Ben Nelson Undecided About Running Again?
You’ve Got To Be Kidding, Senator

It’s difficult—no, make that impossible—to believe Senator Ben Nelson and his campaign manager when they say Nelson has not decided whether he will seek re-election.


Nelson and campaign manager” Paul Johnson were quoted in last Sunday’s World-Herald as saying Nelson hasn’t decided whether he will seek election to a third six-year term in the United States Senate.  But just a few days earlier, I had received a 3 ½-page letter carrying the name and a reproduction of the signature of Paul Johnson.

The letter included a “Ben Nelson For Senate” contributions request for unbelievable descriptions of what might happen to America if any of three leading candidates for the Republican senatorial nomination—Attorney General Jon Bruning, State Treasurer Don Stenberg or State Senator Deb Fischer—were to be nominated and elected instead of Nelson.

The fund-raising letter stands in stark contrast to Nelson’s and Johnson’s assertions that Nelson has not decided to seek re-election.

In the letter, the three Republican candidates are described as “Senator Nelson’s opponents.”  (How can they be described as opponents unless he has decided to oppose the survivor of the Republican primary?)

There is also a description of the three Republicans as “trying to defeat Senator Nelson.”  How do you “defeat” Senator Nelson if he isn’t a candidate for re-election?

After an appeal for a contribution in support “for this campaign”—a contribution to be recorded on a “Ben Nelson for Senate” card—Nelson’s campaign manager’s letter ends with a preposterous assertion that electing one of the three Republican candidates instead of Ben Nelson will “fundamentally change the nature of America.”

What nonsense.

Earlier in the letter, Nelson’s campaign manager—or whoever wrote the letter sent out over Paul Johnson’s name—asserts that at least two of the three Republican candidates (cleverly, the two supposedly guilty candidates were not named) had, in effect, endorsed a 30% federal retail sales tax.  There is also the flat assertion that $10 million dollars will be spent on “attack ads against Senator Nelson,” without offering any substantiation for such a prediction.

While on the subject of Senator Nelson’s credibility—I will apologize if Nelson does not seek re-election—I will not apologize for this assertion:  The attacks on Bruning, Stenberg and Fischer are inexcusable on two counts:

First, a good deal of Democratic Party money is being spent in an attempt to determine if there is a legal loophole through which attack ads can be financed before a potential candidate has announced his decision to run.

Second, the “Ben Nelson for Senate” fund-raising letter takes the political low road (I was tempted to say descends into the political gutter) in totally unsubstantiated assertions like the threat of a 30% federal sales tax if a Republican defeats Nelson and the suggestion that Nelson would face $10 million worth of “attack ads.”

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When Facts Are Stymied By Emotion,
Pipeline Compromise Seems Sensible Course

Some thoughts on the status of the Great Pipeline Controversy:

The facts—supported by impressive expert opinion—were confronted by fervent emotional opposition, and those emotional opponents may have had the votes to trump the facts.

So compromise is a practical way to try to protect the $7-billion-plus project from crashing on the emotional rocks.

So my compliments to Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood and, certainly, to executives of the TransCanada Corporation for agreeing to a compromise effort.  It will delay the pipeline’s construction and possibly cost the State of Nebraska $7 million.  But, for now at least, it keeps on track the possibility of a pipeline built along another route—a pipeline which is needed to reduce North American dependence on oil imports from the Middle East and South America.

If a re-routing around the Nebraska Sand Hills can be accomplished, there will be time for critical review of the fact that Nebraska political officeholders, including Governor Heineman, slept on the Sand Hills pipeline construction issue for between two and three years, waking up only after 95% of the necessary easements had been acquired from Sand Hills landowners.

The weeks and months to come will possibly reveal how President Obama will—not if—try to claim credit for helping bring about the compromise by stepping into the controversy.

In a statement a few days after the State Department had reopened the issue of whether the Sand Hills route was environmentally low-risk, Obama pushed into the act with a statement which said in part that the Sand Hills route “could affect the health and safety of the American people.”

A pipeline across a portion of Nebraska Sand Hills is a threat to the health and safety of all the American people, Mr. President?

Sounds like a candidate concerned over his re-election chances, willing to go to irresponsible—or is it just plain silly?—lengths in his political rhetoric.

For now, a tip of my columnist’s cap to legislators—especially Speaker Mike Flood—and TransCanada officials for reaching a compromise which may lead the way to construction of a pipeline important to our national interests to the extent that it reduces dependence on crude oil from overseas sources.

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Law Enforcement Officers Deserve Support
In Action Against Scofflaw ‘Occupiers’

More power to the law enforcement agencies which are taking action against “Occupy America” groups (“mobs” would be an accurate description in some cases) which have been seeking attention in cities across the country in recent weeks.

The ridiculous claim of the protestors that they represent 99% of Americans in opposition to 1% of “exploiters” has generated few results except occasional violence and some of the hoped-for news media attention.

Predictably, efforts to move the “occupiers” from public sites which they have no legal right to seize has resulted in some violent clashes between the “occupiers”—for which read “small mobs”—and law enforcement officers enforcing orders that the “occupiers” must move.

This, of course, is a country in which freedom of speech and assembly and the right to petition for redress of grievances are legally guaranteed.  There is simply no evidence that the “occupiers” tried, much less exhausted, these avenues of redress of what they see as their grievances.

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Congress Helped Create Corps River Policy;
Appropriate For Congress To Take New Look

Latest chapter in the long-continuing controversy over the way the Corps of Army Engineers should—or must—manage the storage of water in six Missouri River dams:

U.S. Representative Steve King of Iowa introduced a bill which would require the Corps to keep water levels low enough behind the six dams to avoid repetition of this year’s disastrous flooding below the dams.

There is evidence—impressive evidence, in my opinion—that the Corps could not have managed the dams to avoid flooding the river valley in a year of historic volumes of water flowing into the reservoirs.

But you can’t blame Representative King for trying.  And it is appropriate that Congress consider the issue, since it was Congressional intervention (would “interference” be too strong a word?) into management of the dams which has helped cloud the issue as to what should be the Corps’ priority in managing the dams.

Going through some press clipp8ing which have accumulated in my files, I found World-Herald editorials which carried these headlines:

“Missouri madness” and “The Missouri ‘mess’” and a front-page headline which read:  “River fight lands in one court” with this subhead:

“A panel of judges takes the case away from two colleagues who had issued conflicting orders.”

All this attention to the management of the Mighty Missouri was in 2002, largely as a result of varying interpretations of a Congressional mandate (yes, Representative King, a Congressional mandate) that told the Corps to change the river flow in a way that would protect endangered species’ breeding habitat in the river.

The current controversy has spotlighted the varying interests of the Missouri River basin states which are affected by the way the dams are managed.  Montana’s governor, for example, came out strongly against drawing down the reservoir levels in his state so far as to reduce recreational opportunities, which attract tourist dollars.

It is appropriate that since Congressional involvement has helped create the present controversy, Congress be involved again.

Don’t bet on any quick or easy or broadly acceptable Congressional solution.

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I’ll Save Until Later Some Papa Joe ‘Lessons’

I’ll save my comment on the Joe Paterno soap opera for a couple of weeks, when I have more “column-writing time” available.  I have some thoughts about what we can learn from the Papa Joe case—lessons that apply far beyond football coaching.

* * *

Headlines—Real And Fictitious—Provide Laughs

And now, closing on a customary upbeat note, a few laugh-producing headlines, some of them intentionally funny, some of them funny but not intentionally.

In Louisiana there is a village named Waterproof, and this headline appeared:  “5 Waterproof men drown.”

And this from The New York Times:  “Wahrhafing seeks to clear his name.”

Also from the collection gathered some years ago by the Associated Press Managing Editors organization:

A star marathon runner named Craig Virgin created a problem for headlines writers everywhere.  An example, after Virgin won the Peachtree Classic in Georgia, this headline appeared:  “1000 chase Virgin in Peachtree.”

In Illinois there is a town called Normal and a town called Oblong.  A headline result:  “Normal boy married to Oblong girl.”

So much for unintended headline humor.  The APME collection included also some heads written just for fun, not for publication.  Among them:

“Armed deer slays 75 hunters.”  And this:  “Hunter bags eight reindeers, bearded elf.”  The St. Petersburg Times editors contributed this fictitious entry:  “WORLD TO END FRIDAY.  Most Downtown Stores Remain Open.”

And this fictitious laugh-producer:

“No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.”

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