Front Page » Monthly Archives » Archives: January 2011


MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - I'm so glad this wild winter storm didn't come in over the weekend, as I was able to drive to the Salina Art Center on Sunday and take in Stephen Vitiello's exhibition, "Tall Grasses."

Stephen Vitiello is a composer, electronic musician, and "soundscape" artist. He is known for recording the sounds of a particular place and using those sounds in his compositions. One of his best known works is "The World Trade Center Recordings," made in 1999. Two years before the destruction of the World Trade Center, he recorded the sound of wind around the 91st story, with city traffic in the background. He has also used the sounds of bells, firecrackers, planes, insects, and barking dogs in other works.

For his Salina installation, Vitiello recorded sounds on a ranch west of Salina. Being a fan of the prairie, I was eager to hear what an artist of Vitiello's stature had done with Kansas's signature landscape.

symphony-children.jpgTOPEKA, Kan. - When Oliver Cromwell finally defeated Charles I of England in 1649, Cromwell ushered in a Puritan state. All theaters of the realm were closed, and Cromwell banned any gaming, card playing, or sports because he viewed them as immoral and a distraction from the important task of contemplating God. The people were to focus on leading a pure life to make their way to heaven.

The people quickly discovered just how bland, boring and unsatisfying a life without the arts were, and at the end of Cromwell's rule, the public was more than ready to restore the Stuart Monarchy and enjoy the theater again.

In the spirit of Oliver Cromwell, Governor Brownback has decided the arts are expendable in a time of state budget concerns. I can't help but wonder if behind this cost savings measure there isn't another motive. After all, the arts are infamous for promoting randy and immoral lifestyles as well as indoctrinating the public with dangerous liberal ideas therefore, how convenient to call for cutting the arts to save the Kansas budget.

Will Your Retirement Funds Be There?

social-security-lock-box.jpgCOLBY, Kan. - We can't trust our luck. The attacks that have been waged against the Social Security program, from its conception, have been relentless. We read daily the charges that Social Security: was bad from the beginning; has ruined the economy; has made welfare a way of life for the elderly; is plunging us deeper and deeper into debt. We have been lucky that the system has survived the distortions that have gone unchallenged, for the most part. It is time we challenge those distortions before the lies have been told so many times that people begin to think they are the truth. Don't trust your congressman to protect the Social Security System without hearing from you.

Trust. What does that word mean? If you have a good thesaurus, you might be surprised at all the synonyms and associations or combinations of words that imply trust. For the purpose of this article, I choose to use the following definition; something (as property) held by one party (the trustee) for the benefit of another (the beneficiary).

TOPEKA, Kan. - KOSE Executive Director Jane Carter responded to the amendment reducing salaries and wages of state employees by 7.5 Percent with the following statement:

"The membership of the Kansas Organization of State Employees (KOSE), as well as every state worker who has dedicated their careers to public service, are disappointed with the news coming out of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday.

"As the amendment offered by Rep. DeGraaf passed out of the House Appropriations Committee, cutting the salaries and wages of state workers by 7.5% through June 30, 2011, I thought of the already underpaid and underappreciated state employees who do the people's work every day--clearing roads, providing care to the disabled and vulnerable, protecting our neighborhoods, and keeping our state running. How are these workers going to make ends meet now after it has already been determined that they are severely underpaid?"

WICHITA, Kan. - Throughout our political history politicians have accepted the wise imperative that one's personal faith should be separate from politics. As President Kennedy took great pains to explain to a nervous, protestant majority back in the sixties, his faith as a Catholic was not a factor in his role as an elected official. Kennedy explained that he would be president of all the people, not a Catholic president with a hotline to the Pope.

Our Constitution prohibits any religious tests for office. What did this mean beyond the obvious? It meant our Founders were clearly trying to avert a situation where government might be torn apart by sectarian violence. The Founders clearly understood that one's personal faith should have no bearing on the day to day business of government. Religious dogma was dangerous to good government. If public officials were to promote their own personal doctrines into public policy for all citizens to obey, such as the abortion issue, it would have the affect of destabilizing government.

Nepaholla Dreams (Part Four of Four Parts)

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - I think a term useful for rediscovering the sacred in the Kansas landscape is liminality. The liminal is related to a sensory threshold that, like all boundaries, both separates and joins worlds. Liminal places in the Kansas landscape are present, interstices amidst the monoculture fields and development grids. These places can still be found because the land and water, up to a point, are resilient, as are our minds and bodies. From way back all of us, humans and more-than-humans, are wired up for liminal experiences.

Now I'm going to go a bit autobiographical on you. In 2009, I floated the Nepaholla River (aka Solomon River) in a canoe from the Waconda Lake Dam to the Nepaholla's mouth at the Smoky Hill River near the Solomon, a small town located between Salina and Abilene. The trip, actually a series of trips, starting in May and concluding in mid-November, covered 172.4 river miles. Here's what I want to share with you:

  • During the hundred hours or so I was on the water I saw a total of six people: four solitary fishermen, one wood-cutter, and one farmer checking his irrigation equipment.

Why Is China Eating Our Lunch?

the-almightier.gifHAYS, Kan. - China has a national economic strategy designed to create more and better jobs. We have global corporations designed to make money for shareholders, regardless of where they reside.

Robert Reich, author of Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future, recently explained that the United States "doesn't have a national economic strategy. Instead, we have global corporations that happen to be headquartered here."

As many others have pointed out for at least a decade, the U.S. now has two distinct economies. We have the economy of "Main Street" and the economy of "Wall Street."

The two don't move in lock-step anymore; when one is profitable (Wall Street and global corporations), the other economy (made up of American small businesses not located in China or India and including most American citizens) is often unaffected or worsened.

That's why multinational corporations (such as ExxonMobil or Microsoft) are doing really well while many of our neighbors and friends are stressed and hurting.

TOPEKA, Kan. - I was in Topeka when the shootings took place in Tucson. I was deeply involved in personal matters with two parents who entered the emergency room within two days and I was not very tuned in to the news. But the shooting was something so ghastly that almost no one could fail to hear about it.


Imagine -- imagine for a moment, here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that some day she, too, might play a part in shaping her nation's future. She had been elected to her student council. She saw public service as something exciting and hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it.

TUSCON, Ariz. - President Barack Obama flew to Tucson Wednesday to meet with the injured and families of the slain. He hoped to soothe the nation in the address he delivered at the University of Arizona.

One of the most encouraging and unexpected moments of Obama's address was the revelation that critically injured congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, had opened her eyes and that she "knows we are here, she knows we love her, and she knows that we are rooting for her."

Here and on the continuation page, we've published the full transcript of his address entitled "Together We Thrive: Tucson and America." (Click "read more" to see the video and transcript from his speech.)

TOPEKA, Kan. - State services were left absent from the State of the State address. Most saddening is how thousands of state workers may lose their jobs. KOSE Executive Director Jane Carter responded:

"In Governor Brownback's State of the State address the services of the state of Kansas and the employees who provide them were left in the cold, which is harsh considering these single digit temperatures!

"Governor Brownback spoke about hope and opportunity for all Kansans, but then disparages the very services which pull Kansas through good times and bad, and that give many of our citizens hope and opportunity every day. Waste in state government was addressed in the State of the State and KOSE has worked in a bi-partisan fashion to flush out waste and fraud. However, eliminating unfilled positions is a slippery slope that jeopardizes our state hospitals, correctional facilities, and state agencies. "

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Addicted to Violence

two-men-fighting-300px-best-size.gifGREAT BEND, Kan. - Can we finally have a discussion about violence in America? Can we have a conversation without people shouting and grabbing their guns?

Discussing violence is a social taboo, when in reality it is a conversation we need to have. Let's not waste anymore time.

Compared with 168 other countries America has the highest prison population. Compared with 32 other countries America has the highest homicide rate (by fire arm).

Most of us are aware of the Bobo Doll experiment in the 1960's...

Arizona's Vitriol Has Kansas Roots

"When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous." - Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, 01-08-2011

vit·ri·ol: something highly caustic or severe in effect, as criticism

GIRARD, Kan. - In the wake of the shooting rampage in Tucson Saturday, there is as usual, a national introspection, a search for understanding, a search for root causes and contributing factors. This is a common response. This is how we strive to make sense out of the senseless.

The discussion has quickly turned to national figures, who, during the hotly contested midterm elections of 2010, used the language and symbols of guns and violence. Sarah Palin has become the target of her own language with the cross hairs of criticism now focused directly on her. Palin is not alone. The symbolism of violence in political discourse has become commonplace.

Peace Versus Profit

I like to point out that it is easy for war mongers to be war mongers as long as other people are doing the sacrificing. At least people arguing for peace aren't expecting other people to suffer if they get their way." -- John Page, Gulf War Veteran

WICHITA, Kan. - One of the earliest accounts of an anti-war demonstration is found in Aristophanes' Lysistrata. Written in 411 BC, the play is a humorous look at the quest of one woman, Lysistrata, to end the Peloponnesian War. The protest is two-pronged. What most people remember of the play is that Lysistrata rallies the women of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands and lovers until they end the war. More crucial to the success of the protest is that the old women of Athens take over the Acropolis, the site where the state treasury is stored. This of course means the military will be unable to fund the war they're fighting.

The Peloponnesian War lasted from 431 BC to 404 BC, a long war by anyone's standards. The word "Lysistrata" means "Army-disbander" in Attic Greek and, while the women's war protest was only a fiction, the play gives voice to resistance to never-ending war. More importantly, it shows the inseparable relationship of economics to war. Wealth from tribute and land holdings, as well as access to the sea and to silver mines kept hostilities alive for almost thirty years between Athens and Sparta.

Tragedy in Tucson


Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, a Navy
pilot and veteran of Desert Storm; Kelly is an astronaut and
also the only active duty spouse of any member of Congress
DODGE CITY, Kan. - Earlier this week, U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords read from the First Amendment to the Constitution, including the statement that Americans shall have the right to assemble peaceably.

She read it at the microphone in the well of the U.S. House of Representatives. Reading the Constitution aloud was a highly-touted gimmick of Republicans to make the point that THEY believed in the Constitution as the law of the land. Tonight Congresswoman Giffords lies in a Tucson hospital fighting for her life after being shot in the head at close range while holding a "peaceable assembly" for her constituents to hear a report on her activities in the Capitol on their behalf. What irony!

In case you are interested in more irony: shortly before Giffords' election last October, she was "targeted" by Sarah Palin as one of twenty vulnerable Democratic representatives who Republicans could and should beat. In order to show it graphically, Ms. Palin put out a map, with a dot on the place on the map to show the district that each candidate represented. Inside each dot was a cross-hair, like on a gun sight. Three of those were in Arizona. One was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' district.

Why Are We in Afghanistan?

WICHITA, Kan. - Here are some of the good, the worse and the worst reasons, or excuses, for our occupation of Afghanistan.

"This will not end well," George Will, the conservative columnist wrote early on after we lapped our war in Iraq over into Afghanistan. As political predictions go, it was right on. As a matter of fact, it is not even close to ending. Despite President Obama's promises hopes and commitments, Secretary of Defense Gates this week sent in 1400 more troops.

I cringe when I see another announcement of an American soldier, sailor or Marine killed over there or another man from the supporting NATO countries who has died. I always remember the Wartime Prayer found in Eleanor Roosevelt's papers: "Dear Lord, lest I continue my complacent way, help me to remember that somewhere, somehow out there, a man (or woman) died for me today. As long as there be war, I then must ask and answer, 'Am I worth dying for?'"

A World of Hope

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Hope is a powerful word, perhaps one of the most powerful in the English language.

Hope can keep a person in a bad relationship. Hope can cause people to end long term relationships. Hope can fuel wars. Hope can win elections. Hope can even force us to go to a menial job every day.

I have a long list of hopes for life. A never ending list, things are added to this list quicker than can be checked off.

Hope is a symbolic word for social workers and teachers. As Dr. Matthews, a Social Work Professor I once had in college stated, "Social work is not what we do, it is who we are."

How true that is, we trade in money and a comfortable living for hope.

HAYS, Kan. - Many thousands of raucous Americans roared, clapped, and sang, holding placards high above their heads - signs with simple but powerful messages. Hope. Change. I could see the hunger for hope and change in the eyes of the people that day.

I was in Invesco Field in Denver in 2008 as Barack Obama accepted the nomination of his party for President of the United States. With my much coveted 'floor access' press pass, I stood right on the field with fabulous freedom to move around and view the stands filled to the brim with enthusiastic people.

Through my camera lens, I witnessed the sparkling eyes, the tear-drenched cheeks, the exuberant hugging. Even members of the press corps danced and swayed. Those were the heady, hopeful days of 2008.

These are different times.

immigration.gifTOPEKA, Kan. - House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D-Lawrence) says he plans to propose a bill to prevent statewide elected leaders of Kansas from "significant" outside employment while they are suppose to be working full time for the people of Kansas.

Very quickly, Kris Kobach took offense to the proposal describing it as a "brazen attempt to stop me from making the reforms I've made in the illegal immigration area." No word if after this remark Kobach stomped his foot in petulant indignation. The nerve of Rep. Davis proposing that statewide officials attend to their day jobs first and foremost.

Elected officials in Kansas should be doing their jobs instead of using their state office to further promote other political agendas. We all know that Kobach has been far more interested in rustling up illegal immigrants than working all day on that voter stuff. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand why Kobach had to connect illegal immigration to voting fraud or he would lose his convenient excuse to use the Secretary of State office for his own personal and political agenda regarding illegal immigration.

Flexing the Feminist Muscle

SHAWNEE, Kan. - Fighting for women's rights, particularly the right to choose, can be a lot of fun in Kansas. It's something that all of us bra burning, non leg shaving women love to do. In fact, it was just recently that the 'femi-nazis' in the state gathered together. It was a great time. We practiced witchcraft, played with our Ouiji boards, and talked about how we could use "Obamacare" to euthanize our great grandparents. We adjourned for a short pillow fight, and then discussed evil penises over tea. After it was over, we drew sticks to see who would get to be on the front lines for our causes this year. The winner, of course, would get to be called "baby killer" the most over the next legislative session.

You can only imagine the excitement felt by the one who is left holding the coveted longest stick (no pun intended, of course). This sounds like fun, right?

To be a feminist in Kansas requires a "thick skin" (although a sense of humor also helps). That extra layer of "toughness" is needed to deal with the stereotypes that are projected upon us. Often, it's not much short of a battle to deal with the absurdities thrown at us. There is always a counter to our cause.

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About This Page

This is an archive page containing all stories published in Kansas Free Press in January 2011. These are listed from newest to oldest.

December 2010 is the previous archive and February 2011 is the next one.

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