Let’s Start With ‘Happy News’ As ’14 Ends
Before Turning To New Problems In 2015

It’s still “Happy New Year Time” as we move into the first full week of 2015.  So let’s start with some upbeat “happy” news and comments.  For example, a heartfelt “Thank you!” for Public Broadcasting System affiliates for their consistently high quality of interesting and/or entertaining programing.

I’m thinking about New Year’s Eve performances such as Marian and I so enjoyed carried nationwide on Public Broadcasting Systems, including Nebraska’s Channel 12.

Those performances included the two hours of the legendary George Gershwin’s music, played by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Manhattan’s Lincoln Center and an hour broadcast featuring Michael Feinstein and guests broadcast from the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center in downtown Manhattan.

Sinatra Tunes A Highlight

The music was simply superb, accompanied by Feinstein’s witty comments.  The highlight of the Rainbow Room broadcast to me came as Feinstein and a guest sang five minutes or so of songs made famous by the incomparable Frank Sinatra.

Marian and I very much appreciate the variety and quality of programs carried on public television, ranging in Nebraska from the Nebraska-focused weekly Big Red Wrap-up featuring news and opinions about University of Nebraska football to, of course, the immensely popular Downton Abbey carried Sunday evening by PBS stations nationwide.

More No. 1 Ratings For Nebraska

Among a variety of other things that Nebraskans should be happy with as we move from 2014 into a New Year are the continuing reports of Nebraska’s high ratings as to quality of life.  Among the latest, reported in a recent column by The World-Herald splendid columnist, Mike Kelly:

Omaha is the No. 1 city in America for an active lifestyle, according to a Washington, D.C. financial firm survey.  Also among the other recent “happy” news stories for Omahans to enjoy as we start into a new year:

Capital campaign conducted by the Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha exceeded a fund-raising goal by 25%, raising $51.8 million.

I could go on, but I hope I’ve made my point:

There some certainly less-than-happy news for America in the Mideast and in the White House but there is also a happier side to the news as we enter 2015.

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Less Happy News:  Abroad, New Mideast Commitments;
At Home, A ‘Congress Be Damned’ Imperial President

After more than 10 years of trying to help bring stable national governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s disheartening to start over.

In Afghanistan instead of reducing military commitment we are actually increasing military efforts to address what but over a good many generations has proved to be an insolvable problem, as the British and the Soviet Union learned.

The problem is, of course, trying to bring stable government, democratic government to a country where tribal warlords—and now the murderous Taliban terrorists—seem quite disinterested in being restrained by a stable central government.

In Iraq, of course, the new problem in that the unfortunate country—where centuries-old factional strife between Sunni majority and Shiite minority has new factional strife—as a new sect even more murderous than either Sunnis or Shiites—the ISIS terrorists who seek to establish an independent nation in what has been northern Iraq.

In both cases—Afghanistan and Northern Iraq—the United States is becoming more militarily involved than had been hoped for and planned for.

Obama Becomes ‘Imperialist’ President

On the home front, a president who can’t get what he wants from the Congress seems clearly to be stepping beyond the appropriate constitutional restraints and becoming a sort of imperialist president, an “I am the law” president.

The most flagrant recent example of the “I am the law presidency” is Obama’s unilateral decision to offer safe haven to illegal immigrants if they have children.

His approach to a serious problem—one that should surely be addressed by the Congress in cooperation with the president—is to create non-statutory approach allowing illegal immigrants who have children to continue their illegal status in the country for two or three years.

This should be quickly followed by a plan by a program to provide a fairly quick route to citizenship for the parents and the children.

That in turn should be followed by legislation providing a path to citizenship for the estimated eight million additional illegal immigrants who are not covered by the special program for immigrants with children.

The news stories about Obama’s latest example of “I am the law” presidency gave no indication that during the two to three years programs will be put in place to allow the parents to earn legal status by some kind of an educational program leading to citizenship.

What About Other Illegal Immigrants?

Nor does it contain any hint as to what Obama plans to do about the estimated eight million other illegal immigrants.

Obama’s current performance was sharply questioned by Ross Douthat, a columnist for the liberal New York Times.

The columnist cited case after case in which Obama’s current “I am the law” approach of the presidency is in sharp contrast to the position which he took repeatedly as he campaigned for election in earlier years.

Douthat ended his column with these words:  “…he has chosen to present himself in a different way, by becoming the very thing he once campaigned against:  an elected Caesar…a president unbound.”

Entire Illegal Immigrant Problem Requires Attention

I have written before that finding and expelling an estimated 13 million illegal immigrants is obviously impossible.

The only practical solution, as I see it, is to work hard at preparing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  We should take steps—through some reasonable federal government-sponsored program—to encourage them to earn United States citizenship.

But for President Obama to address the problem by presidential decree and without any mention of the estimated eight million or so other illegal immigrants is presidential action at its worst.

The constitutional approach would be for Obama to make a sincere effort to work with the Congress to address the problem constitutionally.  And, I hasten to add, the Congress must work with the president in finding a solution.

* * *

The Sporting Scene:  Bad Decisions
Stand Out Regionally And Nationally

Let’s start with the major mistake made by the committee appointed to pick four college football teams for a three game showdown from which the winner emerges as the supposedly legitimate national collegiate football champion.

The committee chose badly by not including Texas Christian in place of the Florida State Seminoles.

Undefeated or not, the Seminoles record didn’t include enough impressive victories to justify their selection—a fact pretty clearly demonstrated when they were defeated by Oregon, 59-20.

In fairness to the selection committee, on which former Husker coach and athletic director Tom Osborne served:  What had appeared to be a questionable selection of Ohio State turned out to be a good call, as the Buckeyes decisively defeated favored Alabama.

Sports Reporters’ Choice Still Best

The basic question, however, remains unanswered:  Why is a four-playoff among teams selected by a supposedly knowledgeable committee better than the once time-honored method of consensus agreement on the national champion as picked by the votes of sports news reporters from across the country?

The Nebraska Cornhuskers won all four of their undisputed national championships that way.

After the 1997 season—the last season of Tom Osborne’s coaching the Cornhuskers, the sports writers picked undefeated Michigan over undefeated Nebraska.

The football coaches association—whose entry into the champion-picking business was always questionable, as I see it—voted the Huskers No. 1.  Since the Huskers’ claim to a fifth national championship was not endorsed by the media reporters, the Huskers won something like 4 ½ national championships, some people still argue.

My point is that no system is perfect, obviously.  But after all the games are played, the collective view of news media reporters—who collectively see all the teams which can be considered eligible national championship consideration—is most likely to produce the right choice.

Odd Position Taken By UNO Hockey Coach

On the local and state sports scene, a few news stories are especially worthy of comment, it seems to me.

First, sympathy for Husker women’s basketball Coach Connie Yori and her influenza-plagued team—so plagued that for one of the Big 10 Conference games, only seven players were available.

No sympathy at all, however, for Coach Dean Blais after his University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey team suffered a 6-2 upset loss to New Hampshire before a “crowd” of 4,074 and a good many thousand empty seats in Omaha’s CenturyLink Center.

In his postgame comments, Blais said the Mavericks weren’t prepared to play and, astonishingly, blamed that on the players themselves and not on any failure on his part.

I had to read the following quote twice before I could believe that this is what Coach Blais actually said:

“Our whole team wasn’t mentally prepared.  Is it my fault?  Absolutely not.  It’s their responsibility to get mentally prepared.”

I doubt that the Blais approach to preparing a team to play its best will ever catch on in the coaching fraternity.  I seriously doubt if there are many—if any—coaches in any other major collegiate sport (or high school or Little League coaching ranks for that matter) who would agree with Blais.

One wonders how long UNO officials will go with Blais, whose principal claim to coaching expertise is that he had two national collegiate hockey championship teams at the University of North Dakota 17 and 14 years ago.

* * *

Some Thoughts On America’s Royal Family

Regular readers know I like to finish the column with an upbeat note.  Today I started the column with an upbeat note.  So I hope the readers will settle for an offbeat closing note.

I think the public might be weary of reading about the expensive Air Force One trips which take the Obama family to their traditional holiday stay in Hawaii.  This year there were two such trips, because Michelle and their children went on ahead, and President Obama caught up with them.

Other presidents have been content to take holiday breaks at the handsomely-furnished close-at-hand presidential retreat, Camp David, in the Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, Maryland, a helicopter flight from the White House.

Try it, Mr. President and First Lady Michelle.

You might like it, as other presidents and First Ladies have.

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