Throwaway Children?

children

There is an age-hallowed aphorism that states “The perfect is often the enemy of the good” –  meaning, of course, that often we pursue the narrow goal of the ideal to the exclusion of that which, though perhaps imperfect, offers clear and meaningful benefit. No better demonstration of this notion can be found than State Senator Adam Morfeld’s recent attempt to cripple adoption/foster care services offered in Nebraska. Young Master Morfeld claims to be exercised (“shocked” was the way he described his reaction – in his best Captain Renault impersonation) over three Nebraska child services agencies’ policy of choosing to work with faith-based organizations in the placing of children with foster and adoptive parents. Just to clarify for those unfamiliar with gov-speak, “faith-based” is code for “religious”. So, because three these agencies choose to abide by their fundamental religious beliefs in working only with people of like belief systems, the Senator has decided that they are in violation of federal law, and should be denied federal funding.

Morfeld seems to have seized upon this issue as some kind of threat to the LGBT community, though aside from scanty anecdotal evidence, it is by no means clear that the LGBTs have suffered unduly because of these agencies’ policies. What is very clear is that these agencies manage to offer support to a large cadre of at-risk children, and do so while operating in an extremely strained financial environment. To take away even a portion of their funding would almost certainly lead to their demise, and, consequently, to the cessation of their ability to help those who need them most –  vulnerable and at-risk children.

I should point out that I have no particular brief, pro or con, with the LGBT portion of our society. I am unapologetically heterosexual, and I have more than a few gay/lesbian/TG friends and acquaintances. While I’m no expert on child-rearing, as far as I am concerned most of them would make perfectly acceptable parents should they so desire. Of course, just as in the straight community, a certain small percentage of them are jerks or worse and probably shouldn’t be allowed within a country mile of a child in his/her formative years. But you see, whether or not I think gay or lesbian or transgender parenting is acceptable is of no consequence whatever in this context.

That is not the point …  people – all people – should be allowed to live according to the dictates of their own conscience, as long as their beliefs and actions do not cause significant material harm to others. Liberals like Morfeld seem to possess a constitutional inability to distinguish between toleration and affirmation. I may tolerate certain attitudes and behaviors, but that certainly does not mean I am obliged to also affirm them. Modern liberalism likes to present itself as offering an open and helpful hand, when in actuality, it is more often a clenched fist that attempts to pound others into submission and acceptance of its worldview.

Further, Morfeld’s mission to de-fund certain agencies ultimately hurts those who he purports to defend (children) by lessening levels of support and services available.

Senator Morfeld’s actions reek at several levels; first, he bases his claims on an executive order promulgated by President George W. Bush which, contrary to Morfeld’s wrong-headed assertions, supports and encourages the involvement of faith-based agencies in the provision of social services. Secondly, it is disconcerting that Morfeld should be carrying out his witch-hunt while others in the Nebraska Unicameral are making sincere efforts to expand and improve provision of services to at-risk children –  such as Senator Kathy Campbell’s LB265, LB302, and others. Thirdly, Morfeld has to date offered not a shred of solid evidence that at-risk children have been harmed or even inconvenienced by actions (or lack of actions) engendered by existing policies.

The three agencies singled out by Morfeld are Christian Heritage (Lincoln), Bethany Christian Services (Omaha) and Compass Nebraska (Kearney); all three offered testimonies on LB975 before the Unicameral’s Judiciary Committee in which they acknowledged that in their recruitment and training of foster families they work with families who regularly attend church, and attest their faith by signing a statement. LB975 simply attempts to provide some protections to such organizations against anti-Christian activists and zealots.

I do not have exact numbers of how many children have been placed/helped by these three agencies, but even if the number is small, would Senator Morfeld just toss those kids away? For that is almost certainly what would happen if their funding sources are removed as he wants. Do we just ignore these kids to satisfy some ideological craving in liberal breasts? I hope not.

It is a given that society does not have nearly enough resources to effectively deal with the problem of parentless/at-risk/vulnerable children – why in the world would a state senator or anyone else want to significantly diminish those limited resources for what can only be characterized as political reasons?

Here’s a suggestion for the Senator – find some other straw-man issue to burnish your street creds with LGBTs and uber-liberals; kids are too important to be shamelessly politicized. Do we seek your dubious “ideal”, or do we continue a system that is, by any reasonable measure, doing good?

The delicious irony here is this: Morfeld’s actions serve to robustly underscore the need for such protections as LB975 would afford. Welcome to the circular firing squad, Senator – sic semper politicus liberalus.

Be well.

 

 

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Homage of Reason … or Blindfolded By Ideology?

blindfold

More than 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson said this:

“Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”

Well said, Tom. Sadly, the majority of Nebraska’s Unicameral doesn’t agree.

It’s still true … there are none so blind as those who will not see. 25 of those whom We The People send each year to Lincoln to do our business have demonstrated once again how little they deserve to be there. Displaying a breathtaking degree of ignorance, arrogance and intransigence, the half-baked leftist-oriented cabal that infests the Unicameral chambers voted on Monday, February 22, 2016 to “re-commit” Legislative Resolution 35, i.e., to send it back to committee – which is equivalent to eternal purgatory for proposed legislation.

LR35 is a much-needed and thoughtfully designed resolution to request that a convention of states be called by Congress under Article V of the US Constitution, the purpose of which would be to consider the proposal of certain amendments to that Constitution. The actual wording states:

“The Legislature of the State of Nebraska hereby applies to Congress, under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution of the United States, for the calling of a convention of the states limited to proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress. “

Anybody here got a problem with imposing fiscal restraint on the federal government? Or limiting its power and jurisdiction? Or term limits for federal politicians? Me neither.

Yet 25 members (at least) of the Unicam have just declared that those ideas have no appeal for them – they think the way the Fed runs things now is just fine. Oh, several of them will claim that they agree with the intent of LR35, but the process lacks “clarity” … or they worry about a “runaway convention” … or they want to know precisely how such a thing as a convention of states would be constituted … or … or … ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

The fact is, the sponsors/presenters of LR35 (primarily District 32 Senator Laura Ebke) did an excellent job of describing the process, and explaining in some detail how it would work … all to no avail. The ideologically blinded and the morally lame blithely ignored any attempt at explication, and hurried on to other pressing business – such as adjourning until Tuesday.

I found it … uh … interesting … that Senator Ernie Chambers and his loyal henchwoman Senator Tanya Cook (during the “debate” on the resolution) both took the opportunity to launch into incoherent and non-germane racial diatribe – something about how the Constitution was responsible for the maltreatment of their ancestors, and how tormented they both were by the “collective memory” of events 250 years ago. It was almost surreal ….

Several others offered unconvincing objections to the resolution, ranging from the above-mentioned fear of a runaway convention to wondering how delegates to such a convention might be selected (??!!?). I thought Senator McCollister’s criticism was especially lame, lacking both conviction and comprehension; he seemed to be reading from a statement prepared by someone else.

By the way, kudos to Senator Ebke, who did 33 town hall meetings around the state over last summer, fall and winter (at her own expense) to explain and promote LR35.

The roll call vote on the motion to re-commit (i.e., to kill the bill) was as follows:

Voting in the affirmative, 25:

Baker Chambers Hadley Krist Schumacher Bloomfield Cook Hansen McCollister Seiler Bolz Crawford Harr, B. Mello Stinner Brasch Davis Howard Morfeld Sullivan Campbell Haar, K. Kolowski Pansing Brooks Williams

Voting in the negative, 18:

Coash Friesen Hughes Larson Schnoor Craighead Garrett Kintner Lindstrom Watermeier Ebke Groene Kolterman McCoy Fox Hilkemann Kuehn Riepe

Present and not voting, 4:

Gloor Johnson Murante Scheer

Excused and not voting, 2:

Schilz Smith

This is a vote that I hope will be born in mind when the time comes for all of us to vote for the re-election of at least some of these folks. Remember that at least 25 of them on this day have demonstrably embraced political expediency, or ideology, or willful ignorance rather than doing what is right.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Convention of States/Article V movement, there are several websites available (conventionofstates.com, foavc.com, to name just two), as well as Mark Levin’s excellent book “The Liberty Amendments”.

Be well.

 

 

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The Unicameral … Unchained, Unplugged and Uncovered

capitol

It’s been a busy month. Regular visitors to this site will notice something new – a series of brightly colored “buttons” in the right sidebar. Late last year, after becoming frustrated with the paucity of easily accessible information concerning our Unicameral legislature here in Nebraska, I decided to try to do something about it myself. It became quite an undertaking, and, after hacking my way through the jungles of HTML, PHP, JAVA, and VBA (the computer industry loves acronyms even more than the federal government does), and becoming intimately acquainted with MySQL database theory and assorted F(ile)T(ransfer)P(rotocol) niceties, and spending more hours than I care to admit to, and a false start or two, my task is (sort of) accomplished.

It turns out that there is a ton of information about the Unicam available on various websites, but most of it is in such arcane form that accessing it is simply too burdensome a task for the average information highway traveler to process, much less understand those endless rows and columns of data. Fortunately for those frustrated seekers, I have lots of time and an internet connection … and that brings us to the array of poly-hued buttons over there on the right side of the page you are now viewing. Each will provide you with a different view of the peregrinations of that wacky bunch that hang out in the Norris Chamber for 60 (or 90) days out of the year. Most of the information is financial in nature, but there is also biopic data presented.

Following is a quick sketch concerning the how and why of using the buttons:

Note that each button will initially present you with a selection screen where you can enter your various selections of name, sort category, date range, etc. Some screens will have more or less of these features, depending on the nature of the data being accessed. Select a senator by name by clicking in the “select senator” box, pick “sort” option(s) if available and click submit. You will then see a screen showing data concerning that senator.

Note also that most screens provide the option of downloading the presented data, which can then be processed with Excel or other “spreadsheet” programs. If you want print the data, simply use the “print” function on your browser; for Chrome users, the “print” function can be accessed by clicking the “stacked line” icon in the upper right hand corner of the browser. Other browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc. have similar functions. The header information/logo will be deleted from both the downloaded and printed data.

On the “Personal Info & Emailer” page, you can click on a specific senator’s email address and your email client software (Outlook, Live Mail, whatever) will automatically open an email, already addressed and with the “Subject” line filled in; you can then type whatever you want to say, and send it.

These reports will look the best on systems with (relatively) large screens. Small screens such as tablets or cellphones will stack and jumble the presented data in unpredictable ways.

You will notice that the grouping of categories, especially on the “Campaign Contributions” and “Campaign Expenses” reports is wobbly at best, i.e., seemingly identical names are not correctly grouped. This is because computers are VERY literal animals, and if a name has an extra space or a comma or whatever, the computer thinks it is a different “thing” and places it in a different category. The data as reported by the various senators and their staffs is … uh … inconsistent in form, to say the least, resulting in MANY different representations of the same element. For example, “Omaha, NE”, Omaha NE”, “Omaha, Nebr”, and Omaha Nebr” are all totally different categories to a computer. Data base jocks call this “dirty data”; I am aware of this nuisance and am working to mitigate it.

Also, the usual disclaimer – I assume no liability, explicit or implied, for the accuracy of the data here presented. I have worked diligently to ensure that the information provided is accurate and presented in a manner that is both useful and pertinent, but should you find verifiable error, please let me know and I will fix it post haste. All of the information provided is publicly available from such websites as the Nebraska State Treasurer, the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, and the Nebraska Legislature.

Finally, a word about mission; I believe strongly that governance in a representative constitutional democracy is accountable first and foremost to the people who consent to that governance. I believe further that accountability begins close to the people, at the local (municipal, county and state) level. If we have inept or corrupt leadership at the local level, then the quality (or lack of same) of government at the national level becomes almost moot. I do not minimize the significance of the national government, but, like charity, politics begins close to home. To that end, we need to be aware of the actions and attitudes of our representatives at the levels closest to us … and that demands accurate and salient information. I hope my small efforts help to provide such awareness.

Enjoy … and

Be well.

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“No … Honest… I’m a Conservative … Really …

 donkeymask

I listened with interest Monday to the first debate on the floor of the Unicameral. At issue was Senator Bill Kintner’s amendment to the permanent rules to do away with the secret ballot selection of committee chairpersons. Lots of harumphing and hair-splitting and gaseous declamation ensued, but it was pretty clear from the start that the obfuscators were still in the majority, as they have been for the last several years. Which is to say that the outcome of the final vote was never in doubt – transparency in the Unicameral once again falls victim to those who prefer operating in the shadows of anonymity, subject to neither personal nor professional accountability.

I have long supported efforts to eliminate this reprehensible practice, but I must admit that this result comes as no surprise. The sad truth is that within the Norris chamber there are still more of those who like operating in the dark than those who prefer the sunlight.

What is perhaps of more interest in this whole debate is the “why” –  the real underlying reason for such herculean efforts to protect the secret ballot process. See, Mel, this is all about control – control of the legislature, and, by definition, control of the legislative process and product by those of a certain philosophical bent. The faux arguments in favor of continuing the secret ballot tend to center around high-sounding matters such as preserving collegiality, preventing partisanship, and suchlike strawmen. The elephant in the room that no one (well, almost no one) wants to talk about is the deceit as to their political proclivities practiced by so, so many in that august body. Let me put it more plainly – many senators either lie outright about their political leanings or at the very least attempt to disguise them.

Much is made of the “nonpartisan” nature of the Unicameral – the progressives boldly aver that they are in a pitiful minority, especially with regard to committee chairs. Really? Let’s look closely at that particular shibboleth. Here is a list of the legislature’s 14 standing committees and chairs, along with each chair’s claimed party affiliation and each one’s 2014 rating by the American Conservative Union:

               snip

Where we make our mistake is in assuming that an “R” implies a fundamentally conservative political philosophy. Wellllll … maybe in some other galaxy, but certainly not in Unicameral politics. Liberals here in Huskerland learned an important lesson many years ago – if you want to get elected to any office above meter maid in Nebraska, you would do well to embrace the elephant. Having shaken off the pernicious progressivism of George Norris back in the 40’s, the electorate here has generally maintained a staunchly Republican (read conservative) majority. We’re not called Big Red for nothing. But the libs, ever alert for opportunities to subvert the electoral process, simply began checking the “R” box, and voters blithely assumed they were voting for someone who stood for and upheld their cherished conservative beliefs. Imagine their surprise ….

Don’t believe it? The American Conservative Union (the nation’s oldest and most respected conservative grass roots organization) annually rates politicians based on their voting records on a number of issues that clearly define a politician’s political leanings; their 2014 report on Nebraska state senators (see above table) found that several “Republican” senators had scores that starkly contradict their phony conservative claims.

As the table above indicates, several “R” chairman were just barely above 50%, and a couple were dangerously close to scores of admitted Dems! Of the committee chairs, only Larson and Schilz even begin to approach a score that would indicate true conservative credentials. Throw in Murante at a paltry 67% and we’ve got three lukewarm conservative Republicans occupying committee chairs – 3! … out of 14. The rest are either raging progressives or lamplight liberals. Further, would anyone be surprised to learn that the Speaker, the Big Mamoo of the Unicameral, the Honorable Galen of Hadley, supposedly the chief R in the building, has a rating of 33%! This means that he votes with the Dems 2/3 of the time.  And by the way, the average for the entire Unicameral is 48% … 48%!! …  and Nebraska is ostensibly a red state.  The perpetrators of this massive hoax must hug themselves and giggle every night as they slip on their ‘jammies. The mind boggles ….

What does all this mean? Just this – liberal/progressive interests are (and have been for some time now) exploiting well-known weaknesses of the one-house system. The discipline and political rigor normally exercised by organized parties is being effectively, systematically and intentionally abrogated by what can only be described as deceitful politicians bent on furthering their own ideological interests to the detriment of the public weal. Note also that the voting secrecy rules pretty much obviate the ability of the people (Norris’s venerated “second house”) to know what’s really going on.

Senators Kintner and Groene repeatedly made the point in their remarks yesterday that the issue of secret balloting to decide committee chairmanships, even though defeated now, will continue to rise phoenix-like, until the day when common sense and integrity once again prevail in the Unicameral. We would all do well to do whatever we can to hasten that day.

Be well.

 

 

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…aaaand they’re off!

fistfight

The 104th session of the Nebraska Unicameral got rolling today, though “rolling” is a considerable overstatement – it seemed more of a “trudge” … or maybe a “galumph” (for the Lewis Carroll fans out there). Nebraska Public Television does a creditable job of live-streaming the goings-on in the Norris chamber, but even they are unable to make the Unicam appear as anything approaching compelling TV. What I’m saying is, riveting viewing it ain’t – but if you’re old, living on a fixed income, with a lot of time on your hands and an internet connection, it beats making woven rugs out of plastic bags (just barely).

They opened up with a prayer from Sen. Matt Williams (what happened to separation of church and state?), moved on to “presenting the colors”, everybody glad-handed everybody else, announcements about new members were made, and then Clerk Patrick O’Donnell droned on for about a week reading newly introduced bills. I nodded off among all the “whereas’s” and “therefore’s”, but I think there was about 12 billion new bills introduced.

We were then treated to perhaps the most uninspiring speech I have heard since … well, forever. Senator Kolterman was trying to gin up support for his candidacy for the chairmanship of the Nebraska Retirement Systems committee (against Hyannis cow tycoon, Al Davis). To say Kolterman’s performance was lackluster is like saying Kim Kardashian’s butt is a trifle oversized. I mean, the man has all the charisma of warmed over moo-shu pork. People standing right freaking next to him didn’t seem to realize that he was making a speech – they just kept talking and laughing and exchanging business cards. Davis, on the other hand, gave a crackerjack account of his previous time as vice chairman of that committee, and entreated everyone to, for heaven’s sake, let him have the big chair for this last session. Guess what – Kolterman won … big! Go figure. By the way, it was a secret ballot, as these things tend to be with our merry band of legislative hucksters, so no one will ever know who do what for whom under whose chair for what price. Que serra.

Then Kearney’s own paunchy political Pangloss, good ole Galen Hadley, made an announcement about things like legislative deadlines, and when senators were supposed to show up – at least I think that’s what it was all about. Hadley has never been noted for his elocutionary coherence , but at the end he did promise a memo to sort of explain what he had just talked about for ten minutes. Which was good, because I noticed a significant number of senators walking around punching themselves in the head trying to unscramble the Hadleyan coded message they had just received. Somewhere in there Senator Krist took the floor and emoted eerily about safety measures in the legislative chamber and checking admission credentials and required red badges and such. I think he must have seen one too many episodes of “The Blacklist.”

Clerk O’Donnell (or maybe it was his assisant – those two could be clones) then treated us to another long and dreadful lesson in dronology until Senator Bloomfield, who apparently had, like the rest of us, had enough, mercifully made a priority motion to get the hell out of there (I think he phrased it as a ‘motion to adjourn’, but we all knew what he meant). The “aye’s” were shouted with both unanimity and alacrity, and everyone packed up their laptops and bottled water and galloped for the exits.

As an interesting aside, I timed the session (I told you before – I have no life), and found that, while our guys (and gals) were officially in session for two hours (10:00AM – 12:00 PM), they were actually doing things for just over 45 minutes. The rest of the time was spent in what they are pleased to refer to as “at ease”, as in “The Legislature is standing at ease.” I don’t know what to say about that.

Be well.

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Another App Added … !

moneyapp

Just added another app … this one offers a summary of all state senator expenses, salaries, and other expenses over the last 4 fiscal years. You can access it by clicking on “FY Summary” in the header menu; you will then see a listing of all expenditures, broken down by budgetary categories (per the State Treasurer), together with fiscal year totals for each state senator. Use the scroll bar to the right of the listing to scroll through the data. At this point, the presented data is not downloadable, but I am working on making that possible.

Note that data for FY15-16 is not yet available for the very good reason that that fiscal year has not ended. The state fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30 of the following year.

As always, I have tried very hard to present accurate information, but if you find verifiable error(s), just let me know and I will make immediate repairs.

Enjoy … and be well.

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Ta-Daaaaaaa!!

trumpets

As promised, a couple of custom apps to make it easy to discover information about Nebraska’s unicameral legislature. A couple of notes concerning the apps …

The apps may be accessed by clicking on the appropriate title in the header menu bar.

The information found at “Unicameral … By The Numbers” is derived from the Nebraska State Treasurer’s website and represents what I believe to be an accurate representation of the data provided. Note that I have shown all the senators’ salaries as “Gross Salary” ($1000 per month – as is common knowledge) since each one has different amounts of deductions and with holdings, which means the net salary amounts shown on the Treasurer’s site are not a true reflection of the actual outlay.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that the data that will display on the “By The Numbers” app is for FY14-15. I am working on the data for the 3 years previous and will get it on the app as soon as I can get it massaged. FY15-16 will not be available until the summer I suspect, since it likely won’t appear on the Treasurer’s site till then.

The information provided on the “Senator Information” app is derived from a variety of  sources, including the Nebraska Legislature website, and others.

Note that no information is displayed that is not publicly available. I simply put it into a form that makes it easier to access.

If you have questions or problems with the apps let me know.

Enjoy!

I will be adding further apps to this site in the weeks to come, including one that displays campaign contributions and expenses, another that will summarize voting records, and a couple other surprises.

Be well.

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The Super-Widget Cometh …

widget

For several weeks I have been working on a blog-based system to provide easy access to broad information about our Unicameral that is not easily available through the standard media channels. It includes data on costs, campaign receipts and expenditures, and reported (>$250) versus non-reportable contributions (<$250), among other features. It has been more of a challenge than I initially envisioned, but I’m nearly ready to roll out the first phase – consisting of FY15 (7/1/14-6/30/15) monies paid to state senators, including salaries, expenses, mileage, etc.

The data are presented on screen in an uncomplicated format and are downloadable for those who care to. To use the widget, just click on “Unicameral…by the numbers” in the header bar and follow the on-screen directions.

This information is of course publicly available to anyone with an internet connection, but not in an easily understandable or interpretable form. I hope this database will be a step toward correcting that situation. It is (will be) free and available to all; if you have any suggestions, corrections, etc., just let me know via the comment section. I have made significant effort to ensure that the data is correct, but in an undertaking of this scope, inevitably a gremlin or two will sneak in – if you find provable error, let me know and I will fix it.

 

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Lincoln Journal-Star, Hadley and the Filibuster

wall

While no one should be surprised these days by the Lincoln JournalStar’s unnatural and deeply disturbing affection for liberal miscreancy, this time Dame LJS has bent so far to the left she can see up her own skirts. An editorial dated November 29, 2015 lauds none other than Kearney’s own wolfish/sheepish state senator – the redoubtable Galen Hadley – for coming up with (their words) “a reasonable plan for trimming the impact of filibusters on the Legislature.” And, as current Speaker of the Unicameral, our doughty senator has vowed to “use his authority” to accomplish his ends – in other words he intends nothing less than unilateral truncation of opposing viewpoints.

The idea, allegedly conceived by RINO-in-chief Hadley, calls for “a cloture motion to shut off debate after six hours, rather than the eight hours that has traditionally been allowed.” Seems those nasty conservatives have managed to extinguish lots of collectivist-inspired legislation with that extra two hours of debate. Among those bills smothered in their cribs are such delightful neo-marxist offerings as “repeal of the death penalty, allowing immigrants brought to the United States as children to get driver’s licenses, wind energy, returning Nebraska to a winner-take-all system for awarding electoral votes, and requiring voters to present identification …” Who knew that two hours could be that lethal? One wonders if Hadley et al, including the JournalStar, ever considered the possibility that such legislation as that mentioned above is simply, well , remarkably bad policy … and was opposed by the wielders of the filibuster (“filibusterers?”) on reasonable grounds. No – probably not …

Hadley may be a lot of things, but stoopid ain’t one of ‘em. The Unicameral liberal class (of which Hadley is a card-carrying, dues-paying, T-shirt wearing member) understands fully that one of the most effective ways to get their agenda through an already structurally crippled legislative body such as the Unicameral is to limit substantive discussion and debate to the fullest possible extent – and his latest brainstorm, with apologies to Pink Floyd, is just another brick in that inexorable progressive wall.

The Founders, especially Madison and Hamilton in The Federalist,  went to considerable lengths to explain the virtues of extended debate and a resultant thorough winnowing of proposed legislation, arguing that multiplying the diversity of interests as well as encouraging lengthy discussion is the key to mitigating potentially dangerous majority factions. Yet here stands Senator Hadley attempting to short-circuit an already dysfunctional legislative process by promising parliamentary chicanery to limit deliberation that has been demonstrably effective in thwarting many of the liberals’ perverse initiatives.

And the P Street Pixie Press is effusively onboard, supporting not only Hadley’s nefarious scheme but promoting one of their own. Quoting from the editorial:

The editorial board is on record in favor of a more drastic reform to lower the number of votes required to end a filibuster from 33 to 30 … In the view of the board, a 30-vote requirement is sufficient to protect the ability of minority to restrain the majority from passing extreme measures.

Good to know the LJS mavens are looking out for the interests of the poor and down-trodden.

From Federalist 10:

As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government …the majority … must be rendered, by their number and local situation, unable to concert and carry into effect schemes of oppression. If the impulse and the opportunity be suffered to coincide, we well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control….

Simply put, what Madison is saying is, given man’s natural tendency toward self-aggrandizement, we must depend in large part on structural/organizational checks to prevent legislative cozening – and that surely includes ample discussion/disputation over any proposed laws. I would expect both politicians and newspapers to recognize and honor that simple principle.

Be well.

 

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Back To The Future

capitol

George Washington was not a fan of political parties. He believed strongly that factionalism, from whatever quarter, was a pernicious, even corrosive, influence on the new nation’s politics. A whiff of his disdain for the sordid machinations of political parties may be discerned in his Farewell Address:

“The disorders and miseries which result [from partisan politics] gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

Several of the other FF’s also routinely deplored political partisanship, including James Madison (see Federalist 10), John Dickinson (The Cost of Liberty, William Murchison), James Wilson (The Founding Conservatives, David Lefer) and others.

In the interest of full disclosure I should here note that I myself for many years have, in this space and elsewhere, inveighed lustily against codified political factionalism – but, in the last few years, I have come to believe that organized support for a cause, even to the point of chauvinism, is not necessarily a bad thing.

While I am loath to disagree even minimally with the Fathers of Our Country, it seems to me that they may have been fixated only on the brambles, and, in their single-mindedness, missed the blossom. I grant that contemporary party politics can and often do become rough-and-tumble, to put it charitably, but it is also undeniable that no more effective mechanisms for vetting and characterizing prospective office-holders (and initiatives) exist than political parties running at full tilt.

For example, if an organized party endorses and supports a candidate, we can be reasonably sure that said candidate adheres rather closely to the philosophy and policy preferences of that party. If the Dill Pickle Party gets behind Fred Farfle, the voters, even if they never heard of Fred before last Tuesday, can be reasonably confident that he won’t go for Gherkins in a big vote on the floor. Put another way, voters over time have come to know what a particular party stands for, and can have a reasonable expectation that any candidate sanctioned by that party will generally follow the same credo.

My point is simply that a political party of whatever stripe generally provides a valuable “winnowing” function for an electorate that is notoriously averse to obtaining its own accurate information. It can be rightly claimed that this could result in inaccurate and/or misleading data being foisted on Joe Sixpack but this is less likely than might be assumed.

Intelligence concerning a candidate, whether positive or negative, will be viewed by the opposing party as injurious to their interests and every effort will be made by them to counter/correct the claim(s). To use a relatively recent example, if a candidate falsely claims to be a decorated hero who spent time in a well-known theater of war, it becomes a relatively simple exercise for the opposition to expose such prevarication. I do not mean to imply that this process is perfect, but it is surprisingly effective.

Said all that to say this – the patron saint of the Unicameral, Senator Norris, was thunderously explicit about his distaste for political partisanship, crediting it with every form of societal misfortune but sun spots and pink-eye. Norris is characteristically muzzy as to his actual reasons for disliking factionalism, but I suspect he simply didn’t like anything that interfered with the implementation of his Progressive vision – and mainstream Republicanism certainly did that (not to mention moderate Democrats’ ideology, whose numbers in the plains states were significant even back in Norris’s time).

Today, thanks to Norris-inspired institutionalized “non-partisanship” in our state legislature, We The People are essentially prevented (with malice aforethought I am convinced), or at least mightily hindered, from discovering what a legislative candidate’s true political proclivities may be. One need look no further than a few well-known names in the current Unicameral to understand the game that is played. The acronym “RINO” has been over-used, but it is appropriate here.

Sure, the candidates register as Republicans (candidates from out-state Nebraska would have to be morons to register as anything else), or Mugwumps or whatever, but there is no force that holds them accountable to that commitment. They are free to pursue whatever course of action their hidden ideology or whimsy or cronyism dictates – secure in the knowledge that no political price will be paid, because much of such action takes place in secret … plus which, they are, after all, “nonpartisan.”

So, as previously promised, here are a few suggestions that I believe would strengthen/improve what now passes for a legislature in Nebraska:

  1. Reinstate bicameralism; failing that, increase the size of the legislature to at least three times its current membership. In legislating, too many cooks do not spoil the broth – but they may keep it from being inedible.
  2. At least quadruple the salary of state senators/representatives. We sorely need to attract increased numbers of young, vital legislators. The current salary level of $12,000 per annum makes that essentially impossible – we need to reduce the number of  folks looking for a retirement project, who don’t need to be concerned about money.
  3. Reintroduce partisanship – let’s establish at least some level of accountability.
  4. Ban secret balloting – at once and forever, in all aspects of the legislative process – and allow any member to demand a recorded roll call vote on any issue, on any motion, at any time, in committee or on the floor.
  5. Limit the number of bills that can be introduced during any session to something like 100 – make it slow and difficult to pass any law. To paraphrase an old saw: “Legislate in haste, repent at leisure.”

I am not naive enough to believe that any of the above proposals will be adopted anytime soon, but I believe that our state has suffered greatly under the travesty perpetrated by Norris and his chums, and I would end by reminding everyone of the words of the Stoic philosopher Seneca –

“Errare humanum est, sed perseverare diabolicum: ‘to err is human, but to persist in the error is diabolical.'”

Be well.

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