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Don’t Vote For A Jackass

8 Nov

In years past, I’ve written about local and national elections several times.  However, I’ve always tried to keep my personal beliefs to the side.  I’m guessing it would not be very hard to figure out which way I lean on the political spectrum, but I’ve tried to stop short of saying “vote for _____” or “you’d be a fool to support X”.

 

But that needs to change.

 

I cannot imagine how anybody with half of a brain could vote for Donald Trump.

 

Let’s set aside the primary reason (“he’s not Hillary”) for a moment, and try to understand why.

 

Throughout this grueling death march of a campaign, Trump has shown himself – over and over and over and over again – to be:

  • An habitual liar who invents his own reality, and refuses to own his past words and actions.
  • A creepy (and possibly dirty) old man who struggles to show basic respect to women – especially if they do not meet his ridiculous standards of beauty.
  • Someone with zero patience for dissent, debate, or diplomacy.
  • A vain, pompous blowhard whose apparent motivation for getting out of bed is the continual gratification of his own ego.
  • Somebody easily manipulated into flying off the handle and saying inappropriate things.  When a grown man has his Twitter account taken away from him – for his own good – that should be a sign.
  • A man incapable of accepting any setback without claiming conspiracies, bias, or the system being “rigged” against him.*

 

*The irony, of course, is as a white male born into extreme wealth, the it would be very hard to rig the system any more in his favor.

 

  • A person who has built much of his campaign on fear of those who are not white Christians.
  • A businessman who has had some shady business dealings, lost over a billion dollars, and bragged about not paying taxes for years.
  • A candidate who won’t denounce the support he receives from the KKK.
  • Somebody wholly unfit – by nearly every measure – to be Commander-in-Chief
  • Sadly, there are probably a half-dozen more examples that I’m forgetting.

 

Seriously, if you look solely at who Donald Trump is (and completely ignore any of the other candidates), I cannot fathom how anybody could support him in good conscience.

 

I honestly believe that if Trump was running against anybody other than Hillary Clinton, this would be the greatest landslide in US history.  In my lifetime, nobody has gotten stomped worse than Walter Mondale.  I’d wager that he’d kick Trump’s ass.  But, the reality is that Hillary is the other main candidate.  And she has more than enough warts, flaws, and character issues to keep the race as competitive as it has been.

 

I get it:  you dislike Hillary Clinton.  You don’t trust her.  You believe that she is corrupt, dishonest, and represents everything wrong with Washington D.C. politics.  You contend that so many things she is connected to (emails, Benghazi, her husband, etc.) stink to high heaven.  For the sake of time, I won’t argue any of that.

 

But seriously?  She will do more damage to our country than Trump?  How can you possibly believe that?  Even if she forwards every email for the next four years to every email account in the world, I’ll still take my chances that we still come out ahead with her versus a Trump presidency.

 

The primary system is seriously flawed.  It favors candidates who pander to the extremes of their party instead of those who will be moderate, can compromise, and get results.  This broken system is how we got to Trump, Clinton, and some third-party jokers barely worthy of a mention.  So here is what I propose:  let’s spend the next four years fixing the primary system, locating better, more competent candidates and getting them more in tune with what the majority of Americans actually want.  Make Hillary a one-term President, especially if she’s not getting the job done.

 

But please, pretty please, for the sake of our country, our children, ourselves, do not vote for Donald Trump.  He needs to be defeated so soundly, so thoroughly that no other candidate tries to emulate his path to the nomination.

 

Voting Lines.  When I go vote today, I’ll have to travel all of five blocks to my precinct.  I probably will arrive around 5:20, when many of my neighbors will be getting home from work.  If I have to wait to vote – which has rarely, if ever happened in my 24 years of voting – I expect that wait to be less than 10 minutes.

 

Sadly, that will not be the case for many of our fellow Americans.  Take a look at this video explaining why we vote on Tuesday.  https://youtu.be/e0bMfS-_pjM   When I watched it, I could not help but notice the vast majority of people in line were African-American.  Maybe I notice it because Nebraska is not a very diverse state.  Or maybe I notice it because in some parts of our country – intentionally or not – it is needlessly hard for people to exercise their right to vote.

 

Nebraska’s Death Penalty.  Last year, the Nebraska Legislature voted to repeal the death penalty.  Governor Pete Ricketts vetoed that bill, but the Unicameral overrode his veto.  Death penalty supporters then started a petition drive to bring it back.  Governor Ricketts has supported this initiative with several hundred thousand of his own dollars.*

 

*This is a good place to note two key things:  1) Under Nebraska law, Governor Ricketts can spend his money however he damn well pleases.  If he wants to spend a small fortune to restore the State’s ability to kill capital offenders, that is his right.  2) The comments and opinions shared on this site do not necessarily reflect those of my employer (who does work with several state agencies).

 

I bring up this referendum for two reasons:  First off, the language is very counter-intuitive.  When Nebraskans go to the polls, their options will be to Retain or Repeal.  Repeal gets rid of the law (LB268) that eliminated the death penalty, thus bring it back.  Retain keeps the law in place, therefore ending the death penalty.

 

Secondly, there are a multitude of reasons to RETAIN the law (and get rid of the death penalty):

 

  • Capital punishment has been shown to have a systemic bias against minorities.
  • There have been many instances where an innocent person was sentenced to death, or killed.
  • The multitude of appeals (needed to prevent wrongfully convicted people from being killed) costs more than life in prison.  For a fiscally conservative state, this should be reason enough to RETAIN.
  • Capital punishment is not proven to be a deterrent to violent crime.
  • Currently, Nebraska is unable to legally procure the drugs necessary to perform an execution.
  • Capital punishment is rarely used.  Nebraska has only executed three people in the last 40 years, and no one since 1997.

 

There’s also the inherent irony of an overwhelmingly pro-life state being so eager to kill people, but that’s beside the point.

 

LD25 .  Closer to (my) home, there is a hotly contested race for the Nebraska Legislature.  I learn just how contested it is every time I go to my mailbox.  For the last few weeks, I’m averaging a couple of campaign flyers a day.  With few exceptions, they bash the other candidate and focus little on what the candidate will do.  Very few of these flyers were purchased by the candidates – instead, they come from the political parties and faceless PACs.  And all of this for a (supposedly) non-partisan office that pays $12,000 a year.  Tonight, one of the candidates will be elected.  But frankly, the only winners will be printing companies and US Postal Service.

 

Finally – as always, be sure to use your right to vote – or be willing to waive your right to complain.

Selective History

11 Jun

The last few days, I’ve been seeing versions of the same image showing up frequently in my Facebook feed:

history

(source: facebook.com/sarahpalin)

Selective History

 

 

I know the message that the Republicans are trying to send:  “On issues that are fundamental to the American way of life (freedom, voting rights, racial justice, etc.) the Republicans have been on the right side of history, while the Democrats have been overwhelmingly wrong time and again.”.*

Who knows?  It is quite possible that the Republicans are right about Obamacare, just like they were right on these three other examples.

But….

It would sure be nice if they could find a more recent example of where they were overwhelmingly right (and the Democrats were overwhelmingly wrong).  Since the infographic is about history, let’s do a little American History refresher:

  • 13th Amendment:  Passed Congress on January 31, 1865
  • 14th Amendment:  Passed Congress on June 18, 1866
  • 15th Amendment:  Passed Congress on February 25, 1869
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”):  Passed Congress on March 21, 2010

*Let’s pause for a minute to reflect on how radically the identities of the two political parties have shifted since the Reconstruction Era.  Can you imagine the Democrats of 2015 being almost universally opposed to increased rights and protections for illegal immigrants?  Or having near unanimous GOP support for legislation allowing gay marriage?  Right, wrong, or otherwise, neither of those things would happen today.

For the sake of argument (and avoiding partisan talking points), let’s assume that Republicans will one day be able to say “I told you so” on Obamacare.  Is the implication here that the GOP has not been on the right side of history in over 140 years?

Obviously, I’m not naive enough to think that the Democrats have had a monopoly on being overwhelmingly right on the important political and social issues of the last 140 years.

But here is the message I get from this infographic:  “Once upon a time, we were on the right side of history.  But since we don’t have a good example of that happening since Andrew Johnson left office, we really hope we’re right on Obamacare.”

And that really doesn’t seem like something to brag about.

God, Gays, and Good Grades (g)

15 Apr

In a perfect world, otherwise rational people would not fear homosexuals.

When I was planning out what I would write about for this A-Z series, I had planned to address gay marriage with letter G.  My plan was to speak in general terms about allowing gays and lesbians to marry, and how a committed loving relationship is no different when it’s between a man and woman or a man and a man.

But sadly, the universe dropped a specific example on my doorstep.

Recently, I became aware of a petition on change.org seeking to “end employment discrimination against Mr. Eledge and future faculty” of a local high school.

The petition introduces us to Matthew Eledge, an English teacher and speech coach for five years at Omaha’s Skutt Catholic High School.  He is said to be an excellent teacher and a top flight speech coach, with his teams winning multiple conference, district, and state championships.

From the petition text:

“Mr. Eledge is being fired from Skutt Catholic for being in a gay relationship.

In December of 2014, Matt and his partner, Elliot Dougherty, made the decision to get engaged. He went to the administration to let them know, and they told him he would not be invited to teach next year. Furthermore, if he told students, he would be fired immediately.

A living example of what it means to be a SkyHawk, Mr. Eledge has spent hundreds of hours striving to make sure that the students at Skutt have an incredible high school experience. He soars above the rest in accolades, talent, and character for Skutt Catholic. After months of contemplation, Mr. Eledge discussed the idea of postponing the wedding so he could come back to Skutt Catholic. He was then informed that he must end his relationship with Elliot.

A core belief at Skutt Catholic is to inspire “moral and ethical leadership by not only educating, but also requiring students to provide service to, embrace diversity within, and seek justice for their communities and the marginalized in our society”. As parents, former teachers, alumni, and individuals who support the Skutt Catholic community: we demand the administration embrace diversity and stand up for justice by not discriminating against a teacher that has inspired hundreds of students and future leaders in the community.”

I’ve never met Matthew Eledge or his partner.  But I do know what it is like to be a student learning from a teacher and coach that you look up to.  A person you respect, learn from, and whom pushes you to be a better person.  I was blessed to attend a high school with several excellent teachers on staff.*  I’ve been out of high school for over 20 years, and I can easily name a half dozen such educators who had such an impact on my life.

*The quality of the teachers I had at Gretna High School is one of the main reasons I believe so many of my high school classmates and friends became teachers.  Many of them are teaching in the same district we graduated from, which I think is amazing.

One of those teachers who had a positive impact on me was Matthew’s father, Kirk Eledge.  Like his son, Kirk Eledge is an educator, coach, and mentor.  My Coach Eledge was physical education instructor and the head coach for my high school’s football team*.

*If you’re looking for anecdotal evidence that homosexuality is not a choice or a “life style”, I would submit that being the openly gay son of a high school football coach in red state Nebraska is not something one “chooses” to be. 

I was, by every account, a mediocre to bad football player.  I knew what I should do on the field, but I could rarely convince my nonathletic body to do it, especially at game speed.  I’m guessing Coach Eledge knew early on that I would not amount to much more than a career backup, but that never stopped him for coaching me, supporting me, and encouraging me to improve.  He treated me, a career bench-warmer who just wanted to be apart of a team, with dignity and respect – the same way he treated the star players.  My guess is the students Matthew Eledge worked with at Skutt would say that same things.

*   *   *

Ignoring outdated stereotypes about speech and drama kids, it is an absolute certainty that Matthew Eledge has had a gay or lesbian student in his classroom at some point in his five years at Skutt.  What message does Eledge’s firing send to these students:  Be ashamed of who you are?  Come out at school and risk persecution?  There is no place for a homosexual at Skutt?  Follow the Church’s teachings or else?

Aside from being counter to a Skutt core belief (the petition cites inspiring “moral and ethical leadership by not only educating, but also requiring students to provide service to, embrace diversity within, and seek justice for their communities and the marginalized in our society”), there are numerous published studies showing that gay teens are up to seven times more likely to attempt suicide.  I cannot fathom how or why any educator who would willingly put teens at risk by creating a culture of intolerance.

*   *   *

I don’t want this to come across as an attack on Catholicism, or on those who are loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church.  I respect your faith.  I can understand, in principle, how having an opening gay teacher on your faculty could send the wrong message to your families, alumni, and donors.  I respectfully disagree.  I read an ABC News article stating that Catholic educators in the Omaha Archdiocese have lost their jobs for being “single, pregnant teachers and those who’ve divorced and remarried outside the Catholic church”.  I disagree with those firings too.  Know that I’d feel the same way if Skutt was a Catholic, Lutheran, Christian, non-denominational, or public school.

I read a blog post where the author makes the case that if Matthew Eledge is being fired for “openly violating Catholic doctrine”, then we should take a closer look at the Skutt administration to see where they stray from biblical teachings.  No disrespect to that writer, but I don’t want to cherry-pick bible verses (especially those from Deuteronomy or Leviticus) as a justification for getting rid of those who chose to fire Matthew Eledge.  In my opinion, that solves nothing.

In my previous job, I worked with (and in) Catholic and faith-based schools across the country.  I sat with nuns and priests who serve God daily by educating our youth.  While I cannot claim to know their stance on this issue, I can assure you that they taught love and respect in their schools – not fear and denial.

That is why I struggle to understand why Matthew Eledge is being fired.

Is the school concerned about going against the teachings of the Church?  Is the decision coming from school administration or the Archdiocese of Omaha?  Are they afraid that retaining an openly gay teacher will trigger a backlash from concerned parents and alumni?  Do they fear that students will “catch the gay” by being exposed to Mr. Eledge or *gasp* the man he is in a committed and loving relationship with?  Or is Skutt seeking to avoid alienating their donor base, which likely contains older, conservative folks – the type of people who may choose to avoid organizations that willingly support gays and lesbians?

All I know is that good teachers are hard to find.  The hours suck, the pay is horrible (especially at most parochial schools), and they have to deal with a lot more crap from students and parents than they ever did before.  So when you find an educator that is passionate about what they do and is very successful in doing it, I think you should allow them to enrich the lives of students.

In a perfect world we would #LetMatthewTeach

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Husker Hot Takes – Fiala and Phillips Edition

15 Apr

I’ve got a handful of post-Spring Scrimmage thoughts I’d like to share, but I want to focus on the two biggest Husker stories of the week:

Former Husker linebacker and broadcaster Adrian Fiala passes away at age 67.

Adrian Fiala was a standout linebacker on the Bob Devaney teams of the late 1960s.  Although he graduated just before Nebraska won back-to-back national championships, he is widely credited for helping to elevate the team’s play from 6-4 mediocrity to a 9-2 team on the cusp of greatness.  Fiala was a two-sport standout, serving as a catcher on the Nebraska Baseball team.

But for most Nebraska fans, Fiala’s biggest impact was as a broadcaster.  He was a fixture in the Husker broadcast booth between the end of the Pavelka/Sadlemeyer era and the current Sharpe/Davison team.  He was a fixture on NET’s Big Red Wrap-up show.  He was blessed with a deep, booming voice, a humble folksy charm, and a level of preparation that inspired his colleagues.  When you think of the greatest Husker moments between 1996 and 2010 – Stuntz to Crouch, Alex Henery’s 57 yard field goal, and countless others – you could count on Adrian Fiala sharing your excitement and enthusiasm in the radio booth.  Was he a homer for Dear Old Nebraska U?  You bet your backside he was, and I never heard him apologize for supporting his home state alma mater with everything he had.

Personally, I enjoyed his work on countless NET Nebraska Baseball broadcasts more than his football broadcasts.  I always felt his strengths as a broadcaster:  a friendly demeanor and a gift for story telling, were perfectly paired for the rhythms of a baseball game.  I will greatly miss him the next time NET does a game.

Speaking of which…I would humbly suggest that NET honor Fiala during their next Nebraska Baseball broadcast (Saturday, April 18) by remaining silent during the home half of the first inning.  It would be a cool tribute to a man whose words accompanied so many Husker games.

Fiala fans should check out 93.7 The Ticket

After leaving the Husker broadcast booth, Adrian Fiala gave his talents and credibility to upstart Lincoln sports radio station 93.7 The Ticket.  The transformation of The Ticket from small time sports radio operation to one of the best Husker voices in the state is largely due to Fiala’s work mentoring the talented group of young broadcasters at 93.7.

The station’s staff – especially program manager and Fiala’s “Husker Legends Show” co-host John Gaskins – has done an amazing job of paying tribute to Fiala.  They have collected several beautiful and touching stories from a who’s who of Nebraska legends.  I encourage you to listen to the clips on their podcast page.

If for nothing else, you’ll want to hear the unbelievable story of the priest who gave Fiala the Last Rites on Monday.  While in college at Nebraska, the future priest performed as Herbie Husker.

Yes, a Nebraska legend received his last rites from Herbie Husker.

There is truly no place….

*   *   *

And on the opposite end of the spectrum…

Lawrence Phillips is accused of murdering is cellmate in a California prison.

The publicly available facts are rather limited at this time, but Lawrence Phillips is believed to have killed his cellmate last weekend.  Before I explore the Nebraska-centric angles and implications, let me acknowledge that very little of what follows is as important as a man being killed by another man – even if the deceased was serving 82 to life for first degree murder.  As much as it upsets me to see every transgression Phillips commits reported as “former Nebraska running back” instead of “ex-NFL running back”, I get that grievance is beyond trivial compared to the loss of life.  That said…

Can we stop referring to Phillips as “Former Nebraska Running Back”?

While I did see several articles and tweets referring to L.P. as an “Ex-NFL running back”, many still reference his 27 games (and just 14 starts) at Nebraska.  Admittedly, this comes from a fiercely proud Nebraska native and alumnus who wants to protect the name of his school.

I get that his first criminal acts took place in Lincoln, but at the same time, it’s been almost 20 years since Phillips was a member of the Nebraska football team.  Is there a statute of limitations that kicks in eventually?  Are other former NFL players accused of felonies identified by their pro team(s) or by the college they attended?

Many national pundits are taking advantage of this crime to attack Tom Osborne’s decision to reinstate Phillips.

Among the “highlights”:

Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch linked a 20 year old Jim Murray column from the LA Times.  Deitsch refers to the column as “ahead-of-its time“.  I agree in that the style of one-sided outraged indignation used by the legendary writer seems lifted from today’s #HotSportsTake culture where clicks are more important than being measured or balanced.

Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde retweeted the Deitsch tweet and chased it with this gem:

A respected national media member attacking Osborne’s integrity because he reinstated Phillips*?  Sheesh.

*I can’t remember if I’m on record or not about T.O. and L.P., so here goes:

Tom Osborne did not need Lawrence Phillips to win the 1995 National Championship.  That team would have been considered one of the greatest teams of all time with Ahman Green, Clinton Childs, or Damon Benning as the feature back.  To argue otherwise displays complete ignorance on that team’s talent, and the dominance they displayed throughout the season.  Remember, on the very first play in NU’s first game without Phillips, Clinton Childs went 65 yards for a touchdown (against a respectable Arizona State team a year away from a top 5 ranking and Rose Bowl berth).

Faced with the decision of what to do with Phillips, there should be no debate that the easiest option for Osborne (and Nebraska) would be to kick him off the team, expel him from school, and completely wash their hands of him.  Keeping him on the team – even if for the asinine reason of “winning at all costs” – is much more difficult for everybody involved.  The potential for distraction derailing a special season goes up exponentially with Phillips in uniform after September 10, 1995.  Period.

I truly believe Osborne knew in the depths of his soul that the best chance for Lawrence Phillips, human being, to be successful was to remain in the structured and supportive environment of the Nebraska Football program.  I have no doubt that Osborne, a devout Christian, believed he could turn Phillips’s life around.

Could Osborne/Nebraska have handled the Phillips situation better?  Hindsight always says yes.  Certainly, there is the notion that Osborne should have cut his losses and tossed L.P. to the wolves.  I’d listen to the argument that Osborne should not have reinstated Phillips until after the bowl game – giving him structure without opening the door to the “win at all costs” columns.

Clearly, the extra chance(s) Osborne gave to Phillips ultimately did not work out.  His reputation will be forever tarnished nationally (and to a lesser extent, locally) for choosing to support Phillips.  But what if Lawrence Phillips had left Nebraska, gone to the Rams and put together an average NFL career?  What if Phillips had gone through the last 20 years without arrest, professional insubordination, or anything worse than a parking ticket?  Would national pundits still take shots at Osborne’s “integrity”?

Or would they laud him for helping to turn around a troubled kid?

Damon Benning provides a raw and poignant look at who Lawrence Phillips is

Tuesday morning on 1620 AM’s excellent “Sharp and Benning in the Morning” radio show, they devoted two segments to Damon Benning speaking eloquently and passionately about Lawrence Phillips.

Damon Benning gives an in-depth look at who Lawrence is.  At one point, Benning says he is trying to “tell the story without excuses”.  It is a powerful listen.  You can hear the normally reserved Benning become emotional multiple times.

As fans – and likely as people who grew up in better environments than Lawrence Phillips – it is very easy to attack, dismiss, and write Phillips off as a thug or a piece of garbage.  Certainly, that is your right, especially if you feel that Phillips has done irreparable damage to Nebraska and Tom Osborne.  But the main thing I took from Benning’s words is it is not always easy to try to understand who the man is, where he came from, and how he processes life.  Benning describes Phillips as a smart, yet complex person built on a “shaky foundation”.  Benning notes that in his experiences “hurt people hurt people”.

Benning does not defend what Phillips has done or what he is accused of doing.  Nor does he attempt to justify his actions by sharing details of L.P.’s childhood and Nebraska career.

The first segment starts around the 2:05 mark.  The second picks back up around 5:00.  I strongly recommend listening to both segments.

*   *   *

If there is any positive we can take away from these two stories, it is that both have resulted in local radio hosts elevating their craft to exemplary and memorable levels.

But I wish this week was more about some silly scrimmage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blurt and Ernie (e)

7 Apr

In a perfect world, Ernie Chambers could make his points without controversial hyperbole.

During a recent committee hearing in the Nebraska Legislature, State Senator Ernie Chambers said “My ISIS is the police. Nobody from ISIS ever terrorized us as a people as the police do us daily. And they get away with it.”  In the same remarks, Chambers said that he does not own a gun, but if he did, he would use it for protection against the police:  “I would want to shoot him first and ask questions later, as they say the cop ought to do.”

Naturally, Chambers’ remarks have been denounced and criticized by fellow senators, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, police chiefs and unions, and people all across Nebraska.  The story drew national headlines after an article on Nebraska Watchdog was picked up by Fox News.

It’s pretty easy* to condemn Chambers for these outlandish comments.  No police force in the United States comes close to the heinous acts of violence and terror committed by ISIS.  It’s unthinkable for any elected official to suggest violence against police officers.  Therefore, the condemnation has been loud and prolonged – to the point where a state senator interrupted a parade of floor speeches attacking Chambers with an admonition to “get on with the people’s business.”

*Not to be lost in the rebukes of Chambers – especially from those calling for his censure or resignation – is the fact that Nebraska’s longest-serving senator is not a popular figure in the state.  Chambers is widely regarded as a master of Unicameral’s rules and procedures, and he regularly uses them to kill bills that he disagrees with.  One of the first, and loudest voices in this current controversy belongs to Senator Beau McCoy, who has been on the receiving end of Chambers’ ire.  

I’m not saying that this controversy is without merit, nor that McCoy is only pushing the issue because he has a grudge with Chambers.  But I do think that some of the people calling for Chambers to resign are being opportunistic having sensed a rare chance to have a thorn in their side removed.  It can easily be argued that Nebraska’s term limits legislation, approved by voters in 2000, was directed at removing Chambers from office.

 *   *   *

There is an uncomfortable truth about Ernie Chambers’ ISIS comments:  In the context of the remarks, he kind of has a point.

Consider:

The comments took place during testimony on LB635, which would allow concealed carry permit holders the right to carry a concealed handgun in an establishment deriving 1/2 of profits from alcohol – i.e. most bars and restaurants.  You can watch the hearing in question here:  (Skip forward to the 51:00 mark).

During the testimony, State Senator Tommy Garrett was asked “what are (concealed carry advocates) afraid of?”  Senator Garrett’s response references ISIS and the Taliban.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a bar or restaurant in Nebraska – particularly in the small towns west of Lincoln – but the odds of running into a member of any international terror group in say, Kimball or Neligh are Powerball-esque.

In his remarks, Senator Chambers referenced two former Lincoln Police Department officers who were dismissed for excessive force.  According to Chambers, one was recruited by the Nebraska State Patrol, and the other by the Lancaster County Sheriff.  Chambers, a black man representing a largely African-American district in Omaha, also noted the racism that can occur on police forces.

In my mind, the point Senator Chambers was trying to make is that for many people (particularly people of color in his district), they are much more likely to be injured, shot, or killed by a member of law enforcement than by ISIS or any other terrorist group.

With all due respect to the friends and acquaintances I have who serve honorably in various Nebraska law enforcement agencies, I would agree with that presumed point.  I’m in no way implying that cops in this state are dirty, racist, or seek out opportunities to be violent.  It’s just that compared to Senator Garrett’s example of ISIS as a justification for expanding concealed carry rights, the police do represent a bigger threat to the safety of citizens.

That may not be easy to hear, and you may not choose to believe it.  It’s definitely not an absolute truth, but one would be foolish to pretend racism and excessive force doesn’t exist.  In my mind, the police are far less of a threat than drug users, gang members, and the mentally unstable.  But of course, I’m a 40-year-old white guy who lives in southeast Lincoln – not a 20-year-old black man in north Omaha, so my worldview is limited.

*   *   *

Does the possibility that Ernie Chambers had a legitimate point – whether or not you agree with it – excuse or dismiss what he said?

No.  They don’t.  And that is where Senator Chambers failed.

Chambers’ claim of two officers excused for excessive force being recruited by other law enforcement agencies is, if true, rather concerning to me.  But those claims have been all but lost in the coverage of this incident.  Why?  Because of bombastic and hyperbolic nature of the “my ISIS is the police” sound bite.

A handful of people saw through the rhetoric of a man who once tried to sue God.  Former Lincoln chief of police, Tom Casady, tweeted that Chambers was “far more likely to give birth than shoot a police officer.”  Another senator, Les Seiler, said the remarks were “Ernie being Ernie”.  But this time, Chambers went too far in an attempt to make his point.

In today’s society, the media and the public will focus on the outrageous (and our need to be outraged) than on things that may truly be wrong.

In a perfect world, Senator Chambers could make his points without stirring up a tornado of controversy.

 

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Elect This!

4 Nov

With today’s midterm elections, here are some random election thoughts:

  • As I’ve previously noted, the worst part of living in a cable-free household is the lack of sports on TV.  However, the best part is zero campaign ads.  Seriously, the last one I saw was on YouTube, and I only watched that for blog material.
  • You remember how ticked off you were at the partisan gridlock and petty maneuvering that shut down the government?  Remember how you said at the next election you were going to vote out all of the incumbents?  Are you going to stick with that, or vote for the incumbent (who happens to represent your party)?  Um-hmm.  I thought so.  Next time, just shut it and realize that you continue to play a part in keeping Congress ineffective.
  • A Facebook friend shared a picture of a political mailer she received from a candidate.  This candidate touted his strong Catholic faith and reminded you that a vote for him is a Pro-Life vote.  In theory, no big deal.  Nebraska is a conservative state that values religion, and as any politico can tell you, “pro-life” is the highest level of endorsement a Nebraska politician can hope to achieve, ahead of a personal recommendation from legendary football coach Tom Osborne.  But here’s the kicker:  this candidate is not running for Congress, Senate, or the state legislature.  He’s not running for governor, mayor, or the University Board of Regents (we’ll get to that race next).  This candidate is running for the board of the Omaha Public Power District – the electric utility in Omaha.  I don’t follow a lot of the issues facing the OPPD board, but I’m guessing none of them deal with abortion or moral issues where one’s faith would be a deciding factor.  To base a vote on a single issue that is so far outside the jurisdiction of the office is asinine.  As another friend commented:  ” I personally have always felt that I could never turn off my electricity, but others should have the choice to do so if they wanted to.

    Seriously. Do it.

  • In a similar vein, the race for the University of Nebraska Board of Regents has also been impacted by issues that are way outside of the jurisdiction of the office.  Allegedly, after Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini lost his mind during last year’s home loss to Iowa, Lincoln businessman (and former Husker) Steve Glenn called the regent representing him and demanded that Pelini be fired.  When informed that the Board of Regents did not have the authority to fire football coaches, Glenn allegedly told incumbent Rob Schafer that he would “run for your position“.  Since then, mailings have come out saying that Glenn wants Pelini fired – thereby implying that if you support the coach (and hey, they’re 8-1 right now), you had better vote for the incumbent.  Even if Glenn is only running because he wants Pelini ousted (something I’m not sure I believe) I resent dragging sports into the political mud.  Unfortunately, Pelini is already enough of a polarizing figure in this state without making him an unwilling pawn in a race within the confines of the 402 area code.
  • One other amusing side note from this Board of Regents race:  during the primary, Glenn ran a radio ad featuring Larry the Cable Guy talking him up.  (Both Glenn and Larry’s alter ego Dan Whitney are from Pawnee City, Nebraska).  In the ad, Larry mentions something to the effect that “anything that comes out of Pawnee City has got to be good.”.  It turns out that Glenn’s opponent (incumbent Rob Schafer) is also from Pawnee City.  Whoops, that’s not the best way to git ‘er done.
  • Nebraskans will vote on a proposal to raise the minimum wage.  I’m not going to tell you how to vote, as there are definite economic impacts either way.  But when I hear about efforts to raise the minimum wage, I think of an early episode of the documentary series 30 Days, where host Morgan Spurlock and his fiancée spent 30 days trying to live on minimum wage.  They did it, but it looked absolutely miserable.  I wonder if the most vocal opponents of raising the wage have any exposure to what life is like at $7.25 an hour.
  • I’ll close with a reminder of my favorite reason why you should vote today:  it gives you the unalienable right to bitch about politics, politicians, and partisan bull for the next two years.  Plus, many polling places will give you an “I Voted Today” sticker.

Chicken Dance of Joy

21 Oct

It was with great joy that I learned that chicken sandwich giant Chick-fil-A will open their first Lincoln location sometime this year.  I love me some Chick-fil-A.  I love the chicken, the waffle fries, the sweet tea, and their sauce.

Oh that sauce…it’s one of those magical condiments that makes anything else taste better.

Plus, it will be a nice upgrade from the other chicken-only chain in town:  Raisin’ Canes.  This may be sacrilegious to some, but for a place that only does chicken fingers, the chicken at Canes isn’t all that great.  Heck, I’d argue the chicken is middle of the pack in the food they do serve:

  1. Cane sauce.  It’s an odd BBQ-ranch hybrid, but it works.
  2. Fries.  A good mix of crispy, crinkly, and salty.
  3. Sweet tea.  Until Chick-fil-A arrives, it’s the best sweet tea one can get in Nebraska.
  4. Texas toast.  Good, but not great.
  5. Chicken fingers.  It’s not that they’re bad, but they’re definitely not a standout.
  6. Cole Slaw.  I’m not a cabbage and mayo sauce guy, but the Cain’s version is not very good.

Don’t mind if I do.

The biggest challenge will be getting to eat there.  The location particularly close to home or work, and given the way Lincoln loves its chain restaurants, the place will probably be packed for months and the drive-thru line will be 15 cars deep – even on Sundays.*

*Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays.  Get it?

Like anything else, there is some bad that comes with the good.  Aside from a dramatic spike in Chick-fil-A commercials, we’ll also get a front row seat whenever the next political controversy involving the chicken chain arises.  The conservative Christian company leadership will be favored and respected by many Nebraskans.  Personally, I just want to enjoy a #1 combo without having to weigh the sociopolitical implications of my lunch choice.

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