Social Issues


Prairie Fire Newspaper went on hiatus after the publication of the September 2015 issue. It may return one of these days but until then we will continue to host all of our archived content for your reading pleasure. Many of the articles have held up well over the years. Please contact us if you have any questions, thoughts, or an interest in helping return Prairie Fire to production. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you to all our readers, contributors, and supporters - the quality of Prairie Fire was a reflection of how many people it touched (touches).

The Urban Institute on Wealth Inequality, Part Two

We were so impressed with the Urban Institute’s recently released “Nine Charts on Wealth Inequality” that we contacted them and secured permission to run the charts in Prairie Fire. Accordingly, we began with their first chart in April 2015, and the remaining charts consecutively over our next eight issues. Chart Two: One Reason for Rising Wealth Inequality is Income Inequality

The Urban Institute on Wealth Inequality, Part One

We were so impressed with the Urban Institute’s recently released “Nine Charts on Wealth Inequality” that we contacted them and secured permission to run the charts in Prairie Fire. Accordingly, we shall run their first chart this month and the remaining eight charts consecutively over our next eight issues. Chart One: Wealth Inequality Is Growing

Robert Manley on Immigration History, Part Two

By Mary Garbacz

Immigration reform is in the news today, but it has been in US news for generations. A little knowledge of history reveals that today’s conversations are rooted in immigration history. Railroad land agents recruited people from Europe to settle Nebraska, to farm, to homestead, to work in sugar beet fields in the summers, to do the many tasks related to settling a new state. Today’s often-heard comments that “my ancestors came here legally” is evidence of little knowledge of history. The people who settled Nebraska were recruited and brought here.

Robert Manley on Immigration History

By Mary Garbacz

Nebraska’s immigration history informs today’s immigration debates, if the late Nebraska historian Robert Manley were here to talk about it. Manley died in 2008 at age eighty after a long career of learning, listening, writing, and telling about Nebraska history. Manley was born in Wisconsin, raised in Illinois, played semiprofessional baseball in Kansas—but his adult life was spent in Nebraska. He worked as a teacher: in Osceola, at Hiram Scott College in Scottsbluff, and at the University of Nebraska; as a community ambassador with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development; as president of Selection Research Inc. in Lincoln.

“Why did people come here?” Manley was asked during the November 2007 interview. That question was the only one asked during the interview; the two hours to follow were Manley’s stories that supported the first few words of his answer: “We wanted them.”

Habitat for Humanity Partners with Presbyterian Congregations to Build Affordable Housing

By Stephanie Novacek

Lincoln/Lancaster County Habitat for Humanity is part of a global, nonprofit housing organization, dedicated to eliminating substandard housing locally and worldwide through constructing homes, by advocating for fair and just housing policies, and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions. The homes are built affordably because of the volunteer labor that is used. Homes are sold to partner families for the construction costs of the home. Mortgage payments are made to a no-interest mortgage loan with Lincoln/Lancaster County Habitat for Humanity and are recycled to provide funding for future Habitat homes. Lincoln/Lancaster County Habitat for Humanity offers dignity and hope to families by working collaboratively to provide simple, decent, and affordable homes.

Mom's Life on the Middle Loup River

By Moni Usasz

Memories of my mom are threaded through birdsong and the constant Nebraska wind. From her ranch house, every day for over twenty years, mom looked south down the hill, over the wet meadow, across the Middle Loup River, and into the Sandhills.

Every morning a parade of pigeons would fly in to loaf on the meadow. Canada geese flew over, “honk-hinking.” The open-sky spaciousness around the house made it perfect for watching sunrises, sunsets, and prairie storms. Mom’s favorite walk was south to the river. All four seasons brought beauty and wildlife to her doorstep.

Financial Literacy in Schools: Rock Band Gooding Launches "Funding Our Future: The Importance of Financial Literacy for Students across the Nation"

By Gooding

It may seem strange that a rock ’n’ roll band is traveling the countryside preaching to kids about saving money, but in my mind nothing is more rock ’n’ roll than the freedom to make your own decisions and follow your own path.

I wanted to be a full-time musician/gypsy since watching Gene Simmons breathe fire live as a 4-year-old at my first rock concert. Throughout my teenage years, I thought a record deal would solve all my problems. I believed I would simply get rich quick, buy my momma a house, and any pain or problem I had would magically disappear. As it turns out, the record deal never came. Instead, through a ton of hard work and slow and steady growth, and hard lessons in an incredibly competitive and ever-changing industry, my band and I have released over a dozen records, toured every state in the union, met some of our musical heroes, started a record label and publishing company, and best of all, are just getting warmed up after many years on the open road.

Rural Health Just One of Many Topics to Be Discussed at Rural Futures Conference

By Mary Kay Quinlan and Kim Peterson

Murlene Nollmeyer Osburn likes to tell people there’s dirt in her veins, from the sugar beet farm in eastern Montana where she grew up to the Sandhills ranch she now calls home near the Cherry County village of Wood Lake, population 64.

“We are so isolated, but I love it that way,” Osburn says.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Picking Up Where We Left Off, Part One

By Tamar Jacoby

No one knows who invented the term, but sometime in 2003 lawmakers and advocates in Washington began talking about what they called “comprehensive immigration reform.” The first bills were sketchy—more concept papers than workable legislation. Then in late 2004 staffers from four Hill offices—Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ), Reps. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)—went into a back room and emerged six months later with the legislation that became known as McCain-Kennedy: in many ways the blueprint for all comprehensive reform bills that have been considered since.

What exactly was included in a comprehensive package went through innumerable changes as version after version was proposed in Congress between 2005 and 2010. As with any legislation, the details were critically important: a few small choices could make or break a measure politically—and also make the difference between a bill that worked to solve the problem and one that did not, as the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act had not solved it two decades before. But the essence of comprehensive reform—what supporters sometimes call the architecture—remained largely consistent through the years, and it is still the starting point for any serious discussion of what would constitute a meaningful immigration overhaul.

This architecture consisted of three pillars: enforcement, legalization and worker visas. In the eyes of most reformers, these were three moving parts of a single engine—each indispensable to the functioning of the others and of the machine as a whole.

Back to the Island

By Mark M. Peyton

Thomas Wolfe wrote that you can’t go home. You can’t go back to a place and find that it has, over time, remained the same. You change, and the people there change. We were hoping that would not be the case as we landed in Nueva Gerona.

Nueva Gerona is on the Isla de la Juventud or, in English, The Island of Youth. The island wasn’t always called that. Over the course of history this small Caribbean island has had a number of colorful names.

Biblical Bunk: Why Relying on Scripture to Oppose Gay Marriage Fails

By Clay Farris Naff

If anyone could halt the turning of the tide, you’d expect it to be the defenders of biblical morality. After all, they uphold the literal, unchanging, inerrant, indisputable Word of God. Or so they believe.

Take a close look, however, and the claim crumbles. You see, there is no Bible.

That’s right. The most widely published book in history does not exist—at least, not in an authoritative edition.

Modern-day Slavery

By E. Benjamin Skinner

Imagine that Robert E. Lee’s staff officer had not lost his three cigars in 1862. Imagine that the general’s Antietam battle plans, which were wrapped around those cigars, hadn’t wound up in Union hands. Alternatively, imagine that George McClellan hadn’t finally used the providential intelligence to stop the rebels in the bloodiest battle in American history. Imagine that a thus disempowered Lincoln was unable to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Imagine that the South had won and spread slavery to the Western Territories.

Understanding organized labor, part III: The Employee Free Choice Act

Organized labor has long known about the weakness of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). For well over 30 years, unions understood it was no longer an effective tool for supporting organizing and bargaining. They complained that anti-union corporations and their consultants used the long period between employees showing an initial interest in forming a union and the actual National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) supervised election to create a hostile environment in which to hold the election. Additionally, unions had concerns about weak remedies and sophisticated employer strategies to avoid first contracts.

Congress should protect the private vote

By Glenn Spencer

Congress is about to consider legislation known as the Employee Free Choice Act, or Card Check. While few people have heard of this bill, it is the most sweeping rewrite of federal labor law in 70 years. Card Check would essentially abolish the protection of a private ballot during union organizing campaigns, would likely eliminate workers’ ability to vote on a union contract establishing the terms and conditions of their employment and would impose substantial new penalties, but only on employers.

Understanding organized labor, part II: Getting a feel for the Employee Free Choice Act

By John Kretzschmar

Our economy is in the worst crisis since the Great Depression. But unlike the weather, economic vicissitudes are influenced by pubic policy. We arrived where we are thanks to economic policy decisions made by both Democratic and Republican administrations over at least the last 25 years. Now the new Congress and the Obama administration are shaping an economic recovery plan.

Understanding organized labor

By John Kretzschmar

Few Nebraskans have any real understanding of organized labor, and it’s not their fault. The history surrounding the evolution of the American labor movement is rarely taught in school, discussed around the dinner table or even described in media coverage of current events. Few of us could name our nation’s two large national labor organizations: The American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Change to Win. Fewer may know that our largest single union, the National Education Association, is a member of neither. Unions, like other institutions in the U.S., are human institutions, and their history is full of the frailties of human beings. But for all its faults, organized labor has been guided by some noble goals and ideals.

Genocide - Will we learn from the mistakes of the past

By Mark Gudgel I am in an airport in New Jersey, by accident. Accidents like that can happen in the United States, much more so than they can happen in other places, I am told. It’s called Newark, after the city it’s in, after the city the people came from hundreds of years ago, I’m guessing. It’s shiny; the floor squeaks under my feet as I approach the terminal, and there is enough neon lighting there to open a casino. I am flying to Seattle to coach basketball, and I am waiting for my flight. I acknowledge that I am very blessed. I sit down to have a beer in a dimly lit airport pub; it costs eight dollars, but that doesn’t improve its taste. The pale woman next to me, perched awkwardly on her stool, is from New Jersey, the first and, of yet, the only state to have mandated “Holocaust education” in the state school’s curriculum.

In praise of cultural diversity

By Mara D. Giles This summer I had the opportunity to return to my native New Mexico. I got to spend some glorious days in Albuquerque and parts north. While visiting, I extolled the virtues of New Mexico, its people, its communities, and its marvelous diversity to whoever would listen. There were many who did. They in turn spoke to me about what they perceived to be the considerable amount of cultural conflict in the state and were interested in hearing my perspective on it, both as someone who no longer lives in New Mexico and as a cultural anthropologist.

Immigration in Nebraska

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