Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ben Nelson's Position On Immigration Is A Joke. . . Literally

by Kyle Michaelis
I've never shied away from criticizing Ben Nelson's continued failure to recognize how important it is that the United States do something to address and relieve the plight of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants already living in our country.

In 2006, I grew to have a begruding respect for his "Border Security First" campaign theme because he was right that the political exigencies of the day weren't going to allow for any true comprehensive reform of our nation's immigration policy. But, as soon as the Democratic Party assumed control of both Houses of Congress - with a Republican President desperate for some action that might give him at least one issue on which his presidency might one day be considered something more than a complete disaster - Nelson's most persuasive argument for not supporting comprehensive reform quickly lost its credibility and became an inevitable source of contention.

I won't deny that Nelson has a great fallback line declaring the current proposal before Congress "Amnesty with a Roadtrip." But, shame on him for debasing this important debate that affects millions of lives by using these cheap, Republican-inspired scare-tactics to suggest that amnesty is some great evil against the American public.

Of course, it's pathetic how so many lawmakers fumble about in vain efforts to prove the current plan does not include amnesty, but it's downright unconsciounable for Nelson to exploit their cowardice, playing games with hot button buzz words rather than dealing with the issue in a fair, honest and reasonable manner.

Nelson makes some valid points arguing for a different course than what we currently see before Congress, but he undermines them completely by engaging in this absurdist anti-"amnesty" campaign. The absolute worst example of this is when Nelson justified his position by declaring to the Omaha World-Herald:
"I plan to vote against the bill. . . It's amnesty any way you look at it. Amnesty in the dictionary is a sort of forgiveness. There is a forgiveness here."
How can Ben Nelson dare to call himself a Democrat, let alone a Christian, making foolish arguments like that - as if forgiveness were not a virtue and compassion were some sort of sin?

Like it or not, the current proposal mandates stiff penalties of thousands and thousands of dollars. If that's not tough enough for Nelson, that's one thing. But, there's no logical limit to his lock'em up and throw away the key (toss'em out and build a higher wall) philosophy. Nelson is contributing to an American society so ruled by fear that it can no longer even find the capacity to forgive. For that, he deserves the harshest rebuke.

I'm sorry, but these sorts of comments are beneath Ben Nelson, and they're beneath the people of Nebraska. I can respect Nelson for not doing a total flip-flop and forgetting his campaign promises post-election. But, he owes his country and his constituents better than representing his position in such silly and insulting fashion.

What's funny is that, despite my long-standing advocacy for comprehensive reform, I can't even say I'd support the proposal currently before Congress. Though we can't - as a matter of common sense and national security - afford to wait years before recognizing those in our midst hiding silently in the shadows, there are legitimate reasons to question and to challenge the proposed guest worker program that could create a permanent under-class without any opportunity to truly partake in the American dream.

Regardless of these principled concerns, though, this debate deserves better than what we're seeing from Nelson and company, whose manipulation of over-hyped rhetoric calls into question the integrity of our democracy with their childish adherence to A-word hysterics.

As for the headline of this little article, Ben Nelson's position on immigration has most definitely been a joke up to this point. Nor am I the only one who seems to think so. I suspect people will get a kick out of this clip from ABC's late night Jimmy Kimmel Live that puts Nelson's rhetoric in the silly light that it deserves.

Of course, it's the Kimmel we're not talking about comedic gold. In fact, some people might not even find the clip funny at all - a sentiment I understand completely when it comes to Nelson's running gag on immigration policy.

What we've seen from Nelson so far - with all his talk of "amnesty" - most certainly is a joke, but - no - there's not a damn thing funny about it.


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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"" Places Republican Senator In Own Party's Crosshairs

by Kyle Michaelis
The following Letter to the Editor appeared in last week's North Platte Telegraph, calling on fellow Nebraska Republicans to rise up in protest of Sen. Chuck Hagel's false promises and his supposed distortions of the situation in Iraq:
An open letter to Senator Hagel

In February of 1994 a member of your campaign staff contacted me and inquired if I would meet with you for lunch in Stapleton, Nebraska. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss your need for a campaign representative in Logan County and determine if I should serve in that capacity. During our lunch you offered a synopsis of your conservative political philosophy and your desires to bring that philosophy to the United States Senate. You stressed that, if elected, you would serve no more than two terms. You added that your central campaign strategy would be to emphasize Governor Nelson’s failure to honor his public commitment not to seek the 1994 Democrat Party nomination. Impressed with your statements I eagerly got on board. Your plan worked and you are now a United States Senator, twice over.

I have wondered for some months what your decision would be concerning another senate bid. Somehow, I must have missed your announcement that you would not seek a third senate term. Regrettably, I have determined that your credibility is no better than that which you ascribed to Ben Nelson.

My disappointment in your decision not to keep your word is dwarfed by my disgust for your public comments concerning the conduct of the war in Iraq. You know the history of the conduct of the Viet Nam war; you experienced it first hand and bear the scars of a wounded warrior. Do you not know that the fundamental tenant of the North Vietnamese was to defeat the United States at home? To demoralize the American people to a point where we would simply leave the fight? To encourage campus leftists to create the illusion that we were being defeated on the field of battle? Of course you know, and that is what makes your utterances so egregious....

I learned several weeks ago that you broached the possibility of impeachment of President Bush and that you cautioned him that he was not a monarch. I can’t describe to you the level of my rage at your statement. In discussions with other Nebraska Republicans I have learned that many agree with my assessment of your conduct. So many, that I believe you will not be re-elected to a third term, a third term that you told me you would never seek.

I am under no illusions that you will be honorable, or that your conduct in the US Senate is helpful to this country, this state, or the Republican Party that you claim to be a member of in mind.

I have, at my own expense, established a website that Nebraskans can visit to add their names to the legion of voters who will not support you for any future elective office. It is my most fervent hope that potential conservative senatorial candidates will be encouraged to challenge you in the 2008 primary. Like-minded Nebraska Republicans can logon to to express their lack of support.

Joe Shown
For the sake of Mr. Shown's credibility, I cut his sad attempts at fabricating some sort of victory from our four year occupation of Iraq. I won't ridicule him further because I feel far more pity than contempt for those who adhere to this "America can do no wrong" (and make no mistakes) fantasy.

Besides, I'm just highlighting the grassroots resistance to Hagel in his own party - I'll leave it to Republican primary voters to decide whether that resistance is warranted by the facts. Not my fight, but it's definitely one we'll all be watching with a keen eye in the months ahead.

More than 50 Nebraska Republicans from Central and Western Nebraska have already joined the "" chorus - declaring "We Do Not Support Hagel in 2008!" Who knows - if the word got out in Republican circles, maybe the site would catch like wildfire? Regardles, this is a rare opportunity, indeed, to see just what sort of appeal this sort of insurrectionist action will ultimtely hold in a party that is defined by its deference to power.

Where do Nebraska Republicans' true loyalties lie - with King George or with Lord Hagel? That is the question, and it's one to which I do not have a ready answer. I suspect, though, the Republican Party's limitless capacity for self-delusion and hypocrisy will ultimately protect both men from facing any true inner-party resistance.

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LB 641: An Unlikely Mission Accomplished

by Ryan Anderson
On sale now (via Paging Power)

At the start of this legislative session I outlined my significant doubts that a Unicameral this inexperienced could successfully tackle an issue as laden with tripwires and land mines as the Omaha schools boundary dispute. I'm happy to admit I was wrong.

LB 641 confronts the two most urgent issues at hand -money and race- with courage, common sense and innovation. Inevitably, with so many different chefs seeking to put their individual stamp on this effort, the result is imperfect and a little messy. But the legislature kept their eye on the prize and managed a compromise that contained the best ideas of all proposals. I am especially fond of the "focus schools" concept (weird as it seems) - your best chance of combating institutionalized attitudes of ignorance and bias are the construction of communities small enough and cooperative enough to forge a new identity, an identity not tied to race or geography but to common need and interest.

There are many people to thank for this effort (which, while unproven, offers real promise and a rare opportunity for large-scale change), but give credit especially to Senator Chambers for forcing everyone back to the drawing board. I have been especially critical of his proposal to divide OPS along racial lines, but considering his strategic willingness to embrace compromise and surrender earlier demands of racial division, I have to wonder if this isn't exactly the result he intended all along.

What's that you say? Far-fetched? Inconceivable? Sure, but if any legislator invites such "cloak-and-dagger" fantasies it's the parliamentary giant from North O. I may not agree with Chambers' vision of what race relations in this nation could be or should be, but I have to admit his uncannily accurate sense of what they are. He understands this powder keg better than just about anyone, and at times he can be downright brilliant in the use of its explosive power for productive purposes.

After all, demolition is often the first step in construction.

So, my hats off to Chambers and the rest of the legislature for a job well done. And thanks also to the Governor and those Senators who supported LB 1024 for playing the necessary but unenviable role of "the stooge". Without your petty opportunism, this would have never been possible.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

State Senator Brad Ashford: The Best Republican in the Bunch

by Kyle Michaelis
Returning as a State Senator 12 years after serving two terms in the late 1980s/early 1990s, Omaha's Brad Ashford has definitely impressed with his leadership of the Nebraska Legislature's Judiciary Committee. I'll refrain from singing any further accolades and simply let the man speak for himself, as quoted in a Sunday Lincoln Journal-Star profile:
Having grown up in Omaha, I’ve always really enjoyed the diversity of the people. Many, many different ethnic groups......

I’m committed to social justice. I grew up in a family that was grounded in that....

We need to constantly be vigilant against intolerance....

I think we ought to get back to our roots. We are, at our roots, a secular society that believes passionately about the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech. It’s a wonderful mixture where people have the right to believe and say what they will.

At the same time, we should be careful not to impose our views or our religion on others.
Not your usual Republican themes, there. But, damn if it isn't refreshing to see someone who really doesn't fit into modern political stereotypes.....who uses the supposed independence afforded by our nonpartisan legislative environment to answer to principle rather than any one side's partisan extremists.

Our hats off to Sen. Ashford, with thanks for the example he has set this legislative session.


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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lee Terry Is An Irresponsible Twit

by Kyle Michaelis
Paranoid Congressman Abandons Constituents; Passes the Buck to Ben Nelson on Omaha Earmark Requests

Two months ago, I wrote about Lee Terry's political stunt, playing games with essential federal funding for the city of Omaha to advance his self-serving partisan agenda. At that point, Terry had neglected to request any earmarks for his constituents using the silly excuse that he could not do so under newly-imposed ethics requirements by the Democratic Congress.

At the time, David Obey, the Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Committee, gave all representatives a one month extension to get any concerns addressed to the point that they could make requests with confidence of their ethical propriety. In that month, Terry's fellow super partisan stooge, Adrian Smith, decided to do what was best for his 3rd District constituents rather than continuing to play this partisan game with their best interests. Terry, however, was just stubborn, stupid, and self-centered enough to persist in this intelligence-insulting gambit jeopardizing a number of essential projects in Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District.

The Omaha World-Heard reports:
Earmarks are special provisions that individual members of Congress attach to spending bills to direct federal money to specific projects.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln and Iowa Rep. Steve King, both Republicans, are among this year's earmark seekers. Rep. Adrian Smith, a rookie with barely four months on Capitol Hill, sought earmarks on behalf of Nebraska's sprawling 3rd Congressional District. But not Rep. Lee Terry.

The Omaha Republican said he was too worried about those ethics rules, which require lawmakers to certify that they have no financial interest in an earmark.

Terry said he was afraid that House Democrats might attempt to show that he stood to profit from one of the earmarks.

Terry has shown little hesitation in the past about seeking federal funding to finance city sewers, local university research and other projects.

This spring, The World-Herald examined two sets of earmarks by Terry and other Nebraska congressmen: to fund construction of an Interstate 80 interchange in rural Sarpy County and to subsidize an Omaha business, 21st Century Systems Inc., as it tries to develop computer software for the Defense Department.

Terry, who received campaign contributions from people wanting earmarks for those projects, vigorously defended his role in both instances.....

Democrats, who won control of Congress last year, instituted new ethics rules, including ones on earmarks....

Terry said others seem to be willing to take the risk of submitting requests, but he isn't. He said he needs to be above reproach because he previously spoke out in favor of reforming the earmarks process.

Terry also said there was considerable confusion over the rules. He said his staff was told informally by ethics committee staff members that an earmark to pay for sewer separation projects in Omaha could be interpreted as a financial interest for him, because it might affect property taxes on his Omaha house.

He also said the Democrats controlling the House seem driven to find violations of the policy: "This is truly the most vicious 'gotcha' atmosphere I've ever seen," Terry said.

Others described the new rules as simply an attempt to provide transparency in the process as well as guidance to congressmen.

The rules make it clear that there has to be a direct and foreseeable benefit to a congressman before there is a violation, said Brian Svoboda, a Washington attorney who primarily advises congressional Democrats on ethics rules.

"They were not intended to preclude members from doing anything to help
their constituents through the appropriations process," Svoboda said. According to the rules, a financial interest would not include "remote, inconsequential or speculative interests."

The rules encourage lawmakers to seek advice from the ethics committee if they are worried that specific earmarks could represent a financial interest.

Terry previously released the list of earmarks he had planned to ask for, including $6 million for a project to separate waste and storm water sewers in older parts of Omaha.

Typically, only a fraction of the multimillion-dollar requests are awarded; the city has been receiving about $500,000 a year for sewer separation.

Still, losing a half-million dollars a year could stall the efforts, said Paul Landow, chief of staff to Mayor Mike Fahey. Landow said Terry has been supportive in getting that money before, and the city hopes Terry will reconsider ending his support....

Nebraskans can always hit up their senators, Democrat Ben Nelson and Republican Chuck Hagel. Nelson sits on the Appropriations Committee, which wields a great deal of influence over how federal funds are doled out.

"Lord Nelson will be their savior," Terry said. "'Just go talk to Ben' - that's what I'm telling them."

Nelson, who also owns a house in Omaha, submitted a request for the City of Omaha sewer separation money, said his chief of staff, Tim Becker. Nelson signs statements that say he has no financial interest in his earmark requests, Becker said.

A Hagel spokesman declined to comment, but Hagel previously has talked about how appropriations are the result of the state's entire delegation working together....

Becker, the Nelson aide, also cited the importance of having support from other members of the delegation. "Those projects that have support in both houses stand a better chance of getting funded," he said. "They're not going to give you what you don't ask for."
Lee Terry has just told the people of Omaha that he doesn't give a damn about their concerns. Driven by either paranoia or political ambition, he's given up any pretense of true representation. By adopting this new philosophy of "Go talk to Ben," Terry has completely turned his back on his own constituents, demonstrating a total lack of character and courage without any sense of responsibility or shame.

No one can say exactly what game Terry thinks he's playing. But, one thing is certain - he's screwing over the city of Omaha in the process. This is a man who just last year thought of himself as next in line to run for statewide office, yet who's now so scared of his own shadow and so conscious of his weak political position that he's gone from being a very poor representative to one who is absolutely pathetic.

A number of new nicknames for Terry quickly come to mind. Lee "Off Duty" Terry? Lee "Talk to Ben" Terry? How about Lee "Fire Me & Give Someone Else a Chance" Terry?

Seriously, Omaha couldn't do much worse than what they've got. That realization started to sink in last fall when insurgent Democratic challenger Jim Esch shocked Terry with the closest race of his career on a shoestring budget. Right now, Terry has just admitted that the Second District is without representation and doesn't have a voice in the House. Thanks to Terry's cowardice, all they have is Ben Nelson - a powerful ally who still can't possibly make up for Terry's incompetence.

Nebraska's Second District deserves so much better, despite the voters' repeated mistake sending this cowardly incompetent back to Congress. 2006 demonstrated that more and more people are waking to the need for change, and they'll have that chance again in 2008.

Ultimately, Omaha doesn't need to look to "Lord Nelson" to be its savior. By getting rid of Lee Terry, the voters can save themselves.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Does "Hagel for Prez" Still Have a Shot?

by Ryan Anderson
I have finally given up hope that Senator Hagel is going to make his political intentions clear anytime soon. He's made it perfectly clear that he has no intentions... at least, not any that he's pursuing with any consistency or logic.

Since he recently used a fundraiser apparently intended to shore up a Senate re-election campaign as a forum for a message the presumably illustrates his interest in an independent candidacy for President, I think it's safe to say that we can't safely say anything about what Hagel intends to do. But, since the stories currently dominating the headlines feature some combination of Hagel v. Bruning or Bloomberg/Hagel '08, allow me to explore the less likely but still real possibility that Chuck Hagel might throw his hat into the ring for the GOP presidential nomination.

And let me start with this new poll of Iowa Republicans:
5. Do you favor a withdrawal of all United States military from Iraq within the next six months? (Republicans Only)
Yes 54%
No 37%
Undecided 9%
Not to belabor the point, but these are Republicans only. The same Republicans who express a dissatisfaction with the current crop of GOP candidates (51-29%). The same Republicans who will cast the very first ballots (figuratively speaking... theirs is a caucus system) in this overlong presidential election.

And yes, the same Republicans who give current non-candidate Chuck Hagel a mere 1% in the polls.

But considering Ron Paul is the only other candidate attempting to capitalize on the growing unpopularity of the war in Republican ranks, is it so ridiculous to believe Hagel might make a splash even (or especially) after entering this contest so late?

One thing that's gone unnoticed in all the talk of Hagel's anti-GOP rhetoric is that the Senator hasn't rallied against the Republican Party so much as he's rallied against the Republican Party of George W. Bush:
I am not happy with the Republican Party today. It's been hijacked by a group of single-minded almost isolationists, insulationists, power-projectors...

It has drifted from the party of Eisenhower, of Goldwater, of Reagan, the party that I joined. It isn’t the same party.
Call me crazy (please don't), but isn't that exactly the kind of message that might appeal to a GOP desperately trying to claw its way out of Bush's second term slump?

I mean, we have a Republican electorate in Iowa that doesn't believe Bush represents "a conservative Republican in the mode of Ronald Reagan", and apparently can't find a proper standard bearer in an already crowded field of ten white guys.

Does that leave an opening for an anti-war conservative outsider like our own Senator Hagel? I think so. And I think there's a chance, just a chance, that Hagel might take a second look and see that for himself.

But am I gonna go back out on that limb and actually predict it? No way, man. No way.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bob Kerrey: Wrong About the War But Right About the Stakes

by Kyle Michaelis
In his singular style, Bob Kerrey - the former Nebraska Governor and U.S. Senator who is rumored to be considering a 2008 bid for the Senate seat once held by his colleague Jim Exon...if his friend Chuck Hagel does not seek re-election - penned a controversial opinion column about the Iraq War in yesterday's Wall Street Jounal that has outraged and infuriated many of those who would otherwise be his most ardent supporters (I, II, III).

I can understand why a number of Democrats and progressives would react negatively to Kerrey's article. By repeating the case for originally invading Iraq and admitting that he still believes it was the right thing to do, Kerrey does seem to have blinded himself to the reality of this four year debacle that has threatened our economic security and demoralized our military while leaving the people of Iraq in a state of perpetual chaos.

However, as wrong as Kerrey may be about the war, this does not imply that he's wrong about the stakes. Nor does it mean that he's wrong about the course we must follow from this point forward. While there's a lot to be said for a clear understanding of the past being necessary to chart the best course for our future, I am probably more bothered by the reactionary fervor against Kerrey's ideas than I am about the ideas themselves.

It's easy to hold against Kerrey his stubborn, almost Bush-like refusal to reasses the threat actually posed by Iraq after 9/11. It's easier still to hold it against Kerrey when bloggers at the arch-conservative National Review declare "Bob Kerrey Just Became My Favorite Democrat" or when notorious right-wing blow-hard Rush Limbaugh decides "Bob Kerrey is right." But, in a democratic debate of free-thinking individuals, you're going to see people with very different agendas and very different worldviews sometimes finding themselves on the same page.

If the issue of Iraq were truly a partisan one, then perhaps we would be in a position to judge Kerrey by the company he currently keeps. But the ongoing debate of the Iraq War that has only really begun since the Democratic Party took control of Congress in January cannot and should not be conceived along these oftentimes arbitrary and wholly political lines we call party labels. As a proud Democrat, I can see why Democrats would want such lines drawn to insulate themselves from the failures of the Iraq War and to position themselves for the 2008 elections, but the perils of playing games while this disaster unfolds are too great to allow message control and party fealty to trump the free debate in which we place our faith and trust.

Although I disagree with a great deal of what Kerrey wrote, he is right to call on Democrats and liberals to re-examine the best course of action from this point forward. Like it or not, opinion polls and an 18 month presidential campaign cannot dictate how we proceed if we have any true concern for the international community, our own security, or the continued suffering of the Iraqi people. Kerrey may infuriate with his singularly contrarian style, but there is a lot of truth in the below statements that we'd be fools to dismiss for such callous and so obviously political reasons:
The demand for self-government was and remains strong in Iraq despite all our mistakes and the violent efforts of al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias to disrupt it....

The key question for Congress is whether or not Iraq has become the primary battleground against the same radical Islamists who declared war on the U.S. in the 1990s and who have carried out a series of terrorist operations including 9/11. The answer is emphatically "yes"....

Those who argue that radical Islamic terrorism has arrived in Iraq because of the U.S.-led invasion are right. But they are right because radical Islam opposes democracy in Iraq.....

Finally, Jim Webb said something during his campaign for the Senate that should be emblazoned on the desks of all 535 members of Congress: You do not have to occupy a country in order to fight the terrorists who are inside it. Upon that truth I believe it is possible to build what doesn't exist today in Washington: a bipartisan strategy to deal with the long-term threat of terrorism.
For everything Kerrey may be wrong about in Iraq, there's enough truth in the preceding passages that they deserve more careful consideration than what I've seen from those who've reacted so negatively to this opinion piece. Of course, the above message may have been better received if Kerrey had come on bended knee apologizing for his previous errors of judgment in Iraq, but that's not Bob Kerrey's style.

Never has been. Never will be. And, you know what, that's a lot of the reason why Nebraskans love him so damn much.

I've been an outspoken opponent to the war in Iraq since 2002, but I'm not looking for an ego-stroking as we decide what course to set for eventual U.S. withdrawal and for the faint but still living hopes for establishing an Iraqi democracy. One thing is for certain - Iraq is a mess that we can not wash our hands of or turn a blind eye to if we are a sane people with any conscience whatsoever as a nation.

Other than that, I don't claim to have any answers, and I question those who do. This is a complex situation with no simple or short-term resolution. Whether a U.S. military presence can bring any sort of peace to Iraq is doubtful, but that doesn't preclude our playing an essential role in making that peace possible and in preventing the outright genocide that could otherwise result.

To these challenges, regardless of where I personally disagree with the man, I welcome Bob Kerrey's most recent contribution to this all-important debate. And - yes - I would most certainly welcome Kerrey's return to the Nebraska political scene that has been far less entertaining, less enlightening, and less challenging in his absence.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mea culpa

by Ryan Anderson
A quick note of apology, and thanks to an anonymous poster who caught a rather embarrassing oversight on my part. The Governor did not, in fact, veto the additional appropriations for the Microenterprise Development Fund and the Building Entrepreneurial Communities Act. I guess by the end of the fourth page of items in an especially long veto letter, my brain was a little fried. I've taken the liberty to remove the offending post, please accept this explanation in its stead (trust me, the piece wasn't that great, anyway).


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Monday, May 21, 2007

Dishonest and Disgusting: The Debate Over LB 475

by Ryan Anderson
Look, I don't always envy our state legislators. Theirs is a tough job filled with tough decisions about complex issues and half-baked compromises. But that's not LB 475. In the legislative world, this is a gimme, a no-brainer: "Should employers be allowed to discriminate against applicants and employees based on sexual orientation alone?"

No, they shouldn't.

And a majority of Nebraskans agree. In fact, an overwhelming majority of Nebraskans in every single legislative district in the state reached that conclusion a long time ago. Why then is our legislature so far behind?
Lincoln Sen. DiAnna Schimek said she couldn’t remember how many times the bill or a similar one had come before the Legislature.

“Every year I hope and think that this might be the year that we can pass it,” she said. “I think this is an important bill.”
I agree, Senator. And the people of Nebraska agree. It's your damn loony peers in the Unicameral who haven't figured it out just yet. People like this:
Sen. Pat Engel of South Sioux City, who said he had a gay nephew who died of AIDS, could not support the bill, he said. By giving homosexuals protected status, he said, the state could be taking away employers’ rights.

If a gay employee was not performing his duties, and the employer fired him, Engel said, the person could claim discrimination. “That’s what concerns me,” he said.

“I do not have anything against them. I do not appreciate their lifestyle, but it’s their business, not mine,” he said.
Presumably, Senator Engel would prefer to repeal the Fair Employment Practice Act all together. That way we wouldn't have to deal with all those frivolous lawsuits from disgruntled racial and religious minorities... not to mention the disabled. Seriously, is anyone taking this down? South Sioux City, is this really the representation you deserve?

Or how about this gem from Southeast Lincoln:
Lincoln Senator Tony Fulton cited a 1991 report from the Wall Street Journal that listed the national average annual income of homosexual households as significantly higher than those averages of other minorities. Based on that, Fulton said LB 475 is not necessary because homosexuals are able to earn comparable incomes.
You see? What's good for the gander is good for the goose. Homosexuals, as a group, were doing better than other minorities, as a group, sixteen years ago... and that was before Nebraska had a law protecting them from employment discrimination. Imagine what they'd do if 475 actually passed! They might even compete with the majority!

Oh, the humanity...

Well, Senators, I got some bad news for you: somebody is taking all this down. Somebody is listening. And those of us who are have a duty to let our friends and neighbors know just what their legislative leaders are doing.

Maybe this won't be the year to make it happen. But it won't happen, ever, until and unless the rest of us get fed up enough to write our Senators, call our Senators, visit the capitol... anything and everything we can to make this the last year we have to hope, and hope, and get nothing in return.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nebraska - Get Organized to End the Iraq War

by Kyle Michaelis
A new age in political organizing has begun with the rise of online activism. The Internet has given people of like-mind the ability to work together like never before across any geographic expanse. This has proven especially effective for purposes of fundraising and sharing resources. Yet, it seems well understood that online influence and success does not necessarily equate with real people power in the physical world. Hence, the work of our contributor below.

As stated numerous times in the past, my own feelings on the Iraq War are quite mixed...precisely because it is such a mess, for which the United States is largely responsible. Our contributor writes about the goal of "responsibly ending this war." Of course, that's an idea everyone is going to support, but the trouble is everyone might have very different ideas of what exactly that entails.

But, enough from me. Take it away, John...and best of luck in your campaign.
Americans Against Escalation in Iraq

I am John Jensen, the new Nebraska field director for Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI). Americans Against Escalation in Iraq is a major, multi-million dollar national campaign to oppose the President's proposal to escalate the war in Iraq by sending more than 20,000 additional troops into a violent civil war. National Coalition partners include: SEIU, Political Action, Center for American Progress, USAction, Win Without War, Vote Vets, Campaign for America's Future, and USSA.

I am looking to build relationships with local coalition partners, activists and opinion leaders to support the goals of the national campaign. I also want to develop and maintain communication with coalition partners and create a feedback structure.

Although I live in Omaha, these events are not limited to Omaha as this is a statewide effort.
Seek to split off our Republican Congressmen’s support of the Presidents failed policies in Iraq while continuing to keep Senators Hagel and Nelson support for responsibly ending this war

We have a choice between ending this war and endless war. We choose to stop the escalation and to end the war in Iraq.

The House and Senate will continue working after the veto on a supplemental piece of legislation. It is unclear, given the lack of knowledge on the content front, if we will be supportive of the next piece of supplemental legislation or the legislation following. The initial vote provided an historic moment — the first vote to end the war — and we would hope that Congress has the courage not to backtrack.

As we continue toward future votes, supplemental and defense appropriations, we will seek out events and opportunities to organize.

All of our events and activities within a state will be directly tied to House and Senate targets.
• Rallies
• Press Conferences
• Bird-dogging
• Breakfast meetings with reporters to pitch feature stories
• Host roundtable events
• Debates
• Small town halls
• Op-eds
• Letters to the editor
I Need Speakers – Three to four per event; taking points will be provided.
Looking for:
o Mom’s
o Vets (especially those who served in Iraq)
o Community leaders
o Religious leaders
o Students
o Teachers
o Political office holders (current or former)
o Rural Nebraska leaders
o First Responders

I will provide:
• Press releases
• Podium, Loudspeakers, television and DVD player as needed
• Talking points

Possible Activities:
• “America Speaks” Events Nebraska.
• Faith Leaders Speak Out On the War
• First Responders Speak Out On the War
o First Firefighters, Policemen, Emergency workers, National Guardsmen, FEMA workers… This will also be an opportunity to speak about the Nebraska National Guard sad readiness report.
• Teachers Speak Out On the War
• Rural America Speaks Out On the War
• Memorial Day Press Event
• State Press Conferences Rolling Out Paid Media with our Partners
• Bird-dog Bush/McCain Travel (If they ever come to Nebraska!)

1. Pre-Appearance Press Conference or Press Conference Call
2. During Appearance Counter Rally
3. Post-Appearance Response
If you are interested in helping as a speaker, as a sign holder or any other way, please send me an e-mail with following information:
• Name
• Job/Position
• Group (Only if you represent a group)
• Phone
• E-mail
• General times and days available. (I will always ask you about your willingness to speak or help at specific events.)
Thank you!

John Jensen

402-312-4180 (cell)

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hal Daub Running Against Hal Daub

by Ryan Anderson
Pretty surprising for a former Congressman and mayor of the state's largest city, but the biggest question Hal Daub faced in his sorta/kinda announcement for the Senate today was that of relevance: in a race filled (or, potentially filled) with giants and rising stars like Chuck Hagel, Mike Johanns and Jon Bruning, does Hal Daub even matter any more?

To Daub's credit, the answer he provided was "yes... probably." A rather small victory, really, but a victory nonetheless.

It is really difficult to overestimate the problems plaguing Daub's Senate candidacy: he's already run, and lost, twice. He lost the last election he ever participated in... an election localized entirely in what should be his political base of support. He's well-known but not well-liked.

And these are not wounds that heal merely with the passage of time. You might recall Bruning's poll late last month that found Daub with an underwhelming 39-18 favorable/unfavorable rating despite 83% total name recognition. No wonder Bruning has a commanding 55-16 lead over Daub in a head-to-head matchup (including a 57-25% lead in District 2, which Bruning's pollster helpfully reminds us "should be Daub's n
atural base of support". Ouch.)

So what's Daub's strategy? Hunker down, grab a fistful of mud and start slinging, just like the good 'ole days?

Nope... apparently not. Looks like Daub's playing it cool this time, and taking the opportunity to label Jon Bruning the real "Hal Daub" of this race.

Think about it. He's refusing to attack Bruning or Hagel or any other candidate, pledging himself to be "respectful" in his treatment of the incumbent Senator (which is a lot more than you can say for Jon Bruning). He's even refusing to
focus on his own policy preferences and proposals, stressing instead that he's dedicated to listening to what the people of all 93 counties think of the issues facing them.

This is not exactly the "my way or the highway" approach that resulted in such a contentious relationship between his administration and the city council. This is not exactly the same Hal Daub we know. Not in style, not in tone. Daub's got himself a new coat of paint, but there's doubtless still the same dirt-kicking, mud-slinging "bad boy of the GOP" under there, ticking away and just waiting to explode.

How long can it possibly last? Hmmm... let's give it another couple of months, or maybe until Hagel's final announcement. Then maybe we'll
be treated to that most rare and spectacular of events: the contest to see which Republican can outslime and "out-Daub" the other.

The prophetic vision of Neal Obermeyer? As published in the Lincoln Journal Star.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Congratulations to Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler

by Kyle Michaelis
Today, the New Nebraska Network celebrates the inauguration of long-time State Sen. Chris Beutler as mayor of our state's capital city. While Beutler's victory in the May 1st election was by no means a landslide, anyone who has followed Lincoln politics the last 2 - 3 years should be able to testify to just how significant an accomplishment it truly was.

The animosity towards out-going incumbent and fellow Democrat Coleen Seng has made little rational sense, but it has been undeniable. I have every expectation that the people of Lincoln will eventually recognize the good that Seng did as mayor and perhaps even come to regret the low regard in which she's been held and the frequent jokes made at her expense.

Unfortunately, Seng allowed political rivals to define her and to keep her on the defensive for most of her term as mayor. After serving Lincoln with distinction for 16 years on its city council, her grandmotherly persona and emphasis on consensus-building left her prey to accusations of weak leadership and incompetent management. In some circumstances, these claims might have had merit, but they've remained exaggerated and rather ridiculously one-sided right up to this day.

It's my sincerest hope that Mayor Beutler will be more proactive in laying out a clear agenda for the city and - perhaps most importantly - not being afraid to take on those who will challenge and seek to usurp his authority. With a one-vote Republican majority on the officially non-partisan city council, there are likely to be instances of needless, politically-motivated division. Without falling into the trap of partisanship for partisanship's sake, Beutler must steel himself for certain battles in which he can and must rely on the bully pulpit and the power of public opinion to force the city forward.

Beutler won against all odds, running with grit while maintaining his integrity. To be honest, it was Republican city councilman Ken Svoboda's race to lose, and that's precisely what he did. Beutler outworked Svoboda on the campaign trail, presented a superior vision for Lincoln's future, and had a better, more professional operation in place from the very start.

Beutler also had an amazing support structure, in which I would go so far as declaring U.S. Senator Ben Nelson as the secret weapon who made it all possible. Not only did Nelson's 2006 campaign mobilize local Democrats, but it was also so extensive and tightly-managed an operation that significant planning and resources could still be targeted towards Beutler's election in the wake of the most expensive campaign in Nebraska history.

Success also breeds success - just as failure breeds failure - meaning there was no doubt a carry-over effect from Nelson's winning Lancaster County with almost 70% of the vote in November.

Looking at numbers alone, the impressiveness of Beutler's victory would likely be lost on many observers. The 2007 percentages and margins are virtually indistinguishable from Seng's numbers in 2003. But, as established, that's quite the amazing feat in and of itself. It's also a good sign of what Nebraska Democrats can accomplish when they back up preparation with some much-needed focus.

There will be more time to talk campaigns and strategies. But, today belongs to Mayor Beutler and the wise voters of Lincoln who saw fit to entrust this proven progressive visionary with the future of their city at a time of incredible transition.

This is a man who will serve his city well and whose bold ideas and clear vision should inspire a new generation of leaders across the state. A bright future lies ahead. I am even more excited to see it than I was to play my tiny role in helping to make it a reality.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Our Town

by Ryan Anderson
I don't have much to add to Kyle's post on " State Agency Bans Discussion About Gay Parenting", but this comment at the Nebraska Democratic Party's blog is a real eye-opener:
At first my emotions were on the sensationalist level (“BE AN ACTIVIST AND GO TELL EVERYONE ABOUT THIS….”). Now that I [had] time to be collective about this, I am just saddened by the level of bigotry exuding in Nebraska. Maybe my peers are correct to tell me that there is no hope for me here?! I always scoffed at that notion because Nebraska is my home and I have such a huge affection for my home. However the bigots in this state truly do make me second guess that I am worthy of being an ordinary tax-paying citizen of America. And that is why I am distraught about this situation. Why must I be demonized in the place I call “home?”
-Luke Peterson (college student and Member of the Nebraska LGBT Democratic Caucus, with permission)
At their most logical, these assaults on gay rights and the "gay lifestyle" are meant to make members of the LGBT community rethink their own identity... to second guess themselves. And in this sense they have succeeded: they have convinced many bright young men and women to question their identity as Nebraskans.

And who can blame them? If the wingnuts leading this anti-homosexual crusade really believed their rhetoric (that gay marriage is a threat to civilization itself, that gay adoption is a pox upon the children) there would be no need to silence this discussion. Those confident of their positions don't shy away from debate, they embrace the opportunity to respond and persuade.

But the anti-gay rights movement isn't about discussion; isn't about debate. It isn't really about anything. It's a senseless and classless attempt to use the law to bully a population that makes some people uncomfortable.

And it's worked. Discrimination is enshrined in our state constitution. It is a cornerstone of our campaign rhetoric. It is the undeniable, unquestionable, fundamental truth of Cornhusker politics.

But it is not Nebraska. Not the Nebraska I know. And not the place I call home.

Look, America is not an ethnic nation or a tribal nation. It is a creedal nation, and we belong to that community because we subscribe to that creed: that "all men are created equal" and, in Nebraska, "Equality Before the Law". That is our creed, and hence this is our home.

It is not the bigots that must go, it is their bigotry. And it is not us progressives that don't belong; it is our fears and our doubts. We can't afford them, and we cannot allow the bullies that final victory: to elbow us out, to disappear us into another community, another state, another country. To surrender to them a state and a creed that they don't deserve.

I understand the feelings of hopelessness, of feeling lost in a place called "home". But we need to stick together, and we need to celebrate each small success. The Congressional candidate who boldly challenges the Federal Marriage Amendment. The Mayor who advocates a "live and let live" community. The state party that cares enough to cover these issues, prominently, on the front page of their website.

Someday soon these triumphs (small as they are) will have to translate into victory at the ballot box. And for that, we will need every person who loves this state to fight for it. But let's try to remember: this isn't about taking over, and it's not about 'taking it back'. Because you don't have to take what is already yours.

You need only to remember, and to remind.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Omaha's Messenger

by Ryan Anderson
Among Nebraska bloggers, I've been the most skeptical of a Mike Fahey Senate candidacy (in that I think he'd be a "formidable candidate... but not my first choice". Not terribly harsh criticism, but let's face it, there's not a whole lot of ill-will between Fahey and the blogosphere). I still think it's pretty hard to sell yourself to rural voters when your first name's "Democrat" and your last name's "Mayor of Omaha", but I gotta admit I'm impressed by these numbers: 54% favorability? Not too shabby. And not too bad.

Considering the man's never run for statewide office, that shows a pretty impressive name recognition. It also highlights Fahey's potential appeal to voters who don't necessarily have a "favorable" impression of Omaha itself.

Which is where I start to wonder... The rural-urban split is a crippling handicap, not just to Omaha candidates but to the health of state politics as a whole. More than that, it's a two way street. It isn't just that Omaha doesn't understand or respect the needs of those who live outstate, it's also that the rest of Nebraska doesn't really understand Omaha. And what better ambassador could we ask for than Mayor Fahey?

The Fahey administration has committed itself to fiscally responsible growth, and in this area they have been remarkably successful. Buildings have been raised, standards of living have been raised, but taxes haven't. Their bold advocacy of a city-county merger is a model of effective government that could cut red tape and save the state money. Apparently, all this hasn't gone unnoticed (or unappreciated) out west.

Now comes that highest hurdle: convincing rural voters that this experience is the least bit relevant to the issues confronting them on the national stage. And on this question the Mayor's political instincts have served him particularly well:
The Senate could use more mayors with first-hand experience managing a local budget under the strain of unfunded federal mandates, Fahey said.

Senators "have no concept of controlling spending," Fahey said. "Of course, it's easier to spend when you can just print more money."
Fahey does well to remind voters that, whatever Omaha's dominance in state politics, we're still just a "little-big city" fighting the good fight against those real powers that be. The same fights against the same powers as the rest of Nebraska.

Translation: we're all in this together, bud. Might as well act like it.

Now, I'm still not the first in line for the Fahey Express. But believe me, if it ever leaves the station, I'll be right there on board.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Tax Cut Mish-Mash - When Compromise Fails

by Kyle Michaelis
Revenue Committee's LB 367 a Mediocre Attempt at Pleasing Everyone

In legislation as in life, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Last week's Lincoln Journal-Star reported:
State Sen. Ray Janssen of Nickerson knows about making law and about making sausage. He’s a grocery store owner and butcher who also is chairman of the Legislature’s Revenue Committee.

It’s true, he told senators Wednesday as they worked on the state tax-cut package: It’s not very pleasant to watch sausage being made. “But the finished product isn’t too bad,” he added.

And there have been a lot of cooks stirring this tax-cut pot, he said, as senators changed some of the ingredients in the major tax-cut package during the second stage of debate Wednesday.
Sounds like an insult to sausage-making if you ask me. More on LB 367 in its current incarnation can be found in the LJS and in the Legislature's online update. The most recent amendments to this well-meaning but ultimately cowardly and convoluted tax cut package do away with its prior lowering of the income tax for those in the highest tax bracket and its reductions to the maximum levy available to school disticts on local property taxes. Instead, LB 367 now provides for repeal of Nebraska's estate tax and for increases to two tax credits targeting low-income families and property owners.

Unfortunately, all that's really being accomplished with LB 367 is a back-and-forth trade-off between competing priorities with no consistency at its heart. This legislation bodes ill for the entire state because it so clearly demonstrates the complete lack of leadership and vision in our state government.

In general, I support compromise, but compromise is not a good for its own sake. Compromise can just as easily be used as an excuse to avoid making tough choices. Frankly, it's downright foolish and ultimately quite dangerous to be setting a state's tax policy with a band-aid approach serving priorities no deeper and no more principled than looking to make a lot of people a little bit happy - which is precisely what we've seen in this year's supposed "debate."

The problem, of course, is that everyone has ideas for what taxes to cut and where the state's revenue should be coming from. But, the Legislature can't do everything. They can't make everyone happy - that's not their job. Yet, that's exactly what the Revenue Committee has been trying to do.

A lot of the blame falls on Gov. Heineman for ever having offered his bizarrely out-of-touch tax-cut plan leaving so giant a leadership gap on the issue that the Revenue Committee was left practically starting from scratch. This debate needed a strong guiding hand and an actual vision for true reform. Sadly, those Senators who tried to press forward with such proposals - largely responding to constituents' demands for property tax relief - met resistance for political reasons. This way, no substantial challenge could develop that might expose Heineman's failure and fracture his support.

The Revenue Committee had an obligation to take-on the Governor and to do what's best for the state. Rather, they spent most of the session on damage control. It's largely been a game of protecting the state from Heineman's bad ideas without offending Heineman in the process. What got lost was the development of a comprehensive tax cut proposal that served the people rather than an all-too-partisan political agenda.

Whether defending or simply explaining LB 367, Janssen has declared, "A compromise is a compromise." When that's the best that can be said for a bill, that should raise some very serious questions. But, instead we've seen assurances of LB 367's all-but-inevitable passage by a legislature more concerned with simply passing a tax cut than with passing one that is GOOD or SMART for Nebraska.

The media's inexplicable and unquestioning embrace of LB 367 when it first came out of committee certainly didn't help in this respect. Reporting on the tax cut plan like it was a Christmas present to taxpayers understandably stifled public scrutiny and betrayed the press' responsibilities to provide unbiased coverage and independent analysis. Yet, even while the bill's now undergone a massive restructuring leaving few of the previously ballyhooed proposals intact, there's been no real criticism. This speaks to an unsettling complacency and an undeserved trust that whatever the legislature decides will, of course, be for the best.

Which isn't to say that LB 367 is all bad. It's too convoluted to be all anything - except, maybe, all over the place. I would say, however, that this latest round of amendments has actually made the legislation worse.

Eliminating the estate tax isn't the end of the world, but it's a fairly fundamental repudiation of America's anti-aristocratic ideal. Meanwhile, an $84 property tax credit for the average Nebraska homeowner that will provide tens of thousands of dollars to wealthy, out-of-state landowners hardly seems in the state's best interests. At the same time, while I appreciate who the Earned Income Tax Credit helps (poor families), I believe these same people would be better served by a simple and straight-forward half-cent reduction in the ever-regressive sales tax, for which Sen. Ernie Chambers has been and promises to continue fighting.

Honestly, I have to question those so enamored with tax credits. At the end of the day, they convolute an already complicated system and stink of bureaucracy. There are more direct, more practical, and more honest ways of achieving these same objectives - whether a property tax exemption on homesteads, the aforementioned reduction of the state sales tax, or - yes - REASONABLE REFORMS of the state's income tax.

Just because Heineman's income tax plan was utterly appalling and because his attempts to hype the need for changing the system fell entirely flat does not mean that the income tax cannot and should not be improved. Frankly, it is absurd that the highest tax bracket begins at $52,000 - meaning a middle class family earning $55,000 is being taxed at the same marginal rate as Warren Buffett. If Heineman had really offered his promised plan targeting tax relief to the middle class, it would have been hard to argue with a simple and entirely justified expansion of Nebraska's middle income tax brackets.

Even if the income tax has not been voters' #1 priority, a good idea is a good idea. Unfortunately, those were lacking in Heineman's actual plan - just as they're lacking from LB 367.

But, Janssen promises, "The finished product isn't too bad." I'd probably argue that point on LB 367, and I think I'd win. Regardless, should not being "too bad" really be good enough?

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

State Agency Bans Discussion About Gay Parenting

by Kyle Michaelis
This is a pretty damn fine display of the right-wing whack-jobs who are pulling the strings in state government. Leaders of Nebraska Health and Human Services seem to think by prohibiting discussion of the troubles faced by Nebraska families with gay parents, the problems - or maybe even the families themselves - will simply disappear.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports:
[S]tate HHS leaders recently ordered a Lincoln-based diversity committee to remove one speaker from an informational forum focusing on family diversity because the woman was in a same-sex partnership....

The team was told to remove the speaker involved in same-sex parenting from the lineup, even though the agency policy statement says the team should promote and encourage the appreciation of human diversity in the workplace and communities served by HHS, said Cathy Kingery, diversity committee co-chairwoman.

The forum was neither condoning nor condemning gay life but simply recognizing its existence and the special circumstances families may encounter, Kingery said in an e-mail description of the issue. The administration was unwilling to waiver, she said.

HHS administrators say the diversity team strayed from agency guidelines that limit diversity issues to groups protected under federal law. They include race, religion, national origin, gender and handicaps, but not sexual orientation, said HHS spokeswoman Kathie Osterman....

[Kingery] said committee members were aware that previous diversity committees had been told they couldn’t discuss same-sex issues, but they had seen nothing in writing.

Concerned they were being asked to discriminate when their goal was to recognize and encourage appreciation of diversity, 11 of 18 committee members, including the two co-chairmen, resigned.

After reporters began inquiring on Friday about the guidelines limiting diversity issues, HHS system CEO Chris Peterson said she wanted to meet with committee members....

Kingery said she and others would be happy to talk with Peterson, and she might be willing to rejoin the group if members had the right to discuss any diversity issue.

“But I’m not willing to just give lip service to diversity. We can’t blatantly discriminate against one group of people just because the administration doesn’t want us to acknowledge they exist.”

In answer to questions, Peterson said the guideline was not established to avoid political controversy but to provide a way of managing programs. She also said the agency does not discriminate against employees because they are gay.
This is just outrageously pathetic and backwards. It's also a pretty ugly reminder of the adversity faced by non-traditional, same-sex parent families, who currently have no recognition or protection under state law and who are supposedly so dangerous a threat to our society that they can't even be discussed in state government.

Sadly, I believe LB 571, which would have provided some measure of protection to same-sex parents and their children, won't be going anywhere this legislative session. It also remains unlikely that LB 475 can muster the support it needs to affirm the decency of Nebraska's citizens by ending discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation.

But, we know that the principles of equality raised by these issues are right and true and that our common humanity shall eventually prevail. Alas, change in democracy does take time. This embarrassing prohibition of even discussing gay parents in a forum on diversity is a testament to the fear and weakness of those who support the shameful status quo.

For forcing this issue and exposing this horrible policy for what it is, the New Nebraska Network salutes Cathy Kingery and all those representatives on HHS' Lincoln Diversity Committee who have made a stand for a just cause and a greater Nebraska.

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World-Herald Wants Simplicity - Not Sanity - in Iraq War Debate

by Kyle Michaelis
Editorial Attacks the "Complexity" of Sen. Ben Nelson's Position

In a matter so complicated and convoluted as the Iraq War, I'm willing to give our elected officials a lot of latitude for their mind to change and their thinking to evolve. In fact, as the situation has worsened and the future become more bleak for the people of Iraq, I have to give a great deal of credit to Nebraska Senators Ben Nelson and Chuck Hagel for doing what President George W. Bush and Nebraska Congressmen Jeff Fortenberry, Lee Terry, and Adrian Smith cannot - overcoming their reactionary fear of ever admitting that they might have been wrong about this war to embrace a true change in policy that actually responds to the American people's demands that this war be brought to an end.

Sadly, the powers that be in the Nebraska media seem to have a different opinion. They've turned a blind eye to Congressmen Terry and Smith's recent claims of "progress" in Iraq that are not only baseless in fact but absolutely insulting and dismissive to the memories of those lost in this war's rising death toll. Honestly, how hard is it to point out in the face of such statements that April was one of the deadliest months yet for U.S. Armed Forces and that the last 6 months have been the deadliest since the war began? Those numbers don't lie, and they sure as hell don't support these self-serving, super-partisan claims of imagined "progress."

Instead, while holding these statements up to no scrutiny whatsoever, the Omaha World-Herald chose to single out Sen. Ben Nelson in familiar fashion. In Friday's "Furthermore" editorial, they wrote:
U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson often deserves credit for his nonpartisan demeanor, but of late the complexities of his approach to the Iraq War have been growing exponentially. In late March, he voiced opposition to a troop withdrawal timeline even as he helped provide a key vote for a Senate measure that included a timeline provision dear to the hearts of war opponents. He helped kill an amendment removing the timelines. Now, to his credit, he is working with the Bush administaration to help craft a needed overall compromise. Such is the zigzagging that results in trying to satisfy the demands of rabidly anti-Bush Democrats while also striving for needed nonpartisanship.
It was just a few months ago that Sen. Hagel pulled off a complete 360-degree turn-around on Iraq over the course of a few days without the World-Herald giving him any grief whatsoever for the inconsistency. Now, they're stretching the facts and distorting the situation to make Nelson appear a hypocrite and panderer when he's been nothing of the sort.

The truth is, despite the World-Herald's supposed confusion, Nelson has been remarkably consistent on the Iraq War. He saw the need for a change in policy long ago, and he's bringing it to fruition - no easy task when you're up against the head-in-the-sand lunacy of Fortenberry, Terry, and Smith as they continue to cling to their partisan fantasy of the situation.

Needless to say, Nelson has been a little more outspoken since last fall's election, but that's perfectly understandable after being emboldened by a landslide victory and in responding to the new dynamics of a Democratic Congress. Also, Nelson's speaking with more force and ugency is well-supported by the realization of Iraq's continued deterioration that any independent observer simply cannot avoid. But, his basic message and his calls for tying our continued military support to benchmarks for improved security and political progress within the Iraqi government have not changed.

What's so stupid about the World-Herald's attempt to portray Nelson as inconsistent is their intentional failure to grasp Nelson's putting aside his long-standing and deeply-held doubts about setting any sort of timeline for troop withdrawal as an entirely reasonable and expertly calculated political move. It was most important at the time that a forceful voice for change be heard from Congress. With a President who has refused to listen to the American public, Nelson rightfully erred on the side of reform, sending an essential message that extraordinary measures are possible if Bush continues to display such extraordinary contempt for the will of the people.

Forcing President Bush's veto of this latest Iraq War spending bill may not do much good in the grand scheme of things, but - thanks to Ben Nelson - democracy was served and Congress was able to demonstrate that there is enouh dissatisfaction and dissent to offer a true challenge to Bush's endless embrace of the status quo.

Now, with Nelson at the negotiation table with the White House, Nelson might actually has the authority and the leverage to get the benchmarks he's been pushing for all along. That wouldn't have been possible had he not joined those pushing a timeline for withdrawal. The World-Herald has spun this move as some sort of buckling to "rabidly anti-Bush Democrats" when it's probably one of the more impressive and effective political moves throughout this long-stifled four year debate.

Nelson is getting things done and keeping faith with Nebraska's voters - delivering on his promises and putting his approach into policy. He's practically positioned himself as the power broker on Iraq - perhaps the most credible and legitimate voice for an eventual compromise in the entire Congress.

To this, the only questions the World-Herald should be asking is: How the hell has Nelson been able to pull this off - shaping the tone and setting the pace of debate for the entire country?

Seriously, it's ridiculous. But, it's true. And, it's high time someone give credit where credit is due.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

While We've Been Away.....

by Kyle Michaelis
NNN's production has slowed down of late. I hope to recommit to the site for these last remaining weeks of the 2007 legislative session, but I can make no assurances in terms of quantity or quality. Amdist my distraction and neglect of this little corner of the blogosphere, I am happy to see that the UNO College Democrats and Paging Power have been doing some really excellent work picking up my self-perceived slack.

I occasionally disagree with the writers on both sites about a few issues and may have a somewhat different approach to politics. But, I'm just glad there's some progressive online discussion and criticism going on in my absence because I know there is an audience and there is a need if the prevailing mindsets in Nebraska politics are ever going to be challenged and be changed for the better.

My thanks to both sites, with sincerest hopes that they will keep up the good work.


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