Saturday, January 18, 2003


In reading the coverage of the worldwide protests against our pending, willy-nilly, invasion of Iraq, an idea ocurred to me. Follow my chain of logic here:

Bush wants to make war against Iraq because it is an enemy of the United States.

Bush and his war against Iraq is strongly supported by the religious right.

The religious right insists that the United States is a Christian nation .

The founder of Christianity, one Jesus of Nazareth, said, "[W]hosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." Matt. 5:39.

One religion, however, teaches that "If a man smites you on one cheek, smash him on the other.." That is Anton LaVey's Church of Satan, see, "Rules of Behavior."

By following the "smash them on the other cheek" policy against Iraq, Bush is following SATANIST, not Christian teachings.

So I aks you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury: who does George Dubya Bush really work for?

Geeze, you take a day off for opening night of a play ("Dangerous Liaisons" at the Lincoln Community Playhouse; I play a butler) and all political hell breaks loose.

Don Wesley won't run for mayor of Lincoln again. He said he wanted to leave office "on a high note." He's certainly doing that; the print editions of the Journal-Star contain three full pages of columns of wonderfulness about his term in office and Don himself.

The Republicans targeted Don Wesley and the mayoralty of Lincoln as part of their complete subjugation of the State of Nebraska to the rich. More recently we got a taste of the scorched earth tactics the Republicans were willing to use to drive Wesley out of office. And we up here on the Barricades have pointed out several times that Don Wesley is vulnerable to attacks and even suggested maybe he would be more effective in the Legislature than the mayor's office -- although once the Republicans got personal, we trained our guns on Republican mayoral candidate Glen Friendt.

According to the J-S, this move came as a surprise to most everyone. Based on the noises Steve Achepohl, state Democratic party chairman, is making, up until his announcement yesterday, the Democrats were counting on having Don lead phase I of the party's recovery process. After all, he's probably the strongest and most progressive of the currently serving Democrats in the state (all three of them), and if he could have gotten past the personal attacks that certainly would have come, his record as mayor would have carried him to re-election.

Interestingly enough, from a tactical standpoint this is the GOP's worst nightmare in Lincoln. Like the Democrats for the last four years, the GOP in Lincoln hasn't had much to offer except to say that they aren't Don Wesley. Glenn Friendt is, as I've said many times before, a nonentity. My political combatant and personal friend Bob Valentine says he's a nice guy; we all know where nice guys finish. Without Wesley to run against, the GOP has nothing to run on in Lincoln.

The Democrats, on the other hand, have a very strong legacy on which to build now that Wesley as a person is out of the picture. Lincoln is the only major city in the state not facing serious budget cuts. Its growth is well-ordered, rather than haphazard, as is Omaha's. With the passage of an impact fee ordinance, whether developers like it or not (and they don't), the cost of growth is more evenly spread out.

Perversely, a Republican candidate for Mayor faces one vulnerability which he can't really control: Lincoln's dependence on government work. Lincoln is a government town. A major chunk of the money which flows through the city merchants' coffers comes out of the general budget. If the GOP-controlled (despite the nominal non-partisanship of the Unicameral, let's not play games) Unicameral makes more government cuts, as it must, this will affect Lincoln. A GOP mayor of Lincoln may find himself in the unenviable position of having to say that his party is wrong. Or such a candidate may be vulnerable to accusations that he can't be a strong advocate for Lincoln's economy because his party loyalties will be to undermining a major support of his city's funds. I hope this irony isn't lost on the next Democratic candidate.

Speaking of which, here's who's shown interest in running as of this morning's update to the Journal-Star:

- City Councilmember Colleen Seng. Quite progressive, has a reputation as a "feisty lady." In some circles, also has a reputation as a bit "dingy."

- State Senator Chris Beutler. Says he will run if no other city council members run. In one regard, this would be a great approach: he is a master campaigner and would leave Friendt looking like the zero he is. On the other hand, he's a very strong asset to have in the Unicameral. I'd hate to lose his expertise before he's term-limited out.

- Bob Van Valkenburg. He's a fringe nutball. Don't believe it? Have a look at his website, which is too fancy to be a blog. (but what's in a name?)

Other names thrown around (mostly by me)

- Jon Carlson. Young but very active. He's not only a neighborhood activist but a rental property owner as well. Ran unsuccessfully for city council two years ago and has remained active in Democratic politics since then. If he can stay away from his "all things to all people" approach, he could be a strong candidate, without taking away valuable assets from other offices.

- Former City Councilman Jerry Shoecraft. Shoe had some financial problems a couple of years ago that cost him his council seat but his peacemaking role in the Malone Center collapse and his work with them since its renaissance has gained him much respect.

Whoever runs, let's hope the state Democrats give him some good grassroots backing. This will be good practice for the 2004 elections and the 2006 gubernatorial race, which is what Steve Achepohl says is the party's target date to take back major parts of the state.

One more thing: Don, remember that there will be state legislature elections in two years. That's enough time for the unpleasant rumors to have cooled down. I've said it before: you were a damned good state senator, and that's where you need to be again.

Thursday, January 16, 2003


I just posted an update on the Plattsmouth, Nebraska Ten Commandments case on The Political State Report. The ACLU-Nebraska took this case on because it was a clear violation of 1st Amendment caselaw. We will win it; the precedent is not even in doubt.

But the ACLU-Nebraska has exactly two full-time staff. Sorry, make that one overworked, underpaid full time executive director, one overworked, underpaid 3/4 time attorney, and various overworked, underpaid half-time folks and a bunch of volunteers. Their budget is very limited. Given the current Ashcroft regime, the battles the ACLU has to fight are ever increasing. With the coming roundup of Middle Easterners, you can bet there will be a bunch of civil rights violations in Nebraska before you can say "Ashcroft is a Nazi!"

While I know that the religious display cases have the "right" on their side, I wonder if there aren't other cases that might be a better use of scarce funds and attorneys? Not long after Tim Butz took over as the new executive director of the ACLU-Nebraska, we cut back on our prisoner cases (didn't eliminate them, just cut back) to concentrate on other matters. Should the ACLU-Nebraska do the same so we can fight for more fundamental rights -- like maybe the right not to be dragged off because one happens to be named "Abu Sayyid?"

Wednesday, January 15, 2003


Donald Rumsfeld has the TEMERITY to say that draftees from the Vietnam War added "no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services . . . because the churning that took place, it took an enormous amount of effort in terms of training, and then they were gone." Congratulations, Don Rumsfeld. You just insulted an entire generation of men who fought, lost buddies, and died in hellish conditions.

Go down to the Vietnam Memorial sometime, Don, and read the names on the wall. Ask your staff -- made up of kids who never saw a war -- how many of the dead named there were draftees. Then tell their families they added "no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services."


In its original form, this post alleged that Rumsfeld never wore a uniform. I am wrong and apologize to Secretary Rumsfeld, who is a former Navy pilot (and probably will never read this). However, in a sense, this makes his statement even more outrageous: having been in the military, he has no excuse for not recognizing the contribution of draftees to our armed forces and especially to the war in Vietnam. The more important point is this: the draftees fought and died in Vietnam along with the volunteers. To say they added "no value" to our armed forces is offensive.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003


A quote from P.L.A. concerning the use of political power:
Mojo is a renewable resource. If you use it . . . your supply will increase in the [next] fight . . . . People will sign on for the fight when they see that it is possible to win. The exercise of political power makes you stronger not weaker.

I can't add anything to that.

There is a to-do going on in the blogosphere concerning one John Lott and his much-quoted statistics that "98% of defensive use of handguns consists of mere brandishing." I got tipped off to it from Bloguru Mark A.R. Kleiman. He, in turn, links us to James Lindgren of the Northwest University School of Law, who has a very telling set of evidence that this statistic is, at best erratic and more likely is falsified.

The bottom line is this: This John Lott character appears to have falsified data, and perhaps made up a survey of whole cloth, on which he basis his arguments that possession of handguns reduces crime. He uses this as a springboard for magazine articles, media interviews, and a book. Needless to say, others quote him to back their arguments in favor of loosened handgun possession laws and concealed carry laws.

This is particularly germaine in Nebraska right now. State Senator Gene "Is It The 20th Century Yet?" Tyson has again introduced his concealed-carry bill in the Nebraska legislature. He has 23 co-introducers -- he needs 25 to pass the bill; 30 to get past champion fillibusterer Ernie Chambers. At the committee hearing on the bill you can count on someone citing to the Lott study or his book. I for one plan to be there to shove this down their throats. Not that it will make any difference.

Nebraska's violent crime rate has been decreasing -- down 35 to 328 per 100,000 residents from 2001 to 2002. Yet Tyson clings to this silly idea that we need concealed weapons to "protect ourselves."

From what?

I refuse to give any credibility to a commander in chief who went AWOL from his Texas Air National Guard unit, apparently so he could go play politics somewhere else. Read here, and here for starters. President Bush, will you show us your DD 214?

Larry Paquette, a sourcing manager for a manufacturing company in Fresno California, has written a piece in the LA Times, ""Don't Hate Me Because I'm Rich." This piece also surfaced in the Lincoln Journal Star. A few excerpts:

My sin is that I am in the financial top 10% of the country -- those making $100,000 or more -- the 35% tax bracket, a member of the so-called rich. . . . .However, I feel no need to defend my position. Over the years I have worked hard and earned every dollar of the obscene wealth I am accused of hoarding.


I worked two jobs to put myself through college. While many my age were off to sporting events or dating or cooling off at swim parties on muggy August nights, I was working in a sweltering factory, assembling bicycles until 2 in the morning. I can't say for sure where the bleeding hearts were then, but they were not standing next to me night after night, sweating over that endless assembly line.

Bravo, stout fellow!

The irrefutable fact is that money withheld and spent on welfare by a confiscatory and inefficient government does not create new jobs. Jobs are created from the dividends and investments made by myself and those far wealthier than me. They result from money put at risk, with a chance for an equitable return commensurate with the risk. New companies, new ventures, new products and new jobs are a direct result of investment exposure. That is the heart of capitalism.

It never seems to occur to Paquette that it takes two to create wealth: the person who has the means of funding a service or the manufacturing of a product, and those who actually provide the service or produce the product. It's a symbiotic relationship. Call me a marxist, but I fail to see why the guy with the bags of money should get proportionally more than the guy who is "sweating over that endless assembly line." No, perhaps the unskilled worker need not make $10 million a year with stock options. But at least the unskilled janitor can show positive results, where the CEO with the stock options whose corporation tanks it in somehow keeps his $10 million a year plus stock options. Who earned their salary more honestly? You tell me.

For every Larry Paquette working his way up the assembly line to a CEO's position there are twenty who won't get there because they have families to feed by themselves, and the money that would go for college has to go to feed the families. Tough luck, perhaps, as Larry might say. For every Larry Paquette who worked to put himself through college to earn his position, there is a George W. Bush who got to college on daddy's money and influence. For every widget that Larry's company sells to make the money to pay Larry, there are hundreds working to bring that money in; hundreds who make it possible for Larry to earn the rich salary he glories in having earned.

I don't know many who want a handout. I do know lot of people who want to be treated fairly. CEOs making tens of millions of dollars for riding failing companies into the ground while their workers make minimum wages and watch retirement funds dwindle to nothingness isn't fair treatment. Neither is it welfare. It's called a fair wage for a fair day's work. What's wrong with that, Larry?

Monday, January 13, 2003


I'm sure it's been done before, but since I'm relatively new at this, I'm soliciting comments from my fellow bloggers on why you spend anywhere from one to twenty-eight hours a day writing, reading other blogs, combing through internet news services and calming down from reading mainstream and opposition pundits whilst producing your blogs. Please add your comments under "Your $.02 Worth." Thanks in advance.

Atrios, the Grand Poobah of left wing political bloggers (I have to be nice to him because he was one of the first big leaguers to link to my site and I almost always agree with him/her/it/them), wants to end heartland welfare among the big square states in the middle of the country. He says that "farm subsidies are likely the largest income redistribution program in the country. Add in the increased costs to consumers due to ridiculous agricultural tariffs, and we see that these "Americans" actually love redistribution - as long as they benefit from it."

These comments are sparked by commentary by David Brooks, author of Bobos in Paradise (a book I happened to enjoy if only for the description of the bobo kitchen) in the Times. He seems to think that most people don't want to attack the rich because, despite all evidence to the contrary, they think maybe someday they might be rich themselves. Atrios and many of his commentators are unhappy because those in the "big square states" are perfectly happy taking wealth redistribution (in the form of farm assistance and import tariffs, I assume) but keep voting for the party that doesn't want to redistribute wealth in a more overt and direct way.

I can understand the point. Crop subsidies, land banking, drought assistance, farm loan guarantees, and so forth are little more than welfare for farmers and ranchers. But you have to remember that the farmer or the rancher doesn't consider himself a worker. He's a businessman, on the same level with Chrysler or any other business that the feds bail out. In the minds of farmers and ranchers, farm assistance is not a handout; it's an investment to keep the people of this country from starving or paying $5.00 a loaf for bread or $20.00 a pound for hamburger. It keeps farmers off welfare (yes, yes, I see the logical problem there). It strengthens our country's exports. And so forth. Besides, if all the farms fail, what are we going to do with all the unemployed farmers?

This, however, isn't why the farmers and ranchers out here don't vote Democrat. It's because they have bought a few basic myths:

- Democrats, and especially liberals, want only to raise taxes, especially property taxes, for programs that won't benefit me.

- Democrats, especially liberals, want to take God away from me.

- Democrats want to make everybody become a homosexual.

- Democrats want to surrender this country to the United Nations.

- My parents voted Republican, therefore I have to vote Republican.

- Besides, if anybody finds out I voted Democrat, I'd be run out of town.

Mike Meister, during his run for Attorney General, was fond of pointing out exactly what Atrios said. He also pointed out that the generous nature of Nebraskans is a very liberal trait. Yet he got his lips ripped off last November. The bottom line is this: folks in these big square states just hate Democrats because the Democrats have sat back and let the Republicans sell the Big Lie for years without answering it.

As for Brooks' contention that each community believes it is the "best" and feels sorry for everyone else, I am afraid that's true out here in the hinterlands. There are a goodly number of kids who grow up in small towns and can't wait to leave to go to the Big City (Omaha, population 300,000!) but that's about as far as they go. I know many, many professionals and artistic types who ran away to New York or L.A. in their youth who returned here to raise families. They like it here and truly do feel sorry for New Yorkers who live stacked up on each other or Angelinos who drive an hour to go to the grocery store. (Again, so do people in the Sandhills, but somehow it's different -- plus la change, plus la meme chose). They don't want to be New Yorkers -- and they don't really believe they will become Warren Buffet. They'd like to be able to pay the bills regularly, and everything over that is gravy. Or so goes the myth.

I'm not sure why Atrios says we have "disproportionate" political power. If I count all the states west of the Mississippi from Montana to Oklahoma and exclude Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, I get 66 electoral votes -- fewer than the West Coast states. And they are hardly monolithic: Utah's interests are not Nebraska's, for example. Maybe if the Democrats would come here more often we might be able to undermine the Big Lie. Remember, this was the home of populism a hundred years ago.

But yes, Atrios, we in the Big Square States like income redistribution if the money comes our way. It just has to be sugar-coated to make it look like we earned it. And perhaps that's the secret all around, anyway. The only income redistribution I see is when the money all goes up and stays in the hands of the wealthiest 1%. The guys at the bottom earn it. Maybe the message just needs to be framed in those terms to make it clearer to the American public.

Let's talk about two Nebraska state senators who win the Barricades Award for Taking the Clock Back to the 19th Century.

Lincoln Senator Mike Foley is an aberration: a far right winger in what is probably the most progressive city in Nebraska. (That puts it somewhere in the middle by my estimation.) What are his issues? In a recent mailing to solicit contributions to offset his campaign debt (he refuses to accept special interest money, which I suppose, is praiseworthy), he touted his "work against a bill that would have banned workplace discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation." (LJS 1/13/03 He also led the drive to enact a bill making it a crime to kill a viable fetus during commission of a crime (which is subject to appeal, of course) and now wants to establish a private right of civil action for killing a fetus. Foley hits some sympathy with his Catholic constituency (which is not the same as his district). The worse news is that with a more conservative legislature this year, his bill may well pass.

Meanwhile up in the wilds of Norfolk, home town of Johnny Carson, hhhheeeeeeerrrrrrrrrr'es fellow Norfolkian Gene Tyson, who once again wants to allow Nebraskans to carry concealed weapons. The proposal failed last year and, God willing, will fail this year. However, Tyson has a more friendly legislature this year. He also has the sympathy of the Unicameral in one regard: he represents the town where five were killed by two Mexican (and no one will forget to mention that) bankrobbers in just two minutes. Of course, if those bank tellers had been armed, they'd be alive today. Whether anyone else in the bank would be alive is another question.

To The Barricades is now equipped to take your comments. Click on the "Your $.02 worth?" link below. I may regret this.

Sunday, January 12, 2003


Read this. Then tell me what the writer had in mind.

I need to read this blog more often. So do you. It goes on the links.