much support from outside the city. Over the past 7 years KCK has had a rockstar candidate, Joe Reardon.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Monday 22 November was a black day for our state and our public education system. Declining tax revenues did what the conservatives in the legislature have been unable to achieve as Gov. Parkinson cut an additional $36 million in funding to the state's public education system and a recommendation not to fund the $155.8 million increase based on revised estimates of property tax revenue and student enrollment.

As a result of the Governor's action on Monday, the base state aid per pupil for the current school year has been cut $421 per pupil. Kansas has approximately 455,000 students on our K-12 public education system. You do the math. Education organizations like KNEA and Kansas Families for Education believe this is as deep as K-12 cuts can go without jeopardizing federal Recovery Act (ARRA) funds.

donkey-and-elephant.gifGREAT BEND, Kan. - While some believe the announcement that six-term Democrat Congressman Dennis Moore will not run for reelection is another nail in Kansas' Democrats 2010 coffin, it is far too soon to say anything definitive about next year's election.

The only certainty in politics is uncertainty. And with almost a year to go before the election, one must remember that things may look a lot different a year from now. The two wild cards in the equation are, to wit: 1) How will the heavily Republican Kansas legislature handle the budget crisis in the 2010 session, and, 2) Will President Obama's be viewed differently a year from now?

Regarding the state legislature, all 125 Kansas House of Representative seats are up for grabs. Governor Parkinson deserves a "profile in courage," for stepping up to the plate and making the difficult budget cuts. That puts the ball back in the Republican legislature's court. For the first time in years, the Kansas budget crisis is affecting real people in greater numbers than ever before. And there may be lots of new political activism among the disaffected. The last off-year (non-Presidential) election (2006) resulted in five new Democrat house members in Topeka.

Close Encounters of an Undocumented Kind

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Next month, the Spanish edition of Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives is coming to bookshelves near you. Edited by Peter Orner, Underground America is the third installment of McSweeney's Voice of Witness series. It consists of 24 first person accounts from one of the most silenced groups in America: undocumented immigrants.

According to the 2006-2008 state censuses, 66.1 percent (plus or minus 3,628 people) of the 167,159 foreign-born Kansas residents are not U.S. citizens. Even with Lou Dobbs off the air, undocumented immigrants, who account for four percent of the total Kansas population, are still seen by a large group of people as foreign opportunists, preying on the innocent United States of America.

But, as Underground America reveals time and time again, this couldn't be further from the truth. And this truth hits close to home.

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Deputy Communications Director, Megan McClendon confirmed this afternoon that, "He (Moore) is indeed stepping down."

U.S. Congressman Dennis Moore, 64, now serving his 6th term, will become the first member of Congress to retire without seeking another public office.

The official statement released today by Moore's D.C. Communication Director Brandon Naylor gave confirmation to Moore's retirement.

It has been an honor and a privilege to have been elected six times to represent the people of the Third District in the U.S. House of Representatives. I have decided not to seek reelection in 2010. It is time for a new generation of leadership to step forward.

Kansans Want Health Care to Change

HAYS, Kan. - Do Kansans want lawmakers to improve health care? A recent survey of Kansans, conducted by the non-partisan Docking Institute of Public Affairs, addressed that question as well as others. The survey was designed to provide insights about what Kansans think about Kansas.

One particularly interesting aspect of the study involved the collection of opinions about the general state of health care in Kansas, as well as opinions on the government's role in ensuring that all citizens have adequate health care coverage. Half of our state's citizens think that health care in our state needs 'major change.'

Altogether, 83 percent of Kansans believe that health care in our state needs to change. A small number, only one-sixth of Kansans, expressed that health care in Kansas is 'adequate.'

The Way of the Brain

HAYS, Kan. - Lately, there has been a spate of media coverage on the connection of brain damage to the sport of football. The New York Times, NPR, and PBS have all weighed in. Congress held hearings about it, too. Probably the most influential piece of late is Malcolm Gladwell's "Offensive Play" (The New Yorker, Oct. 19, 2009.)

Mr. Gladwell focuses on the research associated with the football-brain damage connection. This brings up a big question: if repetitive hits to the head are causing brain damage in NFL players, could something similar be happening to younger players?

BASEHOR, Kan. - The United States Army's Command and General Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth is the premier military command staff training school in the world. In addition to training U.S. officers to assume command staff positons, it invites more than 100 foreign military officers to be part of each year's class. And because those foreign officers and their families are away from their home country for the 11-month program, the Army and People to People International have jointly put together a sponsorship program that helps the foreign families feel at home here in the Leavenworth area. My wife and I have had the privilege of being sponsors in the program for the first time during this past year.

HAYS, Kan. - The Ellis County Zoning and Planning Commission met in its monthly meeting on Wednesday, November 18.

The one piece of business discussed by the commission came from Commissioner Keith Campbell. Mr. Campbell proposed that the commission adopt a bylaw which said that when considering board business, if a commissioner "anticipated the opportunity" to personally benefit by the action of the board in the value of $1000 or more, that commissioner should publicly state that. Any recommendation then going forward from the zoning board to the Ellis County Commission would include the notification of the anticipation of opportunity.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Fredonia native Tom Wiggans' entry into the Kansas Governor's race came this week as I was reading a remarkable book about the brain drain that afflicts states like Kansas.

Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What It Means for America, by Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas classifies small towners like Wiggans into four categories: The Achievers, The Stayers, The Seekers, and The Returners.

The problem with small towns is that their #1 export is their "Achievers" like Tom Wiggans. Born and bred in Fredonia, an Eagle Scout and KU graduate, Tom Wiggans personifies the achiever who leaves the state due to limited opportunities. Wiggans went on to make great contributions in producing life-saving medicines.

Wiggans' recent return to his home state of Kansas puts him in a second category, according to Carr and Kefalas: Tom Wiggans is also a "a Returner," and a particular type of returner: a "High-Flyer" - one who succeeded elsewhere but returns to Kansas with a wide list of accomplishments.

Raising the Rent at the C Street House

WASHINGTON - A few months ago I did an interview with Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family. Jeff and I spoke about the C Street house and the involvement of certain Kansas elected officials, Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Todd Tiahrt, Sarah also did a piece about the involvement of Rep. Jerry Moran.

Well, months later, more has come to the stage about C Street. The C Street house recently lost their tax exempt status that allows these Kansas lawmakers (and many others) to live there so cheaply.

kansas-postcard.jpgGREAT BEND, Kan. - Sunday November 22 marks the 46th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. On this anniversary many in America and around the world remember JFK's idealism, accomplishments and style. Kansans have good reason to remember JFK, as he considered Kansas to be more than just a "flyover state" to be conceded to the opposition party.

In today's world, no Democrat presidential candidate would even consider "wasting time" to campaign in Kansas two weeks before a Presidential election. So what was JFK doing holding a large rally in Wichita, Kansas just days before the general election?

He was doing two things. First, although he ended up losing Kansas to Nixon, he considered Kansas to be a state he had a chance to win. Second, he was appearing in Kansas to support Governor Docking and the entire Kansas Democratic ticket. His speech at the downtown baseball stadium in Wichita (now called Lawrence-DuMont stadium) was a barn-burner.

The Kennedy's had no greater friends than the Docking family in Kansas. Governor George Docking's key role in helping JFK snare the Democratic nomination in 1960 was recalled by Robert F. Kennedy at Allen Fieldhouse during his 1968 visit there. This time, another Docking was Governor, as Kennedy said...

LA CYGNE, Kan. - Linn County Democratic Party hosted a potluck Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday to welcome U.S. Senate candidate Charles Schollenberger from Prairie Village.

Schollenberger believes the next U.S. Senator should not be a career politician, rather one who is both visible and accessible to the people.

"We still have two conservative Republican U.S. Senators who have acted indifferently after the stock market crashed last year due to Republican deregulation of the financial industry, causing Americans to suffer a $5 trillion loss in household wealth. Our two U.S. Senators are not attuned to the needs of working Kansans, nor are the two Republican Congressmen who want to be elected to a Senate next year. It is time to send a U.S. Senator to Washington who is going to represent the true interests of the working people of Kansas, their children and grandchildren, and our senior citizens," Schollenberger said.

After getting tough on KS - Senator's Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback; and his two "far right-leaning opponents, Jerry Moran, and Todd Tiahrt, Schollenberger made the announcement...

OLATHE, Kan. - Kansas Democrats are on their way to presenting the strongest slate of candidates in years with respected businessman Tom Wiggans' announcement that he will run for Governor. Wiggans, a native Kansan, will run against career politician, and well known right-wing Republican, Sam Brownback. Check out this video...

From his bio:

Tom is committed to applying his vast business experience to Kansas state government as our next Governor. By utilizing his common sense business practices to bring people together and solve problems, Tom will work with both Democrats and Republicans to pull our state out of the economic recession, ensure we have a stable state budget, and create 21st century jobs for our future.

More about Tom and his campaign below the fold.

tom-wiggans.jpgTOPEKA, Kan. - Today, Tom Wiggans filed paperwork with the Secretary of State to establish his campaign committee in the race to become the next Governor of Kansas. Kansas Democratic Party Executive Director, Kenny Johnston released this information:

Tom Wiggans was born and raised in Fredonia in Wilson County, Kansas where his father and grandfather operated Wiggans Drugstore. Growing up in a town like Fredonia gave Tom a clear understanding of the importance of hard work, personal sacrifice, and community values. Tom's grandfather ran the drug store everyday from 7 am until 11 pm. Oftentimes, families were unable to pay for their medicine and the Wiggans family simply kept track of the charges, knowing they would be paid once the harvest season arrived. The Wiggans family belonged to the First Methodist Church, where Tom was baptized, sang in the youth choir, and received his God and Country award and Eagle Scout Award. Beginning at age 13, Tom always held a summer job including mowing lawns around town, working for the city and local cement plant, hauling hay, and being a life guard at the Fredonia City Pool.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty held their annual meeting in Topeka on November 16th. The event was attended by 30 people and featured a keynote
Sam Millsap & Donna Schneweis
speech given Sam Millsap, former Bexar County (TX) Prosecuting Attorney.

During the 2009 Kansas legislative session, proponents of the death penalty were successful in getting the Senate's Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on a bill to repeal the current death penalty law and voted out the bill to the full Senate. Conservatives in the Kansas Senate, lead by Sen. Derek Schmidt, blocked the bill from being voted on and had it referred back to committee.

Following this effort, The Wichita Eagle, Iola Register and Hutchinson News, all issued editorials calling for a repeal or seriously questioning the need for the death penalty in a state that has not executed a capital offender since 1965.

Sound Reporting

BASEHOR, Kan.- I've stumbled on what has become a valuable resource for me as a citizen journalist, particularly for those times when I'll want to talk with someone directly in an interview.

A recent book entitled, Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production, has a wealth of information, tips and techniques, and personal accounts about "getting the story" from the NPR reporters we hear on public radio every day. Author Jonathan Kern is the Executive Producer for Training at NPR, and he has worked in almost every position in radio news, including executive producer of NPR's All Things Considered.

Now, before you dismiss the book as something you don't want to bother with because it's about audio recordings and radio, keep in mind that the majority of the book deals with topics contained in chapters that Kern titles "Fairness," "Reporting," "Field Producing," "Story Editing," "The Reporter-Host Two-Way," "Hosting," and "Beyond Radio," among others. So the material has terrific value for those times when you want to venture into direct interviews, rather than reporting what others have already written.

charles-darwin.jpgHAYS, Kan. - Does Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species need a special introduction? At least one man, creationist Ray Comfort thinks so. On Thursday, November 19, mere days before the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's work, evangelical Christians, led by Comfort, plan to distribute more than 100,000 free copies of Charles Darwin's seminal work on the theory of evolution on college campuses.

These copies include a "special introduction" by Comfort which claims, among other things, that evolution is scientifically false and that Darwin was a misogynist racist whose ideas inspired Hitler. In addition to the 100,000 books that creationists will distribute on campuses, another 70,000 of these "special" editions have been purchased by churches and individuals for further distribution to students. According to the creationist website,, "In one day, 170,000 future doctors, lawyers and politicians will freely get information about Intelligent Design (and the gospel) placed directly into their hands!"

Liberal? Conservative? On What Issue?

OLATHE, Kan. - One of the things that has always fascinated me about politics--and in our everyday discussions with each other--is the way we tend to categorize and generalize people. And what I find really curious are the words "Conservative" and "Liberal," or even "Progressive." When someone says that so-and-so is one of those words, my first question is, "On what issue?" They look at me with a blank stare, and I ask again, "Liberal on what issues?" "Conservative on what issues?"

I use myself as an example. I consider myself reasonably "progressive" on many issues: Gay marriage? Sure. A woman's right to choose? Absolutely. Corporations paying too little income tax? Definitely. Universal health care? I've been arguing for that since the 1970s. When it comes to other issues such as illegal immigration or gun control, then I have to disagree with many of my "progressive" friends whose opinions are different.

lynn-jenkins.jpgEMPORIA, Kan. - According to a report on the Huffington Post weblog, The New York Times has uncovered a highly successful coordinated attempt by lobbyists from the mega biotech corporation, Genetech, to have statements they drafted read into the Congressional Record. Lynn Jenkins was one of approximately 40 congresspersons to read statements into the official reporter of congressional action which praised various provisions of the recently passed health care bill.

The lobbyists provided different statements for both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. In many cases the members read verbatim portions of the lobbyists' talking points from the floor of House of Representatives!


BASEHOR, Kan. - For a thought-provoking, multi-part series on justice, morality, and political and personal choice, take a look at a video course taught at Harvard University, which is free and open to the public.

Justice is one of the most popular courses in Harvard's history. Now it's your turn to take the same journey in moral reflection that has captivated more than 14,000 students, as Harvard opens its classroom to the world.

In this twelve part series, Professor Michael Sandel challenges us with difficult moral dilemmas and asks our opinion about the right thing to do. He then asks us to examine our answers in the light of new scenarios. The results are often surprising, revealing that important moral questions are never black and white.

This course also addresses the hot topics of our day--affirmative action, same-sex marriage, patriotism and rights--and Sandel shows us that we can revisit familiar controversies with a fresh perspective.

WASHINGTON - The goal of health care reform, according to the Obama administration, is to provide quality, affordable health care for every American while preserving what works in today's system, expanding choice, and containing costs.

In the first years, the Health Insurance Exchange is targeted to serve employees of small businesses, the self-employed and the uninsured. That means that tens of millions of Americans will be eligible to purchase the plan in the first year. The only place the public option will be available is in the 'Exchange.'

The public option will not be limited to just a few Americans; it will be available for purchase, from day one, by all Americans that are uninsured, self-employed, or work for a small employer with less than 26 employees. Also, that first year, even those who work for large employers will be eligible to purchase the public option plan, provided that their employers did not offer them an opportunity to participate in a plan through their jobs. The second year all of those just named, the uninsured and self-employed will still be able to buy the public option but it will also be extended to even larger small employers, including those with less than 51 employees. By the third year, small employers with less than 101 employees will be folded in, including all of the self-employed and all those uninsured.

Joan Finney's People Power

joan-finney.jpgGREAT BEND, Kan. - As I walked into the room, Governor Joan Finney was surrounded by well wishers after the 1994 Hoisington Labor Day parade, attending a get-together in Great Bend at a friend's house. I had met Finney before, as part of a large group of "Leadership Great Bend" people a year earlier.

Knowing that she wouldn't possibly remember meeting me, I acted like I had never met her before and let the host introduce me to Kansas 42nd Governor. "Governor, nice to meet you," I said. I then walked into the kitchen, and let others visit with the Governor in the living room. I was content that I got to meet Finney again, and went to the kitchen to talk to friends while others bothered the Governor about this or that.

About 30 minutes later, Governor Finney walked from the living room into the kitchen, looked at me close, and said: "Marty, I have a feeling we've met before." I was floored.
"Actually," I stumbled to find the words, "I was part of a large contingent of 'Leadership Great Bend' people and I did shake your hand in the Governor's office about a year ago.
I didn't say anything about it earlier today because I didn't expect you to remember."

Support Fundamental Basic Rights

WASHINGTON - Not only did the legislators listed below support the House health care reform bill, they also voted against the Stupak-Pitts amendment. Please support these House members.

The list of House Democratic members who represent right-leaning districts is as follows...

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Just recently, Jan Garton joined the writers' communities of Everyday Citizen and the Kansas Free Press. In that time, Jan wrote her first and only piece, What If Whales Could Scream?

Sadly, on November 9th, Jan died in Manhattan. She leaves behind many people who will miss her dearly. A lifelong community servant and activist, Jan was very involved in the ecological, conservationist and labor communities of Kansas.

KFP's Christopher Renner said, "Jan was dedicated to the causes of justice and peace. In her activities in Manhattan she always worked toward making sure that people who did not have access to health care or a living wage were heard from. She was a proud Democrat and worked very hard to make the county party active and responsive to its members. That's how Jan lived her life - she did the right thing when it was called for."

Her friend, Margy, invites all friends of Jan to attend a Memorial Gathering. Margy wrote, "Jan's memorial gathering will be held on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2:30 p.m., at the Manhattan Public Library, 2nd floor auditorium. Please come and bring your reminiscences of Jan, along with any memorabilia you may wish to share, such as photos, Jan's writings, her hand-made birthday cards, items from the Cheyenne Bottoms effort or Nancy Boyda campaigns - the sky's the limit, just as it was for Jan's imagination! It will be good to join together in our sorrow and in our good fortune at having known Jan Garton."

In honor of our friend, we hope that our readers here will take a few minutes to read the brief biography that Jan wrote about herself just a little over a month ago. Readers are encouraged to leave comments. We encourage Kansans to read what others have written in her memory, also.

dennis-moore.jpgWASHINGTON - The White House overcame a major hurdle for health care on Saturday when the House of Representatives passed a bill that includes a public health insurance option.

The bill that passed in the House was far from perfect. What it did accomplish, is to provide a foundation upon which to build. No bill is perfect. While many are not satisfied with the final bill of passage it is important to recognize there is in place a health care policy that will compel legislators in the future to fix what does not work and expand on what does. Once Americans come to see this bill much like Medicare (that familiar voices vehemently opposed) actually is good for them, constituents will drive the need and desire to improve an imperfect bill.

While dozens of conservative Democrats sided with big Insurance to vote against the Affordable Health Care for America Act, one single Kansas Legislator stood tall. Congressman Dennis Moore, KS - 3 not only voted for the bill, he also voted against the Stupak amendment.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Last week, Rep. Dennis Moore published an editorial in newspapers across the third Congressional district announcing his support for the House health insurance reform bill. As he explained last week:

I will be voting for this bill because it addresses the issues of affordability, fiscal responsibility, quality and choice. We can no longer afford to do nothing. We must meet this challenge head-on.

This bill will not only dramatically improve the health care system for those who already have insurance they like and want to keep, it benefits those who don't have insurance...

Congressman Moore delivered on that pledge by voting for the bill Saturday.

It's times like these that we need to take a moment and let Rep. Moore know that we appreciate his hard work and dedication. So we've set up a hub on our website where folks can thank Rep. Moore by writing a personal message to him. We'll deliver your personal messages to him on Friday.

money-200px-wide.jpgHAYS, Kan. - A new study says that doctors need to talk with patients about money rather than just ignore the topic.

The researchers reviewed literature on relevant professional ethics and interviewed primary care physicians to see how the physician-patient relationship is changed by the current trend in consumer-driven health care.

"Consumer-driven health care" is an insurance industry buzzword used to describe the modern insurance plans that have high deductibles and high co-payment requirements. The advantage for insurance companies in these newer high-deductible plans is that consumers are less likely to use health care services at all or are likely to avoid any overuse of care since these first dollars are being paid directly by patients. This means that the insurance companies pay out less overall. In the high deductible plans, patients pay for more treatment themselves. One drawback can be that while making more frequent cost-related choices, patients may feel forced by finances to forgo lifesaving or life-improving health care.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - A foundational problem with our health care system is the government health programs are duplicative, laden with paperwork, and incongruent rules and regulations.

America is the only industrialized nation to have different bureaucracies for different groups of citizens.

Every other industrialized nation has one health bureaucracy for all of its citizens. One for all. This bureaucratic duplication is complex and expensive. Therefore, the first step towards lowering the cost of health care is to consolidate, simplify, standardize, and digitize.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - As my son was playing in a basketball tournament in Hays, I looked across the court and saw my Congressman, Jerry Moran and his wife Robba, watching one of his daughters playing for the Hays team on another court. He was there just like the other parents, a Kansan watching his kid perform in a sporting event.

Jerry Moran will be the first to tell you his main contrast with Todd Tiahrt: Moran lives in Kansas, Tiahrt lives in Virginia. And there's a lot of truth to it. Most Kansans who become a part of the Kansas diaspora to Washington, D.C. buy a house and move their family to the D.C. suburbs. And that's what Tiahrt did.

LAWRENCE, Kan. - As a member of the activist community in our fair state, I've been privileged to meet many activists of varied ages throughout the last few years. Many of the activists I've met write for blogs, such as this one, attend rallies, attend conferences, and gather at social events meant to network activists with each other. However, at a good number of these events, and in some of my political science classes at KU, I hear something disturbing quite often.

The older, often more experienced, members of the community seem to think that they can't rely on the younger generation to make a difference. They don't think they can be relied on to show up or to really care. Now, I may be straddling the line between seasoned old warhorse and youth activist at the age of 30 but I can assure you that if there is one thing I know about the activist community in Kansas it is that you can count on the younger activists to be there.

Gay Rights Are Civil Rights

TOPEKA, Kan. - Equal rights for gay and lesbian people are very important to me. As an unmarried person at age 31, people sometimes assume that I am gay because of my fervent support for these issues. It's at times like these that I remind people that civil rights aren't just about us as individuals, but all of us collectively as a society. The world will judge us on how we treat fellow members of our society, as it should.

Lately, I have been very disappointed in referenda across the United States. In 2004, we had the Constitutional ban in Kansas, even though gay marriage was already illegal. Oh, the things the right does to whip up their base. Then there was Proposition 8 in California, supported by voters at the time they selected our nation's first African-American president. A tad bit of irony there. Most recently, we had Question 1 in Maine. It was a relatively close vote, but a failure nonetheless. I see myself as a strong populist who values democracy, but I think certain measures are too sacred to be placed on the ballot. Civil rights is one of those measures. We might not have made the progress we did if civil rights were placed on the ballot in the 1860's or in the 1960's. Same thing with gay rights today.

What Health Care Reform?

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Saturday night's vote in the House of Representatives was a real disappointment to me. As a member of the uninsured, I was hopeful that Obama and the Democrats would lead as they had on Social Security, the Voting Rights Act and Medicare and fulfill Obama's promise to "fundamentally transform the United States of America." But instead the party "of the people" has in the words of Rep. Massa (D-NY) enshrined "in law the monopolistic powers of the private health insurance industry."

This isn't what health care reform was supposed to do.

For 17 years I enjoy national health care in Italy. Broken bones were mended, allergies brought under control, kidney stones dissolved. All at no cost to me. Whenever I needed to see a doctor I could either go down to the local clinic or make an appointment with a specialist and my tab was covered.

LAWRENCE, Kan. - More than 120 people attended the 10th annual Kansas Environmental Education Conference here this weekend, including representatives with approximately 20 schools from the Kansas Green Schools Network. After a networking dinner Thursday night at sustainable foods restaurant Local Burger, participants started Friday morning with a keynote by Dudley Edmondson, nature photographer and author of the book, Black and Brown Faces in America's Wild Places.

After years of traveling around the U.S. photographing national parks and other outdoor spaces, Edmondson started wondering why he didn't see more people like himself there, ie people of color. His book features photographs and interviews with African Americans who work in environmental careers, in hopes they will encourage more engagement in outdoor activities and serve as "Outdoor Role Models" for African Americans, especially youth.

wabaunsee-county.gifMCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - We've heard of "earthshaking decisions"--but the Kansas Supreme Court's October 30 decision affirming Wabaunsee County's ban on commercial-scale wind-energy conversion systems (CWECS) was an earth-saving one. It allows predominantly rural Wabaunsee County to protect its endangered tall grass prairie from industrial-scale wind "farms." The Nature Conservancy has called CWECS one of today's greatest threats to grassland ecology, in particular the keystone species of grouse, including prairie chickens. The green flag which wind energy wraps itself up in has prevented many people from taking seriously the environmental damage which CWECS can inflict. But Wabaunsee County looked through the green rhetoric and came down firmly on the side of the prairie.

david-and-goliath.jpgGREAT BEND, Kan. - In the Civil War, the Republican party was the Union party and the Democratic party the Confederate party. Kansas was a Union state, and with that came the Republican party of Abraham Lincoln. Kansas has always been Republican because of it's ties to the Union.

If you ask most people, "What political party are you in, and why?" most will say, "Well, my Dad was a Republican, and his Dad was a Republican, and that's just the way it was." The Republican party of the Civil War was an anti-slavery party, and Lincoln it's first President.

The thing is, it didn't take long before the Republican party forgot about abolition and focused it's energy on helping big business. The decline in abolitionist zeal was quite
apparent. In fact, by 1890 the Republican party was "a closely held institution largely managed by railroad lawyers who made little attempt to conceal their control of Republican state conventions." (Lawrence Goodwin, Democratic Promise: The Populist Movement in America, p. 187)

After the Civil War, Republicans could win the vote of the "common man" easily by "waving the bloody shirt," referring to the blood of the martyrs and heroes who helped the Union win the Civil War. Former Union soldiers were admonished to "Vote how you shot," in the Civil War. And it worked, for a while.

women-not-pre-existing.jpgHAYS, Kan. - If it becomes law, the bill currently passed today in the U.S. House would end the practice of setting premiums higher for females and denying coverage to women simply because of their gender.

Today, too many women in Kansas depend on a health care system that is failing them. 16% of women in Kansas report not visiting a doctor due to high costs. According to a 2008 report by the National Women's Law Center, typical 25-year-old women paid between 6% and 45% more than 25-year-old men for the same insurance market or health plans. Older women faced similar, and often even greater disparities.

Though some states offer protections against using gender to determine premiums, Kansas law does not protect women from gender discrimination. In Kansas, insurance companies can charge women more. Kansas insurance companies are also allowed to reject a health insurance application from a woman for a variety of reasons including her uniquely female medical history or her current health status, unique only to her gender.

Photograph courtesy of Melissa Carlson

SHAWNEE, Kan. - This morning, the Kansas City Young Dems led a protest and rally at city hall. About 100 activists gathered to hear speeches and show solidarity for the right of Kansans to be able to be offered a public option offering of health insurance. The specific purpose of their protest was to voice their opposition to an amendment that may soon be introduced in the Kansas State Senate by Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-District 10). Pilcher-Cook's amendment would allow the state legislature to prevent the public option, if passed in the U.S. Congress, from being made available to citizens of Kansas.


WASHINGTON - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) signaled yesterday that it is his expectation is that the actual vote on the House health care reform bill will take place by 8 p.m. today, but may possibly be delayed until next week. Hoyer said this morning that he expects this bill to pass.

For most of today, though, debate will be lively. A 4-hour debate is now underway on floor of the House. For those that don't have a C-SPAN on cable television, the debate can also be followed online here.

MOUND CITY, Kan. - "Abort Obamunism," "Proud to be the Party of Know," and "Spay and neuter Democrats," were only a few of the mean-spirited signs hoisted by the "Tea Bag" attendees Thursday in front of the steps to our nation's Capital.
David Koch linked to
TEA Party funding

Another popular phrase, "Water board Congress," could be read on several signs and buttons.

Instigator of the "Tea Bag" protesters, Michele Bachmann, received the loudest cheers. Speaker and author Mark Levin suggested that Democrats are illiterate.

Thursday's GOP rally at the Capitol was technically a "press conference." According to a Capitol Police spokesperson in one report, lawmakers did not have a permit for a protest. However, speakers at Thursday's "press conference" took no questions. Rather, they repeatedly shouted to the "fired up" crowd, "Kill the Bill."

BASEHOR, Kan. - In an October 27, 2009 press release, the Institute for New Economic Thinking announced its formation with a pledge of $5 million per year for the next 10 years from George Soros, the billionaire financier and hedge fund manager.

According to the press release, one of the Institute's first activities will be to sponsor a conference in which it will,

"...explore the reasons why prevailing economic theory failed to predict the financial and economic crisis that erupted in 2007-2008. We will also examine the implications for reform of regulatory regimes that reflect the logic of the economic paradigm that has failed profoundly in guiding society in its recent history."

Soros himself said, "The entire edifice of global financial markets has been erected on the false premise that markets can be left to their own devices, we must find a new paradigm and rebuild from the ground up. I decided to sponsor INET to facilitate the process. I hope others will join me."

SHAWNEE, Kan. - No matter where you live in Kansas, the Kansas City Young Democrats are hoping that you will join in their March for Health Care Reform, on Saturday morning, November 7. The marchers are meeting at 9:45 at the northeast corner of Johnson Drive and Cody, at Blue Jacket Park / Old Shawnee Town in Shawnee.

Organizers are asking that progressive activists from elsewhere in Kansas, regardless of age or affiliation, join them in this demonstration. A member of the group, Benjamin Lindner, told us, "We need all Kansans who care about real health care reform to come and show their support."

The purpose of this march is to drive home to U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore that Kansans want a strong public option included in the health care reform in Congress - and, to stand up against Kansas State Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook's Health Care Freedom Amendment being considered in the state senate. Cook's state amendment would make it possible for the state legislature to prevent the public option, if passed in the U.S. Congress, from being made available to citizens of Kansas.

The Young Democrats are opposed to Pilcher-Cook's amendment. They don't want any Kansans to be left out of the health care reform that passes in Washington.

TOPEKA, Kan. - American Nurses Association (ANA) President Becky Patton sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the nation's nurses strongly supporting HR 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. ANA has always been and remains committed to "the principle that health care is a basic human right and that all persons are entitled to ready access to affordable, quality health services." One of the chief roles that a nurse has is that of patient advocate, so it is no surprise that nurses support this legislation on behalf of the people we serve.

As a registered nurse and a member of the ANA in Kansas, I am proud that the primary national professional organization representing our nation's 2.9 million registered nurses has taken a stand on what is clearly an essential component of reform, the public option. Nurses are the largest group of clinical health care professionals that exist in our system, so Congress should listen to us when we step up in support of legislation that is vital to the well being of our patients. The public option is the only reasonable approach to ensure choice and competition. Anything less is a facade.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Over 150 people filled Congregation Beth Torah in Prairie Village on Tuesday 3 November to hear Jeff Sharlet author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. The event was sponsored by the MAINstream Coalition.

Sam Brownback
Sharlet writes about the intersection of religion, politics and culture - an area of keen interests to many Kansans as we have "a bumper crop of politicians who do it wrong."

In 2006, Sharlet wrote God's Senator for RollingStone magazine, which was one of the first in-depth looks at the religious fanaticism of Sam Brownback. Brownback was raised a Methodist, but has gone from that tradition to evangelical Protestantism to Roman Catholicism (he was baptized into the Roman Catholic church by members of Opus Dei, but is not himself a member of that organization). His affiliation with "The Family" goes back to his days as an aide to Senator Bob Dole and as such is longer than any of his affiliations to a particular religious group.

WASHINGTON - Today AARP announced its endorsement of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) and the accompanying Medicare physician payment reform bill (H.R. 3961), both put forth by the Democratic leadership in the House.

"Known as the "quiet crisis," the number of people with health insurance who might be bankrupted by a medical crisis is growing. We have heard a lot about the 47 million without any health insurance, but we've heard less about the tens of millions of middle-class Americans who are underinsured. More than half of underinsured adults go without needed medical care. Even while scrimping on care, more than half of America's underinsured have debt due to medical expenses." (from AARP's Divided We Fail)

Today's endorsement from the 40-million-member organization marks the first time in this legislative battle that AARP has put its full weight behind a comprehensive health care reform package.

TOPEKA, Kan. - The state will have about $235 million less than the legislature had planned on in passing the state budget in May, 2009, says the estimate from the Consensus Estimating Group and released today by the Governor's office.

The $235 million deficit amounts to about 4.2% of the budget for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, 2009, and runs through June 30, 2010.

Governor Mark Parkinson promised last week that he would take executive action to cut the budgets of state agencies to keep state spending in line with the declining revenues. This line of action is in contrast with the actions of former Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who--when faced with revenue shortfalls a year ago--preferred to have the legislature take action when it returned to session in January.

BOGUE, Kan. - In good times, we Americans sing "Hallelujah, praise the Lord" and buy stuff. Sometimes we need it. If we don't, well, it looks so soooo cool on TV. No cash? No problem, we got plastic. God will come through on principal and interest later.

For decades, consumer spending was a critical 70 percent of our "robust" economy. Then the deregulated, under-regulated financial sector predictably collapsed. Speculators (including banks) who thought they had money really didn't. Neither had they credit. The whirlpool began.

Businesses are in business to sell goods or services. If they sell more, they hire more workers, or pay them better. But if businesses sell less, not only does the boss earn less, she cuts jobs, or hours, or benefits-- or wages. Those who earn less (or nothing) spend less. Result? Still more businesses sell less, cut jobs...or hours...or wages...or benefits. And so the whirlpool spins faster and wider, sucking down more and more employers and employees.

HAYS, Kan. - In June 2009, a New York Times/CBS News poll reported that "most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector." Half of those questioned said they thought government would be better at providing medical coverage than private insurers, up from 30 percent in polls conducted in 2007. In early summer 2009, 72 percent were in favor of a public option plan.

Mainstream media received some criticism in August for calling attention to the disruptive attendees in some town hall meetings. Critics expressed concern that by photographing and interviewing those that were carrying signs or shouting in meetings, the media may have inadvertently given the impression to readers and viewers that the opponents of health care reform were greater in number than those in favor of reform.

Did the media cause the August down-tick in support through the media's showcasing of that minority of dissidents? Did the media fairly report the news - or can it be held accountable for actually creating the news? Opinion in the coming months is hard to predict, but as the media shifted away from the town halls and back to the core issues and policy facts in the legislation, it appears that the public has renewed its confidence in reform legislation.

HAYS, Kan. - A report published last March by the Journal of General Internal Medicine told us that the average American patient reads at an eighth-grade level. Thus, average medical patients are likely to have some difficulty understanding their own medical records unless given adequate time to study and review the materials.

Now, a study published this week by researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine suggests that most patients are dissatisfied with the way they receive results of tests and want more access to information in their medical records, specifically, detailed, lay-language results from the tests.

They believed having access to their own medical records would put them on a more even level with their doctor so that, as patients, they don't have to depend on their doctor to cure their ailments, but rather they can work as a team with their doctors and play an active role in helping themselves.

WICHITA, Kan. - Since Dr. George Tiller's assassination in May, many Kansans' lives were dramatically changed. One important change has been the media attention given to extreme anti-abortion militants - the ones who advocate murdering abortion providers and those who have tried. Initially, questions were raised as to how the Wichita-based anti-choice organization Operation Rescue was related to the suspect, Scott Roeder. But after a while, the connection between "legitimate" anti-choice organizations and violence against abortion providers faded way to militant, "fringe" groups such as the Army of God. Their latest foray into considerable media attention grew this last week as Dave Leach of Des Moines, Iowa, and Regina Dinwiddie of Kansas City, Missouri, announced their intention to auction off anti-choice violence-related materials on eBay to raise money for a new defense team for Roeder.

Scott Roeder booking photo
Soon after they announced the auction in the Kansas City Star, eBay said they would not allow the auction as it promoted and glorified violence. Dinwiddie said she would sue eBay for religious discrimination and that they planned on continuing with their efforts. Sunday evening, they began putting items on eBay, often using intentional misspellings to hide the items, making it more difficult for pro-choice advocates to find and report them. By late Monday afternoon, at least 12 items that had been posted were removed. While both claim the items listed did not promote violence (though the description of the "prolife Bible" said it included highlighted passages that advocated violence), both Leach and Dinwiddie are fierce advocates of assassinating abortion providers.

dennis-moore.jpgTOPEKA, Kan. - In a struggling economy, this is the kind of news we need. Rep. Dennis Moore (D-KS) just announced that the Department of Energy has awarded $9,593,500 in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG) to the state. These grants provide much needed job opportunities as well as give us a chance to take the lead in developing renewable energy.

"The award of these block grants to Kansas highlights the bright energy future of our great state," said Congressman Moore. "With the third highest wind production potential in the country, we must continue to make investments in renewable energy to capitalize on the growing 'green economy' and ensure Kansas is a leader in the adoption of smart and sustainable energy practices."

The EECBG funds are funded through the Recovery Act and will implement a variety of public and private sector initiatives geared toward energy efficiency and renewable energy. Said projects include grants that will be given to local government energy managers across the state. These funds are projected to create hundreds of jobs statewide, reduce energy consumption, and limit carbon pollution.

Also, kudos to Congressman Moore for the launch of his Congressional website -- it looks great!

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Building on their successful run of independent films, the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice will show Dirt! The Movie for the November installation of their Monthly Film Series. The screening will take place at 6:30 pm on November 10th at the Manhattan Public Library Auditorium.

Dirt! The Movie is an insightful and timely film that tells the story of the glorious and unappreciated material beneath our feet. One teaspoon of dirt contains a billion organisms working in remarkable balance to maintain and sustain a series of complex, thriving communities that impact our daily lives.

Inspired by William Bryant Logan's acclaimed book, Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, Dirt! The Movie takes a humorous and substantial look into the history and current state of the living organic matter that we came from and will later return to. An eclectic group of participants ranging from biologists to prisoners incarcerated on Rikers Island, including Kansas' own Wes Jackson of the Land Institute in Salina, offer answers to problems and inspire the viewer to clean up the mess that humans have created.

SALINA, Kan. - Food Stamp usage in Kansas has been steadily rising for the last several years. In July 2009, 235,367 Kansans received Food Stamps as compared to an average of 140,403 in 2002. Even those families that do receive Food Stamps are not assured of adequate nourishment. The average payout of Food Stamps in 2008 in Kansas was $93.86 per person for one month, averaging $3 per day.

As our culture nears its annual feast, Thanksgiving, it's startling to learn that food insecurity is a real problem for the children of our state and nation. Holidays and tables full of delicious food usually go hand in hand, but for nearly half of the children in the United States, this is simply not guaranteed.

"49 percent of all U.S. children will be in a household that uses food stamps at some point during their childhood," says Mark R. Rank, Ph.D., poverty expert at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.

PetitonPhotoTOPEKA, Kan. - Today's focus is on the important elections happening all across the country but we wanted to take a few moments to update you on our campaign at

Last week, extremist Republicans in the Kansas legislature were quick to propose a bill opting our state out of benefits of health insurance reform, and we wasted no time responding. Over the last week we've been collecting the names of thousands of Kansans all across the state who deserve to participate in the same reforms as every other state.

I'm happy to report that in just six days nearly 8,000 Kansans signed the petition -- and that number continues to grow by the day! We just delivered the initial names to legislative leaders in the state legislature. Because of the hard working efforts of thousands, there is now no denying that here is a strong pro-reform movement in our state -- and our leaders know it.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - What makes a good leader? Confidence? Enthusiasm? Exemplary character? Vision? All the above? Now, how does a leader, say the president, meet the challenge of transforming US society and becoming a transformational leader of our history?

Not your typical everyday conversation starters, but the Turman Library's Howard and Virginia Bennett Forum undertook this challenge on November 1st.

Unity Temple on the Plaza was the setting for a conversation between four distinguished panelist on Presidential Leadership in a Transformational Times that included: Joseph Nye, Jr., dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government; Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post; Robert Kuttner, co-founder of The American Prospect; and, Timothy Naftali, director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library.

The panel examined the characteristics of transformational presidents - from Jefferson to Roosevelt, Lincoln to Reagan, and considered whether Barack Obama can fulfill his pledge to "fundamentally transform the United States of America."

For the panel, Obama is drawing a mixed report card at best and downright worrisome results at worst.

SALINA, Kan. - The announcement that Sarah Palin is being paid to speak to the annual Salina Chamber of Commerce Banquet on February 5 is surprising. The Chamber has snared excellent speakers in the past for their annual banquet, such as First Lady Barbara Bush, speakers who inspired Salina to think about future goals.

But Palin? She holds no office. She is going to make a big pile of money from her Salina appearance, but who could fault her for taking advantage of the situation? The real issue is: How does this choice move Salina forward?

Salina is a bustling town of 50,000, with four lane highway going all four directions. I-70 and US 135 lead straight to Salina. With it's highway and location advantage, I have often wondered: Why isn't Salina a town of 70,000? Salina seems to have everything going for it.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - When 28-year-old Great Bend Democrat Randy Yowell threw down the gauntlet and challenged longtime Republican First District Congressman Keith Sebelius, it led to what Yowell now calls "the wildest congressional campaign ever by land, sea or air."

No Congressional District has been tougher on the Democrats than Kansas' Big First. And Keith Sebelius (father-in-law of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius) seemed to have an unshakable grip on the District in 1976. Somebody forgot to tell Randy Yowell.

Yowell had no money. Although he had been a star athlete at Great Bend High School, he had no political experience, but made up for it in guts, blasting Sebelius at every turn.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Sam Tanenhaus' book The Death of Conservatism is a scholarly and academic view of classical conservatism, and how today's self-described conservatives are far removed from classical conservativism.

Tanenhaus considers Edmund Burke and Disraeli as the definers of what conservatism really is. Politicians and writers like Dwight Eisenhower, Whittaker Chambers, William F. Buckley, Jr. and Nancy Kassebaum would be considered "classic conservatives."

Classic conservatives basically believe that government can be used to make a better society. They aim to keep what's good about government, and discard what the government doesn't do well. Classic conservatives believe that big corporations should be supervised, and that government is a benign force, if supervised and pruned back properly. Classic conservatives embrace our country as it is, but may want to make some adjustments here and there.

The "movement conservatives" of today believe that government is a malignant tumor that should be killed off in toto by cutting off the blood supply - tax dollars. The new conservatives believe in no real supervision of big business, that "the market knows best." The new conservatives believe "we've lost our country" and must find it.

"I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense ..." Thomas Paine, 1776, pamphleteer

HAYS, Kan. - Today is our first month anniversary! The Kansas Free Press launched just one month ago, on October 1st. Since that first day, the reception, readership and traffic here has been phenomenal. Our 54 writers have collectively filed 121 stories. During October, this site has had 271,959 "hits" and we have welcomed between 365 and 5,070 unique visitors every day! That's really magnificent! We are so grateful to our readers for welcoming this new project with such enthusiasm. Thank you! We will do our best to continue to live up to your expectations.

So, what is the Kansas Free Press? As it steadily grows over the coming months and years, the Kansas Free Press will strive to be a trusted state-wide online newspaper, featuring both opinion and news, written by citizen journalists about people, places, politics and policies that effect Kansans.

Our writers are chiefly interested in examining what the people of Kansas value most and how we, our governments, communities and neighbors respond to those values.

By writing about the places, local events, politics and, especially, the people of Kansas, our journalists hope to coax others into meaningful public conversations about our way of life and the future of Kansas.

With both boldness and simplicity, this electronic newspaper seeks to provide opportunities for everyday citizens in Kansas to speak freely with one another about things that truly matter to Kansans.

Opting Out of Military Telemarketing

WICHITA, Kan. - Opt-Out notification forms, forms that notify military recruiters that students don't want to be contacted, have been included in the packets sent to parents in the USD 259 school district in Wichita for four years. Every year, Janice Bradley, member of the Peace and Social Center of South Central Kansas, asks the school district for a report on the number of parents opting their students out of contact by military recruiters. And every year, this number has increased. After four years, the number of those opting out of military recruitment contact in Wichita high schools has reached 57.1%, an increase of 5% from the 2008-2009 school year. Wichita parents are using the The Opt-Out Notification for Military Recruiters form, which became available in 2005, to prevent the automatic release of their sons and daughters' names, addresses and phone numbers to military recruiters.

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