Front Page » Monthly Archives » Archives: April 2010

GREAT BEND, Kan. - On January 16, 1997, longtime statehouse Associated Press journalist John Hanna wrote an article entitled "Regents Budget Scrutinized," about funding for higher education in Kansas.

Hanna interviewed a KU student named Kevin Yoder from Hutchinson, who said he was concerned "whether he, his friends and other young people will be able to afford to attend college." Yoder, a political science major, told Hanna: "Students are always getting new fees."

Thirteen years later, Kevin Yoder is Chairman of the Kansas House Appropriations Committee. And his concern for college students paying "new fees" has vanished.

Taxes, or Votes

WICHITA, Kan. - To tax or not to tax, that seems to be the pre-eminent worry in elected official's minds. Whether it's best to cover the costs of necessary government expenses or to tell some citizens - usually the least of our brethren, the disabled, the elderly, the poor, the children - that they will have to depend on the goodness of others or go on the streets. Is that the question? Or are the representatives and senators in Topeka and across the nation more worried about losing votes from their constituents should they raise taxes to cover essential costs?

There are two easy ways to raise taxes. They could accept Governor Parkinson's proposal to instigate a temporary (three-year duration) one percent sales tax. The more progressive, alternative method would be to raise taxes on the wealthiest in Kansas, the corporate farms and persons making more that $250,000 per year. Unfortunately, the latter proposal will have little success because some self-centered citizen or corporate lobbyist will scream "socialist."

GIRARD, Kan. - "Maria. Maria! The floor. That floor is not clean." It was the most shrill and demeaning voice. Maria stood there, a look of confusion and shame on her face. Peter, fluent in Spanish, calmly directed Conception to sweep the floor. The shrill voice barked at Peter, "She understands what I said, they all understand English-they just pretend like they don't. They're lazy."

It was the same every morning, a recording repeating day after day. No matter how hard Conception worked, she was never granted the respect of being called by her name or thanked for her work.

Many Soundbytes Do Not Make a Meal

BOGUE, Kan. - I attended the recent event at Fort Hays State Univ. last Monday, April 26, to hear 7 Republicans and one lonesome Democrat (Alan Jilka of Salina) use up less than ten minutes apiece to introduce themselves, deliver soundbytes on six broad issues, and get an additional closing minute to come up with something really big.

Given the number of candidates and the 90-minute slot, from which was deducted a few minutes for a welcome by Dr. Edward Hammond (and a few more for the moderator, Kent Steward to explain the format, ask the questions and enforce time limits), that seems a generous estimate.

Except for a couple semi-moderates like Marck Cobb of Galva, and Tracy Mann of Quinter, the Republicans tried to out-rightwing one another, appealing to the base, I guess.

freedom-flag.jpgHAYS, Kan. - Tea Party supporters talk about 'freedom from government' but as a new survey suggests, many of the Tea Party supporters also strongly support certain government activities that could limit citizen freedom.

A new University of Washington survey shows that whites who are strong supporters of the tea party are apparently less committed to freedom and equality than those who oppose or are unenthusiastic about the movement.

"Our survey suggests that among tea partiers, there's less dedication to certain civil liberties," said Christopher S. Parker, a UW assistant professor of political science who leads the 2010 Multi-State Survey of Race & Politics. It examines what Americans, including supporters of the tea party, think about race, public policy, national politics and President Barack Obama.

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Connie Schultz, nationally syndicated columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, will give this year's lecture for the Jana Mackey Distinguished Lecture Series, entitled "Words from the Heart: Gender, Justice and Advocacy" on Wednesday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas.

"We selected Connie Schultz to be this year's speaker because of her dedication to issues of concern to Jana," said Kathy Rose-Mockry, chair of the Jana Mackey Distinguished Lecture Series board. "Connie has spent her career fighting for the same causes Jana did--women's rights, equality, social justice and serving others."

The Jana Mackey Distinguished Lecture Series was established in 2009 to commemorate late women's rights activist and KU law student Jana Lynne Mackey.

immigration.gifWICHITA, Kan. - For over a century, some in American politics have attempted to keep certain groups of people from voting. Traditionally, going back to ancient Rome, the only people who could vote were those who owned property and the people who owned the property were men. But over the years, the United States passed laws and constitutional amendments to expand voting rights to other groups of people. In spite of Jim Crow laws and other similar means of disenfranchisement, we are generally quite proud of our efforts in suffrage, though the reality is we have a very long way to go.

Last week, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law a new measure to "crack down" on undocumented workers. It requires, among other things, for immigrants to carry their papers on them at all time that prove they are in the country legally. As these papers are important legal papers, it is dangerous to carry them around all the time. Kansas Secretary of State candidate Kris Kobach says this will apply only to immigrants and not US citizens as it is a federal crime to say one is a citizen when they are not. This is a curious statement.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Women, have you ever been walking home alone at night, and jumped at every twig that snaps, or has your heart skipped a beat when a shadow crosses your path, do you go over self defense scenarios in your head? Many of us are aware of the rules for walking alone at night: do not listen to your headphones, do not talk on your phone, have your keys ready in your hand. The reality is often times, women do not feel safe walking alone after dark. Many women I know will not even walk alone at night on the K-State campus, a place where we feel safe and at home most of the time. It is time to "Take Back the Night"!

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - Dynamic collaboration and strategic approaches are vital in prevention and intervention advocacy in the areas of domestic and sexual violence.

Volunteer work and activism with the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Center in my city has given me perspective that values the unity of community advocates in fighting to protect the rights of every person.

Advocacy cannot be submerged or made secondary to the goals of careerism, territoriality, or to the effort of maintaining status quo. We define our commitment as advocates as being a part of a movement to end oppression. This definition constitutes solidarity with other movements to end oppression, such as oppression based on race, gender, sexual orientation/preference, social class, economic status or minority.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Over 200 people demonstrated their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality in Manhattan and Riley County on Saturday in first Pride march and rally the community has seen. Marchers represented individual LGBTs, allies, various community and K-State organizations and two of Manhattan's religious congregations: the Unitarian Universalism Fellowship and First Congregation - United Church of Christ.

Lead marchers
Marching down Poyntz Avenue with a police escort the participants were met by a smattering of supporters along the route that took them west on Poyntz, then north on 11th Street and down Moro through Aggieville, ending at Triangle Park.

Jonathan Mertz, Chair of Flint Hills Human Rights Project, said: "I was driving the pickup at the end of the parade. When I turned onto to Poyntz to follow the walkers I had this view of a mass of people with signs and rainbow flags walking up the street and more people were running to join the crowd. It took my breath away."

TOPEKA, Kan. - From KNEA News...

The state-wide coalition Kansans for Quality Communities (KQC) held a press conference in the capitol today at which they called upon legislators to pass a tax increase to support vital state services and keep Kansas communities strong.

Speaking at the press conference were KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti, Kansas Organization of State Employees Executive Director Jane Carter, Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas Executive Director Shannon Jones, InterHab Assistant Executive Director Matt Fletcher, and Kansas Families for Education Executive Director Kathy Cook.

"The people of Kansas have elected their legislators to put the needs of all Kansans ahead of political expediency or ideology. Today more than ever, we are in need of a legislature that can set aside partisanship and demonstrate a spirit of collaboration and cooperation in the quest to preserve and ultimately strengthen our state and our communities," said Desetti.

'Liberal' Offenses?

HAYS, Kan. - My most recent essay dealt with the problem of disseminating or forwarding false, inflammatory, and slanderous materials. Most of the feedback I received was quite positive, except for a note from one very good friend, who suggested that I give equal attention to the similar offenses from "liberal" sources. His idea, I think, was that, in writing of the abuses of truth and civility in the disseminations and fowardings I described, I was criticizing conservatives.

WICHITA, Kan. - For those in the Wichita area this weekend, Saturday May 1st come join Kansas House candidate Brandon Whipple at OJ Watson park from 1 to 3 PM for a picnic

Join your neighbors for an afternoon at the park! Bring the family and enjoy fun games, great food and meet your Kansas House candidate Brandon Whipple.

"Even in times of crisis, our Legislature must support education." - Brandon Whipple, Wichita Eagle, April 13, 2010.

The event is free, but we are asking for a $5 donation if you will be eating.

I Am a Liberal

WICHITA, Kan. - "I am a liberal, a plain, unadorned, old-fashioned liberal...I believe in America; I believe in democracy..." So said Senator George McGovern said in a speech to the Americans for Democratic Action a couple of decades ago. I agree with him. Therefore I question why our legislators in Kansas and across the nation waste the taxpayers' money in vengeance and other wasteful schemes.

The Kansas legislators wage a personal attack against women by gutting a utilities bill and placing the text of an extremist anti-choice bill inside. Governor Parkinson vetoes it and now the bonehead, vitriolic anti-choicers are wasting our time and money by attempting to pass it over his veto.

Earlier, they spent time debating the merits of Flint Hills grasses to anoint "The Kansas Grass."

GREAT BEND, Kan. - It is often said that Kansas has three political parties: Democrats, Moderate Republicans, and Conservative Republicans. And at the young age of 34, Kevin Yoder is one of the few elected officials who has been a member of all three.

Yoder, like many with family roots in the Amish/Anabaptist areas in Reno and Harvey County, started his political journey as a Democrat. In many ways, the group of Mennonites and Amish who populate Reno and Harvey County could be described as
"religious left." And hence, many are Democrats.

WICHITA, Kan. - Sarah Palin is coming to the Intrust Arena in Wichita, Kansas on May 2. It is a fundraiser for a Christian school. We can only speculate as to what her contract with the school entails as the documents have surely been shredded by now... for everyone's protection of course.

Her appearance in Wichita doesn't surprise me, the demographic here seems right up her alley. There has been an onslaught of 'tea bagger' mentality in our state with sovereignty resolutions, tenth amendment activists packing the gallery of our state house producing a sea of American flags, camo and orange safety gear (I guess some analogies between lobbying and hunting, could be made), the expansion of concealed carry laws, pushes to opt out of national heath care reform before its passage and now that it has passed calls for our state attorney general to join the ranks of the rabid by challenging the national healthcare legislation. It all seems like such a waste of time, energy and money... cue the ½ term Alaskan Governor, please.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - I made a huge blunder early in my marriage. Julie and I were married in 1989. I was lucky to convince this Wichita girl to move out west to Great Bend.

When election day arrived in November, 1990, I did something terrible that my wife still reminds me about today.

I told her who to vote for. Big mistake. I didn't think of it as sexist at the time. I was a political junkie and this was her first election living out here on the Great Plains. So I thought I would give her some advice. I was so stupid that I actually made up a list for her to take into the voting booth. A colossal mistake.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - The state of Kansas has slashed about $1 billion from it's budget during the past two years. Still, a revenue shortfall of $450 million to $510 million looms for Fiscal year 2011, which starts July 1.

The State Senate is willing to bite the bullet and raise taxes to prevent cutting more state services. But the House of Representatives isn't biting, and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Kevin Yoder (R-Overland Park) is the ringleader of the effort for no new taxes. Politically, it's a good bet for Yoder, a candidate for U.S. Congress, to reject new taxes. But all the House members supporting Yoder's idea are running for a different office - re-election to the Kansas House of Representatives. And Yoder's gamble is a high risk gamble for each of them.

Mere Intruders Upon Their Soil

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan.- One hundred fifty years ago the fledgling town of Emporia, located seven miles south of the southeast corner of the Kaw Reservation, received visits by two groups indigenous to the Flint Hills.

"A party of ten or twelve Kaw 'braves,' gaudily dressed, and mounted on fleet ponies, came in from the west on Thursday morning," noted the April 14 Emporia News. "After spending a few moments in town, a cloud of dust to the east marked their departure towards the land of the Osages."

"A drove of antelope have been making 'calls' in the upper part of town for several mornings past," reported the April 28, 1860 News.

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. - For over twenty years the Kansas Sample Festival, organized by the Inman-based Kansas Sampler Foundation, has provided attendees the possibility of being immersed in Kansas culture. That tradition continues May 1st and 2nd in Leavenworth's Ray Miller Park, 4201 South 4th Street, as vendors from across the gather for the 2010 Kansas Sample Festival.

The opening ceremony for the Festival takes place on Saturday, May 1st, at 9:00 a.m. This ceremony provides an opportunity for Kansas communities to show their stuff and prick the interest of those in attendance about the possibilities that lay just beyond the entrances to the various exhibition tents.

The tents open Saturday at 10:00 a.m. and close at 5:00 p.m. On Sunday the exhibitions open at 10:00 and close at 4:00 p.m. Admission fee is $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for child aged 7 - 14. Weekend passes are also available at $8.00 for adults and $4.00 for children.

The 2010 Festival is breaking all previous records with over 320 exhibitor registrations received to date representing over 150 Kansas communities. Exhibitors include Kansas municipalities, attractions, entrepreneurs, and entertainers. These will be spread throughout the park in colorful tents on a wide open grassy field shaded by old trees in Ray Miller Park.

brownback.jpgTOPEKA, Kan. - "Sam Brownback's career in Washington is defined by gridlock and partisanship, not results," said Kenny Johnston, Executive Director of the Kansas Democratic Party, "Simply put, Kansans disapprove of Sam Brownback's so-called 'Washington leadership.' Voters are quickly realizing he's not the solution for Kansas, he's just part of the problem in Washington."

According to Kansas Democratic Party staffers who have examined recent poll numbers, Brownback had an approval rating at 57% in November. In the time since the November poll was conducted SurveyUSA has conducted five more polls, revealing an overall downward trend in his approval. In the past sixty days alone, his approval rating plummeted fifteen points while his disapproval steadily rose ten points. Currently, Sam Brownback has a 41% approval rating and a 47% percent disapproval rating.

PhotobucketTOPEKA, Kan. - This week both the Senate Ways and Means and House Appropriations Committees are meeting to develop a budget.

Senate Ways and Means began meeting Monday and completed work on their budget Wednesday afternoon. The committee recommended a budget that would require an estimated $500 million in additional revenue but they could not reach agreement on a tax package to pay for it. Chairman Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, abruptly ended the meeting, announcing, "We are adjourned until the 28th," - the date when the entire legislature returns to Topeka for the veto session.

On the House side, Representative Kevin Yoder continues to say that the legislature must CUT, CUT, CUT. As I have reported earlier, Yoder represents a brand of politician whose intention is to destroy government and leave everything to the market to fix. Such ideology is not what the people of Kansans need. We need leaders who understand government serves a positive purpose.

EMPORIA, Kan. - Last Saturday the Tea Party held another rally complete with right wing candidates (I think they actually like that moniker now because it helps them in the primary) at which a local Tea Party leader declared that she had recently observed an illegal immigrant registering to vote while applying for a driver's license.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - You can't sell a product by hiding it from the public. And Senator Sam Brownback's "duck and cover" strategy that I wrote about on March 10 continues. So does his slide in the polls. Survey USA shows Brownback with a 41% approval rating in Kansas, and a 47% disapproval rating. Hiding doesn't work.

Brownback seems invisible, and isn't talking to the press much. And I think I know why.
The Kansas budget crisis is so bad that Brownback wants to wait until the Kansas Legislature is out of session before he speaks. Is he hoping the legislature will raise taxes and that the budget crisis will be over?

Ahoy, Matey!

YOCEMENTO, Kan. - A storm was brewing in the north, but there was nothing but peace and good cheer around our kitchen table last Thursday evening. My family and I had the privilege of hosting Nola Ochs and her great-granddaughter Janae Ochs for dinner.

I took an Old Testament class with Nola in the fall of 2006, where we first met. It was her first semester as an on-campus student. On the first day of class, we went around and introduced ourselves with a brief bit about why we were taking the class. Nola said that she was interested in the Bible. She tagged on at the end that she was 94.

There were no gasps or applause from the class; instead there were a few indulgent smiles. How quaint that this elderly woman wants to better understand the history of the Bible. Most likely the professor will go easy on her. After all, she's 94 years old. But we soon found out that Nola Ochs was no shrinking violet. She spoke up with thoughtful, relevant remarks, wrote papers and took exams.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Curt and Christie Brungardt, parents of the late Jana Mackey, applaud Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson for signing a new domestic violence law today in Topeka. Mackey was a 25-year-old law student who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in Lawrence in 2008. "We are very pleased with the actions of our legislature and Governor in addressing this serious issue," said Christie Brungardt. "While we recognize that this new legislation alone will not stop domestic violence, we do believe that it is an important step in the right direction."

Originally recommended by the Governor's Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, this bill is recognized as the most comprehensive domestic violence legislation ever passed in Kansas. This law will assist the criminal justice system in documenting crimes associated with domestic violence and track repeated offenders. The legislation also requires the courts to order assessment of the offender and recommend intervention treatment programs.

Jerry Moran Opened a Can of Worms

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - When U.S. Senate candidate Jerry Moran was criticized recently for accepting subsidized rent from "The Family," his response was pathetic. He blamed people who "hate Christians" for criticizing his cozy living arrangement at the C Street House, owned by a cultish group known as "The Family."

Moran playing the "Christian persecution" card was kooky for many reasons. But I would like to take a look at this from a different angle. Can the C-Street run house really be called "Christian?"

I don't think so. This outfit known as "The Family" that Moran has associated himself with is not Christian at all---at least if Christianity is about Jesus the Nazarene.

Doug Coe, who is basically "the Pope" of this weird organization, tells people like Moran that Jesus the Nazarene got it all wrong.

When Did Rape Become Funny?

SHAWNEE, Kan. - Facts show that rape is anything but funny. According to statistics, someone in the US is raped every two minutes. Additionally, victims of rape are 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide, and 3 times more likely to suffer depression. According to the group One in Four, "8% of men admit committing acts that meet the legal definition of rape or attempted rape. Of these men who committed rape, 84% said that what they did was definitely not rape." Sixty percent of rapes are never even reported, and only 6 percent of rapists will ever spend a day in jail for their crime. Are you laughing yet?

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their allies will make history as they hold the first Pride March ever in Manhattan on Saturday 24 April. The march will start at 2:00 pm in front of the Riley County Courthouse and will proceed down Poyntz Avenue to 11th Street, then north on 11th to Moro, through Aggieville, ending in Triangle Park with a rally that goes until 4:30 pm.

Along with speeches and entertainment, the rally will feature openly gay musician Tom Goss. Goss will also be in concert with Jeremiah Clark later on the 24th beginning at 9:00 pm at Mel's Tavern in downtown Manhattan.

MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - When Jan Garton passed away on November 9, 2009, one of the leading voices for conservation in Kansas was stilled.

Regarding Jan's successful campaign to save Cheyenne Bottoms, the Hutchinson News wrote, "Jan Garton's life story perfectly illustrates how one person can make a difference." Jan's public actions and public words are well known.

Less well known iis her poetry, even by her friends. As Jan's executor, I had to clean out her file cabinets, and there I found writing she had never mentioned. Her poems give insight into just what it was that helped her change the world.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - When I was a boy, there was a phrase, a sentence, that I heard often: "Help those less fortunate." My parents used this phrase often, the nuns at St. Patrick's Catholic School used it, my leaders in Boy Scouts of America used it. And it became part of who I am.

As an adult in 2010, I no longer hear that phrase, but I still try to live it. The injunction to "help those less fortunate," is totally out of date in 2010 America. And I think I know why: because it implies that good luck has something to do with success. And that bad luck has something to do with being poor. And many successful people today want to believe they alone caused their success, and that the poor failed because they have some moral defect.

America has a larger class division than ever in my lifetime. The rich get richer, the middle class is shrinking, and the ranks of the poor grow every day. And some successful people believe they achieved success on their own, that no one -- government, or the community, or anyone -- had anything to do with it.

And the poor? They screwed up.

HAYS, Kan. - I've been a part of the Human Right's Group for about a month (give or take a a few days for anyone who's counting). Through the group's many activities I've made friends that are both genuine and unique. Last Monday, while I was chained to a pole, I met roughly ... eight new people that I had never seen before in my life. But this isn't just about the people (well, in a way it is, since it's the Human Rights Group), it's about what the people in this group are able to bring to society. So far, I've been able to take part in two events that the Human Right's Group has hosted - "A Day Without Shoes", and "Spare Change to End Chains."

HAYS, Kan. - The State of Kansas should plan on $130 million less than we had previously thought, says the Consensus Estimating Group in a memo sent yesterday to Governor Mark Parkinson and the Legislative Budget Committee.

The Consensus Estimating Group says that for the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, the state should now plan on $46 million less than it had been planning on. Next year's budget will have to incorporate that $46 million cut and then cut another $84 million.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Growing up my parents always told me, I could be anything I wanted. I suppose that is why it was so heartbreaking when I found out the rest of the world does not agree. I cannot begin to list the amount of times it has been insinuated I cannot do something because I am of the female origin, but I can count how many times it has been directly stated to me.

Running for election this fall I have come across many different people. Most everyone I met has been respectful, and I have enjoyed positive discourse with them. This week I caught a snag.

Want to Opt Out of Paying Taxes?

GREAT BEND, Kan. - With the uproar created by the Tea Party movement, perhaps we need to start a new program: allow Americans to opt out of paying taxes: local, state and federal. However, each person would have to sign an agreement, that in lieu of paying taxes, the following conditions would apply to them...

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

WICHITA, Kan. - In this profile, we are honored to introduce KFP correspondent, Claudean McKellips. She has taught at the high school and college level since 1997. Helping students find their voice in reading, writing and thinking brings Claudean the greatest joy. She has found her niche in the public alternative and charter schools where it is still possible to escape canned curriculum and some aspects of NCLB. Claudean is especially interested in leveling the playing field for first-generation college students.

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

POTWIN, Kan. - In this profile, we are honored to introduce KFP correspondent, Eden Fuson. Active in citizenship and grassroots organizing, she talked with us about what motivates her to make the world a better place. Very simply, she said, "My main goal in life is to be someone my three children will be proud of." Eden explained that she hopes to always spend her life trying to change things that will positively affect their lives.

WICHITA, Kan. - Koch Industries issued a statement last night in advance of Tax Day claiming it has never provided funding to support Tea Parties.

"Koch companies value free speech and believe it is good to have more Americans engaged in key policy issues. That said, Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch and David Koch have no ties to and have never given money to FreedomWorks. In addition, no funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the tea parties. Thanks for your consideration."

These statement may be true, however it's all about what is not said in this statement. If you do your research you will find out that David Koch is co-founder and executive vice president of Americans for Prosperity, which (yep, you guessed it) supports and organizes tea party events.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - While the four frontrunners for the Big First Republican congressional nomination - Jim Barnett, Tim Huelskamp, Rob Wasinger and Tracey Mann - fight amongst themselves, another candidate, Monte Shadwick of Salina, seems like the quiet dark horse that could come out of nowhere to win the nomination.

A generation ago, his father, Gerald Shadwick of Great Bend, got 40% of the Republican primary vote in the Big First, and barely lost to Keith Sebelius, 48% to 40%.
12% went to a candidate named Crotinger. A mere 5,000 votes separated Shadwick from Sebelius in that 1968 primary.

That was a three-way race in 1968. But a generation later, Gerald's son, Monte Shadwick, is in a 7 candidate primary. And if this Shadwick draws any where near 40%, he will win the nomination for the right to face fellow Salina resident Alan Jilka in the general election.

Mr. Wasinger Goes to Kansas

GREAT BEND, Kan. - One of my favorite movies is "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," the 1939 Frank Capra film starring Jimmy Stewart. What's amazing is how contemporary the film is, in terms of how corrupt the system can become. In the film, Jefferson Smith (played by Stewart), an innocent wide-eyed idealist, gets appointed to fill a U.S. Senate Seat in an unnamed Western state vacated due to the death of a Senator.

People still love the film today, because they love the story line: a true idealist, an honest man "too good for politics," thrust into the corrupt world of Washington, D.C. When newly-minted Senator Jefferson Smith arrives in Washington for the first time, he is awestruck by the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol Building, and the idea of serving "We the People." He quotes Lincoln and Jefferson, but literally doesn't know his way around the Capitol, and his rookie mistakes are funny and refreshing. But what is more refreshing is what he stood for: bedrock honesty. Those who appointed him mistook his naivete for malleability, and thought they could control him. They couldn't.

The Fruit Is On the Ground

HAYS, Kan. - I know. Criticizing a campaign mailer -- or maybe that should be spelled "campain maler" -- is like picking the fruit hanging so low it's almost on the ground. But maybe you will allow a little venting.

I won't criticize the use of suggestive phrases instead of actual assertions ("Kansas values. Kansas commonsense.") Nor will I criticize the assertions that are only questionably relevant: "Five generations of Mann's [sic] have lived in the house his great-grandfather built." OK. But he lives more than 100 miles to the east.

But then we get these words: "Free market solutions for healthcare reform" and "protect Social Security and Medicare." Under the assumption that he is listing these things because he supports them, isn't there a problem here? Neither Social Security nor Medicare are "free market solutions," and that is their glory. We have learned from hundreds of years of experience now that free markets are greatly inventive, but without assistance they promote inequality. In fact, they promote so much inequality that those who can no longer sell their labor or intelligence on the free market would be left without the necessities of life.

So which do you want, Mr. Candidate, free market solutions or help for the elderly?

Boycott Chamber Businesses

WICHITA, Kan. - I noticed a Letter to the Editor in the Wichita Eagle the other day that sparked my interest. "Boycott Chamber Businesses" spoke of John Eaton's frustration of our legislators' refusal to follow Gov. Mark Parkinson's recommendation of a temporary 1 percentage point sales-tax increase. Since I share the same frustration I felt the need to spread the word of Mr. Eaton's letter.

I am very frustrated by our legislators' refusal to follow Gov. Mark Parkinson's recommendation of a temporary 1 percentage point sales-tax increase. His plan would prevent serious harm to education and other Kansas services. I am equally frustrated by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce's public stand against any sort of temporary tax increase.

I have written my district legislators by both e-mail and letter, with limited results. Recently, I had an idea that might help. ...

I visited the chamber's Web site. I noticed it had a great membership directory with excellent contact information for Wichita business owners and managers. I can only assume that if a local business is in the membership directory, then it supports the chamber's stand against a temporary tax.

I intend to write every business owner on the list with whom I do business, express my disappointment with its association with the chamber, and explain, in a polite way, that unless its position on the tax can be proved otherwise, my future purchases may be with a business not in the directory.

If I am the only one who writes, business owners will think that I am an eccentric and ignore my letter. What would happen, though, if a business received 50 letters? How about 100?

Don't assume that someone else will do something. Take an hour; write a few letters.


This Is A Trashy Situation

GREAT BEND, Kan. - The great bend in the Arkansas river is where I have decided to homestead. I live several blocks from the river itself, and enjoy taking long walks by the river. Unfortunately, these long walks do not always allow me to view the river as the awe-inspiring body of water it is. Empty beer bottles, old shoes, and plastic bags litter the viewing area. At times, the smell from the sewage plant by the river forces me to walk on the other side of town.

I am not a clean freak, but I do have respect for things that are not mine. The river does not belong to me. I share it with those in my community. As a child most of us are taught to respect the items we do not own, and to clean up after ourselves. Many of us adults forget these simple, core values as we get older. It is time we begin to remind ourselves.

Out of Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. - "When I was a little chap I had a passion for maps," said Marlowe as he began his tale in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. "I would look for hours at South America, Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration."

When I read that line it reverberated in my head as if it were my own voice coming back to me. The setting of my childhood dreams was Topeka, Kansas, where I lived a few blocks from Shunganunga Creek. It was a place of great wonder for me where I spent countless hours growing up. During summer vacations I spent many entire days at the creek. During summer it became jungle-like, steaming hot and teaming with wildlife.

The Coffee Party: Stirring into Action

WICHITA, Kan. - For those of us frustrated by and fed up with Tea Party negativity, Tax Day, Thursday, April 15, 2010, will provide a chance to make our voices heard. Local Coffee Party activists will gather on that day at 5 p.m. at the Sedgwick County Courthouse, Central and Main, Wichita, to counter-demonstrate against Tea Party members. According to the notice sent by Coffee Party leader Nancy McCarthy Snyder, "Our intention is to hold a non-confrontational peaceful rally FOR responsible citizenship and effective government. Coffee Party Ground Rules of mutual respect and tolerance will be in effect."

Snyder has asked people to spread the word about this demonstration, which will give a chance for those who want a positive voice what happens in American to be heard. Those who want to demonstrate should bring signs with positive messages to counter the negativity of the other side. As Tea Party participation, along with incidents of violence and vandalism, has ramped up, many citizens have decided the time to be quiet is over.

WICHITA, Kan. - To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, several Wichita groups have joined with Earth Spirit Kansas for a day of fun, food, and music, Earth Fest 2010: "Just Food." The all-day event is set for Saturday, April 17, 2010, at the Wichita Water Center in Herman Hill Park, 101 E. Pawnee, Wichita, Kansas. Festivities will start at 9 a.m. and will end at 10 p.m.

The Earth Spirit Coalition Annual Project will have as a theme, "Plant Thoughts, Grow Networks, Nurture Kansas Families." One of the highlights of the event is a tour of the Wichita Water Center, which Rev. Connie Pace-Adair, Earth Spirit chair, calls "an exemplary water treatment plant."

According to Rev. Pace-Adair, the Water Center pulls polluted water from downtown Wichita and mixes it with air, ridding it of pollutants. While the treated water is not potable, it is usable for irrigation. Right now, the water is being used to irrigate Herman Hill Park.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Senators Huelskamp and Barnett are not only the two front runners for the Big First Republican Congressional nomination, they are both doctors. Huelskamp has a doctorate from American University in political science. Barnett is an M.D., graduating from KU Med School in 1979.

Most doctors don't give away their inventory, their knowledge, for free. But Dr. Huelskamp is literally giving free advice to Dr. Barnett that could lead to a Barnett victory in the August 2 primary. "Jim Barnett is committing political malpractice by posing as a conservative," says Huelskamp, through his Campaign Manager David Ray.

The Huelskamp campaign is handing out the best advice any candidate like Barnett could hope for. And with four months to correct the problem! I've never seen such an act of charity from one competing politician to another.

It's Time to Talk About Breasts

WASHINGTON - It's time to talk to talk about breasts, and I can't think of a better place to do so than in Washington DC. After all, it is home to some of the biggest boobs I've ever met. In all seriousness, I'm not talking about some of the congressional members. I'm talking about the actual body part and about breast health. This May, I will make my third trip to Washington in order to lobby on behalf of the National Breast Cancer Coalition. I am often asked how I became involved with them, and I want to share with you the story of their work. I began working with the NBCC after my (step) aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wanted to become involved in finding the cure, and I wanted to know how I could support her fight.

Looking around me, I realized that my aunt's fight was not an isolated battle. Another aunt had stood next to her best friend as the disease proved more powerful than the treatments. I heard stories of women who survived cancer, but died from the harsh treatments used to fight it. I had watched my dad die of another form of cancer (lung). Watching him die from a senseless disease stirred up emotions that I didn't want to confront.

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Lisa Johnston has spent the past 17 years working in higher education teaching and supporting students. This should come as a breath of fresh air when viewing the current education disparities in Kansas and the nation.

For the past seven years, Johnston has worked as Assistant Dean for Student Academic Services at Baker University where she both teaches courses and oversees a variety of support services for students.

Prior to holding this position Johnston served in a variety of administrative, teaching, and academic support roles at several different universities. She has earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Psychology from the University of Central Missouri and the University of Kansas and will complete her Ph.D. in Foundations of Education from the University of Kansas in May of 2010.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Monthly Film Series takes on the issue of media consolidation next Tuesday, 13 April, when it screens Sue Wilson's Broadcast Blues - The Movie the Media Does Not Want You to See beginning at 6:30 pm in the Manhattan Public Library Auditorium. The public is welcomed to attend.

Sue Wilson
Sue Wilson
Broadcast Blues laments the erosion of the contrasting-views concept in the wake of deregulation following the 1996 Telecommunications Act but also chronicles the consolidation of US media in the hands of five conglomerates over the last three decades.

Emmy-winning former news producer, Sue Wilson worked at Los Angeles' KCBS with Jim Lampley and Keith Olbermann. A 22-year veteran of broadcast journalism, she has won numerous awards include Emmy, AP, RTNDA, and PRNDI for work at CBS, PBS, FOX, and NPR. Read her blog at:

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Richard T. Hughes' book Christian America and the Kingdom of God (2009) argues for a course correction for American Christians. Hughes, a professor of religion at Messiah College, tackles some tough questions and answers them with refreshing clarity.

Here's the gist of the book: God's Kingdom does not depend on coercion, or force, but instead seeks to persuade people into the Kingdom of God through non-violence and love. On the other hand, earthly Kingdoms (e.g., the Roman Empire) depend on coercion to gain compliance. Human empires depend on "the sword" to maintain peace. The Kingdom of God does not depend on the sword for peace, but believes that peace is a byproduct of justice. After reading this book, I finally understand the bumper sticker: "If you want peace, work for justice."

Relax, Hughes says that America is clearly a Christian nation, culturally and ceremonially. Christianity is easily the most popular religion in the USA, and the founders of our country were Christians, although some were Deists. Stated differently, America is a de facto Christian nation.

TOPEKA, Kan. - If you live in Kansas, chances are pretty darn good that you've heard of psychotic homophobe, religious cult leader and all-around a-hole freakazoid Fred Phelps.

You may not, however, have heard of his son, Nate Phelps. Nate is the 6th of Fred Phelps' 13 children. Rather than follow in his father's footsteps and stay with his family clan, Nate chose to leave home at 18 and has never looked back. He denounces all of his family's homophobic beliefs and, through lots of thoughtful contemplation, is an atheist.

What's sort of shocking--as if there's anything about the Phelpses that can't be called "shocking"--is that Nate shines a light on the secretive Phelps compound and reveals the chilling physical abuse he and his siblings endured while growing up, both at the hands of their father and each other--at their father's direction. You can read some of Nate's story on his website. He's also busy writing a memoir.

Real Baby Killers

WICHITA, Kan. - One of the most brutal child abuse cases made headlines this week in Kansas. Yes, there are real "baby killers" in society. Are we finally prepared to have a grown-up discussion on women and reproductive decisions?

Let's begin by first examining the sanctity of life philosophy of men like Scott Roeder. The philosophy is grounded in the theory that any pregnant woman, and I mean any woman, say a 12 year old girl with Down's syndrome, has the moral duty to carry her fetus to term regardless of any other issues or common sense facts. Or, let's use a different example. A woman in her early twenties who has no job, is hooked on drugs, lives with an abusive boyfriend and she also has anger management issues, is pregnant. Which is the more ethical choice? Deny both these females a safe, humane option to ending their pregnancies if they wish to do so, or uphold the sanctity of life and demand these women give birth?

GREAT BEND, Kan. - 37-year-old Congressional candidate Rob Wasinger was born and raised in Hays, but left the state in high school when he enrolled in an exclusive Massachusetts Boarding School known as Deerfield Academy. He spent his last two high school years in Massachusetts.

Then Wasinger attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He married a New Hampshire girl, owns a home in Virginia, and lived in the Washington, D.C. area for at least 12 years working for Senator Sam Brownback.

Rolling Stone magazine said Wasinger "speaks with a Harvard drawl." Wasinger and his family moved to Cottonwood Falls, KS recently to make him eligible to run for Congress in the First Congressional District, but where is his heart: East Coast or Western Kansas?

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

LAWRENCE, Kan. - In this profile, we are honored to introduce KFP correspondent, Amber Fraley. She is a graduate of the University of Kansas (go 'Hawks!) where she achieved a bachelor of arts in English. These days, she is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer living in Lawrence. She has over ten years experience working as a professional writer, editor and reporter for newspapers and magazines.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - There are eight candidates for First District, U.S. Congress. Democrat Alan Jilka of Salina is the only Democratic candidate. Republican candidates include State Senator Tim Huelskamp (R-Fowler), State Senator Jim Barnett (R-Emporia), Rob Wasinger (R-Cottonwood Falls), Tracey Mann (R-Salina), Monte Shadwick (R-Salina), Sue Boldra (R-Hays), and Marck Cobb (R-McPherson).

My question for each of them is this: If you lose the August 3 primary, or the November 2 general election, will you still live in the First District, or will you move back to an urban area?

Jilka, Huelskamp, Barnett, Shadwick, and Boldra are longtime residents of the First District. I don't even need to ask them, because I know they are going to continue to live out here with us country folks whether they win or lose. I know this because they have lived here for decades. They like it here. I don't know anything about candidate Marck Cobb of McPherson, but he appears to be a McPherson townie.

But Wasinger and Mann? That's the $64,000 question.

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

SHAWNEE, Kan. - In this profile, we are honored to introduce KFP correspondent, Milack Talia. He is an attorney, businessman and public servant living in Shawnee, in eastern Kansas. Milack serves as business manager of an advertising firm and as the Kansas State Representative for the 23rd District. He graduated from KU in 2003 with his law degree and in 2000 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Milack is proud also that during high school he became an Eagle Scout. He explains that each chapter of his life has provided opportunities for triumph in the face of struggle.

The Kansas Free Press is honored to occasionally publish illustrations created by our friend, artist Angelo Lopez. He is a regular contributor to KFP's sister publication, Everyday Citizen. Turn this page if you'd like to read Angelo's very interesting essay about his inspiration for drawing the cartoons above.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Governor Mark Parkinson is refreshingly honest, and sometimes his verbal sugarplums take your breath away for their candor. One such moment happened when Parkinson was in Hutchinson recently. As noted by the Hutchinson News in the editorial "Parkinson Tea," the Governor let loose this zinger last week in Hutchinson:

"What's happening in Kansas is that when times are very good, when we have lots of revenue, we cut taxes for wealthy people. When times are bad, we cut services for everyone else."

How true. And how refreshing to hear a politician "tell it like it is," as Howard Cosell would say. For a long time, perhaps due to his 6'5" frame, his rare intelligence, and his reputation for honesty, I have thought of Parkinson in Lincolnian terms. About 15 years ago I sent him a letter to his home in Olathe, and it was returned to Great Bend as "undeliverable". The postmark was "Springfield, Illinois," Lincoln's hometown. I have the undelivered letter boxed up somewhere.

Google Becomes Topeka

HOBOKEN, N.J. - Google users from across the United States today were surprised to see that the premier search engine and world changer has changed its name to Topeka. This is a sight that should not be missed. Who knows how long it will last? But it must be seen to be believed. Log on right now to and check it out. To find out more about the background of this stranger-than-sci fi event, see

Unhappily for loyal Topekans, the name change did not extend globally. In Mexico the page says, "Dia de tontos" or day of stupid people.

Crazyville Redux

WICHITA, Kan. - It has been two weeks now since the recent country wide window smashing incident that among other places effected Kansas also. My question and asked by others is where is the outrage? Not among those who support the Democratic party or progressivism, but those on the other side of the aisle. Those who on any other issue scream the "Rule of Law", their has been several ordinary Republican/Conservative citizens who have called the Sedgwick County Democratic Headquarters and expressed their displeasure at the recent vandalism. However from GOP leadership nothing but silence, no condemnation from either Senators Brownback or Roberts nor from Congressman Tiahrt who represents Sedgwick county.

Also silent, State GOP chair Amanda Atkins, Sedgwick County Republican Chair Kelly Arnold, and every member of the South Central Republican delegation, candidate, and office holder. Several members of the GOP delegation pride themselves on being moderates yet they too remain silent? Either they are attempting to placate the fringe elements of their base for votes, afraid of the fringe elements or approve of violent tactics themselves and only give lip service to being moderates in order to get votes.

HUTCHINSON, Kan. - The 7th Annual Cruisin' Against Bruisin' Car Show is a fundraising event for the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Center in Hutchinson, Kansas. It is being held Saturday, April 10th from 9 am - 6 pm in the Meadowlark Building located at the Kansas State Fairgrounds.

Jana's Campaign," a non-profit organization started by Christie and Curt Brungardt from Hays, will present from 9 am - 12 pm. Their daughter Jana Mackey's ex-boyfriend murdered her in Lawrence. Since her death, her parents have been active in legislative efforts and promoting domestic violence awareness. After a short presentation they will select a recipient for a trophy sponsored anonymously in Jana's name.

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - "A party of Kaw Indians one day last week succeeded in stealing a keg of whisky from the store at Cottonwood Falls," reported the Emporia News on February 18, 1860. "They all got drunk, and from the effects two men and one squaw were killed. The citizens are endeavoring to have them removed."

About a month before this incident the Kanzas had established their camps on the Diamond and Middle creeks a few miles west of Cottonwood Falls. Here the Indians, having just returned from their winter hunt in central Kansas, traded furs and buffalo robes to an Emporia merchant in exchange for clothing and foodstuffs, especially coffee, sugar, flour, and tobacco.

Although unmentioned in reports of this exchange, whiskey was a common and profitable lubricant of the Indian trade in Kansas. It was no secret that the Kanzas, like other area tribes, had a strong appetite for whiskey.

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This is an archive page containing all stories published in Kansas Free Press in April 2010. These are listed from newest to oldest.

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