‘Invasion Of Privacy’ Hysteria Is Unjustified;
National Security Faces Unprecedented Threats

How about injecting some practical considerations into the current furor over what some civil libertarians and journalists can consider a sort of police-state intrusion into the citizenry’s private affairs?

Let’s recall, for example, September 11, 2001, when four commercial airliners were commandeered in flight by Islamic terrorists.  Two of them were flown into the World Trade Center Towers in New York City, with the resulting loss of some 3,000 lives.  Another was flown into the Pentagon national military headquarters in Washington.  The fourth crashed in Pennsylvania after a few courageous passengers attacked the terrorists who had taken control of the plane, which reportedly was supposed to be crashed into the United States Capitol.

One result of this bloody example of the extent to which international terrorists hate this country and its citizens was the adoption of the passenger-screening procedures which are in place at American airports—passenger-screening procedures which were critically spotlighted in a McClatchy Newspapers opinion piece which The World-Herald recently published in a spot usually reserved for the top news story of the day.

‘Patted Down’ Better Than Being Blown Up

The McClatchy Newspapers editorial included this passage:

“Consider what happens at the airport.  Travelers remove shoes, exposing their socks.  They remove belts, exposing their bellies.  They empty pockets, exposing their private change.  They stand, obediently, in a manner that shows their body image, or they submit to being patted and touched by a uniformed stranger.

“’The enhanced pat-down procedure, if done non-consensually, would amount to sexual assault in most jurisdictions, and the intrusion of peering under his clothes would be utterly illegal,’ Harvard Law School students Jeffrey H. Redfern and Anant N. Pradhan declare in a 2010 lawsuit.”

How Many Airliners Blown Up Since 9/11?

The McClatchy Newspapers editors and the two Harvard Law School students ought to be asked this question:

Since our government adopted the policy of carefully screening passengers, how many airlines flights have fallen into the control of terrorists?

The answer, of course, is none.

The lengthy McClatchy Newspapers opinion piece cited other examples of what McClatchy editors feel is unreasonable intrusion into private lives—none of which, so far as the article indicated, resulted in any unjustified arrest of anyone.

As I see it, our federal government has properly and carefully enforced a sensible policy of electronic-age surveillance under a broad policy described by President Obama in these words:

“You can’t have 100% security and 100% privacy and zero inconvenience.”

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Taxpayer-Subsidized ‘Wind Farm’ Bill
Is Mislabeled And Vastly Oversold

There is entirely too much loose language to describe legislation which a “wind power” development firm successfully pushed through this year’s session of the Nebraska Legislature.

A news story this week described the legislation as an effort to attract “a wind farm worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Nebraska.”  The bill was simply not intended to develop a gigantic “wind farm” which would bring hundreds of millions of dollars to Nebraska.

The intent was to give a state tax break (in addition to the federal tax subsidies which wind power developers already enjoy) to set up a big-money wind power promotion and development operation in Nebraska.

There is a great deal of taxpayer-subsidized money to be made by such a company in fabricating and/or installing the electricity-producing windmills on particularly windy sites, usually on farms.

Non-Nebraska Investors Major Beneficiaries

Such a developer can bring a temporary infusion of dollars into the state during the development and/or erection of the wind turbines.  But as some Iowa rural communities have discovered, when the erection crews were no longer living in town spending money for lodging, food and recreation, there is a painful negative economic impact on the community.

So long as federal and state tax subsidies make “wind power” projects an attractive investment (attracting non-Nebraska investors in the case at hand), public officials, including legislators, will continue to try to lure such non-Nebraska investors, and some residual on-farm profits will continue after the non-Nebraskan investors have pulled out their construction crews.

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Legislative Irresponsibility In Linking
‘Wind Farm’ And Sales Tax Bills

Against the background of a generally productive legislative session, the so-called “wind farm” bill featured in one of the very worst legislative performances that I can recall, and I’ve been observing the Legislature closely for some 60 years.  I refer to the way the legislative majority allowed themselves to be outwitted—once again—by Omaha Senator Ernie Chambers, back at his filibustering best (worst would probably be a better description) after a four-year absence.

Apparently in their anxiety to keep their so-called “wind farm” bill free of a threat of a Chambers filibuster, the bill’s supporters agreed to allowing Chambers to attach a totally-unrelated subject to their bill—an amendment excluding Omahans from an option which will be available to every other city in Nebraska; i.e., the right to vote on the possibility of a ½ cent increase in the city’s local sales tax.

Chambers is opposed to any such increase in Omaha’s municipal sales tax, as am I.  I agree with him that the sales tax is a regressive tax, falling hardest on lower-income people.  But I think it outrageous that Omaha should be the only city in the state without the option of voting on such an increase.

Now Ernie Chambers is wise enough to know that there is virtually no possibility that the mayor and City Council of Omaha would go for a popular vote on a sales tax increase—an even less possibility that the voters would approve such an increase.

But both “wind farm” enthusiasts and Chambers knew that the “wind farm” bill alone faced a veto threat based on Governor Heineman’s indicated opposition.  So the deal with Chambers was cut, allowing him to amend the “wind farm” bill with an anti-sales tax increase provision which Governor Heineman supported (so strongly that he decided against vetoing the bill).

Inexcusable tactics, but they worked.

Governor Heineman must take some responsibility in this matter, too.  There is no justifiable reason for his choosing to exclude the state’s largest city from the sales-tax-increase-vote authority.

* * *

Sending Juvenile Offenders Home
Involves Some Risks, As I See It

Overall, I thought the Nebraska Legislature did a credible job this year including providing increased funds for the University of Nebraska to allow the university to hold tuition costs at the present level for the next two years.

On the questionable side of the ledger, I wonder about the decision to move so far away from confining juvenile lawbreakers in state institutions in Geneva (for females) and Kearney (for males).

The legislative switch to emphasis on keeping the juvenile lawbreakers in their homes under some form of state supervision raises this question in my mind:  Is it wise to put young offenders back into the same environment, frequently to live with an unwed mother and without a father present in the home?

Can the promise of state supervision overcome the potential danger of placing the youngster back in the same environment from which he or she emerged as a lawbreaker?

A worthy goal, but certainly a challenging one, as I see it.

* * *

Today’s Smorgasbord
Immigration ‘Reform’ Raises A Practical Question:
Spanish To Be De Facto Second Language?

My customary smorgasbord of items.  Help yourself.

–It was inappropriate as well as impolite for a South High School student, invited to the governor’s mansion to be congratulated on South’s winning the state high school soccer championship, used the occasion to ask the governor to advocate special treatment in regard to driver’s license eligibility for young illegal immigrants.

The South High soccer player, and his largely Latino teammates, might better be advocating a national policy which provides a clear path for them to earn legal citizenship by meeting some specified requirements—such things as showing proficiency in the English language and demonstrating a knowledge of the history of the United States and both the privileges and the responsibilities of citizenship.

There are proposals in both House and Senate for immigration law reform, but I have read of nothing that approaches the specific steps which I have proposed above.  The more likely result, I fear, will be something like a relatively easy path to citizenship with the implication—not the requirement, of course—that English-speaking Americans should prepare to be at least minimally proficient in Spanish if they intend to converse with certain of their new fellow citizens.

It is common knowledge that a substantial percentage of Latino “immigrants” are not proficient in English.

I should add that I understand that the young Latinos seeking drivers’ licenses feel that this is a reasonable request as they continue to prepare for careers in this country.

But why don’t they set their sights higher and campaign for a path they can follow to earn an American citizen’s rights a great deal more comprehensive and rewarding than having a driver’s license?

–I have been surprised at the lack of strong candidates coming forward following Governor Heineman’s decision not to seek the Senatorial nomination next year.  (But as I dictate these lines, word reaches me that National Republican Committee member Pete Ricketts is sounding out potential campaign fund contributors as he considers running again for the Senate as he did six years ago—very unsuccessfully—against the incumbent Democrat, Ben Nelson.)

Among several possible candidates, including some state legislators, there has been only one that has been impressive—Democrat Chuck Hassebrook, who served with distinction on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents and is director of the Center for Rural Affairs based in Lyons, Nebraska.

Hassebrook has voiced an interest in running for governor.

–It probably should come as no surprise that State Senator Brad Ashford of Omaha has again changed his mind—or seems about to change—as to his party affiliation.

Ashford has a galloping case of an affliction for which I have coined a name—“Politicus Incurabilis,” an incurable desire to seek public office.

He has been, in turn, a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent and is now taking of registering as a Democrat to seek to fill the Senate seat that will be vacated by the retirement of Republican Senator Mike Johanns.

* * *

Marian Gets High Marks From A Reader

I finish today with a postscript to last week’s column-ender, in which I said that on a scale of 1 to 10, I rated Marian a 15.

A regular reader and close friend reacted with his appraisal:

“Marian is a 25.”

I think we should stop there, lest we spoil my roommate.

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