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This Week's Editorial
A front row seat to the Iowa caucus reality show PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Friday, 30 December 2011 20:07

A Capitol Commentary

By Mary Kay Quinlan

 

Back in the early months of 1960, then presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy trekked to the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office to file as a Democratic candidate for president in the state’s primary election.

Those were the days when serious presidential contenders campaigned in Nebraska in the months leading up to the two major political parties’ summer nominating conventions.

But the proliferation of caucuses and primary elections scheduled much earlier than Nebraska’s May contest has long since eclipsed this state’s role in presidential politics.

Instead, Nebraskans must content themselves with watching their Iowa neighbors across the Missouri River as the Republican Nomination Comedy Tour hobbles inevitably toward Jan. 3, the Big Day when caucus-goers finally vote someone off the island.

If only it were that simple.

Recent news accounts reported that fully 70 percent of the American people wish the 2012 presidential campaign was over. And it isn’t even 2012 yet.

The Iowa caucuses, a quadrennial cottage industry in our otherwise sensible neighboring state, is an event that puts a premium on the passion-level of a candidate’s supporters. And the array of contestants in this year’s reality show have certainly put their supporters to the test.

For one thing, there was former Omaha pizza magnate Herman Cain, a wildly popular motivational speaker who was forced to suspend his campaign in the face of charges that he had engaged in inappropriate relationships with a number of women.

Then there’s Rick Perry, the Texas governor lured into the race apparently when he wasn’t quite ready for prime time. In one of the innumerable debates, Perry couldn’t quite remember all of the Cabinet agencies he wanted to abolish. Oops.

And how about Ron Paul? The Republican-turned-Libertarian-turned-Republican from Texas is called the darling of the tea party folks who say they hate big government. Except please don’t tamper with their Social Security and Medicare.

Paul’s supporters are said to be fervent in their passion for the Texas congressman and retired physician and probably can be counted on to brave even the most challenging January weather to appear at their caucus for him.

Then there’s Newt Gingrich. If Newt made it all the way to the White House, it would be the first time we had a president sharing the name of a slimy animal.

Gingrich is said to be older and wiser than he was as the firebrand GOP House leader in the 1990s. Recently, however, he raised eyebrows for calling the Palestinians an invented people, causing some to wonder about the former history professor’s foreign policy credentials. Jon Huntsman, the former ambassador to China, is the only candidate with credible foreign policy experience, but Iowans don’t seem to care. In three recent Iowa polls, Huntsman fared worse than “Undecided.” It really makes you feel sorry for the guy.

Let’s not forget Michelle Bachmann, the Iowa native who now represents a Minnesota district in Congress. She’s the only woman in the race and has said she’s running because God told her to.

Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, originally pursued a strategy of laying low in Iowa until Gingrich started coming on strong. So in recent weeks, Iowans have met Romney’s lovely wife of more than four decades and their five handsome sons, who no doubt have shaken hands with and smiled at more corn-fed Iowans than they ever thought existed out here in the hinterlands.

We could go on. But why? The Iowa caucuses have become public relations practitioners’ World Cup of political spin control. Candidates don’t have to garner the most votes to be said to win. Candidates who do worse than expected can suddenly face the prospect of defection of their lukewarm fans.

Political junkies in Iowa, and those in Nebraska who follow the follies across the river, will have to turn their attention farther afield as the reality show moves on to primaries in bigger states.

Perhaps Iowans will really give us an undisputed GOP frontrunner. Perhaps not. In which case, the 70 percent who wish the campaign were already over had better hunker down for a long spring.

 

MARY KAY QUINLAN is the Bureau Chief of the Nebraska News Service. She can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Friday, 30 December 2011 20:08
 
For Upper Republican NRD, 2011 marked by large projects PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Friday, 30 December 2011 20:06

By Jasper Fanning

Upper Republican NRD

 

The Upper Republican NRD this year made big investments in projects that should produce significant, long-term payoffs for agricultural and natural resources throughout our region.

It was a year to remember, both for the tangible benefits that the projects will have for our region, and what the willingness to initiate them says about the people in our district of Perkins, Chase and Dundy Counties.

Our residents and board again exemplified the type of foresight and progressiveness that has given our NRD a reputation as a leader in water management.

As irrigated-land owners know, the strides made this year aren’t cheap. They’ll be paying $10 an irrigated acre in occupation tax, a revenue source that gained some long-range reliability in September when the state Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional.

So what are residents of the district getting for their money?

 

Augmentation

Early this year, the NRD purchased about 4,000 acres, 3,260 of them irrigated, in Dundy County near the headwaters of Rock Creek. The land and improvements were purchased for $10 million by the NRD.

By retiring the 24 circles from irrigated production, groundwater that otherwise would have been used for irrigation will instead be used to increase Republican River flows. This will help the NRD fulfill its obligations to help the state stay in compliance with the Republican River Compact settlement agreement between Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado.

The project has the potential to generate 9,000-10,000 acre feet of water every three years or so. If it is formally approved by the three states, Nebraska will get credit for all of the augmentation water; if it is not formally approved as an augmentation project, the NRD and Nebraska will still get credit for more than 69 percent of the augmentation water, a substantial benefit.

To put the amount of water the project has the capability to produce in perspective, 10,000 acre feet is roughly equal to the total amount of water by which the NRD exceeded its annual, allowable depletions to stream flow from groundwater pumping during the worst of the drought years of the early 2000s.

Using the augmentation project to help keep the NRD from exceeding its portion of allowable depletions to stream flow caused by groundwater pumping should greatly reduce chances that the NRD will have to use the last-resort, backstop option of sharply reducing or shutting down irrigation near the Republican and its tributaries to maintain compact compliance during dry times.

At least four miles of pipe will have to be constructed to deliver the augmentation water from wells on the northern part of the purchased property to Rock Creek, which joins the north fork of the Republican near Parks.

Total project costs are expected to be $13 million to $15 million and it should be completed next year. A primary reason the board raised the occupation tax to $10 per irrigated acre was so the augmentation project could be paid off within a couple years and at a time when the agricultural economy has been strong.

 

Irrigation retirement

The NRD committed about $1.9 million to permanently retire irrigated acres in the district that have significant impacts on stream flow. The voluntary program was made possible by a $1.2 million contribution from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which chose to partner with the NRD on an Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP).

Even at a time of high grain prices, there was significant interest in the program. About 40 landowners in the district applied, and about a dozen were accepted.

All told, about 1,360 certified irrigated acres were permanently retired in the district under the program. The average, per-acre payment from the NRD was about $1,400; NRCS contributed $950 an acre.

Getting the most benefit from the available funds was a top priority of the NRD and NRCS.

The aim was to generate the most stream flow possible from retiring the acres, to help the district maintain compact compliance. To do so, both the pumping history and hydrologic connection of wells to the stream were considered when ranking applicants.

The ranking and funding formula seemed to work: the acres that were retired had been irrigated, on average, with nearly 11 inches of water a year and have an average, 50-year stream flow depletion factor (SDF) of 88 percent. An SDF is the percentage of water pumped over a defined time period that would have resulted in stream flow had it not been pumped.

Typically, the closer a well is to a stream, the higher the SDF, with 88 percent considered a very high SDF.

How many more acres are retired in the future will partially depend upon how much more federal money is allocated for the retirement program in the NRD.

It should be noted that the NRD doesn’t plan on retiring huge numbers of acres in the district; doing so is cost prohibitive and other tools can be used to help maintain compact compliance. Used in tandem with the augmentation project and gradual reductions in water consumption, irrigation retirement can be moderately used to help the district.

Regarding district-wide water consumption, the district shall continue to adopt water-conserving allocations that will adjust with time and technology to conserve our water resources ensuring a viable water supply for generations to come.

Please feel free to call the office if you have any questions about projects and rules at the NRD. We’re here to help and look forward to another year of working on behalf of residents in the district.

Last Updated on Friday, 30 December 2011 20:07
 
Ben Nelson retiring from U.S. Senate PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Friday, 30 December 2011 20:06

The Associated Press

Wire Service

 

Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska said Tuesday he will retire rather than seek a third term next year, dealing a significant setback to Democratic efforts to maintain control of the chamber.

The 70-year-old conservative Democrat, whose seat is being heavily targeted by Republicans in 2012, said in a statement that “while I relish the opportunity to undertake the work that lies ahead, I also feel it’s time for me to step away from elective office, spend more time with my family, and look for new ways to serve our state and nation.”

“Therefore, I am announcing today that I will not seek re-election. Simply put: It is time to move on,” he said.

Republicans, who need to net four seats to take back the Senate next year, say Nebraska has tilted further to the right in recent years.

Nelson is the lone Democrat among the state’s five-member congressional delegation, and the Republicans think Nelson’s vote for President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation would have weighed him down.

Nelson still could have given Democrats a fighting chance. A two-term governor before winning a Senate seat, he has shown an ability to rebound after being down in previous statewide races.

But he’s recently expressed dismay about a divided Congress’ inability to pass meaningful legislation, frustration that echoed in the Tuesday statement in which he said public office is “about promoting the common good, not the agenda of the radical right or the radical left.”

“I encourage those who will follow in my footsteps to look for common ground and to work together in bipartisan ways to do what’s best for the country, not just one political party,” he said.

Even as Nelson wavered about whether to seek another term, he piled up campaign cash, hired a campaign manager and watched his party spend more than $1 million on ads supporting him.

Prominent Nebraska Democrats said they were shocked by his Tuesday announcement and said they were concerned about who they might field against the Republican nominee.

“I’m absolutely stunned,” said Kathleen Fahey, a Democratic super-delegate in 2008. “Ben has been such a great senator for everybody. I’m not liking this.”

The campaign preparation had left him with a healthy cash advantage. He had more than $3 million cash on hand last month, about twice his nearest competitor, and had the luxury of stockpiling money while Republicans focused on a crowded primary that includes Don Stenberg, the state’s treasurer, Jon Bruning, the attorney general, Deb Fischer, a state senator, and Pat Flynn, an investment adviser.

“In one respect, he certainly deserves to have some time away from the political scene,” said Steve Achelpohl, a Democratic super-delegate. “But on the other hand, it certainly is going to leave a void.”

Nelson was first elected to the Senate in 2000, defeating Republican contender Stenberg to replace the retired Bob Kerrey.

His centrist stance helped him get re-elected over the years even as already-conservative Nebraska became even more dominated by Republicans.

He was one of only two Senate Democrats to side with Republicans earlier this year on a failed GOP bid to block new federal controls on power plant pollution that blows downwind into other states. He took great pride in his membership in the 2005 “Gang of 14,” made up of Republicans and Democrats who brokered a deal to avoid a filibuster showdown over President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

However, Nelson’s vote in favor of Obama’s signature health reform measure left the GOP confident that they could beat the Democrat next year. The health reforms are strongly opposed by many Nebraska conservatives, and after the vote Nebraska Republicans immediately kicked off a “Give Ben the Boot” campaign.

“For once Senator Nelson has listened to Nebraskans,” Nebraska Republican Party Chairman Mark Fahleson said Tuesday. “The Nebraska Republican Party is more focused than ever on electing another conservative Republican to join Sen. Mike Johanns and recapturing the U.S. Senate so that we can reverse the damage done by Ben Nelson, Washington Democrats and the Obama Administration.”

Nelson upset incumbent Nebraska Gov. Kay Orr in 1990 to earn his first statewide office and was re-elected in 1994 by a landslide.

In 1996, he reneged on a campaign pledge that he would not seek higher office while governor and announced his candidacy for the Senate seat vacated by the retiring Gov. Jim Exon. Omaha businessman Chuck Hagel soundly defeated Nelson in that Senate race. The two later served as colleagues when Nelson was elected in 2000.

Last Updated on Friday, 30 December 2011 20:06
 
Twelve days of Christmas takes on new meaning PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 22 December 2011 20:17

Another Perspective

By Lori Pankonin

 

I’ve never given much thought to the lyrics in the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song. Twelve drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 Lords a leaping.

Does it have to make sense? I mean, look at nursery rhymes. Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater put his wife in a pumpkin shell in order to keep her. Why was Little Jack Horner a good boy for sticking his thumb into a pie and pulling out a plum?

Dr. Seuss’ ever popular books had a fun twist and were good for reading repetition. But did they have to make sense? Green Eggs and Ham for instance. I do not like them in a box. I do not like them with a fox. I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. Hmm?

Never had I given any thought to the Christmas song having a religious connection. That is until I read a suggestion recently that it was originally a catechism song written to help Catholics learn their faith at a time when practicing Catholicism was criminalized in England.

Interestingly enough, the message was the very sermon topic at the Imperial Methodist Church on Sunday and it very definitely relates to teachings of the Bible.

Twelve drummers drumming, 11 Lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, FIVE GOLDEN RINGS. Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.

So here’s the interpretation.

Jesus represents the partridge in a pear tree.

The Old and New testaments are the two turtle doves with the three French hens signifying the three wise men bringing gifts.

Four calling birds—the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Five golden rings—the Torah or first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.

Six geese a laying—the six days of creation prior to resting. On the first day, there was light separating day and night. On the second day, the waters from above and below were separated, making the sky. Waters were brought together on the third day with land appearing, naming the earth and sea. On day four, the sun, moon and stars were created to allow days, seasons and years. Creation of the birds and sea creatures came on the fifth day with animals and man created on the sixth day. And it was good.

Seven swans a swimming—gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, wonder, right judgment, knowledge, courage and reverence.

Eight maids a milking—the eight beatitudes as described in Matthew. Blessed are: – the poor in spirit; – they that mourn; – the meek; – those who hunger and thirst; – the merciful; – the pure in heart; – the peacemakers; – they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

Nine ladies dancing—nine fruits of the Holy Spirit as described in Galations: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

Ten Lords a leaping—the 10 Commandments: 1. Worship one God. 2. Don’t worship idols. 3. Don’t swear in the Lord’s name. 4. Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. 5. Honor your father and mother. 6. Do not murder. 7. Do not commit adultery. 8. Do not steal. 9. Do not lie. 10. Do not desire your neighbor’s wife.

Eleven pipers piping—the 11 faithful disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, a second James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, Thaddeus, Simon.

And finally the 12 drummers drumming—12 points of the Apostles’ Creed.

Wow! That packs a lot of punch with tremendous underlying meaning. Fa la la la la la la la la! Merry Christmas!

 

LORI PANKONIN is co-publisher of Johnson Publications newspapers in Imperial, Wauneta and Grant, and part-owner of the Holyoke Enterprise in Holyoke, Colo. E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 December 2011 20:18
 
Another skirmish in the so-called ‘War on Christmas’ PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 22 December 2011 20:14

A Capitol Commentary

By Charlie Litton

Nebraska News Service

 

I’ve never waged a war, but I presume it takes reasoned strategy and careful planning.

At least that seems to be a common thread in the history books I’ve read.

So, you’ll pardon me if I’m a little confused about this supposed “War on Christmas” I keep hearing about from vapid TV drones.

First, it’s a “war.” Which is not to be confused with an “Assault on Christmas,” or “Christmas Under Siege,” or even an “Attack on Christmas.”

No, we are told, this is very serious business.

This is war.

Here, for this “War on Christmas,” we’re talking about people’s souls.

But whose souls are we talking about here?

I’m a Christian, so I know that it’s Christmas. I can’t escape it, no matter how many people have the gall to wish me a “Happy Holidays.”

At home, I have a rapidly dying tree that sheds about 6,000 needles each time the furnace cranks up to weakly churn out its tepid warmth — which is no doubt laced with carbon-monoxide vapors.

Not enough to kill anyone, but just enough to make everyone cranky.

I’m also reminded by our priest, who has made a point to mention the season — and it’s meaning — once or twice over the past few weeks. Tree lighting ceremonies here, there and everywhere serve as helpful reminders as well. Then there are the flamboyant decorations and lighted lawn ornaments that have done well to melt our recent snow fall.

And just yesterday, I saw Santa Claus at the mall.

If someone is waging war on Christmas, they sure are doing a lousy job of it.

I’ve seen enough plaid shirts and tree skirts to conclude one of two things: Either its Christmas, or some Scottish clan has finally invaded. Maybe it’s the Clan MacGregor. I’ve seen a lot of their red and green tartan in recent weeks.

Perhaps someone should alert Congress, which never got around to actually declaring war on Korea or Vietnam.

Fewer than 90,000 Americans were lost in those conflicts, but the stupefyingly inane morning TV ninnies find nothing wrong with some shameless hyperbole.

Don’t believe me?

The morning program, “Fox and Friends” on the Fox News Channel, best exemplifies the shallow depths plumbed by these types.

Back in 2007, the Fox morning crew reported a story out of Lewiston, Maine, where Muslim children were pranked by schoolmates who tossed some leftover ham in their general direction. In response, the school issued a zero tolerance ham rule.

The problem was that Fox’s source for that news was an Onion-like satirical website. They reported on this fake news story to the extent co-host Steve Doocy and company were sued for libel.

The judge ultimately ruled in favor of Fox because, sadly, it’s not illegal to be either “unprofessional” or “gullible.” Nor stupid, it would seem.

A more recent example? Okay.

Last year, Fox and Friends reported that the LAPD would be adding a new weapon to its arsenal.

Jetpacks. Yes, 10,000 jetpacks at $100,000 a pop.

“Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade, the thoughtful one, cautioned, “You gotta’ make some rules because you could have jetpacks flying into choppers.”

That’s good advice for the FAA…and free.

Fox’s source appears to be the Weekly World News, which you may recognize as the preeminent crack news team that exposed “Bat Boy” and scooped everyone with confirmation that the end of the world would happen back in November.

Later in the same broadcast, co-host Steve Doocy issued this retraction: “Earlier today we were talking about jetpacks…and it looked like the LAPD was going to buy a whole bunch of them. It turns out they’re not going to.”

Okay. So now they’re telling us there’s a war on Christmas.

I’ll wait for confirmation before stocking up on the ammo.

Happy Holidays.

 

CHARLIE LITTON is a correspondent with the Nebraska News Service. Litton can be contacted This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 December 2011 20:16
 
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