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

Out of the Mouth of Babes

LARNED, Kan. - My wife noticed a phenomenon involving our two year old son. While they were walking at the mall, he would spontaneously shout "Barack Obama!" Pleased, but embarrassed by the unsolicited outbursts, she called me from her cell phone to report the incident. I reasoned that it must have been due to viewing so many pictures and television appearances of the newly elected president. She agreed, but wondered what triggered the behavior.

COLBY, Kan. - Lucy Belnora, KFP journalist, offered a well-researched analysis of the House bill, H.R. 3961, that was unveiled and posted on the Internet today.

The new House bill is likely to be viewed more favorably by more voters than the Senate bills because of its inclusion of an all-states (not opt-out) public option plan.

That prediction is largely based on national polls that indicate the majority of Americans are in favor of a national public option health care plan.

Already, advocacy groups on the right and left are reacting to the bill.

SALINA, Kan. - Allow me to share this exciting news with you - today, the U.S. House has unveiled its plan. This bill will reform our broken health insurance system and includes a strong public option. But first, I'd like to begin by reviewing what's happened in Washington the last few weeks.

The History

All eyes had been on the U.S. Senate as its two health care reform bills emerged from committee. Those who favor public option haven't expected much to come from the Senate in the way of real reform in the way that health care is financed or in its costs.

Senator Baucus (D) heralded the first of the two Senate bills - the one without the option of a public plan. Although Baucus worked hard to tailor his bill in such a way that Olympia Snowe (R) could vote in favor of it, that first senate bill encountered noticeable and expected backlash from other Democratic senators and from the grassroots because of the lack of public option (examples here, here and here).

Strangely, the powerful insurance lobbies that had backed the bill from the start, ended up coming out against it, too. Why?

In Defense of Economics

HAYS, Kan. - I always read Walter Williams, economics professor and right-wing syndicated columnist with an overlapping interest in constitutional scholarship. I am amazed at his skill as a propagandist for the right, never telling an actual lie, but supporting the right-wing agenda by careful omission and innuendo. Williams often leaves the reader with the impression that American corporate capitalism is the same as "free enterprise" or the operation of the "free market." He leaves the impression that economic transactions between individuals and other economic entities in the modern United States of America are the same as the transactions Adam Smith described in his Wealth of Nations (shortened title). No doubt Williams has read Adam Smith. Most who refer to the "unseen hand" concept resulting from Smith's work have not. Here is some of what Williams omits (apparently intentionally, in order to serve his ends):

WASHINGTON - Politico has a story today about the Kansas Congressman with real C Street "Fellowship" credibility, Jerry Moran. We've previously reported the indelible ties of Sam Brownback and Todd Tiahrt to the C Street "Fellowship" (here, here, and here). But, according to Politico, the Kansas Congressman that has really benefited from his close association with C Street is Jerry Moran.

Moran, who, along with KS-04 Congressman Todd Tiahrt, is engaged in the race to succeed Sam Brownback in the United States Senate, has received many more notable endorsements in his bid for the Senate seat, especially from sitting United States Senators.

HAYS, Kan. - Running around on the internet and sometimes on paper is a little story that tries to draw an analogy between students' performance in a class, socialism, and--sometimes--President Obama's public policy proposals. It was reprinted in my local newspaper this morning under the headline "Socialism and you: What lies ahead for the United States?"

This analogy could bear a little analysis.

First, here is a quick version of the story: a college professor and class agree that everyone in the class will get the class average as a grade. On the first exam, in which traditional behaviors prevail--some students are striving for good grades and some not so much--everyone gets a B. On the second, everyone gets lazier and they all get D's. Then for the final exam, discord is added to laziness, and everyone ends up failing.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Health care reform in the U.S. is difficult because we have assembled the most complicated, convoluted, inefficient, un-systemic health care "non-system" of the industrialized nations.

The two biggest cost drivers are the American lifestyle of too much food and not enough exercise, and, the payer "system." Changing these two factors are "extremely difficult" and "difficult."

Health care reform in the U.S. is difficult because the elected officials who are to change or reform the non-system seldom get the opportunity to truly learn and understand the vagaries of Medicaid, Medicare, SCHIP, the Veterans Admin health system, ERISA, federal regulations, state regulations, and more.

Really, Sam Brownback? Really???

LAWRENCE, Kan.- Does the name Jamie Leigh Jones ring a bell? If not, don't worry. I didn't know who she was either until I heard about the bill Sam Brownback voted against that was introduced in her name.

Her story is just as important as it is tragic. Here are the basics, taken from Think Progress:

"In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. She was detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and "warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job." (Jones was not an isolated case.) Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration."

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Thanks to the required First Amendment class I'm taking, I've been thinking way too much about freedom of speech lately. We talk about the market place of ideas, in which citizens have a right to listen to, deny, accept or even contribute to public discussion. We talk about the importance of allowing beliefs to be expressed without government regulation. And we talk about how every view, no matter how unpopular or gross, is considered equal.

I really do believe that the First Amendment defines America, which is a good thing... sometimes.

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Richard Gage, architect, founder and CEO of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth), will appear at the Hudson Auditorium at Johnson County Community College at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27. Gage is expected to give a multimedia presentation on behalf of more than 900 architects and engineers in his organization who question the official explanation of what happened to the three buildings of the World Trade Center that collapsed Sept. 11, 2001. Gage is currently touring the country speaking about his belief that it is not possible for fires alone to have caused the collapse of the three steel-framed skyscrapers in the WTC complex on that day.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The National Equality March organized by Equality Across America drew an estimated 200,000 marchers to Washington, DC, on Sunday October 11th. Included in the sea of marchers were 13 marchers from Manhattan - 11 students from Kansas State University's LGBTQ & More organization and two from the Flint Hills Human Rights Project.

This was my third march for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. At the height of the AIDS crisis, I had returned to the US in 1987 from my then home in Italy to be part of a very angry march as the LGBT community dealt with President Reagan who refused to respond to the growing AIDS crisis or even speak of it in public. By the time the NAMES Project Memorial Quilt was unfolded on the Mall at that march, I had made eight panels, including one for my former partner.

Obama's Prize

DODGE CITY, Kan. - Yesterday I attended a luncheon of a local civic group. At our table were seated six women, four of whom were certified, blue-blood Republicans and the other two were another wise Democrat and me.

An R asked who had heard the shocking news that Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course, all of us had. Four of the group were properly stunned and sure that this must have been some kind of political trickery. One asked if any of us knew how winners were selected and by whom. I suggested that perhaps the selection happened because of all his potential for what he might do for the world with our new outlook.

They remembered suddenly that I was - Oh, Horrors! A Democrat! So, now they reminded each other, that this Democrat had been a "good" Democrat and that they had all voted for me when I was in the Kansas House. Thank goodness, I wasn't like all those OTHER Democrats. I responded that I was very proud of being a member of the Democratic Party, the Party of the People. So the subject was changed.

WASHINGTON - President Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize this morning for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, issued this statement, "The Nobel Committee's decision to award this year's Peace Prize to President Obama is an affirmation of the fact that the United States has returned to its longstanding role as a world leader. The President has made a conscious decision from the beginning of his presidency to reinvigorate diplomacy, by talking to our friends and our rivals. Those efforts to bring world leaders together are helping the people of the world to face monumental challenges like nuclear arms proliferation, conflict resolution and climate change. With this prize comes a sense of enormous pride, but also an enormous sense of humility about the work that remains if we are to resolve the global problems facing humanity."

Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, rebuked the respected institution for awarding the prize to the president.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Long-time Kansas resident Charles Schollenberger, 57, of Prairie Village has been for months visiting state residents sharing his vision of what he feels a Kansas state senator should be representing. After forming an exploratory committee back in June, today Schollenberger made his official announcement. He will in fact seek the senate seat being evacuated by Sam Brownback.

Schollenberger attended the annual Democratic fall meeting held last weekend in Wichita. After meeting with several key Democratic voters and receiving good feedback, Schollenberger wasted no time in making his announcement.

"We pledge our best efforts to wage an effective campaign to break the strangle-hold that conservative Republicans have had over our two U.S Senate seats for the last 70 years. I invite you to join me in this crusade for change." Schollenberger said.

Schollenberger delivered his speech under rain filled skies this morning across the street from Brown V. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka.

WASHINGTON - Alliance for Justice's new documentary film - Tortured Law? - is now available to activists in local communities and campus leaders of law schools, colleges, university campuses and interested political groups. Groups are free to use this film as a centerpiece for discussions, forums, debates and other educational events. For the asking, AFJ will send a free copy of the documentary to interested groups. I'm excited to tell you about it and hope to encourage local Kansas groups to get involved with its screening. Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, poses these questions,

The legal architecture for torture was originally outlined and sanctioned in 2002 by a series of memos drafted by lawyers in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel. Were these lawyers simply giving the President their best legal advice? Or was their work part of a larger criminal conspiracy to distort the law and authorize torture?

The film is a tool in an ongoing campaign calling on Attorney General Holder to release the OPR report and authorize a full investigation of those who ordered, designed, and justified torture.

LAWRENCE, Kan. - I consider myself fairly well immersed in the political world. I read the news constantly, regularly read blogs for up to date opinions and inside information, and am relatively comfortable when it comes to the subject of political history. Because of all of this it is not often that I am legitimately shocked by an occurrence in modern day politics.

Today, however, I was completely floored.

It would seem that in the fight against sexual violence, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas is on the side of... sexual violence?

A Brown Blizzard from the Far Right

BOGUE, Kan. - People who offer political opinions in print (me) get mail storms. Until it gets to "you already sent that," I like seeing what's up coming down.

I get a skift from the left. The blizzard, however, comes in bullying brown drifts from what I call the poopflake right. The intent - no matter the circumstance, no matter how inaccurate - is to bury the Obama administration. A recent flurry:

A Californian who loves FAUX-Snooze wrote, "All the doctors I talk to say they're gonna leave the country if there's a public option." The truth: 73 percent of M.D.'s nationwide want a public option or a single payer system.

The Californian's ditto-head fourteen-year-old sent a link to a story intended to prove that the Massachusetts example is a government takeover of health care which would bankrupt the country, as it nearly has that state. But Massachusetts does not have a public option, certainly no single-payer system.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Last week, SurveyUSA released the results of their monthly approval rating poll in Kansas showing a staggering six percent drop in approval for Senator Sam Brownback. Brownback, who is running for Governor of Kansas, now finds himself under the so-called "safe" 50% threshold for election.

Brownback's 48% approval is nearing his all time low achieved when he left Kansas to pursue his ambition of becoming President. Worst yet for him, he's bleeding moderates. One in ten abandoned Brownback in September. Many have said this race is already over, but this is clear evidence it is only the beginning.

Kansas Democrats have an incredible opportunity to both retain the Governor's office and provide a clear, stable alternative to Senator Brownback's brand of extremism.

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. - A Missouri billboard is enlightening, but maybe not in the intended way. It says more about the state of our citizenry and the state of general knowledge (or lack thereof) than it does about Obama.

A red and yellow billboard posted along I-70 near Blue Springs is gaining attention from the local media. Watching the following video made many points, some that I would assume that the person that paid for the billboard did not intend. Check it out and then read on:

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - I love Business Week magazine. I read it dutifully every week, and have done so for years. It has, in my estimation, the best balance of Capitalism and Corporate Responsibility. Unlike so many other business mags, BW has always looked at all sides of issues, not just the side that will generate the most money.

In the October 12 issue, an article entitled "Why Business Fears the Public Option,"the magazine lays out a few points about the issue of "Cost Shifting," one of the attacks that the insurance industry has mounted.

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. - Prairie Village resident Charles Schollenberger has announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a possible U.S. Senate run. The committee plans to meet through the end of 2009 to determine if sufficient support exists for a candidacy.

Schollenberger believes "Kansans deserve better representation. Republicans have tied up [those] seats for over 70 years." From a "fair play standpoint, the other party ought to have a chance."

Schollenberger hails from Hudson, Ohio has been a resident of metropolitan Kansas City for 27 years. He grew up in northeast Ohio where he was a strong advocate for passage of the 26th amendment in 1971, which lowered the legal voting age to 18.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Network Neutrality, or "Net Neutrality" for short, is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet. When we open up our browser to surf the web or check in our MySpace account, we expect to get were we want to go without encountering complications.

Net Neutrality ensures that all users can access the content or run the applications and devices of their choice when they are using the Internet. With Net Neutrality, the network's only job is to move data -- not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service. Net Neutrality prevents the companies that control the wires from discriminating against content based on its source or ownership.

WASHINGTON - "I want you to protect the Constitution," expressed a sign carried by a young woman protester at the September 12th Washington D.C. Tea Party. Where was that woman in October 2001, when the USA Patriot Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush? That's when she should have expressed her concern about protecting the Constitution.

Almost eight years later, as the Senate Judiciary Committee met Sept. 23, 2009, to consider reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, Sen. Al Franken (D.-Minn.) read the 4th Amendment to the Constitution in the presence of a Justice Department lawyer who was arguing in favor of reauthorization of the Act.

SALINA, Kan. - At this time, it is estimated that as many as 5 million families already have lost their homes or still face the prospect of losing their homes in just the coming few months. Ever since the financial industry crisis began in mid-2007, even some of the news outlets that I have respected just spit out these words like parrots, "lenders are in a crisis."

A "crisis for lenders" they say. Then, we had the massive bailouts to lenders in late 2008 under Bush and in early 2009 under Obama. Lenders in crisis? It seems like "the media" has always implied, "the good lenders bent the rules a little bit, with all their generosity and compassion, to lend money to certain people who now are refusing to make good on the loans, now thrusting these good lenders into crisis." Why a crisis for lenders? Is that really true?

I submit to you that there's no real harm to lenders, except a little bit of reduction of their extremely high profits of recent years. The only devastation here is the slow and persistent robbing of the middle class to make the ultra richer even wealthier. Please let me explain.

WASHINGTON - Number crunchers are having a political heyday over health-care reform. Yet, one in particular, is having a field day in shaping the debate. A consulting firm known as the Lewin Group, aka United Health, whose research is making the rounds by opponents of the hotly debated public insurance option.

Respectively stated, by Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, Lewin Group is an "independent research firm." Rep. Eric Cantor of Va., House Republican whip, says it is "the nonpartisan Lewin Group."

Also, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the second-ranking Republican on the key Finance Committee, refers to Lewin Group as "well known as one of the most nonpartisan groups in the country."

What these prominent members of the Republican Party fail to mention is that the Lewin Group is owned entirely by United Health Group, one of this countries mega health insurance providers.

Letter to Jerry Moran

Throughout the health care debate, I have stressed that more Americans will gain access ... once costs are controlled and reduced. I continue to advocate for... medical liability reform, an increased emphasis on wellness and disease prevention, providing tax incentives to low-income families to retain or purchase private health insurance, implementation of health information technology, and training more medical professionals and encouraging them to practice in underserved areas. I also support finding responsible ways to address the problems caused by pre-existing conditions and to increase the size of the pool of insured. - U.S. Representative Jerry Moran (R-Kansas)
Dear Representative Moran:

In your special edition of "This Week in Congress" you listed several ways that you believe will fix health care.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Having had very intelligent conversations with many who identify themselves as Republicans, with any luck common sense will prevail when ballots offer an alternative to Lynn Jenkins in 2010.

Many people in recent years have come to realize that the GOP has abandoned its stance on limited government. After all, under the Republican controlled White House, Senate, and House, government expanded.

Conventional wisdom that says Democrats are most likely to break the piggy bank was thrown out after the Carter Administration. Still, many fear an increased Democratic majority in Congress topped by a Democratic president. Yet, the proof is in the pudding, Democrats spend less than the party who decries no spending.

TOPEKA, Kan. - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment recently received a grant of $576,000 from the Centers for Disease Control to work toward eliminating infections patients receive while being cared for in our hospitals and other facilities such as doctors' offices and nursing homes. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allotted a total of $40 Million to help states combat this growing problem.

This grant is particularly valuable as many infections acquired in this manner are increasingly resistant to conventional antibiotic therapy. Examples of these pathogens are vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and Clostridium difficlile (C-diff). These problematic infections can occur while patients have long-term indwelling urinary catheters, and may also affect surgical incisions post-operatively. These super bugs are particularly dangerous when the infection advances and enters the blood stream, potentially causing septic shock and death if prompt, aggressive action isn't taken. Appropriate isolation practices regarding infected patients and scrupulous hand hygiene are key in mitigating risks in health care settings.

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.

SALINA, Kan. - Among the ancient Greeks, the dictator was known as the tyrant. His one-man rule was called a tyranny. He ruled with absolute and uncontrolled power. This form of government frequently occurred in the Greek city-states in times of public distress or national danger.

Many of the empires of the East and West were tyrannies, or depotisms. The emperor, king, or potentate was authoritarian in character. This means that he took upon himself the right to rule; his authority was not a grant of powers from the people.

Dictatorships of our own times have much in common with the tyrannies of the ancient world.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Nurses in Kansas and across the nation have joined President Obama in pushing for health insurance reform. One of the longstanding purposes of the Kansas State Nurses Association is working for the "improvement of health standards and the availability of health care services for all people." One of the chief roles a nurse has is to be a staunch patient advocate, so it's no surprise we stand boldly for reform.

Recently, I had a discussion with a colleague who practices in the Kansas City, KS area about the current health insurance reform debate and our first-hand observations as nurses. She underscored the need for urgent reform from not only a practical perspective, but also touched on the political ramifications that command we take action now: "We see the reality of the need for health care insurance reform everyday in the lack of suitable coverage for our patients, decisions on how our long our patients can be hospitalized, in how carefully we must nurse our documentation to qualify for reimbursement, the cost of our own health care policies, and the unsustainable costs to the state and federal government. For those who insist on obstructive negativity in even talking about how to deal with the health care insurance problem, beware, the likelihood of approaching this problem again in the future will be low with such a high political cost being evident," she said.

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, pharmaceutical fields as well as in biotechnology, managed care, insurance or hospitals.

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