High Percentage Of College Grads No Guarantee
Of Sound Decisions In The Nebraska Legislature

A recent newspaper editorial said it is a “notable fact” that Nebraska has a high percentage of state legislators with a college degree, more than all but two of the 49 other states.

The editorial observed that a college education doesn’t guarantee that you have “common sense or astute judgment.”  Let me offer two examples of that truism, demonstrated by a majority of the well-educated (87% with college degrees) Nebraska legislators.

First, how is it that such well-educated Nebraska legislators can be so persistent in trying any method that can be conceived to frustrate a pregnant female’s legal right to undergo an abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy—a right supposedly guaranteed by the United States Supreme Court in the historic Roe v. Wade decision.

The recent Nebraska legislative session offered fresh examples of this anti-abortion obsession among a majority of Nebraska’s college-graduate lawmakers, just as it offered a remarkable example of poor legislative judgment on a quite different subject, how to finance future highway construction.

A legislative majority voted to go along with Senator Deb Fischer’s obsessive desire to leave her imprint on a major piece of legislation which would not take effect until she had been term-limited out of the legislature.

The bill, with Governor Dave Heineman somewhat surprisingly going along, specifies that starting in 2013, an anticipated $125 million in state sales tax revenue would be earmarked to fund, primarily, state highway construction.

This would represent, for the first time, an invasion of state general fund revenues to fund highway construction.  It might do so at the expense of other general fund needs, including appropriations for state colleges and universities and aid to K-12 school districts.

It seems to me that the college-educated legislative majority could have seen the wisdom in waiting until 2013 to see if, at that time, this fundamental change in use of general fund revenues makes sense.

A minority of senators resisted this potential two-years-from-now precedent-shattering procedure.

One senator suggested an increase now of five cents a gallon in the state gasoline tax—a proposal which was quickly rejected by a majority of legislators.

You don’t need a college education, as I see it, to realize that a five-cent increase in the state gasoline tax would be hardly noticeable in these days of rapidly fluctuating gasoline prices—changing as much as 10 to 15 cents a gallon from day to day.

Turning now from legislative to journalistic performance:  a USA Today headline read:  “US Open:  Tiger out:  Anyone can win.”  I would say that’s hardly news.  With Tiger Woods in or out of the field, “anyone can win” major golf events since the night when Tiger Woods backed into a fire hydrant as he left his mansion in Florida, reportedly in a hasty exit to escape his wife wielding a golf club.

Some More Serious Examples Of Media Performance

Turning to more serious examples of journalistic performance:

Continuing what seems to be an effort to place University of Nebraska leadership in an unfavorable light when it comes to tuition rates, a reporter started a story with these words:  “University of Nebraska students will have to scrape together more dough to attend college this fall, under tuition increases unanimously approved by the NU Board of Regents on Friday.”  (The increase was a basic 5%, with a larger increase for business administration and engineering students.)

But, as is far too often the case, reading further into the story negates the tone of the opening “scrape together more dough” paragraph.  In this case, we learn in the fourth paragraph that the budget approved by the regents “includes additional financing aid so that low-income students won’t have to come up with more cash out of their pockets to remain in college.  The differential tuition will not be applied to students who qualify for federal Pell grants.”  Doesn’t sound like “scraping for more dough” in the case of low-income students.

Next an example of questionable targeting by one of my favorite columnists, Pulitzer Prize winning Tom Friedman of The New York Times:

The headline read:  “Climate crisis requires new lifestyle.”  And the emphasis in Friedman’s comments, while acknowledging the serious problem of population growth, was on the Utopian goal of a worldwide society in which people are working less (because fewer people are needed these days to perform certain kinds of jobs) and “owning and consuming less.”

“Global warming” is cited as a contributing factor.  (The headline called it “climate crisis.”)

As I see it, major emphasis should not be on the controversial issue of global warming but on population control—everything from planned parenthood to greater use of contraceptives to more early-term abortions.  This will be necessary to keep explosive population growth from simply overwhelming planet Earth’s capability to produce food and fiber and drinkable water to sustain the planet’s population.

Good Show By World-Herald Staffers

Leaving the issue of journalistic performance on a high note:

A tip of my columnist’s cap to The World-Herald and its staff members who have been recognized with recent prestigious awards for outstanding journalistic performance.  Executive Editor Mike Reilly told the story in a recent column:

The World-Herald was honored with five first-place awards in a recent regional news competition sponsored by the Tulsa Press Club Foundation and involving competition with the largest newspapers in the Midwest, including the Oklahoman, Kansas City Star, Tulsa World, Wichita Eagle and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.  Contest judges included past Pulitzer Prize winners who now are faculty members at Northwestern University or the University of Missouri.

Reilly’s article named 23 World-Herald staff members who were either honored individually as first place winners or were members of World-Herald teams which put together a first-place-winning special section and a first-place series of stories:  “Korea:  Forgotten No More” and “Behind the Violence,” a series on street gangs in Omaha.

The three individuals who won first place recognition:  Staff writer Matthew Hansen recognized as best beat reporter for his military coverage; Dirk Chatelain, winner of the feature writing award for his story about a Benson High hurdler pushed to qualify for the state meet by the memory of a younger brother who had died unexpectedly; and Robert Nelson who won the top columnist award.

Also cited by Reilly was columnist Michael Kelly, who was among five first-place winners in a regional contest sponsored by the Associated Press and was nominated by The World-Herald for a Pulitzer Prize for his 2010 work.

All in all, 23 staff members whose work—some individual, some as a team—received special recognition from judges with recognized credentials in the field of journalism.

Well done!

* * *

A Mixed Bag Of Comments—
New GOP Hopeful; ‘God Picks Football Coach;’
Afghans, Pakistanis Our Friends Or Enemies?

From here on in, some quick hits on a variety of subjects, some more serious than others:

–The Republican Party is harder up for potential presidential-timber candidates than I had realized, if Representative Michele Bachmann was accurately described in this USA Today headline:  “Bachmann emerges as a player in GOP race.”

The story was based largely on Bachmann’s appearance as one of several GOP presidential hopefuls appearing at a GOP rally in New Hampshire.  Her qualifications, one is led to believe, include rather blunt, sometimes abrasive, comments and a rigid “Tea Party” right-wing philosophy.  She also tends to put her foot in her mouth, as in saying in a television interview that she is very concerned that President Obama “may have anti-American views.”

–Former Iowa State head football coach Gene Chizik, who went from 5-19 in two seasons at Iowa State to a 14-0 national championship season at Auburn said he was “humbled” by Auburn’s decision to hire him.  But then, he said, he decided that God had been on his side.  As he put it:  “I knew this had to be a God appointment because this whole thing just didn’t make sense otherwise.  I knew God had to be behind opening this door.”

Chizik’s remark, included in a book being published under his name, seems to me to be carrying to extreme lengths the tendency of athletes—and some coaches—to attribute success to either “my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” or to God, proudly proclaimed to television audiences and now in a book from which a coach apparently hopes to further profit from God’s alleged intervention in his coaching career.

–Next, a silly pitch by President Obama in an effort to appeal to an audience.

On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, which doesn’t yet have a vote in presidential elections, Obama tried to draw maximum popular reaction from his praise of Puerto Rican J. J. Barea’s performance on the NBA championship Dallas Maverick team.  Obama told a Barea-adoring Puerto Rican crowd:  “Every day, Puerto Ricans help write the American story.”

–Tucked away on the bottom of page 12 in last Sunday’s New York Times were two stories which underscore what seems to a good many Americans to be an obvious question:  Why in the world are we continuing to pursue a national policy based at least in part on the goal of bringing peace and a stable democratic government to Afghanistan?

One story said that a gunfight shattered a calm spell in Kabul, the Afghanistanian capital.  Nine Afghans were murdered, and the three attackers killed.  Twelve Afghans were wounded.

At the bottom of the page beneath the story of violence in Afghanistans capital city was a report that Afghan President Hamid Karzai complained bitterly that the Americans and their NATO allies were negotiating with the Taliban, not seeking to control or exterminate them.  Karzai said of the United States and its NATO allies:  “They’re here for their own purposes, for their own goals.”

In The Sunday World-Herald, toward the bottom of an inside page, appeared a story with this headline:  “Pakistan may have tipped off militants again.”  The story quoted United States officials as saying Pakistan apparently tipped off militants at two more bomb-building facilities in tribal areas, giving the terror suspects time to flee, after U.S. intelligence shared the locations with the Pakistani government.”

With allies like Pakistan and Afghan President Karzai, who needs enemies?

* * *

Omahans And NCAA Team Up
To Produce CWS Grand Slam

To finish on an upbeat note, I can’t think of any thing more upbeat for Omahans than the words of ESPN commentators who have followed the College World Series in Omaha for years.  One ESPN commentator summed up his feelings this way:

“A lot of people miss old Rosenblatt.  But this place (the new downtown TD Ameritrade Park) is superb, absolutely superb.”

And this:  “This city has always done a tremendous job of supporting this event.”

Another ESPN commentator told his nationwide audience (worldwide, I would guess, to the extent the telecast is carried on the Armed Services network):  “It’s a beautiful ballpark.  We all miss Rosenblatt, but if you were going to change locations, this was the place to put it.”

Comments that went beyond the new ballpark included praise for the people of Omaha and for the impressive statuary—not just the famous “Road to Omaha” sculpture transferred from Rosenblatt Stadium—which can be found in the downtown area and praise for the downtown’s restaurants.

My closing thought, directed to all those responsible—to the people of Omaha, to the public officials who were involved, to the civic leaders who provided wise guidance and the essential private funds.  To TD Ameritrade officials for their essential financial help and to the NCAA officials who helped make sure that the road to the College World Series still leads to Omaha:

Collectively, you’ve hit a homerun.  Let’s call it a grand slam whose effect will be felt for another 25 years in a city whose name has become synonymous with the best in college baseball.

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