Pipeline ‘Researcher’ Uses ‘Worst Case’ Scare Tactics

They consider themselves environmental protectionists.  (“Greenies” is a title frequently heard, and I’ve never heard of any protests from those to whom that description is applied.)  Others would call them environmental extremists working to eliminate the use of coal, drastically reduce the use of petroleum and vastly increase the use of solar and wind power.

However described, they are very actively at work in an effort to stop the proposed construction of the Keystone Pipeline, which would cross Nebraska as it transports petroleum extracted from so-called tar sands in Canada to refiners on the United States gulf coast.

The latest volley of criticism, given widespread publicity, is an egregiously unfair “analysis” of the supposed threat to the Nebraska environment from Keystone Pipeline ruptures.

The report got the predictable major news play.  The headline read:  “Report spills the dangers of Keystone’s plan.”  It was 15 paragraphs into the story before the reader learned, on an inside page, the assumption which underlay the entire “report” of John Stansbury, an associate professor of environmental/water resources engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  The 15th paragraph read:

“In his study, Stansbury looked at worst-case scenarios for size of spills at four key points along the pipeline’s proposed route” across Nebraska.

Stansbury said the Keystone pipeline company’s assumptions about response time to spills were “wildly optimistic.”  One assumes the scholar/researcher would reject an accusation that his “worst case” scenarios are “wildly pessimistic.”  One wonders also whether the scholar/researcher ever considered preparing a report based on “most likely” scenarios rather than “worst case” scenarios.

If construction projects in this country were consistently rejected on the basis of “worst case” scenarios, a good many construction projects such as nuclear power plants (the “greenies” would like that) and bridges and highway overpasses and tall buildings would never be built.

In personal life, I’d never drive a motor vehicle for fear the “worst case” scenario would come true and I would die in a car crash.  Certainly you would never go swimming if you accepted the “worst case” rationale (if you can dignify it with that word) adopted by the UNL scholar/researcher in his effort to help scuttle the Keystone Pipeline.

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Get Real; Ben Nelson Plans To Run Again;
Yet Another Example Of Muslim Brutality;
Pit Bulls, Not Labs, Are Attack Dogs

I’ll conclude with a few quick hits:

–A brief news item included the reporter’s assertion that Sen. Ben Nelson, “still must make a decision on whether to run again for the Senate.”

Baloney, as I see it.  For whatever reason, Nelson continues to play coy, but his fund-raising efforts indicate he is either going to have to run or give back a great deal of money to competitors who are being asked to finance his re-election campaign.

Consider the letter written recently by fellow Democrat Bob Kerrey, former Nebraska governor and senator.  Kerrey wrote a rather impassioned plea for contributions for a Nelson re-election campaign.  The letter carried the notation:  “PAID FOR BY NELSON 2012.”

–A bit of further perspective on the campaign by some spokesmen for other religious faiths to convince us that Islam is not a religion which encourages or at least allows the practice of “Jihad” or “Holy War” against non-Muslims:

The New York Times front page story told a pathetic story of thousands of Somalis fleeing to neighboring Kenya to escape one of the worst droughts in Somalia in 60 years.

Significantly, as I see it, the seventh paragraph in the story read like this:

“The Islamic militants controlling southern Somalia forced out Western aid organizations last year, yanking away the only safety net just when the soil was drying up.”

–A tip of my columnist’s cap to another columnist, Robert Nelson of The World-Herald, who did something that the news columns hadn’t done—making clear that Labradors as a breed don’t bite people  more often than do pit bulls.

A news story reported the supposedly surprising news that in the first six months of this year, more Labrador dog bites had been reported to the Nebraska Humane Society than pit bull dog bites.  Nelson’s column pointed out what should have been obvious:

There are a great many more Labradors than pit bulls licensed in Omaha.

Omaha apparently doesn’t have available a tally of the number of licensed Labradors compared to licensed pit bulls.  But in Lincoln, Nelson found out, figures for 2008 indicate the truth.  In Lincoln that year there were 39 reported bites from a registered population of 5,448 Labradors, while Lincoln’s 858 registered pit bulls accounted for 60 reported bites.

Nelson discovered this additional perspective reported in the Omaha dog bites tally.  Two of the reported pit bull bites involved “mutilation or missing parts,” while none of the Labrador bites caused such harm.

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Time For Some Maverick Spending Details
Including Plans For Beerless Campus Arena

Isn’t it about time for University of Nebraska at Omaha officials—a little pressure from the university system’s head office and perhaps the Board of Regents  would be helpful—to give the public a full report on the economics of UNO athletic program?

And for UNO officials to explain why the Mavericks’ move from the NCAA Division II athletic category to a relatively low rung on the Division I ladder is supposed to be such an important boost for UNO athletics and also for the entire campus and student body, for UNO’s reputation and even for the entire Omaha community.

(It is worth noting that such a claim for “entire community” benefit was made early-on in the controversy over UNO’s junking the Division II championship wrestling program in its decision to go to Division I, joining in the new Summit Conference with other schools, some of which very few Omahans had ever heard of.)

My “it’s about time” question is prompted in part by the fact that within days after putting the Mavericks into a new hockey conference, UNO Athletic Director Trev Alberts went public with statements which were summarized in a story under this headline:

“Alberts:  Facilities next part of vision.”  The subhead read:  “The A.D. will still push for the on-campus arena.”

Alberts’ statement indicated the Mavericks would take “a hard look at the existing facilities we already have” that can be used on an interim basis.  But “ultimately, to be a dynamic institution in Omaha, Nebraska, we have got to create and implement a vision for facilities on our campus.”

The news story said that since Alberts came to UNO April, 2009, “the school has intensified its push to build an on-campus hockey arena and practice facility.”

Is there a contradiction between Alberts’ vision and a statement from the athletic director of North Dakota University, a member of the new hockey conference which UNO will officially join two years from now?  North Dakota Athletic Director Brian Faison has said:

“Once I really got a chance to tour around Omaha with Trev and really see the Qwest Center, the campus and the city—boy, it’s impressive.”

Faison was talking about the Qwest Center, now renamed the CenturyLink Center Omaha, its impressive downtown setting and, importantly—although not mentioned by Faison—the fact that the availability of beer is a factor of some significance in pulling hockey crowds—a factor which would not be present in an on-campus facility unless Alberts persuaded University of Nebraska system authorities to change the policy for banning beer sales on university property.

Also missing in an on-campus arena would be the attractive atmosphere including CenturyLink Center and all the eating and drinking and lodging facilities which helped persuade city officials and business interests and the NCAA to move the annual College World Series from Rosenblatt Stadium to a new close-to-the-riverfront site.

Hockey Coach Dean Blais not too many months ago went public with the statement that the downtown arena and all the entertainment and lodging facilities close at hand made a positive impression on visiting teams and the real need for the Mavericks was not an on-campus “game night” facility but rather “practice ice.”

One would hope that internally, UNO leadership has financing and facility planning under better control than statements by the ambitious athletic director might indicate.

And how about a detailed explanation of the claims that Maverick hockey and membership in a brand-new Division I mid-level (perhaps a charitable description) conference somehow makes life better for the student body, for UNO (which supposedly is primarily an academic institution) and the entire City of Omaha?

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Amusing Or Amazing, Or Some Of Each,
The ‘Annie’ Recruiting Show Goes On

My reaction ranged somewhere between amazed and amused as I read of the turnout for last Sunday and Monday’s auditions in Omaha for what was promoted as a nationwide search for talented youngsters—the final total of recruits hired will turn out to be relatively few—to play roles, including Annie, in the Broadway revival of the musical “Annie” in the fall of 2012.

Attracted by one of the cleverest—and most cynical, as I see it—promotional stunts in Broadway history, 125 youngsters showed up at Omaha’s Holland Performing Arts Center for Sunday “auditions.”  Another audition was held Monday.

Omaha was selected as one of three sites—the others are Los Angeles and New York—for the auditions.  The Omaha auditions produced results like these:

Girls from as far away as Washington State and Maryland showed up in Omaha.  In one Omaha home, the ambitious seven-year-old’s brother wore a yellow sticky note that said, “SECurity,” in an effort to ensure that no one bothered his aspiring actress sister as she rehearsed the song “Popular” from “Wicked.”

Understandable ambition on the part of a star-struck seven-year-old and her family, taken advantage of by a clever but questionable promotional ploy.

* * *

Lee Terry Shies Away From A Good Idea

I wish Rep. Lee Terry, Omaha Republican, would make up his mind on an eminently sensible proposal to allow American workers to opt for diverting part of their Social Security taxes into private investment accounts.

A year ago, Terry signed a pledge to back no efforts to privatize Social Security “in whole or in part.”  More typical of a liberal Democrat’s viewpoint than that of a conservative Republican.

Then last month Terry signed on to a Texas congressman’s proposal allowing people to divert their Social Security paycheck contributions into individual investment accounts.

The World-Herald informed Terry’s office of the apparent contradiction.  After his office was contacted by The World-Herald, Terry took his name off the “privatization option” legislation.

As I see it, the legislation—which could more accurately be described as offering a “partial privatization” option—makes eminent sense.

When it is predicted widely that the Social Security System’s so-called “trust fund” will run out of money in 20 or so years, there would be some protection for employees in this proposal by Rep. Pete Sessions, R.-Texas:

Employees could choose to have their 6.2% payroll deduction diverted into their own individual investment accounts.  Their employer’s 6.2% contribution would continue going into the Social Security Administration so-called “trust fund.”  After 15 years, the employer’s contribution also would go to the individual investment accounts.

It seems to me that Terry, at least in this instance, scares too easily, reacting to liberal criticism that partial-privatization would destroy the Social Security System.  The partial-privatization idea, interestingly, first got wide attention when it was advocated years ago by the late Rep. Daniel Patrick Monyihan of New York and endorsed by Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, both Democratic liberals who could hardly be accused of trying to wreck the Social Security System.

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Omaha In Pacific Coast League?  Get A New Name;
Hold A Benefit Against Autism, Not ‘For’ It

To end on the customary lighter note:

Why in the world don’t they find a way to change the name of the baseball league of which the Omaha “Storm Chasers” are a member?

It seems to me a little silly to have to report that Omaha played New Orleans in the Crescent City in a Pacific Coast Conference game.

I suppose there was a time when the league included mostly Pacific Coast teams.  But members now include teams like New Orleans and Memphis and Iowa (Des Moines) and Omaha.

And then there’s the matter of fund-raisers for various causes which include language like “Save the Date” for an evening designed as a “benefit for autism.”

The affair, obviously, is designed not as a benefit “for autism” but a benefit to raise money to fight autism.

It reminds me of the time Marian headed a campaign which was being described as a “Mothers’ March For Polio.”

I suggested to Marian that the name be changed to “Mothers’ March Against Polio.”

She agreed.

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