This Week’s Smorgasbord Menu:
2015 Legislature Does A Praiseworthy Job
Print Media, With W-H Leading, Do Generally Good Job
Sen. Paul Hurts U.S. Security, Blows Presidential Hopes
Best Hope To Thwart Muslim State: Arm The Kurds
Secretary Of State Kerry, 71, Should Grow Up

Let’s start this week with a serving of good news; i.e., the performance of the 2015 Nebraska Legislature:

The vote to repeal the death penalty law with all of its delays of execution and uncertainties of whether to defend those truly guilty of premeditated (that is, planned) murder.

No Executions In 18 Years

I’ve mentioned before that so-called “Death Row” at the Nebraska state penitentiary could more accurately be called “Longevity Row.”

One of the 10 was sentenced to death 35 years ago.  Nebraska hasn’t executed anyone convicted of first-degree murder in the past 18 years.

Why continue a law in effect if it plainly isn’t working as intended.  And there are frequently doubts about whether the jury reached the right verdict.

Governor, Attorney General Push For Executions

Governor Ricketts—mistakenly, in my opinion—and Attorney General Doug Peterson are pushing for the execution of the 10 prisoners on “Death Row.”

Ricketts said there have been samplings of public opinion which show Nebraskans about 60-40% in favor of the death penalty.  No one has yet come up with any valid poll indicating the majority support executions.

Issue To Go To Voters?

Those favoring the death penalty have the option of circulating petitions and forcing a vote of the issue.  My best judgment is that they won’t get the job done.

For one thing, they would have to promptly get a court order forbidding the state from legal action (as mandated by the Legislature) putting the 10 “Death Row” prisoners into a new legal category, assuring lifetime imprisonment without any prospect of release.

Medical Marijuana Bill Staled

Perhaps good legislative news was the fact that a so-called “medical marijuana” bill couldn’t muster the votes to break a filibuster.  The bill is to be taken up again next year.  Better that it had been killed.

The time, if it ever comes, to enact a “medical marijuana” bill would be when the state’s medical profession endorses it.

Gas Tax Increase Overdue

Certainly good legislative news in the passage of a bill to increase the state gasoline tax.  As The World-Herald had convincingly pointed out, the failure to increase the gasoline tax since 2008 has allowed the accumulation of nearly a billion dollars in unmet highway street and roads improvement needs.

* * *

Print News Media Do Generally Good Job

Print news media—especially The Omaha World-Herald with its experienced Lincoln staff did a generally good job of covering the legislative session (which, to the legislators’ credit, resulted in the deaths or sidelining of nearly twice as many bills as were passed.)

Television, as could be expected, lagged badly in both the quality and the extent of legislative news coverage.  You can’t include two or three time-consuming weather reports and forecasts, a considerable volume of advertising and some sports news in a 30-minute newscast and come up with anything approaching comprehensive coverage.

* * *

Sen. Paul Acts Foolishly, Endangers American Security

Not often in Congressional history, as I recall it, has a single senator done so much to endanger national security as Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has done this year.

A compromise had already been reached on reducing the amount of computerized surveillance of telephone calls and electronic messages originated or received in the United States.

The object of the electronic surveillance is to alert authorities to any sign of possible terrorist action.  There was absolutely no evidence that this surveillance had been abused in any way.

Paul Rejects Compromise

But civil right activists (would extremists be a better word?) like Senator Paul insisted that there be further reduction of the surveillance program.  A compromise was reached and approved by President Obama and a decisive majority in both houses of Congress.

Senator Paul was not satisfied and, singlehandedly, derailed, or at least very seriously damaged, the surveillance program.

As I indicated in the smorgasbord menu, Paul has ended any hope that he might have become the Republican nominee for president.

Some may regard him, as he may regard himself, as a courageous martyr.  My best guess:  A majority of Americans will regard him as a dangerous ideologue who is willing to push his extremist views to the point where the threat of Islamic terrorism against the United States will be much less effectively monitored.

* * *

Obvious Best Answer To Terrorists:  Arm The Kurds

With the United States sending in military advisors and depending on guided missiles as doing its part in the effort to curb Muslim State terrorists, the best response to the growing threat of terrorist state spreading its influence is obvious:

Arm the Kurds, fierce fighters who hate the Muslim terrorists but have been restrained because of fear of offending Turkey, which does not want an independent Kurdistan on its southern border.

So we face the possible unfortunate consequences:  spreading influence of the Muslim State terrorists to countries as far away as the United States.

Remember Boston Massacre, 9/11 Disaster

Shouldn’t we be doing everything possible to prevent disasters like the 4/15/13 Boston Patriots Day massacre or the 9/11/01 terrorist attack which destroyed the World Trade Center and also damaged the Pentagon?

I might add that I seriously question the wisdom of replacing the World Trade Center with a new tower on the same site.  I can’t imagine a more inviting target for Muslim terrorists.

* * *

Why Doesn’t Kerry, At 71, Give Up Power Biking?

Perhaps there is at least one favorable result from our Secretary of State’s bicycle accident in France after apparently hitting a curb and breaking his right femur.  It was at least a second serious tumble in John Kerry’s “power biking” hobby.

Kerry was flown back to the United States (I wonder who paid for the jet ride?) and will miss a meeting of a committee of several national representatives seeking to resolve the controversy over Iran’s nuclear weapon capability.

Grow up, John, grow up.

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Nebraskans Can Sleep Safely In Their Beds
While Their Legislature Is In Annual Session

My memory recently went back the other day to the first legislative session I covered as a 26-year-old reporter 66 years ago.

The Legislature then met only every other year.  Salaries were frozen at some $850 a year, following a formula set by the constitutional amendment of 1934 creating a non-partisan one-house Legislature to replace the traditional two-house partisan Legislature.

One of the veterans in the 1949 Legislative session was a South Omahan named Charlie Tvrdik, an effective legislator with a good sense of humor.

To this day I remember a conversation with Charlie one day during a noon recess.

With a twinkle in his eyes, he said:

“The Legislature is in session, and no Nebraskan is safe in his bed at night.”

Annual Sessions, Many More Bills

We both laughed heartily.

The situation today is that while the Legislature meets every year and deals with more than double the number of approximately 550 bills disposed of by the 1949 Legislature, Nebraskans can sleep safely in their beds at night—even though some of them thoroughly disapprove of some of the things today’s legislators are doing in relatively long annual sessions.

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