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

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?

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.

HAYS, Kan. - The month of October is the "National Domestic Violence Awareness Month." President Obama's proclamation expressed its importance, "A family's home becomes a place of fear, hopelessness, and desperation when a woman is battered by her partner, a child witnesses the abuse of a loved one, or a senior is victimized by family members. ... During this month, we rededicate ourselves to breaking the cycle of violence. ... we recognize that domestic violence can be prevented. We must build the capacity of our Nation's victim service providers to reach and serve those in need. We urge community leaders to raise awareness and bring attention to this quiet crisis."

Here in Kansas, Jana's Campaign is dedicating its efforts to doing exactly what the president has called for. Its goal is to move the issues of domestic violence to the top of the political agenda in Topeka in this next legislative session. The organization is advocating for more comprehensive legislation in Kansas that will enhance victims' services, prevention and treatment programs, while providing real accountability for offenders.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Charles Schollenberger, 57, of Prairie Village, Kan., departing his usual speech after thanking Amanda Haas for inviting him to speak today at the Washburn Law School, told students, "I am today calling for a two-year phased withdrawal of U.S. and Allied troops from Afghanistan, starting January 1, 2010, and ending December 31, 2012."

"The Afghan war has been going on since 1979. We have been in Afghanistan since 2001; thirty-two years of war is long enough for the Afghans. Eleven years of war is long enough for us," Schollenberger said.

According to the National Priorities Project, the U.S. has spent an estimated $228 billion to date on the Afghan war. Schollenberger expressed faith that amount of money would be better utilized within our own borders.

27,000 Newly Uninsured Kansans

WICHITA, Kan. - According to a report released on Tuesday by Families USA, a national nonprofit focusing on the achievement of high quality health care for all Americans, 27,000 Kansans lost their health insurance in 2009.

According to the Families USA press release...

Approximately 27,000 people in Kansas lost health insurance coverage in 2009 due to a rise in unemployment, according to a report issued today by the health consumer organization Families USA. According to the report, the state's average unemployment rate in 2008 was 4.4 percent, while the average rate this year was 6.6 percent, thereby resulting in losses of health coverage.

A Little Greed Is a Good Thing?

BOGUE, Kan. - At a men's prayer breakfast, we were talking about capitalism when Reverend Charlie, I'll call him, weighed in with godly intent.

"A little greed is a good thing."

"I can't imagine Jesus saying that," I said.

There followed silence, a pregnant pause - except nothing came of it.

As we ate and chatted about trivialities, I thought about the rich man trying to pass through the needle's eye. About a man gaining the whole world and losing his soul.

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.

PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. - Once again Kansas finds itself in a financial crisis. Soon the State will not have enough money to pay its bills. Adjustments must be made. Two questions come to mind. How did we get in this mess? And what adjustment should we make.

Like most crises this one has been coming for a long time. The state has been getting behind on its obligations for years. It has knowingly under funded its retirement program. Kansas has barely been meeting its obligation to education. Roads and bridges have been in a state of decline. We have told ourselves that our economy would grow and then we could catch up on our bills. Unfortunately our tax revenues have not grown enough to bail us out.

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.

TOPEKA, Kan. - If we are serious about growing our community and changing the prevailing images that weigh us down, we need work toward a paradigm shift and shed the cow town mentality that is enemy number one to progress. It won't work anymore to fix things on the cheap, put things off and take shortcuts. If we are serious about attracting individuals who have good jobs to offer and the ability to solidly contribute to our tax base over the long haul we need to transcend the here-and-now in our planning.

To do this, we start with small things. Small feats often have more of a positive psychological impact on a collective than you might think. When we begin to achieve progress on small levels it empowers people; it sets the wheels into motion as a segue to additional substantial positive changes. To change a community, you have to first begin to improve the perceptions of it from within. Little by little community image improves, people feel empowered and take a more active role in their government. Pretty soon, people start to actively shape the future of their community by demanding progress. They realize that it is much more powerful to stand with ideas rather than let other people come up with them first and oppose.

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."

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.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - If you notice in this video Sen. Brownback talks about how terrible human trafficking is, and how people's rights are so important we through helping people we will "save our soul".

I guess Sen. Brownback wasn't too worried about his soul when he voted that rape was ok. I'm not sure what his motives were for protecting rapist from their victims but they are surely mislead.

There are certain things that should not be questioned - like a.) the fact the rape is a terrible thing and b.) that people who commit rapes should not be protected by the law from being sued.

TREECE, Kan. - Reading about the problems of the residents of Treece, Kansas, takes me back to a day when Carol, my office mate, told me about her bus trip from Wichita through Missouri, a trip that took her through my home town of Baxter Springs, Kansas, a Southeast Kansas town five miles or so from both the Missouri and Oklahoma border.

As Carol talked about the sights she saw on the trip, she asked about some hills she'd seen near Baxter Springs. "Are those the foothills of the Ozarks?"

Signs Of Democratic Life In Kansas

HAYS, Kan. - Throughout my career teaching college students I have encountered a recurring sentiment, often from the most earnest undergraduates. "I wish I could just study, go to class, and write what I really think, without everything being so competitive." The implication is that the way achievement is recognized in higher education is undermining the learning experience for the student.

Journalists often voice a similar regret - or excuse, depending upon your point of view - about how they would much rather be finding and reporting different kinds of stories, but the nature of the business requires them to operate according to standards the journalists themselves claim to resent. Perhaps the commercial realities of circulation, ratings, and advertising revenue are undermining journalistic freedom to pursue stories from a different perspective, shaped by a larger purpose. I don't know because I have never had to make a living within those realities.

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.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The Women's Study Program at Kansas State University is bringing world-renowned environmental justice advocate, Dr. Vandana Shiva, to speak at KSU on Friday, October 16th, at 7:00 pm in the McCain Auditorium.

A native of India, Dr. Shiva is a trained physicist, ecofeminist, and founding member of Navdanya - "nine seeds" - a participatory research initiative on global environmental justice based in New Delhi.

Shireen Roshanravan, Ph.D., Asst. Professor of Women's Studies at KSU, is hoping that this upcoming event will have lasting benefits for progressive dialogue. Dr. Roshanravan told us...

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.

"I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense ..." Thomas Paine, 1776, pamphleteer

HAYS, Kan. - Thomas Paine was a pamphleteer over 230 years ago. Though he's thought of as one of America's earliest, and perhaps its most famous journalist, if he were alive today, it's fairly unlikely that he'd be working as a glam television anchor, covering car chases on the L.A. freeway or following the sagas of divorcing celebrities. Tom Paine probably wouldn't aspire to political punditry either. It's doubtful that he'd end up an argumentative or abrasive talking head on some cable news channel.

No. The man who is the original embodiment of the the 1st Amendment would strive for something much greater.

If Tom Paine were to be among us now, it's likely that he would aspire to be one of us. He'd probably be writing furiously and freely at a free press on the Internet, just like this one. And, just as we hope to, he'd be speaking of issues that he believed to have the most relevance to his fellow citizens.

Citizen-powered websites, like this one, are bringing about a real revival of pamphleteering, and a renewed understanding of freedom of the press.

TOPEKA, Kan. - For the past two years the Kansas legislature has devoted major energy trying to undo a decision made by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Director, Roderick Bremby, which prevented Sunflower Electric from moving ahead with the construction of two coal-fire power plants slated for construction in the southwest Kansas community of Holcomb.

Following the departure of Gov. Kathleen Sebeilus, Gov. Parkinson in private negotiations with Sunflower Electric Cooperative gave them what they wanted and put the health of Kansans at risk by having the legislature pass legislation that prevents KDHE from doing its job in the future.

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.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Last week, Sarah Tidwell, BSN, MS, RN, the legislative chairperson for the Kansas State Nurses Association met with Rep. Jerry Moran and Rep. Lynn Jenkins while in Washington, DC to share with them what nurses in Kansas want to see contained in health care reform legislation. The following is a summary of what Mrs. Tidwell shared with them while she was in DC and is the body of written correspondence sent to Sen. Sam Brownback, Sen. Pat Roberts, Rep. Todd Tiahrt and Rep. Dennis Moore on behalf of Kansas nurses and the patients we care for.

The Kansas State Nurses Association supports a health care system that is patient-centered, comprehensive, accessible, and delivers quality care for all. To achieve this, we must have a workforce policy that fully recognizes the vital role of nurses and other health care providers. Healthcare reform should include the following points...

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.

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.

GREENSBURG, Kan. - In May of 2007, Greensburg was struck with tragedy. A colossal tornado ripped through the town of 900, killing 11 people and destroying 95 percent of the community.

Left with nothing, the town made the decision to rebuild as the "greenest town in rural America." But now, as reported in the New York Times, Greensburg's efforts are setting them apart as one of the most environmentally-advanced towns in the country.

Mike Estes owns a John Deere dealership in Greensburg that has received the United States Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification, the highest level possible and a goal that has yet to reached by some of the country's biggest cities. Greensburg is also home to a LEED platinum certified arts center and six other buildings anticipate to reach this level.

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.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Last week, Kansas Attorney General Steve Six announced a new measure to protect seniors from being exploited by fraudulent schemes: The Senior Consumer Advisory Council.

"Our experience shows us that seniors are often targeted by scams and fraud. This new advisory council will help us stay ahead of the curve in our effort to protect elderly Kansans from consumer fraud," Six said.

The Kansas Attorney General's office reports that seniors are being targeted more frequently as of late by mail and email scams as well as identity theft and other types of financial fraud.

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