Front Page » Table of Contents » Archive: Books: October 2009

MANHATTAN, Kan. - In Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream, Leonard Zeskind provides a thorough and detailed, 542-page, historical account of the mainstreamers and vanguardists that make up the racist movement. Like Zeskind himself, a Kansas City native, many of the key players in this movement hail from our Midwestern state. Several key events surrounding these movements also happened in Kansas.

The 1982 Self-Reliance and Survival Expo is one of those Kansas events. In this setting, Christian Identity groups and Survivalists came together in Kansas City. Gun and knife shows are a tradition in the Midwest and South. This show welcomed survivalists, as well as a group called the Covenant the Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA). What could the CSA offer audiences at the Kansas City Self-Reliance and Survival Expo? "For a fee, white (Christian) men could shoot machine guns at pop-up figures, knock down doors, and battle around mock buildings while tires burned to simulate urban riots" (61). Hardly the self-defense tactics typically touted at gun and knife shows.

Likewise, the Midwestern farm crisis provided fertile ground for The Posse Comitatus in the 1980's. This group was considered mainstream enough to have their own time on Kansas airwaves. "Gale joined Wickstrom in this crusade, and taped 'sermons' by the two Posse leaders were regularly broadcast on a Dodge City, Kansas radio station in 1982" (74). With an audience of listeners, no wonder Kansas was the site for a Posse Comitatus training assembly. "That same year Gale and Wickstrom organized a paramilitary training session on a farm near Weskan, Kansas, just across the border from Colorado" (74).

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Kansas Democrats feel a little lost right now. In his book What's the Matter with Kansas? author Thomas Frank may be pointing the way to the Promised Land by means of the quintessential Kansas political movement: Populism. Frank suggests that old-fashioned Populism is the classic Kansas way, and that three-time Democratic Presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan had the right idea for Kansans "raising less corn, and more hell."

Although it was Kansas lawyer Mary Elizabeth Lease who uttered the famous phrase about "raising more hell," Thomas Frank sees the Nebraska evangelical William Jennings Bryan as the most attractive populist out there. One of the most memorable sentences in his book regards the McKinley-Bryan election of 1896: "Bryan was a Nebraskan, a leftist, and a fundamentalist Christian, an almost unimaginable combination today." (p. 16)

Thomas Frank gives a thumbs up on the dust jacket of the recent book by Michael Kazin on Bryan: "To understand the politics of our own time we must first understand William Jennings Bryan. Michael Kazin gives us an elegant study of this forgotten but seminal figure, a hero to liberal and evangelicals alike." (A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan, 2006).

So how could someone be a hero to evangelical Christians and Democrat progressives at the same time? As strange as it sounds, it make sense that one committed to the actual teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as revealed in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John might tilt toward a progressive politics on some issues.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Dare to imagine a world where people matter more than corporate profits; where economic development is planned and carried out with respect to the natural systems; and agriculture produces food that is consumed locally with a broad biodiversity of choices. Impossible? Dr. Vandana Shiva thinks it is within our reach.

On October 16th Shiva brilliantly lectured on the interconnectedness of humanity's most urgent crises - food security, peak oil and climate change in a public lecture entitled: Soil, Not Oil: Food Security in an Age of Climate Change. Approximately 800 people filled McCain Auditorium at Kansas State University to hear the lecture sponsored by K-State's Women's Studies and Agriculture programs along with numerous other campus and community organizations.

What Do You Read?

DODGE CITY, Kan. - Did you ever wonder what shapes people's opinions about their country, their politics, or their world? I suspect that, for most of us, the answer is, "It's what we watch, listen to, and read." For others, it may be simply whatever their parents, family, or friends believe. For those with the latter choice, one probably can't do much to change their outlook. For the others, it might be interesting just to ask people you meet, "What do you watch, listen to, and read?" I'd be interested in what is read, watched, etc. by the folks who read Kansas Free Press.

For openers, I'll tell you some of my choices. On TV, I watch MSNBC, you know: Countdown, Rachel Maddow, etc. Of course they "lean left" (only I call it "practice progressive thinking"), but I get so fed up with the so-called liberal media, which it is NOT. I listen to NPR with All Things Considered to get the real news and I like to watch The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on Public TV.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - At the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Republican Governor Robert Bennett called Kansas "the most Republican state in the Union." And he may have been right. But those days are over.

The book How Barack Obama Won, by Chuck Todd and Sheldon Gawiser, shows that Kansas is far from being the reddest of the red states. But the important thing is the direction Kansas is heading. And it's heading toward a more moderate, Democratic path.

Although the authors point out that Kansas is the #2 state in self-identified Republicans at 49% (only Wyoming at 52% is higher), Kansas strangely doesn't even rank in the top fourteen states in self-identified "conservatives."

Most biographies about the Kennedys are either written to make them look better than they are or worse than they are. This team effort by the Boston Globe is right in the middle.

It appears to be an honest effort to summarize the nature of Ted Kennedy: his substantial personal failings, coupled with his efforts to compensate for those failings with overarching legislative accomplishments and small acts of personal generosity.

Until I read this book, Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy, I never believed those who said Ted Kennedy had more impact on American legislative history than Jack or Bobby. But I believe it now.

More than Jack or Bobby, Ted was a natural politician, and a natural Senator. He was a throwback to his maternal grandfather, "Honey Fitz," who loved meeting people and plunging into crowds.

In this job market, job seekers need good resources to reach the right employers and hiring agents. Here's a respected resource for those looking for employment in the healthcare, medical, biotech, managed care or hospital fields.

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