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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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Who Break The Treaty - 12-18-08
Me? A Grumpy Old Man?
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Top Athletes Should
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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
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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June 25, 2008
The welcome words of praise convey basically the same message as they have for so many years—words like "Omaha is the Mecca of college sports" and "I don't think I've ever heard anyone say anything bad about coming to the College World Series in Omaha. It's rave review after rave review. They can't wait to come back."
(After such generous comments about Omaha and its hospitality, the most specific references to what the WSPN commentators seem to like about Omaha are eating places and our steaks, as in "…another one of those great Omaha restaurants…everyone raves about those Omaha steaks.")
This year, however, praise of Omaha carried across the nation on ESPN telecasts has considerably more relevance, since, as one WSPN commentator pointed out, agreement between Omaha representatives and the NCAA means that the College World Series will continue to be played in Omaha until "at least 2035. Great news for all of us."
A number of Omahans—some upfront in the negotiations, some behind the scenes—deserve special credit for successfully completing the negotiations that will have the CWS playing in a new downtown ballpark for at least 25 years starting in 2011.
Mayor Fahey worked hard for the idea of a new downtown ballpark to assure a new long-term agreement with the NCAA to keep the College World Series in Omaha. Others who deserve praise for their roles in the give-and-take negotiations which produced local agreement on a package to take to the NCAA:
Ken Stinson, chairman of Peter Kiewit Sons', Inc., Jack Diesing, Jr., president of College World Series of Omaha Inc., and certainly David Sokol, chairman of the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority board, who, with his fellow board members, after some tough negotiations, agreed to give up two Qwest Center parking lots as a site for the ballpark.
Mayor Fahey's startling post-agreement decision to try to oust Sokol from the MECA board—in apparent retaliation for Sokol's tough negotiating stance—was quickly reversed when Fahey learned that removing Sokol would jeopardize more than $40 million in private stadium-construction support from corporate leaders who sided with Sokol. Both Fahey and Sokol say that the controversy should now be put behind them and they look forward to finishing construction of the ballpark by 2011.
A lingering question, of course, is what effect Fahey's effort to oust Sokol would have on Fahey's decision on running for a third term next year.
Best bet: Fahey won't run. Indeed, he very well may not have run anyhow. But his final decision may be influenced by the fact his effort to oust Sokol might well cost him support among the city's corporate leadership.
If he decides not to seek a third term, Fahey can leave office with the satisfaction of having fought hard and ultimately successfully for a decision to build a new downtown ballpark and win a new long-term NCAA agreement to keep the College World Series in Omaha.
* * *
I'm sure that a good many youths and liberals and blacks caught up in a sort of a messianic adulation of Barack Obama would disagree, but I thought the Democratic presidential candidate had a very bad day on the campaign trail last Friday.
It was remarkable, I thought, that a candidate could make so many mistakes in a single day. Among them:
- - Obama flip-flopped on the issue of public financing of the coming presidential general election campaign, saying, in effect, that he will not honor his pledge to abide by the public funds limit ($84 million to each candidate) and will spend as much on the campaign as he chooses. (One television commentator said the total could go as high as $400 to $500 million, in view of Obama's remarkable record of raising funds since he made the "public funds only" general election campaign spending pledge some months ago.)
An Obama campaign spokesman said that while Sen. John McCain will honor his commitment to spend only public campaign funds, Republicans will be aided by a variety of so-called "independent" fund-raising entities which can spread campaign propaganda so long as they don't specifically call for a vote for one candidate or the other.
Ironically, on the same CNN telecast, such a supposedly issue-oriented, candidate neutral organization used funds donated by a labor union to air an ad depicting a young mother holding a young son and implying that John McCain had suggested that the war in Iraq will go on for 100 years, concluding her anti-McCain pitch with an assertion that her son will come of military age during that period "and you can't have him, Mr. McCain."
The facts are that McCain made clear he was referring to the possibility of an American military presence in Iraq for as much as 100 years, not suggesting that the war will last that long. Critics who jumped on that statement apparently have forgotten that we have had American peacekeeping troops in Korea since 1953 and in Europe since the end of World War II in 1945.
- - Also on Friday, campaigning for Florida's electoral votes, Obama summarily rejected the idea of approving more offshore oil drilling to make the United States less dependent on foreign oil. He said relief would not come for many years and drilling would create a danger of oil spills which would stain Florida's beaches and jeopardize the state's important tourist traffic.
* * *
The offshore oil drilling issue is properly subject to debate, but where Obama blundered, in my opinion, was with the flat assertion that as president, "I" will allow no additional offshore drilling. The truth is that the offshore drilling is restricted by Congressional action. Congress, not President "I" Obama, will make the decision as to whether to change federal policy.
It was not the first time that Obama has used a sort of imperial "I" to pledge changes that he could propose but could not put into effect by presidential edict.
- - Also Friday, addressing tax policy, Obama said he would propose that 95% of federal taxpayers each receive a $1,000 tax reduction.
In a federal tax system based largely on a graduated income tax, with the tax increasing as the taxpayer's income increases, a proposal for a flat $1,000 reduction for 95% of federal taxpayers is a ridiculous excuse for a carefully-constructed revision of federal tax policy.
- - Also on Friday, speaking to what he may have thought was a closed fund-raising session, Obama said Republicans would attempt to depict him as a candidate to be feared. The fear factor would include, he said, raising the race issue by suggesting that one reason for opposing him is because he is black.
This immediately raised questions and comments as to whether Obama himself, with such a statement, is responsible for focusing on race as a campaign issue.
The truth, of course, is that race has been an issue in play since the day Obama announced his candidacy—an issue subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, used as an argument for improving America's image at home and around the world by electing our first black president.
* * *
In some of his primary contests with Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama received the support of some 90% of black voters. And a recent Democratic voter registration drive in Louisiana concentrated on largely black neighborhoods.
Understandably, the Democratic Party will make every effort to turn out as many black voters as possible in November. That makes race an issue, period.
- - Another Obama gaffe last Friday was somewhere between laughable and scary. (CNN's Wolf Blitzer had what seemed to me a subtle smile on his face every time he referred to it.)
This was the unveiling of a seal which apparently was designed to, among other things, hang on the speaker's rostrum at Obama rallies.
The new campaign symbol is clearly a knockoff, as the saying goes, of the official seal of the President of the United States. It is circular and has a border of blue (although a lighter shade than that on the official presidential seal). At the top of Obama's seal are the words "OBAMA for AMERICA." In the center is an eagle very similar to that in the presidential seal.
Instead of the presidential seal's "e pluribus unum" ("one from many," an indication of the states coming together to form a union), Obama's seal designers have included the Latin words "Vero Possumus," which was explained as Latin for something like "Yes, we can do it."
A recent news story said the Obama campaign organization was taking tighter control of the way his campaign projects his image. If the presidential seal caper is an example of controlling Obama's image-projection, Republicans should hope for more of the same.
* * *
Some quick takes:
- - A tip of my columnist's cap to Omaha-based Alegent Health for being ranked No. 1 in the United States among 121 health care systems including four or more hospitals.
The rankings by the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement had the 21-hospital Mayo Foundation of Minnesota ranked 2nd and the Florida-based Memorial Healthcare System 3rd.
Alegent is a nine-hospital system in Nebraska and Iowa and oversees numerous clinics.
- - I join in the praise of the Boys Scouts at the Little Sioux Scout Ranch for their courageous response when a tornado struck, taking four lives and injuring 48 others. But I think that a policy which has tornado shelters at other Boy Scout and Girl Scout camps should be followed without exception at all youth summer camps in "tornado country." I hope this will be the decision as the Little Sioux camp is rebuilt.
* * *
Continuing my occasional critique of news media performance:
One of the sillier reactions to former Vice President Al Gore's endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was a local TV newsreader's comment that this was "a huge endorsement" for Obama.
I don't know how much Gore's endorsement will prove to mean to Obama come November, but my hunch is that the impact will be more miniscule than huge.
Then there was the Associated Press report that golfer Tiger Woods was playing in the U.S. Open "with unbearable pain."
Tiger won while playing with an injured left leg which unfortunately will require surgery keeping him off the circuit for the rest of this year. But Tiger's pain was hardly "unbearable," since Tiger was obviously courageously bearing it.
* * *
Today's finale, a touch of news-media humor from "Newseum," a book of cartoons from The New Yorker magazine. The book was published in conjunction with the 2007 opening, in downtown Washington, of the Newseum. The 14-gallery, 15-theater museum tells the story of the news media, past and present, with emphasis on the importance of the freedom-of-the-press protections for press and public enshrined in the First Amendment. The Newseum's operations are funded by the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation.
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