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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
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Me? A Grumpy Old Man?
One Reader Thinks So - 12-11-08
Top Athletes Should
Know When to Quit? - 7-24-08
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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
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"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.
June 25, 2009
Today’s topics, described briefly to you with the hope that you will find one or more of them of interest (hopefully, all of them of interest!):
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First serving from today’s menu:
There are some pretty tough questions, so let’s say this is a pop quiz in History 101, a senior-level course.
The recent celebration of Juneteenth by blacks across the United States drew attention to President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of his Emancipation Proclamation effective January 1, 1863. It is said that word of the proclamation did not reach the former slaves in Texas until federal troops arrived in Galveston in June, 1865.
Question No. 1: What did the document proclaim?
Question No. 2: What was the greatest significance of the Emancipation Proclamation?
Question No. 3: How was the Battle of Antietam (also known as Sharpsburg) related to the Emancipation Proclamation?
Question No. 4: How did the British government react to the Emancipation Proclamation and why was this important to the Union cause in the Civil War?
You will find the answers farther down in the column.
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Turning now to lessons for journalists (one might call the course Journalism 1):
Lesson No. 1: Be careful to avoid offering proof of the common perception that given the choice between good and bad news, your choice almost invariably is to give most attention to the bad. Recent example:
The headline prominently proclaimed: “28 people to lose jobs at UNL.”
Reading into the story, you learn that UNL employs about 5,700 people. I calculate that 28 people losing their jobs would mean a 4/100 of 1% reduction in the employment total.
The more important news is that the University of Nebraska system, while being required to hold spending below the total requested (as almost invariably happens), will still wind up with an increase in the amount of funds appropriated to fund expenditures in the next two-year budget cycle.
This contrasts with the situation at many other state universities where the schools are required, in the next budget cycle, to reduce spending below current levels.
Lesson No. 2: Avoid—studiously and persistently and responsibly avoid—writing the results of poll samplings of American opinion as if they unquestionably closely reflect what more than 200 million American adults think.
Unfortunately, almost all polls or opinion surveys are erroneously reported. A recent example in The New York Times:
A sampling of the opinions of 895 Americans resulted in a page 1 story in The Times which started:
“A substantial majority of Americans say President Obama has not developed a strategy to deal with a budget deficit, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.”
I happen to think that the poll may well have properly reflected the feelings of a substantial majority of Americans. But the poll simply did not find this to be unquestionably true. More accurate language would have said something like:
“A poll of 895 Americans—selected in an effort to be representative of majority opinion—found a majority of respondents expressing the belief that President Obama has not developed a strategy to deal with a budget deficit. We consider the poll an accurate projection within 3 percentage points plus or minus.”
Such accurate wording allows readers to decide for themselves whether they believe a poll of 895 people can determine, within three percentage points, the feelings of over 200 million Americans.
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What I call “Tiger Mania”—almost sycophantic media adulation of Tiger Woods—dies hard in any given tournament. For example:
As ESPN handed the telecast responsibility to NBC in Monday’s final round of the U.S. Open, a commentator tried to hype viewer interest—as if that were necessary—by saying that “Tiger’s surging.”
The truth was that Tiger was in the clubhouse with an even par 72-hole total while several golfers were still on the course with scores almost certain to better Tiger’s even-par total.
Johnny Miller, who has parlayed a two-major-title golfing career into a presumably lucrative TV commentator’s role, was among those apologizing for Tiger’s showing. For example: When Tiger left yet another putt short or not putted firmly enough to avoid a last-second break, Miller said that when greens are slow, Tiger tends to hit the ball too softly.
Miller described this as “a little Achilles heel” of a golfer whom, I hasten to make clear, I consider one of the great ones, although I’m not obsessed with him.
But if Tiger consistently hits the ball too softly when the greens are slow, I would describe this as perhaps more than “a little Achilles heel.” How about an “Achilles foot”?
I would add that Tiger carries off his off days with more class than do the sycophantic commentators. His post-play comments, whether he wins or loses, are consistently those of a good sport and a gentleman golfer
* * *
Republican skeptics can’t be accused of providing some of the latest bad news in regard to the multi-billion-dollar arithmetic behind Democratic plans to overhaul the nation’s health care system as President Obama urges.
A story given front page play in The New York Times carried a headline which read “Health Bill’s Cost Challenged” and included this language:
“An analysis released Monday by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office raised the hurdles for draft legislation in the Senate just as its Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee planned to begin voting.”
The story said the CBO had concluded that a plan by the committee’s Democratic leaders, Senators Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, could reduce the number of uninsured Americans only by a net 16 million people. That, the budget office said, would leave 36 million people uninsured in 2017.
Further evidence, it seems to me, of a problem which I have suggested before: Obama’s ambitious trillion-dollar spend and tax programs are so large and so complex that they give the impression that they have been too hastily thrown together, are too complex and too numerous to inspire confidence and popular as well as Congressional support.
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Question No. 1: The Emancipation Proclamation proclaimed freedom for slaves in 10 states which were trying to secede from the Union and were currently at war with the United States. The legal reasoning was that continuing them in slavery allowed slaves to be used in support of the secession efforts.
The proclamation did not include the border states of Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland or Delaware which had never declared secession from the Union. Thus the proclamation did not free slaves in those states.
Slavery was abolished nationwide by the Thirteenth Amendment effective January 1, 1865.
Question No. 2: The greatest significance of the Emancipation Proclamation was that it gave legal standing to what was becoming increasingly clear; i.e., that the war was not just about keeping the rebellious states in the Union but also about abolishing the institution of slavery.
Question No. 3: The Battle of Antietam, which included the bloodiest single day in American military history, was considered by some to have been a draw or at best a strategic victory for the Union, but it did force Confederate General Robert E. Lee to withdraw his troops back across the Potomac and end the threat of invasion of Union territory. It gave Lincoln what might be called a platform of strength from which he could target the institution of slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation.
Question No. 4: How did the British Government react to the Emancipation Proclamation and why was this important to the Union cause in the Civil War?
With the abolition of slavery clearly now a target of the Union, Great Britain could not yield to any temptation to recognize the Confederate States of America as a legitimate independent nation. There was evidence of strong sentiment in some British quarters for such a recognition, prompted to some extent by the fact that the Union naval blockade was depriving British textile mills of cotton imports which they needed from the Southern American states.
But with the war clearly now involving Northern determination to abolish slavery, the British could hardly recognize the Southern states, Britain itself having abolished slavery in its colonies.
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As to that idea worth considering, replacing Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with Family Day:
When son David and daughter Nancy called last Sunday to wish me a happy Father’s Day, I thanked each of them for being the kind of child who made me proud to be a father.
Then the idea occurred that—greeting card manufacturers to the contrary notwithstanding—it might be a good idea to replace those two well-intentioned days with a single “Family Day.” This, I believe, would encourage the exchange of sentiments such as I shared with Dave and Nancy when they called me last Sunday.
I realize that my idea has limited prospect of adoption, but I would suggest that more parents consider thanking their children for being the kind of children that makes the mother or father proud of them. (I wish I had thought of the idea a long time ago.)
Consistent with the sentiments I’ve expressed here, I hope you think it’s appropriate that I conclude today with a couple of pictures showing happy occasions involving a father and the son and daughter of whom he is very proud.
Dave and Dad on a hunting trip in Western Nebraska
Dad introduces Nancy as an Omaha Symphony Ball debutante
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