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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The year, 2014, in Kansas in review

This year we had plenty of ground breaking news stories to reflect on. We had a major election for Governor, Senators and Representatives. There were protest held on the Ferguson shooting and a campaign to reduce penalties for the minor possession of Marijuana.

So here is a month to month rap up:
Members of the organization KanVote accused Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach of trying to stop minorities, poor people and immigrants from voting. Kobach has been controversial for going around the country promoting voter ID laws that are supposed to prevent voter fraud. But there have been only about 20 known cases of voter fraud before this new law was passed and almost 20,000 people prevented from voting after it was passed.
Billionaires Charles, and David Koch are about the most controversial businessmen in the country. They fund political candidates and political think tanks, which are used as front groups for the brothers' political agenda. The Kochs are based here in Wichita. Leftist blogs such as this one have made every effort to expose what these brothers are doing, which many people feel amount to buying our democracy and making it a meaningless joke.
Fred Phelps was probably one of Kansas' most famous resident until he died last March. For many of Kansas' residents it was hard to morn for this guy. He was rabidly obsessed with suppressing gay people. His church and its politics were clearly under the category of a hate group. The church activists not only called gay people derogatory names, such a "fags," they viciously attacked those public officials who they felt were not hateful or not hateful enough of gays. Some of their tactics included stepping on the American flag because they thought that America was doomed for not suppressing gay people and they picketed funerals of dead gay people.

The Peace & Social Justice Center's Annual Peace Essay Art Challenge Experience (P.E.A.C.E) contest, focused on bullying. The event was held at the Ulrich Museum of Art, at Wichita State University. This year’s topic was “Express yourself: On Bullying.”
School students, from kindergarten through high school sent in essays and art to the contest to express themselves on the issue of bullying.
Activists wanting to reduce the penalties for Marijuana possession have worked to collect signatures to put the issue to a voter here in Wichita. Marijuana laws have been changing across the country, with Colorado deciding to legalize the drug. The Pro-marijuana legalization-activists here in Wichita finally have enough signatures to put a question in the next election that will determine if the voters want to eliminate jail time for a first time marijuana possession offense.

This was an election year and both the primary and the general elections had heated races. Fourth Congressional District Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo was challenged by Todd Tiahrt for his seat in the US Congress. Tiahrt held that seat before Pompeo won it. The two candidates were close on most domestic issues but differed on foreign policy issues. Pompeo was more jingoistic and pro-imperialism. The Democrat that was to challenge the winners in the general election, Perry Schuckman. was a token candidate who was given no real support from his party.
Support for other incumbents in the Republican Party Primary received unusually low for Kansas voters
Hobby Lobby won a victory for the right to refuse to provide two contraceptives (IUDs and Plan B) that they consider abortifacients.
That prompted nation-wide protest including some that were held here in Wichita. Protesters stood outside Hobby Lobby stores and called for boycotts of them. The protesters said that employers should not be the ones who get to decide what kind of medical coverage they give their employees.
Protesters stood on Ridge road by Hobby Lobby.

One of the biggest stories this year was the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, of Ferguson, MO, and the rioting that followed. Brown was black and UNARMED. Police shootings of unarmed black citizens is one of THE major issues as 2014 comes to a close. By coincidence I once lived in Ferguson after I was born and stayed there till I was about 5 years old.
AJ Bohannon addresses the crowd, last November, protesting in solidarity with those in Ferguson, MO.

The eyes of the entire nation were watching Kansas to see if an independent, Greg Orman, could unseat longtime Republican Senator Pat Roberts. Kansas is a deeply red state and has been for the last century. At first, Roberts was behind in the polls. Up to election day a lot of people thought independent Orman could win. If so, he would have been only a handful of independent candidates to buck the two-party system and win. He would also have broken the Republican strangle-hold on the State of Kansas.
However, as election night rolled in, Orman fell behind by 4 percent of the votes and lost.
At a rally held in October political activists tried to pressure Governor Sam Brownback into expanding Medicaid (or KanCare as it is called) to help the working poor of Kansas who were left out of Obamacare (Affordable Care Act or ADA). The organization Help Expand Medicaid in Kansas (HEMIC) staged the event. They had estimates that about 330 people in Kansas will die in the next year due to disease, due to a lack of medical insurance coverage.
Brownback is an ideological dogmatist who thought it was more important to sabotage Obamacare than to help save these people's lives. Expanding healthcare in Kansas was a major issue last year. Brownback had sent back a block grant that would have helped pay for Medicaid expansion.
The general election in Kansas was a major event. For a time several incumbent Republicans looked as if they might lose, including Governor Sam Brownback, Pat Roberts and Kris Kobach. All these candidates trailed their opponents in the polls and it looked as if Kansas would end up with an upset.
Also, most political experts, both Republican and Democrat, believed Brownback had failed miserably on any of his goals. On top of that he had seriously damaged the education system with deep funding cuts and undermined the states credit status.
ALL of the Republicans won. The GOP pulled out all its dirty tricks to pull these incumbents back from the dead. Brownback got just 50 percent of the popular vote. He only won because of a Libertarian candidate who got about 5 percent of the vote. It was enough to keep his job.
For anyone wanting the state to get back to normal, with a working school system and jobs for Kansas citizens—the night had been a bitter disappointment.
For the last few years religious fundamentalists and other conservative Christians have claimed that there has been a "War on Christmas." Their evidence was that some people were saying "happy holidays" rather than "merry Christmas." Supposedly the switch represents people taking the religion out of these legal holidays. Jews, pagans and others don't always say "merry Christmas" because they are not followers of Christ and his birthday. Many people over the years have tried to make this holiday more inclusive. But some conservative Christian feel they live in a "Christian country" because they are the majority religion therefore they have the right to force it on the public. 
Atheists and other non-Christians had also fought against using taxpayers money to put up nativity displays and other obvious Christian symbols on public property. Such displays are against the First Amendment to the US Constitution but these conservative Christians feel they have a right to put these up anyway.
Since this whole "war on Christmas" is really a waste of time and effort, I posted Winter Solstice carols on some of my blogs to defend my right to celebrate the holiday seasons without being a Christian. Many of these conservative Christians have complained that ONLY Christians should celebrate the December Holidays.

So we wait for next year and see how many of these issues will remain unresolved and which will result in positive change.

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