Saturday, December 21, 2002

WHITECLAY: FIREWATER 101 FOR PALEFACES

This isn't a really hot topic right now, but since traffic on this blog is picking up, I wanted to do a bit of a primer on a favorite progressive topic out here where the buffalo used to roam: alcohol sales in the little town of Whiteclay, Nebraska. Population fourteen (14). Right on the state line between South Dakota and Nebraska. Just a few miles south of the headquarters of the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Lakota. A reservation which prohibits the sale of alcohol to combat rampant alcohol among the Lakota.

In this wide place in the road, they sell 11,000 cans of beer a day. Of course the beer is going north to the Pine Ridge. It's often being drunk right there in town, too. (There are no taverns, no bars, nowhere to drink in Whiteclay except on the roadside or in cars). Needless to say, it undermines tribal efforts to eliminate drinking problems on the reservations. DWIs between Whiteclay and Pine Ridge are frequent. The sheriff of the county in which Whiteclay is located is notorious for picking up "drunken Indians." There have been at least two deaths of Lakota in the same county which went practically ignored by the sheriff.

Nebraskans for Peace, one of the organizations which stands tall and proud on the barricades, has lead the effort to control beer sales in Whiteclay. They've held "beer-ins" at the Nebraska Liquor Commission for failing to investigate violations of liquor laws in Whiteclay. The American Indian Movement has staged demonstrations there, with Russell Means making an appearance. One demonstration there turned violent. Two governors of Nebraska have expressed "concern." Still the beer sales go on.

That's the basic concept behind the issue. The leadership of the Pine Ridge wants beer sales in Whiteclay to stop. The elders of the Lakota want beer sales in Whiteclay to stop. Nebraskans for Peace want beer sales in Whiteclay to stop. If sales stop, there is no other settlement of any size near the Pine Ridge reservation with any kind of stores. The theory is that if they stop at Whiteclay, it will be much harder to get alcohol on the reservation, and the tribal leaders can go further in their attempts to fight alcoholism.

The store owners say that it's not their fault that Indians want to buy beer. They are just selling a lawful product lawfully (there are questions about whether all stores follow the regulations about selling to intoxicated persons, but otherwise the sales are pretty much legal). If the Indians want to stop Indians from buying beer, they should get them off the booze on the reservation. So goes the argument.

The discussion is not dissimilar to our ongoing debate about drugs. Conservatives say "cut off the supply by putting the sellers of drugs in jail, and the users will get off drugs." Liberals say "treat the addicts and the dealers will dry up." The Whiteclay issue is almost the mirror reverse: Nebraskans for Peace says "cut off the supply and the Lakota can deal with their alcohol problem." The beer store owners say "If the Indians would sober up, we wouldn't sell beer."

It is absurd to me that the store owners pretend the negative results of their beer sales are "not their problem." It is equally absurd to me that the Nebraska government refuses to take any action to enforce liquor laws in Whiteclay. The anecdotal evidence of violations is overwhelming; yet nothing is done. "Too few personnel" is the response we get from the State Patrol and the sheriff. It is also ridiculous to claim that the Lakota are doing nothing to control alcoholism on the reservation. Anti-alcoholism efforts are at an all-time high -- considering that money is as tight as ever.

My only concern is this: as with illegal drugs, if beer sales in Whiteclay are cut off, will booze still get onto the Pine Ridge? Certainly. Bootlegging will increase; those who have the ability to drive to other "wet" counties will bring back truckloads and sell them out of their houses at high markups. Is that an improvement? I don't think so. Perhaps the Lakota should consider legal sales of alcohol on their land, where they can control it themselves, instead of depending on the white man to do it for them.
IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE LAWSUITS!

This whole thing of Nebraska Right to Life intercepting emails and voicemails from Planned Parenthood has more possible angles than Trent Lott has excuses and apologies.

You can be 100% sure that Planned Parenthood will be suing NRTL, Julie Schmitt-Albin, and the former Planned Parenthood who hacked into their computer system for violation of privacy and a number of other things. Moreover, any individuals who are discussed either in the voicemails or emails may have a right of action against the same defendants.

The most interesting possibility of civil action is there will be "discovery" -- this means that Planned Parenthood and its attorneys will be given a court order to get into NRTL's files to see what else NRTL may have purloined. My experience with the federal judiciary in Nebraska makes me believe that the plaintiffs will be granted pretty broad leeway in their discovery -- in other words, they'll be able to do a lot of rummaging around, backed by the power of the courts. This will be (to my limited knowledge) the first time anyone has been able to peer behind the curtain of respectability that NRTL has erected. What they find is anybody's guess, but I will wager long odds that legal action will not be the only fallout from it. The nice thing is that Planned Parenthood, in effect, will be able to look into Nebraska Right to Life, without having to become a convicted felon.

Julie Schmitt-Albin's tenure as executive director is now very finite. In other places she might wear the charge of "accused felon" as a badge of honor, since it was earned in Combat with The Enemy. If she had gotten it for, say, demonstrating or loud behavior at a legislative hearing, or even blocking a clinic entrance, it would go on her resume. But to Nebraskans this whole thing looks sleazy. Consorting with someone who is hacking or wiretapping, no matter what silly lengths you go to in order to "insulate" yourself just looks bad.

Out here where the buffalo used to roam, we no longer have gunfights on mainstreet (except in certain parts of Lincoln and Omaha) but we argue our politics and our laws up front, loudly, and fair and square. Lincoln's mayor is in electoral jeopardy for a history of what appear to be sleazy backroom deals. I suspect that a lot of Nebraskans will look at l'affaire Right to Life and think that this, too, just looks bad. We can expect Schmitt-Albin to step down as exec director in the not-too-distant future.

To me, the bottom line is this: The issue of reproductive choice has been settled for years. It isn't going to change without a change either in Supreme Court opinion or in the US Constitution. No one has made a serious effort to effect the latter. Attempts to change the former have been repulsed. The law on choice will not be changed outside the channels that exist for making law -- the legislature, or interpreting law -- the courts. Any attempt to change that law anywhere else takes you outside the law. If you find yourself on the wrong side of criminal statutes, you have only yourself to blame.

Julie, I don't care how often you say that you didn't want to do the "sleuthing" yourself. You could have just said "Your actions are illegal and I will not participate at all." By accepting this information and continuing to accept information, you encouraged this slezeoid to play G. Gordon Liddy. You now run the risk of being a convicted felon, with all the rights and privileges that accompany that "badge of honor" including loss of your right to vote and hold office. I hope making your one silly accusation against Planned Parenthood was worth it.
"WE COULD DO THIS, BUT IT WOULD BE WRONG."

It seems that the fall of conservatives isn't just limited to the national level.

On Friday, the executive director of Nebraska' so-called "Right to Life," Julie Schmitt-Albin, was charged with intercepting email and voicemail of Lincoln Planned Parenthood. The charge is a felony. (Omaha World Herald account;Lincoln Journal Star account).

In a nutshell, what appears to have happened is that a disgruntled employee from Planned Parenthood offered Schmitt-Albin copies of emails and voicemail. She accepted but declined his offer of keys to the building (one of two sites where abortions are performed in Nebraska) and access codes to conference telephone calls. She would let the employee do the dirty work, but would take the fruits thereof. The affidavit attached to the complaint states that she said in an email that "I'm perfectly comfortable taking what you or a third party tells me; what you have access to . . . but putting us in charge of sleuthing is another thing,"

Needless to say, the exec director's attorney is stating that no law was broken. The World Herald's account quotes her attorney as saying that "his client never knew that Keller was acquiring information illegally and that she never encouraged him to break the law.

"If you read the e-mail, I don't think you can conclude that she encouraged him. What she didn't do was discourage him," Brennan said.

Of course, Nebraska Right to Life has not commented. The director of Planned Parenthood is furious, both at the former employee and Julie Schmitt-Albin.

Information that Schmitt-Albin received in the voicemail and email intercepts apparently resulted in a complaint filed with the Lancaster County (Lincoln's home county) health department against Planned Parenthood. The complaint was that Planned Parenthood had received a call from a 15 year old who wanted birth control. The 15 year old said her boyfriend was 21. Planned Parenthood should have reported this as a child abuse violation, or so claimed Schmitt-Albin (Nebraska has a mandatory child abuse reporting law for health care organizations).

The interesting wrinkle in all this is that for many years, Nebraska Right to Life has prided itself that it fights a "clean" battle against the evil abortionists. It does not "officially" condone stalkers of doctors who perform abortions; it did not "officially" endorse the protests (which included waving graphic pictures of aborted fetuses in front of children) that virtually closed a well-respected Lincoln Presbyterian church for a year. The organization has tried to keep that middleman between itself and its henchmen.

But it looks like Nebraska "Right to Life" couldn't insulate itself forever from nastiness. Now they are busted. Let the lawsuits begin.

Friday, December 20, 2002

GOD, I LOVE THIS STATE!

Second only to the resignation of Trent Lott as Senate Majority Leader (and overriding the regularly scheduled "Classics By Request") on Nebraska Public Radio's (NPRN)noon news was the announcement that the University of Nebraska has hired a new athletic director. Some guy from Pittsburgh. I suspect that the only reason it was second to the Lott business is that NPRN is hard scheduled to run NPR's noon news first.

Those of you who read this blog from outside Nebraska may not realize how important football is in this state. If the Lott business had happened during football season, no one in Nebraska would have given a damn. It's also telling that one of our representatives is Tom Osborne, the former football coach for the University. In fact, the's the first person this new athletic director called. Not the press, not his mom, not even Frank Solich, the current football coach (whose life in Nebraska -- not his sports life but his actual life -- hangs by a thread because he's led the team to its worst season in decades).

Anyway, this is the hot news in our state. We got a new athletic director. The last one was little more than a professional sports promoter thinly disguised as a college athletic director. He made lots of money for the university sports program. I don't know how much he made for the university itself. I do know he pissed off a lot of students because student reserved seats got shuffled off into the nosebleed sections of the football stadium to accommodate big donor alumni and their new million dollar skyboxes.

Nebraska doesn't need a pro football team. We got one. Anyway, now that this Lott stuff is all over, us Cornshuckers can get back to the important stuff: how the hell are we going to get to a decent bowl game next year?

Thursday, December 19, 2002

THE SHOCK TROOPS OF CONSERVATISM

Bill Clinton said yesterday that the Republicans have a lot of damn gall (my words, not his) saying they're embarrassed by Trent Lott, when racist and quasi racist activities have been endorsed by the Republicans on the "back roads" for years.

Just remember: It ain't just the South. It's in the mountains of Oregon and Idaho; it's in the sandhills of Nebraska; it's in the central valley of California. It's everywhere that change comes and frightens people and makes them yearn for days that never happened.

It's this resistance to change that provides the GOP with their shock troops. In the South, it gives them their bubbas who are pissed as hell that someone wants to take away their rebel flags. (By the way, I saw someone yesterday who was wearing a jacket with a US and Confederate flag on it. How the hell can you display both together? Doesn't one deny the other?) In Oregon and elsewhere it gives them their 2nd amendment gun rights fanatics. In the fundamentalist churches it gives them their "family values" churches, their anti-evolution movements. They are all bound together by one central theme: change is bad. Give us that old time religion, that old time society, that old time anything.

These mindless, knee jerk conservatives are fueled by money paid by the corporations who pay their way knowing that a well-placed donation here, a well-spoken word there, a well-written billboard over there will inflame these reactionaries to a fever pitch. Add to the mix the chorus of ditto-speakers who whip them to a frenzy, then hide behind the screen of "I'm just an entertainer, not a politician" and you have shock troops every bit as effective as the Wobblies of turn of the 20th century and the brown shirts of the 1930s. They vote the GOP into power, and the GOP votes corporate plutocracy without question, so long as the occasional sop is thrown to the dogs of reaction.

Bravo, Bill Clinton. You called it like it is.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

WILL TERRY WERNER RUN FOR MAYOR?

No. No way.
TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A LINCOLN CITY COUNCIL MEMBER

Terry Werner was my guest on KZUM today at noon. He talked a bit about "wha' happen?" at the City Council meeting on Monday night, from his point of view. He was also brutally honest about himself and his reasons for changing his vote twice. Here is what happened in a nutshell:

- An amendment came up for a vote which would have exempted certain large builders and developers from paying impact fees on properties for which they already had agreements and had made payments. Kind of a grandfather deal.

- Terry voted in favor of this amendment, but with reservations because it did not cover small developers and builders.

- During a scheduled break, he reconsidered his vote on this amendment and, after the break, he changed his vote because he didn't like the fact that it didn't exempt small businesses with existing agreements.

- Mayor Wesley then requested another break by note sent down from his office, and met with Terry Werner and Annette McRoy. He explained that if the ordinance passed without this amendment, he would have to veto the ordinance because he had made "promises" to certain developers and he didn't want to go back on his word.

- Terry explained his concern about the amendment not covering small builders.

- The amendment was redrafted to cover small builders, and then put to a vote. It passed, 5-2.

There was then a great deal of to-do and the final result was that the entire matter was tabled until after the new year, when all amendments will be reconsidered.

Them's the facts, as Terry told them on KZUM. As far as his thoughts and feelings, he was adamant that he did not get "pressured" by Don Wesley -- that he felt no pressure at all. He stated unequivocally that if he hadn't liked the amendment he would have had no problems telling Don to go to hell (my words, not his) and voting against it anyway. He also said that he did not care for the idea that he looked like a fool (his words, not mine) for changing his vote, but he couldn't stand on his first vote, and yet he didn't want to pass an ordinance that he knew would get vetoed.

I think what disturbs me more than anything is the idea that Don would "make promises" to someone before an ordinance is passed, and then use those promises as leverage for a threatened veto. I understand that deals are made every day. No matter who the next mayor is, he or she will definitely make deals. But to make a promise and then expect the city council to go along with it just because you made the deal -- without other logical reasons -- leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Terry and Annette were in a bad place. I don't envy them. I think that tabling the matter is the best thing that could have happened.

One other note (pun intended). Glenn Friendt made much of the communication by notes between the Mayor and Chair Jonathan Cook. He neglected to mention the frequent notepassing between himself and the lobbyist for the Lincoln Homebuilders' Association. Terry says this is de regieur for lobbyists and Friendt. Friendt spent over $120,000 in his race for city council, and just managed to finish in the money. Whence came the money? Not private donations, that's for bloody sure.

Query: If Friendt becomes mayor, will we merely be changing one group of mayoral string pullers for another? Who pulls Friendt's strings?
ONE OFFICIAL CANDIDATE

Lincoln City Councilman Glenn Friendt has announced he will run for mayor of Lincoln, to no one's surprise. It's not clear if he will surrender his seat on the council or not. So far, his platform seems to be "I'm not Don Wesley!" No surprise there. As we on the barricades have said before, that's all anyone other than Jon Camp is likely to say. Indeed, that's all a lot of voters want to hear. Unfortunately, Don makes it easy for voters to want to hear that.

I still want to know who else could run from the left side of the spectrum if Don doesn't run. Personally, I'd love to see Terry Werner run, and I will ask him in 20 minutes, when I have him on KZUM for the noon talk show. That could be an interesting question. Although his loss to the city council would be more tragic to me than the potential gain of him in the mayor's office. More later.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

ANSWERING BOB VALENTINE

I can't let Bob's commentary (below) about last night's City Council meeting go unanswered. Not his recitation of facts: I am sure he told the facts as they happened. Rather, his characterization of some of the players.

- He characterizes Jonathan Cook as someone who "relishes his role as chair and his brotherhood in the Democratic party [and]now exercises power denied to him throughout his wimpy life." I have no doubt that Jonathan Cook does, indeed, enjoy his role as chairman -- who wouldn't? -- but the implications of the statement that he "exercises power denied to him throughout his wimpy life" is uncalled for. Cook is not a wimp in any way, shape, or form. It may well be that, as chairman, he's made rulings that Bob doesn't like. That's true of every other chairman of the City Council, Bob. That doesn't make them wimps. That means they don't agree with you, procedurally or substantively.

- If Terry Werner was agonizing between his own beliefs and pressure from Don Wesley (and we have no objective evidence of this), doesn't it reflect well on him that his flip-flop voting managed to bring the proceedings to a dead stop? Terry Werner has never been accused of being wishy-washy on much of anything. I'd say that, if he was between the proverbial rock and the proverbial deep blue horns of a dilemma, he did well to maneuver things (if maneuver he did) such that nothing happened.

If the net result of last night's goat rope is that the City Council throws up its hands and does not approve any impact fees at all (and I am beginning to wonder if that might not be the best thing, rather than an impact fee ordinance riddled with more exceptions than compliances), then perhaps Jonathan Cook and Terry Werner are to be applauded by the foes of impact fees, rather than mocked. Fans of impact fees, for their part, also should applaud Cook and Werner. The loopholes presented by the mayor's office look bad to me from this perspective. I still want to hear what the mayor has to say about them, if anything.

But, dammit, Don, every time I think I start to like you again, you pull another trick like this! Is this another political payoff or do you have a legitimate interest in these "exemptions?"
WHA' HAPPEN'? -- FROM ONE POINT OF VIEW

I have received the following account, highly colored, from Bob Valentine, a well known local conservative, who attended last night's City Council meeting. Let me just say up front that Bob has never pretended anything but that he opposes impact fees. Keeping that in mind, here is his impression of the city council meeting at which impact fees were discussed. The parenthetical comments are Bob's and not mine. I leave them in not because I agree with them but to stimulate discussion.

Kent Seacrest pulled the Mayor's strings. He was the eminence gris at yesterday's meeting. He took notes and sent notes upstairs to the Mayor's office. Kent Seacrest would wince everytime Terry Werner opened his mouth because Terry was screwing up the agenda. Jonathan Cook rolled his eyes everytime Terry Werner opened his mouth because his was delaying action. Terry was trying to think out loud about the nagging ethical issues that permeated the evening, including giving carte blanche to the Mayor to exempt lots owned by the big developers at the expense of smaller developers, builders and the home-buying public. I love to watch public displays of confusion and anguish. I was rewarded last night. Terry Werner agonistes.

Thus, methinks that the developers pull Kent Seacrest's strings and Seacrest pulls the Mayor's strings and the Mayor pulls Werner's strings. On the fringes, Annette McRoy is clueless, and Colleen Seng has entered the twilight zone. Jonathan Cook relishes his role as chair and his brotherhood in the Democratic party. Jonathan now exercises power denied to him throughout his wimpy life. For instance, Mark Hunzeker, desperate to get a ruling from the city attorney Dana Roper, was prevented by the police officer from approaching the front of the chamber. Jonathan Cook ruled that citizens cannot speak with city officials in the front of the chamber during chamber meetings. However, Terry Werner later summoned Mark Hunzeker for questions but was quickly overrruled by Jonathan Cook. Of course, various city officials, including Alan Abott, were allowed to speak with impunity throughout the evening.

Forever malevolent, I stood at the rear of the chamber holding my nose in silent protest. The police officer told me to remove my thumb and first digit from my pug proboscis. Public displays are not allowed, he declared. I obeyed.

The passage of the impact fee ordinance as written yesterday would have resulted in millions in windfall profits to the largest developers, some of whom are represented by Kent Seacrest and his law firm, which has already made more than a few dollars in fees for the Antelope Creek project, which also depends on the impact fee ordinance for cash flow.

Follow the money. Log on to the website of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission to check out the contributions to Mayor Wesely. Add up the contributions to the Mayor's campaign by developers and law firms and others. Pay close attention to the "Late Contributions" category. It is payback time. If Wesley doesn't pay his bill in the form of exempted lots, he will have to scramble to get contributions for his reelection.

To the poor dumb slobs who think that impact fees will resurrect their gray curtain neighborhoods, wise up! It never was about you or your decaying infrastructure. It is about money, power and profits. The "O" Street gang is gone. Their void has been filled with savvy developers and greedy attorneys, and the rest of us will pay the bill with higher taxes.

Throughout the evening we gathered in small groups in the lobby, in the broadcast room and by the pop machine, not to plot the overthrow of Western Civilization, but to laugh at the farce that was unfolding inside the city council chambers. Cook declared a recess after receiving a note from on high. Terry Werner was taken upstairs to the wood shed. An alternative amendment, probably written by Kent Seacrest, came down like tablets from Sinai. Alan Abbott was practically in tears. Parks and Recreation director Lynn Johnson was beside himself. Aides from the mayor's office wore out the carpet coming and going.

Watching Lincoln Journal Star reporter Nate Jenkins scribble away during the meeting, I wondered how he would bring order to the evening in print. He did a good job but fails to see or to be able to write about the potential Seacrest/Developer/Wesley unholy trinity.

Had the hastily written compromise been passed I was ready to scream "Point of Order" from the back of the chambers requesting more public hearings. Fortunately, confusion overtook events and even the most ardent supporters of the mayor decided to retreat for better weather in January.


I welcome other perspectives from those who were present at this council meeting, especially from the Mayor's Office (who I know reads this blog). I will run them also unedited and without commentary.

ONE LAST WORD ON TRENT LOTT AND STATES' RIGHTS

I promise that, absent a Major New Development on the scale of, say, Lott coming out of the closet and revealing that he's been Dubya's lover for years, I am not going to say anything else on this topic after this. I think that alea jacta est for Trent.

But on the issue of "states' rights:" I grew up in North Carolina and studies NC history in junior high. It is telling that what most other schools studied as the "Civil War," we studied as the "War for Southern Independence." The spin we got was that this was a war not over slavery, but for the rights of the states to determine what policies they would pursue within their own borders. In other words, states' rights. Slavery was secondary.

Lawmakers who cater to groups arguing for "states' rights" don't really realize what it is that they are endorsing. As Jeanne D'Arc stated, "There's nothing wrong with the words themselves." But how far do you take "states' rights?"

To this day, the argument that the states have the right to determine their own policies, irrespective of the federal Constitution, holds strong influence in the South and elsewhere. I don't think that many people really want to reinstitute slavery. Some probably do want to reinstitute segregation. That's not the major issue for me. My concern is this: if we are going to allow states to ignore the Constitution at will, why bother with a union at all? I thought this matter was settled in 1865? Or will we have to revisit it -- with attendant blood and suffering -- every hundred and fifty years or so?
IMPACT FEES: THE ISSUE THAT WOULDN'T DIE

To read the Journal Star's account of last night's Lincoln City Council meeting, things must have gotten weird enough even for Hunter S. Thompson. This was the meeting when, once and for all, the issue of impact fees for new development would be decided. A few days ago, Terry Werner (whom I've always admired and respected) said it wouldn't be delayed any more. "This comes before us after three years and everybody wants to say `Wait for further study.' You know what? The study has already been done," (LJS, 12/17/02).

It looks like (as far as I can decipher the J-S's report) it didn't quite play out that way.

So what happened? Here's what I can figure out (and this isn't yet on the J-S's website, so you'll have to spend four bits on the print copy):

Terry Werner and the non-partisan Democrats on the council had defeated an amendment which would permit some "categorical exemptions" -- developers who have existing annexation agreements with the city under which they contribute money for infrastructure. Then Werner and Annette McRoy (I don't know why Werner gets all the blame for this) changed their minds and vote, and voted for the amendment. This prompted Wesley, who was up in his office monitoring the progress of the proceedings, to ask for a break. He met with Werner and McRoy, after which they came back downstairs and voted against the amendment again. Then the whole thing got tabled till after the new year.

At least that's what I get from the article in the J-S. I must say that this article is not a paragon of clarity.

Did Don browbeat Terry Werner and Annette McRoy into voting the way he wanted them to? I hope not, but he's certainly capable of it. It's this side of Don -- whether or not I agree with him -- that scares me. The J-S implies that Don wanted the amendment defeated so he could make good on some deals with his buddies. I don't know where they come off making that statement.

Of more concern to me is Terry Werner's flipfloping. I haven't talked to Terry, and I don't know if he will talk to me. He's probably had a phone ringing off the hook today. But this is very much unlike him. He's usually a person of principle, and to switch votes twice in one evening says to me either that he was under very heavy pressure, or some very convincing new evidence was presented to him.

But the whole incident leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Monday, December 16, 2002

"STRANGE FRUIT" -- FALLING OFF THE CONSERVATIVE TREES

Got about 15 minutes? If you do, read Jeanne D'Arc's wonderful commentary on how conservatives have tried to associate-without-associating with really far right, segregationist, downright racist organizations. Just to whet your appetite:

You can start with words like "states' rights" and "traditional values." There's nothing wrong with the words themselves. Here in the central California suburbs, when Republicans I know hear politicians talk about things like "states' rights," what they hear is a message of smaller government and more local control. That's a perfectly reasonable thing to be in favor of. In some instances, I'd even agree with them.

But that arguable, respectable message is not what people in many parts of the country heard when Ronald Reagan, for instance, proclaimed his belief in "states' rights" in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers -- James Cheney, Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman -- had been murdered in the early sixties, and where there were still many people who deeply resented their state's loss of its "right" to segregation and intimidation of black voters. It does not make the tiniest bit of difference whether Ronald Reagan was a racist. Signaling that hard-core racism was acceptable was despicable. For many people who regard themselves as liberals, it remains, more than twenty years later, unforgivable. Maybe it gnaws at moderate Republicans, and even many conservatives, as well, but I haven't heard any complain about it.

[. . . .]

John Ashcroft, who made his name as a politician opposing school desegregation in St. Louis, gave an interview to Southern Partisan magazine in 1998, which the editors introduced by noting that he was a "champion of states' rights and traditional Southern values." Sounds fairly innocuous, but one of the traditional Southern values Southern Partisan promotes is the notion that the Declaration of Independence contains "deliberate lies" like the idea that all men are created equal.


Take time to read the entire article. It makes me wish I could write like this.

FULL CONTACT LITIGATION -- OR TRIAL BY COMBAT?

Our correspondent in Sarpy County, Rennaisance Woman, tells us the following:

[T]here was an attorney-on-attorney assault and battery in Omaha at about the same time as the Lincoln incident [alleged assault by the Lincoln city attorney on a citizen] on which you commented[.] This makes me wonder if we are not seeing the beginning of a VERY disturbing new trend. Let us please continue not to allow people to carry concealed weapons!


I couldn't agree more, RW. Are we headed back to the days when caning was a common occurrence in the legislature? Rennaisance Woman will provide more details as she digs them up.

POOR PEOPLE AREN'T PAYING ENOUGH TAXES?

That appears to be the coming thoughts from the conservative thinktanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. But rather than repeat what's already been written, let me refer you to The Daily Kos, to which I can't add anything.
WHAT?!? A CHAMBER OF COMMERCE MORE WORRIED ABOUT MONEY THAN MORALITY?!?

The Omaha World Herald is all wrapped around the axle because the Omaha Chamber of Commerce (COC) wants to be at the trough -- er, table -- when Nebraskans increase the level of gambling in Nebraska.

The W-H can't figure out why the COC suddenly has dropped its anti-gambling stance: "The "reasons" for its position favoring gambling have yet to be revealed in a credible manner. Is it a trade-off to protect business incentives?"

Gee, d'ya think?

Let's see, this is the same organization that has regularly said we must protect payoffs for businesses in the form of "tax incentives" when everyone else in this state has to suck it in when tax revenues go down the toilet. This is the same organization that wanted the rest of the state of Nebraska to raise its taxes to pay for an event center in Omaha, when the rest of the state has to scramble to meet local school district needs. Why, dear World Herald, do you think that the Chamber of Commerce would put simple morality in front of the possibility of making money, money, money??
TIME'S A-WASTIN', BOYS AND GIRLS!

Today is the 16th of December. Our Unicameral convenes on the 8th of January, 2003. That's 23 days. Take away the week between Christmas and New Years. Now I am not a member of the Nebraska Democratic Party Central Committee (yet). Nor do I play one on TV. But not even my sources hear of any kind of movement toward a concerted effort in the legislature this coming session. The next NDP meeting is in February -- a month after the legislature convenes.

What the hell good does that do?

With the AFL-CIO and the Nebraska Education Association disconnected from the state Democrats now, I even suspect there aren't many back room deals going on. So it's going to be up to our party leadership to lead! County organizations are meeting in January. As a minimum, let's look at the legislation that has been introduced (since it appears we haven't had time to draft our own) and see what we will support. Lincoln Sen. Chris Beutler is in favor of this approach. Let's follow his lead and DO SOMETHING!