Front Page » Monthly Archives » Archives: February 2010

WICHITA, Kan. - Tom Holland, a small business owner and State Senator for Baldwin City, has announced his candidacy for Kansas Governor. The Democrats have, in my opinion, have found a viable champion of moderation and common sense to challenge the extremism and pro-business ideology of Sam Brownback. On Saturday, February 20, Holland came to Wichita. Here's a video of his remarks...

TOPEKA, Kan. - "Congressman Honda, I'm Marty Keenan from Great Bend, Kansas. Right in the Middle of the State!" Congressman Honda seemed strangely fascinated by Kansas. It was like an epiphany for him. I don't think he came to Kansas expecting much.

For one, he was floored by Governor Parkinson's oratorical skills. Parkinson gave a barn-burner speech at the Friday night "Washington Days" Banquet that was his best speech to date. And I've been listening to Parkinson speak since his Moot Court days at KU law school.

Honda spoke in a breezy, stream-of-consciousness style. "To see a guy give a speech like that without notes or a teleprompter or anything!" he mused about Parkinson. But it was the content of Parkinson's speech that inspired Honda.

TOPEKA, Kan. - The Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2010 Excellence in Conservation and Environmental Education Awards. Nominated by their peers, these awardees exhibit outstanding innovation, leadership and achievement, as well as collaboration and cooperation within the environmental education field. For the second year, three schools are receiving Kansas Green Schools of the Year Awards. "We are thrilled to honor these deserving individuals and organizations, who give so much of their time and are so dedicated to environmental education in Kansas," said KACEE President Schanee' Anderson, of the Sedgwick County Zoo.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Noted sociologist Gay Seidman will be visiting Kansas State University to deliver the 10th Annual Donald J. Adamchak Distinguished Lecture Monday, March 8th (International Women's Day) at 7 pm in Forum Hall of K-State Union. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Professor Seidman is the Conway-Bascom Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, director of their African Studies program, and an internationally recognized expert on global production, labor, and human rights. Her lecture, Citizens, Markets, and Transnational Activism: Can Consumer Boycotts and Independent Monitoring End Sweatshops? builds on her recent book, Beyond the Boycott: Labor Rights, Human Rights, and Transnational Activism (Russell Sage, 2007). Professor Seidman has won graduate and undergraduate teaching awards, is a prolific scholar, and has experience as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist.

Citizen First Responders

BASEHOR, Kan. - In these days of federal, state, and local public services funding cuts, there is a great deal of activity centered around citizens helping themselves during natural or man-made disasters. When public services fail, citizens must be prepared to "do it themselves."

When you mention emergency coordination for widespread disasters, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA usually come to mind. But there is another group of people with a long history of emergency service -- and one that predates DHS and FEMA by several decades. And that group is amateur radio operators.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

WICHITA, Kan. - In this profile, we are pleased to introduce KFP correspondent, Kari Ann Rinker. Kari was born just outside of Denver, Colorado, but quickly transplanted to Canton, Kansas with her single mother. Her childhood was shaped by her diverse surroundings as opportunity soon moved her family to Schenectady, NY. Kari completed her elementary education in New York before returning to Kansas. She completed her secondary education in McPherson, Kansas before pursuing her college education at Wichita State University.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

EMPORIA, Kan. - In this profile, we are pleased to introduce KFP correspondent, James Bordonaro. James resides in Emporia, Kansas where he practices law and his wife of 18 years is a professor of art therapy at Emporia State University. James attended undergraduate school in Orlando and graduated from Florida State's law school in Tallahassee in 1997. After a clerking internship with the Florida Supreme Court, he served as staff attorney for the trial court in Panama City, Fla. He then travel with his wife to Melbourne, Australia for nearly a year while she continued her graduate studies. Upon their return to the States, he served a stint as a prosecutor for the Florida Board of Nursing and then opened up a private law practice.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Black History Month seems to be losing some steam, and in a way, that's a good sign. Because taking an entire people group and saying: "You get one month, and it is the shortest month of the year," is a little confining. African-Americans have made contributions every month and every day and every hour of every year. Without them, what would America be like? Or would it even exist?

I had an exhilarating moment in December, when I learned that Oscar Micheaux, who is buried in the Great Bend Municipal cemetery, was going to be named as the USPS "Black Heritage" stamp honoree for 2010. Micheaux is the 33rd annual "Black Heritage Stamp" honoree. The series began in 1978.

TOPEKA, Kan. - On February 18th, House and Senate members passed the final version of the rescission bill, which made a number of cuts and adjustments to the 2010 state budget to address the state's $400 million deficit.

The bill affirms many of the same recommendations Governor Mark Parkinson outlined last year. One of the more significant cuts added to the bill was a 5% reduction in pay for all state officials, including legislators.

Even with the passage of the rescission bill, the legislature may need to take up the FY 2010 budget again in the near future. Revenues were lower then expected in January, and the state will likely be short another $40 million by July even with the additional cuts approved this month.

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - A press conference was held today at Prairie Independent Living Resource Center (PILR) at 17 S. Main, Hutchinson, to discuss the impact of budget cuts on Kansans in need of services.

The news conference coincided with House Social Services Budget Sub-committee hearings in Topeka regarding the Social and Rehabilitative Services (SRS) budget where Christine Owens, PILR Executive Director, was scheduled to give testimony. Speakers at the news conference included citizen Dawn Allenbach and agency representatives from PILR, Unlimited Mobility L.L.C., Promise Regional Medical Center and Horizons Mental Health Center.

Safety Net Clinic Wins Grant

DODGE CITY, Kan. - Joy and great satisfaction were evident in the room when Bill Hammond announced that Dodge City's Oral Health Coalition had been awarded a $50,000 grant for their Oral Health Safety Net Clinic for it's first year of operation, and another $25,00 for year two. The award was the result of an application to the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund to help start a clinic which would function as an aid to those Southwest Kansans who are not able to access dental services that they desperately need.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - In this profile, we are pleased to introduce KFP correspondent, Ron Parks. Ron grew up in Minneapolis, Kansas. The son of a self-educated bricklayer, he was the fifth generation of the Parks family to live in that north central Kansas community. The family dinner table was the setting for discussions about progressive politics, history, and philosophy.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

WICHITA, Kan. - In this profile, we are pleased to introduce KFP correspondent, Colleen Kelly Johnston. Colleen is a native-born Kansan of Irish heritage. Her grandparents homesteaded a ranch on the Kansas-Oklahoma border.

She has enjoyed writing for as long as she can remember. Her first poem won a first place and was published in 1949. Colleen wrote one of the first columns on consumer awareness for The New Newspaper and The Prairie Journal in Kansas and continues to write columns and articles on women's rights and political issues for local and national publications. Her book on political activism for volunteers was published in 1985.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - For its March installation, Manhattan's Monthly Film Series presents Mike Ramsdell's The Anatomy of Hate; A Dialogue to Hope on Tuesday 16 March (NB: date change). Winner of the Best Political Documentary at the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival, it was also shown at the Carter Center as part of Atlanta's 2009 Docufest Independent Film Festival where it won the Audience Choice Award. The film reveals the shared narratives found in individual and collective ideologies of hate, and how we as a species, can overcome them.

For six years, Ramsdell worked with unprecedented access to some of the most venomous ideologies and violent conflicts of our time including the White Supremacist movement, Fred Phelps' brand of Christian fundamentalism as an anti-gay platform, Muslim Extremism, the Palestinian Intifada, Israeli Settlers and Soldiers, and US Forces in Iraq.

School Daze, Part 2

POTWIN, Kan. - After my previous post on the budget cuts and their effect on my daughter's school, I was able to obtain a list of the cuts which are below.

What amazes me is the 50 percent cut to classroom budgets. Are schools being left to depend on the teachers paying for necessary items? It's either that, or teachers go without. And postponing the purchase of new text books and reducing the library budget? I noticed that they planned on reducing energy costs by lowering the temperature. That would explain my daughter always freezing in her class, despite always wearing a long-sleeved shirt.

Take a look at the cuts that just one small school district have been forced to make.

ELLIS, Kan. - Two Kansas politicians have been getting the kind of media attention in the last week that should make citizens of this state cringe with embarrassment. One of these Kansas politicians is a sitting U.S. Senator, and the other one wants to be.

School Daze

POTWIN, Kan. - Sending my oldest daughter off to kindergarten last year was beyond difficult. Now that both of us are adjusted to school, I am now having trouble with the budget cuts to education and how it is affecting her small-town school.

I received a letter, like all other parents, stating that budget cuts were made, and changes would happen to help the school save money. There were simple money saving ideas like no longer sending the lunch and breakfast menus home with the student, and cutting down on other notes sent home. They also eliminated several positions, and no longer pay for uniforms for custodians.

But what disturbs me is what wasn't in the note.

I Probably Shouldn't

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - I probably shouldn't, but I write about the history of the Kanza (Kaw) Indians.

More specifically, I write a monthly column called "The Kanza Reserve 150 Years Ago" published in the local daily paper, The Council Grove Republican. The column describes an event involving either the Kanzas or Council Grove that took place that particular month 150 years ago, then elaborates on the theme inhered in the event. For example, this month (February, 2010), the seminal event was about how in early February 1860, a group of Kanzas stole a keg of whiskey in Cottonwood Falls, then indulged in a brawl during which three of them were killed.

Definition of Community

WICHITA, Kan. - Late last year in Wichita, a decision was made to stop any attempt by the Catholic Diocese and The Lord's Diner to establish a second unit of the facility in northeast Wichita. This after hearings before homeowner's associations, Wichita Ministerial League, the Wichita City Council and the District 1 Advisory Board. The opposition to their plan came from the "community" surrounding the proposed Northeast Lord's Diner and their representative on the Wichita City Council, LaVonta Williams.

Community can mean almost any group, large or small, of people working toward a common goal, but it should include working for the common good of everyone represented.

Comments made from representatives ran from, "...what we need are jobs," "...we worry about the neighborhood returning to blight ...," and, "... several churches in the area already distribute meals to residents."

A Stinging Response!

EMPORIA, Kan. - My last article was largely cut and pasted from a letter to the editor submitted to my local newspaper, The Emporia Gazette. That letter generated significant comments on the newspaper's online forum. That article and forum can be viewed here.

Subsequently, a person wrote a letter to the editor critizing my prior letter which also generated a significant number of comments. That letter can be viewed at this link.

Yes, I admit I lost my composure and shouted out "you lie" a la South Carolina, U.S. Republican Representative, Joe Wilson, during a joint session of Congress at which the President was giving a speech last year.

It's All Connected...

WICHITA, Kan. - As President Obama prepares for the bipartisan healthcare summit on Thursday, and in light of the increasingly uncertain future of current healthcare reform efforts in Congress, I thought it might be worthwhile to point out two policy areas that, while not seeming to be directly connected to healthcare, would, were they to be dealt with effectively, have a substantial impact on healthcare costs and effects in this country. We could call this, "how to deal with healthcare without dealing with healthcare."

The first is food policy, and the second is transportation policy. The relation of these to healthcare is evinced by a recent Newsweek article on heart disease, in which both were mentioned. I would venture to say that with the exception of quitting smoking, no two factors would have a larger impact on heart disease than these.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

WICHITA, Kan. - In this profile, we are pleased to introduce KFP correspondent, Christina Braden. She was born and raised in Olathe, Kansas. Today, Christina lives and works in Wichita. Having lived there for over a decade, she calls the Air Capital her home. She has faced many challenges throughout her life and she believes that all adversity can be turned into something positive when it's embraced.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - In this profile, we are pleased to introduce KFP correspondent, Marty Keenan. He is a fifth generation resident of Barton-Stafford County area, in west central Kansas. Marty is a lawyer in Great Bend, where he practices with his father and brother. He has been married to Julie Keenan for 20 years and they have two sons, Tyler and Jefferson.

Let's Get Our Priorities Straight

WICHITA, Kan. - I applaud the fact that the State of Kansas will be cutting back its budget by $92 million. I think that most of us were thinking, "It's about time." Knowing that our state is in such a financial crisis while watching improvements being made to the state capitol at the same time seems unethical to me. I have not agreed with most of the cuts our legislators have made up to this point.

Cutting social services and trying to balance the states budget at the expense of children, the elderly, and the disabled is disgraceful. I believe if the state of Kansas is going to make more cuts it should be to everything but schools and services to the elderly and the disabled.

Senator McGinn's Poignant Question

GREAT BEND, Kan. - State Senator Carolyn McGill (R-Sedgwick) asked an incredible question on the Kansas State Senate floor of those who want to outlaw abortion but embrace the death penalty.

Referring to those who commit heinous murders, she asked, in essence, if all people start out as precious children of God from the moment of conception, "at what point in time did they lose that status and who made that decision?"

Most 'Religious Right' folks will try to move heaven and earth to protect an unborn child, but God help that child if he grows up and commits a double murder. Then, it's "off with his head."

Of course, the Religious Right says: "We support innocent human life. But when that life ceases to be innocent, that's different."

WICHITA, Kan. - Friends, if you don't think the mainstream media plays a major role in the formulation of American foreign policy, I would politely suggest you are living in denial. If a hayseed from Kansas like me figured out from multiple news sources that the Bush administration was lying about the "Iraqi threat" prior to the invasion in 2003, how could a majority of Americans and Congress members become so thoroughly fooled and panicked that they virtually clamored for America's first-ever "pre-emptive war"?

Today, we know that the Bush administration knowingly issued 935 proven lies prior to the invasion. So, I can only assume that the Bush administration was following the advice of one of the world's most infamous manipulators of public opinion who said, "It is the absolute right of the state to supervise the formation of public opinion ... news should be given out for instruction rather than information."

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

TOPEKA, Kan. - In this profile, we proudly introduce KFP correspondent, Craig Gunther. Craig is a lifelong Kansan and Democrat who grew up in the country and around the farm. Professionally, he is a registered nurse at a Topeka, Kansas hospital and serves on the Kansas State Nurses Association board of directors and finance committee. He has volunteered on several campaigns and on behalf of many progressive causes. In 2006, he was awarded the Joan M. Finney Outstanding Service Award by the Kansas Democratic Party.

I Have the Blues

GREAT BEND, Kan. - I love having the blues, blues records that is. Growing up, especially in my high school years I knew I was uncool. My CD case never had Brittany Spears or N*SYNC in it. I tried to like that music, I just never "got it."

I always felt the lyrics were missing something, they were devoid of feeling. The kids singing were too young to understand pain and failure.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

MOUND CITY, Kan. - In this profile, we proudly introduce KFP correspondent, Denise Cassells. Though she was born in Kansas, Denise spent much of her life in Arizona, Colorado and even a couple of years in Washington. These cultural diversities enriched her life, allowing her to get to know interesting people from many backgrounds.

Where Is All This Money Coming From?

GREAT BEND, Kan. - The stimulus package has become a dirty word in politics, and the Democrats have not done much to change that. Democrats, especially President Obama have not taken credit for positive changes they have made in our nation. As we know the news media covers what they want to. The crazier and the more irrelevant the story, the longer it plays.

We hear about the misuse of stimulus dollars over and over. It is an easy news story that angers people, and elicits emotion. It gets viewers, in turn ratings, and in turn cash for the news corporation. It seems American society no longer wants to hear about what our government is doing right.

Winter: A Time of Northern Harriers

MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - All winter long a male Northern Harrier has been hunting in our crop fields. We see him gliding close to the ground, his slender body rising and falling with the contour of the land. Back in the pasture, a female Harrier is doing the same thing. As in most hawk species, she is larger than the male, but she too appears to float effortlessly just above the grass. Sometimes she rises above a ridge top only to disappear behind it as she follows a Flint Hills swale. Both the gray male and the brown female sport prominent white patches above the tail.

Northern Harriers used to be called Marsh Hawks, as they often hunt in open wetlands--but "harrier" is a more accurate term, for they are by no means limited to swampy ground. In fact, they are one of the characteristic birds of the tall grass prairie. My mentor, KSU ornithologist John Zimmerman, wrote in The Birds of Konza: The Avian Ecology of the Tallgrass Prairie that the grasslands of all continents have a similar array of birds: a chicken-like bird; a dryland shorebird; small, medium, and large insectivores; and a hawk that hunts on the wing.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - In this profile, we proudly introduce KFP correspondent, Christopher E. Renner. Christopher is a community activist and long-time voice for issues of social justice. He is a third-generation Kansas native, born and raised in Marshall County. One of his favorite quotes is from George B. Shaw: "The only time my education was interrupted was when I was in school." Those words have inspired Chris to be a life-long learner, with formal training in psychology, history, theology, education, applied linguistics, women's studies, community organizing, and most recently journalism and mass communications.

TOPEKA, Kan. - I'm glad they're taking a stand on this. I can't see how denying Kansans health insurance makes anyone more free. Such a problem to have; being all tied up with health insurance. Here's the press release:

The Topeka Branch NAACP and the Kansas State Conference of Branches NAACP will hold a Press Conference on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 3:00pm at the Docking State Office Building opposing the Kansas "Health Care Freedom" Amendment. This proposed amendment would block the implementation of any Federal Health Care Reform legislation here in Kansas. With over 300,000 Kansans uninsured, we can't afford to play these partisan games. Join us as we call on the legislature to reject this partisan anti-reform measure and to work for real health care reforms to provide quality and affordable health care for all.

For further information, please contact Rev. Ben Scott at the Topeka Branch NAACP, 26-NAACP (785-266-2227).

The '70s: Wichita Women Change the World

WICHITA, Kan. - During the 1960s, while male activists were out in the streets protesting the war, the draft, the CIA, Dow Chemical, or what have you, their female counterparts often complained that they were left behind to brew the coffee and tidy up the meeting rooms. By the beginning of the decade that started Jan. 1, 1970, however, the ferment that had started to percolate in the '60s erupted into a movement that eventually became a feminist tsunami of marches, political appointments, laws, and legal decisions that changed forever the lives of women and the men who lived and worked with them.

The feminist movement, often called The Second Wave, spread across the country and around the world. Women sought equality in the workplace, in education, in their relationships, and even in men-only bars. In New York City, feminists demonstrated to liberate the men's bar in the New York's Biltmore Hotel. McSorley's, a 116-year old New York bar admitted its first woman patron on Aug. 10 after Mayor John Lindsay signed a bill prohibiting sexual discrimination in public places, making New York the first major city to have such a law.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Senator David Haley is the son of a state senator, the nephew of "Roots" author Alex Haley, and a graduate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s alma mater, Morehouse College.

So one would expect Haley to speak in the eloquent cadences of scripture so typical of African-American preachers. And Haley delivers the goods.

Check out this sugarplum launched by Senator Haley in Fridays' death penalty debate:

"Many of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory... I won't cast the first stone and won't be part of an angry mob and call for vengeance."

In a few seconds, Haley had invoked Paul's letter to the Romans, the Gospel of John, and invoked images of one of America's saddest chapters -- the lynch mob.

Kate's Law

TOPEKA, Kan. - While many Kansas legislators are doing their best to deprive Kansans of any benefits of the health reform efforts in Congress, parents of children with autism, Asperger's syndrome, and other autism spectrum conditions are working to get Kate's Law passed again this year. These parents have found that when they try to get health insurance coverage for their children, they often experience dead-ends, run-arounds, and delays. This even though autism spectrum disorders have long been documented as medical conditions that require medical treatment.

Right now many parents have to change health insurance carriers because of the current tenuous job situation. According to one of these parents, every time her family gets a new health insurance carrier, she goes through months of presenting evidence to the new carrier that her daughter, a teenager with Asperger's, does indeed have a medical condition requiring doctor's visits, drug therapy, and group therapy. This mother was able to have her child diagnosed with Asperger's as a toddler, so the girl does get the school services that she needs. However, she also must have her medical needs attended to in order to be successful in school.

We Have to Be the Village

SHAWNEE, Kan. - Never should a reasonable person doubt that I love my son unconditionally. Isaiah will undoubtedly bring me some of the greatest joys and also greatest pains of my existence (especially if that "your kid will be 10 times as bad as you were" thing is true). It's a guarantee for which I will hold with a sense of responsibility. My unconditional love for my bambino won't allow me to give up on him when things may get tough. In my work, I encounter kids who don't have the privilege of experiencing that unconditional love.

At some point, someone gave up on a majority of them. I see their behaviors and I know they aren't perfect; but I also wonder what would bring a parent or guardian to the point where they don't recognize the value in their own children. When they reach that point, who will take responsibility for the development of character in their kids?

Facing Our 'Crisis of Journalism'

MANHATTAN, Kan. - In 2005, I attended the National Conference for Media Reform in St. Louis sponsored by Free Press. While I had always been an "activist," this conference change my outlook on US culture and society like nothing else I have even been involved in. In particular, Bill Moyers's speech (you can watch it here) articulated much of the frustration I had and have with the direction our nation has taken since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

For seventeen years following the "Reagan revolution," I lived in Italy and became accustomed to a national press that truly informed along with television and radio that provided a broad diversity of music, content, and opinions with minimum commercial interruptions.

When it came to newspapers, if I wanted to read what the capitalists thought on a topic I read Il Sole 24 Ore; if I wanted to know what the Communist and Socialist Left thought I read L'Unitá or Il Manifesto. If I wanted to read what the center thought, I read La Repubblica. If I wanted the Christian Democrat point of view, I could read Avvenire. And if I wanted to know what the fascists thought, I could read Il Popolo d'Italia. In addition to these national papers, there was a profusion of local and regional newspapers. All of which received some sort of government support to help balance their budgets.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

WICHITA, Kan. - In this profile, we proudly introduce KFP correspondent, Diane Wahto. Diane has been a teacher most of her adult life. Her teaching career began in 1965 in a one-room country school in Decatur, Michigan. She retired as an English/journalism/creative writing instructor from Butler Community College, in El Dorado, Kansas, in 2001, but continued to teach English Composition I and II online until the summer of 2008. She taught high school journalism at Winfield High School, Winfield, Kansas, for nine years. There, she developed and taught a television broadcast journalism class, as well as advised the student newspaper and yearbook.

WICHITA, Kan. - In the wake of massive budget shortfalls and threats all over the state of school closings and funds being cut to our poorest and most vulnerable citizens, I find it extremely distasteful that the Wichita Chamber of Commerce has just announced its intention to lobby against the Kansas State Income Tax. While the chamber admits that it will take years to reach this goal, the timing of the announcement, in my opinion, is just incredibly insulting.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

WICHITA, Kan. - In this profile, we proudly introduce KFP correspondent, Moti Rieber. Moti is a rabbi, writer, activist and Federation professional. He grew up in New Jersey but has been slowly moving west every since. Prior to coming to Wichita, Moti was the rabbi of Congregation Beth Shalom in Naperville, Illinois. We're thrilled that he calls Kansas home now!

Bad Drivers

HAYS, Kan. - I'll paraphrase the opening lines of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Good drivers everywhere are pretty much all alike; every place has its own kind of bad driver.

In Hays, Kansas, a very high percentage of drivers use no turn signals at all. (Perhaps this is to increase the resale value of the vehicle. "See, the spare tire has never been used, and neither has the turn signal!") Other drivers activate the turn signal when the turn has begun. A few drivers signal their intentions by activating the appropriate turn signal well before the intended turn, then actually turn. Still other drivers signal a turn, and then do not. (It is hard to erase a signal already given. There is no button for that, even in the fanciest new cars. Maybe that explains the drivers who give no signal at all. They want to preserve their options.)

Kansas Legislature Wants to Marry You!

TOPEKA, Kan. - State Representative Anthony Brown, R- Eudora, is sponsoring the Covenant Marriage proposal approved Thursday by the Kansas House. This proposal was added to House Bill 2667 which deals, ironically, with issues of custody, property, and, even protection from abuse.

The bill was approved on a vote of 70-49. As written and passed, a covenant marriage is "a marriage entered into by one male and one female who understand and agree that the marriage between them is a lifelong relationship". By affidavit all who, voluntarily, enter into a covenant marriage are testifying that they have completed pre-marital counseling and fully understand that dissolution of their marriage shall be granted on limited grounds including, confinement of one spouse in a mental institution for a period of two years or more, or failure to perform a material marital duty or obligation. Bills and proposals such as the Covenant Marriage proposal purport to be about strengthening families and the institution of marriage.

Here's Looking at You, Kid!

TOPEKA, Kan. - I have a thing about my eyebrows. The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but, eyebrows definitely let you know what decade that soul was hanging out in. As a girl in the early 70's my look was totally natural. By the end of August, my eyebrows were bleached white, sometimes with a green tint from all the chlorine in the public pools where I spent my summer days.

By the mid-70's I had been introduced to woman's greatest friend... and, enemy, the tweezers. I spent many a Saturday during my 9th grade year sitting on the sink in our upstairs bathroom gazing at my eyebrows and plucking. And plucking. I plucked so much that summer that I had that perpetually surprised look as if I had just seen the neighbor boy naked in his back yard.

Which I swear never happened.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

DODGE CITY, Kan. - In this profile, we proudly introduce KFP correspondent, Ethel Peterson. Ethel is a native Kansan, the sixth of seven kids born to Henry and Myrtle Peterson. Myrtle began life on the banks of the Sawlog Creek in Ford County, Kansas. Her father, Henry, was born in Denmark. Ethel sees herself as part of a vanishing breed who actually attended a one-room country school for eight years.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

HAYS, Kan. - Today, we proudly introduce KFP correspondent, Paul Faber. Paul received his Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame. Currently Professor of Philosophy and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fort Hays State University, his own areas of research involve ethics and the philosophy of religion.

Paul seeks the fullness of life, both professionally and personally. He enjoys traveling and spending time with his wife and children in the outdoors - biking, camping, and hiking.

SALINA, Kan. - A new national study finds that nearly a third of the prostituted juveniles taken into custody by police are treated more as criminal offenders than as victims of the pimps and customers who sexually abuse them. This may reflect the controversy and confusion among criminal justice authorities about how to handle this problem.

"Increasingly, police are seeing the prostitution of juveniles as a form of child abuse and exploitation," said the study's lead author, Kimberly Mitchell, of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes against Children Research Center.

Prostituted juveniles are more likely to be treated as victims by police when they are younger than 16, female, frightened, dirty, or identified as runaways.

"Kansas needs strong leadership - now. Holland can provide that, without the political baggage his opponent carries." - Baldwin City Signal

TOPEKA, Kan. - After months of speculation about who would compete against Sam Brownback, Wednesday brought good news for the Kansas Democratic Party when Tom Holland announced his candidacy for governor. Already, endorsements are rolling in.

"Tom has what it takes to be a great governor and I fully support him. Governors are CEOs of their states and as a successful small business owner, Tom's experience in balancing the books and getting the most out of every penny is exactly what Kansas needs," Governor Mark Parkinson explained.

Holland's name recognition may not yet be as widespread in Kansas, when compared with Brownback, but as Kansans learn more about Holland's experience, they are likely to find him a worthy and impressive candidate for the job of governor.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Today, we proudly introduce KFP correspondent, Shari L. Wilson. Shari grew up in Claflin, Kansas, a small town located on the Central Flyway and next to Cheyenne Bottoms, a Wetland of International Importance. Shari now lives in the Muncie area of Kansas City with her husband, Chris Steineger, and their cat, Bailey. Her many areas of interest include traveling, hiking, gardening, and reading.

Her favorite getaway as a child was her grandparents' farm in north central Kansas.

Confessions of a Limbaugh Listener

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - Each time I relate some inane piece of information gleaned from subjecting myself to Rush's rants I get the same reaction, "How can you stand to listen to him?"

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Early last week the First Lady, Michelle Obama launched her Let's Move campaign to take on the serious issue of childhood obesity and improve youth's quality of life for the future. In her interview with Larry King, Michelle Obama told about her own wakeup call to the problem. A doctor told her that her children's BMI (body mass index) had slightly increased while they were campaigning due to too much fast food and an unstable schedule. She claimed that small changes such as smaller portions, more home cooked meals, and choosing milk and water over sugary drinks and soda made a big difference in her family, and encourages the families of America to follow suit.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - State Senator Holland's biography offers some interesting comparisons and contrasts with his Republican opponent U.S. Senator Sam Brownback. One of these men will be the next Governor of Kansas.

One area where Holland has a huge edge over Brownback is in business experience, time spent working in the private sector. Holland has spent 29 years in the information technology business, first working on a major IT systems initiative at the ATSF railway.
Sen. Holland
He founded Holland Technologies, Inc., an information technology firm in 1992, serving as the company's president. Holland is clearly a "private sector" guy, who got involved in politics fairly late in life to push for better education opportunities for Kansas children.

Senator Brownback's resume is pretty thin on private sector experience. He worked for a radio station as a broadcaster for about a year after his undergraduate work at KSU, and then went to law school at KU. After law school, he spent several years practicing law in Manhattan before becoming State Agriculture Secretary in 1986.

Brownback left the private sector permanently in 1986. Brownback has spent the last 24 years working for the government, while Holland continues to run a small business while serving as a part-time citizen-legislator.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

WICHITA, Kan. - Today, we proudly introduce KFP correspondent, Vickie Sandell Stangl. A resident of Andover, Kansas, Vickie is a lecturer at Wichita State University in the political science department. Her areas of expertise include women in politics, the U.S. Constitution, the Freethought Movement and separation of church and state, among others. Vickie is also interested in history and western philosophy.

"I'm standing here today to let Kansans know they DO have a choice for Governor. My name is Tom Holland, I'm a problem solver and a small businessman and I'm running to be the next Governor of Kansas!"

TOPEKA, Kan. - Announcing his candidacy for Kansas Governor before a crowd of supporters today, Tom Holland said he will use his small business experience to solve the problems facing our state.

"Kansas needs a problem solver with a business mindset for its next governor," Holland said. "I have a proven track record in running a successful business, making a payroll for over 15 years, creating jobs and bringing people together to find solutions."

Holland, joined by his wife, Barbara, and their four children, announced his candidacy near Lowman Hills Elementary School in Topeka. The location called attention to problems facing communities across Kansas dealing with public school closures and overcrowding.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers.

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Today, we proudly introduce KFP correspondent, Tanner Willbanks. Now a resident of Lawrence, Tanner spent the first 14 years of his life in rural Western Kansas among a family of extremely conservative Republicans. It was not until he moved to Hays, Kansas, at the beginning of high school, that he began to question a political ideology that left those that needed help the most out in the cold. Ever since, Tanner's been on a one-way trip to the progressive side of the political spectrum. He hasn't looked back.

SALINA, Kan. - In states where you don't have a filibuster, partisanship does not lead to gridlock; it leads to broad legislation.

A national study spanning 120 years of state lawmaking concludes that vigorous two-party competition in state governments provides the best guarantee for meaningful, broad-based governance. The authors say also that modest salaries for lawmakers add a second protection against narrow-interest legislation.

Open Government in Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. - I spent an hour last week on a conference call organized by the Sunlight Foundation about open government in Kansas. The Sunlight Foundation is an organization whose self-proclaimed mission is to use "cutting-edge technology and ideas to make government transparent and accountable." It was really encouraging to see the interest in open government, but there's lots to be done.

We have some counties (20 according to the Sunshine Review) that don't even have websites, much less accessible data about their governments. You can't make claims of openness when you're not even presenting basic information about yourself online.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Senator Tom Holland is the opposite of a "sacrificial lamb." A "sacrificial lamb" is a metaphor that refers to a person or animal sacrificed for the common good.

If Tom Holland were an animal, a lamb would be the last species you would think of. The lion-hearted Holland has a certain swagger about him: call it guts, confidence, courage, ambition, or whatever you want. But he's not running against Sam Brownback to get run over. He's running to win.

And Holland's confidence is coupled with likability, two qualities that are usually mutually exclusive. When I was a long-shot candidate for State Representatives in 2004 against House Tax Committee Chairman John Edmonds, Holland treated me well, while also expressing respect for my opponent.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers for our readers.

HAYS, Kan. - Today, we proudly introduce KFP correspondent, Weeden Nichols. A resident of Ellis County, Kansas, Weeden was born in upstate New York a couple of years before the U.S. entered World War II. He spent his early years on dairy farms in the Cayuga Lake region. He moved with his parents to the Eastern Shore (Delmarva Peninsula) of Maryland in 1944. Weeden both met his future wife and enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve (Infantry) in January 1957, while still a junior in high school. He began active duty in the U.S. Air Force immediately after high school.

Chickens Finally 'One-Up' Humans

COLBY, Kan. - Birds, reptiles and mammals are all descended from a common ancestor, but during the age of the dinosaurs, most mammals became nocturnal for millions of years. Birds likely owe their superior color vision to not having spent a period of evolutionary history in the dark.

"Birds have clearly one-upped us in several ways in terms of color vision," says Joseph C. Corbo, M.D., Ph.D., senior author and assistant professor of pathology and immunology and of genetics at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

According to Corbo, researchers have peered deep into the eye of the chicken and found a masterpiece of biological design.

On April 1st, the Kansas Free Press will mark its 6-month anniversary. With gratitude for the Kansans who nobly commit their time and talents to citizen journalism, we are celebrating our upcoming half-year anniversary by proudly showcasing each of our writers for our readers.

PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. - Today, we proudly introduce KFP correspondent, William Rogers. William is a life-long Kansas resident and considers himself a typical Kansan. He was born in Reno County in 1948 and attended Fort Hays State University. Along the way, he's been a farmer and a construction worker.

Now, he works for workers. William is the community organizer for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 661. He is also vice president of the Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation of Central Kansas.

His favorite quotation is from Eugene Debs, "I don't want to rise up from the working class, I want to rise up with the working class."

SALINA, Kan. - In a new book, Gendered Tradeoffs: Family, Social Policy, and Economic Inequality in Twenty-One Countries, Becky Pettit and Jennifer Hook contend workplace equality for women boils down to not only whether women are included in the work force but on how they are included.

Despite big changes over recent decades, workplace gender inequalities endure in the United States and other industrialized nations around the world. These inequalities are created by facets of national social policy that either ease or concentrate the demands of care giving within households and shape expectations in the workplace.

Chris Biggs
TOPEKA, Kan. - As readers will recall, Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh (R) announced his early resignation on February 8th.

In the next couple of weeks, Governor Parkinson (D) is expected to name an interim appointee to take Thornburgh's place through the November's election.
Chris Steineger
Politicos are speculating if Parkinson will appoint a Democrat or Republican and whether or not he'll attempt to influence the upcoming election by anointing a potential incumbent that will run for the spot in November.

"I am committed to naming a Kansan who can represent the office with honor and distinction while protecting and assisting Kansas voters and businesses," Parkinson said.

Meanwhile, replacement candidates (and appointment hopefuls) are queuing up. Chris Steineger (D) filed January 21st and subsequently asked Parkinson for the appointment. Steineger has served in the Kansas Senate for 13 years and currently sits on the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, Education Committee and Tax Committee.

Today, another candidate, Chris Biggs (D), entered the race. Biggs has served as securities commissioner for six years and is a former county prosecutor and public defender.

TOPEKA, Kan. - The caps for permanent and total disability payments in Kansas haven't been adjusted for inflation since 1987, remaining at only $125,000. As a state, we are among the worst in the nation when you look at workers' compensation policies. Reform on a large scale is needed, but there's one common-sense measure that we can take now to improve the system on our way to economic justice. That measure is Senate Bill 258.

SB 258 adjusts the permanent and total disability caps to account for inflation. Currently, that would put it at a level greater that $300,000. Workers disabled on the job by no fault of their own deserve more than that, but it is better than $125,000. In addition, this bill takes future adjustments for inflation out of the political process.

Money and Love

GIRARD, Kan. - The doorbell rang. Of course I was washing my hair and my husband was out in his man-cave. Forget it, I'm not answering the door. Of course then I was trying to figure out who had been at the door. Ah, its the day before Valentines. Hopefully, the flowers will be on the porch after I dry my hair.

That is not the problem I am really chewing on though. No, instead I am mulling over the consequences of truth. What the hey, I know I am loved. I have nothing to lose, right?

Sometimes the truth is unspeakable. Other times it can be just plain stupid to speak it, because everyone already knows or they plain don't want to know. In this case it is unspeakable, everybody knows it, and....

GREAT BEND, Kan. - It was horrible timing. A room in Great Bend was full with 350 people attending the "Kansas Oil and Gas Hall of Fame" banquet in 2008. At that very moment, Kansas was playing North Carolina in the Final Four at San Antonio.

As we waited for keynote speaker Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh to speak, my Dad passed me a note: "What's the score?" I checked on my cell phone and handed the piece of paper back to my Dad. "KU 40, UNC 12."

He shook his head negatively. "That can't be right," he seemed to whisper to himself. As each of the Hall of Fame Inductees had given their presentations, we tried to keep tabs on the game, while paying our due to the great inductees like L.D. Davis, Jim Robinson and others.

My Insurance, My Body, My Choice

TOPEKA, Kan. - Kansas House Bill 2564 would prohibit all insurance companies in the state of Kansas from covering abortions, unless the life of the mother is at risk or in cases of rape or incest. A pregnancy caused by rape would only be allowed coverage if the woman reports it. You can read a description of the bill and an account of the subsequent hearing here.

I testified as an opponent to this despicable bill on behalf of Kansas NOW. The following is my testimony given before the House Insurance Committee. An enormous debt of gratitude to Tiffany Campbell for allowing me to share her personal story....

TOPEKA, Kan. - The Kansas House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice today unanimously recommended the domestic violence tag bill to the full body of the Kansas House of Representatives.

HB 2517 would require that domestic violence markers be attached to all criminal cases where the district court finds evidence that an offender committed any other criminal violations against a person with whom the offender had an intimate relationship. The list would include battery, arson, assault, kidnapping, disorderly conduct and destruction of property.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Listening to senate subcommittees discuss amendments can serve as wake-up calls for citizens interested in learning about government spending and whether or not their legislators engage in pork barrel spending.

Here is one example that shows how a Republican lawmaker believes in and supports pet projects that cost tax payers millions of dollars.

The following text was taken from such a meeting held Aug. 4 when Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) bucked majority votes and still came out with a victory for his earmarks.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - A famous workers' rights leader (it was either Mother Jones or Joe Hill) said, "Don't agonize, organize."

Yes, candidate recruitment is off to a slow start for Kansas Democrats this year. However, nobody needs a permission slip to recruit candidates. Just start recruiting.

There's still plenty of time.

I helped recruit Christina Stein in the 112th District, and she's going to be good. I had Mike Laudick all primed for a rematch with Bob Bethell (R-113th), but sadly, Mike Laudick passed away suddenly. Now I'm looking for his replacement.

I have some feelers out for potential candidates against Rep. Mike O'Neal (R-Hutchinson).

Not About Sarah Palin

sarah-palin.jpgSALINA, Kan. - This is not about Sarah Palin. Instead, let's talk petro-states. Like Oman. And its sister state, Alaska. In 2007, Alaska produced approximately 719,000 barrels of oil per day. That puts it in the same ballpark as Egypt (710,000), Oman (718,000) and Malaysia (755,000). Its economy parallels Oman's. Its oil revenues account for about 75 percent of export earnings.

Oil rents provide 42 percent of Alaska's annual revenue, more than any other source. Without federal subsidies (the highest per capita in the nation), Alaska's oil rents would account for 53 percent of income.

Wake-up Call: A New Coffee Party

HAYS, Kan. - Christopher Renner filed a story on Sunday that included the full text of George Pyle's keynote address delivered at last Friday's Reality Not Celebrity event in Salina.

Christopher published the full text of that speech here. David Norlin, one of the Kansas activists that instigated the 'counter Palin' event, tells us that there have been many requests for copies of Pyle's speech.

Norlin added, "Many asked how we might get Pyle's keynote into area newspapers. Pyle rightly said that in its long form, it's unpublishable. Therefore, he has provided us a slimmed-down, concise version of about 850 words." For those wishing to have the new version published in their own local newspapers, Norlin recommends, "Contact the editors of your local paper with a request to print it."

We've published the shorter version here, too.

OSKALOOSA, Kan. - Is Senator Brownback an unbeatable candidate for Kansas Governor? I don't think so. Many of the republicans that I have had the chance to visit with seem to think that he is a classic politician who doesn't know much about anything. I've heard time and time again that he is a lot like Jim Ryan in the case that he is only engaged during election season.

TOPEKA, Kan. - There is one bill sitting in Conference Committee in the Kansas Legislature that actually does something to promote clean indoor air for Kansans, and that's HB 2221. It's ironic that HB 2642 is called the "Kansas Non-smoker Protection Act." It actually weakens many local ordinances already in place by preemption.

Today at a press conference, Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, Director, Division of Health at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment gave the Top Ten Reasons Why HB 2642 is Bad Policy for Kansas. Here they are:

Number 10: It's called the "Kansas Non-smoker Protection Act," but it actually does the exact opposite.

Number 9: It boldly encourages restaurants, bars and other establishments to buy their way out of their obligation to provide healthy environments for their workers and patrons.

SALINA, Kan. - When it comes to meeting national health goals for physical activity, Mexican-Americans are the most active group in America, according to research by scholars at the University of Chicago and Arizona State University.

The study focused on whites, Mexican-Americans and blacks to learn more about health disparities between those groups.

The research challenges other studies that claimed non-Hispanic whites are most likely to be physically active.

I think Woody Guthrie Stayed Here!

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Some people find it shocking that I find Kansas beautiful. I suppose that is the curse of the home town. It is hard to find something beautiful about the town you grew up in, until you leave it.

Every state in the nation has something that is beautiful about it. Michigan has water and trees. Colorado has the mountains. Florida has the wetlands. Kansas has the huge sky. The sky is massive out here, a backdrop of everything else on the prairie.

Don't Like Mike O'Neal? Run Against Him

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Democrats who complain about House Speaker Mike O'Neal's pattern of using his public office to benefit himself, his wife, his law firm, and the clients of his law firm should recruit a Democrat to run against him.

The voters of Reno County, 104th District, hired O'Neal. And the voters of the 104th District are the only one's who have the authority to fire him. But O'Neal never seems to have a Democratic opponent.

Libertarian Ben Ferguson seems to run against O'Neal every time, and his showings of 21.7% (2006) and 18.7% (2008) are proof that not all Reno Countians believe O'Neal is in Topeka due to altruism.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and any officeholder will tend toward misadventure if he or she has no competition.

SALINA, Kan. - The State of Kansas currently has legislation pending related to distracted driving. The legislation (Kansas House Bill 2132) would prohibit text messaging while operating a motor vehicle. Specifically, drivers in Kansas would be prohibited from sending, reading or writing a "text message by means of an electronic wireless communications device."

On any given day last year, an estimated 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone who used a hand-held cell phone at some point during their drive, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A recent study in the journal Human Factors has found that texting while driving is riskier than talking on a cell phone or with other passengers while driving.

What's Wrong with This Picture?

HAYS, Kan. - I must be slow because I never noticed this before.

This past weekend I watched Saturday Night Live for the first time in a long time. I had stopped watching it after tiring of the show's rapid descent into third-grade bathroom humor when its stars didn't have vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin to spoof anymore. However, this weekend I was in for a pleasant surprise when the show returned to its former glory with a brilliant parody of "fair and balanced" Fox News. (Or Faux News, as some of us prefer to call it.)

SALINA, Kan. - Although relatively rare, pancreatic cancer remains one of the most deadly, and only 5 percent of people who are diagnosed are alive five years later. Pancreatic cancer rates have increased nearly twofold over the recent decades.

ANDOVER, Kan. - The continuing saga of Sarah Palin on the national scene is fraught with ironies and strange inconsistencies. The question has to be asked: Who is the real Sarah Palin? Is she the maverick fighting for the people? Is she a conservative feminist extraordinaire or just another huckster cashing in on her good fortune?

During the 2008 presidential race, some friends were mocking me and wondering if I would support Sarah since I was such a feminist; as if the only requirement for being a feminist is being female. Geez, how long must we fight this stupidity? I'm ready to enter the great Sarah debate if I can place all this in the context of a feminist critique.

Charlatan Spalding

EMPORIA, Kan. - Matthew Spalding of the Heritage Foundation appeared last week at the Granada Theater as part of the E.S.U. "Lectures on Liberty" series (funded in part by a grant from the Fred & Mary Koch Foundation) and asserted that the Progressive Movement has been undermining the foundations of American democracy in favor of Western European style socialism since its inception at the beginning of 19th Century.

In my opinion, it is Mr. Spalding and his Neo-Conservative, Tea Party, fringe ilk which are the more serious threat to our cherished freedoms. While raving against the current health care bill as an assault on personal liberty, he failed to mention that traditional popular policies such as Medicare and Social Security are as much a product of Progressivism as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s or the trust busting of Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican president who later founded the Progressive Party with the assistance of William Allen White, at the beginning of the last century.

SALINA, Kan. - Latino voters will once again be a powerful force the upcoming elections. Candidates who want to court their vote will probably need to do more than just say a few words in Spanish.

Latino voters were pivotal to the victories of both President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats during the election of 2008. These voters are poised to prove pivotal yet again in 2010 in a number of battleground U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and gubernatorial races across the nation. Latinos are a core constituency in many less competitive districts as well, including Kansas.

A new report published by America's Voice says, "Candidates for political office in 2010, elected officials, and political strategists would be wise to not just look at how Latino voters are likely to vote this cycle, but why."

COLBY, Kan. - 1 out of every 6 Americans do not have access to any physicians or medical care at all. Another 2 out of every 6 Americans are woefully under-insured and, due to insurance restrictions or high copay amounts, are unable to get even basic health care needs met on a consistent basis.

Among the 36 percent of U.S. adults age 18 and older who needed to see a specialist in 2007, about 8 percent reported that getting to see one was a big problem, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

While the national survey did not ask respondents why they said that getting to see a specialist was a big problem, research shows that reasons for difficulty accessing specialty care can include lack of health insurance, specialist non-participation in patients' health insurance plans, difficulty contacting specialists; lengthy wait times to get an appointment, and specialist location.

Which Way Did Hope Go?

Who Motivates and Inspires Me?

COLBY, Kan. - Two recent events in Salina can be compared with one another kind of like a night of television entertainment provided by Professional Wrestling and a night featuring a High School wrestling meet. You figure out which wrestling venue represents the Palin rally and which one can be compared to George Pyle's presentation. Thanks to one of our writers for Kansas Free Press, I had opportunity to read Pyle's speech. I didn't attend Palin's rally nor have I seen the transcript or viewed a reproduction of the event. However, I have had lots of opportunities to hear and see Sarah perform. Without question, I acknowledge her skill as a speaker/performer. She is smart, attractive, and has a charisma that attracts followers. But all those attributes do not convince me that she represents my values or priorities for the role of government in our nation.

WICHITA, Kan. - Joseph Goebbels famously said, "If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth." As Hitler's Reichsminister of Propaganda, Goebbels used repetition to mold the German public's perception of reality as easily as if it were a clump of wet clay.

Karl Rove, Goebbels' modern-day equivalent during the Bush administration, effectively used Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Judith Miller at The New York Times and other mainstream media to hammer home the lie that Iraq had WMDs. And, according to the Center for Public Integrity, another 934 additional lies as well, which they repeated so often that they successfully panicked the public, stampeded Congress and fraudulently obtained permission to invade Iraq.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - I'm the Janis Ian of "Urban Legends." You see, I learned the truth at seventeen - that all the scary stories I heard growing up in Great Bend were phony. It took me a while to face reality that all these things -- the "bloody hook", the "solid cement Cadillac", the "spider in the hairdo" -- did not happen in Great Bend or environs.

I was born in 1960, so when I went off to KU in 1978, well, things were very local. There was no internet, no email. For most of my childhood we only got one channel on the TV. So there was no one to debunk the fantastically scary stories I heard growing up or to debunk the belief that they all happened here.

Leonard Pitts, Jr. on Factual Facts

LAWRENCE, Kan. - This past Friday, KU's school of journalism, in its infinite wisdom, awarded the William Allen White Award to Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. I became familiar with Pitts' work a little over ten years ago via my hometown newspaper, the Lawrence Journal World.

I like Pitts because, though his politics tend to lean left, as mine do, he's not a knee-jerk liberal, either. His columns offer a sort of horse-sense, real-world analysis of events that appeal to me in a very personal way. Often when I read his columns I find that Pitts is the only commentator saying exactly what I'm thinking. If only I could write those thoughts as eloquently as he.

SALINA, Kan. - The following is the written speech George Pyle delivered at Reality Not Celebrity, the "counter event" to Sarah Palin's speech in Salina on February 5th.

Pyle's keynote was broadcasted on Community Bridge on February 25, 2010. To listen, click the start button on the player panel to hear the keynote in a streaming format, or click the MP3 button to download the file to your computer. Run time: 46:31.

MP3 File

Good evening, fellow outcasts.

Down in the valley, the respectable and the Republican of the community have gathered in a sports arena to hear from a self-professed maverick woman of the people. Up on the hill, we rabble of liberals and lefties are assembled in the local country club to hear a speech from a bald man who works for Warren Buffett. [though I must hasten to add that I do not speak for Mr. Buffett in any way, shape or form. He is perfectly capable of speaking for himself.]

So. What's wrong with this picture?

SALINA, Kan. - The RNC was able to draw a crowd of over 300 people to their counter Palin event on Friday, February 5th at the Salina Country Club. With special guest appearances from "Oprah," "Dick Cheney" and "Sarah" herself to soften up the crowd before hand, the evening's keynote speaker, journalist George Pyle, was able to walk off with the stunning coup d'état of the tea baggers and their leading lady.
Janice Norlin, Yvonne Gibbons and Kathryne Perney check in guests

When the Salina Chamber of Commerce announce they had signed on to bring Sarah Palin to speak at their annual meeting, some in Salina were not please. One might say they were down right upset.

But rather than protesting the Chamber of Commerce event, a group of "instigators," including Gene and Donna Sandberg, Janice and David Norlin, Yvonne Gibbons, Abner Perney, and others began meeting to plan a more hopeful, more progressive alternative to the Chamber's delusional choice in speakers.

Donating our Tax Dollars

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Often times during a recession, middle class feel a raise in their taxes while multi billion dollar companies receive tax breaks. While CEO's still make million dollar bonuses. This is why Kansas must and most likely will, give a huge tax exemption to the TransCanada Pipeline. Approximately 8.5 million a year property tax exemption for ten years. In addition to the property tax exemption it has also been reported, but not confirmed that the pipeline company has signed with the Kansas Department of Commerce for 55 million in tax credits.

HAYS, Kan. - Rising temperatures, faster evaporation rates, and more sustained drought brought on by climate change will bring stress to water resources and particularly our wetlands. Climate change is likely to affect native plant and animal species by altering key habitats such as the wetland ecosystems known as prairie potholes or playa lakes.

The new research shows that the prairies will be much more sensitive to climate warming and drying than previously thought.

TOPEKA, Kan.- The Kansas State Nurses Association (KSNA) will hold its 34th annual public policy day on Thursday, February 11 at the Topeka Performing Arts Center. Over 1,000 nurses and nursing students from across the state are expected to attend. Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson will welcome the group and provide opening comments at 9 a.m.

The purpose of the day is to discuss policy issues that impact the practice of nursing and the delivery and financing of health care. Andrew Allison, PhD, Acting Executive Director of the Kansas Health Policy Authority, will be the keynote speaker at 11:15 a.m. The Kansas Health Policy Authority is the principal health care agency for the state of Kansas. Established in 2005, KHPA serves as the single state Medicaid agency in Kansas, administering the medical portion of the Kansas Medicaid program, as well as the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP, also known as "HealthWave"); MediKan, which provides coverage for certain low-income, disabled Kansans; the State Employee Health Program; and the State Self- Insurance Fund (SSIF), which provides workers compensation coverage to state employees.

Reject the Teacher Tax

PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. - As Kansas faces a budget crisis a disturbing trend has developed. It is the special tax being levied on teachers. In many school districts teachers are being asked to take pay cuts. No one blames them for the fiscal crisis. We all agree they are already under paid. So why to some want to balance the state budget on the backs of teachers? The pay cuts amount to a special tax on teachers.

Can you imagine the outrage if we demanded a special tax on bankers or god forbid, lawyers? Balancing our books on the backs of teachers is just as bad.

Everybody Loves A Good Coincidence

GREAT BEND, Kan. - When I wished a Facebook friend a "Happy Birthday" on February 1, I saw that both she and her physician husband shared the same birthday, February 1, 1980. What are the odds that two people with the exact same birthday - same year, same date - would get married?

This incident reminded me of a topic I find fascinating: coincidences. Everybody loves a good coincidence. Sometimes they have an epic feel. What are the odds that our second and third U.S. Presidents not only both died on the same day and same year, but that the date was our Nation's Birthday, July 4? Yes, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826.

Sometimes coincidences involve celebrities but seem to have a personal rather than an epic feel.

Mike O'Neal should step down

PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. - Mike O'Neal should resign from the Kansas legislature.

Mike O'Neal should just leave the Kansas Legislature. His history of conflict of interest has become an embarrassment to the citizens of Kansas. While Mr. O'Neal may find nothing wrong with getting his wife a job with the state, we ordinary citizens find it problematic.

When Mr. O'Neal has been paid to represent the legislature in a law suit, we common folks once again found it strange, since we were already paying him to be a legislator.

And now he has decided to sue the state.

DODGE CITY, Kan. - I was moved to write this article after reading the fascinating one concerning third trimester abortions and the flood of comments that followed. It made me think that there are many facts still not revealed about what happens in these cases. My knowledge comes from the time I visited Dr. Tiller's clinic as a new State Representative in the Kansas House. We had been invited, if we were interested in coming to Wichita, to learn what really happens there. I sent in my RSVP and arrived at the gate to present my ID. Dr. Tiller had been shot in the arm previously, so there was, already, a tall fence--a barricade, really, around the clinic. I drove my car to the gate and the guard at the gate allowed me to drive into the compound. There were protesters across the street, holding signs.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Thursday, Senate Bill 169, adding "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Kansas' current non-discrimination statute, came before the Kansas Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee. The committee voted, five to three, to refer the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

"This is another significant step in bringing fairness and equality to all Kansans," said Thomas Witt, the Kansas Equality Coalition's chairman.

Voting Thursday in favor of referring the non-discrimination measure were Committee Chairman Pete Brungardt (R-Salina), and Senators Roger Reitz (R-Manhattan), Tim Owens (R-Overland Park), Marci Francisco (D-Lawrence), and Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D-Wichita).

The 'F Word' and My Generation

SHAWNEE, Kan. - In the words of Britney Spears, oops I did it again. I said the 'f word.' Feminism. In fact, I'll say it again... and louder. I AM A FEMINIST. I'm not embarrassed; so why are so many young women I talk with today ashamed to describe herself with the 'f word'? Why does the feminist label harbor such negative connotations with women under 35? The answer to these questions is muddied with the very hurdles that the women's movement has been fighting for decades. Society makes it easy for a woman to believe that she should be complacent with her current role.

LYONS, Kan. - Mike Laudick and I became friends when we were both candidates for the Kansas House of Representatives, myself in the 112th District, and Mike in the 113th District.

Mike was interested in public service for all the right reasons. He wanted to help others. I last saw Mike at a Rice County Democratic Christmas party in December. After hearing a spirited speech by Rep. Don Svaty, Mike told me: "Marty, after attending this meeting, I've made up my mind: I'm going to run for State Representative again this time." Mike was excited about a rematch this year with Rep. Bob Bethell (R-Alden).

Running for office as a Democrat in Western Kansas is considered to be an exercise in futility by many. But as Mike told me once: "The important thing isn't to win, the important thing is to run." He was a man of principle who courageously stood up for what he thought was right regardless of personal consequences.

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - Women's Week, February 7-14, 2010 in Hutchinson, will be an opportunity to grow, mind, body and spirit! Participate in concerts, the poetry slam, the interactive mural at Gallery 7, and other events. Attend one or several of the 18 different workshops led by community members at local venues and donate to the cause of the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Center.

The Truth About Third Term Abortion

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Okay, now that that dirtbag Scott Roeder has been put away where he rightfully belongs, can we please, as a country, grow up and discuss this issue out loud? I mean, really discuss it? Because if we leave things as they are, abortion providers are in trouble. Women are in trouble.

Kansas State University SafeZone

MANHATTAN, Kan. - A college campus can be a scary and intimidating place at times. Students can often feel like outsiders, become victims of bullying, or some cases, worse. Kansas State University has a program which rejects prejudices and discrimination of all kinds, and promotes non-violence and respect among every person. SafeZone is a program devoted to helping students who feel threatened or troubled. Student's troubles can range from dealing with hate crimes or bullying, to homophobia, to sexual violence or any distressing situation where they may need somebody to talk to. In these cases a student can seek out a SafeZone ally, who have the SafeZone symbol posted in their office or backpack, or are listed on the SafeZone website.

Democrazy in Action

HAYS, Kan. - Have you ever wondered what your community would look like if it were financially bankrupt - and voters wouldn't approve a tax increase of any kind? Well, residents of Colorado Springs can tell you what it's like.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Senate Bill 169, adding "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Kansas' current non-discrimination statute, will come before the Kansas Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee on Thursday. SB 169 expands the Kansas Act Against Discrimination, making it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Kansans have been discriminated against in employment and housing," says Thomas Witt, chair of the Equality Coalition. "No one should be fired or denied the basic human need of shelter because of who they are or who they love."

TOPEKA, Kan. - One day after testifying before the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee in support of new legislation to help track crimes associated with domestic violence in Kansas, nationally recognized advocates Curt and Christie Brungardt are hopeful about the prospects for passage of the bill.

"Today was a very positive day for this legislation," Curt Brungardt said Tuesday. "We are much closer to having everybody who cares about this issue on the same page. "

The Brungardts, whose daughter Jana Mackey was murdered in Lawrence by an ex-boyfrend in July 2008, testified Monday in support of House Bill 2517. The bill would require that a domestic violence tag be placed on all legal documents associated with a criminal act that is based on an intimate relationship.

COLBY, Kan. - White roofs can have the effect of cooling temperatures within buildings. As a result, depending on the local climate, the amount of energy used for space heating and air conditioning could change, which could affect both outside air temperatures and the consumption of fossil fuels such as oil and coal that are associated with global warming.

©American Geophysical Union, photo by Maria-José Viñas
Depending on whether air conditioning or heating is affected more, this could either magnify or partially offset the impact of the roofs.

White roofs would reflect some of that heat back into space and cool temperatures, much as wearing a white shirt on a sunny day can be cooler than wearing a dark shirt.

Moreover, painting the roofs of buildings white has the potential to significantly cool cities and mitigate some impacts of global warming, a new study indicates.

HAYS, Kan. - My, oh my, oh my. Are the talking heads ever having a gabfest over President Barack Obama's proposed new budget. But I look at it this way. It took President George W. Bush eight years to tax-cut and spend us into this giant hole we're in, and it'll take the current President eight years to tax and save us out of it. And he won't win any popularity contests in the process.

SALINA, Kan. - The policy to ban corporations from using their corporate wealth to influence federal elections, whether by making contributions or expenditures, dates back 50 to 100 years.

Everything changed last week. So much of it was undone last week by an activist right-wing Supreme Court. Not only will corporate interests trump individual or voter interests, but now global interests will trump U.S. interests.

Since corporations have deeper pockets than any citizen or group of citizens, the recent Supreme Court ruling gives corporations implied control over influencing all elections.

It may not even be necessary for corporations to actually invest in every election or even in the majority of them. Just the fact that 'they can' throw their huge war chests into buying ad campaigns is enough of a threat to effectively control candidates and legislators - and the laws that get passed.

In effect, our so-called elected officials will tow the corporate line because they will see this as their only hope of personal survival and continued employment.

TOPEKA, Kan. - To help raise awareness about the crime of teen dating violence, Governor Parkinson has proclaimed February 1 - 7, 2010, as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week.

Teen dating violence is a crime that may include physical assault, verbal or emotional abuse or sexual violence. It may involve harassment through the unwanted use of texting, emailing or instant messaging.

Nationwide surveys conducted in recent years found that 62 percent of young people report experiencing verbal abuse in relationships. 1 in 3 teenagers report being concerned about being hurt physically by a boyfriend or girlfriend. 1 out of 5 teenagers say they have actually been hit, slapped or pushed by a girlfriend or boyfriend.

MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - Artist Betsy Roe was hard at work on Sunday--lying in the sunwarmed grass at Bird Runner Wildlife Refuge, a native prairie preserve in the heart of the Flint Hills. "I felt daunted, this project seemed so big," she says. "So I lay down in the grass, and the word 'center' came to mind. I just lay there and felt the warmth. I thought about 'center,' 'centering,' 'centered'--all the different meanings."

Betsy Roe
Roe was in the middle of one of the most difficult parts of the artistic process--acknowledging obstacles, awaiting guidance, inviting inspiration. Her openness paid off: her contemplation of "centering" allowed her to imagine a design not only taking shape but taking root in that particular location. With renewed zest, she went back to pounding in stakes and laying out string, marking dimensions for an outdoor work of art to honor the memory of Jan Garton, the conservationist who saved Cheyenne Bottoms and who passed away Nov. 9, 2009.

Roe has been commissioned to do this "installation" on a three-acre brome field which is being restored to native prairie--also in honor of Garton.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Monthly Film Series sponsored by the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice, the Manhattan/Riley County League of Women Voters and private donors, brings a powerful documentary, American Casino, to the community this month that looks into the causes of the 2008 economic crisis.

The viewing will take place at 6:30 pm on Tuesday 9 February at the Manhattan Public Library Auditorium. The public is invited to attend.

"American Casino is a powerful and shocking look at the subprime lending scandal. If you want to understand how the US financial system failed and how mortgage companies ripped off the poor, see this film," commented Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel prize-winning economist.

Ice Age 2010

HAYS, Kan. - It's been a great winter - that is, if you are an opponent of global warming theory. Bitter cold temperatures and plenty of snow makes this winter one of the most memorable in a long time. Some say that we're entering another ice age, and mastodon sightings have been reported in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts.

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