Why No News Media Focus On Story
Behind Ricketts/Fischer Political Partnership?

It was inevitable that there would be a flood of questions about State Senator Deb Fischer after her eleventh-hour surge to victory in the Nebraska Republican Senatorial nomination primary.

The need to learn more about Fischer was reflected in an estimate by a Fischer supporter that 70% of the voters didn’t really know much if anything about her except that she wasn’t either Attorney General Jon Bruning or State Treasurer Don Stenberg, the other Republican candidates.

I’ve been disappointed—but not necessarily surprised—by how far the post-election news media coverage has fallen short in providing information about Deb Fischer as state senator and her involvement in ownership of a federally-subsidized ranching operation.

Perhaps the biggest example of news media disinterest is reflected in failure to try to find an answer to this obvious question:

What prompted billionaire Joe Ricketts, former Omahan now living in Wyoming, to drop an eleventh-hour bombshell into the campaign with (1) scathing criticism of Bruning for accumulating wealth during his tenure as a state senator and attorney general and (2) endorsing Fischer and providing $250,000 to finance anti-Bruning, pro-Fischer hard-hitting television commercials?

Did Fischer approach Ricketts or was her case for a late hit on Bruning urged on Joe Ricketts by one of Rickett’s sons, Omahan Pete Ricketts, a veteran of Nebraska political campaigning which might have led to the animosity towards Jon Bruning?  A question that needs to be asked, in fairness to all parties concerned, including Pete Ricketts, who as Nebraska’s representative on the National Republican Committee would have an obligation to avoid taking sides in primary elections.

Pete Ricketts may quickly and honestly reply that he had no hand in bringing his father and Deb Fischer together, but the question should be asked and answered.

The Ricketts/Fischer connection became more newsworthy when The New York Times reported that an elaborate, detailed plan had been developed by a firm for using money from Ricketts corporate political action committee to focus on defeating “Barack Hussein Obama” for re-election.

Ricketts’ Predictable Defense Contrasts With Assault On Bruning

Ricketts found himself on the defensive in the national media spotlight.  But spokesmen, predictably, disavowed any involvement in the consultant-developed proposed assault on Obama to be financed by millions of dollars from Ricketts’ “Ending Spending Action Fund.”

Some of the efforts to disavow connection with such an assault on Obama stood in marked contrast to the strategy and tactics employed against Jon Bruning with money donated by Joe Ricketts.

Spokesmen for Ricketts’ political action fund responded to The New York Times story with these words:

“Mr. Ricketts intends to work hard to help elect a president who shares his commitment to economic responsibility but his efforts are focused entirely on decisions of fiscal policy, not attacks that seek to divide us socially or culturally.”

Ricketts or a spokesman should be asked how this pious language jibes with Ricketts personal assault on Jon Bruning’s integrity.

Next week, a look at Deb Fischer as state legislator and involvement in a federally-subsidized family ranch, plus some of the things Fischer has been saying about what she would hope to accomplish in Washington.

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New Game, Parks Boss Jim Douglas
Starts Well Despite A Bum Rap

As I see it, you have to be digging pretty hard in search of a touch of scandal—or at least a case of questionable if not poor judgment by a public official—to produce a story which, across the top page of the front page of a news section, carries this headline:

“Up first for strapped agency’s boss:  Remodel office.”

The subhead read:  “The new Game and Parks director says the dated building is in need of work.”

The story went on to report some details of the condition of the office which led the new Game and Parks director, Jim Douglas, to decide it should be updated.

The 44-year-old Game and Parks headquarters in northeast Lincoln “is in tough shape,” Douglas said.  “We’re not exactly being extravagant over here,” Douglas said.

Pat Cole, budget officer for the Game and Parks Commission, said the agency often does remodeling when the occupant of an office changes.

You had to read to the 12th and final paragraph of the story to learn that the estimated cost of remodeling the director’s office is less than $20,000.

Some scandal.

New Director’s Goals Worthy Of Successor To Rex Amack

Another story involving the new Game and Parks Commission director appeared with a smaller headline and at the bottom of the front page of another World-Herald Midlands news section.

This story quoted Douglas, a 38-veteran of service, as saying he plans to concentrate on what the agency and the people of Nebraska can accomplish by working together.

Douglas is traveling the state introducing himself to community leaders and conservation leaders, asking them one question, he told World-Herald staff writer David Hendee:

“What can we do together?”

Hendee wrote that the question is Douglas’ way of signaling his intent to listen to what Nebraskans want from the stewards of the state’s fish, wildlife, parks and outdoor recreational resources.

As I see it, Jim Douglas’ words and intentions are worthy of a successor to Rex Amack, who retired May 20 after 24 years of dedicated, praiseworthy service as Game and Parks Commission director.

* * *

Worthy Goal:  Closing Learning Gap,
But Unachievable In Many Cases

Another smorgasbord, offering you the opportunity to pick and choose items of interest to you.  (Need I add that you should feel perfectly free to pick all of them, of course?)

–Surely a worthy objective, The World-Herald’s focus on lessons that might be learned from the way other metropolitan areas have tackled the problem of trying to close the learning gap (as measured by test scores) between predominantly white students and students from minority groups.

But as I see it, it is not reasonable to expect that the gap can be closed in many cases.

A very large percentage—the majority, I would think—of black students start out with two or closer to three strikes against them.  In too many cases, there is this tragic reality:

There are reliable studies which indicate that 50% of black babies are born to unwed mothers and 70% of those babies are raised in homes without a father figure present.  This means that many such children don’t have a realistic chance to reach the same achievement level as more fortunate white students.

I stress that this doesn’t mean that all the youths who start out at a disadvantage can’t narrow or close the gap with proper help.

But I think it is unfair and unrealistic to expect—in some cases to demand—the gap be greatly narrowed or closed or school principals and teachers will be fired or schools even be closed if they do not meet learning-test achievement goals set by Federal or state bureaucrats.

–Is there a shortage of cowboys—or, more realistically, bikers and hikers interested in using the so-called “Cowboy Trail” that stretches across much of northern Nebraska between Norfolk and Valentine, with a stretch west to Chadron still to be built, some 321 miles in all?

The question occurred to son David and me as we returned last Sunday from a successful turkey hunting trip north of Rushville in Sheridan County.  (We hunted with longtime friend and former game warden Myrv Kampbell and Dr. Glen Forney of Scottsbluff and Dr. Kent Forney of Lincoln, sons of dear longtime friends, the late Don and Olive Forney whose ranch home was close to Smith Lake south of Rushville.)

For mile after mile after mile Dave and I saw no hiker or biker using the concrete Cowboy Trail which had been built at considerable expense some years ago on former railroad right-of-way, supposedly to accommodate hikers and bikers.

We didn’t see a single biker or hiker on the trail, which runs within sight of Highway 20 except where it has to detour around or through a town with other buildings close to the highway.

Dave and I encountered one biker—a young woman riding against the traffic on the edge of Highway 20, and another biker who paused near Highway 20, but not on the Cowboy Trail.

This put me in mind of questions I’ve had in regard to the renewed emphasis on accommodating bikers and hikers on bridges and trails in and around and between cities like Omaha and Council Bluffs.

The trails and road-widening projects would be better accepted by the general public if there were a significantly larger number of people who hike and bike—people, for example, who would use that stretch of Cowboy Trail on a very pleasant sunny, temperature-in-the-70s Sunday in northern Nebraska.

–The headline read:  “Missouri River named one of most endangered.”

I didn’t have to read the story to know that it was one of the periodic efforts of a Washington, D.C. based organization called American Rivers to gain public attention to views which, as best I can recall, are invariably alarmist.

This time the American Rivers cry of alarm included these words:

“The once-wide Missouri, with extensive flood plains and shallow water areas, has been harnessed into a series of massive reservoirs on the upper river and narrow, deep channels on the lower river.  The channelization has made flood damage worse, putting communities at higher risk.”

Given little or no attention in the periodic American Rivers cries of alarm is the fact that Army Engineers manage the rivers in an effort to respond to Congressional mandates which include flood control but also recreational activities like fishing and boating and channelization designed to accommodate barge traffic.

(Over the years, channelization for barge traffic has consistently been the least utilized of the various purposes mandated by Congress.)

* * *

Pelosi Contributions Pitch Good For A Laugh

As regular readers know, I try to finish each week with an upbeat item, frequently involving something I found to be humorous.

This week’s choice was a slam dunk—a form letter addressed to me in the name of Nancy Pelosi, seeking funds for the election of Democratic candidates come November.

The ultra liberal San Franciscan, Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, said my contribution would help combat Republican threats to reduce Medicare benefits and cap or reduce Social Security benefits.

Contributions from older voters like me could possibly help in returning the Democrats to a majority in the House of Representatives, Nancy’s message suggested.  (She didn’t mention that this would make her again Speaker of the House.)

How did I get on Nancy’s mailing list?  I suspect that there is some way that fund-raisers can get access to the names and addresses of persons receiving Social Security checks.  Perhaps older persons with Medicare coverage.

Whatever.  I found it amusing rather than irritating.  Need I add that I didn’t send a check?

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