Saturday, December 14, 2002

NEBRASKA HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: DOING IT WRONG

When, under the wise guidance of...er...Don Wesley during his tenure as Chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee in the Unicameral, the departments of Health, Aging, Social Services, Juvenile Services and Public Institutions were all rolled up into the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), many questioned whether such a huge organization could really deal with problems. The mega-agency would be more interested, went the cant, in its own survival and protection than in dealing with the problems of its clients and employees.

We see another example of this in the ongoing lawsuit against HHS for ignoring the many charges of sexual assault at the Lincoln Regional Center -- mostly against one staff member. This isn't the first time a regional center has had this problem, and that HHS was supposed to fix the problem.

Speaking from over thirty years of dealing with bureacracies, both federal and state, I can tell you that a bureacracy is like every other organism. Its primary function is its own survival, and it immediately builds its internal defenses to protect itself. The large it is, the stronger and more entrenched those defenses are.

HHS is a prime example, and nowhere does it show more clearly than in its management of the Regional Centers. Some time ago, you will recall, a counsellor at the LRC was removed for having sexual relations with an inmate. It took for bloody ever for HHS to react to these allegations. Why? At best, because HHS is huge and ungainly. At worst, because it didn't want to look bad. Either way, it reveals an organzation that is incapable of moving. And an organization that can't move cannot serve it's clientele.

This should not be interpreted by my colleagues that I am against government serving those in need. As a liberal, I believe in less government intrusion. That means if I am going to aid my bretheren through the means of the government it should be done at as small a level, and as locally as possible. A gargantuan organization like HHS which can't even stay in touch with a site five miles from the State Office Building is not the way to do it.

By the way, Don, I don't blame you.
THE MALONE CENTER: DOING IT RIGHT

Last summer you couldn't open the Journal Star without reading something nasty about the Malone Center. In case you've already forgotten, this is the neighborhood center at 20th and U which serves a large minority neighborhood and is considered the "traditional black neighborhood center" in Lincoln. They had had a few problems with their executive director over the years which ultimately resulted in her resignation, the Board's resignation, and shouting and screaming between neighborhood leaders. It was very sad.

Jerry Shoecraft, the former city councilmember, had resigned from the board over the executive director's problems and re-joined the board shortly after the final catyclism. A number of former board members also came back. Under the leadership of Rev. Darry Eure, they have been instrumental in rebuilding trust for the Malone Center. They had an open house on Thursday which, I regret, got buried under the hoopla about Trent Lott and all the other national stuff I've been ranting about.

The new board of the Malone Center deserves a definite ovation for rebuilding trust in an organization which seemed bent on self-destruction for a year. Funding is back; the building itself looks 200% better than it has ever looked.

What made the difference? The old regime was all about themselves. When questioned, they became defensive instead of looking to the good of the neighborhood. The current board and staff is open, willing to listen and act on suggestions.

This is the way it ought to work at all levels of government.

Friday, December 13, 2002

MAYBE DON IS RIGHT ALL ALONG

Well, it seems that since Lincoln is having its contract with Cashflow Billing Solutions audited, Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey has vetoed the council's vote to give the Omaha billing contract to CBS instead of Atlanta-based Per-Se Technologies. Mayor Fahey says he has a "mountain of evidence" to support his decision, not just the audit in Lincoln. Maybe that mountain can move to Lincoln to support Chief Spadt's questions for CBS.

Say something, Don!
IS FOUR YEARS TOO LONG TO PLAN?

Editor's note: This piece originally appeared on November 30th, 2002. For some reason it has disappeared from the archives. I'm republishing it because I think it needs to be in the archives. SGC

The following remarks are my own opinion, as always, and not those of anyone else.

I had a nice chat with Mike Meister yesterday. Remember him? He's the guy who ran against Jon Bruning for AG. I worked with Mike on his campaign in a small way (mostly providing him with a place to stay when he was in Lincoln and accompanying him to a few events, and listening to him brainstorm with his campaign manager on his campaign and lack of money). That gave me my first inside look at a statewide campaign. It also gave me the first inclinations of what have become my beliefs of why the NDP did so pitifully this year.

A few statistics are worth looking at: Who got most of the state Democratic party money this year? Stormy Dean, in his last-minute campaign for governor. Who got the overwhelming bulk of NDP support for his race this year? Same person. Who drew the highest percentage of votes of any Democratic candidate for state constitutional office? Mike Meister (34%; Stormy got 27%).

So should the Demos have punted the gubernatorial race and put their support behind Mike's race for AG? Hard to say. I think that's the net effect of what happened, except that they wound up punting not only the governor's race but the only race where the GOP was vulnerable. Now Jon Bruning is in a position to make a record for himself and move up to governor in four years.

But we can begin preparing to stop him, if we start preparing now.

Mike ran on the position that he would be a full time attorney general, and he meant it. But he's not the AG. This means his political energies are freed up to build strength to run for governor against Bruning in four years. And let's face it, he's still got much more substance than Bruning will ever have. He's a good attorney; he's a good speaker; he's a good family man; and he's got good ideas. All he needs is some support beyond that of his family.

Are you listening, Central Committee? We can't pretend he doesn't exist. What other choices do we have? Name me five...no, three...no, one other credible candidate for governor right now!

US LIBERALS ARE FALLING BACK INTO THE SAME TRAP

Trent Lott was a gift from heaven for us liberals, especially with us all in terminal depression after the drubbing we took in November. There we were, making much brouhaha about how we have to be more positive, have more definitive statements about what we are for and not what we are against. Then suddenly Trent Lott reveals himself to be what many liberals have claimed all along he is: a closet racist. Hotcha! See! Conservatives are all racists, they are evil, that's why you should support us liberals! Why? Because we aren't Trent Lott.

(sigh). There you go again.

I fear that in the joy of watching the conservatives commit auto-macumba (email me if you want to know about this -- after all, this is a family political blog), we will lose sight of our Grand Plan to focus our dreams, to come up with a Platform, etc., etc., etc.

Okay, gang, the party's over. Even if Lott withdraws his name from consideration as Majority Leader next month, we've played with this as much as it deserves. The fire was fun, but let's get back to the task at hand: let's define what we have to offer the state and the nation as liberals and as Democrats.
GLEN FRIENDT IS DON WESLEY'S WORST NIGHTMARE?!?

Okay, folks, let's be honest. Glen Friendt is a nice guy. He doesn't yell and scream in Lincoln city council meetings. He's reasonable. He's moderate. People like him. He hasn't pissed anyone off, so is he Don Wesley's worst nightmare?

That's why, with Jon Camp now out of the Mayor's race in Lincoln (for some reason the story from the print edition doesn't appear in the online edition of the Journal Star), Glen Friendt is a sure bet to run for the Republicans in this nonpartisan race.

The irony of this is that, especially in one-on-one contact, Don Wesley is a very likeable guy. I've spent the last couple of weeks studying up on Don. I still don't like the way he worked the baseball stadium, and I told him so when it happened. I still think his unshakeable support of the firefighter's union looks like political payoff. I blanch at those who claim that if you cross him in his offices, he can be vindictive.

But let's face it: do we want a politician who turns his back on those who support him? Robert Heinlein, the philosopher-cum-science fiction writer once wrote that "an honest politician is one who, once he is bought, stays bought."

Don Wesley is not "bought" in a dishonest way. He is not bribed, sold, or anything of an underhanded nature. He is, however, fierce in his loyalty to his friends, and expects the same loyalty of his staff. This leaves some with a bit of disgruntlement (if that's a word) about him when they cross him.

Ya know what? I have to state that I take back what I said a few weeks ago about Don. He ain't perfect, but I will support him again for Mayor. He's a liberal, a fierce fighter, loyal, and demands loyalty. I can live with that. I will continue to tell him when I think he's off base. And he may well call me on it. I'll take that risk -- I will never run for political office (way too many skeletons in way too many closets!). But as a mayor he's middlin' decent. He's better than a non-entity, which, I fear, is what Glen Friendt would be.

"Ye are neither cold nor hot, so I shall spew thee out of my mouth," to paraphrase One much wiser than me. Don has substance; I'll go with Don.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

FULL CONTACT COUNCIL MEETINGS?

Bob Van Valkenburg, a perennial gadfly about the City Council and elsewhere (not that there's anything wrong with gadflies, since that is my own avocation), claims that he was pushed by City Attorney Dana Roper at Monday night's council meeting.

Oh, please.

No, I wasn't there. John Harris says he was there, but Harris himself has a history of confrontations with the council and the mayor. Again, not that this is a bad thing.

I've heard Bob Van Valkenburg on KZUM when he guests on Bob Valentine's Monday noon talk show. I've read his weblog. If you enjoy Rush Limbaugh you will enjoy his blog. Nevertheless, his accusations against Dana Roper deserve investigation and all the consideration of which they are worthy. Who knows? Maybe if and when there's a far right wing mayor it will be someone from the barricades in the council chambers getting pushed by that mayor's henchmen.

Personally, I doubt Dana Roper is capable of pushing much of anyone. But let the investigation continue. I will wager that, unless Roper is fired and publicly guillotined, van Valkenburg won't be happy.
HE'S DEAD MEAT

Breaking news:

President Bush on Thursday sharply rebuked incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott for comments that some have called racist, saying any suggestion that segregation was acceptable is "offensive and it is wrong."

Bush's comments, delivered to a mixed-race audience in Philadelphia, came one day after Lott, a Mississippi Republican, said he would not give up his leadership post, despite the furor over his remarks.

"Recent comments by Sen. Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country," Bush said to loud applause. "He has apologized and rightly so. Every day that our nation was segregated was a day our nation was unfaithful to our founding ideals."


When Charles Krauthammer tears into Trent Lott, you know he's in deep kimchee.

Now the next question is: who's the next Senate Majority Leader? J.C. Watts?




HEY LOOK! WE FOUND A NUKE!!

Unfortunately, the nuke we found was a bit to the east of Baghdad...it's in the other rogue state, North Korea. We are making nice with North Korea, remember? So, when we find hard core evidence of nukes in North Korea (like, say, the government of North Korea says they will "resume operating nuclear facilities" we will...ah...er...call it "regrettable".

But we still have no hard core evidence of nukes in Baghdad or anywhere else in Iraq. Or any evidence that Iraq is currently developing nukes. How about some consistency here?

BLOGGERS TO THE RESCUE!
Over the last few years, there's been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth that the left doesn't have a Rush Limbaugh. Most recent is an article in the New York Times (yes, I know it's a hotbed of liberalism) which puts it fairly simply: "Stations look for heat, not breadth." The right wants to say "We're right, you're wrong." The left has room for discussion. That is our downfall, according to this article.

Well, maybe the left should quit trying to fight the right on its own battleground. The left seems to do pretty well in print and on the web. Case in point: the recent debacle sparked by Trent Lott.

Trent Lott almost got away with it this time. He did get away with it in 1980 -- he said the same damn thing, and almost no one noticed it until we caught him. Who caught him? A blogger! Here's how TAPped described it:

It's amazing to Tapped that this story almost went away. (InstaPundit [a well known liberal blog -- link is in the left margin of this blog] is correct that the incestuousness of Washington politics and media is largely to blame. Everybody here knows everybody.) We can probably credit avid blog-reader Paul Krugman [a writer for the New York Times] for dragging it out of Blogdom and back into the splotlight, thus spurring Nightline to run a segment on Lott and getting the Times itself to dig a little further into Lott's past. And what a past! It turns out that Lott used the same "poor choice of words" at a Strom Thurmond appearance on behalf of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Whoops. Lott's poor spokesman, Ron Bonjean, responded: "Clearly, Senator Lott was praising the policies of Thurmond and Reagan, of smaller government and reducing the federal deficit."


So, we didn't have Jim Hightower on the radio to shout this out. (Actually, we do, at least for another few months on KZUM, 89.3FM, but not much longer than that). But we did have bloggers who are read by writers, who are listened to by other journalists. If we don't have 10 second sound bites on AM radio (followed by 60 second commercials for oil additives), we do have thoughtful writers [modesty prevents me...] who play to liberal strengths: thought, reason, and logic.

Why act like brainless reactionary conservatives when we ain't them?
BETTER START SPINNING, DON!

This morning's Journal Star announced that the Fire Department is hiring an outside auditor (how far outside? The firm who will find this auditor is from Pennsylvania. Are there no honest lawyers in Nebraska, Chief Spadt?) to audit the contractor who bills for the Fire Department's ambulance service. You'll remember that back when the LFD first took over this service, the problems with billing were the first wrinkle in this "money saving" effort.

We on the barricades think it's a fine idea to make sure we are getting our money's worth for all our outside contracts, not just billing services for ambulance calls. But you can bet your bottom vote that no matter which way this audit goes, the result will be finger pointing between Cashflow Billing Solutions (the contractor), and the Fire Department.

Don Wesley will be caught in the middle. Everyone will blame him, even though it will not be his fault in any way, shape, or form.

You see, everyone blames him for the LFD takeover of ambulance services. This was his "sweetheart deal" -- a reward for firemen's union support in his election to the mayor's office. So anything that goes wrong with the fire department is, ipso facto his fault.

I personally hope that Don's office starts now emphasizing that he is behind this as a money-saving move. Especially if it turns out that Cashflow hasn't been doing its job.

Good luck, Don.
LOCAL ACTIVIST OVERWHELMED BY REAL WORLD
You'll notice that I haven't posted much recently. Unfortunately, what with the need to keep the general coffers filled and the boss happy, I have had to deal with the real world (rather than the world of politics) for the last few days. But I'm back. Thanks for continuing to read.

Monday, December 09, 2002

WE KNEW TRENT LOTT'S SHEET WOULD COME OUT SOONER OR LATER

This is what Trent Lott said about Strom Thurmond, as reported in the Washington Post:

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."


This is what Strom Thurmond said as candidate for President:

"All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches.

We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race.


Back when I studied logic, I learned that if A = B, and B = C, then A = C. So if Lott applauds what Strom Thurmond stood for as a presidential candidate, and Strom Thurmond the candidate did not want Negroes in his homes, schools, churches, and stood for segregation, then Lott must not want Negroes in his homes, schools, churches, and stands for segregation.

Now at least Lott has uttered the truth about himself.



Sunday, December 08, 2002

IS ANYBODY THERE?

Since I haven't figured out yet how to install a web counter on this site, would all who visit the site please take the time to click on the "Email Your Comments" link on the left and just leave a note saying you read the blog recently? I don't need comments (unless you want to leave them -- comments are always welcome) or even your name. Just let me know that you looked at the blog. Thanks.
VAN JOHNSON'S RIGHT ABOUT HOWARD JOHNSON BEING RIGHT!

I don't like to resort too often to the tactic of simply quoting another article and saying "Right On!" although I have done it in this space from time to time. But when someone is right, then I have to point it out. And when someone deserves to be quoted, I try to quote as much as possible.

Here's a letter to the editor from today's Journal Star by Bob Copperstone of Wahoo, Nebraska. He writes:

I notice that the letters to the editors page is allowing Rush Limbaugh-level factoids. I, for one, welcome the change.

I have always found it quite a bother to scrape up documentation, attributions and solid facts. I always marveled how right-wing hate radio idols are able to breezily spout "facts" as it suits their prejudices, answerable to none but their own consciences, which, of course, allows them miles of leeway. Gleeful fans are then able to take these factoids and run with them, quote them liberally (or conservatively liberally), and smugly act as if they were in possession of actual truths and real facts.

On Nov. 27 in the Lincoln Journal Star, a letter writer piped right up and revealed to the world that exactly 95 percent of the professors are Democrats, and that precisely 90 percent of the major media are Democratic, too. He cites "reports." I can't rebut those figures; he gives me nothing to rebut. I can't double-check a "report" that isn't there. That's the beauty of Limbaugh Logic. Limbaugh says so. He "reports" it. Ergo, "reports" state that Democrats are coming out of the woodwork in universities and newspapers.

But, hallelujah! Now I am freed from the petty restraints of honest reportage, and I can finally reveal that 95 percent of the nation's professors are, in fact, Whigs, and vote that way. Reports also state that 90 percent of the major media are equally divided between Mugwumps and Bull Moosers.

It's true! It's in a report. Didn't you hear me report it?

I'm all about this idea. And I have more authority than Mr. Copperstone, because I am publishing on the Internet! So what I write must be true, no?

My wife has this silly idea about integrity and how we liberals must take the moral high ground, and we lose our credibility when we play the Limbaugh game. But we liberals have no integrity, do we? After all, our presidents boink interns and anyone else available. Conservatives just lie, steal, and pay off big businesses. That's not amoral, is it?

Thanks, Mr. Copperstone. I'll be covering the Bull Moose convention for "To The Barricades" this summer.