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.
In order to provide time for more fact-gathering and comment-writing at the start of each week, the regular pattern for weekly availability of my column will be every Thursday at 12:01 a.m. instead of Wednesday.
Harold W. Andersen
July 17, 2008
Controversy over the predicted appointment of a former firefighters’ union president as the next chief of the Omaha Fire Department underscores, it seems to me, the fact that all municipal unions—fire, police and civilian—should not endorse candidates for mayor or the city council.
Let the unions represent firemen and policemen and civilian employees in negotiations with representatives of city government. But, as in the case of the firemen’s union, they shouldn’t be in position of negotiating, in effect, with a mayor or City Council members whom they endorsed for election.
This is exactly the dilemma facing former union president Mike McDonnell and Mayor Mike Fahey as the mayor considers whether to appoint McDonnell fire chief from a list of four eligible candidates. McDonnell was president of the firemen’s union when it supported Fahey when he ran for his first term in 2000.
The fact that McDonnell has finished No. 1 in three different tests is simply not enough to totally dispel the cloud of suspicion that Fahey’s appointment would have the taint of political payback. And any argument that McDonnell’s appointment would simply be the result of an objective, arm’s-length judgment by Mayor Fahey would not be helped by the fact that Fahey had McDonnell working briefly in the mayor’s office.
If McDonnell is in fact the best man for the job, it would be ironic if some would still sense a whiff of politics—the odor of political payback—as involved in an appointment which should be based solely on merit.
* * *
Speaking of matters in which the odor of politics intrudes, there is a stench originating in New York City which, I would think, is being smelled all across the United States, considering the importance of the office held by the politician who is involved.
I refer, of course, to Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York City, chairman of one of the most powerful committees in the United States Congress—the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
Rangel, a Democrat who has served 38 years as a representative of New York City’s Harlem community, has been exposed by The New York Times as the beneficiary of extraordinarily favorable treatment by a major New York real estate developer. The special treatment gives Rangel four—that’s right, four—below-market-rental-rate apartments in Lenox Terrace, an upscale development of six towers, described in real estate publications as Harlem’s most prestigious address.
In 2007, Rangel paid a total rent of $3,894 a month for his four apartments—the type that the landlord rents out to other Lenox Terrace apartment tenants at rates which total $7,465 to $8,125 a month for four units.
The special rate for Congressman Rangel saves him something like $30,000 a year, The Times calculates.
Incidentally but importantly, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct has a rule that “any gratuity, favor, discount, forbearance or other item having monetary value” is subject to a $100 annual limit.
In a press conference, Rangel angrily defended the four-apartment, bargain-rental-rate arrangement. “I didn’t see anything unfair about it,” he said. (Apparently, no one in the group of more than 25 reporters thought to ask Rangel about his villa in the Dominican Republic.) In defense of his low-rent bargain bonanza, Rangel said one of the apartments is used as his den and office, adding, “When I come home late at night from Washington, I go in there first.”
Is Rangel suggesting that he uses one of the four bargain-rental luxury apartments as a sort of decompression chamber to help him recover from the pressures of his job when he comes home “late at night” from Washington (on a Thursday, as is common Congressional practice)?
My bottom line: Rarely does one encounter a better argument against the Congressional seniority system which puts a Charles Rangel at the head of one of the most powerful committees in the United States Congress while he benefits from an arrangement which provides him four luxury apartments at bargain rentals.
* * *
The letters published under the “Public Pulse” heading consistently supply some of the more interesting reading in The Omaha World-Herald. Herewith a couple of examples which appeared on the same recent day:
An Omahan wrote that we should reject the proposal for a state constitutional amendment to “ban affirmative action programs.” The letter offered this argument:
“One look at the faces of the swimmers who made the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team should tell us what we need to know. That team does not look like the America I see. Out of the dozens of swimmers who qualified for the Olympics in Omaha, only one was a person of color.”
In the first place, the proposed amendment to the Nebraska Constitution is narrowly targeted—at Nebraska state government and political subdivisions. It would have nothing to do with such matters as the racial makeup of United States Olympic teams. It would prohibit discriminating against, or giving preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contrasting by the state or any of its agencies, institutions or political subdivisions.
In the second place, I wonder if the Pulse writer who suspects racial discrimination in the selection of the United States Olympic Swimming Team saw a recent picture of the United States Olympic basketball team published in The World-Herald. All 12 members of that team are black.
I haven’t heard any complaints about the lack of white players on the basketball team which the United States will send to the Olympic Games in Beijing.
The most talented basketball players were chosen, as were the fastest swimmers. It’s as simple as that.
Another letter in that same day’s Public Pulse offered a suggestion which, I believe, has occurred to a number of Omahans:
As the most-publicized focus on baseball in Omaha—including, of course, the annual College World Series—switches in 2011 from Rosenblatt Stadium to a new downtown ballpark, let’s continue to honor former Omaha Mayor Johnny Rosenblatt by naming the baseball diamond inside the stadium “Rosenblatt Field.”
Naming rights to the new stadium itself would, of course, be sold, as was done so successfully when Omaha’s new downtown arena and convention center was given the Qwest name.
* * *
When it comes to putting a new column on the Internet each week, I hope that the majority of my readers—the great majority, I hope—find enjoyment in what I intend to be thought-provoking comments and in my efforts at humor.
But there is at least one reader out there who seems to find his or her enjoyment from my column in sending anonymous e-mail insults when I write anything about persons of color, especially the great golfer, Tiger Woods. Any suggestion that Tiger’s performance is anything less than flawless brings anonymous criticism like this:
“Ha: We are surprised you did not scrounge in the dirt to find yet another way to insult Tiger Woods, another entry on your black list.”
I think it’s reasonable to speculate that this particular reader may really enjoy my column because of an emotional kick out of sending anonymous insulting messages.
Well, I have bad news for Mr. or Ms. Anonymous. My executive assistant now has orders not to waste my time by passing along insults from people so gutless that they won’t attach their names to the insults. Any criticism—no matter how worded—that carries a name and a verifiable address will be passed on to me and given the consideration it deserves—in most cases, I hope, careful consideration.
Anonymous news tips and suggestions will also be passed along to me.
* * *
Some of the names of organizations with worthy objectives might well be more carefully phrased. A recent example appearing in a “Midlands Voices” article in The World-Herald:
An article about efforts to curb so-called “hate crimes” said such crimes are being targeted in Omaha by the Omaha Police Department, the U.S. Department of Justice and the “Omaha Hate Crimes Coordinating Council.”
Now I don’t believe there really is a council of good citizens devoted to coordinating hate crimes, so why does a well-intentioned organization choose such a name? How about “Coordinating Council to Fight Hate Crimes.”
Such citizens group with good intentions but poorly-worded names bring to mind an occasion years ago in Lincoln where Marian was involved in another one of her worthy causes, a fund-raising effort which she described as “The Mothers March For Polio.”
I told Marian that a more appropriate name would be “The Mothers March Against Polio.” She agreed.
* * *
It seems to Jackie and me that this is an appropriate cartoon to publish during a political year:
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