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Drought: We Can Learn from Job

Out here on McDowell Creek there was a beautiful snowfall a few days ago, rain the next day, a cloudburst last night, and now fog today. While runoff is gathering in puddles, our hope is growing: Maybe it won't be a drought year after all.

"A drought has a long tail," my neighbor told me back in 2012, the summer without rainfall. "We're not out of it yet," he told me when the rains came that fall.

He was so right. Even though we had some good rains in 2013 and above average snows this February, we have also had, just about every day for at least three years now--wind.

In preparation for leasing our pastures to a cow-calf operation, we checked our ponds. We were shocked! Our black lab Deci walked right across pools that not too long ago we couldn't reach the bottom of, not even with a canoe paddle stretched straight down. Our prospective renters were people we wanted to work with, but we had to tell them no. Our ponds were just too low.

In fact, all of our water sources--seeps, springs, McDowell Creek itself--are looking puny. The likely culprit--that constant wind. It must be causing evaporation that's greater than whatever amount of precipitation we receive. Things just keep getting dryer and dryer.

So we might be in for it again this year. We dread the thought of lack of water--what it does to soils, plants, animals, and people.

But if it is another dry year we have to recognize that it's part of the package of living on the tall grass prairie.

You don't get the one without the other.

MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - I have been puzzled by the new Republican Party -- not the party of my father or grandfather, not the party of excellent local public servants such as Tom Moxley, Ben Bennett, Roger Reitz, Jeff Longbine, Rebecca Bossemeyer, or Florence Whitebread -- but the extreme right-wing party of Paul Ryan, Sam Brownback, and many members of the Tea Party. Their views seem illogical. After unregulated financial dealings brought down our economy in 2008, why make a fetish of the free market? Why talk as if everything government does is bad, despite obvious counter-examples (clean water, enforceable contracts) ? And why paste labels on Americans of modest means, when they clearly don't deserve it? Why call them the "47%" who "will never take responsibility or care for their lives," as Romney did at a private fundraiser, or the "30%" who are "Takers, not Makers," as Ryan did before a conservative group?

In search of a better understanding, I decided to learn more about the philosophy behind this trend. For years Paul Ryan has cited Ayn Rand as the thinker that inspired him to get into politics; he asks his staff to read her works. So off to the library I went and came home with a copy of The Fountainhead. I read all 700 pages of it. And lo and behold, there it was, in this novel written in the 1930s and published in 1943, a philosophical justification for the apparently counter-intuitive positions of today's right wing.

BASEHOR, Kan. - I'm a somewhat reluctant subscriber to the Wall Street Journal.

I say "reluctant" because the tenor of the paper has changed now that it's under control of Rupert Murdoch, et al. Reading the Opinion and Editorial pages, I fume, snort, yell, laugh, shake my head, and occasionally nod my assent. Thank goodness for my unused frequent flyer miles that I regularly trade for a WSJ subscription, otherwise I couldn't bring myself to purchase it.

On July 20 David Wessell, economics reporter for the Journal and one of the rare voices of reason among the Journal's regular staff, took a fact-based, relatively dispassionate look at where we are with federal government spending. He has a book titled Red Ink that will be out tomorrow.

Without further comment, I'd encourage folks to read his short piece and then consider his book.

Money in our Electoral System

SALINA, Kan. - It must have been the title of the book that caught my eye. I've always enjoyed wandering through bookstores and their stacks of hidden treasures. One day in Rio de Janeiro years ago I was indulging in this favorite pastime when I came across a book entitled Fidel & Religion, by a Brazilian priest named Frei Betto. Maybe its odd title was too intriguing to pass up, and I bought it.

The book was the result of conversations that Betto had with the Fidel Castro over a couple days in Havana back in the mid-1980's. It didn't change any of my negative impressions of Cuba from a previous visit, but the work did offer interesting insights into the Cuban leader's thinking.

"If the 1960s were the time for intellectual exploration of feminism, it was the next decade that formulated solutions."

WICHITA, Kan. - International Women's Day, March 8, is a good day to review Radiating Like a Stone: Wichita Women and the 1970s Feminist Movement, a compilation of essays by women who were active in the Wichita women's rights movements in the 1970s. The book, edited by Myrne Roe, covers a wide variety of issues that came to the forefront, not just in Wichita, but across the country, as women came together to deal with "needs not being addressed or services not being provided."

Bush Was Right on Redistricting

SALINA, Kan. - "It's actually pretty good," my uncle insisted. When he asked if I had already read my Christmas gift from him, a copy of George W. Bush's Decision Points, I joked that I had been waiting for it to come out in paperback.

My uncle and I frequently give each other books on or by political figures we hold in low esteem. They're sort of gag gifts, but I still usually read them. By listening to opposing points of view one can frequently learn something, and occasionally discover heretofore unknown areas of agreement. I had such an experience reading the 43rd President's book.

Bush's political memoir didn't redefine for me the major points of what I believe his legacy will be for historians. The Bush Presidency will be forever tainted by two disastrous policy decisions - huge tax cuts which ushered in crushing deficits, and the invasion of Iraq, an undertaking billed to a credit card which was not worth the cost. But in a chapter entitled "Leading," he talks of the need to reduce the ideological extremes in Congress and proposes that redistricting be carried out by committees of non-partisan elders.

WICHITA, Kan. - I am sure I am not alone among the many people who voted for President Obama, who are disappointed that so many of Mr. Obama's promises have not been kept.

However, I think we need to view Mr. Obama's reticence to follow through on his promises in light of the track-record of all Presidents in the last 50 years who tried to use the power granted to the office of the President.

To wit: I contend there are powerful -- though unelected -- individuals who wield enormous influence over presidential decisions, national legislation and all governmental policies in general.

Winston Churchill referred to these individuals as "the high cabal." Sociologist C. Wright Mills referred to them as The Power Elite, in his book of the same name. And, in the book, Propaganda, that Joseph Goebbels and Herman Goering used as a "how-to-guide" when they whipped up the German public into a hate-filled killing machine, the book's author, Edward Bernays, referred to these powerful individuals thus ...

Copyright, 2011, Antoine Doyen
Peggy Bowman / courtesy of Antoine Doyen, whose professional photos can be viewed here

WICHITA, Kan. - Given the dismal state of affairs in the state of Kansas, now would be a good time to revisit the early 1990s when Operation Rescue (OR), then under the direction of Randall Terry, caused no end of chaos here.

For those active in the Wichita pro-choice movement during the summer of 1991, reading Fetus Fanatics: Memoir: When Government Collaborates with Anti-Choice Zealots brings back the upheaval of that time with full emotional force. Peggy Bowman, calls her book, published in 2005, a memoir, which is apt, as the events and facts of that summer are filtered through her eyes.

While others who were active in the battle against the anti-choice onslaught may have differing perspectives, Bowman's account covers the important highlights of that summer. She also includes timelines, maps, and transcripts of court decisions to help readers keep track of the geography and chronology of events.

MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. - We burned pasture last Thursday. The breeze turned jumpy in the early afternoon. There were a few tense moments -- but in the end, the fire stayed where it was supposed to. There was even a gentle rain that evening that washed away the smoke. We felt so fortunate! Having lost our house to a prairie fire a few years back, we count our blessings when a burn goes well.

Yesterday we had snow, giving us an unusual sight -- blackened prairie covered with snow.

We watched the snow come down with a group of friends who had gathered in our living room to talk about books. Our friend Paul has started on a quest to read famous classic works that he missed in school. We and several others volunteered to keep him company on this journey, and yesterday was our first gathering.

PhotobucketMANHATTAN, Kan. - If one listens to the rhetoric of right-wing pundits and politicians, our nation is in peril from a massive immigration of people from south of our border with Mexico.

The only problem is that the very policies these same ideologues hold up as the saving truths - free market capitalism, free trade zones, and no tariffs - are the very reasons why people in the global south must leave their homes and move in order to survive. Add to this mix the attacks on immigrants in Kansas being carried out by the xenophobic Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, and the lack of comprehensive coverage by the mainstream media of the important role immigration plays in the Kansas economy has lead to an atmosphere fear and ignorance on this complex issue.

In response, the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice is please to announce photojournalist, editor, union and immigrant rights activist David Bacon will deliver Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants for their Spring Lecture at K-State on February 28th. Bacon will speak at 7:00pm in Forum Hall of the K-State Student Union.

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