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Gov. Heinemann: Pipeline re-routing a common sense solution for Nebraska PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Tuesday, 22 November 2011 17:42

Gov. Dave Heineman today at a media availability made the following comments regarding recent developments of the Keystone XL Pipeline:

Just a few days ago, I said that the U.S. Department of State decision to undertake an “in-depth assessment of potential alternative routes” was an opportunity for a common sense solution. Today, we stand here having reached a common sense solution.

While there have been a number of factors that have brought us to this point, the catalyst for this extraordinary series of events was the calling of the Special Session.

For months, Nebraskans have been clear about our position on the pipeline — we support the pipeline. However, we’re opposed to a route through the environmentally sensitive Sandhills.

Citizens voiced their opinions at public hearings in Atkinson and Lincoln and at the Legislature’s three public hearings. Through our persistence and determination, the State Department heard our concerns. Additionally, TransCanada has heard our concerns and has voluntarily agreed to change the route.

As is customary in our state, we have found a Nebraska common sense solution that moves the route of the pipeline out of the Sandhills. This exceptional and unusual series of events has allowed us to arrive at this solution because of Nebraskans’ ability to work in a cooperative manner.

First, I want to thank Nebraskans for sharing their thoughts and concerns in a serious and sincere manner throughout this process.

Second, I want to recognize the Legislature, Speaker Flood and the Natural Resources Committee for their hard work in arriving at this solution.

With regard to the current bills, we still have work to do, but we are headed in the right direction.

I support Speaker Flood’s amendment to LB 4, and I am hopeful that LB 1 can be amended into a workable long-term siting process. This issue deserves the thorough and thoughtful discussion we are now having. Third, I want to thank the U.S. Department of State for their cooperation and willingness to work with us. The meetings that the Legislature and I have had with the State Department were useful and productive.

Fourth, I want to acknowledge TransCanada for agreeing to reroute the pipeline. It was important that TransCanada listened to the voices of Nebraskans.

Finally, I appreciate Nebraska’s congressional delegation for their input and for reflecting the views of their constituents. I especially want to recognize and thank Senator Johanns for his leadership and valuable insight on this issue at the federal level.

Throughout this process, it has been evident that laws relating to the siting of an international pipeline are complicated and challenging.

Now, we have arrived at a Nebraska common sense solution, and I am proud of Nebraskans and our state.

 
A Veterans Day Reflection: What is seen and what is not seen PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 10 November 2011 18:54

By Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson

Grove City College

 

In economics, the first lesson I teach my pupils is the lesson of things that are seen and things that are not seen. Actions have some effects that are readily apparent and others are overlooked or not perceived.

It’s the same with our military veterans. We see the obvious price they’ve paid — the time they spent far away from home and some of the physical injuries, such as lost limbs.

What we don’t see are their psychological wounds. Sadly, these are more numerous than physical injuries, and they often cause greater suffering.

It took me many years to understand this. The uncle who raised me was as tough and fearless as any man I’ve ever known, yet even he struggled with deeply disturbing memories from World War II more than half a century later.

He tried to keep those memories bottled up deep inside, but after a few stiff drinks at night, those memories would issue forth in long soliloquies. Many times the uncle I called “Pop” recounted an incident that happened on the aircraft carrier Essex. He was in charge of making the planes flightworthy. One day, a fighter plane returned from its mission intact, except that when Pop checked the belly gunner’s turret, he encountered a gory sight: the belly gunner’s head had been blown off and the turret was a bloody mess.

As soon as he learned of the situation, the captain of the Essex wanted to know if the aircraft could fly again.

Pop sent a message back via the ship’s chaplain: Yes, the plane could fly, but all that blood would smell horribly in the tropical heat.

Pop recommended confirming the identity of the dead man, administering last rites, then burying the man at sea in the plane in which he had given his life for his country.

The captain signaled “thumbs-up” from the bridge, and so the plane became a coffin that was pushed off the flight deck into the Pacific.

Pop had seen much death and destruction in the war, but he couldn’t shake the memory of this particularly vivid incident. Many times I had sat silently while Pop retold the story, doing my best to be a supportive listener.

One night, while listening to this story for the umpteenth time, it dawned on me that Pop was haunted by that horrific image, and it seemed right to try to ease his torment.

I decided to reason with him the way he had reasoned with me when I was growing up. “Pop,” I said, “ that belly gunner was no more dead than all the other soldiers and sailors killed in the war, and his death may have been more merciful than most, because it happened before he knew what hit him.”

My statements hit home. Pop snapped out of his dreamy, far off, reverie.

His eyes took on a clear, focused look. “I suppose that’s so,” he acknowledged, and he then turned the conversation to less intense subjects. I sat with Pop during many more nights when he drank and reminisced before his passing a year later. Never again did he tell that story. That nightmarish memory had ceased to haunt him. He had finally processed it and moved on.

Every veteran close to me has wrestled with disturbing memories to varying degrees. In some cases, it took years, even decades, before they were ready or able to talk about the traumatic events that have haunted them.

Our veterans have far more scars than meet the eye. For most of them, thank God, the love of their families, their many happy memories, and their personal courage to push ahead with satisfying and productive lives enable them to cope with the ugly memories of war.

How can we help them? That isn’t an easy question, but as we pause to recognize and honor their service to our country on Veterans Day, let us resolve to do what we can. Let us be steadfastly supportive friends and family members.

If our veterans need to talk, let us be patient and compassionate listeners.

If they prefer not to talk about their military service and are getting on with their lives, then let us respect their wishes and let sleeping dogs lie.

If their military memories continue to hurt them today, perhaps we need to help them find professional help.

If nothing else, let us look for opportunities to express our gratitude for their sacrifices and pray that each precious one of them may find peace from haunting memories.

 

Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 November 2011 18:57
 
Hewing to popular opinion doesn’t guarantee a wise decision PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 10 November 2011 18:49

A Capitol Commentary

By Mary Kay Quinlan

 

Elected officials these days devote considerable energy and expense to staying in touch with their constituents, at least in part to determine which way the political winds are blowing on the issues of the day.

They hold town hall meetings. They commission polls. They solicit Facebook fans. They even tweet from the floor of Congress to fellow Twitterers — or is that twits? — during the president’s State of the Union message, presumably to let voters back home know how much they want to stay in touch.

And many rely on the assessments of longtime friends and political supporters to relay a sense of what voters are thinking.

But what if voters don’t know what to think? What if they don’t have time to focus on the details of a complex issue? What if they are so bombarded by messages from deep-pocketed advocates of a particular viewpoint that they tune out altogether?

And what if their views are just plain dumb, like those of placard-carrying Tea Party demonstrators earlier this year whose signs famously read: “Keep the government out of my Medicare?”

Nebraska lawmakers called into special session over the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline face a barrage of competing opinions, but the apparent uncertainty and lack of consensus on the issue might reflect a similar uncertainty among many of their constituents.

So what are elected officials to do when they don’t have a clear reading on what constitutes a politically safe vote?

They might do well to remember a line from the musical “1776,” based with considerable historical accuracy on the drama surrounding the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Lyman Hall, a delegate from Georgia, tells his fellow delegates that while he favors independence, most people in Georgia oppose it so he plans to err on the side of his constituents and vote no.

A couple of scenes later, though, he changes his vote, telling the assembly:

“In trying to resolve my dilemma I remembered something I’d once read, ‘that a representative owes the People not only his industry, but his judgment, and he betrays them if he sacrifices it to their opinion.’ It was written by Edmund Burke, a member of the British Parliament.”

That line from the musical is, in fact, a reasonable paraphrase from a 1774 speech by the Irish-born political philosopher who indeed supported the American Revolution. Burke was an intellectual leader in articulating the principles of representative government.

Burke, of course, lived a couple centuries before a time when opinion polling, coupled with forms of instant communication, makes it possible to accumulate and statistically analyze the purported views of virtually anybody about virtually anything.

In some ways, that probably makes it easier — or at least politically safer — to campaign for and hold public office.

But lawmakers and executive branch officials who decline to act in the absence of consensus among their constituents are abdicating their responsibilities, as Edmund Burke saw it.

He believed voters elected a representative with the expectation that he — and in Burke’s day it was always he — would use his judgment about how best to govern his fellow citizens, knowing they wouldn’t always agree.

Not an easy thing to do, using independent judgment.

But that’s the standard our form of government demands from our elected officials, even if it means telling constituents you think they’re wrong.

 

 

Mary Kay Quinlan is the Bureau Chief for 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 Thursday, 10 November 2011 18:51
 
We’re all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Friday, 04 November 2011 18:04

By Mary Kay Quinlan

Nebraska News Service

 

The top executive of the company that wants to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline through the Ogallala Aquifer was quoted this week as saying that Nebraskans would support the project “if they get the facts, the right facts.”

As opposed to the wrong facts?

Message control, from the White House to the statehouse to the school house as well as from Wall Street to Main Street, has become the order of the day.

And the campaign-style advertising and high-priced lobbying that seem to dominate the discussion of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is yet another illustration of how public discourse has too often degenerated into fear-mongering shouting matches instead of thoughtful debate based on, well, facts.

You might recall Earl Landgrebe, the Indiana Republican congressman, a diehard Nixon supporter, who famously said during the Watergate hearings: “Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve got a closed mind.”

At least he was honest.

Less so are those who believe — or who are paid to believe — that if they repeat something often enough and loudly enough it will become true, even though many such assertions often are opinions masquerading as facts.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who served four terms in the U.S. Senate and was an adviser to four presidents, both Democrat and Republican, was of a generation of politicians who respected the process of constructive public discourse. “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts,” Moynihan once said.

The trouble with facts, of course, is that they can lead to contradictory opinions.

But that doesn’t make the facts themselves “right” or “wrong.”

What it does mean, though, is that participants in public discourse — whether on the floor of the Legislature, the halls of Congress or the Occupy Wall Street encampments and tea party rallies — need to resist the temptation to wrap themselves in catchy slogans and outrageous assertions that shamelessly disregard the complexity of issues we face, whether it’s balancing the federal budget or deciding the route of an oil pipeline or coming to grips with a local school bond issue.

Nebraskans are justifiably proud of the overall quality of their public schools, all of which strive to teach students what educators call “higher order thinking skills.”

We say we want our kids to be critical thinkers and creative problem solvers, with an ability to analyze information — yes, facts — and arrive at reasonable conclusions.

If we expect that of our kids, then it’s the least we can expect of ourselves as voters and of our elected policy-makers.

Their job isn’t easy. But it doesn’t help when advocates with deep pockets aim to control access to the facts we need to make informed decisions

 

Mary Kay Quinlan is the Bureau Chief for 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 .

 
Pipeline cons outweight the pros PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 27 October 2011 17:10

A Capitol Commentary

By Charlie Litton

 

It looks evident that Trans- Canada will get its preferred route for the Keystone XL project, despite all threats to take their ball and go home.

But any such threat from TransCanada or their proponents is an empty one. It’s doubtful that TransCanada will leave — by their own estimation — somewhere on the order of $4 billion in annual profits to rot on the drawing board. Essentially, that $7 billion project will pay for itself about three years after it goes on line.

It’s hard to imagine the circumstances that would make a possible two-year delay much less profitable. In short, a re-route would delay TransCanada’s profits, not eliminate them.

The threat to abandon the pipeline only holds weight if the state will somehow suffer without it.

Opponents focused purely on the environmental aspect of the project will no doubt have a quick answer to that.

But there are others who believe the economic benefits of Keystone XL outweigh the potential risks to the Sandhills and Nebraska’s precious water supply.

The popular refrain from pipeline proponents typically goes something like this: Millions will stimulate the Nebraska economy while adding thousands of jobs.

The economic benefits to the nation, they say, are even more extraordinary. Sometimes they boast as many as 500,000 jobs will spin out of the project.

These claims are most likely false at best; intentionally misleading or outright lies at worst.

For very assertion, for every “independent” analysis that TransCanda trots out to further its claims, there is an opposing expert view that punches some sizeable holes through the pro-pipeline logic.

To be clear, construction of the pipeline will certainly benefit Nebraska’s economy. But, it could be argued, the benefit is not enough to merit the potential risk, despite TransCanada’s assurances that this pipeline will be hassle-free, just as any good As-Seen-On-TV shill would say.

Look to the bottom of the Atlantic for the last bold claim of invulnerability.

The Nebraska News Service, a reporting service staffed by students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s journalism school, investigated proponents’ economic claims and the results were underwhelming.

Any benefit to the state is temporary at best.

Constructions crews will spend parts of their paychecks at local restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores.

Local contractors will pick up some extra work supplying lumber and construction equipment.

Then, after about six months, everything will return to normal, only residents will then have a brand new pipeline buried in the back yard.

Once TransCanada flips the switch and starts pumping the oil, the state will get a temporary boost with increased property taxes.

Most counties will have some extra revenue to play with. But after 15 years, that additional value disappears taking with it the last of the windfall.

Out-of-work Nebraskans will certainly find jobs along the pipeline, too. But we will likely count those Nebraskans in the hundreds not the thousands as asserted by labor officials and other proponents.

Touting jobs as the key benefit to Nebraska is a lot like tempting Warren Buffet for investment advice with the promise of a crisp one hundred dollar bill. He doesn’t need the money any more than most Nebraskans need pipeline jobs.

The state boasts a 4.2 percent unemployment rate, the second best rate in the union and better than half the national average. Only North Dakota’s 3.5 percent is better.

By contrast, Nevada claims the bottom spot at 13.4 which is more than four full points higher than the national average of 9.1 percent

The big question for Nebraskans and the pipeline should be a simple one: In 15 years, will Nebraska be better, worse or unchanged by the pipeline.

Considering the risks involved, it seems that the state should be better off because of it. Sadly, there is no evidence supporting that to be the case.

A sober look at the numbers for Nebraska tells us that the best-case scenario is one that leaves the state virtually unchanged.

It’s questionable whether such a result is worth the potential risk. And if the pipeline turns out to make Nebraska the worse, what, exactly, will we do with all the assurances then?

 

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

 

 

 
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