Friday, October 10, 2014

MAJOR Shake Up

Thursday, October 16, is the International Shake-Out for earthquake preparedness, brought to us by the U.S. Geological Survey and other natural disaster agencies and organizations. Millions of people, companies, schools, and households will probably be holding an earthquake drill for the first time and learning what to do in the event of an earthquake.

It's a good time to talk about the earthquakes that have been swarming in Oklahoma.

National Geographic tells us that from 1978 to 2008, Oklahoma experienced an average of one earthquake a year of magnitude 3 and higher.  But look what's happening now... from one a year to around 3000.  This graph was made in July of this year:

Let's look at today's Oklahoma (and southern Kansas) earthquakes from the USGS website, which only lists earthquakes measuring larger than 2.5 on the Richter scale.   The orange dots are the earthquakes over the last 24 hours.

The yellow dots are the earthquakes that have happened over the past 7 days.  The bigger the dot, the bigger the quake, and you can't see all of the dots because some of them are laying on top of the others.

Now here are the Oklahoma/Kansas earthquakes of the past 30 days.  The white dots are the quakes that happened more than a week ago, but in the past month.

A quote about an Oklahoma insurance salesman from the National Geographic article titled, "Oklahoma Grapples With Earthquake Spike—And Evidence of Industry's Role" :
"Kahn, who opened the Lynnae Insurance Group in 2002, said he sold earthquake coverage to two homeowners during the first decade he was in business. During the past six months, he sold more than 125 policies."
None of this is a coincidence, it's a direct result of "Underground disposal of wastewater from fracking."  If you don't know what fracking is, learn about it here.  If you don't understand underground disposal of wastewater, click this link and learn what that means. 

There are few states that give the green light to any sort of drilling, mining, and fracking the way that Dick Cheney's Wyoming does.  

The reason I think they should really leave the earth's surface in Wyoming as intact as possible is because there's this huge cauldron of boiling magma underfoot, a supervolcano that's overdue for an eruption, and should it erupt it would be the end of the world as we know it.  I do not exaggerate.  

See the tiny little ball of magma at the right of this picture?  That's the Mt. St. Helen's eruption in 1980.  See the two gigantic cauldrons of magma on the left of this picture?  That's Yellowstone, in Wyoming.  And in the Wyoming primary election back in August, a Republican candidate for governor named Taylor Haynes promised to open Yellowstone National Park up for mining, drilling, and fracking.  Thankfully, Taylor Haynes lost the election to a smarter candidate who opposed the idea, but Haynes still picked up 30% of the vote in a state that's virtually completely dependent on the oil and gas industry.

So participate in the ShakeOut on October 16 and learn to protect yourself, learn about fracking, contact your representatives, and find out about the Yellowstone Cauldron

Here's a whole, captivating movie, praised by scientists and movie lovers alike, that will show you what is basically overdue at Yellowstone, "A true story that hasn't happened yet" (though the movie was made before they found out in 2013 that there is 2 and a half times more magma than they thought there was when they made this movie).

See you at the ShakeUp Earthquake Drill on October 16!  Tell your friends!  And ask them to demand an end to Fracking and irresponsible oil industry practices!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Introducing the Inter-City News

Prof. Ulichne and I, with a little help from our friends, are publishing a new newspaper called "The Inter-City News," which you can read online by visiting, or pick up a copy at businesses in the area.

This newspaper serves the area that for many years stood unincorporated between Independence and Kansas City. A lot of people don't remember the Inter-City.  Until the 1940s, the western boundary of Independence was Forest Avenue. The area between Independence and the city limits of Kansas City, which were moving eastward but still several miles away, was generally thought to be "Blue Valley" on account of the Blue River, important at that time for transportation and industrial uses. As the railroads and the street car lines started to connect the two cities, this unincorporated area became known as "Inter-City".

By the 1960s, nearly all of that area had been annexed by Independence and Kansas City, but because this area lies on the farthest reaches of those municipalities, it is the most under-served and blighted area of Independence, and Kansas City should be ashamed as well.

Politicians in both Independence and Kansas City (and even Sugar Creek, for that matter) have no trouble using and abusing Eminent Domain to seize land and homes that are NOT blighted in order to suit the needs of the corporate investors who line their campaign pockets, but for decades these same politicians have ignored the disgraceful blight that exists on the thoroughfares between I-435 and Sterling Avenue in Independence, and the same conditions west of I-435 in Kansas City.

The most painful spectacle of this to us, the publishers of the Inter-City News, is that stretch of 24 Highway that takes visitors that come from around the country and the world to visit the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library. The entire metropolitan area should be ashamed of this stretch of roadway and its abandoned businesses, overgrown weeds, run-down houses, crime, tweakers, etc.  "Professor Joyboy" took us on a tour of this route last year in "The Road to Harry's Library," and if you'll click on that link, you'll see what we're up against. 

As we delivered our newspaper to businesses in the Inter-City, asking them to help us distribute them to residents, we heard the same stories over and over again from the business owners and citizens we spoke with.  100% of them feel like the local politicians have completely forgotten the area, or just abandoned it altogether.  "They don't care about us," and "They don't know we exist" were heard often, as Independence people contemplate the hundreds of millions of TIFF dollars handed over to develop the 39th street/1-70 area, which wasn't blighted at all or in need of economic development the way that Inter-City has been for decades.

And so comes The Inter-City News, aiming to use tactics that are "Revolutionary" in the Ben Franklin sense, to mobilize the citizens and catch the attention of the politicians who serve this area.  Thankfully, it's an election year.   Hopefully, this area that despite woeful economic conditions still turns out on Election Day in impressive numbers, will start getting the attention it desperately needs.  Suggestions and sumbissions to the Inter-City News are welcome.  Stay tuned...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Urgent Reminder! Please look!

Saturday, May 24, in a city near you, millions will be gathering to speak out against one of the most evil corporations of all time, Monsanto.  The same people that told our troops in Vietnam that Agent Orange was perfectly safe to breathe now want a monopoly over our food supply, while they're drenching the world's crops that they genetically engineered with record levels of their own herbicides and pesticides, not to mention destroying the bee population.  Watch this "entertaining" video, please!  And no matter what your weekend plans, please take a few hours to add your voice to the growing number of concerned people who are finding out every day what's at stake when a mega-corporation with a long record of poisoning human beings wants to have complete control over the very things that keep us alive:

If you're not in Kansas City, click here to find the rally in your area.   And if you're here in Kansas City...
If you can't be there, you can always help just by educating yourself and telling others.  It's amazing how many people have no idea this is even an issue.  You can help make a difference.  I hope to see you there!

Friday, May 09, 2014

C'mon, Kansas City!

Usually when I come back from a vacation to a bigger city, I'm bursting with pride over my hometown and its beauty.  This was not the case when I got off the Amtrak train at Union Station that brought me from New York and Chicago at 11:15 p.m. tonight.

It's bad  enough that the Southwest Chief takes people through some of the ugliest industrial areas of town and that Amtrak riders, many of them seasoned travelers who enjoy vacationing by rail, see absolutely none of the town's beauty from the train.

Wouldn't it be nice when people depart from the train if they saw a big sign of some sort that said, "Welcome to Kansas City!"  Maybe there was one, but I didn't see it.  It needs to be in lights and look so awesome that everyone who gets off that train (and those that stay on) feel like they are welcome here.

Instead, riders are greeted with a narrow, white, steel staircase that they are expected to carry their luggage up single-file.  If Kansas City wants to be a world-class city, let's get an escalator for these weary travelers!  Is there no money in the city's budget for a project of this scope?  I didn't see anybody greeting or assisting the new arrivals, many of whom looked confused about where to go or what to do.

As an alternative to the steel staircase, disembarking passengers can wait in line with their luggage to pack like sardines into a big elevator that is lacking obvious capacity guidelines.  "How many people can this thing hold?" was heard over and over as people squeezed in.

It was really embarrassing after I'd spent the whole trip telling everyone that would listen how wonderful Kansas City was going to be.  I saw people who had been friendly with me all the way from New York shooting me dirty looks as they dragged their bags up the narrow stairway.

First impressions mean a lot, and all the beauty of Union Station's interior is lost on people who are bedraggled from a long trip, coming into one of the most inconvenient and least appealing depots along the Amtrak line, as seen from the train.

IDEAS: Beautify the area of the track as it is coming through town, add convenience to the platform, and make it look awesome and inviting.  The view from the track, unseen by local motorists, is a great advertising opportunity for Kansas City's many attractions, and would get people excited about being here before they ever reach the station.  A woman from South Carolina who has been through Union Station many times on her way to visit relatives in Leavenworth had no idea that Kansas City has the National World War I Museum, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum,  the Jazz Museum, Crown Center, or anything appealing.  I don't blame people who pass through KC often for not finding any reason to stop and spend their money here.


Use the Toy Train line to bring the Amtrak passengers to the station.

The train platform offers even better opportunities to tell travelers how awesome Kansas City is, because most people on the train never leave the train, continuing instead to more inviting places.

This is the first in a series of rants about "Why Kansas City Can't Compete and How It Could"

Monday, April 21, 2014

Funeral Birthday

   My family was having one of our biggest gatherings ever.  It was the day my nephew Brett turned six years old. But nobody was there to celebrate Brett's birthday. Quite the opposite. We had come together for the "celebration of life" of Brett's 22 year old brother Anthony, who one week earlier was found dead, thousands of miles away in Florida.

   On the way to the church I showed Brett the key I always wore on a chain, a Key to the City of KCMO that I'd bought on ebay, my most prized possession.  It had spent months right next to my heart.  I told Brett we were going to send it along with Anthony.  Brett asked if he could hold it 'till then.  "Of course!"

   We got to the big, beautiful church early, but not early enough to beat the "Early Birds," those mourners who show up to a funeral extra-extra early and get good seats so as not to miss a single dramatic reaction.  As I saw the beautiful and angellic face of the nephew I'd lost, the only thing the Early Birds needed was popcorn as they watched me tearfully and emphatically try to persuade my nephew's stepfather that none of this was actually happening, that none of this was real. There was a tug on my dress.  "Don't worry, Aunt Leigh Ann. It just looks like he's sleeping, and besides, he's in Heaven now. It's better than here."

   That snapped me back to reality, and the Early Birds seemed satisfied as they readied themselves for the next scene.

   For the remainder of the three hour visitation (which ended too soon), I was given charge of the Birthday Boy.  The first thing he wanted was the laminated funeral card that he'd seen in the hands of everyone else there.  We went up to the funeral home representative that was giving them out (not associated with the wonderful people of the church, who were angels of mercy) and I asked for a card for Brett.

"Adults only," she said, reminding me of a matronly liquor store clerk in the winding-down days of a decades-long career. 

  "You see, today's Brett's birthday!" I told her, "and that's his brother in there.  So would you give him one of those cards, please?"

  "If you want him to have one so bad, give him your own," she suggested, without a trace of warmth or sympathy.

   Instead I handed her one of my business cards, and told her that if she didn't give Brett a card I would spend the rest of the year telling everyone I could in Kansas City how her family's company treats bereaved child siblings on their birthdays.  Hardball.

   "Here!" she said, and gave me another card. Brett was thrilled with his funeral card as I walked away, scowling at her.  Wrong date on the card.  Misquoted.

   Most of the visitation I spent proudly showing off Brett to people I hadn't seen in many years.  "This is Anthony's brother Brett.  Today's his birthday!  He's six today!" I'd tell them, seeing that jolt of sad irony dozens of times.  "Today is Brett's day," I kept telling myself.  "Make this about Brett," and I tried to keep him amused while the whole time my heart was just being ripped out of my chest because of why we were there.  I honestly don't know what I would have done without Brett that day.  He kept pulling me back from the worst abyss of my lifetime and I'll be grateful forever.

   His spirits were good.  We looked at pictures. He made me laugh a lot.  He loved the Key to Kansas City.  "Do you want that key, Brett?" I asked him.  "Yeah," he said, "but I want to give it to Anthony."
I told him I had another one almost just like it, but older and better.  "It's from the 1950s," I said.  "From the 1950's? Wow!"  All my family loves nostalgia.  I promised him he could have the other key.

On his sixth birthday, my nephew Brett spent the whole day with everyone he loved saying goodbye forever to his hero big brother.

And today he may be the only 9 year old kid in KCMO with his very own Key to the City.

Happy Birthday, Brett.