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Offer A Splendid Lesson - 05-21-09
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‘Adults In Wonderland’
Need To Get Real - 01-15-09
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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
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"Right Decision Could
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"Stop Trying To Make God A Republican" - 10-6-07
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October 14, 2010
Last week’s annual coronation of a mythical king and queen helped remind us of what Ak-Sar-Ben has contributed to Omaha, and the rest of Nebraska and to western Iowa in the past 115 years.
It is certainly appropriate to pay tribute to Ak-Sar-Ben itself as the organization each year recognizes an individual and a family for their significant contributions to the welfare of the region where Ak-Sar-Ben itself does its good work.
So a salute to Ak-Sar-Ben and, importantly, a salute to Ak-Sar-Ben’s new King, Dick Bell, chairman and chief executive of the HDR architectural and engineering firm and Queen Suzanne Clare Singer, whose family, including especially grandmother Sue Singer Scott, has made such significant contributions to the welfare of this community and this state.
The Sunday World-Herald gave extensive coverage to the lives and contributions of both King Dick Bell and the Singer family. No need to repeat the impressive details here. But here is certainly an appropriate place to say a heartfelt “Well done!” both to Ak-Sar-Ben for picking its newest mythical monarchs so wisely and “Well done!” to Dick Bell and to the Singer family for the good works which richly deserve the honor which Ak-Sar-Ben paid them last Saturday night.
Busy as he is in continuing to make even stronger one of the nation’s very best architectural and engineering firms and serving admirably well in civic and philanthropic leadership roles, Dick consistently finds time to keep in close, helpful touch with his friends, including, I’m pleased and proud to say, me.
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A story appropriately given top play in The Omaha World-Herald last Monday seemed to me to be a sort of fair warning to the American people and Congress that President Obama will turn away from his “Yes, we can” leadership to a “Yes, I will” strategy in the next two years.
The McClatchy Newspapers story began: “As President Barack Obama remakes his senior staff, he is also shaping a new approach for the second half of his term: advancing his agenda through executive action he can take on his own, rather than pushing plans through an increasingly hostile Congress.”
If Obama does indeed substitute “I” for “we” in addressing the nation’s problems, the 535 elected members of the Congress will have to be especially alert to protecting their traditional role of addressing and resolving significant social and political issues confronting the American people.
As I see it, the Congressional “we” should trump the Presidential “I” in any case except those in which the Constitution gives the president clear authority to act, whether or not he can demonstrate that Congress or the majority of the American people approve.
If the first two years of the Obama administration has been marked by bitter controversy—I think we can agree that they have been so marked—the country may be moving to even more bitter controversy in the two years head, as an ego-driven president figuratively stomps his foot and proceeds with a “I’ll show them what’s good for them” attitude.
* * *
The New York Yankees management—presumably under the control of George Steinbrenner’s son as George’s successor in ownership of the Yankees—struck out swinging in the way a Steinbrenner memorial became part of the Yankees’ hallowed Monument Park behind the centerfield fence.
In contrast to the 2 x 3 foot memorial plaques honoring such truer Yankee greats as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle and Joe Dimaggio, Monument Park now is overwhelmed by a 7 x 6 foot, 760 pound monument of bronze atop a granite base memorializing Steinbrenner.
The wording on the George Steinbrenner memorial makes the bad taste even worse. He is described in bronze as “a true visionary who changed the game of baseball forever. He was considered the most influential owner in all of sports.”
He was considered the richest owner and the most egotistical and perhaps the hardest to please. In 19 years he hired and fired 23 field managers.
Fortunately, the Yankee tradition of great baseball and great baseball players is strong enough to survive even a George Steinbrenner.
* * *
Here we go again—proposals to allow millions of Americans to escape their legal obligation to repay mortgage loans which they—perhaps unwisely in a good many cases—agreed to repay or face the loss of their house.
It might be called “legal debt evasion,” and it seems to me to bear too close a resemblance to the mortgage loan default epidemic which was the principal cause of the economic recession from which the nation is still struggling to recover.
Even the liberal New York Times concedes that “loosening loan standards may seem like a replay of what caused the mortgage mess.” But, The Times reasons, both lenders and taxpayers are on the hook if borrowers default because two government-controlled mortgage companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are setting too tough standards for cutting interest rates on refinanced mortgages.
The Obama administration is pushing what it calls the Home Affordable Refinance Program which calls for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to refinance (liberal talk for reducing the amount of the mortgage and the interest rate) loans for “underwater borrowers.”
The solution, in The Times view, is for the Obama administration to tell Fannie and Freddie to lower interest rates. The result, The Times concedes, would be losses to investors in securities backed by mortgages agreed to at the original rates.
But not to worry, The Times reassures. There would be quick economic benefits from lower monthly mortgage payments, while investor losses would be widely disbursed.
However you slice it, the proposal is to, in effect, take money from people who in good faith bought securities backed by mortgages at interest rates agreed to by the home purchasers and give that money to the home purchasers in the form of lower mortgage interest rates—sort of a form of taxation without representation, which used to be considered totally unacceptable governmental policy.
* * *
When will some candidates muster the political courage to run for office saying they will, if elected, take a realistic look at tax options which can help in successfully addressing difficult issues?
A candidate could offer alternatives that he or she would consider: Hold the line on taxes, increase them if necessary, reduce them if this still allows a responsible approach to addressing public issues.
When will such a candidate appear? As I ask the question, I feel somewhat like the mythological figure Diogenes, who went around with a lantern seeking to find an honest man.
These thoughts came to mind as I considered a mailing from a candidate in my legislative district. His name is Todd Frazier and he advocates “a no-nonsense approach which we need now to create jobs, reduce taxes and get the budget balanced.”
Over and over and over—and certainly not just from candidate Frazier—you hear the theme: “Reduce taxes, reduce taxes, reduce taxes.”
Frazier goes so far as to attack incumbent State Senator John Nelson as worthy of defeat at the polls because he voted in favor of “hiking gas taxes 1.2 cents per gallon.”
A 1.2 cent gas tax increase? If anything, too small in a state where the need for highway reconstruction is increasingly evident and, incidentally, a citizen can drive past his favorite gas station and see that the company which owns the station has increased prices 10 cents a gallon or more since the day before.
Sen. John Nelson does not have either the personality nor the experience to be a legislative leader, as I see it. But I’ll vote for him in preference to a challenger who sees support of a 1.2 percent gasoline tax increase as irresponsible.
* * *
The saying may be old—some might even call it trite—but there’s still a good deal of wisdom in it, it seems to me:
“Politics makes strange bedfellows.” A couple of current examples:
A recent news story reported that thousands of liberals and labor activists rallied in Washington and in other cities, calling for young or disillusioned Democrats to come out to vote in the November elections. The story reported that more than 400 organizations endorsed the rally on the National Mall in Washington.
Among those addressing the crowd was the Rev. Al Sharpton. (The only more polarizing Democratic figure that I can think of would be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.) Among the “progressive” causes (“progressives,” the new self-chosen word for liberals) being promoted were predictables like ending the war in Afghanistan, supporting Palestinians, giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, promoting civil rights protection for homosexuals and lesbians (the story used the word “gays”) and “vegetarianism.”
Vegetarianism as a “progressive” cause? As I said, politics makes strange bedfellows.
Another example of the truth of the old saying is one I cited in this space recently:
A $1,000 contribution to the re-election campaign of Representative Lee Terry, Omaha Republican, from the “Indoor Tanning Association..”
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