Front Page » Monthly Archives » Archives: January 2010

Our Trial of Scott Roeder

WICHITA, Kan. - For eight months, many parts of America waited for the decision of a jury of twelve: did Scott Roeder plan out the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in a church on May 31, 2009? And many Americans feared the jury - and, often times, the judge - would not side with justice, no matter their beliefs on abortion. The trial is now over with sentencing and appeals to come. Roeder very likely will spend the rest of his life in jail. It seemed a foregone conclusion that this would be the result of the trial. So why did so many people fear Roeder wouldn't?

Some of the fear I saw floating around the internet was that Kansans, living in a red state, would let Roeder walk because they are anti-abortion and wanted Dr. Tiller to stop providing them. Dead is as good as in jail. After all, we did elect Phill Kline. The jury would surely nullify and set him free. There are a few problems with this line of thought. Kline, for one, won in 2002 with only 50.3% of the vote against a candidate who barely campaigned. Hardly a referendum on abortion and Dr. Tiller.

Obama, Find Your Inner FDR

GREAT BEND, Kan. - A corporation is not a person. A corporation is a piece of paper filed with the Secretary of State's office. As has been said many times: "A corporation has no body to throw into jail nor soul to throw into hell."

The U.S. Supreme Court, all nine of them, will tell you that the idea that a corporation is a person is a "legal fiction." Although a corporation is not a flesh-and-blood person, the U.S. Courts have ruled for a hundred years that they are "fictional persons" and thus have the same rights as you and I.

Republican economist Milton Friedman, when asked if corporations had any duty other than to make money for stockholders, replied: "No." In other words: "Send American jobs overseas, raid the pension plans of American workers - don't feel guilty corporate officers, because you don't have to have morals."

Politicians from both parties - from Thomas Jefferson to Theodore Roosevelt to Jim Hightower - have railed against the dangers of unfettered corporate power. The Democratic party was always the last line of defense to make sure that "We the People" were never drowned out by big corporations.

And then a terrible thing happened.

HOBOKEN, N.J. - Somewhere in the vast frontiers of Internet radio is a station that plays a selection that very closely resembles the Top 40 music that was played in Topeka on KTOP AM in the late '50s and early '60s. The station is K-LUV Oldies and you can find it in your iTunes program under Library -- Radio - Golden Oldies. I found it by just probing around the stations in the standard iTunes' listing. I zeroed in on it quickly as it gradually dawned on me that it was reproducing my adolescent radio experience in Topeka with remarkable verisimilitude.

Angelo Lopez: Jasper Debates About War

Lighters Are Tools, Not Toys

TOPEKA, Kan.- Last week, I submitted the following written testimony in support of Senate Bill 342, which was introduced before the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee by Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita.

This bill would ban the sale of novelty lighters that resemble popular toys and entice children to play with fire, leading to deaths, injuries and property damage. Adults have sustained first-hand injuries form these lighters, too. They are manufactured haphazardly overseas, and have been subject to a multitude of recalls over the years. Other states have taken action on this, and I think Kansas should follow suit.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - I grew up two blocks from my small town's public library. The Independent Township Library, to be exact.

I always wondered why the library had such a strange name, not knowing the history of townships in our state or why they were formed, way back when. At any rate, I would stagger home with my arms full of books from the time I could read.

By the time I graduated from high school, I had read every book in the building, plus hundreds more that the interlibrary loan van would bring every couple of weeks. I taught story time to 3-year-olds, and led the summer reading program.

The library was my window to the world, and through its treasures it made me realize that the world was a big place with a lot of opportunities.

WICHITA, Kan. - A jury found Scott Roeder guilty of first degree murder in the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller, whom Roeder said he killed to stop him from conducting late term abortions. Roeder's lawyers had tried to mount a defense that would have reduced the crime to manslaughter. The jury took 37 minutes to decide to convict.

Court Sides with Corporate Takeover

WICHITA, Kan. - During State of the Union, President Obama created a minor stir by criticizing the recent Supreme Court ruling that threw out much of campaign finance law that deals with outside influences on elections, essentially claiming that corporations and other groups have the same free speech rights as citizens and that money equals speech.

To me this has a potential chilling effect on Democracy with those with the most money, and foreign corporations having an undo influence over our electoral system(I know cynics would say its that way now).

My aunt, who not only is one of the smartest people I know (and a better writer than I) but who along with my uncle shaped my political beliefs, had this to say in the Jan. 27th Wichita Eagle...

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Bonnie and Clyde concealed themselves in a Great Bend, Kansas tourist court from June 29, 1933 until July 18, 1933 in the midst of one of their biggest crime sprees. Bonnie and Clyde rarely stayed in one location this long, but the extended stay was necessary as Bonnie was recovering from severe burns to her leg suffered in a June 10 car accident in Texas.

On June 10th, Clyde was seven miles north of Wellington, Texas driving at night at his usual speed of 70 mph. The road seemed to suddenly disappear because a bridge was out. The car was airborne and crashed in the bed of the Salt Fork River. Fire engulfed the car and Bonnie's right leg was engulfed in flames. After staying in Texas for a few days, Clyde steered the car north.

WICHITA, Kan. - Members of the Kansas National Organization for Women (Kansas NOW) breathe a collective sigh of relief upon receipt of the news that the jury in the trial of admitted murderer Scott Roeder has handed down a guilty verdict, finding the him guilty of the crime of first degree murder and aggravated assault.

We hope that it will serve as a strong message to those that have exalted this coward into a position of prominence in the so called pro-life movement. Violence in any form against abortion doctors will not be tolerated.

On Being a Kansas Democrat

WICHITA, Kan. - Recently, a friend asked me why I continue to hang in there with the Democrats. Some days, I ask myself the same question.

Three months after John F. Kennedy's election, I turned 21 and registered to vote as a Democrat. In doing so, I turned my back on my parents' life-long Republican Party affiliation. My dad was a truck driver and a member of the Teamsters Union. My mom was an independent-minded woman who spent most of my growing up years working as a housewife. As working class people, neither of them fit the country club Republican image. However, my folks were Republican precinct committeeman and committeewoman in their district of Baxter Springs, Kansas.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - According to polling data, the Democratic party has a low approval rating among American voters. But the Republican party's approval rate is even lower than the Democrats. The "Tea Party" - an informal group of anti-tax, anti-big government folks is approved by more Americans than either major party.

People are angry at Democrats, but they remember why they voted out Republicans in 2008. Republicans gleefully assume that they will be the beneficiaries of all this voter anger at Democrats in the 2010 elections.

Don't be so sure. Chuck Todd, NBC's political director, indicates that the angry voters may turn to "a third force" other than the Republicans or Democrats. Republicans initially assumed that the Tea Party's interests would be identical with their interests. However, there is already some infighting between the Republican party and the Tea Party.

SALINA, Kan. - When a Virginia Tech student disappeared at a Metallica concert in Charlottesville last fall, her friends and family turned to social media to find her. A few months later, when a Utah woman went missing, supporters launched what some claimed was the most extensive use of online technology in a missing-person search, enlisting close to 40,000 Facebook and Twitter members in three days. Thus far, neither campaign has led to the two missing women.

Nevertheless, said Claudette Artwick, associate professor of journalism and mass communications at Washington and Lee University, another way to assess the success or failure of these efforts is by looking at the media coverage they generate.

In the pre-social-media days, the goal was to get a missing person's photo on television and in the newspaper. Social media now allow friends and family to put that photo in front of millions and millions of eyes with or without the help of traditional media.

Cause and effect

WICHITA, Kan. - Last week I wrote about the real repercussions cuts in the state budget have on people in need who depend on not for profits for services, which in turn depend on funding from the state, and the fetishism of anti-tax elements in Kansas who refuse to look at revenue streams no matter how many people it hurts.

You couldn't find a better example of this than the front page of today's Eagle. On the top of the page is an article about how funding is about to run out for the Child Advocacy Center, which deals with the most voiceless, helpless victims in our society - children who are victimized by those closest to them. The work is complicated and difficult and is spread across many agencies. The Center gets 54% of its funding from the state. If that gets cut, tough luck battered children.

cstein.jpgGREAT BEND, Kan. - Christina Stein has filed papers with the Kansas Secretary of State's office to become a candidate for House of Representatives 112th District. The 112th District covers most of Barton County, including the cities of Great Bend, Albert, Dundee, Pawnee Rock, Galatia, Olmitz and surrounding townships.

Christina indicates that her main focus will be working for good jobs at good wages in Barton County. "The economy is much better in Kansas than in Michigan, where I grew up. The crash of the auto industry has my home state in sharp decline," she explains.

Though she has observed that the jobs market may be worse in other places, she still believes that, even in the current economy, Great Bend and Barton County can provide better jobs at better wages than are currently available. Christina intends to support economic development and chamber efforts to bring new businesses to the area as well as support policies that help our small businesses grow and prosper.

Nation Cruise Broadcasts

UPDATE: Due to technical difficulties, the broadcast of the Howard Dean interview will be postponed until February 11th. Apologies for the change. Since the original files were video, not audio, problems arose in transferring the files. The Nation is sending DVDs which I will use to broadcast.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Nation has given permission to Community Bridge to broadcast three seminars from last month's cruise that were reported here on the pages of the Kansas Free Press.

This week on Community Bridge, following my interview with Curt Brungardt on Jana's Campaign to End Domestic Violence, we will broadcast Is there an Obama doctrine in Foreign Policy?

Foreign policy panel
The panel features Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, as moderator, with panelists: Robert Scheer, editor; Steve Cohen, American scholar of Russian studies and professor of Russian Studies and History at New York University; Gov. Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont and Chair of the Democratic Party; and, William Greider, author of numerous books, including Come Home America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country, contributor to The Nation, former writer for Rolling Stone magazine during the 1980s and 1990s, and has worked as an on-air correspondent for Frontline on PBS.

Christopher E. Renner, host of Community Bridge, thanks The Nation for giving permission to broadcast this conversation so it can be heard by a broader audience.

To listen to the panel presentation, either click the start button on the player panel or click the MP3 File button to down the file to your computer.

Is there an Obama doctrine in Foreign Policy?

MP3 File

A conversation with Howard Dean. Broadcast on Community Bridge on 11 February 2010.

MP3 File

Fred Phelps' Personal Hell

HOBOKEN, N.J. -- Tonight I read that Fred Phelps, pastor at the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, said that God hates Lady Gaga. It was striking timing for me personally because next week I'll be coming home myself to Topeka, the city of my birth. The Phelps story also comes a couple of days after I myself discovered Lady Gaga. And I must admit I think she is brilliant, an amazing artist and a very intelligent and earnest human being. Besides being an extremely gifted and accomplished musician, she seems to be a person who sincerely cares for other people.

Kris Kobach's Krazy Kaper

EMPORIA, Kan. - Republican candidate for Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, is reportedly assisting in a new legal challenge to in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants.

At issue is a Nebraska law passed in 2005 which authorizes the children of undocumented persons/illegal aliens who have attended a Nebraska high school for at least 3 years and promise to seek legal status with the same tuition rate as legal residents. While there may be some degree of political expediency involved in taking on this new case, Mr. Kobach has been involved around the country in similar past efforts. A quick Google search of his prior efforts in this regard yielded this story.

2010 Election Season Begins

TOPEKA, Kan. - And we're off! The 2010 election season is getting off to a quick start with several candidates declaring interest in running for office. State Senator Chris Steineger filed for the Secretary of State position last week, joining several others who have indicated interest in running for the seat.

His press release is below...

kansas-state-capitol-2.jpgGREAT BEND, Kan. - Rep. Mitch Holmes' (R-114th) legislative update in the St. John, Kansas newspaper begins with news of legislative sacrifice:

"The Kansas Legislature started the 2010 session last week with several announcements. The first was the plans of Leadership to establish furlough days for all legislators during the session. Legislators are paid $88.66/day during the session or interim committees. The session is limited to 90 days by the state constitution. The furloughs will be on days not yet specified, but they will not be at the end of the session as a means of shortening the session."

In other words, the people of Kansas have been told the legislature is making a financial sacrifice in these difficult budget times. Legislators are already crowing about their sacrifice, as seen by Rep. Holmes' press release.

There are several reasons this "furlough" announcement is meaningless.

athome.jpgSALINA, Kan. - For days at a time during a four-year period, the two men slept under bridges and in makeshift camps set up by homeless individuals they befriended. They also spent a night in a shelter and visited other shelters for their research.

Jeffrey Michael Clair, Ph.D., and Jason Wasserman, Ph.D., set out to find the answer to one simple question: Why do many homeless individuals prefer living on the street to living in shelters?

So the two ventured into the streets of Birmingham, Alabama to interview homeless people, learning in the process that many programs and policies designed to help the homeless succeed only in alienating them.

Clair and Wasserman say armchair proclamations by experts and politicians about dealing with homelessness are routinely dismissed by those on the street with this response: "They don't know us."

WICHITA, Kan. - State Rep. Raj Goyle reported his campaign raised $252,953.29 during the fourth quarter of 2009. Goyle's campaign now has $583,483.28 cash on hand, a record amount for a challenger going into an election year in Kansas' Fourth Congressional District.

"I am deeply humbled by the tremendous support I've received from people across the Fourth District and the State of Kansas," said Goyle.

Goyle drew on a wide base of support, receiving contributions from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Nearly half of all contributions Goyle's campaign received were less than one hundred dollars. With nearly 1,500 contributions since July, Goyle's campaign has more supporters than any other candidate in the race to date.

WICHITA, Kan. - I wrote previously here at the Kansas Free Press about the vigil that Kansas NOW hosted in honor of the 37th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade Day.

The vigil honored Dr. Tiller, the thousands of women who lost their lives prior to legalized abortion and the doctors and clinic staff that have been murdered in acts of fanatical violence. Our crowd was small in size, but the vigil impacted each and every participant present. Wichita NOW member, Vickie Stangl sent me an email the very next day.

She said, "I was so inspired, astonished and moved by the vigil. I couldn't sleep and started writing." Vickie's words are powerful. I post them here with her permission...

What's Environmentalism to You?

LAWRENCE, Kan. - I could talk about a lot of very sad and tragic things going on in the world right now.

Haiti would be number one. The continuing polarization of the United States government may be number two. This would make the lack of progress our country has made in the past year number three (I'm still an Obama believer, though). The list goes on and includes everything from substantial funding cuts to vital programs, to the low employment rate, and yes, I have to say it, to Conan being off the air. But something which is of crucial global importance is hardly being mentioned at all in the sh** list of today's world.

And yes, my friends, I'm talking about the environment.

But before I go on, I have some questions I want YOU (yes, YOU) to answer about it at the end of the article. No right or wrong answers. No personal judgments. All I'm looking for is an open dialogue.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Quintin Tarantino's film Inglourous Basterds looks like a shoo-in for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. And Christopher Waltz, who plays a multi-lingual Nazi SS Colonel is sure to win an Oscar for his performance, probably "Best Supporting Actor."

So what's the fuss all about? The movie has all the florid colors and characters of a Quintin Tarantino film (Samuel L. Jackson actually narrates two small sections of the film). Even the title of the film is misspelled - of course, it should be "Inglorious Bastards." The film flirts with parody, and has a lot of good laughs. It feels very real, but also has the "film noir" overstatement that is typical with Tarantino films.

So how could a film about the systematic elimination of Jews in occupied France possibly be funny, or even offbeat enough to elicit a grin?

SALINA, Kan. - The Democrat's bitter election loss in Massachusetts may be a result of how Democrats have been losing ground on the public opinion front. As fellow KFP writer, Marty Keenan, recently pointed out, "Democrats are terrible at explaining things in simple, emotional ways that win hearts and minds. Republicans are experts at explaining things in simple, emotional ways that win hearts and minds."

Marty recommended that Democrats read the excellent book, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.

A few other books may also provide some of the tools that Democrats need to regain lost ground. In addition to The Political Brain, I'd like to recommend four additional books: 1) Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives, 2) Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, 3) Answering Back: Liberal Responses to Conservative Arguments, and perhaps the best one, 4) The Political Mind: A Cognitive Scientist's Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Founded in 1987 by Dr. Paul Farmer, Partners In Health (PIH) is an international health care organization that has providing vital health care services in Haiti for more than 20 years and is one of the largest health care providers in the country, working with the Haitian Ministry of Health to deliver comprehensive health care services to a catchment area of 1.2 million across the Central Plateau and the Lower Artibonite Valley.

PIH Medical Director Joia Mukherjee has been working around the clock in Haiti since 48 hours after the earthquake. In a late-night email from Port-au-Prince, Dr. Mukherjee reported an inspiring example of lifesaving international collaboration from the night before. The case of a baby suffering from severe blood loss and in shock was discovered by the Haitian nurse who serves as chief administrator at HUEH, who was rounding by flashlight, with two Haitian doctors who had returned from their pediatric residencies in Cuba to help. Dr. Mukherjee described what happened next...

Budget cuts affect us all

WICHITA, Kan. - Our legislators are afraid. They are afraid they won't be elected if they raise taxes. They should be afraid of not being reelected for ruining our schools and not taking care of our senior citizens, and people with disabilities. The agencies that serve people with disabilities, our frail and elderly, and our schools have taken several cuts and absorbed them internally so that it doesn't affect the consumers. Any further cuts will affect the people who need the services. There is a reason why we protect our most vulnerable. Not just because its the right thing to do, but because the ugly truth of what could happen is too sickening to imagine.

SALINA, Kan. - For those who don't know, the "rogue" Republican, Sarah Palin, has been invited to be the keynote speaker at the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet on February 5.

A local coalition of people opposed to Palinism have organized a Reality Not Celebrity dinner as a counter-event to the Palin's visit to Salina. The event will take place at the Salina Country Club.

Keynote speaker for the event is George Pyle, editorial writer at The Buffalo News, Wichita State graduate and former local liberal and excellent editorial writer of the Salina Journal. Pyle is flying in from Buffalo for the event.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - When President Obama decided to take on the difficult issue of health care reform, former Clinton advisers whom still had scars on their backs from their own failed health care initiative in 1993, advised the President, to wit: "Don't initiate your own detailed health care plan. The opposition and press will pick apart your plan. Instead, let Congress come up with the plan. Then you can step in."

So as Howard Fineman said recently: "Obama took all his political capital and let Max Baucus squander it." Max Baucus, the Democrat Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee from Montana, botched it.

Baucus, who could walk through any shopping mall in America (outside the Beltway and Montana) and not be recognized by a single person, held the keys to health care reform. And he had taken so much cash from "Big Medicine" that there was no hope for any bill that would help "We the People."

As someone wrote recently, Baucus' staff is filled with former insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists, and all his former staffers now work as health insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists. Baucus is a poster boy for term limits. And he rendered the health care bill so lousy for middle America that not even Zig Ziglar could sell it.

WICHITA, Kan. - On January 22, 2010, Kansas NOW and Wichita NOW held a candlelight vigil in honor of the 37th Anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision. The program was dedicated to the late Dr. George Tiller, the thousands of women who died prior to Roe v. Wade and the abortion providers and staff that the nation has lost to senseless acts of violence.

The New York Times cover from January 23, 1973;
Lyndon B. Johnson died the same day the Roe case was decided
It was an emotional evening that featured a candlelight ceremony to honor our fallen heroes. You can listen to an NPR story that features some audio coverage of the vigil here.

Tiffany Campbell came from South Dakota to share about her personal abortion story. Attendees shared their personal stories of abortion and how important it is that it remain safe, legal and accessible.

I have shared some of the evening's transcript below, which includes statements provided for the event from Dr. Warren Hern and Dr. Susan Wicklund....

GREAT BEND, Kan. - One of my most fervent hopes is that all Americans can be on the same page again. It was like that when I was growing up. When I was 8 years old we watched Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon. We had a party, and made homemade ice cream. There were Republicans there, Democrats, all kinds of people: and everybody wanted the mission to succeed. And it did.

We had a common enemy: the USSR. And nothing unites a nation like a common enemy. But communism collapsed, and that was a good thing. But there were unexpected consequences.

Today, we are divided: Red States vs. Blue States. Fox News vs. MSNBC. And the explosion of technology is a major culprit in causing this divide. Now, everyone listens to whatever news outlet they agree with. There were 3 networks when I was a child. Today there are billions. Every home computer is a network.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Remember the old adage, "prevention is the best medicine"? I do, and it is used in my personal life on a daily basis. Simple preventative measures such as, taking the time to put on my coat when it is cold so not to get sick, eating healthy so my body can function, saving money so that I can plan for future life events, and attending doctors' appointments when needed. Prevention may cost me more at the time, but in the end will save large amounts of money. Sure, eating fruit and vegetables is rather expensive today compared to a bag of chips, and a ho ho, but the economics will play out in my favor. I consider it money saved every time I purchase a four dollar bag of grapes. Most of us that were raised in stable homes understand prevention and use it.

If prevention were used more in politics our state would not be suffering from a monstrous deficit. I attended a legislative meeting today here in Great Bend. State Senator Teichman, State Senator Emler, and Representative Wolf were key speakers. I sat and listened to their speeches, they discussed bills they will be voting on this legislative year.

Tom Holland for Governor

DERBY, Kan. - Tom Holland for governor is indeed a breath of fresh air. Just hearing of anyone willing to challenge Sam Brownback is encouraging, to say the least. However, just having the identification of Republican gives any statewide candidate in Kansas at least a 3 to 1 advantage. Even though Brownback doesn't have a very high approval rating in the polls, when it comes voting time, the republican candidate just seems to automatically get the nod.

What, then, will it take for Tom Holland to wage a successful campaign for Governor of one of the most solid red states in America?

5-4 Decision Cuts Many Ways

OLATHE, Kan. - The United States Supreme Court's 5-4 decision on Wednesday to allow unrestricted corporate funding of political messaging would seem to be a real blow to what most of us in the progressive community deem to be fair and just. But, with a little time to step back and analyze the situation, this could provide some fabulous opportunities for us.

Here's a case in point: this morning on the way to work I was listening to KCMO Talk Radio 710, a local Fox affiliate. Their drive-time entertainer and professional blatherer is a guy named Chris Stigall. He came up with what he thought was a brilliant two-pronged idea, the gist of which is the following:

GREAT BEND, Kan. - State Senator Tom Holland's (D-Baldwin City) probable entry into the Kansas Governor's race is a major development, because Holland has a track record of knocking off Republican incumbents. He defeated incumbent Republican House member Ralph Tanner in a heated 2002 race in the 10th House District, and in 2008 he defeated Republican State Senator Roger Pine in the 3rd Senate District.

Although U.S. Senator Sam Brownback is not an incumbent Governor, he symbolizes everything people think of when they think of "the status quo." Brownback is a career politician whom people associate with Washington, D.C. His 49% approval rating is remarkably low for a longtime Republican incumbent in Kansas.

The worst possible news for Brownback's candidacy was this week, when Massachusetts voters filled the "John F. Kennedy / Edward M. Kennedy" seat with a Republican. Brownback would have been so much better off if Coakley had won without incident. Obama had been on the wrong track, and Kansas voters knew it - Obama's approval rating in Kansas was 36% - even lower than Brownback's.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Saturday, January 23rd, Manhattan-Ogden NEA will host a Legislative Forum at The Little Apple Brewing Company in Westloop. The event will begin at 4:00 pm, and each legislator will have about 5 minutes to speak. Then, the discussion will be open for questions from attendees.

WICHITA, Kan. - Abraham Lincoln said, "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts."

Unfortunately, recent history has demonstrated that those of us on the receiving end of the cascade of 24-7 information have a tough time ascertaining whether information we receive is factual or a total misrepresentation of the truth. Besides, who has the time to fact check the New York Times, or CNN for heaven's sake?

We get distracted by our jobs. Our families demand attention. Let's face it: questioning the validity of the information we absorb about world events, politics or history is just not "on our radar."

MANHATTAN, Kan. - After giving Secretary of Revenue Joan Wagnon and Governor Parkinson the cold shoulder last week, the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee appear to have had a change of heart on Wednesday and introduced the tax bills they had declined to introduce last week: Governor Parkinson's 1% sales tax increase and increasing the cigarette and tobacco tax to national levels.

Observers interpreted the committee's actions last week as a signal that working to solve the state's $400 million revenue shortfall in the next fiscal year was going to be contentious as it was the first time in most observer's memories that a committee did not give the Governor the courtesy of introducing his or her legislation.

Wednesday's action by the committee means that the bills have now been introduced in both the Senate and House.

Obama Needs to Put His Dukes Up

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Life is a lot like boxing. And boxing is the best metaphor for politics I know. If a boxing match is so one-sided that one of the boxers is in danger of being permanently injured or killed, the referee stops the fight.

If you think of the Massachusetts voters as a boxing referee, they did President Obama a huge favor by stopping the fight yesterday. Democrats losing "the Kennedy seat" in the U.S. Senate is hard to believe. But since his inauguration, Obama didn't throw a single punch at the opposition. Meanwhile, he got pummeled by the the opposition.

I wish things were different. I wish things could be truly bipartisan again, and that all Americans rooted for the nation, for the President. But politics has become a bloodsport, and you better knock the other guy's head off before he knocks yours off.

I have written several times now about Drew Westen's remarkable book The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation. But apparently nobody even close to Obama read the book. Drew Westen's article in today's Huffington Post Obama Finally Gets His Victory For Bipartisanship, says everything that I would like to say, better than I could ever say it.

Obama's vision, first spelled out in his spellbinding 2004 convention speech, for a return to a bipartisan America where everyone works together, sets aside partisan bickering, and works for the good of the nation was appealing. But both sides have to agree to the deal. And as Obama was elected and extended the hand of friendship to Republicans, they broke his face with a right hook that could knock a barn down.

"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

HAYS, Kan. - With the loss of Teddy Kennedy's seat in the Senate, perhaps progressives need to take a hard look at ourselves. Have we been on automatic pilot since November 2008? How many in our ranks thought that our jobs were more or less done following the presidential election? Who among us slowed down our activism because, in part, we believed that electing Democrats to the White House or Congress was sufficient enough to create sweeping social change and install justice throughout our land?

We can look back at history and see that all significant social changes began as people-powered tidal waves. The people maintained ownership and control of their own movements. The movements germinated, bubbled up and remained political forces powered by the people - and were never given away or handed off to Washington to mismanage.

DODGE CITY, Kan. - This afternoon, the Kansas Supreme Court granted an emergency stay, temporarily preventing a subpoena from forcing a Dodge City Daily Globe reporter to answer questions under oath regarding her confidential sources and unpublished notes.

The journalist, Claire O'Brien, was subpoenaed to testify about her reporting of an ongoing murder case in Dodge. She was scheduled to appear before an inquisition in Ford County on Wednesday.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Republican Attorney General candidate Senator Derek Schmidt attending a "States Rights" rally last Friday may seem innocuous to many. Lots of politicians rightfully point out that the federal government issues too many "unfunded mandates" to states and local units of government.

Steve Six, Kansas Attorney General
But many Tenth Amendment boosters have far more on their mind than unfunded federal mandates. Many believe that Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal was a coup against
"the real constitution." They believe that the Tenth Amendment, when properly applied, forbids programs like Medicare, Social Security and the Federal Minimum Wage.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that such programs do not violate the Tenth Amendment. Attorney General Six wisely points out the proper remedy for an alleged Tenth Amendment violation is for the aggrieved party to file a lawsuit alleging the unconstitutionality of a particular law. Then let the courts decide.

TOPEKA, Kan. - This is the last week nominations will be accepted for the 2010 Kansas Excellence in Conservation and Environmental Education Awards. The awards, given annually by the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE), recognize those people and organizations who have at least five years' service in conservation and/or environmental education. The awards include several categories:

  • John K. Strickler Award
  • KACEE Awards in Agriculture, Business/Industry, Community/Non-Profit, Government, PreK-16 Education
  • Rising Star Award
  • Kansas Green School of the Year Award (Elementary and Middle/High School)

Bankrupt Kansas, Bankrupt Legislature

WICHITA, Kan. - On Friday I attended the Nonprofit Chamber of Service's "Board University," its annual meeting surrounded by an all-day conference dedicated to issues of interest to NFPs and their boards. A lot of the organizations that belong to it are grassroots social service organizations, like drug treatment centers and working with the mentally disabled and abused children. Really hands on, on the ground work.

I went to all the "leading your nonprofit through hard times" sessions. We would go around the room and talk about whether our budget was going down, if we'd had to lay off people or cut back services, etc. A lot of the organizations are very reliant on government support for their efforts, and that has been falling. So someone would say, "we lost $60,000 in government support," or "it depends on what level the state funds Medicaid reimbursements" which is a big issue for some, and some other groups depend on the sales tax exemptions, which I'll get to in a minute.

Of course, as you may know, the state of Kansas has cut about 20% of its budget in the past year due to recession-caused revenue shortfalls. Well, that and the steadfast refusal of the state legislature to do anything on the revenue side. We have a pretty strong tea party culture in this state, and it's an election year, and there isn't a Republican in the Central Time Zone who wants to be on record supporting a tax increase. So because some people are mad about deficit spending in Washington, programs in Kansas that deal with the most vulnerable get cut and cut and cut again.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The second annual Sustainability Conference will be held on the K-State campus January 29 and 30th. The conference will feature Debra Rowe, professor of energy management, renewable energy technology and psychology at Oakland Community College, as well as numerous panels representing a cross section of Kansans.

This year's conference will focus on "networking the higher education resources in Kansas," said Ben Champion, Director of Sustainability at K-State. "Last year was a wonderful conference. The information was about what people had done or were doing and the audience feedback we got was heartened to know what was going on but they wanted to know what they could do. That is what we are going to focus on at this year's conference: how people can get involved."

GREAT BEND, Kan. - State Senator Derek Schmidt's (R-Independence) active participation in a recent "10th Amendment Rally" in Topeka is disappointing. Republican President Teddy Roosevelt coined the phrase "lunatic fringe" to describe those on both sides of the political spectrum who get involved in far-fetched movements. But I expected better of Schmidt.

I've never met the man, actually. But I was under the mistaken impression that he was a mainstream Republican along the lines of President Eisenhower, Bob Dole, Nancy Kassebaum and others. But no Eisenhower Republican - the kind that used to run the state of Kansas - would go anywhere near the "States Right's" rally held across the street from the capitol Friday.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Democrats are terrible at explaining things in simple, emotional ways that win hearts and minds. Republicans are experts at explaining things in simple, emotional ways that win hearts and minds. That is the message of Drew Westen's remarkable book: The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.

While Democrats give arcane professorial arguments that go over the heads of most voters, the Republicans make punchy gut-level arguments that scare people. And fear is a powerful emotion. It wins elections.

These are difficult days for Democrats, especially Kansas Democrats. Last night I watched three politicians, former or current Presidents, Obama, Bush and Clinton, standing on the same stage, talking about Haiti. Obama and Bush made bland pleas for people to "send cash" to Haiti. Meanwhile, former President Clinton did what Democrats rarely do - he explained the need in a short, punchy, emotional way:

"I stayed at that hotel in Haiti that collapsed. I had dinner with people who are dead. Hillary and I worshiped in that Cathedral that is now in rubbles." How refreshing! A Democrat speaking in simple, emotional terms, using powerful images. Bill Clinton seems to be the only Democrat out there who knows how to do this.

Judge Qualification

"For the people of Kansas to now place faith in a Catholic judge that has courted the anti abortion vote through his career would be remiss." (from comment on previous post, Religious Fanaticism Should Never Be Defense for Murder)

COLBY, Kan. - There has been no real evidence that Judge Wilbert has let his Catholic faith and doctrines interfere with his judgment calls. His association with or support of Right to Life groups is a personal right that we all have. Unless there is evidence that he has let that association influence his judgment in prior cases, we should trust him to uphold the law. Besides, this case has nothing to do with abortion. A man's life was taken and it appears to be a case of premeditated murder.

HAYS, Kan. - People in Haiti continue to sleep in the streets, on sidewalks, in their cars, or in makeshift shanty towns either because their houses have been destroyed or because they are afraid. Thousands have died from injuries and lack of attention for their often very serious medical emergencies. Now, hundreds of thousands of the uninjured residents are in risk of dying of thirst, hunger or exposure to unsanitary conditions caused by the disaster. These deaths can be prevented.

If you're looking to give money to help relief activities, here's a good list of some of the larger, established international aid organizations responding to the disaster in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Most of these organizations, like the Salvation Army and Doctors Without Borders, are already on the ground and actively involved in the rescue and relief efforts outside the airport. To our knowledge, these organizations are not ones that are stymied by the log jam we have been hearing about at the Port-au-Prince airport:

MANHATTAN, Kan. - When terrible things happen, it's natural for people to turn their attention to the problems, evaluate the situations and figure out what needs to be done in order to make things better.

"For me, an area of moral clarity is: you're in front of someone who's suffering and you have the tools at your disposal to alleviate that suffering or even eradicate it, and you act." - Paul Farmer

Not everyone reacts with the same amount of compassion or willingness to help. In some situations, some people are repulsed or made uneasy by the pain and suffering of others. People can turn away and avoid involvement or the feelings of uneasiness by blaming or fearing the victims.

Did biases towards the victims prevent effective life-saving responses to the Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans? Could the same thing happen in Haiti? Under what circumstances do people sometimes blame and criticize victims, deeming them unworthy of help?

When assessing the amount of help someone needs, people's perceptions can be skewed by their racial biases, according to a recent Kansas State University study.

No Room for Partisanship

WICHITA, Kan. - According to Brandon Whipple of Wichita, "No one should be denied the opportunity for a quality education."

Whipple, a first generation college graduate, entered the race for state legislator to represent Kansas District 96.

Republicans, Democrats, and everyone in between, should look closely at this particular candidate.

Anyone who understands the dynamic importance of quality education and job creation needs to take a scrutinized look at the voting record of incumbent Rep. Phil Hermanson before heading to the polls this fall.

"Our children are our most valuable and, unfortunately, most vulnerable resource. The recent budget cuts to public schools are jeopardizing the future of our children. My opponent is not doing his part to protect and fund education," Whipple said.

Whipple's community involvement and level of education speaks volumes about his core beliefs, and his desire to commit his valuable work ethics to the people of Wichita.

SALINA, Kan. - Before and until about 20 million years after the extinction - called "the Great Dying" or the Permian-Triassic extinction - mammal-like reptiles known as synapsids were the largest land animals on Earth.

The planet's worst mass extinction 251 million years ago killed 70 percent of land life and 96 percent of sea life. As the planet recovered during the next 20 million years, archosaurs (Greek for "ruling lizards") became Earth's dominant land animals. They evolved into two major branches on the tree of life: crocodilians, or ancestors of crocodiles and alligators, and a branch that produced flying pterosaurs, dinosaurs and eventually birds, which technically are archosaurs.

WICHITA, Kan. -The Kansas National Organization for Women condemns Judge Wilbert for his decision to allow a manslaughter defense in the trial of the murder of Dr. George Tiller.

His decision opens the door for a society that would condone vigilantism and violence against abortion providers. Scott Roeder, the accused murderer, has already made his malicious intent toward Dr. Tiller clear through his repeated jailhouse confessions to the press.

Judge Wilbert's decision sends the message that religious fanaticism can be considered a defense for murder.

A New Stereotype for Hillbillies

GREAT BEND, Kan. - I have come to the realization that I come from a long line of hillbillies, rednecks, hicks, whatever you want to call them. That is a fact I cannot ignore, and wouldn't want to if I could. Often, when people think of Michigan, they conjure up an image of Detroit. The big city.

Granted, Michigan is a much more urban place than Kansas, but there are still quiet tucked back areas in the unruly shadow of the cities. The town where I come from has grown exponentially in the last thirty years. My mother's family lived in the area for generations, before the timber boom. Back when Kalkaska (the town I am from) had dirt roads running through Main Street.

My grandmother's family populates the majority of a town known as Fife Lake. We have a lot to learn, and live up to from that generation of hillbillies, the generation of my grandparents, and great grandparents.

HAYS, Kan. - In 2010, the world's biggest corporation and largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT), expects to add approximately 38 million square feet of retail space through remodels of existing stores and by accelerating growth of new stores. In the last decade, many U.S. cities have sweetened these deals for Wal-Mart in hopes that the retailer will move into their neighborhoods and boost local economic development.

If Wal-Mart seeks to expand operations in your area, its developers may approach your city leaders looking for tax advantages and tax exemptions. Even in this economy, some city or county governments may be enticed by the sales pitch, willing to accept Wal-Mart's assurances that its new stores can stimulate local employment and improve its local business climate.

Before giving Wal-Mart any new taxpayer gifts, municipalities might wish to read a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Loyola University Chicago.

The study's results suggest that communities shouldn't see Wal-Mart or other big-box retailers as panacea for local economic problems.

SALINA, Kan. - Facebook apparently doesn't interfere with the sleep that students get. How much sleep college students get each night is not affected by how much time they spend using social media, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire.

"The study indicates that using social media is hardly what keeps students up at night," said UNH adjunct professor Chuck Martin, whose marketing research class conducted the study.

The study found that the most popular online network was Facebook, with 97 percent of all university students actively using the social media platform. LinkedIn was the least used, with 10 percent of students actively using it.

"Using Facebook, and to a lesser degree YouTube, blogs or Twitter, do not appear to have any impact on how much or how little students sleep," Martin explained.

barack-obama-1.jpgSALINA, Kan. - The ninth season of the hit television program American Idol is scheduled to begin tomorrow night, almost a year after the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States. Professor Sherrilyn A. Ifill, a civil rights lawyer and law professor at the University of Maryland Law School, authored a provocative essay exploring the link between the two phenomena.

From Idol to Obama: What TV Elections Teach Us About Race, Youth & Voting appears in the recently released collection of essays Barack Obama and African American Empowerment: The Rise of Black America's New Leadership. The book, edited by Manning Marable, professor of history and political science, and public affairs at Columbia University includes the contribution of over a dozen scholars analyzing the significance of the election of President Obama.

kansas-state-capitol-3.jpgTOPEKA, Kan. - Join Kansas NOW on January 21, 2010 for Roe v. Wade Day at the Capitol!

Now, more than ever, it is important that we have a strong pro-choice presence in Topeka. This is the first Roe v. Wade Day event since the assassination of Dr. Tiller.

Come to the Capitol and honor him and his unfailing dedication to the women of Kansas.

Transportation is available from Kansas City and Wichita.

WACO, Texas - Most people are interested in the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Not Susan Mullally. She focuses her lens on the poor and unknown.
(C) Susan Mullally

Those who view the color photographs in her exhibition "What I Keep" will look into the eyes of people who have many struggles and few possessions.

Mullally, an assistant professor of art at Baylor University, shot individual portraits - with each person holding a keepsake - beneath Interstate 35 in Waco. She explained, "Currently I'm asking my questions about archiving and choice to a group of people who have had far less stable and predictable lives."

"Most have had disruptive lives - incarcerations, homelessness, addictions to drugs, bad choices," she said.

"I'm interested in people who have had interesting lives and struggles but who have been overlooked. Their accomplishments may not be as obvious."

SALINA, Kan. - Most characteristics of the "Type A" personality are linked to increased work stress. But, now there may be one important exception.

High scores for aggression, hard-driving, and eagerness-energy were all associated with high job stress. These three Type A characteristics were also linked to "effort-reward imbalance"--a key contributor to work stress.

EMPORIA, Kan. - The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States ensures that persons charged with crimes are permitted to have the assistance of counsel. In the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) it was determined that for those persons who cannot afford an attorney, one must be appointed for them by the charging jurisdiction. In order to comply with the ruling, the State of Kansas currently reimburses private attorneys in counties which do not have established Public Defender offices but recent budget cuts imperil the rights of defendants as fewer attorneys will be able to offer their services to the citizens of Kansas.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The conservatives in the Kansas Legislature are going to face a new kid on the playground this year. Kansans for Quality Communities has come out to play and they intend to change who gets to play on the swing set.

Bringing together organizations representing education, health care, the disabled and state workers, Kansas for Quality Communities will provide a united front in reforming tax policy that has been inspired by the now discredited "starve the beast" mentality of the conservatives.

Following the passage of California's Proposition 13 in 1978 and the Reagan victory, conservatives sought to undo the policies begun by Franklin Roosevelt and the economic benefits those policies had brought to the working class by dismantling the social safety net provided by federal and state government bureaucracies. Thus government became the "beast" to be starved in order to reduce government to reflect the ideology of free-market capitalism.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Before Julie and I had children, we had HBO. Back then HBO featured exclusive heavyweight championship fights. Mike Tyson was Heavyweight Champion of the World. And when HBO would broadcast his fights, I started a tradition of inviting some of my friends over to watch the fights.

Mike Tyson was invincible, and the best I could hope for was that the fight would last a few rounds so we could have a few beers and see an interesting fight. We didn't like Tyson, but all good "morality plays" have a villain, and Tyson was the seemingly invincible Goliath.

I remember one Friday night when one of my friends was a little late for the broadcast, ringing our doorbell almost the exact second the bell sounded for the first round of the bout. In the few seconds that it took me to walk to the door and invite my friend into the TV room, Mike Tyson had knocked out Carl "The Truth" Williams. Williams had not thrown a single punch.

NEW YORK, New York - My past two weeks in New York has inspired me to delve into the world and history of feminism and lesbianism in the United States.

I thought to myself, where did I come from? What's my history, my background? Instead of visiting Ellis Island and searching for my ancestors' names, I chose to visit the Lesbian Herstory Archives in the Park Slope Area of Brooklyn.

The Lesbian Herstory Archives is completely volunteer-run and has been accepting donations of items from lesbians around the world since the 1970s. The archives' purpose statement is as follows:

The Lesbian Herstory Archives exists to gather and preserve records of Lesbian lives and activities so that future generations will have ready access to materials relevant to their lives. The process of gathering this material will uncover and collect our herstory denied to us previously by patriarchal historians in the interests of the culture which they serve. We will be able to analyze and reevaluate the Lesbian experience; we also hope the existence of the Archives will encourage Lesbians to record their experiences in order to formulate our living herstory.

The evening I visited the archives, it was only open from 6:00 until 9:00 pm. I was warmly greeted by a volunteer who gave me an in-depth tour of the archives' various collections, including books, posters, buttons, stickers, newsletters, periodicals, visual art, films, and more.

brownback.jpgTOPEKA, Kan. - On Monday, Brownback for Governor, Inc. is expected to file a lackluster finance report for the last quarter. The report will show the campaign raised approximately 1.53 million dollars for Sam Brownback's gubernatorial bid.

"It's a remarkably low number for a candidate who has been running for Governor since the day he ended his Presidential campaign more than two years ago," observed Kenny Johnston, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party.

"This lack of support reveals that many Kansans have serious concerns about the extreme agenda he would bring back to Kansas."

EMPORIA, Kan. - A recent Kansas Supreme Court decision upheld the Wabaunsee County Commission's decision to enact a countywide ban on commercial wind turbines. I don't fault the Court's reasoning -- I am very disappointed in Wabaunsee's elected officials and in the citizens of Wabaunsee who supported the restrictions.

Transgenders Are People Too

LAWRENCE, Kan. - This past year, the Lawrence branch of the Kansas Equality Coalition, a statewide group that advocates for the rights of GLBT Kansans, went to the Lawrence city commission asking that the city add the term "gender identity" to Lawrence's human rights ordinance. The ordinance as it stands now includes language protecting Lawrence residents from discrimination based on race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, ancestry, sexual orientation, disability or familial status.

Apparently the city commission wasn't sure whether or not to include two more words in the ordinance, so they passed the issue on to the Lawrence Human Relations Commission for a recommendation. After holding an open forum where the public could speak its mind and then discussing the matter amongst themselves, in November of 2009, the Human Relations Commission recommended to the city commission that it NOT add the term "gender identity" to the anti-discrimination policy.

Will Kansas Have a Race?

I Don't Heart Todd!

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - As if the doldrums and cold of January aren't depressing enough I subjected myself to more than an hour of Mr. Tiahrt's blather at a town hall meeting in Hutchinson this morning.

In truth it turned out to be more of a GOP rally.

He started with a attempt at humor, commenting on the frigid temperatures and complaining that Gore had led us astray with his promise of warming. I could tell it was going to be a long morning when the audience tittered appreciatively at that and his next remark about hoping to speak well without the aid of a teleprompter - snicker, snicker.

SALINA, Kan. - Since autism was first diagnosed in the U.S. the occurrence has climbed to an alarming one in 110 people across the country, a ratio that increases annually. Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears before the age of 3.

Autism has long been recognized as a mental disability. It impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function. Individuals with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.

Recently, parents, physicians and researchers are becoming increasingly aware that autism not only correlates with a host of medical and physical ailments, as well. Individuals with autism often suffer from problems such as allergies, asthma, epilepsy, digestive disorders, persistent viral infections, feeding disorders, sleeping disorders, and more.

Its Time to Step Up

donkey-in-barrel.jpgWICHITA, Kan. - 2010 is here and its already an election year, and you don't have to be a pessimist to see that it could be a very bad year for Democrats with no candidates for Governor, Dennis Moore and Laura Kelly dropping out. In fact my nightmare scenario of a Governor Brownback, Secretary of State Kobach, with an all Republican Congressional Delegation and the Republicans picking up 4 or 5 more seats in the Legislature isn't all that far fetched.

To stop above scenario from happening is within our grasp, its as easy as contacting the campaigns of candidates like Raj Goyle and Charles Schollenberger and either volunteering or giving a little money, even 5 dollars adds up, if you can get 100 people giving, it adds up quickly, Another thing is half if not more of the precinct committee positions are vacant.

Sam Brownback's Special Interest

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Sam Brownback's special interest (HINT: It's not the constituents).

Health care is an issue that affects every person in not only America, but Kansas as well. According to a recent study, one in three (under the age of 65) Kansans went without insurance for all, or part of a two year period from 2007 until 2008. (I won't even get into the topic of "underinsured" persons in the state). This is over 33 percent of the population in our state! Out of this 33 percent, 80 percent of the uninsured have at least one person in the family who is employed. Our health care system is broken. That is not a debate, although I am sure the health insurance companies and Sam Brownback would like to think it is. Small town businesses and "the average Joe" cannot afford to keep their families and employees healthy.

WICHITA, Kan. - I dare to ask the women of Kansas to stand up and use our voting power to remove Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas Government. By his own actions Brownback has shown he cares nothing for important women's issues. He voted against the Preventive Services Coverage Bill that would expand women's access to preventive services such as mammograms. He also voted against the Equal Pay Bill, a gender pay equity law, and the Lily Ledbetter Pay Act that would redefine discriminatory salaries. Instead Brownback focused on anti-abortion amendments.

Republican Tax Policy Is a Farce

COLBY, Kan. - Prosperity cannot be attained by the lowering of the Federal Income Tax rates! At least not prosperity for the masses of people.

Income tax rates have fluctuated up and down since the first income tax was levied to fund the military in the earliest days of our Nation. And, in all honesty, there is very little correlation suggesting business boomed when taxes were down and then lagged when taxes went up.

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Why no Democrat has stepped forward to run against Senator Brownback for Governor is a mystery greater than Stonehenge. It's not like Brownback is a human dynamo.

Brownback is neither striking in appearance, nor good at political speeches. One wonders: "How did he get this far?" People tell me the answer is money. He married into a powerful family that had lots of money, and buddied up to corporate interests like Koch Industries, so that he has stacks of cash.

So what? If you have a deodorant that doesn't work, it doesn't matter how much you spend advertising it, sooner or later people figure out it doesn't work. In spite of the millions and millions spent to promote Senator Brownback, he approval rating is 49%. Shouldn't it be more like 70%?

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The 2010 Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice (MAPJ) Film Series opens January 12th with the 2009 documentary The Age of Stupid. The film will be shown at 6:30 pm at the Manhattan Public Library Auditorium.

Following the Copenhagen Conference on Global Climate Change, The Age of Stupid is a new documentary-drama-animation hybrid from Director Franny Armstrong (McLibel, Drowned Out) and Oscar-winning Producer John Battsek (One Day In September, Live Forever, In the Shadow of the Moon). Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite (In The Name of the Father, Brassed Off, The Usual Suspects) stars as an old man living in the devastated world of 2055. He watches 'archive' footage from 2008 and asks: Why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance?

Runaway climate change has ravaged the planet by 2055. Postlethwaite plays the founder of "The Global Archive," a storage facility located in the (now melted) Arctic, preserving all of humanity's achievements in the hope that the planet might one day be habitable again. Or that intelligent life may arrive and make use of all that we've achieved. He pulls together clips of "archive" news and documentary from 1950 - 2008 to build a message showing what went wrong and why. He focuses on six human stories:

Finally, a Resolution I Can Keep

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - Though I've visited KFP frequently, this is my first contribution. I admit to being somewhat intimidated by the quality of work from other contributors but will do my best to deserve being included in their company.

After giving up on resolutions years ago, this year I may have hit on one that I believe to be worth the effort and more importantly, perhaps will prove to be doable.

My New Year's Wish

May this new year sustain
Our collective, consuming desire for truth,
Anchored first by honesty,
And for justice, tempered with mercy.

May it bring us minds always awed
By the simple things, yet questioning,
Curious and still unafraid of change.

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