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In Honor

GREAT BEND, Kan. - It was strange that the press conference on Wednesday by the University of Kansas about the sports tickets scandal was held on the west campus at the Robert J. Dole Center for Politics. Usually, when the athletic department has a big announcement, such as the hiring of a new coach, the buildings connected to Allen Fieldhouse provide a perfect venue for a big press event.

It seemed like the athletic department wanted to have this press conference as far from Allen Fieldhouse as possible, as if it could distance this scandal from the storied building. Allen Fieldhouse is to basketball what St. Andrews is to golf, and it would have been "bad optics" to hold the press conference on hallowed ground.

HAYS, Kan. - Is empathy declining among young adults? At least one set of researchers has reached this conclusion. A University of Michigan study shows that today's college students are not as empathetic as college students of the 1980s and '90s. The study, presented in Boston at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, analyzes data on empathy among almost 14,000 college students over the last 30 years.

College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago, as measured by standard tests of this personality trait.

Compared to college students of the late 1970s, the study found, college students today are less likely to agree with statements such as "I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective" and "I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me."

Do you know
Don't you wonder
What's going on
Down under

(David Crosby, "Déjà vu")

MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - As I write this, a rainy spring is expressing itself on the prairie in lush grasses and effusive flowers. But down under the ground, in darkness and invisibility, there is an even larger world, even more vibrant and various. This is the "belowground habitat," and it is the focus of increasing study. Ecologists now think the belowground habitat holds many of the secrets of the prairie's power.

george-tiller.jpgWICHITA, Kan. - The Kansas National Organization for Women will honor Dr. George Tiller on the one year anniversary of his brutal assassination. A candlelight vigil will be held to pay tribute to this honorable man's life, work and legacy.

We will gather at 8:00 p.m. on May 31st in Old Town Square, just as we did last year on the evening of his murder. See pictures of last year's vigil here!

Candles will be provided for an in-kind donation.

Speakers will share their memories of Dr. Tiller and messages of peaceful resistance against extremist anti- abortion messaging, legislation and the continued harassment of the doctors that provide necessary abortion care.

WICHITA, Kan. - Dolores & the Picken' Fritter with Henry Harvey will kick off the afternoon's festivities at noon at the Peace Picnic this Memorial Day, May 31, 2010, at Riverside Park in Wichita.

The Peace Picnic, organized by the Peace and Social Center of South Central Kansas and People of Faith for Peace, both Wichita-based peace organizations, has been an annual event for several years. The picnic provides a time and place for people working for peace to meet, socialize, relax, and think about a peaceful world.

Tea Time

tea-party-mad-hatter.jpgHAYS, Kan. - Rand Paul's sweeping victory in Kentucky adds fuel to the already potent Tea Party fire. Paul has a lot of positive qualities: small government advocate, powerful orator, and son of Rep. Ron Paul (R - TX).

Sure, there have been a couple of strange moments since his primary win. We learned that candidate Paul would not have voted for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He also condemned President Obama for criticizing British Petroleum's reaction to the massive oil spill, saying that the president's comments were "un-American."

These statements, however bizarre, do not deflect from the Rand Paul's core message, or that of the Tea Party. And that's the bigger problem.

immigration.gifGREAT BEND, Kan. - Arizona has recently come under fire for its immigration bill. I have heard loud arguments from both sides regarding the legal implications of this law. Those arguments aside, we need to look at the big picture. Is this bill by itself going to be effective, or is it just a political ploy to satisfy those upset with illegal immigration? A lot of wording, but nothing more than the government creating more laws and creating a civil rights debate? I am not going to touch that aspect in this article; whether or not the bill is infringing on the rights of American Citizens.

According to Numbers USA and the PEW research center, both of which are bi-partisan studies, 7.7 million American jobs are held by illegal immigrants. The majority of immigrants come into America seeking jobs. Big business lures illegal immigrants in with the promise of a better life; a life where a man and woman can take care of their families, and live a relatively safe existence. The majority of illegal immigrants come to America for employment.

Is it cost effective for American's to go after illegal immigrants one at a time?

WICHITA, Kan. - Four experts discussed the new health care reform legislation at Wichita State University last Saturday. The experts were: Dr. Richard Skibba, David Wilson (President, Kansas AARP), Bev White (President and CEO of the Center for Health & Wellness), and Monica Flask (Director of Project Acress, Central Plains Regional Health Care Foundation)...

GREAT BEND, Kan. - In my 25 years of practicing law, the most unforgettable lawyer I ever met was Kerry Granger. A whole collage of words and phrases come to mind: colorful, champion of the little guy, eccentric, idealistic, flew by the seat of his pants, a dreamer.

When Granger was found dead of natural causes in his home Saturday afternoon, the Hutchinson News ran a front page "above the fold" story: "Popular Area Lawyer Found Dead in Home." Most lawyers pass away with little publicity, but, as Arthur Miller once wrote, "attention, attention, must finally be paid to such a man" as Kerry Granger.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - "A dedicated group of people are starting a new radio station that serves the public interest." Now there's a headline we get to read about everyday in the for-profit media. NOT! But that very thing is happening here.

2007 logo
In 2005 and 2007, a group of Manhattanites, community members and K-State students, attended the National Conference for Media Reform in St. Louis and Memphis sponsored by Free Press. Free Press is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to reform the media. Free Press uses education, organizing and advocacy to promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, quality journalism, and universal access to communications.

With the framework and knowledge gained at the conferences, local citizens began to question what the local Manhattan media was providing them in terms of content and diversity of opinion. What they found was a media landscape in which the major issues of the day were reduced to sound bites and celebrity trivia was pushed as meaningful content.

donkey-and-elephant.gifGREAT BEND, Kan. - "We the People" are angry. And they are angry at elitists in both big business and big government. And there seems to be a "sweet spot" where the unhappy people on the left and the right agree. And that "sweet spot" of commonality is twofold: 1) hatred for Wall Street; 2) dislike of unnecessary wars.

You could talk to Rand Paul on the right or Ralph Nader on the left. They would disagree on much, but both would agree that Wall Street has too much influence on both parties, and that the bipartisan bailout of Wall Street was just wrong. And both agree that the Iraq War never should have been authorized or waged.

2010 Candidate for Attorney General
Sen. Derek Schmidt (R)
GREAT BEND, Kan. - In 2002, Republican Governor Graves faced a $300 million budget shortfall. And a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans like Senator Derek Schmidt passed a $252 million dollar tax increase to prevent massive cuts to education, social services, highways and law enforcement.

Back then, Schmidt was unashamedly affiliated with the moderate Republican party. Kansas actually has three de facto parties: Democrats, moderate Republicans, and conservative Republicans. And Schmidt's entire career, up until this year, seemed to be a homage to his former boss and mentor, Nancy Kassebaum.

The tax increases Schmidt helped pass on May 16, 2002 included a sales tax increase, an inheritance tax increase, a cigarette tax, and an increased franchise tax for businesses, among other things.

Brad's Question

economy.gifCOLBY, Kan. - A few days ago, Brad asked a question in his comment on Marty Keenan's post, addressing taxes and education. "So while I like the idea of people pressing their legislatures for more funding, how can one be sure the tax increase will be targeted to the programs we want?"

Well, Brad, in a perfect world you wouldn't need to worry about it, would you? However, we don't live in a perfect world. - too many of us imperfect human beings -

When the majority of us 'adults' have progressed beyond our infantile stage, when we were aware of only our immediate needs - dry diapers - warm milk - cozy covers - etc. - and learn that we can't always be the center of attention and that by screaming louder, we can't get what we want - then maybe we can expect society to understand equity and fair treatment for everyone.

A Diagnosis and No Help

EMPORIA, Kan. - Hi, my name is Josh Slaughter, and I have "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome." Now I'm sure half of you laughed and the other half of you are looking for a rope to hang me for being racist. First let me state, it's not my term. That term comes from the United State government who have classified "Chinese Food Syndrome" as a small to no threat to America.

Let me go back though. Let me go back to when it all started, before thousands of dollars of doctor bills. Before the months of enduring more pain than I would ever wish on anyone.

Take a journey with me, through my illness, and be ready at the end for me to call you to action.

BASEHOR, Kan. - I'm torn. I can see both sides of an issue that's very dear to me: General Aviation flying, particularly from small community airports. As a smartaleck once said, "If a man can see both sides of a problem, you know that none of his money is tied up in it." Well, that's me: I don't have any money tied up in it directly. But, as a taxpayer and a community supporter, I do have money tied up in it.

There's a major effort underway in General Aviation (GA) to save as many small- and medium-sized airports as possible from shutting down and, at the same time, to protect the users of those airports from increased fees and taxes. General Aviation, by the way, is a term that refers to just about anything other than scheduled passenger service by the airlines.

EMPORIA, Kan. - Today brings news from China of another in a string of recent attacks on students by knife-wielding maniacs. Perhaps it is an inevitable sign of a society in transition and the lack of psychological services within China but what does that have to do with Kansas? Plenty!

Take a look at your regional state university. I don't have figures for Emporia State where my wife teaches but anybody in Emporia will tell you that the Chinese students make up a significant fraction of the student body. Almost all of these students are paying full out of state tuition rates which serves to keep the cost of in-state tuition lower for the locals.

UPDATED - See Below.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Buried in the 2011 Budget passed by the Kansas Legislature last week is a cut of 50% to the public radio and television stations in Kansas.

The Kansas House included a $903,161 cut in the annual budget allocation for public radio and television. The 50% cut affects stations statewide but has particular impact on stations in the western portion of the state, where the state funding represents a larger portion of the budget.

High Plains Public Radio (HPPR) has told its listeners that the station will see a cut of more than $120,000. Being that we are the doorstep of the new fiscal year, HPPR had already budgeted to receive the same allocation as they had in 2010.

For High Plains and the other public stations these cuts are drastic, without precedent, and threaten each public broadcasting station's ability to bring high-quality, independent, informative programs the state.

CERT: Community Emergency Response Team

BASEHOR, Kan. - Congress has provided funds through the Citizen Corps to assist local communities in quick response to emergency situations--particularly when first responders may be overwhelmed. These local programs, called Community Emergency Response Teams, allow groups of trained citizens to literally "care for themselves" by being first on the scene when disaster strikes. They're able to self organize and provide immediate assistance to their friends and neighbors while waiting for first responders. A multi-part training program is available, free of charge, to those who are interested.

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Dean Olufson a web design manager from Olathe has been a
Lisa Johnston
registered Republican for over 20 years. Having known U.S. Senate Candidate Lisa Johnston for the past eight years, Olufson says he was "quite surprised by her announcement speech and how she articulated her views." Olufson admits he has always voted Republican, yet "I am extremely tired of politics as usual from both sides. I believe she's [Johnston] worth listening to and watching as the race unfolds."

Of his own party, Olufson admits, "While I'm sure she'll be raked over the coals for not having political experience, I think it's exactly what we need." Olufson refers to Johnston as someone who has worked with many in Kansas communities and is not another talking head.

"She has real things she wants to accomplish and she isn't doing it by tearing down the other side. She's more interested in working and listening than she is in getting in front of the cameras and having her 15 minutes of fame. She's an ordinary citizen..." Olufson believes in getting "back to basics" and says that is the message he is hearing and is willing to support.

LA CYGNE, Kan. - Kansas Secretary of State Chris Biggs of Junction City, and Senator Chris Steineger from Kansas City, KS sat side by side in La Cygne last weekend to share views on what the secretary of state office includes, and what it does not include. Both will face-off in the primary on the Democratic ticket, while three Republicans also are vying for the same position.
Chris Steineger

Steineger has served in the state senate for 14 years, eight of which were spent on the election committee. As a small real estate business owner, Steineger believes he is uniquely qualified to be secretary of state because of his many years in the senate dealing with election laws, his ability to balance a budget from his personal business, dealing with banks and marketing, and his customer service skills.

Steineger said Kansas elections have been fairly run, however, he also stated that Republican Candidate Kris Kobach's claim that illegal immigrants voting is a problem "is totally patently false. Ron Thornburgh (former secretary of state) looked into that and denied it was a problem."

Speaks Volumes for the Future

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - One hundred fifty years ago Council Grove was a bustling commercial center for the New Mexico trade. From April 24 to June 24 "there passed the Grove" en route to Santa Fe 1,400 wagons, 372 horses, 3,868 mules, 11,705 oxen, and 65 carriages bearing 3,562 tons (7,000,000 lbs.) of freight.

But in May 1860, Colorado rather than New Mexico was the primary destination of most of the traffic on the Santa Fe Road and, rather than commercial operators, most of the travelers were emigrants.

"Pike's Peak emigration through Council Grove is now numbering about fifty wagons a day," observed the May 14 Council Grove Press. Two weeks earlier on a single day over 150 wagons bound for Pike's Peak had passed through Council Grove.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Governor Mark Parkinson's recent 'call for civility' urges state lawmakers of both parties to come together to serve the common good:

Two weeks ago, in my letter to legislators welcoming them back for the veto session, I wrote about Kansas' ability to rise above the partisan bickering seen in Washington and come together to solve real problems.

Today, the 88th day of a 90 day Session, I am disappointed to see that civility slipping away. The political games, divisive debates and entrenched gridlock of Washington have found their way to Topeka. And fanning the flames of partisanship is the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

This weekend, the president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce was quoted as saying that by passing a one-cent sales tax to prevent further cuts to schools, Medicaid and safety-net services, the legislature has "catered to the needs of those at the government trough."

It is heartbreaking to think that somebody would equate the disabled, the elderly, school children, veterans, law enforcement and the poor to pigs at a trough...

Winter Poems

PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. - As a change of pace I am posting a few poems I wrote this winter and late spring.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - My Dad's phone rang at 1:30 a.m. yesterday morning. My stepmother picked up the phone and heard that her brother, Walter Hickel, age 90, had died in Anchorage, Alaska. Walter Hickel, two time Governor of Alaska, and former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, led an amazing life. My stepmother, Patty Degner Keenan, was one of ten children in the family.

Wally Hickel was born in Claflin, Kansas and didn't leave the Kansas state lines until a Claflin High School trip ventured him and his fellow classmates to Kansas City, MO. He loved Kansas and the wide open spaces, and returned often to see his nine siblings.

As a boy, the thing that bothered him about the family home and farm was that his Dad was a tenant farmer. The family home was owned by a family named Grizzell, and Hickel's father owned no farm ground.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - One of the reasons politicians move to the right, to the right, further to the right, is because that's where the money is. The 48 Kansas House of Representative members who voted for the "Yoder" budget, which would have resulted in major trauma to our schools, universities, social services, and law enforcement, ended up with the best of both worlds.

A group of Democrats and moderate Republicans stepped in and did the right thing, raising revenue to prevent a meltdown of our state institutions. So the 48 Yoderites
will not be blamed for a meltdown, plus they get to brag on their campaign brochures that they "rejected all tax increases."

GREAT BEND, Kan. - It was supposed to be a quiet Memorial Day, going to the Great Bend Cemetery to decorate graves, maybe a cookout in the evening. But May 27, 2002 started with an ominous call from my sister, a few blocks away at my parents' house: "Something is wrong with mom. She is at the hospital. It may be a heart attack."

My mom? Why she was just 72, in perfect health, to my knowledge. And her Mennonite parents both lived into their 90's. I was worried, but as I headed to the hospital I just knew they would figure out what was wrong and fix it. I probably could have gone into the emergency room and talked to her, but I didn't. I guess I didn't want to interfere with her treatment. When the Great Bend hospital decided to Lifewatch her to Wichita by helicopter, I was really scared, but I still thought---well, I guess I was in denial.

WICHITA, Kan. - Kansas Secretary of Labor Jim Garner made some timely remarks on the importance of OSHA and unemployment compensation at the 2010 Workers' Memorial Day observance in Wichita, Kansas. The event was sponsored by the Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation.

Garner points out that the unemployment benefits program has pumped $1 billion into the Kansas economy in the last year.. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, has led to a remarkable decline in deaths and injuries on the job.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Practicing law wasn't my first career choice. My first choice was to play first base for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But even by 4th grade Pee Wee League in Great Bend, I was too slow, couldn't field, was scared of the ball, and warmed the bench. When I got my two front teeth knocked out by an errant bat in 7th grade, I was terrified of the bat and the ball. As a player, baseball was over for me.

I wasn't very good at all. But we all loved the game. Summers were about baseball. And when we weren't playing for the St. Patricks' Crusaders (each school had it's own team then), we spent most afternoons in "pick up games" on local diamonds. A few phone calls and you could have a pick up baseball game going in half an hour.

john-brown-capitol-mural-anti-slavery.jpgGREAT BEND, Kan. - The Kansas House of Representatives today voted 79-44 to require preparation of a State Land and Property Inventory by Aug, 30, compilation of market values for each item by Nov. 30, and liquidation proposals by Jauary 31. The budget shortfall is that bad.

I come from an auctioneer family. So I hope you can forgive me a little literary license as I envision the highlights of the "State of Kansas Auction: Sell our Past for Our Childrens' Future," auction, to be held next Winter.

One can almost hear the auctioneer, kicking off the auction: "Our first item on the sale bill is the famous John Brown Mural located at the Kansas Statehouse. This priceless John Steuart Curry Mural can be safely removed from the wall and preserved for safekeeping and private display. Who would start the bidding at Ten Million Dollars?"

Bored With Beauty

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Society's obsession with perfectly plastic people has gotten out of hand. Every day I see hundreds of half naked men and women flashed before me on the television screen, selling me everything from lingerie to toothbrushes. I am not sure what sexuality has to do with brushing my teeth, but advertisers must believe there is a correlation. At the very least they believe I am so dumb I do not realize I am being sold sex.

I have become completely bored with pre-packaged beauty. I have never found great interest in it anyway. A compliment of physical beauty does not hold much merit. Beauty is something we are in little control of. Intelligence and motivation, that is something we do have control of, something that I do put stock into, and consider a great compliment if I should receive either of those.

EMPORIA, Kan. - Rory Pugh grew up in Southern Kansas, a part of the state none for it's red dirt and football. Not necessarily the part of the state you would think about when talking about state championship caliber debate and forensics programs. Rory was lucky though, Rory went to Chaparral High School where state championship caliber debate and forensics programs weren't only prevalent, but expected by those who walked and talked within the walls.

Now at the young age of 21 he is making his run for the state legislature. He will run in the state's 116th district against an entrenched incumbent and a republican should he make his way out of the primary.

Pugh was a two time state placer in debate in a program that placed at State from 2002-2007 and also three times placed in the top five at forensics state in that period. He spoke in a recent interview with me about how he thought debate and forensics really prepared him for a future in politics.

"When in high school, I was a member our debate team," said Pugh. "There I learned how to effectively research a subject and build comprehensive arguments that were able to convey my side to those listening."

EMPORIA, Kan. - While many people have found many reasons to strongly dislike the new immigration legislation in Arizona. It's effect will reach more than just the work-a-day world it could have far reaching effects in the sports world as well.

According to the Kansas City Royal's director of Player relations the change could hurt the Royals minor league system in Arizona immensely. Eighty-percent of the currently Royals Arizona Rookie Squad Roster is players of foreign descent here playing on work visas.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Florida Governor Charlie Crist's decision to bolt the GOP primary and run as an independent is a major development that shows just how far out in right field the GOP has located itself. A recent article in The Nation entitled "Charlie Crist's Declaration of Independence -- and Sanity" contained a fascinating reference to Bob Dole:

"Crist is best understood as a idealogical inheritor of Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kansas, or perhaps, former President George Herbert Walker Bush. For instance, Crist supports capital punishment and gun rights and opposes same sex marriage and, though he opposes overturning Roe v. Wade, he has appointed anti-choice jurists to the Florida Supreme Court. That's hardly the profile of a social moderate in any realistic sense."

The Lessons of Santiago

SANTIAGO, Chile - I don't suppose I'm unusual in this regard, but I often feel that traveling is the only time I feel really alive. Back home embedded in the rules and routines of life, captured in a web of entanglements, obligations, bills to pay, forms to complete, deadlines to meet, habits to maintain, bores to honor -- it can suck the life right out of you. But when I'm traveling I feel like Jesse James on the run. I know they're going to catch up with me eventually, but at the moment I am two steps ahead of them. I am free.

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About This Page

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

April 2010 is the previous archive and June 2010 is the next one.

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