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.)
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December 30, 2009
Appropriate for a year-ending column, as I see it, is to begin and end with upbeat comment.
An upbeat start is a slam-dunk—focus on Mutual of Omaha's chief executive officer, Dan Neary.
The Sunday World-Herald gave, in impressive detail, the remarkable story of Neary's redeployment of Mutual's assets since he became the company's fifth chairman in 2005:
A switch from emphasis on health insurance to new, specialized forms of medical coverage, including Medicare supplement and long-term care insurance. Banking. Real estate development, including the spectacular Midtown Crossing project which is transforming the western edge of traditional downtown Omaha.
All this while Dan Neary and wife Shirley have taken leadership roles in civic projects including co-chairmanship of the 2008 United Way campaign which set a fund-raising record.
As the Rev. John P. Schlegel, Creighton University president, put it: Dan Neary has done a superb job of "reprogramming" Mutual. How appropriate that Neary be recognized as Midlander of the Year in this, the year of Mutual's 100th anniversary.
As The World-Herald story pointed out, recognition of Neary also, importantly, recognizes Mutual of Omaha's role as a "steadfast business anchor over the past century."
* * *
Turning next to some vitally important but less uplifting—and certainly less understandable-news: the battle over what some have referred to as "Obama Care," one of the most divisive and confusing issues to confront the American people in a good many years.
The loudest voices on either side of the debate over national health care proposals accuse the other side of, if not bad faith, at least lack of understanding of the health care issue and what should be done about it.
To me, the most unfair accusations of all come from some of the health care reform zealots who charge or at least imply that opponents are either ignorant of the problem or unconcerned about the need for some reform to at least slow down rising health costs and spread health insurance coverage more broadly.
Opposition to the Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Ben Nelson health reform proposals are being unfairly described as opposition to any health care reform at all.
The truth, I believe, is that the very substantial opposition-there are indications of opposition by a majority of the American electorate—is not to moderate, understandable measures to improve health care. But Americans are confused by—and suspicious of—the 2,000-page proposals which are vastly confusing and raise the prospect of nearly $900 billion in costs, an increase in the national debt and tax increases, with the promised benefits not kicking in until 2014.
Nebraska's Senator Nelson, incidentally but importantly, is tieing himself into tighter illogical knots as he defends his acceptance of what has been described as "the Cornhusker kickback"—a deal offered to him by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. To get Nelson's crucial 60th vote to make way for passage of the Senate version of health care legislation, Reid offered Nelson a special deal freeing Nebraska from the increased cost of Medicaid payments mandated by the federal government.
In the Sunday World-Herald, Nelson again tried to pass responsibility to Republican Governor Dave Heineman, who had told Nelson of his concern about what the Medicaid increases would cost the state. Nelson said he took Heineman's concern to Majority Leader Reid, who offered to give Nebraska total freedom from the increased costs. Nelson accepted the deal and provided the critical 60th vote.
In the Sunday World-Herald article, Nelson said he has told Heineman he would ask Reid to cancel the special consideration for Nebraska if Heineman asked him to. He said he is waiting for Heineman's reply.
Nelson then argued that he really wasn't agreeing to anything special for Nebraska but rather establishing a money-saving precedent which all states conceivably could take advantage of.
Which is it? A "blame it on Heineman" deal which Nelson is willing to scuttle if Heineman will take the blame? Or a deal accepted with the broadminded expectation that it would help other states win the same consideration? Nelson can't have it both ways.
Then there is the matter of Nelson's switching his vote on a Republican-sponsored resolution which would have forbidden any future such "pork barrel" special deals as Reid offered and Nelson accepted for the special benefit of Nebraska. The Senate decisively voted down the anti-pork barrel proposal.
Nelson initially voted with the majority to reject the pork barrel restriction. Then, after it became clear that there were enough votes to kill the proposal, he switched his vote to "yes" in favor of the pork barrel restriction.
I'll leave it to my readers to decide what adjective to apply to that example of senatorial performance.
Readers of The Sunday World-Herald could see a demonstration of the difficulty of getting all the facts in the health care case.
One prominent article in the news columns—one of those that repeatedly quote unnamed "experts"—emphasized highly unfavorable comparisons between United States health statistics, including costs, and those in other countries. The article did not make clear how many of the other countries have socialized medical care in place of the American system which depends primarily on private practioners.
The story included no response from anyone speaking in defense of the American system.
On the Sunday "Other Commentary" page, one article defending the Democratic Party's Congressional proposals said repeatedly that insurance costs to individuals would be reduced by "subsidies." The word "subsidies" was never explained. One is left to surmise that the authors were talking about payments or cost reductions financed by federal tax dollars.
Another "More Commentary" page article was written by the former director of the Congressional Budget Office. It appeared under this headline: "Misleading math masking massive health reform costs"
The article by the former CBO director included this subheadline: "The proposed Senate and House bills make no useful structural changes that would put either Medicare or Medicaid on a healthy course."
A few days earlier, The World-Herald's "More Commentary" page carried an article with this headline: "Nelson deserves gratitude for vote on health reform." The article was written by the state director of AARP, an association representing retired persons.
On the same page appeared a column by Michael Gerson of The Washington Post. It carried this headline: "Nelson's backroom deals crossed an important line."
The column included these words: "In a single concession, Reid undermined the theory of Medicaid—designed as a shared burden between states and the federal government—and added to future federal deficits."
With such conflicting opinions and one-side-of-the-story arguments filling the news and opinion channels, little wonder that a very great many Americans are confused over the health care issues.
* * *
If desecration of a literary treasure were illegal, fans of the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes would surely be taking to court everyone connected with the travesty currently showing in movie theaters under the name "Sherlock Holmes."
Apparently about the only thing left in the depiction of Holmes is the name.
One reviewer gave the film a favorable rating despite the fact that the reviewer said the star, Robert Downey, was hard to understand much of the time either because Downey was mumbling or because his British accent was hard to understand or possibly because of a malfunctioning soundtrack.
I would hope that true Holmes aficionados—who remember the classic non-mumbling performances of Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett portraying Holmes as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created him—will stay away in droves.
* * *
Herewith the upbeat conclusion which I promised as appropriate for the last column of the year:
Marian and I and the dogs, like many another Omaha family, were snowed in for nearly the entire siege of blizzardy weather. (It lasted about a month, didn't it?)
But thanks to help from son David, next door neighbor Sue Conine and her family and Jim and Ruth Keene and their family, we got transportation to three Christmas Season gatherings and, importantly, help in the form of excavation of a laundry room door exit for Claire and Charlotte to squeeze their way out into the snow and be "good girls."
The laundry room door excavation included shoveling assaults by son David and two of the Keene children, Sarah of Crested Butte, Colorado and James of Minneapolis.
Upbeat too, certainly, was the remembrance by great friends who either stopped by, or sent messengers, with various Christmas remembrances despite the snow. But a special thanks from Marian and me to the trio who waded through the snow to create that narrow opening for the laundry room door. (I'm pretty sure Claire and Charlotte were also appreciative. After all, they like to be called "good girls"—especially when the praise is accompanied by a treat.)
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