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


WICHITA, Kan. - The year 2009 was an eventful year for the women of Kansas and the rest of the women of the nation.

We saw the advancement of the Kansas ERA in 2009. The hearing in the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee was successful and SCR 1608 currently waits in that committee with the potential for placement on the Senate calendar for debate in 2010.

The 2010 legislative session may see the advancement of the DV Tagging Bill (HB 2335), a comprehensive sex education bill and potential legislation to address the short falls of the sexual assault examination procedure in Kansas communities. As always, there is sure to be an abundance of attempts at legislative restrictions on women's reproductive access and health care choices.

HALF MOON CAY, Bahamas - The final seminar of The Nation's 2009 Cruise featured Narda Zacchino, Patricia Williams, Christian Parenti and William Greider discussing the effects the "War on Terror" has had on the United States. Eyal Press moderated the panel.

Given the events that transpired on December 25th with the attempt to blow up Flight 253, the views and opinions share during this panel, have new and more urgent significance for progressives.

Each panelist was given five minutes to present his/her ideas. After each panelist had made their presentation, panelists were allotted an addition two minutes to respond to what had been said or pose questions to each other.

Christian Parenti, a Soros Senior Justice Fellow and a Ford Foundation Fellow at the CUNY Graduate School's Center for Place, Culture, and Politics, has reported from both Iraq and Afghanistan. He opened by looking at terrorism in context of the conflict in Afghanistan.

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.

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.

Gridlock, Sports and My Uterus

WICHITA, Kan. - I have been a member of Kansas National Organization of Women (Kansas NOW) since 2005. During that time, I have seen the women of Kansas seemingly take two steps forward and then take two steps back, stuck in a state of gridlock. The Shiver Report of 2009 illustrates this. The findings show that for the first time in history half of U.S. workers are women. This seems like quite an accomplishment for our gender... but wait... women earn merely 70% of what their male counterparts earn. Women you may now take one step forward with pride, but then be sure to follow that with one giant step backward.

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. - Some readers may notice on C-SPAN that obstructionism is in play on the floor of the U.S. Senate this weekend.

Meanwhile, rising health care costs are crippling the economy, squeezing middle class families' budgets, and making health care unattainable for a growing number of Americans. More than 14,000 people lose their coverage every day. We know that as the number of unemployed goes up, the number of uninsured goes up as well. Most of these individuals are not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare. They are exposed and vulnerable, without access to any health care services.

Approximately 46 million Americans went without insurance in 2008 - a figure expected to rise in 2009 due to the recession - causing an estimated 45,000 premature deaths this year alone (pdf). Over the next decade, the cost of private health insurance is expected to double.

Once the current diversionary antics are finished on the floor, the Senate leadership hopes to pass a health care reform bill by its own self-imposed Christmas deadline. This comes after months of debates, town hall meetings, countless revisions and ongoing confusion.

Is the Senate bill still worth passing in the Senate? Most Republicans, on the right, and many Democrats, on the left, say it's not worth passing. Not me. I guess I'm "going rogue" today. I think the Senate should pass this bill. Here's why...

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.

EMPORIA, Kan. - Today, I was driving past the Lyon County Health Department and noticed a long line of people waiting on the sidewalk to gain entrance. I parked across the street and contacted the security guard who was stationed out front to inquire as to why so many people were waiting. By the way, this was in 15 degree weather!

It turns out that the several hundred people I observed were waiting to receive flu shots! The county was offering $20 seasonal flu shots and free H1N1 [Swine Flu] shots.

This is what passes for health care under the current system. There are 2 systems in this county. One for the insured and well to do and the other in which the working poor are forced to depend on government handouts.

Annual Christmas Essay

HAYS, Kan. - My internal clock tells me that it is time for my almost-annual, semi-curmudgeonly Christmas essay.

There has been the usual tsunami of "Christian-Right" protest items in the newspapers and in e-mail forwardings regarding the secularization of Christmas, the "Happy Holidays" trend (versus "Merry Christmas"), and the like. This wave washes strongly across the High Plains of western Kansas, but I suspect few regions of the U.S. of A. are spared. Perhaps surprisingly, I find myself somewhat in agreement with the "Christian-Right" on this.

It is true that no one has the least idea what day of the year is the true anniversary of the birth of Jesus. The Church designated a day for the celebration, which is reasonable enough, and shrewdly placed it to co-opt the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice. One can't blame the Church for being shrewd. If Darwinian principles apply to organizations, there is survival value in shrewdness.

GRAND TURK, Turks And Caicos Islands - The participants on the 12th Annual Nation Cruise engaged in lively debate on the issue of foreign policy at the second panel seminar on Monday afternoon.

2009 Nation Cruise
Katrina vanden Heuvel, Robert Scheer, Steven Cohen, William Greider, Howard Dean
Members of the panel included: Robert Scheer, a 30-year veteran journalist, Nation columnist and editor of Truthdig.com; Steven Cohen, retired head of the Russian Department at Princeton University; Willian Greider, journalist, Nation columnist, and author of numerous books including The Soul of Capitalism (2003) and Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country (2009); and Howard Dean, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, presidential candidate and six-term Governor of Vermont.

The stage of the MS Eurodam's performance theatre provided the backdrop as Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, set the tone for the panel discussion by saying that "the cost of war can undermine change." While this was a major theme of the Obama campaign, vanden Huevel also reminded the audience that while Obama ran as an anti-Iraq War candidate, he did not run as an anti-war candidate and that is a notable difference.

Obstructionist Senators

brownback.jpgCOLBY, Kan. - We have 2 senators, just like the other 49 states. Well, no, they aren't just like all the other senators. Some senators are contributing input to the health care issue and the war issue our nation is facing.

What do we hear from our senators? Not much! About all they are doing is standing in the way. We cannot have health care reform by default. When we have to put up with a 41% minority holding legislation hostage, the wheels of progress come to a standstill. They need to either actively become vocal with solutions to the inequity of our system or move to support allowing a vote on what has been proposed. Our system of government is supposed to protect the human rights and welfare of the minorities in society. That does not mean the minorities should be able to limit, indefinitely, the ability of the majority to effectively enact legislation that has majority support.

TOPEKA, Kan. - On July 3, 2008, Christie Brungardt received news that is every mother's worst nightmare. Her 25-year-old daughter, Jana Mackey, a KU law student, had been killed by her daughter's ex-boyfriend in Lawrence.

Jana was well-known throughout Kansas for her advocacy for women's rights. A Hays native, Jana had spent years volunteering to aid victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in Topeka and Lawrence. She received her bachelor's degree in Women's Studies from KU and was an active participant in KU's Commission on the Status of Women. Jana also served as one of the youngest lobbyists at the Kansas State Capitol for the National Organization for Women.

On Thursday, more than a year after Jana's murder, about 50 people attended a news conference at the Topeka YMCA. Attendees heard Christie Brungardt and Jana's stepfather, Curt Brungardt, both also of Hays, announce the roll-out of Jana's Campaign to Stop Domestic Violence.

Realizing that other women continue to suffer the same tragic fate as their daughter, the Brungardts believe that much more must be done to adequately protect women in Kansas.

SALINA, Kan. - As Congress debates financial regulatory reform and the Obama Administration advocates for greater consumer financial protection, a new study finds a need for Congressional action on fringe banking practices used heavily by financially vulnerable families.

About 60 million Americans live without a bank account and resort to using pawn shops, payday loan storefronts and other non-bank operations to handle their finances, according to a report issued a few days ago by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Payday lending is a practice that has become part of the growing web of fringe banking largely concentrated in low-income and disproportionately minority communities. It allows lenders to provide cash advances on post-dated checks and has increasingly become a way for financially-strapped families and individuals to obtain money in the short-run.

Nearly all of these loans come with exorbitantly high interest rates and fees, and these monetary costs to families who become trapped by them has been well documented.

Aren't these non-banking systems providing a valuable service to Kansans? Who pays the most - and who profits the most - in Kansas? Why should we care?

TOPEKA, Kan. - As anybody who has followed my writing here on Kansas Free Press or at Everyday Citizen knows, I am a passionate advocate for ending domestic violence. My advocacy stems from my friendship with one of the most amazing women I've ever met, Jana Mackey, whose life was taken much too early by the epidemic of domestic violence that engulfs the world.

In a world where 1 in 4 women will be subjected to some form of domestic abuse, it is hard to find hope. However, it doesn't have to be that way. Here in Kansas, Curt and Christie Brungardt, Jana's parents, have started an organization whose goal is to eliminate domestic violence. While that may seem like a lofty goal, I think we can all agree that it is a worth one.

So, I implore you to join Curt and Christie this Thursday in Topeka for the kickoff press conference for Jana's Campaign to Stop Domestic Violence. Here is the information:

Thursday, December 10, 2009, 10:00 a.m.
YWCA (North Door Entrance)
225 SW 12th Street
Topeka, Kansas

For more information please visit www.janascampaign.org

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.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - On December 10 the world marks the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is commonly referred to as Human Rights Day and this year's theme is: "Embrace Diversity: End Discrimination."

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillary said: "Discrimination lies at the root of many of the world's most pressing human rights problems. No country is immune from this scourge. Eliminating discrimination is a duty of the highest order."

Download and read An End to Discrimination, the official publication for the 2009 Human Rights Day.

How appropriate considering that the FBI released hate crimes data in November that once again showed a "slight increase" in the number of "hate crimes" committed in 2008 as compared to 2007 with 7,783 incidents and 9,691 victims (including individuals, businesses, and institutions) that were reported to the FBI by law enforcement agencies across the country.

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 Policy: November 2009. The next archive is Policy: January 2010.

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