Saturday, July 29, 2006

Adventures in Letter-Writing

by Kyle Michaelis
I had a letter in today's Lincoln Journal-Star. Nothing profound, but - as a little experiment - I think I'll post it, along with the responses it has received on the LJS website:
Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Fremont Days Parade in Fremont. Undoubtedly one of the most memorable entries in that parade was First District Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s enormous entourage, which included an all-black drum and dance team.

These youth were incredibly talented, and, to most parade-goers, their marching with Fortenberry probably stood as testament to the congressman’s commitment to diversity and equality. Unfortunately, they would have been mistaken.

Just three days earlier, Fortenberry had voted for amendments intended to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965 upon its renewal. By doing so, he turned his back on the centuries-long struggle for civil rights, choosing to stand with his party’s far-right fringe rather than the legacy and sacrifice of leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr.

Fortenberry owes an apology to Nebraska’s entire black community, whose children’s talent he is willing to exploit in a parade but whose rights he is not willing to protect in Congress.

Kyle Michaelis

Now, right off the bat, I have to admit something that might color ones response to this letter - I'm white. As such, there is some question whether I have any right to demand an apology for a population of which I am not even a member. Do I have any right to be offended on the "black community's" behalf?

Well, I could see it either way - as a citizen and a human being, I don't think there's anything wrong with standing up for one another. Still, if anyone really believes this is improper or exploitative, I could probably see where they're coming from.

It's a perplexing question that truly reflects the debate earlier this week ("debate" giving the level of discourse far too much credit) - when is the act of pointing out hypocrisy and exploitation itself an act of hypocrisy and exploitation?

Well, so far the responses to my letter haven't gotten that big picture - which is probably for the best. Such a complicated issue - for me, at any rate - can't really be done justice in the throwaway back-and-forth of most online discussions. But, let's see what some folks have to say:
Gerard Harbison wrote: "Nice job, Kyle, taking talking points directly from the web page and getting them published as a 'letter'. Actually, one amendment was to insist on English only ballots. Could someone explain how that impacts Nebraska's black community?"

To Professor Harbison, I would say that the Voting Rights Act was all about expanding the franchise. It is an abuse of the VRAs legacy to now use it as a means of excluding voters - no matter their skin color or the language they speak - especially with so sick a purpose as scoring political points with anti-immigration activists.

That said, thank you for directing people to the Nebraska Democrats' website. Since our newspapers do such a poor job of covering Congressional votes and putting them in context, I did have to learn about Fortenberry's votes from the NDPs Blog, but I guess I don't see where any talking points were lifted. Not a bad way of undercutting a writer's credibility, though - how very O'Reillian/Orwellian!!!
Mad Democrats wrote: "I'm a minority and Democrats take my vote for granted. Well, wrong folks. You haven't advanced the Civil Rights movement in 45 yrs and I am voting Republican. Thank you Congressman Fortenberry for being a uniter and not a divider."

Fortenberry's "a uniter and not a divider"? Only if the same holds true of George W. Bush, who's spent the last 6 years making a mockery of that claim. They are welcome to the claim - I prefer the principle.
CS wrote: "I don't see how voting on an Act that is irrelevent eccept that it gets minority blowhards 5 seconds in the spotlight is doing the Republicans or Democrats any favors. I know I haven't observed any voter testing or income means testing going on-or voting lines for blacks and whites. Its an election year, folks, look how 'busy' our legislators are on 'important' issues."

The VRA was a landmark action 40 years ago, and we are still not where we need to be. Anyone who's paid attention to the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections knows about the intense voter suppression efforts that continue to this day, especially in black communities. Since when does standing up for your rights - and the rights of all Americans - make a person a "blowhard"?
Concerned and Offended wrote: "I am offended by today’s “Letter to the Editor.” It is hardly a letter, but rather a contrived rant seeking to objectify a racial group in pursuit of public policy objectives. A group of talented, young people should have the right to demonstrate their support for whichever candidate they choose. Those students chose Congressman Fortenberry as their representative. The author of today’s “letter” claims to be concerned about protecting political expression and freedom, but instead disrespects the political expression of these talented and engaged citizens. Instead of demanding an apology from our Congressman, Kyle should apologize to these students."

"A contrived pursuit of public policy objectives." Hello, Mr. Pot. Good to see you again. Love, Mr. Kettle.
Al Jolson wrote: "Kyle, I definitely didn't need to hear from somebody with a chip on their shoulder talking about minority voting rights. As a white male, I will be in the minority in the future was will Mr. Fortenberry. Will you be so willing to stand up for my rights when that time comes, Kyle?"

You're damn right I'll stand up for your/our rights. And, when this day comes, I think we'll all be better off with a strong VRA there, engrained in America's political consciousness. It's Fortenberry who's neglecting the Golden Rule here - not me.

If any more responses come in, I'll post those and continue to answer in-kind. Isn't this fun?


Blogger Karl said...


Thank you for pointing out to some of our neighbor (some more ignorant than others after reviewing the comments) that this congress and Fortenberry in particular has done more to reintroduce inequalities into the law through attempted ammendments to the constitution and to other important laws such as the Voting Rights Act. And as to the person who said that the students chose their candidate, perhaps you should realize that as minors they are disenfranchised which is the reason that Republican congresses have consistantly decreased funding to public secondary schools and universities.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Kyle - you might tell "concerned and offended" that Fortenberry "hired" that band. So much for choosing. And tothe person wh said htey are voting republican - that makes perfect sense when you consider the voting irregularities in North Omaha last election and who runs th elections in Nebraska.

Blogger Daily Bulldog said...


So a Republican candidate cannot interact with minorities? Is this the same principle under which Republicans cannot campaign anywhere near a church, yet Dems can actually preach from the pulpit??

You know how you can help minorities? Leave them alone.

And I am not saying ignore them, but help them and treat them as you would anyone else. If you treat anyone differently than you do others, you create a complex which often leads to fear. It goes much further than this and takes oodles of time, but that is where you start.

As Dems often think, you can legislate and force people to "embrace diversity", but if you just leave it alone it will likely happen anyway.

Voting fraud is rampant everywhere, so this VRA deal is nearly a non-issue.

Remember, the Republican party of Lincoln fought the civil war over slavery (Yankee Republicans)....wasn't it the Dems who nearly ruined this country in order to keep slaves in shackles and irons??? And the American South has long had racial problems and issues mixed in politics, and of course it all happened under overwhelming Democratic rule down South.

Anonymous A.S. said...

First off, Kyle never said that Republicans couldn’t interact with minorities. He was merely pointing out the hypocrisy of Fortenberry interacting with minorities after he just voted against the renewal of the VRA. If you cannot see this hypocrisy Bulldog, then you need to wake up.

Thanks for the history lesson Bulldog. Unfortunately you need to take a History 201 at UNL. A lot has changed in both Republican and Democratic Parties in since the Civil War. How convenient it is that you leave out several decades of history.

I believe it was the Democrats in the early 1960's that fought for voting rights, not the Republicans. In fact, in doing this in the early 60’s the Democrats lost much of their southern base. This is a much more recent example of a political party fighting for minority rights other than the one you gave that occurred 150 years ago when the Republican party was quite the different party than it is now.

I would pay for you to take History 201 at UNL but I have a feeling that it wouldn't do much good for you.

The VRA in 1965 was a big issue because voting fraud was rampant not just everywhere but every place blacks voted in the south.

You speak of this special treatment phenomenon and how it leads to a complex of "fear". Hears the solution: Lets weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965 so that the government cannot enforce voting fraud violations and we don't print ballots that ethnic minorities can't read!

Sorry Bull dog but I fear the degradation of voting rights more than I fear so called "special privileges" for minorities (as if making voting fair and equal is a special privilege).

Blogger Daily Bulldog said...


I think it is sweet that you stand up for Kylie, but I think she can fight her own fights.

You didn't answer my question about the campaigning.

I tested out of all required history...nice try, though, and thank you for the offer.

Explain to me how the VRA is effective and how it was "weakened" or whatever these attempts were to weaken it. And I would like specific, concrete data and examples, not THC-induced paranoia and garbage.

Yes, you may have to step away from watching "Sex and the City" re-runs for one night, but that is why we have the internet.

Also cite specific examples where minorities are denied the right to vote, outside of illegal immigrants, which if they are here illegally should not be allowed to vote (although they do en bloc in SoCal).

Blogger Daily Bulldog said...

By the way, George Wallace's bio has some great examples of a Democrat's "embrace" of civil rights.

Does the name Bull Connor righ a bell?

Anonymous A.S. said...

Bulldog, if you actually tested out of your history courses we wouldn't be having this arguement.

I could actually research how the VRA has been effective and cite specific examples. But I have a feeling that a person who cites Wikipedia (a site that academics constantly warn not cite and rely on for information) I don't really think it is worth my time or effort in your case.

I honestly don't know what THC is and you seem to know much more about it. If it is a drug, I don't use drugs or alcohol so the personal attack is unwarrented.

As for the campaigning, being a regular to many different churches I have seen political ideology preached from both perspectives from the pulpit. Perhaps not directly from candidates but I assure you the weight of the preachers words in many cases are much more powerful than that of a politician and you will find that the majority of church going members in the U.S. are most likely to be more conservative than liberal.

Stay cool Bulldog and have a nice day using all the substances that you constantly bring up in your blog responses.

Blogger Daily Bulldog said...


No specific examples and no direct knowledge of the VRA.

See what I mean? I ask for substance and I get garbage, which reflects the defense of your stance...garbage in, garbage out.

You have not seen Republican candidates directly, but probably see it on TV all of the time. A specific example is John Edwards campaigning at a church in GA, while Bush or Cheney were never allowed to do anything in a church but quietly worship.

Wikipedia first came are plenty of others:

Anonymous A.S. said...

Oh Bulldog, don't become bitter, and don't make claims you know nothing about (i.e. I have no direct knowledge of the VRA) I already said that I will not waste time trying to convince you about how important VRA is.

I receive my information on VRA from very reliable sources such as:
(this is one of many)

I suppose now you will tell me that the department of justice is a liberal bastion and that that government site is slanted.

No matter what I say you will continue to make personal attacks and be blissfully ignorant.

I know this because I have followed your recent posts on both blogs and whenever someone presents a respectful and intelligent counter to your opinion you become very offensive/defensive and attack them personally.

Perhaps your just angry I confronted you on your THC problem (still don't know what that is) and turned the tables .

I stand firm in that the VRA is a very important act and I am happy to see that BOTH Republicans and Democrats confirmed this in the recent vote to renew it.


Blogger Daily Bulldog said...


Oh joy, you found the VRA at Justice's grand.

Now, getting back to my question, please cite specific examples of how the Rs tried to weaken it from its current form (pre-recent VRA renewal).

You failed to understand my own position on VRA, which I did not reveal...instead, my questioning of the recent renewal of it made you think I am against the VRA...of course I think it is good and necessary, but again want to see specifics regarding how Rs wanted to "weaken" it. Take the hateful Dem blinders off and focus on the questions, please.

You failed to acknowledge my '04 church campaign comparasions....

"You don't have time", the examples I want don't exist.

Piss and moan all you want about my tact, but at the end of the day, facts are what I am looking for, not pissing and crying like you and your fellow bloggers seem to do so well.

Anonymous A.S. said...

Wow! Suddenly bulldog is respectful and even says "please". Unfortunately he misquotes me still. At least he didn't make any drug reference.

Baby steps...

SOME republicans want to weaken it (VRA) by removing multi lingual ballots from the requirements and also reducing the amount of time that the VRA is renewed for, another proposed amendment was to weaken the enforcement capabilities of the government for the act, all this information is presented in any major news outlet (i.e. cnn, fox news, AP). This, is a weakening of the VRA. You of course are more than welcome to disagree.

As for the 04' church comparisons (which I have not answered because I have no idea what it has to do with VRA directly) I believe that if one candidate cannot campaign anywhere near a church then other candidates should not be allowed to either.

If John Edwards did in 04 then I think it is wrong if other republican candidates were not able to.


Blogger Daily Bulldog said...


The major news outlets are not good sources of facts, my friend. Therein lies your problem. Remember Y2K?? Remember the Cornhusker football team offering Houston Nutt of Arkansas an 8-year, $25 million dollar contract??

Show me the specific amendments to the bill, not from a news source but from Congress itself, and explain each one and how it weakens them, hopefully consistent with your past posts.

What is wrong with not wanting multi-lingual ballots? Shouldn't someone be able to read English in order to vote? Shouldn't requiring someone to speak/read/learn English be a part of any path to citizenship? Can't we start with voting properly and legally?

Don't use "voter disenfrancisement" as a hate and fear tool...what about the "Ohio recount of 2004"?? What a joke!

And back to 2004...what you say makes sense, but in practice, Rs cannot campaign at church and Ds can...simple as that. Explain why that is allowed.

Anonymous nepolwatcher said...

Bulldog - are you serious?

Every Sunday the Catholic church (I am catholic) distributes Republican propaganda to its members. Bishops in NE actually tell the congregation not to vote for "Democrats" because they are pro-abortion.

If that isn't Geroge Bush, the GOP, the NE GOP campaigning in church I dont know what is.

Blogger Daily Bulldog said...


Are 'you' serious?? I have never in my life heard of candidate-specific campaign literature distribution inside a church, especially for Rs.

If the pastor allows pro-life material that is 100% consistent with the Catholic view, and it include candidates (and this general election would include Ben Nelson), there is nothing wrong with that, but I haven't seen it in any of the Catholic churches I have attended, and this is across several states.

To say GW Bush actually sanctioned it in a church in NE Nebraska is just plain silly...yes, I am sure Karl Rove has Norfolk, NE, marked with a push-pin on a map somewhere in the WH.

If you don't agree with the priest or pastor's distribution of pro-life material, then speak to that individual....don't blame Bush. Unbelievable.

My, you folks are blind and will blame Bush for anything, including your wife cheating on you and your snotty kid talking back to you.

Blogger Dave said...

db, The absolute sexism rampant in your comments merits deletion, but I suspect that would deny us the pleasure of ripping your arguments to shreds.

Blogger Daily Bulldog said...

Hey, you sorry-ass sucks....I just uncovered a fact about the VRA:

Previous reauthorizations of the Act took place in 1970, 1975, 1982 and 1992.

So, this VRA re-authorization, taking place under a 'racist' Republican Congress and WH, is by far the longest re-authorization.

Ha ha ha ha!!!! You folks are just plain lost....this blog sucks and swallows...see you around, sorry-asses.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a republican that reads this blog to see what the "other side" is thinking I am ashamed to have Bull Dog call himself a Republican or even conservative for that matter.

Although I disagree with much of what this blog stands for, bulldog gives us all a bad name and is absolutely tasteless.

So what about the VRA. In the past they have had shorter renewals times... that still does not rule out why they wanted to amend it to leave out multi lingual ballots or wanted to reduce enforcement.

Do republicans a favor Bulldog, stop acting like a four year old.

Blogger Daily Bulldog said...


As I have asked before, cite the specific language and/or amendments which would "weaken" it....we covered the multi-lingual deal, but what else is there? Specifics, not just general concepts.

And if you don't like my posts, don't read them, ass-wipe.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


Beside the fact that all of the Amendments were an insult to the VRAs legacy, you should take a special look at the Westmoreland Amendment, which "would have created an easier method for states to escape federal oversight."

Sure sounds like weakening to me.

But, don't worry about reality, and please keep up the name-calling. You're doing great!!!

Blogger Daily Bulldog said...

So "modernizing" and "streamlining", or more so in this case, absolving the Federal government from doing work it doesn't have to do is wrong?

Government waste is out of control; everyone agrees to that. Just by simply looking at this, it would have given many counties without a problem, most of which would be along the northern tier of the country where problems are few (Minn, ND, SD, etc) a "free pass" for staying clean and problem free.

But no, the record is no good...we don't trust you so we must "big brother" you despite ten years of no complaints or problems, which of course if there were problems, you lose that ten years and "hit the reset button", having to earn the 'free pass' again.

"The Voting Rights Act needed to be renewed – but not like this. I sought to modernize the Voting Rights Act so we could pinpoint the states and counties where there are problems today. Failing that, the Congress should have at least made it easier for counties with no record of voting rights problems or objections to ‘bail out’ from federal oversight.

"Let the word go out to every Georgian, to every state legislator, to every county commissioner and to every city council member: Begin the bailout process. It’s going to be much more difficult than it should be, but 25 years is far too long for us to have to wait. We are up to the challenge.

"Counties that haven’t had an objection from the Department of Justice for 10 years are eligible to bail out from coverage under the Voting Rights Act. We can’t do too much about the lingering prejudice toward Southern states in the U.S. Congress, but we can exercise our rights as Americans to fight for equal treatment. Coweta County, Ga., where I live, for example, hasn’t had an objection in 22 years. I want to encourage leaders in counties throughout my district to petition the Department of Justice to be removed from coverage.

"We are proud of our record on equality in modern Georgia. We aren’t asking for special treatment. We’re merely asking to be treated equally. I encourage all Georgians who think 66 years is too long for us to wear the scarlet letter to contact their county commissioners and state legislators and demand they fight for Georgia’s honor."


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