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The Futures Market: Nebraska

Check out the National Journal's list of rising stars in Nebraska politics -- Democrats and Republicans. What do you think? Anyone who isn't on the list that should be, or on the list that shouldn't be?

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GOP "People Power"

So, the Republican Party's idea of "people power" is at last revealed -- if their candidates have enough people on the payroll, they need hardly even recognize their growing disconnect with Nebraska voters and Nebraska values (the sort you live by, not sell yourself with). This philosophy was on full display Monday night at a Republican candidate forum in Seward where there were as many office-seekers and political operatives in attendance as actual voters.

The Omaha World-Herald reports:

The political candidates and their staffs nearly outnumbered potential voters Monday at a Republican forum that attracted hopefuls for governor and the Senate.

About 25 voters were wooed by about 13 candidates, most of whom arrived with a staff member or a spouse and came early to work the crowd at the Seward Civic Center.

The candidates chatted up as many voters as they could find, while their assistants handed out stickers and pamphlets…..

Monday's forum included those vying for legislative and other state government posts….

Former Attorney General Don Stenberg, Omaha attorney David Kramer and Omaha businessman Pete Ricketts are running for the GOP [U.S. Senate] nomination. The victor will run against Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson in the fall.

Stenberg told the crowd that "radical environmentalists" had for too long dictated America's energy policy. He vowed that he would support drilling in the Arctic and the building of more ethanol plants.

Ricketts emphasized his support for President Bush and the war in Iraq. "We must win the global war on terror, and that means completing our mission in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

Kramer said he would try to visit all 93 counties each year if elected. "I don't think you can live in Washington, D.C., and represent Nebraska," he said.

Still, on that issue of quantity, it's worth pondering where the voters of Seward were during the GOP's attempted but failed invasion of their town. "American Idol" wasn't on, so there goes that excuse.

Of course, it's still early in the election cycle, but the weak response this event generated seems to raise some legitimate concerns that, minus the opportunity to shake Tom Osborne's hand, the Nebraska Republican Party isn't offering voters much in the way of excitement or ideas. And, let's face it, meeting Osborne the politician is substantially less inspiring than meeting the Coach of old.

These elements are not aided by the realization quickly dawning upon voters that the Republican Party has simply turned its back on rural communities such as Seward. To devastating plant closings in Northeast Nebraska, Republican politicians offer no solutions but more tax incentives for big business, the sort of which had already failed to protect some 1,500 hard-working Nebraska families. Meanwhile, the quality and accessibilty of rural health care is left to dwindle as what was supposedly a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens is more accurately revealed as government subsidization of the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.

It's not a record to be proud of -- "No Child Left Untested" burdening our schools, candidates violating election laws in crude and calculating fashion, the specter of corporate farming taking hold with hardly a peep from those elected officials who've sworn to uphold the constitution prohibiting it. No, even as a Republican, I'd be a tad too disgusted at these mounting failures to answer even the most cordial GOP invite.

All this amounts to a definite opportunity for our proud Democratic candidates as they take their respective messages of hope and reform door-to-door, coffee-to-barbershop all over the state.

And my advice for those Republicans running with no one else to blame for an agenda that long-ago ceased serving the best interests of Nebraska -- invest in more yes-men and campaign staffers. Voters may not be as susceptible to the old stand-by attacks as they have been in years prior. They are not buying the same old Republican promises that have been so quickly forgotten with each new election over the last decade. But, that's no reason to be talking to an empty room. After all, we all get by with a little help from our friends -- even if they are bought, paid for, and tell you only what you want to hear in the FOX News manner to which Republicans have become so accustomed and dependent.

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Supporting Our Candidates

We here at the NDP want to recognize a county party that is leading the way in supporting the great candidates we have running across the state. Sunday night, the Saunders County Democratic Party was the first county party to donate to Maxine Moul's campaign when they presented her with a $500 check. The party worked hard to raise the money, and many people at the meeting wrote additional checks to Maxine's campaign.

The hard work of the Saunders County Democrats has not gone unnoticed and will hopefully encourage other county parties to do the same for other candidates. Your generosity will help get Democrats elected in November.

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Salt Valley Sally

The anger of Democrats is the New Black, and it suits three groups of folks perfectly: Republican strategists, slacker journalists and fundraising careerists.

Republican strategists want to paint the Democrats as angry because anger is so unattractive. Though the Republican leadership has fueled and exploited Angry Man Politics with its famous wedge issues (abortion and guns, for two), any fool can see how tired Americans are growing of being angry and afraid. Both President Bush and Vice President Cheney limit exposure to real journalists and the public generally, because both have tempers, and the camera catches the bone-deep ugliness behind the eyes of this administration. Paint the Democrats as angry, Karl Rove and Andrew Card are thinking, and they'll BECOME angry, angry and scary. And disoriented. The Democrats will start to eat their own!

Slacker journalists like the angle because they thought of it. Every major paper in the U.S. has run the Angry Democrats story in various forms several times over the past few weeks. Going back to Howard Dean's yelp, this is a non-story that works on the principle of the hors d'oevre--tiny tasty bites that leave people wanting more and another drink to go with.

Liberal fundraisers live by Democratic anger. The Wonder Kids at just passed around a "survey" last week asking, "Who's up for targeting right of center Democrats?" (This survey is of course non-scientific, as responders are entirely self-selected.) 84% of responders said go for it. already has most of the responders' credit card numbers on file--that's how a person gets to BE a survey participant--and I reckon they will have raised a half million dollars or more by now towards the goal of unseating Rep. Henry Cullar (D-TX).

Cullar may well be worth targeting, IF the voters in that district are inclined to elect someone more progressive. His personal style is said to be mocking and surly, and he votes against his own party often enough to make mad.

But Democrats have bigger fish to fry. 2006 can be THE year things start to turn around for this country, but only if the Democrats can manage two things--party unity and winning and holding seats in Congress.

All the rest--sending a message by punishing Democrats for not being liberal enough or not passing some lefty litmus test--is kid stuff and counterproductive. Anger among Democrats towards Democrats in so-called red states looks a lot like the classic midlife crisis--a lifetime of buyer's remorse for not moving to San Francisco or New York or Canada when you had the chance.

The serious Democrats I know, the kind of folks who get things done, in the community and in the party, are more sad than angry right now. They FEEL anger--towards the state of the nation and the state of the world--but the truth is, real grown ups don't get MAD. That's a perk enjoyed legitimately only by children, and it's one of the things we give up for adult perks, like sex and voting, neither of which is much good done in anger.

The Bush Administration and this Republican Congress together seem intent on a reckless, even apocalyptic course. I blame in part Republican exploitation of the religious right, which I believe creates apocalyptic words and images, and therefore apocalyptic thinking and doing, at home and abroad. The language of apocalypse is understood perfectly in translation by radical Islamists, fueling the worldwide culture war that has people dying in the street over CARTOONS.

Anger will not win the midterm elections. Bridge-builders like Barak Obama and, yes, Ben Nelson are the future. The national Republican leadership is spinning out of control, like the world's biggest and most dangerous dysfunctional family. We need ADULTS in Washington, not to kick ass but to ACT like adults, with an adult seriousness of purpose and an adult sense of responsibility equal to the tremendous mess that must begin to be set to rights.

The world, much less this country, cannot afford for Democrats to **** (supply your four letter word of choice) up in the midterm elections or to **** around. The Bush administration may be coming to pieces before our eyes, yet these people can and mean to do a lot of mischief yet--on the war, on the budget deficit, on the TRADE deficit, on the environment, on Gulf Coast reconstruction, on energy, on the farm bill, on Social Security, on the health insurance industry, on immigration, on the poor.

Anger is about personality, not policy, but it is policy that will determine the course of this century, when the personalities are all gone to the next world. Thanks to the foresight of the Founding Fathers, there is one thing in THIS world that can now put a brake on the Bush administration, but only one--a Democratic Congress.

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President's Day Open Thread

Come on Mr. Gale--sunshine is the best disinfectant

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Electile Dysfunction

We've got a big problem and we need your help to solve it.

Earlier today, I testified at a public hearing in the Unicameral on the rules and regulations for satellite voting. Partisan Republicans have cooked up the current scheme: it will boost Republican turnout in Lincoln and set a dangerous precedent for elections to come.

Satellite voting is the process of designating convenient, accessible locations where citizens may vote in the weeks leading up to Election Day. We're in favor of it, but we want it done right. It shouldn't be a handout from Republican election officials to their Party.

The controversy hinges around the site selection process. Currently, the regulations do not provide for any citizen input in the site selection process. The Nebraska Democratic Party has been advocating making the site selection process transparent and fair. It should take into account the socioeconomic, racial, and partisan diversity of each community that utilizes it.

However, we've been told directly by a high-level election official that "that just isn't going to happen." Instead, the Republican Election Commissioner (appointed by the Republican Governor) proposes sites to the Republican Secretary of State for approval.

Because Lancaster County may be the first county to use this program, we've been studying the effects it will have in the Capital City. The Bennett Martin Library is the largest and most-used public library in Lancaster County, because it is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Lincoln. Unfortunately, the Republicans told us that they didn't want to select Bennett Martin. Instead, they're planning on selecting three libraries in neighborhoods where Republicans outnumber Democrats, by almost two to one.

This is a big deal. In Omaha, it would be the equivalent of putting all Douglas County voting locations in Ralston, Millard, and Elkhorn, and nothing east of 72nd Street.

Just when we thought the Republicans couldn't go any further, they have. Now they're resorting to backroom, partisan politics to decide something as important as where people vote.

It's an outrage, and we won't stand for it.

Here's the bottom line: If we don't tell them to stop, they might just get away with this. It's up to each of us--as Nebraskans--to voice our concerns and then spread the word.

Even Secretary of State Gale admitted that "[i]f there is too much controversy about it, then the Lancaster County Election Commissioner and all of us will decide let's postpone it…"

Secretary of State Gale works for you -- the taxpayer. Let him know what you think about this partisan scheme:

If you want to, forward a copy of what you send him to us at and we'll post the best ones on the website.

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Straw Poll Results

After weeks (okay, months) of anticipation, here are the much awaited results of our Presidential Straw Poll.

Over 700 people voted in our straw poll. The top 5 results were:

And the total breakdown:

Here are the top five names people want to learn more about

And the full results:

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More Mud-Slinging: Cheney Shoots a Man

Lincoln, Nebraska native Dick Cheney has shot a man. The Associated Press reports:

Harry Whittington, a millionaire attorney from Austin, was "alert and doing fine" in a Corpus Christi hospital Sunday after he was shot by Cheney on a ranch in south Texas….

Whittington, 78, was mostly injured on his right side, with the pellets hitting his cheek, neck and chest during the incident which occurred late afternoon on Saturday….

"The vice president didn't see him…the covey flushed and the vice president picked out a bird and was following it and shot. And by god, Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good."

Whittington has been a private practice attorney in Austin since 1950 and has long been active in Texas Republican politics. He's been appointed to several state boards, including when then-Gov. George W. Bush named him to the Texas Funeral Service Commission.

Ironically, even beyond the almost prophetic Texas Funeral Service Commission appointment, Whittington appears to have received near immediate medical attention because Cheney always has an ambulance on-call. It's not everyday that your life is saved by your shooter's having a heart condition.

Anyone have any inappropriate, off-color jokes to share? Anyone have any thoughts on whom Cheney might have been better off taking a shot? And, is it treason to ask such questions? Perhaps poor taste? Guess we'll find out Monday night when the late-night comics get their first crack at the story.

On top of the "mishandling" of facts leading up to the Iraq invasion, the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, and the undue influence granted oil companies in writing the Bush Administration's energy policy, who thinks poor hunter safety skills bordering on criminal negligence might bolster the lonely but ever-present calls for Cheney's impeachment?

Certainly not advocating…just asking…

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Salt Valley Sally

Betty Friedan (1921-2006) died the day after my last post, in which I mentioned that once, through no merit of my own, Ms. Friedan bought me supper. Of course I misspoke when I said she was researching The Feminine Mystique. That book was published in 1963, and my supper came later, in 1967 or thereabouts.

Donna's mother came flying into their house one afternoon and told us we were going to dinner with a great woman writer. "No time to take you home," Donna's mother said, looking at me doubtfully. "You're going to have to wear something of mine." Unlike Donna, I had breasts.

We stuffed me into an orange cocktail dress two sizes too small. Donna's mother eyed my feet. "Just wear your loafers."

Ill-dressed in my case, rushed and steamy to a woman, we hastened into the Marriott and found the restaurant. Ms. Friedan was there and stood for us, looking over her glasses. She was doing research for ANOTHER book, and she wanted to know about our relationships with men. After a bit, I realized she meant our relationships with boys, not the flirting and dating so much as our relationships at school.

My high school was severely academic. Several lady teachers drove me like a mule to push me towards my POTENTIAL, with way more stick than carrot, thank you very much. Boys were insignificant as academic competitors, as very many of the other top students in my class were also girls. Boys were my HOBBY.

I could not say this before Donna's mother, who would immediately rat me out to MY mother. Clearly, this was a trap. I said as little as possible, volunteering nothing. Donna had a lot of brothers and was more forthcoming with her strongly held opinions, an early version of girls rule, boys drool.

Ms. Friedan was a good talker and a good questioner both, and she didn't try to put words in anyone's mouth. She was smart and funny. She didn't get drunk. She ordered Black Forest Cake all around for dessert.

I confess I do not know her work, really, but I know that she set an avalanche, as you might say, rolling, with her analysis of post WWII American middle class women and their discontent, "the problem with no name." It may be an exaggeration to call her the mother of modern feminism, but she was a great warrior in her causes, and she is gone. Betty Friedan gets both my salute and my prayer.

As phat said, two great women have gone from us in one week. Coretta Scott King and Betty Friedan were not much alike superficially, the Jewish intellectual and the great man's widow and lady of the old school. I doubt they agreed on every point of policy, but both were Democrats, bless them.

If you want to honor the work and spirit of either woman, or both, or some other great woman who was a mighty Democrat, keep it simple. Send a check to the Democrats. We have some terrific Democratic women running for public office this cycle, including Annette Dubas and Danielle Nantkes for Nebraska State Legislature and Maxine Moul for Congress in the 1st District.

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Don Stenberg's Winners-Envy

On Friday, a Lancaster County District Court Judge rejected the first challenge to Nebraska's legislative term limits taking effect this election year. In response, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Don Stenberg was quoted by the Omaha World-Herald saying of the state senators responsible for the challenge:

"My position is they should respect the will of the people and just give it up."

Harsh words from a man who has already twice been rejected by voters in his multiple Senate bids. Surely, there will come a time when Stenberg will have to take his own advice and just give up his fruitless ambitions of being Nebraska's chief Republican lackey. Would we be asking too much that a third strike this year might finally do the charm?

And, seriously, isn't there just a hint of hypocrisy in this statement coming from a man who consistently used the issue of term limits to his advantage over the years yet held onto his former position as Attorney General for a third term, politicizing the job in unprecedented fashion only to boost his chances at attaining higher office?

Now, without a political office to call his own, he sits in judgment on those state senators who still want to serve the public without having been personally rejected by voters a la Stenberg ‘96 and Stenberg ‘00. Is this more a case of "winners-envy" or just another instance of Stenberg saying whatever is politically-convenient at the time, as has been his M.O. for 15 years?

Whether strike three comes in May's Republican primary or the November general election, you can't help hoping this guy will finally take a hint, for his own sake if nothing else --

Don, don't go away mad. Just go away!

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