Front Page » Monthly Archives » Archives: December 2011

What China's Progress Means

SALINA, Kan. - First impressions are lasting. And mine was very positive. In November I had the good fortune to be part of a group from Salina that traveled to China for ten days. After a fourteen-hour flight from Los Angeles we arrived at the Beijing International Airport and stepped into another world. Inside the spacious terminal everything was sparkling. The pristine scene contributed to our sense of excitement as we contemplated the adventure that lay ahead of us.

By now I've had time to reflect on the many experiences of our trip. And as I try to sum up my sense of this rising power I keep coming back to the feeling I had when I first arrived.

So, what'd you get for Christmas?

BOGUE, Kan. - Here's a three-part essay about gifts: wildly exaggerated, sadly expensive, and stupid.

Part Ikeystone-pipeline-map.jpg

You probably won't remember, but a couple of columns back I wrote that estimates of new jobs promised by the Keystone XL pipeline carrying tar sands oil varied wildly. Last week, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) claimed 20,000. So where'd he get that?
CNNMoney took a closer look. The 20,000 estimate comes from TransCanada, the corporation who would build the pipeline. They figured 13,000 construction jobs plus 7,000 manufacturing jobs making pipe, etc. But, whoa.

In 'TransCanada-speak' 20,000 means 10,000 jobs lasting for the two years of construction. Using the same formula, one job lasting 5 years would be 5 jobs.

Is Kansas Free Press Relevant?

two-men-talking-reading-newspaper.jpgCOLBY, Kan. - Kansas Free Press is a little more active than its mother media site, Everyday Citizen. The publisher's original intention, I believe, was to allow Kansans to put more local concerns and opinions up for discussion on this site.

I've been around a lot of years, all in Kansas, and I have been made aware of issues and events that I was not aware of, until I read it here. The comment section is certainly not limited to Kansans.

The comments, quite often, are much more detailed and revealing than the original articles. That is good. Most of us regular writers are hoping to get a dialogue going to help people become more involved in society's everyday happenings. Some visitors might think we, the writers, are all cheerleaders praising ourselves. But as you'll discover, we sometimes get into some pretty heated debates amongst ourselves.

At Christmas, Let Us Speak of Piles

uncle-sam-with-poor-woman-in-street-300px.jpgBOGUE, Kan. - Today, piles. No, not the physiological kind. Although the comparison will be useful.

What prompted this column was an unsolicited, anonymously authored email forwarded from an Ellis deep thinker. Well, maybe not so much. It goes like this --

A kindly (or smug, your choice) man accosts his neighbors' "little girl." Both parents, "liberal Democrats," stand by. He asks her what her goal in life is. Wants to be President, she says. Okay, the kindly-smug man asks her what she'd do. Give food and shelter to the homeless, she says. Her parents nod approvingly.

Kindly-smug man says, 'Wow. What a worthy goal. You don't have to wait until you're President to do that!" She can mow his lawn and pull weeds for $50 bucks. Then, he says he'll escort her to where the "homeless guy hangs out," so she can give him the $50 for "food and a new house."

Little girl thinks it over. "Well, why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do
the work, and you can just pay him the $50?"

Kindly-smug man says, "Welcome to the Republican Party."

Hoo boy, gotcha!

See, it's just that simple, right? Homeless and hungry people are all alike. Lazy bums won't work. Democrats (aka liberals, progressives, socialists, commies) don't get it. Right?

'Tis The Season: For what?

COLBY, Kan. - 'Tis the season! What's the season? It's the season that motivates all the arguments about proper salutations. It's the season that merchants hope to make up for the slow economy of the past seasons and years. It's the season that some hope to reclaim their dominance in setting agendas and controlling the content of programs to celebrate the season. It's the season that mental and social professionals tell us more people suffer depression than at any other time in the year. (How sad that is!) All the bitter battles over whether it's 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holiday', a 'Christmas Tree' or a 'Holiday Tree,' whether any particular group has absolute ownership of a particular day, whether we'll sing my choice of songs or your choice of songs, or all the other battles that rage on don't benefit any of us.

The Bird Runner Art of Betsy Roe

MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - Much of artist Betsy Roe's work centers on the contact zone between humans and other animals. Now Betsy is creating an outdoor installation at Bird Runner Wildlife Refuge, and this time that zone is a bloody one -- the place where animals meet our vehicles on the road.

Betsy! Why are you making us think about this? Roadkill? Yuck! Sad -- but what can we do about it? People aren't going to stop driving and animals aren't going to stop trying to cross the road. So why dwell on it? What's the point?

Betsy's art makes us think of one answer after another.

This article is a continuation and the third in a series of three. To read Part 1, click here, and Part II, click here.

BOGUE, Kan. - I had hoped the opinion we sought from Stovall would also deal with the problem of irrigation lobby dominance of water politics. I sought a one-person, one vote representational scheme but unfortunately the Kansas State Attorney General disagreed. "The definition of an eligible voter found in K.S.A. 82a-1021 does not violate the one man, one vote rule of the United States Constitution." Unfortunately, only a tiny fraction of the people living in the area directly affected by GMD policies, the thousands who have stake in the future and an opinion about what should be done and when, have any vote in GMD decisions. That ought to change.

As to takings, the AG essentially ducked the question: "Whether a reduction of a water right constitutes a compensable taking depends upon the purpose for which the reduction is made. Without consideration of the purpose for which the reduction is made, no balancing test can be applied to determine whether the taking is compensable."

In other words, a critical issue -- whether private disputes over water appropriation rights takes precedence over the Chief Engineer acting in the broader long term stewardship of the resource -- was not, and hasn't been, addressed, either by the Attorney General or by the courts. It must.

The Disappearing Ogallala Aquifer, Part II

Kansas Groundwater Management Districts once argued that they, not the Chief Engineer, had primary authority to regulate water withdrawals in their respective districts. Some may believe that today. The following should clarify the matter.

BOGUE, Kan. - It is true that an appropriation permit may be sold, but the Chief Engineer at the Division of Water Resources (often called the Czar) is not legally obligated to approve the original amount appropriated.

I assume Kansas Administrative Regulation 5-3-9 approved in 1994 (which has the full force and effect of law) is still in force. In pertinent part it says that "unless otherwise provided by regulation, it shall be considered in the public interest that only the safe yield of any source or water supply ... shall be appropriated.

Authorization of the regulation can also be found in KSA 82a-706a -- which dates to 1957! In other words, as I have written before in a statement to the gathered Kansas Water Authority in July of 2000, the Chief Engineer has had the responsibility to enforce safe-yield in the public interest but has never really lived up to his responsibility by declaring intensive groundwater use areas (IGUCA) and reducing water use.

The Disappearing Ogallala Aquifer, Part I

This set of articles is my extended, three-installment comment on Diane Wahto's earlier and elucidating remarks (Water Shortages, the High Plains Aquifer, and the Governor's Summit) about the hydrology and the overall scenario concerning a vital and disappearing resource: the Ogallala Aquifer. Much of what I will have to say comes from the days of my earlier, and more hopeful involvement at the lowest bureaucratic level of Kansas water governance -- the Basin Advisory Committee. Since one cannot reliably predict the future, logically speaking, we do not know where Governor Brownback's initiative will lead. In some sense, it will be like locking the barn door after too many of the horses have left. To put it bluntly, I see little in what the Governor has proposed so far that differs from the pious rhetoric of the past several decades by those who could have actually done something to bring genuine stewardship.

BOGUE, Kan. - The disappearing Ogallala Aquifer. Well, where to begin. For nearly 18 years, I served on the Solomon River Basin Advisory Committee (BAC), the last few years as chair.

In Kansas, and I suspect elsewhere, the Ogallala depletion problem is basically -- as un-politically correct as it may be to say it -- that 'the drunks are running the liquor store.'

Newt Gingrich and the Tea Party's Dilemma

SALINA, Kan. - The dull roar one hears coming from the White House these days is actually the sound of Obama staffers trying to contain their glee. Is it actually possible that the Republicans will choose Newt Gingrich as their nominee for President?

It's not an earth-shaking prediction to say that Barack Obama will easily defeat the former House Speaker should such a match up unfold. Newt's unelectable. Political ad-makers would undoubtedly have a field day next fall with his thirty-plus years in politics, his three marriages, work as a lobbyist, history of unpredictable and petulant behavior, etc.

Why are Republicans on the verge of nominating a candidate who might threaten to join Alf Landon and Walter Mondale as one of the biggest Presidential-election losers in history?

ogallala-acuifer.gifWICHITA, Kan. - At the height of the 2011 Kansas drought that lasted through spring, summer, and into the fall, Gov. Sam Brownback called a summit of "stakeholders," for a discussion on the future of the Ogallala Aquifer.

The Governor's Summit

The four hundred attendees who gathered in Colby, Kansas, included, among others, representatives from the Kansas Geological Survey, Kansas State University, Kansas Ag bankers, and the Kansas Farm Bureau, as well as Carolyn Armstrong, Colby City Manager and Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, representing the League of Kansas Municipalities.

A hydro-geologist from the Kansas Geological Survey, Dr. Geoffrey Bohling, said of the meeting, "A common statement at the summit was, 'I don't like big government [or government regulation], but we need to regulate use of the aquifer.' This was coming from the stakeholders: irrigators (farmers and ranchers) and people responsible for municipal water supplies. Attached to that was the idea that people would prefer more of a grassroots approach to regulation -- for example, all irrigators in an area cutting back their use by a certain percentage voluntarily."

The Crack in Free Market Capitalism

A man said to the Universe, "Sir, I exist!" "However," replied the Universe, "the fact has not created in me a sense of obligation." -- Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

BOGUE, Kan. - A reader asked me to write about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, now postponed until 2013.

The 36-inch diameter pipe would cover 329 miles in Canada, cross the border at Montana, angle through South Dakota and Nebraska (with a branch to Illinois). Photo shows truck hauling 36-Inch pipe to build Keystone-Cushing Pipeline south-east of Peabody, Kansas, 2010 (from WIkipedia).

Then it would slice across the eastern third of Kansas through Oklahoma to Texas -- over 2,100 miles in all. The estimated 1.1 million barrels daily of synthetic crude oil from Alberta tar sands would equate to 5 pct. of present U.S. oil consumption, and 9 pct. of our present imports.

Estimates of new jobs vary wildly. Promoters say 250,000. Skeptics say as few as 4,000--most temporary. The environmental degradation to Canada would be (and already is) dramatic. Leaks are a constant worry. If 97 percent of climate scientists have it right, continued fossil fuel burning is a bigger threat. Those who've read my columns know I'm convinced scientists are correct.

But there's an underlying and larger issue: the deception of free market capitalism. It isn't free. It's cracked, and the crack is growing.

Who Are We?

COLBY, Kan. - For the most part, we are a group of liberal leaning free thinkers and progressive minded individuals who enjoy sharing our opinions and experiences with one another and visitors to our site. I don't believe any of us think we have all the answers to society's problems.

We, the citizen journalists who write at Kansas Free Press, welcome comments from all, friend or foe, as long as they are not laced with foul language or abusive criticism. One visitor referred to our content as "common with older Everyday Citizen blogs." I'm not sure what 'old' for Internet media is, but Everyday Citizen (EC) and Kansas Free Press (KFP) have not been around very many years.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Democracy, Capitalism. Two very American words. Our forefathers and military men and women have fought to keep Communism at bay. What is shocking is to find it, right here in your very own home town

In a tough economy it might make sense to find a way to lower taxes, quit spending on unnecessary items, but we just can't seem to stop. Are politicians in Great Bend trying to spend their way out of a slumping economy?

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About This Page

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

November 2011 is the previous archive and January 2012 is the next one.

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