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

us-capitol-2.jpgHAYS, Kan. - Families and small businesses in Kansas are still struggling to make ends meet in these tough economic times. Continued high unemployment takes its toll - both on those unemployed and their families who experience the frustration of not finding work and on the communities which must support them.

Mike Kruger, staffer with the Committee on Education and Labor, wants Kansans to know that the U.S. House is addressing the issues that Kansas families care most about in these tough economic times.

He said, "The 111th Congress inherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the legacy of eight years of failed Bush economic policies. Over the past year, House Democrats have led an unprecedented effort to prevent a devastating recession from turning into a depression and revive our economy."

Mike backs this with details and facts, pointing out that electing Democrats to Congress means that important work gets done for children, students, working Americans and families. He recently sent the Kansas Free Press this "top 10 list" of congressional achievements in 2009.

constitution2.jpgGREAT BEND, Kan. - Democratic U.S. Senators who took large contributions from big health insurance companies and big pharmaceutical companies need to learn a lesson from three Kansans. Senators Landrieu, Nelson, Baucus, Dodd and Lieberman, are you listening?

Exhibit A is former Kansas Governor Joan Finney, who was elected Governor in 1990 having spent only a fraction of what her opponents spent. She made crystal clear to potential donors the following: "If you think I would be a good Governor, feel free to donate to my campaign. But there are no strings attached. I'm not promising you anything." How refreshing. No wonder she couldn't raise money well.

Exhibit B is former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. She was one of the only Democrats in the country to defeat a Republican incumbent in the 1994 Republican tsunami. She became Kansas Insurance Commissioner against all odds, especially considering that she refused to take one penny from the insurance companies. She made it clear the first day she launched her campaign: "I will not accept donations from the insurance companies that I will be regulating as your insurance commissioner." Voters found her decision refreshing, and she won.

The World According to Maisie

DODGE CITY, Kan. - Christmas has come and gone, so I'd planned to write a few of my thoughts concerning the world situation when I received a phone call from my elderly friend, Maisie.

She's a character, and since she and her husband, Herb, were getting ready to drive into town, I suggested they stop by my house for a cup of coffee before starting their Saturday shopping. They come in from the farm every Saturday and buy what they need to last them until the next Saturday. As Herb says, "After sixty-plus years, we mostly just do what we always did; that way we don't have to waste no time thinkin' up what to do next."

GREAT BEND, Kan. - If the Democratic party was in the vacuum cleaner business, it would have warehouses full of unsold vacuum cleaners. If the health care debate these last six months was a boxing match, the referee would have stopped the fight in August, and declared the Republicans the winner.

It was over before Labor Day, at least in terms of getting any meaningful reform. Because the Republicans "got there first with the most men." They defined the Democrat health care plan before the Democrats defined it, and it was over.

The Republicans know how to frame a debate, and how to play on people's emotions. The Republicans immediately framed the debate, using dynamite phrases like: "government-run health care", "socialized medicine","death panels", "a bureaucrat between you and your doctor", "throwing seniors under the bus."

By the time the bill was passed on Christmas Eve, it was Swiss cheese, and less than 40% of Americans support the bill. The Democrats only reached 60 votes by giving suspicious sweetheart deals to several senators.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - This morning, the U.S. Senate passed (60-39) the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The House of Representatives had passed their own health care bill last month. Now, with two different bills passed by the two bodies, the U.S. House and Senate will send delegations to meet together in January, working out compromises between the two bills. The end result of the House and Senate conference will be a combined bill that will need to be passed by both bodies. The new bill could come as soon as February.

Senate Democrats united to pass what President Barack Obama is characterizing as landmark health care legislation. The Senate bill has measures that provide choice and increased competition and provides significant savings for small businesses and small employers.

Proponents of the Senate bill say that it will effectively reduce costs, increase access, and provide critical insurance reforms that will put patients first. This legislation also makes Medicare more solvent and expands prescription drug coverage, all while reducing the deficit and reining in health care costs.

However, many progressive leaders in the Democratic party are expressing disappointment in the Senate bill. They say that it doesn't go nearly far enough in reforming the broken health care system.

Their disappointment is largely centered around the fact that the Senate bill, in its final form, does not include the Public Option plan, whereas the House bill does. Proponents of the Public Option believe that the Public Option is the only way to introduce real change and competition into the insurance industry.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' HHS office has released a report, How Health Insurance Reform Will Lower Costs and Increase Choices.

The report includes statistics, summaries and CBO conclusions that assist citizens in sorting out the issues Congress is addressing as it tackles health care reform.

Upon its release, Sec. Sebelius said, "Health insurance reform isn't about politics, it's about families. Every day, millions of families across the country wonder how they will pay their skyrocketing medical bills or what they will do if their children get sick. Those families are our priority and we are fighting to give them the affordable, secure, stable coverage they need."

The report compiled by HHS states that health care reform will boost employment and raise individual families' incomes, claiming that "lowering health care costs by 1 percent will create 320,000 jobs nationwide and raise median family income by $6,800 by 2030. And reform will drive down premiums and limit out-of-pocket costs that eat into the family budget."

MS EURODAM, Atlantic Ocean - Anyone interested in media reform has seen a plethora of panels, articles, and speeches on the topic of what is happening to journalism. Yes newspapers have folded in record numbers and major papers have reduced staff in the wake of the economic downturn turning the venerated fourth estate into a waste land of unemployment for many a reporter.

Media Panel: Narda Zucchino, Robert Scheer,
Katie Halper, Patricia Willams, and Betsy Reed
However, new media, blogs and e-newspapers like the Kansas Free Press, now offer the average American more choices in their ability to have access to news and information than at any other time in our history as a democracy. So what's the problem?

Taking on the topic for The Nation cruise was Narda Zucchino, long-time write and editor at the San Francisco Chronicle and LA Times and author of Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman; Robert Scheer; comic, writer, blogger, satirist and award-winning documentary film director Katie Halper; Patricia Williams; and Betsy Reed.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation to create urgently needed new jobs for construction workers, teachers, police officers, firefighters and others, and to extend critical assistance for the unemployed and those who have lost health insurance. Through this bill, bailout money that had previously been tagged for bailing out corporations on Wall Street would now be redirected to Main Street to help Americans get back to work.

The Jobs for Main Street Act (pdf) is the most recent step in Congress' year-long effort to rescue the economy and stem the crippling impacts of the worst recession in generations.

The legislation uses existing available funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to pay for targeted investments in infrastructure and emergency aid to state and local governments to hire teachers, police officers and other vital personnel.

MS EURODAM, Atlantic Ocean - The 12th Annual Nation Cruise reopened its seminar sessions after two days off to visit the ports of San Juan and Crown Bay, St. Thomas, turning attention to the US economy.

Joining William Greider and Robert Scheer, were Eyal Press, contributing writer for The Nation and author of Absolute Convictions, and Christian Parenti, foreign correspondent for The Nation. Press' role on the panel was to address the social effects of the economic downturn while Parenti would look at developing a sustainable economy. Betsy Reed served as moderator.

Panelists were given 10 minutes to give their answers to "What to do about the economy?" After which they would have an opportunity for a two-minute response to the other panelists before taking questions from the audience.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - After a morning of shore leave on Grand Turk Island, the participants of The Nation Cruise sat down to discuss the state of health care reform. Many members in the audience had supported the efforts of Health Care for America Now and other groups pushing for a robust public option. The vast majority of those gathered are unhappy, if not down right disappointed with what has transpired over the past seven months and share a common belief that Obama has failed to lead on this issue.

Health Care Panel: Patricia Williams, Howard Dean,
Betsy Reed, Katrina vanden Heuvel, William Greider
Coming together to express their opinions and what progressives need to be doing in the weeks ahead were panelists Howard Dean; Besty Reed, executive editor of The Nation and author of Going Rouge: An American Nightmare; Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation; and, William Greider. Patricia Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University and author of Open House: Of Family, Friends, Food, Piano Lessons, and the Search for a Room of My Own, moderated the panel.

Williams set the tone by saying we all thought that health care reform was going to be a straight forward discussion, instead it "has become a convoluted reality" that few of us are able to follow. The mission of the panel was to "find something coherent" to say about the issue and bring the discussion back into the realm of understandability.

EURODAM, Atlantic Ocean - The Nation's 12th Annual Cruise got underway this morning with The Nation's editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel and Robert Scheer ( Times) interviewing Gov. Howard Dean, Chair of the Democratic Party.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, Howard Dean, Robert Scheer
Scheer opened the discussion by looking at the two major issues facing the nation: the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and the banking crisis.

While the Democratic Party often has been the party of war in recent history, Scheer thought the party had made fundamental changes following the disaster of the Vietnam War and its fallout. But instead, what he heard in Obama's recent speech at West Point in which he outlined his intent to send an additional 30,00 troops to Afghanistan is that the party "seems to be back to (the days of) Scoop Jackson."

MANHATTAN, Kan. - As a nation we have been slow to evolve in our understanding of human rights. When asked, most of us think that civil rights are human rights. They are, but they are only the beginning.

Civil rights are basically your right to be created equal to everyone else. Civil rights are incomplete if they are not accompanied by economic, social, political, and cultural rights. Unfortunately early on in the civil rights struggle, here was a big battle in the NAACP over human vs. civil rights. At the heart of this battle were two men: Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP and a lawyer who could pass as white, and W. E. B. DuBois one of the founders of the NAACP. DeBois asked: "Why should we ask for only one of the five rights categories?" Eventually, White won, and force out an ever more radical DeBois from the NAACP which set human rights back 50 years. Equality is precious but is incomplete.

Political rights are closely related to the Bill of Rights - the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. They cover codes such as freedom of speech, assembly, and the right to vote. But they also cover such things as forbidding torture and inhuman or degrading treatment; slavery or involuntary servitude; arbitrary arrest and detention; and, debtor's prisons. Political rights forbid propaganda advocating either war or hatred based on race, religion, national origin, language, sex or gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity,

Political rights provide for the right to equality before the law; the right to presumption of innocence until proven guilty (something our mass media often forgets these days); the right to appeal a conviction; the right to be recognized as a person before the law; the right to privacy and protection of that privacy by law.

HAYS, Kan. - With Sen. Sam Brownback (R) not seeking reelection to the Senate in order to launch his run for Kansas Governor, two House Republicans are apparently in a dead heat in the Republican Primary for the open U.S. Senate seat. The primary contest is now just 8 months away.

Jerry Moran
Earlier this fall it appeared that Jerry Moran had the lead. In November, Todd Tiahrt catapulted forward and is now running neck-and-neck with Moran.

The two are effectively tied. Moran is nominally ahead by 3 points, 37% to 34%, according to this latest SurveyUSA poll conducted for KWCH-TV Wichita and KCTV-TV Kansas City.

Who will win? The conservative or the maverick? And which is which?

Contrary to popular myth, the facts show that Tiarht is slightly more independent, more of a maverick legislator. On the other hand, Moran tends to vote in lockstep more consistently with the Republican leadership in Washington. Closer scrutiny shows that Moran is indeed the more conservative of the two.

Change the Tone of Our Discourse

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Where I work we happen to sell a President Obama bobble head doll that speaks when you push the button beneath him. I know you all know what I'm talking about - it's the kind of thing that you see while you're waiting in line at a Walgreens and then you make it talk even though you know the 5 people ahead of you already did it and the cashier is most likely going insane. Obviously, working around one of these dolls can get rather obnoxious.

After listening to this Obama bobble head day after day, however, I began to actually think about what I was hearing. Granted, the doll spouts about 6 different quotes (rather impressive actually...the sound quality is crystal clear!) but the one that I hear the most is from the election night speech in Chicago:

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there."

We have more! This page only lists entries in a particular month. We encourage you to look back through our archives in this same category.

The previous archive is Nation: November 2009. The next archive is Nation: January 2010.

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This is an archive page containing all of the stories posted to Kansas Free Press in one particular topic in a particular month. These stories were published in the Nation: December 2009 section.

The previous archive is Nation: November 2009. The next archive is Nation: January 2010.

The most current posts can always be found on our Front Page.

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