Expert Pro Pipeline Opinion Finally Surfaces
As The Often Emotional Opposition Continues

If you didn’t turn to the sports pages first, to see what the coaches and sports scribes had to say about the Cornhusker collapse in Madison, Wisconsin, you might have noticed yet another front page story focusing on opposition to the TransCanada Corporation’s plans for the Keystone XL Pipeline carrying crude oil across a slice (a very narrow slice, but opponents never mention that) of the Nebraska Sand Hills.

And if you had worked your way through the 60 paragraphs, you would have come across a scattering of paragraphs reporting important facts which call into serious question “the sky is falling” rhetoric of the pipeline’s opponents.

Facts important enough to be told in a story of their own instead of being dropped into a story which began (including a color picture) and ended with anti-pipeline arguments from an activist who some people call “Pipeline Cindy,” who has traveled to Washington to lobby against the project.  (You learn this in the 58th paragraph).

In contrast to an activist’s emotions, the 60-paragraph Sunday story did reveal on an inside page—after more than a year of controversy—this basically important fact:

The pipeline project is supported by University of Nebraska hydrologist Jim Goeke, described as “perhaps the leading expert on the Sand Hills and its water.”

Goeke—described as having sunk hundreds of wells into the Sand Hills during 35 years of research—was quoted as agreeing with the analysis of TransCanada officials that pipeline leaks would have minor, localized impacts because (1) groundwater moves so slowly in the area, and (2) oil and diluting chemicals rise and would be blocked from the groundwater below by layers of sand, silt and clay.

Given three-paragraph attention was the previously unreported fact that the total Ogallala aquifer under the Sand Hills is not at risk, because the pipeline would cut across the eastern part of the aquifer.  This would mean 75-80% of the aquifer under the Sand Hills could not conceivably be involved because the aquifer water moves—perhaps two feet a day—from west to east.

A serious problem, obviously, if 20 to 25% of the Sand Hills and underlying aquifer were at risk, but there is convincing evidence to the contrary, as demonstrated by hydrologist Jim Goeke’s expert opinion and such precautions as described in the 55th paragraph of the Sunday story:

Pipe that is laid in areas of high water tables will be incased in concrete. 

How unfortunate that the positive side of the pipeline story has to be gleaned from a story emphasizing an activist’s opposition.

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If Senator Nelson Hasn’t Decided To Run,
Why The Flood Of Television Commercials?

That flood of televisions commercials—sometimes two within five minutes—in which Ben Nelson talks about his record as governor of Nebraska makes it all the harder to believe Nelson is being candid when he says he hasn’t decided whether to seek a third term in the United States Senate.

Why in the name of political common sense would Nelson spend so much money—donated money, presumably—projecting a favorable image of himself to the public if he hasn’t decided to run for another Senate term?

I believe the commercials may backfire on Nelson.  The sheer volume, particularly when most voters are fed up with most politicians of any stripe, is irritating, as I see it.

As to Ben’s claim that as governor he balanced the state budget eight times, cut state taxes 41 times and left office with a big cash balance, the facts are these:

No governor can claim credit for balancing the state budget alone.  Legislatures finally pass budget bills.  No governor can claim to have cut taxes.  He can recommend tax cuts, but again the Legislature makes the decision.  Forty-one so-called tax cuts in an eight-year period would mean a whole lot of trimming of fees and taxes as compared to the major state tax revenue producers—sales, income and gasoline.

“We”—the governor and the Legislature—would be more appropriate than “I” in those claims of achievement during Nelson’s eight years as governor.

Nelson says he left office with “a big cash balance.”  He also left office with a state obligation which ultimately cost in the neighborhood of $150 million because Nebraska was found guilty of reneging on its obligation, as a partner in a multi-state compact, to provide a storage site for low-level radioactive waste.

In his commercials, in addition to his version of his record as governor, Nelson makes one reference to his record as United States Senator.  He says he voted for a proposal for a federal constitutional amendment requiring a balanced Federal budget.

Such a vote could be considered political gainsmanship, since Congress has no authority to amend the constitution and proposals to submit proposed constitutional amendments to action by state legislators usually generate little real support.

* * *

Will Immigrants Become Americans
Or Simply Mexicans Living In America?

It was an item under The World-Herald’s “COMMUNITY CONNECTION” headline, followed by a “BRIEFLY” subhead.

The item itself was headlined:  “All can experience Polish heritage.”

The four-paragraph story reported that October is Polish Heritage Month, and the Polish Home, Inc. of Omaha would start the celebration Sunday (Oct. 2) with a noon to 3 p.m. Polish Heritage Workshop at the Polish Home, 2001 E. 1 St. in Papillion.

There followed three paragraphs telling of the activities scheduled at the Polish Home during October, including a lunch of Polish-type food and a “Polish Fashion” TV show star who will perform at a Polish Heritage dance on October 21.

As I read the accurately described “BRIEFLY” item, I couldn’t help but compare the attention given to Omahans of Polish heritage with the extensive coverage given to at least two major “Mexican heritage” celebrations year after year .  The extensive celebrations and the attention they get bring to my mind a question:  Are we reading about celebration of their Mexican heritage by immigrants who want to become Americans or immigrants—a good many of them here illegally—who want to create a sort of “Mexico del Norte” in the United States?

Other ethnic groups—Danish, German, Irish, Swedis, Italian and the rest—celebrated their ethnic heritage, and some still do.  (The annual Santa Lucia Festival sponsored by Americans of Italian descent comes to mind).

But such ethnic groups came to this country to become Americans, not Danes or Swedes or Poles or Italians living in America.

Time will tell whether the same can be said of Hispanics who, for a close-to-home example, have become so numerous that they can live comfortably in South Omaha without ever having to speak a word of English.

* * *

A Bit Of Salve For The Wounds:
Two Husker Plays Make List Of “20 Greatest”

To end today on one of my usual upbeat notes, I turn again to the subject of Husker football—some highlights from the past, that is.

In the current issue of the National Football Foundation’s “Footballetter,” sports writer Dan Jenkins, who probably knows as much about football past and present as any living journalist, writes of his choices for 20 of “college football’s greatest plays.”  Nebraska Cornhuskers make the list twice.

One of the plays involving the Cornhuskers is, predictably, Johnny Rodgers’ spectacular 72-yard punt return which, Jenkins writes, “In the end was the difference in the Nebraska-Oklahoma game of the week/month/year/century/eternity for Who’s No. 1.  In your basic thriller, it was Nebraska 35, Oklahoma 31.

Less predictable was Dan Jenkins’ choice of the Nebraska-Missouri thriller (it was certainly thrilling for Nebraskans) played in Columbia in 1997.

Jenkins pointed out that Nebraska was rated No. 1 and Missouri had lost three games and hadn’t beaten the Huskers since 1979.

“And yet in this incredible game the Tigers led, 38-31, with only seven seconds left.”

Husker fans will not need to be told that Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost fired a pass into the end zone.  Frost hit teammate Shevin Wiggins in the chest, but the ball pops out.  Amazingly, the ball stays in the air long enough for Wiggins, now prone, to kick it with his foot, Jenkins writes.

“The ball goes up and falls down into the diving hands of Matt Davison for a tying Cornhusker touchdown.”

The “flea-kicker” play goes into history as the Huskers win in overtime, 45-38.

A postscript to Dan Jenkins’ recalling of that memorable Frost-to-Wiggins-to-Davison national-championship-saver:

I met Matt Davison for the first time last year after a Nebraska basketball game which he had covered as a radio sportscaster.  I told him I had heard that Coach Tom Osborne’s only comment to Davison on his national-championship-saving catch came on the team bus as the Huskers headed for the airport after the game.  The story is that Osborne walked past Davison on his way to a seat farther back in the bus and said only, “Nice catch, Matt.”

That, Davison told me, was indeed the extent of Osborne’s congratulatory comments.

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