Front Page » Monthly Archives » Archives: June 2011

old-glory-forever.gifSALINA, Kan. - The Fourth of July and its accompanying outburst of patriotism are fast approaching. Unfortunately, the word "patriotic" is quickly becoming bastardized in popular culture. We have tea partiers and Sarah Palin to thank.

Look back at coverage of tea party rallies this past spring. Inevitably you'll see a quote from a speaker or an attendee about how great it is to be with so many "patriotic" Americans. By implication, if you're not one of those who buy into the bogus notion that most of our country's debt and other problems were caused by Barack Obama, you're not considered patriotic. That, of course, is pure nonsense.

These self-described patriots are suspicious of Obama in part because he lived four of his grade school years in Indonesia. Having been corrupted by exposure to another culture he possibly doesn't share "our values." Indonesia is the world's fourth most populated nation and has the world's largest Muslim population. It can't hurt to know a little about it.

Koch Brothers Outsource Jobs

koch-industries.jpgEMPORIA, Kan. - This week brings news that several Republican governors attended a "retreat" in Vale, Colorado sponsored by the influential Koch brothers.

Charles and David Koch are the heirs to Koch Industries, one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S., and a driving force in far-right Republican politics. Using Astro-turf organizations like Americans for Prosperity (full disclosure: I attended one of their "candidate trainings" in Topeka while running for Emporia City Council which included glossy brochures that referenced how The Left liked to steal elections), the Koch brothers lavish campaign donations to those who are willing to embrace their brand of 1920's capitalism.

The Kochs made their billions the old fashioned way. They inherited it! Hence, they were raised by their parents to subscribe to a political and economic philosophy that is based on the supposed "enlightened oligarchy" model of democracy that existed during the run-up to the Great Depression. Back then, a handful of families such as the Rockefellers, Carnegies and Vanderbilts controlled the levers of economic power.

elephant-on-his-head.jpgBASEHOR, Kan. - The poor Republicans. They've been in such a hurry to run to the microphone to denounce anything that runs afoul of their cherished "no taxes, no regulation" ideology that they've neglected to notice that they're increasingly becoming irrelevant as a party of ideas. In a sign that those cracks are growing ever larger, Senator Tom Coburn, (R) Oklahoma, submitted a bill for consideration that would eliminate tax subsidies for the ethanol boondoggle, something that Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, said amounted to a tax increase.

Fareed Zakaria, in his recent Time Magazine opinion piece, wrote about conservatives' outmoded ideology, saying,

Consider the debates over the economy. The Republican prescription is to cut taxes and slash government spending -- then things will bounce back. Now, I would like to see lower rates in the context of tax simplification and reform, but what is the evidence that tax cuts are the best path to revive the U.S. economy? Taxes -- federal and state combined -- as a percentage of GDP are at their lowest level since 1950. The U.S. is among the lowest taxed of the big industrial economies. So the case that America is grinding to a halt because of high taxation is not based on facts but is simply a theoretical assertion. The rich countries that are in the best shape right now, with strong growth and low unemployment, are ones like Germany and Denmark, neither one characterized by low taxes.

Where Do We Go From Here?

great-seal-of-kansas.pngELLIS, Kan. - The legislature has now adjourned, and the governor has signed the budget that was the primary responsibility of the women and men we elected to represent us during the session. Because a state budget is an expression of our priorities and values as Kansans, it should not be surprising that there are multiple and competing interpretations about what it all means.

Some Kansans are aghast. The state with John Steuart Curry murals in the capitol building no longer has a state-funded arts commission. K-12 funding has been set back to levels we have not seen in nearly two decades. Commitment to higher education is stagnate, although the anxiety level of anyone who works in the public sector is through the roof. And in a climate of financial crisis we are actually going to spend more money to make voting harder. As a northwest Kansas Democrat who cares about working across partisan and ideological divides for the good of Kansas, I am one of those who worries about the direction our state is headed.

Finding Value in the Land

MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - Bravo, Governor Brownback! I disagree with our Republican governor on many things -- the elimination of funding for the arts, the squeeze on education, the obstacles to voting (more on those policies in a future column).

But I applaud his stance on the Flint Hills. The Governor is using the power of his office to protect the Flint Hills and its highly productive but endangered ecosystem, the tall grass prairie.

During her time in office, Gov. Sebelius protected a small part of the Flint Hills (including Geary and Riley Counties) from wind development, and Governor Parkinson continued her policy. Sebelius called the off-limits area "the Heart of the Flint Hills." On May 6, 2011, Governor Brownback doubled the protected area, from 4673 to 10,895 square miles, an expanse now stretching to the Oklahoma border. He calls his no-go zone the "Tallgrass Heartland." It is not protected by law -- only by his (like Sebelius's and Parkinson's) high-profile request for voluntary cooperation. Such a gubernatorial call is a powerful shield, however, as life can be miserable for utilities or developers on the wrong side of the state.

WICHITA, Kan. - Wichita and abortion have a long and tumultuous history. The city epitomizes the climate of intolerance against this legal and necessary medical procedure. Wichita was once a town with five abortion clinics. A hostile political climate combined with organized terrorist activity, which ultimately culminated with the murder of Dr. George Tiller has successfully eliminated abortion in the city - for the time being.

We stand ready and waiting for our next physician and abortion rights champion, Dr. Mila Means, to open her clinic and offer the abortion access that this city needs. Meanwhile, the election of a new clan of anti-abortion zealots passing more restrictive laws, combined with the threats of violence against our new doctor leaves our community's fate in the balance.

Everyone is invited to come on June 24 and join Kansas NOW, Dr. Mila Means, Attorney Lee Thompson and Stephen Singular, the author of The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle over Abortion for a discussion of the intersection of religion, politics, abortion and terrorism.

Event details here...

Both Sides of Their Mouths

brownback.jpgSALINA, Kan. - With the Legislature adjourned for the year Governor Sam Brownback and his staff are now devoting themselves to the creation of news events to keep his name out among the Kansas electorate. With that in mind last week the governor took off on a five-stop trip to tout projects included in the state's new transportation plan. Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley reacted by calling the governor "disingenuous." He's right.

Brownback's conservative allies in the Legislature fiercely opposed additional spending on highways last year. And during last year's gubernatorial campaign Brownback hammered away at opponent Tom Holland's support for the one-cent sales tax, forty percent of which went to fund the program.

Brownback's Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer, in an act of great political courage last year as a state senator, voted for the highway plan, and against the sales tax to fund it.

Making Brownback's tour even more cynical are the actions of his close friends at the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Taking it to the Streets

WICHITA, Kan. - Since the takeover of the governor's office and the Kansas statehouse by extremist right-wing politicians, many people have advocated taking to the streets with their grievances. And there are grievances aplenty, including budget cuts and other legislation voted on by majority right-wing Republican legislators, and a few Democrats, and signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback.

In fact, many people have already taken their grievances to the streets. Protests so far have included rallies by union members and supporters in Topeka on Jan. 22, 2011, Planned Parenthood supporters, who marched in support of continued Planned Parenthood state funding, families and supporters of the disabled, public education, Kansas Arts Commission supporters, Public Broadcasting, and gay rights supporters, among others. Every one of these groups has mounted some kind of street action against budget cuts and anti-public education, anti-choice, anti-arts, anti-immigrant, and anti-gay rights actions in the Kansas House and Senate.

Great Bend Politics Gone Awry

man-sheep-taxpayers.jpgGREAT BEND, Kan. - Corruption in Federal politics is all too common. What really surprises me is when we have possible corruption at a local level. Right here in Great Bend.

All of us know that a corporation named Red Barn came into Great Bend. This week, through research, I found a deed to Mayor Mike Allison's home. What most of us don't know is that Kan-Can Holdings LLC, which owns Red Barn, purchased Mayor Mike Allison's home in February of 2010. Actually, his house was first purchased by a Red Barn executive, and then within a year, completely transferred to the corporation.

When Red Barn came into Great Bend, the city gave Red Barn thousands of dollars in cash incentives (which come out of taxes; citizens in Great Bend pay this) and also hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax incentives (taxes that Red Barn would have owed but will not have to pay).

In essence, Mayor Mike Allison took hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the Great Bend current and future budgets to give to this company. Shortly thereafter, his house was sold to the same corporation.

medicare_protest2.gifGREAT BEND, Kan. - In April, purposed changes were made to Medicare in the House of Representatives. The outlook is bleak for Western Kansas. A recent report from the United States House of Representatives informs us what those changes will look like in the 1st Congressional District in Kansas. This will directly effect you, your parents, and children. Take a look at the numbers.

Under last year's Affordable Care Act, the donut hole for seniors was closed. Under the NEW Republican Medicare plan, the donut hole will be wide open for individuals 54 and older, a voucher program will be instilled to purchase private health insurance.

Who doesn't love red tape or bureaucracy when it comes to their grandparent's receiving health care or insurance?

WICHITA, Kan. - George W. Bush has been invited to speak before the Wichita Chamber of Commerce on November 3rd, 2011.

Citizen activists in Wichita are outraged by the decision to invite Bush. It does appear to be a rather puzzling choice. The Chamber is either suffering from acute amnesia or else does not truly believe in its own goals of creating a positive and strong economic climate by electing "pro-business" candidates since it has no problem inviting a former official who nearly drove the American economy over the cliff.

Bush not only created the nation's crippling deficit by committing troops to fight in two extremely expensive wars, but also gave tax breaks to the most wealthy in society. On top of these grave errors, the banking industry and financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers were running wild with their derivatives scheme by passing off bad mortgages to another company and making their cut until the bubble burst and the scheme was realized. Even as companies were run aground and people evicted from their homes, the CEOs of the very companies that had created the financial meltdown were awarded huge bonuses for their incompetence and thievery. This pathetic story of greed and more greed continues to threaten any real economic stability and financial recovery in America.

Seeking 'Adults in the Room'

SALINA, Kan. - Political commentators nowadays, when discussing a fiercely partisan issue, frequently express the hope that the "adults in the room" will intervene to resolve the matter. Nowhere is this need more pressing than the current national debate over how to reign in our huge federal budget deficit. This battle pits the "adults," against ideologues in both parties. The stakes are huge.

Over the summer this battle will play itself out in two parts. There will be hand-wringing and brinksmanship over a measure to expand the nation's credit limit. And then the two sides will get down to the formulation of a budget for the upcoming fiscal year which starts in October.

In one sense the solution to the budget dilemma is simple. We need to bring in more money and spend less. But then the ideologues enter with their zeal and callous disregard for facts and math.

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - The Kanza slept with their leggings and moccasins on despite the warm June nights. The Indians tied their horses at their heads to be ready to run while others kept an overnight watch.

From the start it had been a Fool's Errand, a situation made plain when the ten men in the exploring party reached what in 1847 white people called "Grand Point," the Kanza name "Big Bottoms," today known as Junction City. Here the Indians became apprehensive. A few days before Kanza scouts spotted their powerful enemies, Comanches, near Big Bottoms.

The leader, U.S. Indian agent Richard W. Cummins, was informed the six Kanza in his party "were unwilling to proceed any further west." Recent events validated the Indians' fears. The previous July the Comanche and Kanza battled near the Pawnee Fork [west of present Larned], both tribes suffering heavy losses. At Cummins' insistence, the little expedition pushed a little further out into the plains. If detected, they would have been easily cut off by the Comanche, although Cummins thought at least some of the Kanza could have escaped. Not far west of Big Bottoms, the agent ordered a halt, concluding "it very dangerous to proceed any further." After another deliberation, the anxious men retreated east down the Kansas River valley.

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

May 2011 is the previous archive and July 2011 is the next one.

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