Friday, April 29, 2005

Osborne Announcement - Place Your Bets

by Kyle Michaelis
The AP has news for all us common folk:
Tom Osborne will return to his roots Saturday to announce whether he will seek the governorship next year.

Osborne, the three-term 3rd District congressman and legendary Nebraska football coach, scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference at Hastings College to "share his intentions regarding his personal and political future."

A native of Hastings and graduate of Hastings College, Osborne chose the same site for his 2000 announcement that he would seek a seat in Congress.

Although he signaled interest in a possible gubernatorial bid some time ago, Osborne has said he also would consider the options of pursuing a fourth House term or returning to private life.
Well, this is a bit earlier for such an announcement than Osborne was suggesting a few weeks ago. Has his timeline been pushed forward by Gov. Heineman and Sen. Hagel and he feels the need to push back? Or, is he going to bow to pressure to clear the path for Heineman and put all this delegitimizing talk to rest?

Either way, people are going to read into Osborne's announcement a whole lot of intrigue that may or may not be a factor. I know I certainly will.

Plugging every known fact about the situation with all the right algorithmic equations into the old New Nebraska Numbers Cruncher gives us the following odds on Osborne's future plans:
4-1: Running for Governor in Republican Primary ("Bring it on!")

2000-3: Running for Governor as Independent ("I'll show the bastards!")

1-1: Running for another term in Third District ("Go team!")

1-2: Retiring from public office after current term ("This old dog...!")

10-1: Retiring from public office immediately ("Screw you guys, I'm going home!")

10000-.001:Challenging Chuck Hagel and Steve Pederson to a long-deserved duel to the death with Frank Solich as his second ("On guard!")
Place your bets. The numbers do not lie. And, for God's sake, stay tuned - all shall be revealed shortly...

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The Twisted World of Harold W. #4

by Kyle Michaelis
Our good buddy Harold W. Andersen hasn't let us down this time. In yesterday's column, he entirely dismissed reports that suggest institutionalized bias against women in hiring is alive and well at UNL. Enough of my comments, though, I'll just let the man speak for himself:
An Associated Press dispatch reported that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a lower percentage of female faculty members than all but one of the 10 universities to which UNL compares itself. Several numbers were cited.


To concentrate on the numbers is to play the Politically Correct "numbers game." The only time those numbers become meaningful is when you can demonstrate that students at UNL are being less well educated and research is being less productively conducted because the UNL campus has a lower percentage of female faculty than some other universities....

I would expect that as more qualified women apply or are recruited to serve on the UNL faculty, the merit system will produce good results and, incidentally and much less importantly, also help in the direction of "getting the numbers right."
Wow, when Andersen doesn't get it, he REALLY doesn't get it. As much as I appreciate his supposed emphasis on the quality of education being the only standard by which the University should be judged, it's idiotic for him not to recognize that UNL's failure to compete in terms of hiring and retaining female faculty can't help but hurt education on campus.

Diversity of viewpoints, backgrounds, and experiences are essential and enrich higher education immeasurably. By themselves, these numbers may not mean much, but they are still, at the very least, a call for us to be mindful of the possibility that there is a significant problem to be addressed. This is especially the case when, in addition to UNLs "woman" problem, the University is also lagging woefully behind the targets set for it by the state legislature in the hiring of minority professors (see story).

Rather than taking the easy way out and writing all this off as liberal, politically correct nonsense of no real importance, it's about time Andersen and the rest of the state wake up to the fact that soemthing's wrong here. Even on UNLs campus, probably the most progressive couple of square miles in the state, there is a problem.

The climate is far too hostile and inhospitable to those who have not traditionally been in roles of power and who may not have the same color of skin as the rest of us. Qualified people are being driven away because they can sense ours is not an atmosphere in which they can thrive. That shouldn't come as any real surprise. Just look at how we've targeted homosexuals and continue to hold them as legally and morally inferior in every aspect of day-to-day life. What we are willing to do to one population, we are that much more likely to do onto another.

Andersen can play dumb and play to the masses all he wants with the easy rhetoric lifted from Rush Limbaugh, it only makes his sin that much worse. For, who could honestly be said to be more responsbile for the diseased climate in which this state languishes than this former publisher of the mighty World-Herald?

Anyone...anyone? I didn't think so.

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Stenberg Still a Republican Hack

by Kyle Michaelis
It's doubtful Nebraska has ever before seen the like of former state Attorney General and now three-time candidate for the U.S. Senate Don Stenberg. And, let us hope we do not see his like again.

Stenberg was able to get the "R" by his name to carry him into office once, and he's been running the same trick on Nebraska voters ever since, each time trying to make the holy "R" - the only thing he's got to run on - look bolder and more pathetically obvious to voters. There's no length to which he won't go, no promise he won't make, in swearing eternal undying allegiance to his master, the "R".

Twice this tactic got him reelected as Attorney General. Twice it failed to get him elected to the U.S. Senate. Apparently, Nebraskans have higher expectations of our Senators than our lawyers. Thank God.

In 1996, Stenberg ran against Chuck Hagel as the most conservative of the conservatives. That didn't work. In 2000, he tried to run as "Chuck Hagel Jr." (seriously, his own words). That didn't work. Now, looking for a rematch with moderate Democratic Senator Ben Nelson, he's happily running as "Bush's Bitch," promising he can be a better unthinking, unquestioning stooge than anyone else who enters the race.

From the Lincoln Journal-Star:
Stenberg said he is not worried that the White House might lend tepid support to a Republican challenger to Nelson, who harvested public praise from Bush when the president spoke in Omaha in February.

"He is a man with whom I can work, a person who is willing to put partisanship aside to focus on what's right for America," Bush declared at a rally before more than 10,000 Nebraskans.

Nevertheless, Stenberg asked: "Does anyone really believe that in one of the most Republican states, the White House and the Republican Senate committee would give a free pass to a Democratic senator?" Stenberg said he would be "a Republican senator President Bush can work with even better."
Stenberg is shameless. There will be plenty more to come. Just watch as he does everything to associate himself with President Bush but take Bush's last name, and he's probably even considered that.

In the long history of unprincipled partisan hacks hoping to ride a party label as far as it will take him, this guy takes the cake. He's a coat-tail riding opportunist who wouldn't know the first thing about "doing what's right for America" because he's an empty vessel that has proven entirely unwilling and incapable of thinking for himself.

Now, Stenberg's stepping up to the plate with a full count just hoping and praying Nebraska voters will give him a walk because of the team he plays for. Let's make damn sure this is strike three rather than "third time's a charm," reting this insult to Nebraska's tradition of common sense independence once and for all.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Lincoln Election Spotlight

by Kyle Michaelis
Today, courtesy of the Lincoln Journal-Star, we've got (1) incumbent city councilman Ken Svoboda hoping to ride reelection this Tuesday all the way to the Mayor's office, (2) a second wave of negative attacks from the Republican Party against City Council candidate Dan Marvin, and (3) incumbent candidate Terry Werner setting himself apart all over the place as THEE progregressive candidate in this 6-person race. Now, let's get started.

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The Man Who Would Be Mayor

by Kyle Michaelis

First, on the Man Who Would (like to) Be Mayor:
During an interview last week, City Council candidate Ken Svoboda made it clear he will consider running for mayor in two years.

After garnering 12,357 votes to be the top vote-getter in the April 5 primary election, Svoboda is up for re-election in Tuesday's general election. The council seat is a four-year term, but when asked whether he would consider running for mayor in two years, Svoboda said: "One election at a time."

Svoboda said many people have asked if he would make a run at the office, and he has discussed the possibility with his family. "A number of other people know that if called, I will certainly look at that race," he said....

"To me, I don't have a political career. I don't have political aspirations. I didn't get into this with a desire to be in Washington some day. But I will never say never...."

When he was asked what he thinks of the job Mayor Coleen Seng is doing, Svoboda said, "I have a great deal of respect for the position she's in." He said he enjoyed working with Seng when she was on the City Council, but added, "Short of that, I don't want to say she's in over her head, but nobody is in a perfect position of having all the experience they need to be a mayor." He said there's a learning curve, and Seng didn't have an administrative background...

"I see that mayoral position as being one of very strong leadership," he said. "Coleen is being more of a team-builder....."

The answer to the question of whether Svoboda will run for the office may have come out later in the interview, when he said, "I'm drawn to leadership roles and I don't know why that is."
It certainly sounds as if a lot of the appeal for Svoboda might be the power of the office. Out of nowhere, he's talking about the possibility of his advancing to Washington D.C., while insulting Mayor Seng for putting too much emphasis on teamwork(?).

Wow, between Hagel's comment about Rep. Osborne and Svoboda on Seng, these Republicans certainly have funny ways of showing their "respect." I've never seen praise that stabs so well in the back.

Got to give credit to Svoboda for this: he pulls off the 70s porn-'stache pretty well. Other than that, I don't really get what people see in the guy. Go to his website, click on the "Vision" link, and, quite fittingly, the site reports his vision for the city "could not be found."

I'd say that reflects his four years of service pretty well. Of course, Svoboda obviously has a vision (and big plans) for himself, but what Lincoln voters see other than that remains a mystery. Maybe it's the mustache after all?

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Republicans Attack Marvin for Voting w/Republicans

by Kyle Michaelis
Might want to check out this previous post to develop the complete context of how far the Republican Party has stooped in Lincoln's city elections.

Well, guess what...they're at it again, pathetically targeting city council candidate Dan Marvin with a second wave of mailings attacking him for volunteering his time in service to his city:
The mailing, paid for by the Nebraska Republican Party, accuses Marvin of being out of touch with Lincoln seniors and families because he "tried to increase property taxes" through his position as co-chairman of the mayor's Streets, Roads and Trails Committee that proposed a $75 million bond issue to voters last September.

Voters soundly rejected the bond issue, 62 to 38 percent, and the Republican Party apparently thinks they'll similarly reject Marvin based on his association with the street improvement proposal. However, Marvin finished fourth out of a field of 20 in the April primary and on the day he announced his council candidacy, he proposed a scaled-down roads program that wouldn't increase taxes or require a bond issue.

Marvin said the Republicans' attack on him for serving as a volunteer on a committee - along with Republicans - charged with finding solutions to Lincoln's infrastructure problems will likely dissuade others from volunteering on such boards.

"They're just making it harder to sell all kinds of things the community needs," he said. "I've moved on after the bond; all these other people just want to keep wallowing in the darn thing."

He said it's ironic that Republicans are attacking his association with a bond issue that was endorsed by Lincoln developers and traditionally Republican-leaning groups, such as the Lincoln Independent Business Association. The bond issue was also supported by all three Republicans on the Lincoln City Council.
The charismatic and popular Marvin must have the Republican Party pretty scared. Note that Ken Svoboda, who's running in the same election, was one of those who supported the bond issue. He was quoted just Friday foolishly claiming to have stopped these absurd mailings by his own party.
Candidates were asked how they felt about ads that have been paid for by the state Republican Party and Republican individuals....

Dan Marvin, a Democrat, said he encouraged his party not to send out negative ads. "I think you have to go to your party and tell them to cut it out," he told his Republican opponents.

Incumbent Ken Svoboda, a Republican, said he did, after the state GOP sent out a postcard about Marvin before the primary election and planned another. "We got that one stopped," he said, noting that he wasn't forewarned of the initial mailing.
Sad to see the Journal-Star hasn't specifically pointed out what is either Svoboda's failure to keep his party in-line or his flat-out lie. This action by the Republican Party demands immediate public denunciation by Svoboda and his fellow "R" candidates, all of whom are otherwise reaping the benefits of the new lows to which Lincoln voters are being introduced.

Terry Werner, the lone Democratic incumbent up for election, who has been attacked as Un-American and for "hating our troops", was exactly right when he brought up at the forum reported on above that the GOP candidates have accepted donations from the very people and parties responsible for dragging Lincoln politics into the mud:
"Unless they say enough is enough," he said, "then they are as guilty as any of the people spending the money for those attack ads."

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Reporting on Terry "the Real Deal" Werner

by Kyle Michaelis
Werner said discrimination extends beyond color to gender, religious preference and sexual orientation.
When Councilman Ken Svoboda mentioned that the bus system was subsidized by several million dollars annually, Werner said the city's Comprehensive Plan called for $800 million in new roads. "Now that's a subsidy," he said. "We need to have a community that's not based solely on the automobile."
Werner questioned whether Lincoln really wanted to grow to the size of Austin, Texas, or Omaha. He said it was cheaper to have a cornfield than a development, because you don't have to provide infrastructure. "Now is that what we want? Of course not, (but) you folks need to think about all this grow, grow, grow. I don't favor those tax incentives."

Asked what they could do to promote diversity and tolerance in Lincoln, most candidates said people just need to respect each other. Werner said they need to go beyond that, as city employees can be fired for being gay, lesbian or transgender.

He challenged other candidates to add "sexual orientation" as a protected class in city ordinance. "We have a long way to go, folks," he said. "We've got to continue to fight this fight."

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Mayor & the Cheerleader

by Kyle Michaelis

Omaha's mayoral candidates, incumbent Mike Fahey and challenger Dave Friend, held their one debate of the campaign Thursday afternoon. Seems to have been an altogether dull event, fitting for this rather lopsided and uneventful campaign. Fahey came out of the primary with a 20% advantage and hundreds of thousands of dollars more in cash, and Friend's got nothing to run on to make up the difference. This is painfully evident when his fallback position is his repeated desire to be "the chief cheerleader of the city."

As far as cricisms of the current administration go, I'm afraid saying Fahey's not good with high-kicks and bullhorns just isn't a strong enough case for change.

The simple fact is that Fahey's done a good job reducing the friction in Omaha government, creating a much-needed spirit of cooperation and progress. Omaha is in a better place than it was four years ago, and Friend's claim to being the "energetic" candidate has nothing to counteract that.

His further attempts to pass blame onto Fahey for the Elkhorn annexation and any number of other issues have failed to gain traction because they're so blatantly opportunistic, as Friend's been complretely unable to detail what exactly he would have done better.

The problem with running as an empty suit like that (a la President Bush) is that an empty suit needs to be stuffed with a lot of cash to win an election. Friend doesn't have that cash and doesn't have the issues, so he doesn't have a chance.

Today's World-Herald reports on an attempted Republican rally last night to help out the flagging Friend campaign:
Dave Friend says that if he is going to unseat Mayor Mike Fahey, it will be with voter turnout numbers of about 45 percent - almost triple the level of turnout in this month's primary election....

"The way we're going to turn that around is by networking," Friend said.
Good luck with that, Dave. I'm afraid in city politics just being a Republican isn't going to be enough. It was great while it lasted. Surely with all that networking, you'll hear that fat lady singing soon.

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First Ever "New Nebraska" Endorsement

by Kyle Michaelis
In Lincoln, Vote on May 3rd for...

It's refreshing and inspiring to see a leader who actually lives, votes and makes a stand for the family values agenda on which he runs. Terry Werner's emphasis on community and restoring the dignity of working people is sensible public policy at its most compassionate.

These past four years, Werner's voice has been a beacon of hope for a better city shared by all. More than just a defender of our neighborhoods, he has proven himself a man of vision empowering all citizens to create a more vibrant and united Lincoln.

A city gets the elected representatives it deserves. In Terry Werner, we have just the representative this city needs. I look forward to four more years of his distinguished service and putting people first.

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Technical Difficulties

by Kyle Michaelis
Sorry for the scarcity of posts recently. The site's hosts have been having some server problems that have made accessing the page a problem. Apologies to our readers for the certain devestation this has caused. Please note that if the site is not available at its regular address I've found it's usually still accessible at

That took way longer than it should have for this humble blogger to figure out. We'll be up and running again shortly. Promise.

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Labor Gets a Victory in Nebraska

by Kyle Michaelis
Seems a 4 year-old injustice is finally going to be rectified thanks to a too-long-delayed decision by the National Labor Relations Board. The Lincoln Journal-Star reports:
The National Labor Relations Board has ordered a new union representation election at Nebraska Beef in Omaha after citing the company for labor practice violations during a vote four years ago.

The decision upheld a hearing officer's findings invalidating the results of a 2001 election in which workers rejected representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union on a 452-345 vote....

The labor board found Nebraska Beef — described as the country's largest privately held meatpacking plant — "engaged in improper interrogation of employees regarding their union sympathies" before the 2001 election and improperly prohibited employees from displaying union paraphernalia.

The board cited a plant supervisor's isolated threat to a worker that he would be fired because he was going to vote for the union as a factor contributing to its decision.

Union officials were elated by the action.

"It took a long time, but we are determined," Local 271 President Donna McDonald of Omaha said. "We haven't given up on those workers. We told them we were there for the long haul."
Hats off to UFCW Local 271 for keeping up the fight, even in this age (especially this presidency) when workingmen and women are treated like children to be seen but not heard at the dinner table.

If victories like this are possible even when all the cards are stacked in big business' favor, who knows what tomorrow might bring for those who make this country great by working their asses off and only ask for their fair share in return. Sad as it may sound, in capitalist society a worker is nothing more than a single input of labor. The only way for that worker, that "single input of labor", to make a stand and be heard is to stand together with all his brothers and sisters, speaking with one voice.

E Pluribus Unum...In Unity Is Strength...this is the idea from which America was born. This is the idea that makes America great.

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The George W. Bush Papacy

by Kyle Michaelis
I have read many alternately troubling and insulting articles about Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, in recent weeks. None, however, has been more unsettling to the stomach than today's Omaha World-Herald editorial proclaiming the new Pope's many similarities with President Bush. Most insultingly, as both Catholic and critic, they meant this as a good thing:
Conservatives of all faiths praised John Paul's stand on moral issues. Liberals liked his identification with the poor. Both sought to mute their respective discomforts about what he upheld as timeless truth.

As prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it fell to Ratzinger to reinforce that truth against all comers. He rarely minced words in doing so, which explains why voices on the left are reacting to his election in apocalyptic tones last heard after our current president's re-election.

Like George W. Bush, Benedict XVI says what he believes...He reinforced it on the eve of the conclave. "To have a clear faith, according to the creed of the church, comes frequently to be labeled as fundamentalism," he said. But such a faith "opens us to all that is good and gives us the criteria to discern between true and false, between trickery and truth."

And yet in his first papal homily, Benedict renewed John Paul's call for "open and sincere dialogue" with all people. He declared reunion of Christians his No. 1 goal, seeking "concrete acts that enter souls and move consciences" to bring it about.

Such talk recalls Bush's "compassionate conservatism," which the president's critics have derided as an oxymoron. Catholics who dislike Ratzinger's energetic enforcement of the faith likely will follow suit.
What the World-Herald so willfully fails to state is the obviously deep and unfathomable chasm between Bush's pretensions of piety and his actual actions.

The failure of Bush's "Compassionate conservatism" has not been its supposed contradiction but rather that it has been nothing more than a campaign slogan. There is no compassion in endless tax cuts for the rich while cutting Medicaid. There is no conservatism in trillion dollar defecits and wars of choice. Furthermore, Bush's record of deceit and total lack of humility have been affronts to the United Nations and the whole of humanity, embodying the very hypocrisy against which John Paul II railed most and against which I have little doubt Benedict XVI shall do the same, no matter his opposition to abortion.

It's amazing watching the right-wing's opportunistic attempts to pervert Catholicism and its faithful for purely political gain. Each day, it becomes more obvious how their machinations have nothing at all to do with morality but as a means to power.

The only "clarity" in Bush's much-ballyhooed faith is its unthinking beholdence to the wealthy and the convenient along with its total lack of concern for the powerless and the truth. His is a faith of empty soundbytes, the ultimate enemy to the thoughful and reasoned faith espoused by Catholic Church doctrine and millenia of human progress. It is all the worst in fundamentalism as the words, example, and love of Jesus Christ are forgotten in a haze of rules and strictures for their own sake.

So, yes, Catholics can and will debate the course upon which Benedict XVI directs the Church. The Omaha World-Herald can't stop that and should not try. There will be disagreements about reform of the priesthood as well as the role of religious doctrine in democratic societies. I pray, however, such debate will remain healthy and civil, and I won't soon be hearing any further comparisons of this Pope to President Bush, whose Christianity makes mockery of its own truth.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Beefing (or is it Porking?) Up LB775

by Kyle Michaelis
Seems the annual tens of millions of dollars tax-giveaway to big businesses in the state of Nebraska just isn't enough anymore, so the Legislature and Governor Heineman are putting their collective heads together to come up with something a little more lucrative (at a cost of $32-50 million more per year). The only problem is that the system established by LB775 is almost 20 years old, and there's no reliable statistics to indicate whether it's worked at all as a mechanism for job-creation and attracting new businesses.

Does that make LB775 worthless? No - but it definitely suggests that reform is drastically needed. What good is a program for which there is no measurement of its success? What kind of responsible government pumps more and more money into a program without at least questioning whether the damn thing is working?

What's really funny is that the only way the Legislature will be able to implement these reforms and finally get some answers on how much money is going to which companies to create how many jobs is by throwing a whole lot more money at LB775's current recipients. They'll have to pay handsomely for the political "okay" to remove this self-imposed blindfold from their eyes.

Even with a huge give-away, though, there are no guarantees of reform. There's the strong possibility the Chamber of Commerce will use its mighty pull to strip the eventual reform package of any true legislative oversight, all while milking every last penny with which the Legislature proves willing to part.

As for Heineman, I reckon he'll sign anything that the Chamber of Commerce can push through the Unicameral. It's all about beefing up his own record and getting his name on some important legislation while he has the chance - not much time until election season for this would-be incumbent to make his name.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

NDP Calls Republican Congressmen to Task

by Kyle Michaelis
Nice to see the Nebraska Democratic Party doing what the Nebraska media has thus far refused to do: demand that the state's Congressmen stand on principle and call for the ouster of House Majority Leader and national embarrassment Tom DeLay.
“Tom DeLay is a right-wing political hack who has time and again, abused power for political and financial gain,” said Steve Achelpohl, Nebraska Democratic Party Chair. “The inaction of Jeff Fortenberry and Lee Terry is equivalent to complicity in DeLay’s abuse of power.”

“Tom DeLay is a making a mockery of the ethical standards of the House of Representatives,” said Achelpohl. “The time is at hand to hold DeLay accountable.”

“We call upon Jeff Fortenberry and Lee Terry to do what’s right; show that integrity stands stronger than partisanship.”
Of course, it's a bit interesting that Achelpohl lets Rep. Tom Osborne off the hook when his silence has been just as morally deafening. Is the assumption that the voters of the heavily-Republican Third District don't care about DeLay's insulting and unethical behavior or that there's simply nothing to be gained targeting an icon of Osborne's stature?

Either way, I'd say it hurts the NDP's claim to the moral high-ground when they're not willing to "risk" holding Osborne to the same standard as his Timid Trio brethren. Good Lord, if Osborne actually ends up running for Governor, is this what we can expect?

By the way, a special note to all our 1st District readers: Jeff Fortenberry not only took $10,000 from DeLay's PAC, he also voted with him a mind-numbing 100% of the time in his first few months in office. 10 K can buy a lot of negative advertisments come campaign time but it can't buy the people of Nebraska's complicity in DeLay's dirty dealings. Fortenberry has some serious explaining to do because these are not Nebraska values.

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Monday, April 18, 2005

More Nelson and Hagel Go Wild

by Kyle Michaelis
On the second big Senate vote coming up, there's been further intrigue from Nebraska's Senate delegation concerning the Republican Party's move to change Senate rules and end the filibustering of Judicial nominees. This is a clear attempt to pave the way for as radical a choice as Bush can make for appointment to the US Supreme Court. Senators Ben Nelson and Chuck Hagel have both checked in on the issue, and both are carefully treading the precarious line of bipartisanship.

A World-Herald article Sunday, gave some insight into Nelson's approach to this touchy situation, which includes, of course coming from Gentle Ben, a compromise proposal of his own:
Nelson is talking up an alternative in the worsening feud between Senate Republicans and Democrats over a handful of Bush-nominated judges blocked by Democratic filibusters....

"I decided to see if there would be something that would be considered less draconian, more palatable and passable. I'm offering it as a way out of what could be a very major crisis for the Senate," Nelson said in an interview.

For now, the Nebraska Democrat is in a lonely position - a centrist caucus of one - but he may not always be alone....

Under Nelson's proposal, once a nomination was received, the Senate Judiciary Committee would get 20 legislative days to hold a hearing, and then 20 more days to vote on it. If it failed to act, the nomination automatically would go to the full Senate with an unfavorable recommendation.

The Senate then would have 20 days to debate and vote on the nomination. If that failed to occur, any senator could call for 20 hours of debate followed by a yes-or-no vote....

Nelson, who opposes the nuclear option, worked with other Senate centrists on compromises that helped Bush win two major tax cuts in his first term.
Sure makes one proud to be a Nebraska Democrat when seeing Nelson "opposes" this horrendous Republican ploy. The only problem is that, from my reading, I don't see how Nelson's supposed compromise is substantially different from the Republican plan he opposes. The way the World-Herald describes it, it would have the exact same effect putting every nominee to a vote without the possibility of filibuster. At least, that's how it reads, unless the World-Herald's reporting was poor or I've suddently gone daft.

Meanwhile, the AP checks in with Sen. Hagel, ever the one to maximize his personal exposure by taking both sides or none at all:
A second Republican who has been on the fence, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, said, "I've said to both sides, don't include me in your count right now...."

About a half-dozen GOP senators either have said they oppose or have refused to support changing the rules. Democrats blocked confirmation on 10 of the president's first-term judicial nominees while confirming 204. The president has renominated seven of the 10, and Democrats have again threatened to employ filibusters to prevent them from coming to a final vote.

Republicans are stepping up efforts to win over wavering lawmakers. [Sen. Majority Leader Bill] Frist plans to offer a brief videotaped speech at a rally on April 24 organized by the conservative Family Research Council. A flier for the event says "the filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and now it is being used against people of faith."

While not criticizing Frist's planned speech to the group, Hagel on CNN's "Late Edition" said, "When we talk religion and government, neither should become an instrument for the other. And I see drifting here in different directions that are, I don't think, healthy for our country."
So, basically, we have no idea in which direction Hagel is leaning, though his prior history suggests he'll side with the Republicans unwaveringly if this ever comes to a vote. But hey, at least he shows evidence of some meager understanding of how ludicous it is to say these 10 filibusters are being used to discriminate against Christians. Yeah, if 90% of the 200+ confirmed judges don't consider themselves Christian. Who are they kidding exploiting voters' faith and God's name in such despicable fashion?

Seriously, where do the perversions of the truth stop with these far-right fringe characters who are pulling Frist and President Bush's strings? How wonderful it would be if Hagel, in a fit of decency, would truly stand up to them rather than hinting as he does, "I know what you're up to and I'll allow it so long as you consider me for President in 2008."

You know what's worse than the devil that you know? The devil that knows better.Too bad Hagel is too busy looking for ways to sell-out rather leading as he seems capable of doing. At least Nelson's no sell-out, no matter what people say of him. He's just Ben Nelson.

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Nelson and Hagel Go Wild

by Kyle Michaelis
Two very big votes are coming up in the Senate, and Nebraska's Senators are keeping both pretty exciting by their respective positioning. First, there's the vote on avowed UN-basher John Bolton as President Bush's pick for United Nations Ambassador.

It's an insulting and altogether despicable choice that isn't going to do a damn thing to heal the rifts Bush has created with the rest of the world. Pulling a bit of a partisan switcheroo, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel came out this weekend with some questions about Bolton's suitability for the job, mostly tied to his dictatorial style and abusive treatment of a former analyst at the State Department who now works for Hagel. The LA Times reports:
Nebraska's Republican senator suggested Sunday that he might oppose John Bolton as U.N. ambassador if more allegations come out about the nominee's character and behavior. That could result in a tie vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and endanger President Bush's choice to head the U.S. delegation to the international body.

As the committee vote scheduled for Tuesday nears, Sen. Chuck Hagel said he remained concerned about a series of accusations questioning Bolton's temperament and wondered whether he was the right man for the job. "We need a uniter," Hagel said on CNN's "Late Edition." "We need a builder. We need someone who will reach out to our friends and our allies at the United Nations."

Hagel hedged when asked whether he would vote for Bolton. "At this point, I will," he said. "But I have been troubled with more and more allegations, revelations, coming out about his style, his method of operation."

Hagel is second in seniority among the 10 Republicans on the committee. With eight Democrats on the panel, a vote by Hagel against Bolton would tip the result into a tie, which could send the matter to the full Senate without a recommendation....

Hagel deemed the allegations "a disturbing pattern of things that have come out about Bolton's management style, this intimidation...We cannot have that at the United Nations," he said. "That should not be anywhere in our government."
Now for the fun part, Journal-Star columnist Don Walton shared today of our Democratic Senator, Ben Nelson:
Nelson says he's leaning toward voting to confirm John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
That's disappointing, to say the least. One would hope Nelson would take advantage of Hagel's wavering and see it as an opportunity to at least make clear his doubts about Bolton, whether or not he feels pressured to support Bush's horrendous pick. Sadly, he probably sees this instead as a chance to prove he's more of a Bush lackey than his Republican counterpart. Even sadder, in Nebraska, that kind of thinking just might be what gets Nelson reelected.

Of course, Hagel's tradition of talking independent while voting anything but is likely to continue once again in this instance. We'll know tomorrow. Seriously, what good does Hagel's apparent conscience and common sense do him (or us) since he's proven entirely unwilling to vote as if he has either?

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Twisted World of Harold W. 3.5

by Kyle Michaelis
In his column, Andersen also dropped in this little bit of seemingly self-evident wisdom:
Nebraska Democratic Party leaders must be (1) thoroughly enjoying the divisive controversy that Hagel's action has created in the Nebraska GOP and (2) quietly hoping that Hagel's action does indeed discourage Osborne from running for governor. The nomination of Heineman rather than Osborne would, of course, clearly improve Democratic odds in the 2006 gubernatorial election.
Anyone else get really uncomfortable and suspicious whenever Andersen tries to speak for Democrats? Maybe there's something we're not seeing here, and a Heineman-Osborne primary showdown really would be to the Democratic Party's benefit, no matter its winner.

I don't think primary fights can be said to be all bad or all good - it always depends on the particular situation and the particular candidates. Every election is different. Sometimes they cause irreperable damage, while sometimes they provide a lot of much-needed attention and momentum to the victor.

In this instance, even though Heineman may seem the weaker candidate, he's also going to be the safe "status quo" candidate in a state that seems increasingly to want someone who won't rock the boat and just has an "R" by their name. The Democrats would have to have someone with a lot of fire and enthusiasm just to get peoples' interest-level high enough to give a damn. Put Osborne in the mix, whether just in the Primary or the General Election, and there's a touch of chaos in all that celebrity (unless the "foregone conclusion" of his victory is insurmountable and has a deadening effect).

Obviously, the resources expended in a Heineman-Osborne primary could be very considerable and both candidates could do a lot of damage to each others' credibility if they wanted to. Neither has proven necessarily adept or agile as politicians and there's definitely some question as to how quickly either could recover. In a more drawn out campaign, a lot of people might start questioning Osborne's being up to the job, while if Heineman would actually beat Osborne he might not come off looking like the best guy in the eyes of Osborne's people (whom may already be offended by the Hagel endorsement).

Sure, it's all a bunch of conjecture. At the end of the day, no one knows anything, and that includes myself. I just think it's important that we take nothing for granted when there's so much at stake - especially when Harold W. Andersen and the Omaha World-Herald are speaking in absolutes. If that doesn't make you wonder, you haven't been paying attention.

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The Twisted World of Kyle M?

by Kyle Michaelis
What's this? World-Herald stalwart (and thorn-in-the-side-of-progress in Nebraska) Harold W. Andersen and I have pretty much the same reading of this Hagel, Heineman, Osborne brouhaha:
Hagel says he and Heineman weren't attempting a pre-emptive strike designed to discourage Osborne from announcing for governor. Rather, Hagel said, he simply was endorsing Heineman's candidacy because of the strong record he has built as governor, lieutenant governor and state treasurer.

How's that again? An enthusiastic endorsement of a record which at the time included 11 1/2 weeks of service as governor? The fact is that Heineman does not yet have a record as governor deserving of either endorsement or criticism. You can't even say that the jury is out on Heineman's performance, because the trial of his performance barely has begun....

How much fairer treatment of Osborne (certainly politics and fairness need not be mutually exclusive) if Hagel had welcomed Heineman's announcement with kind words but added that he would not take sides if Osborne (for whom Hagel has said he has "the highest regard") ran for governor.

It would be ironic if Hagel's quick pledge of unqualified support for Heineman boomeranged, tending to push Osborne toward a decision to take on the Heineman-Hagel team rather than avoiding a primary election contest.
Is this good or bad? Finding common ground with one's (ideological) enemies does make for a strong claim to a shared humanity and common sense from which some hope for the future can be drawn, but it also suggests the possibility that my thinking has become just as corrupted and self-serving as Andersen's.

There's also the simple explanation to consider that this was just a pretty obvious situation that anyone of a certain intelligence (be it high or low) would have read in pretty much the same way. I hope it's that one, so we (Harold and I) don't have to claim anything more than some fundamental intelligence in common.

If I suddenly start dropping in little folksy tid-bits about my pets and my significant other, though, know that the sickness has finally set in and this particular blogger has truly lost his way and needs to be put out of his misery.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Will Machines Defend Democracy?

by Kyle Michaelis
Thursday, former State Sen. Don Eret took his case to court challenging the constitutionality of a 2002 legislative provision that prohibits hand recounts in Nebraska counties that use voting machines for their original tally.

The relevant portion of the bill, LB 1054, reads:
The procedures for the recounting of ballots shall be the same as those used for the counting of ballots on election day...Counties counting ballots by using a vote counting device shall first recount the ballots by use of the device. If substantial changes are found, the ballots shall then be counted using such device in any precinct which might reflect a substantial change.
I'm not sure of the constitutionality of this law, but its logic is certainly lacking. The original statute was perfectly fine calling for manual recounts where it above insists on "using such device." Coming in the wake of the 2000 Florida recount, I appreciate the Legislature's seeking to clarify state law, but what the hell were they thinking putting the entire weight of our democracy on machines, especially, as this law dictates, in those situations when the same machines' original counts have already proven defective?

Is this not the very height of absurdity? It's like sending an appeal of a court decision on the basis of a judge's incompetence back to that very same judge to decide - except worse because humans, in theory, can see the error of their ways.

Is this what we've come to - we'll put our trust in broken machines before people with eyes and ears and the ability to reason? And really, let's face it, we're actually putting our faith in the corporations that programmed these vote machines, as if they were infallible, rather than trusting our friends and neighbors on an election commission to do their job honorably and with competence. How can democracy thrive when we're more willing to accept errors by machines without accountability or oversight rather than trusting real live people in a system subject to both?

Of course, human error is real and it's a problem, as evidenced by the fact that this ridiculous change ever got passed by the State Senate and signed by Governor Johanns. Maybe they were on to something. If the machines can count our votes so much better, it's hard to believe they couldn't do a better job than this crafting responsible and sensible legislation.

Hell, who needs Skynet when we can have President IBM?

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Osborne vs. Hagel?

by Kyle Michaelis
The World-Herald reports:
Although they spent 45 minutes seated almost side by side Wednesday morning, U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel and U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne weren't their usual easygoing selves at the weekly Nebraska Breakfast.

There's usually some lighthearted banter between the two during the gatherings of the state's congressional delegation and Nebraskans visiting Washington. But as Wednesday's event wrapped up, Osborne made for a quick exit....

Asked..what he thought of Hagel's surprise endorsement of Gov. Dave Heineman's 2006 election bid, Osborne, a Republican who's considering running for governor himself, said only: "I really have no comment on that...."

The senator said he tried to get in touch with Osborne earlier this week, but Osborne was on a congressional trip, meeting U.S. troops in Iraq and Germany. Hagel's chief of staff, Lou Ann Linehan, did speak with Osborne's staff chief, Bruce Rieker, before the endorsement announcement, he said.

"I don't know what Congressman Osborne's going to do," Hagel said. "I have the highest regard for him."
Highest regard? I think Osborne would probably disagree with his treatment by Hagel indicating that. No, highest regard would have to entail at least waiting for Osborne to be settled-in from his trip to Iraq before laying this sort of bombshell on him. A gentlemanly phone call probably wouldn't have been asking too much either.

What was the hurry? Hagel endorsing Heineman later in the week, after having a chance to talk with Osborne, would have still nabbed the same headlines without the implied slap in the face - at least to the degree seen here. Sure, Osborne probably wasn't going to be happy about the endorsement of a potential challenger, but such a simple gesture would still have paid him the courtesy and respect to which he and his adoring public surely think he's entitled.

Osborne's done a lot for Nebraska, whether his Congressional record testifies to that or not. Maybe Hagel's 15-year absence during the majority of the Osborne-era of Cornhusker football is to blame. Obviously, the pride he helped instill in this entire state never quite reached Hagel's Virginia home. Otherwise, it would be understood that Dr. Tom deserves better.

But, then again, this is politics. What did Osborne expect? Back-stabbing and innuendo are how the game is played - even when playing with fellow Republicans. If he doesn't like it, Osborne can get off the field, surely asking himself as so many have done before him, "Where is the love?".

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Heineman Makes it Official

by Kyle Michaelis
Nebraska State Paper has a fairly comprehensive overview of the Nebraska political landscape now that Gov. Dave Heineman has announced his intention to run for election in his own right and has received the immediate endorsement of Sen. Chuck Hagel to continue in his current capacity.

Supposedly, Hagel's endorsement came as a surprise even to Heineman, as it did many commentators who expected a more hands-off approach, at least until Rep. Tom Osborne had announced his plans for the next election cycle.

Speculation abounds whether Hagel knows Osborne will not be running for governor and felt free to pick "a horse" or whether he is perhaps hoping to head off an Osborne bid to prevent what could be an ugly (and expensive) in-party fight. There's also no doubt that a Governor Osborne would have political clout that would rival Hagel's in the state Republican Party, not something Hagel needs as he prepares his apparent bid for the presidency when he could have a governor (Heineman) who now "owes him one."

Motives are hard enough to predict of normal people that it's all but impossible to guess what's really behind a smart and calculating politician's actions. Whatever Hagel's thinking, I'd say this obviously makes it that much more likely that Tom Osborne will not be running for governor.

Osborne has shown no willingness to use his celebrity to stand on his own two feet in Congress and has generally seemed content to be little more than a lapdog for the Republican Party when his handful of pet issues aren't on the table. I doubt he has the inclination or the instinct to really hunker down for a political battle. Seems more likely that if Osborne wants to get out of D.C. and settle down again back home, as reported, he'll be doing so as a private citizen.

Could be wrong, of course - surely the old coach that wouldn't accept a tie against Miami is somewhere in there waiting for a challenge. Maybe the actual problem will be that Heineman just isn't worth the effort. After all, what is the governorship to a man with no real political agenda of his own who also has three national championships and nothing left to prove?

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World-Herald's False "Modesty"

by Kyle Michaelis
What will they think up next, folks? One's really gotta' hand it to the Omaha World-Herald for the ingenious ways they think to twist every editorial, no matter its subject matter, to fit their self-serving political viewpoint. Today, in a rant against celebrity book deals (it's not as if there's been mass killing in Iraq, the Congo and Sudan after all), the OWH wrote:
These days, anyone can cash in on a role, no matter how insignificant, in the latest scandal or criminal trial and tell his or her whole life story, no matter how boring.

The ridiculousness of book deals range from "Survivor" winner Richard Hatch to Amber Frey, mistress of Scott Peterson, to Monica Lewinsky....

Mary Cheney, daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, is set to release a memoir next year on being a political target for the other side....Cheney's book, of which her sexual identity will be a major part, is supposed to reach out to conservatives, liberals and gays alike. Perhaps she'll be able to rise above the circus that many book deals have become and offer something thought-provoking and real.

Though that may not matter much, because it's drearily clear that the days of restraint, humility and shame are long gone.
The days of shame are indeed gone when spin like this passes for respectable commentary. How dare the World-Herald assert that Mary Cheney was a political target of the Democrats? Who are they kidding? This in an election year when the Republican Party used anti-gay rhetoric and legislation to prop their candidates up across the country.

John Kerry and John Edwards, in referring to Mary Cheney's being a lesbian in their respective debates, were - if anything - standing up for her and her rights in the face of so much Republican hypocrisy.

It may have seemed awkward in the moment, and some might even say her mention in the debates was exploitative, but the target painted on Mary Cheney and every homosexual in this country was put on them not by Democrats but by Papa Cheney, Bush, Karl Rove, and their radical pseudo-Christian partners from the farthest reaches of the Republican Right. How sick and twisted to claim to be pro-family while dismissing the obvious fact that homosexuals are as much our brothers, sisters, children, and parents as anyone.

Kerry and Edwards humanized Mary Cheney - they said she shouldn't be a target of discrimination. In doing so, yes, they reminded the world that she exists. For this supposed crime, they were called "not nice men" by Cheney's own mother. "Not nice men" for treating her daughter like a human being - I ask where the real exploitation of a situation is in a statement like that?

If anything could be hoped from this memoir, it would be an honest account of just what it feels like to be betrayed and abandoned each day on the campaign trail by ones own mother and father when he is one of the most powerful men in the world. Alas, that's more honesty that we could ever expect from this shrewd political operative who knows the stakes as well as anyone.

No, Mary Cheney's canned memoir probably will reflect the Omaha World-Herald's deceitful expectation of misdirection and Democratic demonizing almost perfectly. The difference is that she's the daughter of a life-long political hack and is just remaining loyal to family. What's the World-Herald's excuse?

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Time for our Congressmen to Dump DeLay

by Kyle Michaelis
Today's Journal-Star was dead-on pointing out the stench hanging over Republican House Leader Tom DeLay's dirty deeds. It's about time someone in the Nebraska media called for his ouster. What's noticably lacking from the LJS editorial, however, is the all too reasonable DEMAND that Nebraska's all-Republican Congressional delegation stand up and speak out against this embarrassing disgrace of a Congressional "leader":
It's been heartening the past few days to hear a few Republicans finally voicing public criticism of Rep. Tom DeLay. More should join the chorus. It's time for Republicans to renounce his leadership and choose a more principled and temperate representative as House Majority Leader.

For the past few years GOP members in Congress seem to have been intimidated by the ruthless tactics of the man they call "The Hammer" or overly solicitous of the political infighter they believe can claim much credit for the party's political gains. Finally, however, matters seem to have reached a tipping point....

Over the years, DeLay has been criticized three times by the House Ethics Committee. His usual response has been to brush the criticism off as partisan politics led by enemies in the Democratic Party.

Recently, however, DeLay has come under fire for lavish junkets paid for by people for whom DeLay is in position to bestow favors. In 2000, for example, DeLay and other House members and their staffers took a $70,000 trip to the United Kingdom allegedly paid for with funding arranged by lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Adding more tarnish to DeLay's reputation were reports last week that his wife and daughter had been paid almost $500,000 by his political action committee....

The most imperative reason the Republicans in Congress should renounce DeLay's leadership is not that he is guilty of political miscues, however. It's that his lack of respect for principles and ethics is showing. The Republicans can do much better.
Tom Osborne, Lee Terry, and Jeff Fortenberry have been almost unheard from on the matter of DeLay's numerous legal and ethical violations of the public trust, leaving their silence that much more conspicuous and unforgiveable with each passing day.

Has this "Timid Trio" forgotten that they work for us, the voters, and that they have a responsibility to put this country's well-being before the dictates of the Republican Party hierarchy. Nebraska deserves so much better - we deserve voices of independence and integrity - it's time our elected representatives realize who's really their boss regardless of the "R" by their name on the ballot.

Osborne, Terry, and Fortenberry - the Timid Trio - someone has to send them a message, be it on the phones or at the polls. They won't wake up until we do.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Fear + Money = Conceal & Carry

by Kyle Michaelis
Just what is State Sen. Jeanne Combs (Dist. 32) so scared of that she thinks Nebraskans need to be carrying around concealed weapons? Yesterday's World-Herald attempted to answer:
She came to believe that people couldn't count on police for protection after her home was burglarized - twice - while living in Southern California.

She purchased her stainless steel Smith & Wesson revolver when she was a home health-care and hospice nurse in Jackson County, Ky., 11 years ago....

"In that culture, everyone has a gun," she said. "They carry them clipped to their belt, like people around here do a Vise-Grip..."

Since moving to Nebraska nine years ago, Combs has stored her gun in a locked box in a closet. She's no longer in a job where she feels she needs a firearm. Until recently, she hadn't gotten the pistol out for more than a year.

But if she needed it, Combs said, she'd like to be able to legally stow it in her purse or glove compartment. In Nebraska, she said, it's not socially acceptable - though it's legal - to carry a gun in the open.

"I'd be the talk of the town to walk around with a gun on my hip," she said.
Has Combs considered maybe that's for good reason? Seems to me that this entire push for Conceal & Carry, even according to Combs, is an attack on Nebraska's peaceful way of life. It's an attempt to change our culture to make it more accomodating to a gun-obsessed fringe group, so - God forbid - they're not "the talk of the town."

Is that really how laws get pased in this state? Good grief. The OWH article goes on to mention Combs run-in with California gang members in the middle of a turf war. How nice that she's now doing her part to bring that kind of fear to us in Nebraska.

More troubling even that that, however, is the revelation that Combs is getting a free trip to Front Sight Resort in Nevada, which describes itself as the "World's Premier Resort for Self Defense and Personal Safety Training."
The training, which normally costs $900, is being provided by the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen's Foundation. Combs is a member of the Nebraska Sportsmen's Foundation.

The Front Sight course is accepted for concealed-handgun permits in 23 states. Combs wants to be able to describe, first-hand, the training typically required for obtaining a concealed-weapon permit.
Look at that - guess who wants to see Nebraska become the 24th state to allow this expensive training? Ha...Republicans - they cloak their gun crap as a big civil rights/2nd Amendment issue, but in the end, as expected, it's all about the money.

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Should Iowa's Legislature be Nonpartisan?

by Kyle Michaelis
Not that I've heard any real talk about Iowa following in its neighbor to the west's footsteps, but after reading this report in the Omaha World-Herald maybe they should at least consider it:
Last fall, when state senators realized there would be a historic 25-25 party split in the Iowa Senate, Democrats and Republicans vowed a session filled with compromise and free of partisan rancor. Yeah, like that was going to happen.

With about a month left in the 2005 session, the evenly divided Iowa Senate is bogged down in legislative gridlock. Lawmakers of both parties are blaming each other for an unproductive and frustrating session.

Republicans say Democrats are being obstructionists. Democrats say Republicans - the majority for the last eight years - aren't used to sharing power...

About all the two sides agree upon is that the complex power-sharing arrangement isn't working. One party, they say, needs to be in charge.
Is that really the only answer? I think not. A nonpartisan legislature like Nebraska's is a viable alternative, though the Omaha World-Herald won't be saying anything of the sort since they've been trying to do away with it for years.

Ultimately, I'm not really advocating it, but the people of Iowa should know such an option exists. Political parties have become so focused on hot button national issues that these labels might really be doing a disservice to the people at the state and local levels, as the rancor carrying over from these BIG differences prevents the compromise necessary to govern on a smaller scale. When political parties are doing more harm than good, official nonpartisanship makes sense as a way to liimit the parties' influence even though it can never be eliminated.

Note that in 2000, Iowans voted for Gore by the slimmest of margins and in 2004 they did the same for President Bush. Meanwhile, the state senate is evenly divided and the state house has a one vote majority for the Republicans 51-49. Topping it all off, Governor Tom Vilsack is a Democrat.

Obviously, Iowans are able to look beyond party labels - maybe, in the state legislature, they're ready to disregard them entirely.

"New Iowa Network" anyone?

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Friday, April 08, 2005

Liberal professors and pie-throwing?

by Kyle Michaelis
Where does the Omaha World-Herald get this stuff? Today their editorial tries, in strange fashion, to link a report about the liberal leanings of University professors to two recent attacks with pie and salad dressing, respectively, on conservative pundits William Kristol and Pat Buchanan as they spoke on college campuses. No, I'm not making this up.

It seems the study shows of college professors:
Self-identified liberals outnumbered conservatives 72 percent to 15 percent...Lopsided majorities supported abortion rights and indicated tolerance for homosexuals. A majority also said the government should guarantee a job for everyone who wants one, a view the survey sponsors noted is well to the left of the Democratic Party. And the professors expressed a preference for environmental action even if a loss of jobs resulted.
Wait, let me get this straight - highly educated people tend to be more tolerant, think everyone should have a job, and understand the importance of protecting the environment? GASP! Wait, what's the problem here?

Nevermind that this "study" was funded entirely by a far-right research foundation that is known to work with the wacky Americans for Tax Reform, who I'm sure would be delighted with the OWH's attempts to connect professors voting for John Kerry with 2 students throwing food.
This is not to find a cause-and-effect relationship between the results of the poll and the attempts at two campuses to silence conservative speakers.

On the other hand, true liberalism is supposed to be dedicated to free speech, respect for individual differences and dedication to a spirit of inquiry. If there's anything to that, something about the picture on two campuses isn't quite adding up.
So, what they're saying is that liberal professors aren't doing a good enough job of brainwashing their students and turning them into good liberals? Am I reading that right?

If so, can't really say I disagree. But, honestly, shouldn't a good conservative newspaper like the Omaha World-Herald entrust parents with the responsibility to teach their kids not to throw food at people?

Had a group of these dangerous liberal professors openly hailed the pie-thrower and salad dressing shooter, maybe there'd be a story here. As is, though, I think someone's pumping a dry well in the name of conservative paranoia.

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Viva Papa!

by Kyle Michaelis
Today, the world made its final farewell to Pope John Paul II - a man of God, a man of greatness. We will not see his like again.

It's with a heavy heart that I am even forced to mention President Bush exploiting the Pope's passing for political gain. Today, Bush called attending the Pope's funeral, "One of the highlights of my presidency." According to the AP, he also went out of his way to refute Former President Bill Clinton's assessment of the Pope's legacy as mixed:
"I think John Paul II will have a clear legacy of peace, compassion and a strong legacy of setting a clear moral tone," Bush told reporters on Air Force One as he flew from Rome to the United States just hours after the funeral. He said he wanted to amend his remarks to add the word "excellent."

It was a strong legacy," the president said. "I wanted to make sure there was a proper adjective to the legacy he left behind, not just the word clear."
Bush hadn't buttered up sufficiently to the American Catholics that won him the election and needed to squeeze "excellent" in there after the fact. How quaint. Seems ridiculous to see Bush publicly buy into the notion of papal infallibility that both John Paul II and the Church rejected.

I have no doubt that as a man of humility, the Pope saw his own mixed legacy. He made choices as best to serve God and the Church, but he never would have claimed that they were without negative repercussions - in stark contrast to Bush, who has proven on numerous occasions to be entirely lacking of such introspection and humanity.

Clinton has been quoted saying of John Paul II:
"There will be debates about him. But on balance, he was a man of God, he was a consistent person, he did what he thought was right. That's about all you can ask of anybody."
Honesty before political pandering - that's leadership. If only fellow Catholics would see through the smoke and mirrors and stop buying into Bush's easy rhetoric. Are we so desperate to hear what we want to hear rather than the truth? If so, we have truly lost our way.

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The Real Culture War

by Kyle Michaelis
This just in, a sad commentary on where we’re at as a people. The first line of this article from the Omaha World-Herald says it all:
The Ranch Bowl Entertainment Center is closing, and Wal-Mart said Thursday it is considering building a store at the 72nd Street site.
Disappointing, to say the least, for Omaha music fans. Take comfort, though, you will soon be able to buy edited versions of your favorite mass-marketed pop albums from your friendly local Wal-Mart retailer. And listen to this from a Wal-Mart Community Affairs manager:
"This won't look like the old-school, drop-the-box in the middle-of-a-field Wal-Mart."
Exciting! I can’t wait to see the finished product. Maybe they’ll be going vertical with this baby. Neighborhood kids might even get some escalators to play on out of the deal. Meanwhile, it must be noted that plans are in the works to open a music venue twice as large as the 400-capacity Ranch Bowl, though no further details are available.

Just proves what Wal-Mart has always known – in America, bigger is better even when it’s not.

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

How quickly they forget....

by Kyle Michaelis
The World-Herald makes a qualified defense of gay marriage from its more ridiculous detractors in the "Furthermore" section of the Editorial Page:
A Colorado lawmaker has argued for his proposed state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions by warning that allowing gays to wed could result in interspecies marriage. He sputtered out a couple of vague examples, including a 30-year-old publicity stunt designed to get news-media attention (it did). Hmm . . . which of his colleagues does he think will offer a bill to let the owl marry the pussycat? Using this bogeyman to press for a gay-marriage ban is both (a) funny and (b) insulting, if one can be insulted while snorting with laughter.
I agree on all accounts, but the Omaha World-Herald should perhaps be more mindful of Nebraska's even higher-ranking politicans who've made similar such statements before looking across state lines with scorn. It was only 15 months ago that Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning responded to the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in that state with:
"Does that mean you have to allow a man to marry his pet or a man to marry his chair?"
I'm sure the World-Herald can be counted on to remember such idiotic remarks as Bruning runs for re-election next year, especially with those 2006 endorsements.

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World-Herald's Self-Indulgent Speculation

by Kyle Michaelis
The OWH puts Sandy Berger in the cross-hairs today, former National Security Adviser to President Bill Clinton, for supposedly destroying classified documents held in the National Archives. Little is known about the facts in this case, at least outside secure government channels, but that doesn't stop the OWH from assuming the worst.
Speculation at that time was that Berger, more recently a John Kerry adviser, was protecting his old boss, Bill Clinton. Berger had gained access to the documents ostensibly to refresh his memory as a witness for the commission that was putting together an account of the terrorist attacks of 2001. But the thought was that he'd look at the documents, not go after them with a pair of scissors...

The unanswered question - what was Berger trying to hide, and on whose behalf? - goes directly to the character of the American government, past and possibly future. The public needs an explanation.

This is a pattern that occurs too frequently these days. An accusation is made, a denial lodged. Then a deal is struck, the accused person pleads guilty and a token penalty is extracted, all without a full-dress courtroom appearance, with testimony and cross-examination, that would let the public in on the secret....

These are general concerns. There are, in addition, the obvious specific questions of what information the Archives held that was too hot to disclose for the commission or to leave for historians eventually to find.

There may be those who say that such talk puts too negative a spin on Berger and the Clinton administration. But try as one might, it's hard to imagine how a knowledgeable former federal official would risk conviction for a federal felony for anything less.

Now, on its face, there's nothing wrong with expecting accountability from a man in Berger's position. Nor is it wrong to be disappointed that the absolute facts of this case will never be established. But, assuming the worst possible scenario, that this is just a slap on the wrist for what amounts to a one-man government cover-up to somehow protect President Clinton, is just plain reckless.

A responsible newspaper doesn't have the luxury of making stuff up and publishing what it does not know. Berger remains steadfast in his assertion that this whole affair was an accident. He removed documents from the archives for further review, which is a misdemeanor, as an "honest mistake" and returned all but a few of them promptly.

What happened to these lost documents is simply unknown, as is exactly what they pertained to, leaving it insultingly presumptuous of the OWH to suggest hidden agendas and Berger cutting the documents up when there's no evidence to support such assertions. Berger has plead guilty to the misdemeanor it is known he committed - the removal and retention of classified government documents. Expecting more than that when there's no physical evidence to support it shows no regard for the standards of proof needed to overcome that hideous little constitutional protection assuring innocence until proven guilty.

Skepticism in matters of government is a healthy thing, but fabricating scenarios in the guise of righteous indignation to paint an incident in the worst possible light crosses over into raw political exploitation. That's to be expected from politicians but not from those we trust to give us the news.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I-80 Amusement Park

by Kyle Michaelis
Taking a short break from political mumbo-jumbo to discuss an issue of even greater importance: amusement parks. It appears developers are planning to announce the building of one near Mahoney State Park.

The OWH reports:
Steve Minard, president of Metro Omaha Theme Park LLC, said in a press release that he would announce a project "that will excite people across the state."

The press release includes a statement from U.S. Rep. Lee Terry of Omaha: "This is an exciting announcement that will add to the quality of life for Nebraskans by adding family-friendly year-round entertainment."

Terry was unavailable for comment Wednesday. A spokeswoman, Jen Rae Hein, said Terry has been "loosely involved" in the project for about a year. She said he likes the project because it would encourage economic development...

A bill on the floor of the Legislature could boost such a project. Legislative Bill 500 would allow for creation of special entertainment and tourism districts, where projects could qualify for sales and lodging tax incentives to help fund construction...

State Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue, who sits on the Revenue Committee, said the developers talked with her about the bill and possibly using it to build an amusement park between Omaha and Lincoln along I-80.

Is it just me or does this whole idea have DISASTER written all over it? You know, I love amusement parks and think they're generally unrivaled as a great way for kids to spend a summer day with family. But, getting a thing like this to work in this day and age, starting from scratch, is pretty damn diffiult and takes no small bit of magic.

Economic development in the middle of nowhere rarely lends itself to this sort of magic. This bridging of the Omaha and Lincoln markets has been tried before with the Outlet Mall that has generally failed to attract from either. I fear an amusement park would fare similarly, except it's much higher operating costs would never allow it to scrape by as the Outlet Mall has done.

It might just be better for all involved to realize that Kansas City and its Worlds of Fun are just too close by. The relative low population density of the Midwest doesn't lend itself to expensive amusement parks serving every metropolitan area. I say be happy with and support the great Henry Doorly Zoo.

What's saddest about all this is that only 12 years ago, Omaha had a quality amusement park with unbeatable location that city leaders and the Omaha World-Herald would not support redeveloping. With minimal efforts to save Peony Park, a grocery store and apartment buidings now stand in place of its roller coaster and water slides. Should tax money really go towards replacing such a resource, when so many millions could have been saved by simply expanding and improving the original site?

Ah, but then downtown Omaha would be without one more Hy-Vee, and we couldn't have that, now could we? For all the talk of government waste (much of it certainly justified), here's a prime example of the free market performing just as stupidly and devoid of reason.

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Congratulations to Omaha & Lincoln Democrats

by Kyle Michaelis
Democrats fared well in Tuesday's Omaha and Lincoln primaries.

Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey had the most impressive victory of the day, winning 60% of the vote with more than a 20-point advantage over his opponent Dave Friend. That's pretty damn impressive and points to a smooth reelection effort for the mayor.

Meanwhile, on the Omaha City Council, Democratic challenger Anne Boyle performed very well, surely scaring the hell out of her incumbent opponent, Jim Vokal, with her 48% of the vote. That one's going to come down to the wire on May 10, but I have little doubt Boyle can tip the scales in her favor, securing a Democratic majority on the city council. Republican Rick Bettger was eliminated in District 1, leaving Democrats Jim Suttle and incumbent Marc Kraft to wrangle for the seat. Keep it clean, gentlemen.

In Lincoln's City Council race, Democrats Dan Marvin and incumbent Terry Werner finished a strong forth and second place, respectively, meaning both will advance to the 6-candidate general election. Both are well positioned, needing only finish in the top 3 on May 3rd. Republican incumbent Ken Svoboda finished first, however, and seems to be the one definite lock to hold onto a seat. As is, Marvin was neck and neck with Republican Robin Eschliman, who pulled ahead for third place by an easily surmountable 300 votes. So, we're in good shape, but there's still plenty of work to be done in Lincoln leading Werner and Marvin to victory.

A quick note on the reporting of the election by the Journal-Star: their story quotes political consultant Phil Young extensively as if he were a mere observer of this election, without ever mentioning that he is the former Executive Director of the Nebraska Republican Party. Is it any wonder that he thus spins the results as failures for Werner and Marvin - Werner for not finishing ahead of a fellow incumbent and newcomer Marvin for not finishing ahead of Eschliman?

Barry Rubin of the state Dems and Justin Carlson of the Lancaster County Dems both countered this absurd expectation, but the LJS and its writers should be more careful not to allow one source the implied credibility of a nonpartisan commentator when he is nothing of the sort.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Environmental Truth Polluted by Editorial

by Kyle Michaelis
Today, the World-Herald twists the announcement of a liberal-conservative coalition hoping to boost fuel-efficient and hybrid vehicles while cutting U.S. oil consumption in half by 2025 into - what else - a scolding of environmentalists:
How much opportunity, one wonders, has been lost in political disagreement over the years since Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, earned his standing as the first environmentalist president. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, also a Republican, signed legislation establishing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Richard M. Nixon signed into law the bill creating the Environmental Protection Agency. But increasingly, by Nixon's time, it was becoming necessary for a self-proclaimed environmentalist to wear an anti-establishment hat.

That's in part because Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis., who founded Earth Day in 1970, set out consciously to harness the energy of the anti-war generation on behalf of the environment. With that energy came a powerful theme of leftist, anti-business ideology that in time equated pollution with conservatives, commerce and Republicans.

To be sure, the image promoted by the leftmost fringes of the environmental movement has more than a kernel of truth. Some people who are indifferent to the environment are indeed political conservatives and decision-makers in industry, just as some leftists are so deeply immersed in class warfare or multiculturalism that they have no room for concern for the least tern and the piping plover.

Yet one wonders, over the years, how many political conservatives who admired the environmental work of, say, the Sierra Club nonetheless felt unwelcome because of that organization's partisan rhetoric. And on the broader scale, how much has the environmental movement harmed the environmentalist cause by aligning too closely with the left, thereby shutting out a key segment of the potentially interested population?

Ooohh, how nice - a history lesson and a partisan slap in the face all wrapped up in one. Note the outright dismissal of the entire environmentalist agenda as extremist and on the leftist fringe, as if there were no difference between the Sierra Club and ELF (Earth Liberation Front).

This is just sloppy and insulting. It writes off every sin against the environment as a failure of those doing their best to protect it, taking no responsibility for the Republican Party, the Chamber of Commerce, and - yes - the Omaha World-Herald's placing of business interests over environmental concerns at every opportunity. These are not potential partners who are simply looking for an even shake and a strong argument where the environment is concerned. Too often, these are avowed enemies of the natural world with no regard for the facts whenever they stand in the way of corporate profit.

Does the OWH even consider that it is not the environmentalists who have placed corporations in opposition to the environment? The corporations have done so themselves. Environmentalists are notoriously reflexive. They push back when they see ol' Mother Nature being pushed around, but they're not the ones choosing the battles. The battles are chosen for them whenever greed is being used as justification to gut the world's resources.

In that same vein, environmentalists have not chosen their friends. One party has largely stood up for their interests, while the other has stood opposed. One party has listened, paying more than lip-service, while the other has offered lies like the "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests" initiatives. Wishing it were otherwise simply would not make it so - no matter the amazing lengths to which the OWH proves willing to stretch its editors' feeble logic.

Amazing. They take good news - a political union that could have untold upside for all involved - and then exploit it to make an unconscionably one-sided attack. Like the devil telling the world he does not exist, it seems the World-Herald has learned the easiest way to cover its own partisan trespasses is to scream the evils of partisanship loudest at all those it seeks to destroy.

Is it the reflection of their own misdeeds or is it the truth itself for which they hold so much contempt?

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Kermit "Not Here" Brashear

by Kyle Michaelis
From the hallowed pages of the Omaha World-Herald, some disappointing news about one of the Legislature's most powerful Senators:
State Sen. Kermit Brashear of Omaha, the Nebraska Legislature's new speaker, has missed nine of 55 days so far this session, according to the Legislature's daily record of events. That is more than any other lawmaker this year and more than any other speaker in the past six years.

Brashear said his attendance record is no measure of his performance as speaker. He said he changed legislative procedures to allow negotiation of controversial issues while quickly dispatching more routine bills. He said nearly all of his absences were required to handle pressing business at his Omaha law practice. He also said legislative records exaggerate the extent of his absences.

Well, Brashear isn't one of NNNs favorite Senators, mainly because he seems to consistently put the interests of big business ahead of those of common citizens. If he's going to be slave to any business, though, it's hardest to fault him for looking after his own.

If the voters who elected Brashear (Dist. 4) feel well-served by him, these sorts of absences are excusable for a state senator. It's only the fact that he's the titular head of the Legislature that makes this situation problematic. It seems to break his written promise of November 2004 to his fellow senators that he would place priority on his work as Speaker:
"I hope you also believe that I have done whatever was required, whenever it was required, in order to fulfill the responsibilities which you have entrusted to me," he wrote.

"I make that same pledge with regard to the speakership, understanding and knowing that I will have to make adjustments in the who, what, when and where of my personal and professional life," he added.

Doesn't seem like he's followed through on that end of the bargain, does it? Still, the OWH makes it sound as if other senators have no problem with Brashear's performance - probably because each believes it can be made to serve his or her own interests.

I definitely take some measure of reassurance from Sen. Ernie Chambers' (Dist. 11) okay of Brashears' absences:
"Everything is moving along the way it needs to."

Obviously, Ernie thinks the slower pace of this year's controversial legislation, much of it put on the backburner with Brashear in absentia, will allow for those world famous delay tactics to work their full magic. Sad as it may sound, perhaps the poor, the needy, and us working-stiffs have been better served by Brashear's failure to show-up.

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Monday, April 04, 2005


by Kyle Michaelis
There's a whole bunch of stuff going on at the state capital.

First, there's a proposal to make state agencies a little more accountable to the legislature when exercising their rule-making powers. The question of just what the hell Nebraska should do about Medicaid's ever-expanding costs is also being debated. Finally, updating a previous post, there's been a slight shift by the Telecommunications lobby and its in-the-pocket Senator Kermit Brashear, somewhat tempering their demand that public power providers be banned entirely from competing in the high-speed Internet market - instead calling for a legislative committee to study the issue.

All important matters - the Medicaid question is just huge as the state's low-income population and entire health care industry are sure to be affected. One hates to see services cut for people in need, but,with President Bush's budgetary slashing of the program, there aren't a lot of other options available. The whole health care system is completely out-of-control in this county, and our national politicians have proven entirely unwilling to talk about it, let alone find a solution.

Meanwhile, it's hard to have a problem with increased oversight by the legislature over state agencies. After all, the legislature is most directly-linked to citizens and most responsive to their concerns - just so long as agencies' are still able to do their job without too much of an added burden, which seems to be the case here.

As for Brashear and his buddies in the cable and phone industries, what more is there to say? This seems like the less extreme, less obvious way of accomplishing their original goal of preventing public utilities from entering the market indefinitely, leaving Nebraskans who can actually get service entirely at the mercy of established providers as rural Nebraskans don't even have that luxury. I say it doesn't pass the old smell test.

At least we're getting a good lesson in how much pull the telecommunications industry has. Not only do they have Speaker of the Legislature Brashear in their corner, but they also have his predecessor Curt Bromm lobbying on their behalf only months after leaving office. With Brashear being term-limited out in 2006, I guess we can only assume he's following in Bromm's footsteps and auditioning for a job.

Good for him. Good for Cox and Time-Warner. Bad for Nebraska.

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UNL Grad New Speaker of Iraqi Parliament

by Kyle Michaelis
Don't know how well this will help UNLs recruitment problems since student VISAs from the Middle East are hard to come by and blue-chip football players aren't known particularly for following international politics, but here's an interesting bit from the AP reporting from Baghdad:
Sunday's selection as speaker - Industry Minister Hajim al-Hassani, one of only 17 Sunni Arabs in parliament - could signal progress in the political tussle over selecting politicians for key Cabinet posts, a process that has been snarled by disagreement over how to reach out to the Sunnis.

The new speaker received a doctorate in agriculture and research economics from the University of Connecticut in 1990 and a master's degree in agricultural economics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1982. He also ran an investment management firm in Los Angeles.

So, what do you know - it's not just Nebraska's young men and women in uniform (and some not-so-young Guardsmen) in the middle of all this Iraq turmoil. I suppose it would be expecting too much that al-Hassani might be a Cornhusker fan, but you never know.

Seems there's also some question about the new Speaker's support among his fellow Sunnis:
The choice of al-Hassani was not well received in all quarters.

Osama Abdulfatah, a 30-year-old architect and a Sunni, said the new speaker's support last year of the U.S. assault on the militant stronghold of Fallujah showed he "does not have beliefs, and will never do anything against his benefit."

Al-Hassani refused to quit as industry ministry even though his IraqiIslamic Party pulled out of the interim government over the issue.

"How could we just trust such a traitor?" Abdulfatah asked.

Sounds like some dangerous sentiments. For the sake of peace and the welfare of the Iraqi people, with just a touch of cameraderie for a fellow University alumnus, here's hoping al-Hassani will serve honorably and safely help lead Iraq through these tumultuous times.

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

World-Herald's Partisan Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds

by Kyle Michaelis
Another Omaha World-Herald editorial targeting the Democratic Party ran yesterday. They make a big stink about an entirely legal complaint being made by the Dems against an Omaha City Council Republican for violations of state campaign laws. The party's playing watchdog, that's it - and the OWH wants to make this action seem like some gross violation of the public trust. What utter nonsense. If anything, the Democrats are actually protecting the public by aiding in the enforcement of state laws, I dare say doing no more than their civic duty. For this they are maligned?

Meanwhile, the OWH taps the Republican Party on the wrist for endorsing one Republican over another in the primary, when in Lincoln they have already committed much more heinously partisan acts with their outrageous attack on City Council candidate Dan Marvin. How dare the OWH complain about meddling by political parties without reserving their ire for this most insulting and grievous example, which they do not even mention? How could a newspaper have any less credibility? The people of this state deserve better.

Oh, but they're not done yet, folks. Look at the unnecessary and childish mockery of the Democrats, followed by an utterly inane demand that reveals the World-Herald's true agenda in all this:
For the staff of the organization formerly known as the Party of Jefferson and Jackson, the opportunity to have something to do is additionally crimped by the lack of Democrats holding statewide partisan office. So sticking their nose into nonpartisan elections may provide relief from the long, empty days.

But there's a right way and a wrong way to do things. If the parties want to be a player in the governance of the city, they should complete a two-step process.

• Persuade the public that some legitimate reason exists for partisan elections - that, for instance, there is a Republican position on caring for the parks and streets and a discernibly differing Democratic position.

• Petition the Legislature to change the laws requiring nonpartisan elections for the mayor and City Council.

There they go again. No surprise, the OWH is the real party that makes mockery of Nebraska's populist and progressive spririt of nonpartisanship. They want to twist this situation, at the Democrats' expense of course, to fulfill their long-standing desire to make all elections in this state partisan, allowing voters to be just as reliant on party labels and stereotyping as the World-Herald's Ed. Board. The OWH (and the Republicans, as if they weren't one and the same) would just love to make everything partisan because they think it will help them convert their registration advantage into even greater one-party domination.

Do they do any research? NO! They rely on the same old Republican talking points. Otherwise they'd realize that there's absolutely NO NEED to change state law if people want partisan elections at the city level. See Nebraska Statute 32-557:
All elective city, village, and school officers shall be nominated and elected on a nonpartisan ballot unless a city or village provides for a partisan ballot by ordinance. No ordinance providing for nomination and election on a partisan ballot shall permit affiliation with any party not recognized as a political party for purposes of the Election Act. Such ordinance providing for nomination and election on a partisan ballot shall be adopted and effective not less than sixty days prior to the filing deadline.

Ah, but then the OWH wouldn't get their way in the Unicameral, flooding it with lock-step Republicans, would they?

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