Saturday, January 04, 2003

YOU CAN'T VOTE A LOBBYIST OUT OF THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE!

With several of our best and brightest (and a few in other categories) of our state legislators facing term limits in four years, it's worth having a look at this article, gleaned from The Political State Report. An excerpt from the original San Jose Mercury article:

When Gov. Gray Davis sat down to piece together the painful budget proposal he will unveil next week, he turned to two respected former Democratic lawmakers to help him decide what to cut and whom to tax.

But the retired legislators came into the room with more than just political acumen to guide their views: They came in as lobbyists who represent some of the most powerful special interests in California -- insurance companies, car manufacturers, HMOs and Indian tribes.

I don't think we'll see Ernie Chambers as a lobbyist. But anyone who thinks that ConAgra and Union Pacific won't have former legislators -- with decades of experience -- sitting with the governor in four years, regardless of who he (or, in a remote possibility, she), is living in a dream world.

We can change the law. But we better act fast.
WESLEY MAY NOT BE PERFECT, BUT HE DOESN'T DESERVE THIS

I have always been happy to try to keep Mayor Don Wesley on the straight and narrow when I think he's off base politically. But an e-mail I received from Rick Hoppe, a Democratic activist, through the Democratic e-mail newsletter "In The Loop" has brought to my attention that some of Wesley's opponents are going way too far. Here's the email I got, in its entirety:

To Supporters of Lincoln Mayor Don Wesely:

We need your help.

Many of the Mayor’s friends and supporters got together with Don shortly before Christmas to discuss his decision to seek re-election this spring.

An important topic brought up by the attendees was the “rumor mill” that is churning full steam. It seems our opposition is actively seeking to spread these rumors to discredit the Mayor and the many achievements of his administration. Unfortunately, their scurrilous tactics have been effective, as people all across Lincoln have been exposed to these lies.

The supporters of the Mayor at the meeting have asked us to fight back. They believe we should actively confront those spreading the rumors and provide them with the truth. That’s why you are being sent the facts in this email.

At the aforementioned meeting, Mayor Wesely has specifically asked about his alleged affair with Linda Hovis Hunter, the wife of State Title’s David Hunter and a former member of the City/County Planning Commission. Don firmly answered that no affair had taken place. His only relationship with Linda was as David’s friend and as the Mayor who appointed her to the Planning Commission. He further stated that his last contact with Linda came in February when he asked her to resign from the Planning Commission in light of the on-going scandal at State Title. In short, the accusation about Don and Linda is an outright fabrication.

Now it is up to us to ensure that Lincolnites hear the truth, rather than the lies. When the issue comes up, tell those repeating the rumor that it isn’t true. Tell them that continuing to spread this lie is not fair to Don or his children. Be firm in conveying to them that rumor mongering isn’t right and that it needs to stop. Forward this email to others so they can also convey the truth to their friends, neighbors and associates.

Together, we can help a good man and a good Mayor overcome the disgusting tactics of our opponents. Thank you for your help.

If you have questions or would like to discuss this further, please contact me at [402] 466-9010 or 610-2720 or email me at rickhoppe@msn.com.


This smells like Republican campaign tactics. More on that in a moment.

As I said, I think it's perfectly fair to question Don's relationship with developers or the fire department. That, in and of itself, will keep him plenty busy during his campaign. But to manufacture lies about his personal life is just plain wrong.

Of course, there will be those who don't believe his denials. We've seen too many politicians deny too much about too many sexual shenanigans to just believe denials without question. But I have known Don since I took up residence here in 1993. My wife has known him longer than that. Because I believe his is a man of character, I hold him to a very high standard in these pages, and I question him when he is acting below what I know are his usual standards. On the other hand, because he is a man of character, I believe his statement that he has never had an affair with Linda Hovis Hunter.

As to the Republican tactics, consider: Glenn Friendt is truly a nonentity. Try to recall the last thing of note he has done on the City Council. I just ran a search for his name on the Journal-Star's website. All I found was that he had announced his candidacy, and criticized the recent goatrope over impact fees. (So did I, so it takes little imagination). The best issue he has to run on is that he isn't Don Wesley. And that may be a loser for him.

You see, Lincoln is doing pretty well, budget wise. No property tax increase -- our budget is doing better than everyone expected, and better than Omaha's. Don can take credit for that.

(Oh, I take it back: Friendt did say something recently. He said the good news about Lincoln's budget is "the benefit of being a government town." Now, Glenn, you are part of a party that wants to cut back state government. Think that's going to sell in Lincoln?)

Anyway, despite pissing off a few people over what still look to me like political deals, Don has a very good record to run on. Friendt doesn't have jack.

Except maybe a very ugly rumor his people can try to play on.

I don't buy it, Glenn. You just pushed me completely behind Don Wesley. Henceforth, the cannons on the barricades are trained on you.

Friday, January 03, 2003

I JUST CAN'T THINK OF A CLEVER ENOUGH HEADLINE HERE

Thanks to Digby's Hullaballoo, the newest star in the liberal blogosphere (see his link on the left, of course) for the tip on this article, a portion of which reads:

More than 100 Nigerian women closed [an American oil refinery in Nigeria] down for several weeks. Their big demand -- jobs for their husbands and sons. Yes, all they wanted was a means to alleviate their severe poverty while living a stone's throw from the symbol of U.S. wealth, cheap oil. They finally won by threatening to bare their breasts. It's a tribal custom called shaming; if a woman bares her breasts in front of strangers it is a shame on the men who witness it.


I know my wife would be all in favor of this tactic. Personally, I am in a quandary. The politically correct, sensitive new age guy in me wants to applaud this for its strong tactic by women using their maternal strength to stand up to male dominance. The frat boy in me wants to howl.

But in all seriousness, I agree with the letter writer: "[L]et's go [to Washington] and bare our breasts at President Bush's State of the Union address." The problem is, given the Republican makeup of the Congress, you'd get more frat boy howls than applause. But it's worth a shot.
AN UNREASONABLE DEMAND BY THE OPPRESSIVE CAPITALISTS

Forgive me if I don't add much today. My boss has this silly idea that, just because he pays me a fairly reasonable salary, I should do something towards working. And my clients have an even sillier idea that, since they have entrusted their problems to my wisdom, I should take steps to resolve them. Unreasonable, I know, when my readership is panting for the next pearls of wisdom to fall from the pen --er -- keyboard of Truth. Still, I should make some token gesture on each of their behalves. No doubt later on today something will annoy me enough to make me write a long commentary.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

AN ALTERNATIVE TO RIGHT-WING RADIO

I try to avoid the far-too-often used blogging technique of "link-quick comment." But this link needs to be made.

Mark A.R. Kleiman, one of my inspirations in blogging because he writes nice long commentaries with long complex sentences and sesquipedalian amphigory (just kidding, Dr. Kleiman) has picked up on a thread quickly running through the blogosphere: Weblogs are the answer to the left's inability to get our message out.

Mark and Hesiod, an "anonoblogger" (one who does not use his/her real name) are proponents of using the blog system to get out Democrats' message. Blogs have been highly effective for the left: blogs are credited for getting the word out about Trent Lott when the mainstream media wanted to ignore it. I think it's a fine idea, and should be considered in Nebraska.

The only problem is this: not many people in Nebraska know what a "blog" is. When I started this work of erudition and told people I had a "blog," most people suggested medical treatment. Now, I'm not suggested that we out here where the buffalo used to roam are benighted. Rather, I am suggesting that before the state Democratic Party start a blogger's alert pyramid (one of the ideas floated elsewhere), we better make sure that the liberal computer geekdom learn about blogs in the first place.

Some steps are being done to help that. Kos (another anonoblogger) has started The Political State Reporter, to which your humble reporter contributes. The mainstream media is finally discovering the blogosphere.

I think a note to the Nebraska Democratic Party newsletter editor is in order.
HEALTH CARE: FROM SOMEONE WHO'S IN THE MIDDLE OF IT

I just received these comments from Rennaisance Woman, who asked me to post them. RW has a degenerative lung disease and is dependent on a state catastrophic health care program, Medicare, and the kindness of strangers for her health care. Here's what she had to say about my "modest proposal:"

I have just perused your proposal for reforming the health care system. Please tell me exactly how this differs from several Republican plans that have been floated for the past couple of years (and from what several PPOs are offering now) and why it really makes a difference.

As someone who is struggling with all the worst of what the system has now, because I have a chronic, ultimately terminal illness, I can tell you from my perspective, your proposal isn't very good.

What might work better is to tweak Medicare (which, despite all the conservative clamor for ending it, actually is one of the more successful of LBJ's Great Society programs) so that the ill person can choose whether to apply his/her premiums toward either long-term care, hospital care, or medications, as the individual sees fit.

What we have here is another case of technology outstripping tactics (see, e.g., "The Civil War")--Medicare was designed in an age where the only care available in most cases was long-term hospitalization. Do you remember [a mutual friend]? Before he died several years ago, he was quite ill; Medicare was going to cover the costs of most of his treatment and other care IF he remained in the hospital. However, he felt he'd do better if he could go home, and wound up w/ several 10s of 1000s of $$ in bills Medicare refused to cover--all just because of WHERE he would be when getting the treatment.

Nowadays, people are living longer, and with more serious conditions, than ever before. A lot is due to advances in drug therapy. If I had my druthers, I'd apply the nearly $60/month Medicare docks me for hospital care (which I am not likely to need for years yet) against my prescription costs, which out-of-pocket run to nearly $300/month--if I get them all filled.

The system isn't keeping pace w/ the technology, and that's what needs to be changed.

[. . . ]

[A] lot of what you described is what is happening now, at least according to what I've seen of [a private corporation]'s plan--which I am not eligible for, being only a part-time employee.

It's really a mess. Every year, they buy a different plan w/ "better benefits" from a different provider, and every year, there's about a 3 month period when everyone who has a claim gets the major run-around because the old and new providers are arguing over who has to cover it. And even though a big chunk comes out of paychecks up front, the copays are still horrendous


That's another take. As always, I welcome comments.

WOULD DON WESLEY BE A BETTER STATE SENATOR THAN MAYOR?

A friend of mine has taken me to task recently for my criticisms of Don Wesley and his political dealings. You'll remember that I have been quite critical of what, to me and others, look like political payoffs, from the baseball stadium to the recent "exemptions" to the impact fees worked out between the Mayor and certain developers (which, somehow, nobody knew about until it looked like the exemptions weren't going to pass). Let it be noted that I will almost certainly vote for Don (assuming he runs) this spring and will damn sure NOT vote for or support Glen Freindt.

When Don Wesley was in the Unicameral (Nebraska's legislature, for those of you reading from out of state) he led the opposition to LB775, our corporate tax kickback bill. My friend sees inconsistency in my rabid opposition to LB 775 and my criticism of Don Wesley.

I'm afraid that's a bit oversimplistic. Mayor Don Wesley is not now in a position to oppose LB 775 -- and, in fact, with both Gallup (the poll-taking people) and a substantial portion of Goodyear (the tire and rubber people) moving jobs out of Lincoln, Wesley's position on LB 775 may well have changed. I don't know. If State Senator Don Wesley were still in there fighting against corporate kickbacks, I'd be cheering him on. That's not his job right now.

But maybe it should be. Don Wesley, the state legislator, was a damn fine legislator. Second, perhaps, only to Ernie Chambers, he was the terror of arch-conservatives. Something happened to him when he became mayor. Maybe he should go back to the Unicameral. He could do a lot of good there. There are several districts in Lincoln who would elect him with little effort.

Think about it, Don.
SIGN OF THE TIMES

Lincoln, Nebraska is home to a number of refugees from the troubles of the world. Over the last ten years we have received a large number of Iraqi and Irani Kurds seeking asylum from their respective governments. Many of these new residents are well-educated, well-motivated people who faced persecution and death in Iraq. We even have a former headmaster of a Kurdish school who was tortured by Saddam's troops for teaching pro-Western ideas in his school before he was able to escape with his family. My point: none of our Kurdish immigrants in Lincoln have much cause to love Saddam Hussein.

One family of these new immigrants was able to buy a restaurant in the heart of Lincoln's immigrant residential area. When it first opened, it was called the "Arabic Grill." (The food was pretty good, although the falafel was a bit overdone). As tensions with Iraq heated up, the name painted on the awning over the restaurant changed. Six months ago, it was changed to the "Babylon Cafe." I noticed this morning that it is now the "Peace Cafe." The Arabic grocery and clothing store next door to it is now the "Eurasia Grocery."

This reminds me of stories I heard from back in WWI, when Nebraska was heavily settled with first-generation Germans. There was a lot of sympathy here for the Fatherland, but once the US seemed bound to enter the war, "Rheinland Gasthauses" across the state suddenly became "Swiss Gardens."

There was good reason for the changes 90 years ago, and good reason for the changes today: The immigrants fear their neighbors. I am not aware of any rioting or destruction of property in 1918 just because it was owned by Germans, but I will bet there was suspicion of Germans once we entered the war, and I will also bet that more than once a heated argument in a tavern between a Hrabcek and a Schmidt devolved into "You murdering Hun!" just before punches were thrown. Today, especially with quasi-official sanction of suspicion of any Middle Easterners (except Israelis), the argument may well get violent more quickly.

May the name "Peace Cafe" represent the atmosphere around not only the cafe, but all of us in Nebraska, and elsewhere.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

NEW BLOG ON THE TURF

I try to restrict my blog links to those who do more than quote other bloggers or news articles. One person who has been a regular commentator on Eschaton (a.k.a. Atrios) is one who calls himself Digby. Digby now has his own blog, Hullablaloo. I add it to the links after reading his commentary. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
THE THEME FOR 2003: ELIMINATE LB 775!

As 2002 draws to a close there are so many issues, national and local, that deserve commentary that we on the barricades could get neck cramps just trying to keep track of all of them. Most of the national issues are being well covered by the national blogs: Atrios et al. have the issues of racism and the Iraqi war well under control; Mark Kleiman is taking point on the issues of the new leadership in the Senate. All of them will cover the runup to the 2004 elections.

I promised to try to keep this a Nebraska-oriented blog, and with that in mind, there are some issues that I will concentrate on in the coming year. It won't get this blog the kind of readership Atrios gets (he finished 2002 at over 180,000 hits for December!) but it will keep my target readership interested (I hope!). So here are the issues I see coming up this year for Nebraska, in no particular order:

- The Lincoln mayoral election and the GOP blitz to put a Republican in office

- The rebuilding of the Nebraska Democratic party

- The continuing slide of the farm economy in Nebraska

- The drought and efforts to alleviate its effects on farmers and ranchers

- The appellate fate of Nebraska's death penalty (for you non-Nebraskans, we are the last electric chair state)

- The growth of Nebraska's Hispanic population

- Continuing cuts to the state budget in response to decreasing tax revenue

It is within this last issue that I intend to make my priority this next year. LB 775, the bill that was passed over a decade ago which gives serious tax cuts, credits, and rebates to businesses in Nebraska, has remained a sacred cow through times of ever-increasing cuts across the board. Even this year, with two special sessions called to make cuts in state spending, state senators have refused to even discuss any cuts to the payments made to businesses under this program. The best they can do is discuss "increased disclosure" (currently we don't even know who gets how much under the bill).

This giveaway must stop. If our legislature is too cowardly to change it themselves, let us use the power of the initiative to remove it. The cry from the Barricades, echoing Cato of two millennia ago, shall be:

775 delenda est! 775 must be destroyed!


THE THEME FOR 2003: ELIMINATE LB 775!

As 2002 draws to a close there are so many issues, national and local, that deserve commentary that we on the barricades could get neck cramps just trying to keep track of all of them. Most of the national issues are being well covered by the national blogs: Atrios, The Daily Kos, et al. have national issues, including the issues of racism and the Iraqi war well under control; Mark Kleiman and others are taking point on the issues of the new leadership in the Senate. All of them will cover the runup to the 2004 elections.

I promised to try to keep this a Nebraska-oriented blog, and with that in mind, there are some issues that I will concentrate on in the coming year. It won't get this blog the kind of readership Atrios gets (he finished 2002 at over 280,000 hits for December!) but it will keep my target readership interested (I hope!). So here are the issues I see coming up this year for Nebraska, in no particular order:

- The Lincoln mayoral election and the GOP blitz to put a Republican in office

- The rebuilding of the Nebraska Democratic party

- The continuing slide of the farm economy in Nebraska

- The drought and efforts to alleviate its effects on farmers and ranchers

- The appellate fate of Nebraska's death penalty (for you non-Nebraskans, we are the last electric chair state)

- The growth of Nebraska's Hispanic population

- Continuing cuts to the state budget in response to decreasing tax revenue

It is within this last issue that I intend to make my priority this next year. LB 775, the bill that was passed over a decade ago which gives serious tax cuts, credits, and rebates to businesses in Nebraska, has remained a sacred cow through times of ever-increasing cuts across the board. Even this year, with two special sessions called to make cuts in state spending, state senators have refused to even discuss any cuts to the payments made to businesses under this program. The best they can do is discuss "increased disclosure" (currently we don't even know who gets how much under the bill).

This giveaway must stop. If our legislature is too cowardly to change it themselves, let us use the power of the initiative to remove it. The cry from the Barricades, echoing Cato of two millennia ago, shall be:

775 delenda est! 775 must be destroyed!


Tuesday, December 31, 2002

WHERE DO YOU GET OFF TELLING ME?!?

Nebraskans, like many states with a rural orientation, are great for telling people, "Where the hell do you get off telling me...?" if they think someone doesn't know what the hell they are talking about. Let someone from Omaha come to Dundy County (way out west, for you in Douglas County who think the state ends at Memorial Stadium) and tell them how to use their land, and you'll hear that phrase. Omahans don't know jack about raising cattle! Where the hell do they get off telling us how to raise our cattle? Our philosophy is this: if you didn't grow up doing it, if you've never done it yourself, if you've never tried it, you have no grounds to tell us how to do it or what to do.

Based on that philosophy, Nebraskans ought to be united in opposition to the war on Iraq. Why? Because there ain't a one of the people in the administration pushing this war who've ever been shot at in anger! Neither Cheney nor Rumsfeld ever wore a uniform of any sort. Dubya was a pilot in the Texas Air Guard for a couple of years, where he occasionally stood alert against invasions from Mexico. True, Cheney was secretary of defense during the late Gulf war. But that can't really count since the Iraqis gave up so quickly. Cheney didn't have much to do. Besides, he had two brilliant generals working for him: Norman Schwartzkopf and Colin Powell. Now Powell is the Secretary of State and he's the one voice of moderation in this bunch dancing a war dance.

Today Rep. Charles Rangel announces that he will introduce legislation to bring back the draft in an attempt to make this war thing more of a shared experience. In his op-ed piece, he points out that only one member of Congress has a child serving as an enlisted member of the military (read: grunt), and only a few as officers. I don't know how many in Congress have ever worn a uniform at all; I will bet long odds it's fewer than half and maybe fewer than a third (if anyone knows, drop me an email).

So, all you chicken hawks who don't know jack about being in a war, where the hell do you get off telling us we have to go to war? You don't know sh*t about what's involved about war. Your kids won't die in the war. Your money won't be eaten up in the taxes to pay the war. So don't tell us what you want. We don't want it. Or at least we shouldn't.

UPDATE

If you want more information on who is a chickenhawk, have a look at The Chickenhawk Database. I would also be curious about our own Nebraska delegation. As far as I know, here's how it shakes out:

Senate:
Chuck Hagel: Served in Vietnam with distinction. Opposes the war in Iraq.
Ben Nelson: Did not serve in the military.

House of Representatives:
Doug Bereuter: Unknown
Lee Terry: Unknown
Tom Osborne: Unknown, but I believe he did not serve.

Governor Mike Johanns: Did not serve
Attorney General Jon Bruning: Too young to be drafted. Did not volunteer.

If you have more information on these or other Nebraska leaders' military service, please email me.

Monday, December 30, 2002

LOCAL ACTIVIST REVEALS PERVERSE FANTASIES

I can't keep it a secret any longer. I want to possess Anne Coulter. I must have her. I want to make her scream "**** ME, YOU LIBERAL BASTARD!!!!!"

Seriously, doesn't anyone know where her off switch is? Her stuff is so out of touch with reality I refuse to link to it. (by the way, if you go to www.annecoulter.com you wind up in a very interesting place. Not a political site at all.) Now I know why she won "Most Annoying Conservative."

Sigh.

JUST WHEN I'M READY TO ASSASSINATE EVERYONE UNDER 18. . .

Those of you who read this from outside Nebraska will snicker at this article about kids in Schuyler (pronounced SKY-ler, population about 4,000) raising money to refurbish an old theater so they can have movies in town. Snicker on. You don't know Schuyler.

Schuyler is home to Excel Packing, one of the larger meatpacking plants in Nebraska. Perhaps one quarter of those four thousand people in town are Hispanic. The economy in the town depends on Excel and agriculture. Everybody in the town -- farmers, meatpackers, and businesspeople -- work their butts off and are proud of what they do. That spirit of working and pride in what they do is the kernel of a unity between otherwise disparate people.

Sure there are a few problems between those who can't adjust to the fact that the old Sinclair Station on Main Street is now run by a guy named Gonzales, and one or two malcontents complain about it as they sit in the cafe (owned by a Mexican immigrant). But when I overheard someone complain about it one day, I heard his waitress (a Gringo) reply, "You complain all you want, Mike, but Manuel did a helluva lot better job on my car than your brother did!"

At the local real estate agency they have busted their butts to find a Spanish speaking realtor because of the number of new immigrants who want to buy houses. Not just junker houses, but nice houses that get fixed up. Property values, say one agent of my acquaintance, don't go down when the Latinos move in. They go up because they fix up their houses.

You can bet that of those kids who are raising money to refinish this movie house, a good chunk of them are named Rodriguez or Gomez as well as Hrabcek or Wojciechowicz (the last big group of immigrants in this neck of the woods were Czechs and Poles a hundred years ago). And you can bet that the movie house will show not just English-language movies but Spanish-language movies. And it will be the kids who will lead the push for that, too.

Those kids are pretty cool. I think I'll let them live.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

PURE, CLEAR, WATER

In the worlds of academia; in the cities; in the South, and, really, at the heart of what we as liberals and Democrats believe, the issues of racism are truly important. But in the state of Nebraska, fighting racism isn't going to win a lot of votes -- certainly not enough to win an election. (Not that we shouldn't fight racism). There are other issues that will win us votes and that are falling into our Nebraskan laps as much as the Lott issue has fallen into liberal laps.

Take for instance the fact that some seventy or so percent of the state is still in some stage of a drought. That's bad; the memories of the Dust Bowl are still with some of our grandparents. Irrigation has mitigated some of the costs, but the fact is that the Ogallalla Aquifer -- the place we get the water for irrigation -- won't sustain pumping at the level it's taking right now. And more and more farmers and ranchers are tanking it in even with irrigation. You see, it costs money to buy irrigation equipment -- drill wells, run pumps, etc. Farmers and ranchers are borrowing money for irrigation and not repaying it -- meaning default, bankruptcy, and defeat for very proud people.

A Republican administration isn't going to do much for them. Laissez faire is the rule of the day. The state's new Attorney General has already made it clear he isn't going to prevent violators of the Family Farm Act from continuing to scoff at the law of the state. The state tax coffers are as dry as the fields -- except for those which pump kickbacks into businesses in Lincoln and Omaha. More cuts will be mandated this session in the Legislature. Only the businesses will continue to thrive.

Meanwhile, not only must our aquifer water our own fields, but now companies from out of our state want to ship our water to Colorado, thus depleting the aquifer even faster.

This isn't a tree-hugging Sierra Club environmental issue. This is something farmers can grasp. The GOP must keep mum on it. If Hagel et al. say anything, they must needs point out how the national GOP is unwilling to help its mainstay here in the "heartland."

Mr. Achepohl, this is a gift from the gods as potentially valuable as Trent Lott -- perhaps more so. If the Nebraska Democratic Party does not have a point-by-point plan for drought relief in hand to wave around at the Unicameral and at our congressional delegation, we are missing one of our best chances to reverse the disaster of 2002. We must have plans for introduction at the Resource District level, the Public Utility District level, the Unicameral, and in Congress. That means working before the Issues Committees meet in February. Oh well, that's the price that gets paid for leading a party.