Dem Lynch Mob Might Hang President’s Hopes - 07-16-09
A Varied Menu For You To Consider - 06-25-09
Notre Dame And Obama
Offer A Splendid Lesson - 05-21-09
Upsets Even Liberals - 03-26-09
‘Adults In Wonderland’
Need To Get Real - 01-15-09
This Time It’s Indians
Who Break The Treaty - 12-18-08
Me? A Grumpy Old Man?
One Reader Thinks So - 12-11-08
Top Athletes Should
Know When to Quit? - 7-24-08
Omaha Stars Again
On National TV Stage - 7-02-08
Obama ‘Stumbling’ To Victory? - 5-08-08
"‘Charisma’ Not Always a Good Thing" - 2-27-08
"Nosy Congress Makes
Three Bad Calls" - 10-26-07
"Right Decision Could
Help Both Fair, UNL" - 10-12-07
"Stop Trying To Make God A Republican" - 10-6-07
A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
And, if you haven’t already done so, let us know your e-mail address so that we can send you a weekly reminder when a new column is available.
First, a reminder:
Attractive, hardbound copies of “Life With Marian”—a book which a good many readers have said they would be interested in owning—are still available for purchase (for $22.50) at The Bookworm in Countryside Village. If more convenient, you can now also send a check payable to Harold W. Andersen for $26.66 (includes tax and postage) and mail to me at P.O. Box 27347, Omaha, NE, 68127. A copy will be sent by return mail.
April 2, 2009
When a definitive history is written telling the story of how the United States fell into the current economic crisis, one wonders if liberal Democratic politicians will continue to be the beneficiaries of an outrageous political scam. Don’t bet against it.
But still, the voice of truth continues to sound faintly from time to time through the storm of indignant criticism of bankers (including especially Wall Street investment banks), some major American corporations and, of course, the Bush administration—the target of liberal blame for just about everything bad that has happened in this country in the past eight years.
A recent example of the occasional voice of truth from the past was sent my way by a friend who is circulating copies of a story which appeared in—of all places—the liberal New York Times on September 30, 1999. The headline read: “Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending.” The story began:
“In a move that could help increase home ownership rates among minorities and low-income consumers, the Fannie Mae Corporation is easing the credit requirements on loans that it will purchase from banks and other lenders.”
The Times story continued: “Fannie Mae, the nation’s biggest underwriters of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people.”
Pressure was coming, too, The Times story said, from banks, thrift institutions and mortgage companies which wanted to make more loans to “borrowers whose incomes, credit ratings and savings are not good enough to qualify for conventional loans,” families whom Fannie Mae had helped by reducing down payment requirements.
Yet, said Fannie Mae’s chairman and chief executive officer in 1999, “there remain too many borrowers whose credit is just a notch below what our underwriting has required who have been relegated to paying significantly higher mortgage rates in the so-called subprime market.”
And then this ominous warning from New York Times reporter Steven A. Holmes: “In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn.”
Fannie Mae did indeed run into trouble, helping drag much of the rest of the American economy into trouble, but don’t bet that the major culprits, Democratic politicians like Bill Clinton and Representative Barney Frank and Senator Chris Dodd will ever be held publicly responsible for their leading role in starting the downslide by trying to turn homeownership into a sort of Federal welfare program.
* * *
Ever since the early 1950s when the late, great Gregg McBride (the hardest working and most popular sportswriter in Nebraska history) and I were the sole members of The World-Herald Lincoln Bureau staff, I have had an understandable close interest in the news which flows into and out of Nebraska’s capital city.
And in that more than half a century of following the news that involves the state’s capital in one way or another, I can’t recall any story more revolting than the current discussion of a plan to install the state’s abandoned electric chair in what is described as “a proposed museum on rural electrification” in McCook, described as “home of the late U.S. Senator George W. Norris, the father of public power.”
The proposal, pushed by McCook museum boosters and supported by State Senator Mark Christensen of Imperial, has flaws so obvious that those involved should be ashamed of themselves.
In the first place, it is simply atrocious taste to put on public display such a controversial symbol of death. Former State Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who has led efforts to repeal Nebraska’s death penalty, was right on calling the idea “tasteless” and “asinine,” demonstrating “vulgar insensitivity that borders on the obscene.”
In the second place, what possible rationale for including an abandoned electric chair in a museum supposedly dedicated to telling the story of rural electrification?
This idea—placing the electric chair, a symbol of death, in a museum devoted to rural electrification—makes about as much sense as rationalizing that McCook, is a logical place for a rural electrification museum because it is the home of George Norris, described in a news account as “the father of public power.”
Anyone who believes that Norris could accurately be described as “the father of public power” hasn’t been paying attention to history or recurrent journalistic rebuttals of the Norris/public power legend. The truth is—as has been reported from time to time, including in a column in the Sunday World-Herald June 17, 2007—Norris wasn’t the father of public power anywhere nor the father of rural electrification.
The public power movement in Nebraska started in the early years of the 20th century, without Norris being involved. As early as 1915, the Nebraska Legislature passed a bill authorizing the formation of hydroelectric public power districts. By the late 1920s, without any help from Senator Norris, Nebraska had the largest number of municipally-owned—and thus public—electric power plants of any state in the union.
And a number of fairly sizable rural public power districts had already been organized before Norris in 1935 co-authored a Federal law to create the Rural Electrification Administration an independent lending agency rather than a Depression-era “emergency relief” entity.
One would hope that if the proposed tourist-attracting museum is ever built in McCook it won’t claim that Norris had a role in the birth of public power and it will make clear that his helpful role in rural electrification did not include fatherhood.
Typical of the poor taste involved in this whole sorry business is the nickname which someone gave to the electric chair: “Old Sparky.”
* * *
Here we go again, “studies” knocking the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test used to screen for signs of prostate cancer. We read again the argument that the tests save few lives and lead to risky and unnecessary treatment for large numbers of men.
I can write with some personal experience in this matter, since I have lived 15 years after my cancerous prostate was removed after being diagnosed with the aid of PSA testing and biopsies which tested samples of the prostate for cancer.
An argument against PSA tests is that prostate cancer which they help diagnosis is relatively infrequently fatal because, the critics suggest, you are likely to die of something else before you might die of prostate cancer.
A common saying is that more men die with prostate cancer than because of it.
Almost completely overlooked in this ongoing controversy, it seems to me, is the fact that positive PSA/biopsy testing does not somehow automatically lead on to an operation to remove the prostate. The testing gives the doctor a basis for counseling the patient as to his options and—and this is important—gives a patient the information he needs to decide the course of action.
Presumably most male patients would have the intelligence to make a sound decision after listening to a doctor or doctors discuss the chance a cancer fatality based on the extent of the cancer and—and this is important—the patient’s age.
I remember well that the doctor who confirmed, after an elevated PSA reading and a biopsy, that I had prostate cancer of moderate size. “If you could tell me how long you’re going to live, Andy, I would tell you what to do,” the doctor said somewhat facetiously.
I consulted a couple of other experts, then decided that I, of course, couldn’t tell how long I was going to live but I didn’t want to live with a potentially growing cancer inside me.
The decision was to have the prostate removed—not an easy call, and I would not have criticized someone in my same situation who made the decision to live with a cancerous prostate.
But I made my decision 15 years ago—at age 70. I’m not at all sure that any doctor would have been willing to predict 15 years ago that I would still be alive today if the cancerous prostate had not been removed.
Arm them with the information, counsel them as to the options, and then let the patient make up his own mind. Is this somehow medically unsound? I don’t think so.
* * *
A recent Washington Post story raises an interesting and potentially troublesome question:
Is the American melting pot—that nation-binding characteristic which has enabled generations of Americans to retain a pride in their national origins but takes a greater pride in considering themselves Americans—losing some of its ability to “melt” and merge separate ethnic groups?
The Post story began with this example: Katie Xian immigrated from China when she was 6 and always thought of herself as Americanized—“until she started dating.”
Subtle cultural clashes with Caucasian or Latino boyfriends led to unhappy breakups, and made Katie realize she is more Chinese than she thought. Now she wants to meet a man of Asian descent. Katie, the Post story indicated, is an example of what scholars found in delving into U.S. Census figures.
Although interracial marriages overall have increased, the rate of Hispanics and Asians marrying partners of other races declined in the past two decades.
The number of native and foreign-born people marrying outside their race fell from 27 to 20% for Hispanics and 42 to 33% for Asians, according to an Iowa State University sociologist who has studied the subject.
So, again the question: Are we headed towards more cultural “islands,” floating unmelted the great American “melting pot”? This further thought occurs: Here in Omaha, do we have an example—spurred by immigration either legal or illegal—of an Hispanic “island” in South Omaha?
* * *
An “Opinion” page in The New York Times, last Sunday’s edition, seemed to me to offer two examples of what might be called “liberal lunacy.”
Regular Times readers have come to expect Maureen Dowd to attempt to draw attention by some far-fetched, supposedly humorous jabs at conservatives. So it was no surprise to see her column starting out with a suggestion that George Bush and Dick Cheney performed badly because they “were very, very white men with blue eyes.”
But instead of switching from “white men with blue eyes” criticism, Dowd wrote an entire column without giving any indication that she was less than dead serious in her belief that white men with blue eyes make untrustworthy political leaders. She ended her the column with these words:
“With Michelle urging students to aim for A’s and the president promising to make school ‘cool,’ brown eyes may finally—and rightfully—overtake blue as the windows of winners.”
On the same page was a long column whose theme was reflected in the subhead:
“If Americans are really so angry, where are the protests? The riots?”
The author, Sudhir Venkatesh, recalled with apparent pleasure—or at least with nostalgia—Chicago in the summer of 1992 when “I watched a rally explode into a riot” protesting high grocery prices.
The long column by Venkatesch—that seemed to swing back and forth between nonviolence or riots as a means of citizen protest—ended with these words:
“Fury can inspire real protests, nonviolence, civil disobedience, even good old fashioned town-hall meetings. That’s how we’ll recover our public life and perhaps help one another through this crisis, storming angrily into the streets and then, once we’re out there, actually talking to one another.”
I guess you could say the columnist was trying to modify his anger over the loss of riots, but he seemed reluctant to see that form of emotional catharsis disappear. And he still hopes, apparently, that people will still find occasion to storm angrily into the streets even if they simply wind up talking to each other.
I suppose white, blue-eyed citizens would avoid such street rallies, wimping out by choosing rational debate and discussion instead.
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