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4/14/2014

AYN RAND AND JESUS

Filed under: prairie musings, political musings, religion — Peg Britton @ 6:34 pm

Republicans are Trying to Mix the Ideologies of Jesus Christ with an Atheist and That Doesn’t Make Any Sense
April 14, 2014 By Allen Clifton

Ayn-rand-jesus-christ.  It’s amazing to me how few conservatives know who Ayn Rand is.  Especially considering that she’s quite possibly the most influential person behind most of the Republican party’s economic ideologies.

She was a person who spoke out against social programs, believed that people should only worry about themselves, opposed big government and worshiped at the “glory” that is unregulated capitalism.  In other words, she’s the epitome of what most Republicans support economically.

Hell, Ron Paul named his son Rand Paul after the woman, and Paul Ryan has cited her as one of his key influences in his life.

There’s just one problem – Ayn Rand was an atheist.  Not that there’s any problem at all with being an atheist (more power to you) but there is a big problem with a political party that builds its social platform on “Christian” values while basing its economic ideology on that of someone who didn’t believe in God.

You can’t logically say that you want to be the party of “Christian values” while basing a large part of your platform on the beliefs of a woman who thought people who believed in religion were ignorant and foolish.

It doesn’t make any sense.

Think of it like a vegetarian opening a steak house.  You cannot base one entity on two conflicting ideologies.  But that’s exactly what the Republican party is trying to do.

They want to call themselves the party of “Christian values,” while supporting economic policies based on the beliefs of a woman who lived her life in direct contrast to Christianity.

(Oh, on a side note, Ayn Rand died poor living off Social Security.  So much for opposing big government programs and rallying for “personal responsibility.”)

Jesus Christ believed in helping the poor; feeding the hungry; opposing greed; believed in acceptance; taught to provide for the needy, all while preaching love and generosity.  Ayn Rand believed that we should only worry about ourselves, that the “self” is the only thing that matters and essentially charity was stupid.

You know, the exact opposite of the values for which Jesus Christ stood.

So when Republicans try to morph these two conflicting ideologies together, all I can do is shake my head.  I guess it’s a good thing their voters are often extremely ignorant to reality, history and facts – because trying to mix the philosophies of Ayn Rand with the beliefs of Jesus Christ doesn’t make any damn sense.

But that’s exactly what the Republican party is trying to do.

4/12/2014

RICHARD DAWKINS…

Filed under: prairie musings, religion — Peg Britton @ 9:25 am

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WHAT DO THE KOCH BROTHERS WANT?

Filed under: prairie musings, Kansas, Koch Brothers — Peg Britton @ 7:37 am

What Do the Koch Brothers Want?

As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires and large corporations can now spend an unlimited amount of money to influence the political process.

Perhaps, the biggest winners of Citizens United are Charles and David Koch, owners of the second-largest privately run business in America Koch Industries.

Among other things, the Koch brothers own oil refineries in Texas, Alaska, and Minnesota and control some 4,000 miles of pipeline.

According to Forbes Magazine, the Koch brothers are now worth $80 billion, and have increased their wealth by $12 billion since last year alone.

For the Koch brothers, $80 billion in wealth, apparently, is not good enough. Owning the second largest private company in America is, apparently, not good enough.  It doesn’t appear that they will be satisfied until they are able to control the entire political process.

It is well known that the Koch brothers have provided the major source of funding to the Tea Party and want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

What else do the Koch brothers want?

In 1980, David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 1980.

Let’s take a look at the 1980 Libertarian Party platform.

Here are just a few excerpts of the Libertarian Party platform that David Koch ran on in 1980:

“We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”
“We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
“We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”
“We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”
“We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”
“We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence.  Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”
“We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”
“We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”
“As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”
“We support repeal of all law which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”
“We advocate the complete separation of education and State.  Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”
“We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”
“We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”
“We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
“We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”
“We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”
“We demand the return of America’s railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”
“We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called “self-protection” equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”
“We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
“We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”
“We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”
“We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”
“We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”
“We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
“We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
“We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”

In other words, the agenda of the Koch brothers is not only to defund Obamacare.  The agenda of the Koch brothers is to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country.

It is clear that the Koch brothers and other right wing billionaires are calling the shots and are pulling the strings of the Republican Party.

And because of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, they now have the power to spend an unlimited amount of money to buy the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the next President of the United States.

If they are allowed to hijack the American political process to defund Obamacare they will be back for more.

Tomorrow it will be Social Security, ending Medicare as we know it, repealing the minimum wage.  It seems to me that the Koch brothers will not be content until they get everything they believe they are entitled to.

Our great nation can no longer be hijacked by right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers.

For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, for the sake of our economy, we have got to let democracy prevail.

4/6/2014

LAUNDRY DAY IN THE PALACE…TROPHIC CASCADES…

Filed under: prairie musings, friends, Mackenzie, Presbyterian Manor — Peg Britton @ 1:22 pm

I’m doing three loads of laundry today (do you know how many trips up and down the hall that is?) and reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  My neighbor, Amy Hoffman, recommended it.  Amy is a retired English teacher and knows good literature.  It’s a page-turner.

“The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind….Donna Tartt has delivered an extraordinary work of fiction.”–Stephen King, The New York Times Book Review

Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

THE GOLDFINCH is a mesmerizing, tell-all-your-friends triumph, hailed by Stephen King as “a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind.” (New York Times Book Review) ”

Meantime, I’ve been fascinated reading about trophic cascades among wolves, elk, aspen etc in Yellowstone National Park. I can’t get enough of it.

Reading is better than walking the halls doing laundry….

Our little Emma Grace has been returned to her parents.  She got to see Mackenzie (with her hair cut after more than two years hiatus from the shears) and Ty on her way through St. Louis, which was very special for Mackenzie.

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Thanks for tuning in…

4/1/2014

PEG AND EMMA…MEETING FOR THE FIRST TIME….

Filed under: prairie musings, Ally Britton, Rodney and Gennifer Helus, Emma — Peg Britton @ 6:41 pm

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Peg and Emma…photo by Ally April 1, 2014

3/31/2014

LIFE IN THE PALACE….

Filed under: prairie musings, friends, Tyler Britton USAF, Mackenzie, Presbyterian Manor, Emma — Peg Britton @ 7:49 am

One of my constant nightmares is gone for the first time in about six years.  Thanks to Affordable Health Care, every member of my family has health insurance.

Over the weekend a delicious “brunch of the decade” at Lynn’s house, in honor of her mother’s birthday, was my highlight of the week.  We started out with a generous supply of mimosas which brought on smiles of good things to follow…a fresh vegetable frittata,  blueberry and peach French toast, two kinds of muffins…one savory and the other filled with English blood orange marmalade… and two kinds of plump link sausages, a gorgeous bowl of mixed fresh fruit….and special hot tea.  Leftovers followed me home and I had the same thing for dinner.  It was wonderful.

Another highlight came yesterday when my youngest grandson surprised me with a call from Germany where he had just delivered a CCAT patient from Afghanistan.  It was a turn-around flight so he didn’t have much time on the ground, but we did have time for a short exchange. Those are very precious moments. He’ll be stateside, we think, in May.

I also had nice visits with my granddaughter in St. Louis and my sister-in-law in Denver.  A good friend who lives back and beyond WaKeeney also called in with the news of the day. I love her calls. In other pasttimes, I finished the Jeffrey Archer book that followed his “trilogy”.  The next book won’t be found at better book stores everywhere until next year.  Now I’m reading the Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  Tyler just finished reading “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story”.  I’ll put it on my “to read” list as I enjoy reading what my grandkids read. They are way ahead of me.

Tomorrow I’m “goin’ home” to Ellsworth to see for the first time  my new great-grandbaby, Emma.  My friend, Lynn, and I are making an afternoon trip west to include some Mexican food in Ellsworth and visiting the rels.  It should be a wonderful day.

There are lots of things going on today so I need to move on to sittercise class then lunch and exposure to art.

Thanks for tuning in…

3/27/2014

IE…

Filed under: prairie musings, religion — Peg Britton @ 8:32 am

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3/26/2014

EMMA IS VISITING HER GRANDPARENTS…

Filed under: prairie musings, Emma — Peg Britton @ 10:02 am

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Emma made her first cross-country trip to visit her rels…. a delightfully happy occasion for all of  us.

3/25/2014

MORE ABOUT LIFE IN THE PALACE….

Filed under: prairie musings, Presbyterian Manor, restaurants/food — Peg Britton @ 5:52 am

Last night was “Bulgarian Night” at the Korean Restaurant and I was there from start to finish. Didn’t miss a thing thanks to Ann and Terry Headrick who haul me around and deliver me to whatever party is ongoing.  Our chef for the night was Tihomira Plamenova who had help from her mother, who was visiting here from Bulgaria.

For starters, we had banitza, which was fabulous.  It’s a flaky, rich pastry dish made with feta cheese.  That was my favorite part of the meal.  With the  banitza we had airian which is a typical Bulgarian drink made from yogurt, salt and water and I don’t know what else.  That sounds strange, but it’s a very healthful drink.  It tasted a little like buttermilk as you might imagine.

Following the banitza, we had Bulgarian traditional schopaka salad which was beautiful and delicious….made with fresh veggies like cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, ripe olives, etc.  With that we had schnitzels with traditional potato side dish.  For dessert we had a chocolate cake that was 48 hours in the making and was layered with vanilla pudding, whip cream, strawberries and bananas.

Kent Buess sent me a photo of the above but I can’t get it on this entry.  I thank him for his efforts.

I’m not certain what culinary experience we’ll have next month, but hints of German food were heard among the participants who, by the way, overflowed the room.  I think it was the largest group ever as Joomi said they “over-booked”.  I had a delightful surprise with my friend, Marsha Stewart, at my side and, our former neighbors, the Helveys, we all there also for hellos.

I can’t get any of my friends from the Palace to join me for these adventures.  One tends to fall into the rut of comfortable bland food after eating here and …well, that’s okay too.  But it isn’t for me.  There are still dining adventures out there to be enjoyed and enjoy them I will, as long as I am able.

My first and only great grandchild is heading this way for a visit.  I can hardly wait to see that precious child.

I hope it’s warm enough to sit outside.  Well, I sit out by the entry many days when it isn’t warm enough, but it’s still enjoyable.    I might tackle The BooK Thief again.  It’s a strange book.  I just can’t get on track with it.

Everything is going well at the Palace.  There is always something interesting going on, people to talk to and friends to laugh with.  I had Ivy and Margie come by to watch the KU-Stanford game and have some finger food. Something like that is always easy and fun but the games are over for most of us now.  We’ve lost interest now that all the Kansas teams are out of the loop.  There are musical groups coming to perform tomorrow and Thursday and a Palace movie Thursday evening.  And, we’ll have some gatherings this weekend on 2 west for the “girlz in the hood”.  And, I always enjoy reading, my computer, Netflix movies ….always something to do.

Thanks for tuning in…

3/17/2014

HAPPY ST. PAT’S DAY TO ALL…

Filed under: prairie musings, Roy P. Britton, Todd & Karen Britton — Peg Britton @ 7:26 am

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And…happy 30th wedding anniversary to Todd and Karen…

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Hugs to my main squeeze too as this would have been our 63rd wedding anniversary.

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It’s a good time to celebrate a special day…

3/13/2014

DANE…

Filed under: prairie musings, Dane Britton, Mackenzie — Peg Britton @ 7:14 am

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Dane would have been 62 today…he was on this earth for only 56 years, but he made an enormous difference in the lives of many.

3/12/2014

ANOTHER PERFECT DAY IN KANSAS….FOR HALF THE DAY….THEN THE WINDS CAME….

Filed under: prairie musings, Ally Britton, Presbyterian Manor — Peg Britton @ 8:03 am

 

Yesterday was a splendid day…a perfect day in Kansas, warm and sunny without wind (until mid-afternoon).  Ally came early to visit so we had all day to “get things done”.   I need help to accomplish most things that accumulate on my list.  We began the day by meeting our good friend, Ann, for breakfast at the north IHOP.  That’s always a good way to start the day and our conversations with Ann are always lively and animated.

Since I’ve lived at the Palace, I haven’t had the opportunity or energy to take on the new, big Dillon’s store.  I still use a walker and how was I to use it, carry it in a cart? Tie it to the back of a go cart?  It’s a very big store and walking the aisles would be too much for me.  I’d need to stop and sit awhile…maybe on the display of  bags of rice?

Nonetheless, the store has been like a magnet to me and I have longed wished I could peruse its aisles. Yesterday was my day.  Ally took me and her only stipulation was that we limit my purchases to what we could carry in three plastic bags.  That was going to be tricky, but they all have to be carried into the Palace and up to my apartment and Ally has to do that.  When we pick a day to do such errands, we both have to be in tiptop shape.

I used one of those handy-dandy mechanical carts designed for the incapacitated elderly shopper. It was a nightmare to operate as it was either full go, forward or backward, or STOP.  The “stops” were brain- jolting and bone-jarring and each stop almost threw over the windshield.  I jerked up and down every aisle until I became disoriented and hardly knew where I was.  By then, I had accumulated enough food stuffs to fill several more than my allotted three bags.  Food for my pantry to last for a long time.  And, the required veggies.  We don’t have enough crunchy stuff here so I loaded up on raw veggies to satisfy that craving.

Since I have my main meal in the dining room with the other inmates, I don’t want a lot to eat in the evening.  Last night I had some tofu miso and naam I found yesterday at the store.  They were both very good and provided a wonderful change from the usual fare we have here.  I’m not sure I would ever tire of either.  I also bought several other items that will be easy to prepare and are “different” from anything that is served here.  In addition, I bought some  Idaho baking potatoes and the required toppings to go on them when I feel like a “loaded” baked potato for dinner.

The skids on my walker were worn out.  I need a new set every couple of months as I wear them out rather quickly.  I guess that proves I’m walking around.  Ally took my walker to Key Rexall where Pat changed out the skis.  She also went by the Medical Arts building to see if they could take the wiggle out of my walker.  They can’t so I’ll use this one until it falls apart.  My friend, Ann, has her eyes out for a used one for me.

Then Ally went by Bogies to get me a surprise…a diet cherry limeade, the best in town.  It’s always a special treat.  We had a very good day.

I’m still going to sittercise class every morning as it does help my mobility.  Yoga a couple of times a week also helps me to stay limber.  Well, as limber as old, arthritic joints will allow.  Every little bit helps.  I should do more but my level of energy seems to dictate what I can do without getting overly fatigued.

I still love living here and for me and my family, my decision to move here was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.  Life is very good….

Thanks for tuning in…

3/10/2014

H. EDWARD FLENTIE: REST OF THE STORY ON STATE FINANCES

Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 12:27 pm

from: The Wichita Eagle
Published Sunday, March 9, 2014

By H. Edward Flentje

Gov. Sam Brownback was in Washington, D.C., recently boasting at a national political conference that when he took office the state was broke with just $876.05 in its bank account, but now through his leadership the state had $700 million in reserve.

Given the governor’s propensity with budget numbers, the late radio commentator Paul Harvey might advise: “And now, for the rest of the story.”

As a result of the Great Recession, Kansas state finance was indeed in dire condition the year before Brownback took office. Individual income taxes, the mainstay of state spending, had fallen by $487 million, or 17 percent, in the two prior years. Sales and use taxes had fallen by another $112 million in the same period. And the state’s balance sheet was indeed at zero on June 30, 2010, six months before Brownback assumed office.

But Brownback had nothing to do with fixing this problem. He was comfortably in the U.S. Senate preparing to run for governor.

Gov. Mark Parkinson and a bipartisan coalition of state legislators did step forward in the 2010 legislative session and address the issue by passing a three-year, 1-cent sales tax, grabbing money from the highway fund, and plugging federal “stimulus” funds into school finance.

The 2010 action taken by these courageous state lawmakers avoided a financial crisis and handed Brownback $1.14 billion in added sales and use tax revenues for his first three budgets. A turn in the Kansas economy that began in 2010 – again not of Brownback’s doing – added another $500 million in individual income-tax receipts to state coffers in the same period.

In sum, that heroic coalition of 2010 plus an economic upturn gave Brownback his $700 million in state balances plus another $1 billion he has applied to state spending.

After all that, Brownback surely fell on his knees and profusely thanked those lawmakers. To the contrary, he turned on them. He joined with his stalwart ally, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and targeted them for defeat. As a result, 13 incumbent House members in the bipartisan coalition were defeated in November 2010.

Then in 2012, Brownback took the unprecedented action of purging legislators of his own party. In alliance with the Kansas Chamber and other special interest groups, he campaigned against state Senate leadership, and nine incumbent senators were defeated, all of whom were part of the 2010 coalition.

Brownback may attempt to rewrite the recent history of state finance for his own purposes, but Kansans will not find him crowing about state budget balances going forward. His proposed budget of ill-advised tax cuts and election-year spending obliterates the $709 million in state reserves on the books as of last July. He recommends spending in excess of revenues totaling $462 million this year and next, leaving a balance of less than $250 million at the end of next year, more than $200 million below that required by state statutes.

And Brownback absolutely refuses to talk about state balances after next year. According to projections, there will be no balances. State finance will be underwater in a sea of red ink. Brownback’s radical tax policy will leave the state broke.

In the words of Paul Harvey: “And now you know the rest of the story.”

H. Edward Flentje is a professor at Wichita State University.

3/7/2014

ELLSWORTH-KANOPOLIS CHAMBER EVENTS FOR 2014…

Filed under: prairie musings, Ellsworth — Peg Britton @ 12:28 pm

Big Events in 2014
We are looking for community people that would like to help, either by having your organization do a booth or service, or just volunteering to help in some way yourself. Please contact the Chamber office if you would like to help.

This year’s events are as follows:

Saturday, March 22 - Kiwanis Home Show and ECMC Health Fair

Friday, April 4 - Ellsworth Elementary Carnival

Saturday, April 6 - Dalton’s Walk

Saturday, June 28 - Boy Scouts 5 K/Run for the Soul/Car Show & Star Spangled Fireworks Extravaganza

Friday, Saturday, July 11-12 - Fort Harker Days

Friday, Saturday, August 15-16 - El-Kan Rodeo

Saturday, August 16 - Cowtown Days

Saturday, August 30 - St Ignatius Fiesta

Sunday, September 28 - Welcome Home Picnic

Friday, October 31 - Kiwanis Halloween

Tuesday, November 4 - United Methodist Bazaar and Soup Supper

Saturday, November 8 - Kanopolis Turkey Bingo

Saturday, November 15 - Jingle Bell Shop & Sell Craft Bazaar

Monday, December 1 - Chamber Christmas Live Nativity

If you are interested in helping with any of these goals or have ideas to help us be successful please contact Carol at 472-4071 or email.


3/6/2014

SIX WAYS AMERICA IS LIKE A THIRD-WORLD COUNTRY…

Filed under: prairie musings, print news — Peg Britton @ 9:20 am

ROLLING STONE

By Sean McElwee
March 5, 2014 12:00 PM ET

Although the U.S. is one of the richest societies in history, it still lags behind other developed nations in many important indicators of human development – key factors like how we educate our children, how we treat our prisoners, how we take care of the sick and more. In some instances, the U.S.’s performance is downright abysmal, far below foreign countries that are snidely looked-down-upon as “third world.” Here are six of the most egregious examples that show how far we still have to go:

1. Criminal Justice

We all know the U.S. criminal justice system is flawed, but few are likely aware of just how bad it is compared to the rest of the world. The International Center for Prison Studies estimates that America imprisons 716 people per 100,000 citizens (of any age). That’s significantly worse than Russia (484 prisoners per 100,000 citizens), China (121) and Iran (284). The only country that incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than we do is North Korea. The U.S. is also the only developed country that executes prisoners – and our death penalty has a serious race problem: 42 percent of those on death row are black, compared to less than 15 percent of the overall population.

Over two and a half million American children have a parent behind bars. A whopping 60 percent of those incarcerated in U.S. prisons are non-violent offenders, many of them in prison for drug charges (overwhelmingly African-Americans). Even while our crime rate has fallen, our incarcerated population has climbed. As of 2011, an estimated 217,000 American prisoners were raped each year ­– that’s 600 new victims every day, a truly horrifying number. In 2010, the Department of Justice released a report about abuse in juvenile detention centers. The report found that 12.1 percent of all youth held in juvenile detention reported sexual violence; youth held for between seven and 12 months had a victimization rate of 14.2 percent.

2. Gun Violence

The U.S. leads the developed world in firearm-related murders, and the difference isn’t a slight gap – more like a chasm. According to United Nations data, the U.S. has 20 times more murders than the developed world average. Our murder rate also dwarfs many developing nations, like Iraq, which has a murder rate less than half ours. More than half of the most deadly mass shootings documented in the past 50 years around the world occurred in the United States, and 73 percent of the killers in the U.S. obtained their weapons legally. Another study finds that the U.S. has one of the highest proportion of suicides committed with a gun. Gun violence varies across the U.S., but some cities like New Orleans and Detroit rival the most violent Latin American countries, where gun violence is highest in the world.

3. Healthcare

A study last year found that in many American counties, especially in the deep South, life expectancy is lower than in Algeria, Nicaragua or Bangladesh. The U.S. is the only developed country that does not guarantee health care to its citizens; even after the Affordable Care Act, millions of poor Americans will remain uninsured because governors, mainly Republicans, have refused to expand Medicaid, which provides health insurance for low-income Americans. Although the federal government will pay for the expansion, many governors cited cost, even though the expansion would actually save money. America is unique among developed countries in that tens of thousands of poor Americans die because they lack health insurance, even while we spend more than twice as much of our GDP on healthcare than the average for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a collection of rich world countries. The U.S. has an infant mortality rate that dwarfs comparable nations, as well as the highest teenage-pregnancy rate in the developed world, largely because of the politically-motivated unavailability of contraception in many areas.

4. Education

The U.S. is among only three nations in the world that does not guarantee paid maternal leave (the other two are Papua New Guinea and Swaziland). This means many poor American mothers must choose between raising their children and keeping their jobs. The U.S. education system is plagued with structural racial biases, like the fact that schools are funded at the local, rather than national level. That means that schools attended by poor black people get far less funding than the schools attended by wealthier students. The Department of Education has confirmed that schools with high concentrations of poor students have lower levels of funding. It’s no wonder America has one of the highest achievement gaps between high income and low income students, as measured by the OECD. Schools today are actually more racially segregated than they were in the 1970s. Our higher education system is unique among developed nations in that is funded almost entirely privately, by debt. Students in the average OECD country can expect about 70 percent of their college tuition to be publicly funded; in the United States, only about 40 percent of the cost of education is publicly-funded. That’s one reason the U.S. has the highest tuition costs of any OECD country.

5. Inequality

By almost every measure, the U.S. tops out OECD countries in terms of income inequality, largely because America has the stingiest welfare state of any developed country. This inequality has deep and profound effects on American society. For instance, although the U.S. justifies its rampant inequality on the premise of upward mobility, many parts of the United States have abysmal levels of social mobility, where children born in the poorest quintile have a less than 3 percent chance of reaching the top quintile. Inequality harms our democracy, because the wealthy exert an outsized political influence. Sheldon Adelson, for instance, spent more to influence the 2012 election than the residents of 12 states combined. Inequality also tears at the social fabric, with a large body of research showing that inequality correlates with low levels of social trust. In their book The Spirit Level, Richard Pickett and Kate Wilkinson show that a wide variety of social indicators, including health and well-being are intimately tied to inequality.

6. Infrastructure

The United States infrastructure is slowly crumbling apart and is in desperate need for repair. One study estimates that our infrastructure system needs a $3.6 trillion investment over the next six years. In New York City, the development of Second Avenue subway line was first delayed by the outbreak of World War II; it’s still not finished. In South Dakota, Alaska and Pennsylvania, water is still transported via century-old wooden pipes. Some 45 percent of Americans lack access to public transit. Large portions of U.S. wastewater capacity are more than half a century old and in Detroit, some of the sewer lines date back to the mid-19th century. One in nine U.S. bridges (or 66,405 bridges) are considered “structurally deficient,” according to the National Bridge Inventory. All of this means that the U.S. has fallen rapidly in international rankings of infrastructure.

America is a great country, and it does many things well. But it has vast blind spots. The fact that nearly 6 million Americans, or 2.5 percent of the voting-age population, cannot vote because they have a felony on record means that politicians can lock up more and more citizens without fear of losing their seat. Our ideas of meritocracy and upward mobility blind us to the realities of class and inequality. Our healthcare system provides good care to some, but it comes at a cost – millions of people without health insurance. If we don’t critically examine these flaws, how can we ever hope to progress as a society?

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/six-ways-america-is-like-a-third-world-country-20140305#ixzz2vCE1TCre
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

3/4/2014

COLD DAYS AT THE PALACE…WHEN IS SPRING COMING?

Filed under: prairie musings, Tyler Britton USAF, Afghanistan, Mackenzie — Peg Britton @ 8:28 pm

Most of my friends here are not into technology.  They don’t want a computer even though they have an idea of the world that would open to them if they had one. I just can’t imagine my life without a computer and thanks to my granddaughter, Mackenzie, I can rest assured she’ll keep me provided with one that will probe the universe.  I love this one that she got for me…another Dell with all the bells and whistles.  If I go to a Mac, I will have to find a new granddaughter and I’m not about to do that.

Years ago I told her I was buying my last computer and that I’d take it with me when “they” put me in the nursing home.  It would have racing stripes.  I don’t know how many computers she’s bought for me since then, but I would guess 5 or 6.  I’m in the “nursing home” now with a room equipped with all the latest technological gadgets at my fingertips.  There are wires strung around like you see pictured in Indian (spot Indian) call centers…a mass of wires of all shapes and sizes with surge protectors all cluttering the floor.  The maintenance guys here just walk in and smile.  They know there is nothing they can do about it.   They put in a new generator and I think it was just for me.

call-center.jpg >>>>>>>those wires  lead to my apartment…

My grandson called me from Afghanistan this morning.  Well, he Skyped me which is even better as I got to see him fit, healthy and smiling.  I could see the hairs on his neck and his beautiful smile.  We talked as if he were in the same room together.  I find that just incredible…after all, I’m 84 and this wasn’t possible even a few years ago.  If some of my friends here had  persevered, they too could be having the same kinds of conversations with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live far away.  It isn’t fun getting old because the world passes you buy before you know what’s happening.  It’s a struggle to keep up with friends and family….not entirely possible, but with some effort, it can makes a difference if you have a computer and long-distance service…and use them.

I don’t get to see some of my friends as often as I would like, but thanks to Cox services, I can talk with my kids, grandkids, Sandra, Joyce, Susie,Betty, Shirley, Nancy and other friends as often as I like.  Yea for more technology.

Tomorrow I’m getting my hair cut.  Marsha has a shop on the first floor so it’s convenient.  She’s good and charges $16.00.  I don’t have to get in my car and go any place and I love her service.  Her son works at the Correctional Facility in Ellsworth so we always have a lot to talk about.

Ally came today and we had lunch…a burger at Bogey’s.  I don’t go there often but I’ve decided I don’t like their shakes.  I liked the ones Melinda Svaty liked, but they can’t seem to make it like that anymore. I do like their sugar free cherry limeades.  We ran into the Tomans and Connie and Mark Martin, which was nice.  Ally ran some errands for me and best of all…she hauled my trash to the dumpster.  I don’t know how I accumulate so much refuse and it’s a pain for me to carry down the hall.  I really do appreciate it when she or Todd does it for me.

Life is good in the Palace.  Thanks for tuning in…

A GOOD, GOOD FRIEND OF LONG STANDING JUST MOVED INTO THE PALACE…

Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 12:17 pm

Time passes so quickly and silently that you hardy notice the subtle changes that happen from day to day and event to event…and year to year.  People remember.  People forget.

My good friend Betty just moved into nursing care.  Her husband, Jack, and sons, Jeff and Jackie, brought her by my apartment to say hello and show her where I live.  We’ve been friends since we were young.  Our children grew up together and remain friends to this day.  At one time we were next door neighbors…and we never lived far apart.  Our lives have always been intertwined the way they do when their children are like your own, running through the house.  We’ve always cherished the friendship that each has had to offer.

I think Betty will like it here.  She’s surrounded by her own furniture and personal belongings and Jack will be here a lot of the time to see her through the early adjustment period.  I want him to meet some of the “guys” and have coffee with them in the morning.

Today we were supposed to go to Lindsborg for Chinese buffet for lunch, but Amy and I were the only ones who signed up to go and they canceled the trip for lack of interest.  Ally will be here shortly and we’ll go find something good.  I rarely have a good hamburger so that sounds appealing right now.  Maybe a trip to Bogey’s is in order.
I bought a loaded baked potato at Hog Wild to bring home for dinner the other day.  It was big enough for two meals and really tasted good to me.  I had it with the last of Claudia’s home-canned tomatoes.  I wish I had a pantry full of her tomatoes as that’s about my most favorite food. I hear Wendy’s have good potatoes so I think I’ll get one there today to have tonight or tomorrow.  And chili-to-go would be good too.  I need to plan ahead.

We had an inmate trip to the Blue Skye Brewery and Eats last week and that is always fun.  There were only 7 of us who went, but we had our share of hamburgers, pizza, quesadillas and  their good stout.  I particularly like their “Tumbleweed” burger that is made with 1/3 pound Angus beef, and topped with pepper jack cheese, jalapeno bacon, onions and chipotle atoli.  It’s a good place to eat as they also have beautiful salads like Caesars for $8.00, Blue Skye Chop made with romaine lettuce and tossed with bleu cheese dressing with added crumbles, Roma tomatoes, red onion, bacon, house-made croutons.  Their sliders are made with certified Angus beef.  If you want a dessert, try their specialty cheesecakes.  As far as I know, they also have a full bar.

Life in the Palace continues to be perfect for me.  I couldn’t ask for a better place to live.

Thanks for tuning in…

30 YEARS OF MAN’S LIFE DISAPPEAR IN MYSTERIOUS ‘KANSAS RECTANGLE’…

Filed under: prairie musings — Peg Britton @ 10:51 am

From The Onion, America’s finest news source…
30 Years Of Man’s Life Disappear In Mysterious ‘Kansas Rectangle’
News • Local • small towns • 50 states • ISSUE 44•19 • Jun 30, 2011

CHICAGO—The so-called “Kansas rectangle,” a desolate and featureless region covering 82,277 square miles in America’s mysterious Great Plains, has been a source of speculation among paranormal investigators for decades. Though the questions surrounding its existence have never been answered, one thing is certain: The life of former Chicagoan Kevin Corcoran suddenly vanished into the eerie region 30 years ago this week, never to return.

The last time Kevin Corcoran was seen being active.

According to his friends and family, Corcoran, a bright and energetic young man of 18, was last seen driving into the Rectangle in a Plymouth Duster on the afternoon of May 8, 1978. Surveillance footage shows him stopping at a gas station near the border to buy fuel and snacks at 4:15 p.m. Although his trip was only supposed to last the summer, he was never seen or heard from again.

The last known communication from Corcoran was sent from somewhere within the Rectangle, and made reference to plans to marry a large blond woman and enroll in a local technical college. Records indicate the message was received from 37 degrees 42 minutes north latitude and 97 degrees 20 minutes west longitude—but when searchers attempted to investigate that location, they found nothing but a tiny town with zero signs of life.

“Who knows if my son will ever return to civilization,” said Corcoran’s father, Dennis, now 76. “Some have reported seeing a pale and dead-eyed specter of him, trudging to and from a small office-supply firm every day, but they could just be legends. We don’t know.”

Acquaintances of Corcoran say they warned him that once he entered the Rectangle, he would never make it back out, but he did not listen, and was drawn there to investigate tales of cheap tuition. It wasn’t until Corcoran failed to show up in the summer of 1978 for an annual camping trip, however, that the reality of his disappearance began to sink in.

“I knew then he wasn’t coming back,” friend Craig Wilkins said. “He got sucked into this alternative reality, and he can’t get out. I’ll never see my friend again.”

The mysterious region has, according to some accounts, swallowed thousands of potentially interesting and active lives.

As haunting as his story may be, Kevin Corcoran is only one of hundreds of people who, for unknown reasons, have had years or even decades of their lives utterly fade away in the mystifying region. Still, most cases lack any hard evidence: The few known photos from inside the Rectangle show only a flat, blank emptiness, stretching unremarkably to the horizon.

What happens in the lives of those who venture within remains a mystery.

Matthew Hume, a researcher at the University of Chicago who studies the Rectangle, said the bizarre phenomena associated with the region might never be fully understood.

“As best we can tell, those who go beyond the area’s borders for too long are knocked off course by the low external pressure to succeed,” Hume said. “But after that, it’s as if they fall off the face of the earth. There are cases of an entire Greyhound bus full of people entering the Rectangle and vanishing into obscurity.”

Experts estimate that several million tons of consumer goods disappear into the region per year. Yet, almost nothing, save for the odd Sunday morning church broadcast, is ever detected coming back out.

Still, some travelers have returned to tell their tales. The most frequent occurrence reported by those who have survived the Kansas Rectangle is extreme disorientation and an unsettling perception of time distortion.

Boulder, CO resident Ned Frome entered the Rectangle in 2005 while en route to visiting family in St. Louis.

“I had been driving for hours, but it was as though I hadn’t moved at all,” Frome said. “I had no idea which direction I was going in. No matter where I looked, everything was exactly the same and before long, normal navigation was almost impossible.”

“I’ll never go in there again,” Frome added with a shudder. “I felt like I was going insane.”

Kyle Manheim, a photocopier salesman from Minneapolis who was once inside the Kansas Rectangle for two weeks on business, said he could not clearly remember any events from the time period.

“There isn’t a single thing I can recall that would be worth mentioning,” Manheim said. “I know I was there, but that’s about it. It’s like those 14 days never happened.”

While many strongly believe in the eerie, soul-destroying powers of the Kansas Rectangle, the dearth of concrete evidence has drawn its share of skeptics.

“If you look at the statistics, there’s nothing going on in that area that doesn’t happen every day in the rest of the country,” said Stephen Finney, a long-haul trucker who is familiar with the region. “What happened to Kevin Corcoran could have happened in Iowa, Indiana, or even Michigan.

“It’s just a myth,” Finney added. “This whole ‘Kansas’ place people talk about simply does not exist.”

3/3/2014

DWINDLING CHRISTIAN RIGHT TURNS INTO CORNERED ANIMAL, LASHES OUT AT CIVIL RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY

Filed under: prairie musings, Pro-life/Pro-choice, Civil/Gay Rights, religion — Peg Britton @ 8:15 am

AlterNet  / By CJ Werleman

February 26, 2014  |

Like a cornered animal, which turns instinctively to confront pursuing predators, the Christian Right, knowing it represents the views of an ever shrinking number of Americans, is engaged in an existential fight to the death. Veto or no veto, Arizona’s anti-gay bill is just another of its many efforts to transform America’s secular democracy into a tyrannical theocracy.

The Christian Right’s dirty little secret is they are acutely aware that changing demographics are running against them. While they may believe the earth is a mere few thousand years old, they’re not complete idiots. They can read polls, and the data tells them this:  millennials are abandoning religious belief. According to a recent Pew survey [3], one in four Americans born after 1981 hold no religious belief, which is nearly double the national rate of atheism. Other studies confirm this trend, including a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute showing more than half of non-religious Millennials have abandoned their childhood faith.

With this in mind, the nation’s radical religious fundamentalists see an ever-shrinking window to impose their Bronze Age worldview on the gay, atheist, liberal, immigrant, heathen, and science book-reading masses. The American Taliban is as deeply troubled by the thoughts of a gay man “sneaking a peak” of a heterosexual man in an NFL locker room as much as they’re freaked out over seeing Cam and Mitchell, the gay couple on “Modern Family,” adopt an Asian child. For the intellectual infants of the American species, progressive culture is nothing more than a 24/7 infomercial for gay sex and abortion. That frightens our unfriendly theocrats because biblical fundamentalists are more concerned with the goings on in the bedrooms of others than they are within the guilt-ridden, sexless confines of their own.

Salon columnist Brian Beutler writes that measures like Arizona’s  SB1062 bill have emerged in a number of states out of “a wellspring of conservative panic about the country’s abrupt legal and cultural evolution into a society that’s broadly tolerant of gay people.” He adds, “Rather than deny the shift, or stop at trying to reverse it in legislatures, the courts and at ballot boxes, conservatives are instead attempting to erect a legal architecture that will wall them off from the growing portion of American society that supports equal rights for gay people.”

These “religious freedom” bills did not arrive here overnight; they are three decades in the making. Prior to the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976, no serious presidential candidate ever claimed to have been “born again,” and the emphasis of faith for a politician seeking high office was as rare then as a candidate declaring his atheism is today.  When Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson established the Christian Right (aka the Moral Majority) in 1979, no serious political commentator believed they could play a significant role in electoral politics. The screenwriter Norman Lear joked, “The Moral Majority is neither the moral point of view, nor the majority.”

Long story short, the Christian Right swept Ronald Reagan into the White House in 1980. The Sarasota Journal wrote as much on Feb 9, 1981: “The merging of the political right with the religious right has taken the country by surprise.” It’s now 2014, and the most intellectually and morally stunted segment of American society continues to take this nation by surprise.

The Christian Right has not only moved from the fringes to become the main strain of the Republican Party; it is the Republican Party. These radicals continually surprise us for the fact casual political observers mistakenly believe they represent the far-right fringe. You cannot sugarcoat the fact that a majority of Republicans in Arizona’s House, and also a majority of Republicans in Arizona’s Senate voted for this anti-gay law. Likewise a majority of Republicans in Kansas’ House voted for a similar bill. They voted for it because they want the freedom to discriminate against individuals they claim the Bible finds abhorrent.

Worryingly, this act is a small part in a big pantomime to transform America into a theocratic nirvana–one that is absent gays, Muslims, immigrants, atheists, and science books. To achieve this, the instrument of choice is nullification. It is nullification of the federal government that weds theocrats together with libertarians and the neo-confederate movement. Since 2010, state legislatures have put forward nearly 200 bills challenging federal laws its sponsors deem unconstitutional. Typically, laws the nullifiers believe challenge “religious liberty,” the Affordable Care Act, and gun control.

In an editorial for Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall observes that since the election of Obama and the rise of the Tea Party, “there’s been more and more reaching back to the discredited ideas of nullification, interposition and even, at the truly fringe extreme, secession. They are each efforts to preserve power for disempowered minorities after they’ve lost battles in the standard majoritarian system. More simply, they’re workarounds to get out of the consequences of losing political fights. And by definition they are rearguard actions. American history and constitutional jurisprudence has consistently ruled against them.”

Marshall is right in part. But the point he misses is that elections are no longer determined by majority view, but rather by the availability of an endless pipeline of campaign cash, and on that social conservatives are no longer playing second fiddle to establishment Republicans. Thanks to Internet fundraising and changes to campaign finance laws, it’s now a case of the tail wagging the dog. According to the Federal Electoral Commission, Tea Party and social conservative groups raised nearly three times as much as GOP establishment groups in 2013, which is how you end up with a majority of Republicans in both houses of the Arizona congress voting for SB1062 in 2014.

Salon’s Beutler writes, “The bad news is that this phenomenon isn’t limited to homophobia, and doesn’t always masquerade as an exercise of religious freedom. As America grows more liberal, conservatives are retreating into a variety of interlinking, but isolated subcultures and, when necessary, making or manipulating law to insulate themselves from contact with the masses.”

The Christian Right’s ideology drives virtually all social policy debate within the Republican Party, whether it’s immigration, women’s reproductive rights, the death penalty, or same-sex marriage.

Chris Hedges says the Christian Right’s ideology calls for the “eradication of social ‘deviants,’ beginning with gay men and lesbians, whose sexual orientation, those in the movement say, is a curse and an illness, contaminating the American family and the country. Once these ‘deviants’ are removed, other ‘deviants, ‘including Muslims, liberals, feminists, intellectuals, left-wing activists, undocumented workers, poor African-Americans and those dismissed as ‘nominal Christians’–meaning Christians who do not embrace this peculiar interpretation of the Bible–will also be ruthlessly repressed. The ‘deviant’ government bureaucrats, the ‘deviant’ media, the ‘deviant’ schools and the ‘deviant’ churches, all agents of Satan, will be crushed or radically reformed. The rights of these ‘deviants’ will be annulled. ‘Christian values’ and ‘family values’ will, in the new state, be propagated by all institutions.Education and social welfare will be handed over to the church. Facts and self-criticism will be replaced with relentless indoctrination.”

While the Christian Right is becoming the dwindling minority, it remains an existential threat to civil rights, secularism and our democratic values. It’s a threat fueled by a seemingly unlimited supply of campaign finance, and a rabid base that believes it’s fighting for its place in a 21st-century world it can’t reconcile against an ancient book that says gays are an abomination. You know, like shellfish.

2/26/2014

TEA PARTY SENATOR JERRY MORAN BLOCKS BILL TO HELP END MILITARY RAPE…

Filed under: prairie musings, GOP, Women's Rights — Peg Britton @ 8:05 am

Posted by: Sky Palma in TEApublicans in Action February 25, 2014

Showing where his priorities lie, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan) Blocked an attempt to vote on a bill that would address sexual assault in the military – to instead push for more sanctions on Iran.

A report has estimated there to be at least 26,000 men and women who are sexually assaulted every year in the armed forces. Democrats, specifically Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), have been feverishly pushing for legislation that will curb the problem.

But this Monday, Moran insisted that a measure to level tougher sanctions on Iran make an appearance on the floor along with the sexual assault bills. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev) outright objected.

“I’m terribly disappointed that my Republican friends are trying to turn this vital national security concern into a partisan issue by trying to inject [it] into a setting where it’s clearly not relevant,” Reid said.

Senator Gillibrand didn’t pull any punches when addressing Moran’s actions:

“Anyone who has been listening has heard over and over again from survivors of sexual assault in the military how the deck has been stacked against them,” Gillibrand said. “And for over two full decades, the Defense Department has been unable to uphold its continued failed promises of ‘zero tolerance’ for sexual assault.”

“But when the Senate can’t even agree to debate the one reform that survivors have consistently said is needed to solve this crisis, we are telling those victims that the deck is stacked against them right here in the Senate, too,” she added.

A spokesperson for Moran responded, saying, “Sen. Moran supports having votes on the Gillibrand and McCaskill amendments, but he does not believe Sen. Reid should be allowed to pick and choose which amendments blocked from consideration during debate on NDAA [the National Defense Authorization Act] receive a vote. Sen. Moran believes preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability is of such importance it also deserves a vote on the floor.”

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