Author: Cross of Corn

Cross of Corn is a long time Nebraska political observer.

Net Neutrality Day of Action

Cross of Corn is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.

You may have heard some rumblings of a so-called “Net Neutrality Day of Action” this week featuring some of your favorite websites.   The so-called on-line protest is supported by lefties like NARAL, The Nation, MoveOn.org and BoldProgressives.org.   In today’s era of Fake News, here’s what’s really going on and what this is all about:

 

What is Net Neutrality?

This is the policy term that essentially means all internet users, stakeholders, and their online activity and content should be treated fairly and equally. Internet service providers (ISPs) should not be allowed to interfere with the data crossing their networks and the rules of the internet should ensure an open and dynamic platform for all. Basically, everyone and their dog (even Sen. Ted Cruz’s dog Snowflake) supports net neutrality.

 

So, what’s the problem?

The net has been neutral and thriving since its creation—but I don’t have to tell you that. Our society enjoys the boon of technological and life-improving advances enabled by the internet (without my weather app, I’d have to go OUTSIDE to check the rain gauge so I would have something to talk about over coffee at the Farmers Co-op). For years, a bipartisan slew of lawmakers and regulators in Washington, D.C. advanced policies that enabled unfettered access without stunting the growth of the internet, allowing networks to expand and connect more communities and help get more folks online.

Fast-forward to 2015: the Obama Administration reversed decades of that successful policy by applying highly controversial and much more restrictive public utility regulations, also known as Title II, on the internet. Created to regulate the telephone industry of the 1930s, these utility regulations make it more difficult for internet companies to invest in growing their networks and focus on the development of new products and services (think Elizabeth Warren regulating your internet).  Essentially, an unprecedented step in the wrong direction.

The Obama Administration conflated Title II with net neutrality, arguing that one could not exist without the other—despite the fact that it had, for decades.  

 

What’s the solution?

It’s possible to secure an open internet without this silly attempt by progressives to over-regulate the internet. Those behind this Day of Action know this.  For some, it’s about cronyism.  For others, it’s about government control.

Rather than letting the FCC continue to play ping-pong with this issue with each changing Administration, Congress needs to step in and find a permanent legislative solution.  One that protects the essential principles of an open internet while removing the overarching Title II-public utility regulations imposed by Obama-era regulators.  Nebraska’s delegation appears solid on this issue, but the rest of the 530 voting members of the House and Senate need to support legislative action that creates lasting, commonsense policy that returns the internet to the approach that garnered extraordinary success and innovation.   That should be our call to action.

 

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Leavenworth St. is aware of the current slow page-loading issues.

We’re working on it.

-Ed.

Howdy Goes to the Unicameral

“Cross of Corn” is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.

 

Adam Morfeld
State Senator Adam Morfeld

Call him Howdy.

Howdya avoid a civil discussion about concerns you have with a colleague’s bill?

Howdya skip reading the law you accuse citizens of breaking?

Howdya ignore the truth?

“Go, Howdy, go!” his sycophants chant in response to the social media narcissism of Adam Morfeld. Senator Adam Morfeld, that is. Um, lawyer Adam Morfeld, that is.

The preppy infantile lawyer, who has never practiced law, but fancies himself as a legal scholar, sits on the Unicameral’s Judiciary Committee, which recently heard a bill introduced by Sen. Mark Kolterman that seeks to protect the religious liberties of foster care and adoption agencies. That’s right, scandalous liberties enshrined in the First Amendment.  Sen. Kolterman introduced the bill at the urging of faith-based foster care and agencies that have seen similar agencies in other states shut down in recent years.

Now Howdy, as well as the ACLU and Nebraska Appleseed, attacked the bill as an attack on LGBTs, as they call them. [News Flash: The ACLU once upon a time defended the Free Exercise Clause staunchly. That was once upon a time.] Nevermind that the bill doesn’t single out LGBTs. Nevermind that the bill doesn’t prohibit placement of foster kids with LGBTs. Nevermind that there are 19 foster care agencies in Nebraska that do place kids with LGBT parents. Nevermind Sen. Kolterman’s bill wouldn’t change that. Nevermind that the bill doesn’t mention the science that shows that kids are better off with a mommy and daddy.

And nevermind that the beliefs of faith-based foster care agencies find their way into the other standards, such as cleaning up your mouth, attending church, being married to the one you’re shacking up with, etc. Nevermind these agencies testified that the same faith that leads them to serve leads them to follow some moral standards that some in the world doesn’t like. Nevermind that the supporters of Sen. Kolterman’s bill politely and respectfully and honestly testified before the committee, while the non-hating opponents cackled and mocked one of the foster care agency reps for saying one of his best friends was gay. (How is that funny?) Nevermind, in contrast, the opponents pounded on the table and shouted at the committee. Howdy says the bill is about hatred and discrimination. And he knows it.

At the Judiciary Committee hearing, Howdy decided to strut his legal stuff. He questioned the head of a nonprofit foster care agency – you know, a worthy legal adversary – and after, in his self-inflated mind, withering “cross-examination” by himself and another lawyer-in-name-only, Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, he leveled the boom:

“I was just looking up in the federal code here and it states specifically under section (d) here: All organizations that receive federal financial assistance under social services programs should be prohibited from discriminating against beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries of social services programs on the basis of religion or religious belief. Accordingly, organizations, in providing services supported in whole or part of the federal financial assistance and their outreach activities related to such services, should not be allowed to discriminate against current or prospective program beneficiaries on the basis of religion, a religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or refusal to actively participate in a religious practice.”

He concluded:

“I would just like to note for the record that you have admitted in this committee hearing that you are violating federal code.”

Harsh accusations, those, Howdy. After Howdy warned the nonprofit head that he ought to lawyer up, the Chairman of the committee, Sen. Les Seiler (who has actually practiced law, in Hastings) politely asked Howdy for a reference to the legal authority, but this caused the Howdy to stumble a little. Here’s the exchange:

SENATOR SEILER: What’s the cite on that, the U.S. Code?

SENATOR MORFELD: I’ll send it to the committee, but it’s…(don’t make me do this in public; I’m just learning to tie a tie by myself).”

SENATOR SEILER: No, make it for the record.

(Knees knocking!)

SENATOR MORFELD: Make it for the record (really, please don’t do this to me)? It is   ….

(Folks, those ellipses (…) are not ours; they’re those of the committee clerk, who transcribed the drama. What you’re seeing is the Chairman cutting Howdy off, essentially saying, “knock this crap off, and give me the citation to our federal code.”)

SENATOR SEILER: You should have it right there. (You little moron, you just quoted for 55 seconds from it.)

SENATOR MORFELD: Yep (you’re right, I do), section (d) of the (um, er, uh) executive order, and I could send that executive order to you.

SENATOR SEILER: This executive order doesn’t cut the law (muster?). You said you were quoting from the U.S. Code.

SENATOR MORFELD: Yeah, it’s the executive…(I’m so busted)…I apologize, it’s the executive order, yep (call me Howdy).

And so it went. Howdy the Brave put on a performance that would make Perry Mason blush, although not for the reasons Howdy might tell himself to believe.

Undeterred and not one to pass up time showing off his crooked little neck on the air, Howdy interviewed with KETV, now getting his citations straight (you never know, the Chairman might be watching):

“I was shocked they are violating a clear executive order by President Bush that’s been long-established.”

Nevermind that the executive order Howdy quoted in small part is intended, as a whole, to encourage faith-based foster care agencies to be part of the social services system. The order expounds on the importance of their inclusion and role in the system. (BTW…Unlike Howdy, we actually checked this with a lawyer who’s defended the religious liberties of groups for years.) Nevermind that the order, which was signed by President George W. Bush and restated by Sen. Obama, while not compulsory, was put in place to protect faith-based agencies. Nevermind that the beneficiaries referred to are foster kids, and not LGBT parents. Nevermind that no agency known to this writer has discriminated against a child because they identify as gay or lesbian. Nevermind.

As if all this were not enough of a demonstration of his legal prowess, Howdy wrote a letter the following week to the CEO of the Department of Health and Human Service, demanding that the Department investigate foster care agencies for discriminating on the basis of, get this, religion. Howdy asked the Department to terminate its contracts with the agencies. Howdy named names and quoted quotes. (Or at least he said he was quoting quotes. More on that shortly.) Ever shy of media attention, Howdy immediately forwarded the letter to the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal Star, both of which seized the story and ran with it, prominently linking Howdy’s letter.

Here are the quotes Howdy attributed to one of the agencies in his open letter:

“Christian Heritage admitting: ‘We won’t hire a homosexual,’ and ‘We wouldn’t work with a gay family,’ and ‘We work with married, opposite sex couples who sign a statement of faith and are actively involved with a biblical, orthodox Christian Church.’”

He want so far as to cite, in a footnote, the “transcript of Judiciary Committee hearing held 2-17-16 for LB 975.”

Maybe Howdy, who obviously had thought about the letter over the weekend – and probably consulted with other legal minds at Appleseed and ACLU – should have waited a couple more days for the actual transcript from the hearing. Some quote-checking may have slowed him down or made him honest, or maybe – we suspect – it would not have made much difference to him at all.

The actual transcript from the Judiciary Committee hearing held February 17, 2016, for LB 975 in fact contains none of those alleged quotes. It doesn’t contain any statements even resembling them.

These aren’t misquotes, folks, these are fabrications. They are make-believe. Nevermind.

And they were re-published in the state’s major print newspapers.

Now, Howdy, young barrister, please check the notes from your Media Law class last semester for the definition of libel. Or maybe you missed that class, and Legal Ethics too. And you might want to consider self-reporting to the Nebraska State Bar’s disciplinary counsel.  All that said, you’ve made the case, not your case, but the case – Senator Kolterman’s case – for why LB 975 is actually needed.

Because of anti-religious bigots like Howdy.

Beutler’s Top Concern

“Cross of Corn” is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.

sidewalk-chalk-paint-1In Wednesday’s LJS we learned from the President of the Chris Beutler Fan Club (a/k/a Nancy Hicks) that Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler is PERSONALLY policing the Beutler Barberpole he constructed with our tax dollars in downtown Lincoln.

Some young adults were hanging out in the square. A few seemed to be drawing on the dark bricks with sidewalk chalk.

A small gray Honda pulled up to the curb on P Street near 13th and parked illegally. The driver got out, left the engine running and the driver’s door open.

It was the mayor. He walked over to the person writing with chalk, had a conversation, then walked back to his car and drove away.

The chalk drawing stopped.

Yep, that’s right, Mayor Beutler pulled his car over on a Saturday afternoon to scare off a young woman who was using sidewalk chalk to draw on some bricks. (Someone should tell him it washes away and is greenie/enviro-friendly).

The vignette is telling.

Beutler is more than willing to pull his car over on a Saturday to personally police and protect his public art and green projects … but drives right over the potholes and shoddy Lincoln streets, nary a concern.

* * *

Tim Clare 01Has anyone else noticed that Nebraska Regent Tim Clare appears to be a wee-bit more active than his fellow Regents?

In recent days we received a copy of the March/April 2015 edition of “Tim Clare’s Newsletter” (yeah, the catchy title could use a bit of work) highlighting his meetings and appearances throughout the state on behalf of the University. The question is: what’s he running for?

Clare is 52 years old. Is he hoping to run for governor when he’s 60? Is he waiting to see whether Sen. Deb Fischer–already 64 years old–seeks reelection in 2018? Or is he taking a look at Lincoln Mayor in 2019?

Based on his travel schedule and social media posts, we suspect he views himself as a statewide candidate. The Clare name–known to anyone who has ever been a Husker fan–carries a lot. But his greatest success to date–and greatest potential liability–is Pinnacle Bank Arena. The real bills for the project will come after Mayor Beutler has left office . . . just around the time Tim Clare might be running for higher office.

Could it be the Democrats knew that all along?

Lincoln Election Wrap

Lincoln Flag“Cross of Corn” is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.

Some thoughts on yesterday’s Lincoln elections…

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Andy Stebbing did better than many expected.  A six-point margin (less than 3,000 votes) is nothing to be ashamed of.

What was missing was sufficient resources to consistently pound Beutler on his greatest liabilities–Lincoln’s streets and roads and spending scare resources on public art and green projects.

If Lincoln wants public art, there are plenty of art benefactors (hello?  Duncan family?) who can fund it with private dollars.

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Yes, Democrat Chris Beutler was elected to his third term as Lincoln’s Mayor.  At his age, it is most certainly his last.

So, let the games begin for Lincoln Mayor 2019!

On the Democrat side:

  • Leirion Gaylor Baird
  • Jane Raybould.

On the Republican side:

  • Andy Stebbing
  • Roy Christensen
  • County Commissioner Deb Schorr
  • UN Regent Tim Clare
  • and…a likely wild-card…

…Someone under the age of 50, from Lincoln’s business community who has been a part of the development of Lincoln’s Haymarket.  But who understands that Lincoln’s basic needs (roads, law enforcement) are not being met.  And can put Lincoln’s financial house in order (the bill for Beutler’s development has yet to come).

Expect Sen. Sasse to start searching for and grooming a candidate that mirrors his philosophy of constructive conservatism.

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Even Democratic leaders acknowledge that their only avenue to success-even in our budding “Portland-on-the-Plains”–is to move to the center.

As noted in the Omaha World-Herald, Lancaster County Democratic Party Chair John Yoakum said that the “game is played in the middle” and he  highlighted Beutler’s “pro-growth” agenda.  Not exactly the agenda Nebraska Democrats have run on as of late.

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Roads ain’t goin’ away.  Beutler acknowledged in a post-election interview on Lincoln’s KLIN radio that he has work to do and the focus must be on Lincoln’s streets and roads.

The question is whether he’ll seek more tax revenue to accomplish that, or whether he’ll have the courage to take a knife to the city’s bloated budget.

***

While Republicans may have lost the mayoral battle, they captured a majority on the City Council.  The new Council will hopefully hold the line on Beutler’s free-spending and misplaced priorities.

Newcomer Cyndi Lamm simply outworked her opponent and understood that serving on City Council is about more than one social issue.

Republican Jon Camp likely took some antacids throughout the night given he started the night down, but eventually prevailed.  The lesson for Councilman Camp and others running for office:  if you want to win, even as an incumbent, be prepared to work and campaign for it.

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Democrat Jane Raybould ran unopposed (the under-vote appears to be significant) and was elected to the Lincoln City Council, giving her another platform after she chose to run unsuccessfully for Lt. Governor rather than re-election of the Lancaster County Board.

While on the County Board, Raybould successfully got to the right of the Republican commissioners on spending issues.  While Raybould will attempt to cast herself as a budget hawk on the City Council, she’s not likely to be as successful as she was on the County Board.

Why?

First, the Republicans–in particular Roy Christensen and Jon Camp–won’t let her get away with it (the Republicans on the County Board during her tenure tend to act like Republicans in the Nebraska Legislature).

Second, as one of the 3 Democrats on the Council, she’ll be forced to carry more of Mayor Beutler’s water.

Third, as county board members began to learn with time, her schtick is ungenuine and tends to wear on people after time.

All that being said, look for her to continue to position herself as the strongest challenger Rep. Jeff Fortenberry has faced to date.  Whether the Republicans on the Council will force her to cast a few tough votes remains to be seen.

***

Kudos to Mairead Safranek for stepping up to run a decent campaign in a very difficult district.  Party leaders should look for opportunities to use Ms. Safranek as the face of the future of the party.

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Lincolnites are willing to challenge the myth that “LINCOLN PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE THE BEST EVER!”

Sorry folks, we don’t have the best public schools in the nation–there is A LOT that can be done to improve them and to focus on educating our future leaders and workforce in a cost-effective manner.

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Newcomer Matt Schulte overcame an onslaught of spending by the teacher’s unions and was elected to District 6 of the Lincoln Public Schools Board.

Matt is badly outnumbered on the Board–time will tell whether he can be effective given the hand he was dealt.

Lincoln primary analysis: Portland on the Prairie

“Cross of Corn” is a contributing writer on Leavenworth St.

greetings-from-lincoln-nebraska-ne-postcardA few takeaways from yesterday’s Lincoln primary election:

Lincolnites love being taxed.

One reading of yesterday’s results is that taxes are not a significant concern for Lincolnites. With the city sales tax, a significant wheel tax, telecommunications occupation taxes and the arena tax, yesterday Lincoln voters (or the 36,671 who voted—a 23.68% turnout) approved yet another tax increase.

The city’s proposal to raise $34.5 million through a 3-year quarter-cent sales tax increase easily passed by a 20 point margin. This does not bode well for Republican mayoral candidate Andy Stebbing, whose primary criticism of incumbent Chris Beutler has been that Lincoln’s taxes are too high and Beutler raised them. Guess what—Beutler just did his best Doug Neidermeyer, and Lincoln voters said, “Thank you sir, may I have another?

Lincoln is a government town. State government. County government. City government. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln. There are some in City Hall who dream of turning Lincoln into a Portland-on-the-Plains, with bike routes galore, farmer’s markets every day of the week, green energy for Lincoln Electric System, and clove-smoking granolas hanging out in coffee shops and street corners. After all, Beutler’s heir-apparent—City Councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird—was raised in a barn in Portland. It appears that Lincolnites like that direction.

Right now the only thing preventing a complete Portland-on-the-Plains conversion is Lincoln’s orthodox Catholic community, widely regarded as one of the most if not the most conservative dioceses in the country (think Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, both well-liked in Lincoln). So while we may like taxes, “free” services and green initiatives, Lincoln still retains a culturally conservative bent for the time being.

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Stebbing demonstrated he’s within striking distance, but . . .

No rational political observer expected Andy Stebbing to win yesterday’s primary, but he needed to show he was a credible candidate and within striking distance (wags put that number at within 10 percent). Stebbing garnered 43 percent in a 3-person race, and achieved that goal.

The chances of Stebbing prevailing in May are not good (only twice in the last 50 years has the candidate who finished second in the primary gone on to win the general election), but he has a shot.

To succeed, he must begin to articulate WHY voters should toss Beutler out (and we now know taxes aren’t the reason) and must be able to tap into Lincoln’s business community, which has been successfully co-opted by the Beutler/Democratic machine in Lincoln. Most Lincoln business owners tolerate Beutler—it’s not hard to look good when you follow Colleen Seng.

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Here Comes the Money

There are two council races to watch in the May general.

First, longtime Republican Councilman Jon Camp narrowly defeated former Democrat Councilwoman Patte Newman in District 2 (southeast Lincoln—generally viewed as a higher socio-economic, Republican leaning district). This is not surprising as Camp is a vocal Council member and has earned his stripes taking on the firefighters union and, in our opinion, Camp didn’t campaign very hard.

Second, newcomer Republican Cyndi Lamm won a three-person race for Lincoln’s District 1 (northeast Lincoln—generally viewed as a blue-collar, Democrat district) and will face Meg Mikolajczyk in the general. Mikolajczyk is a single-issue candidate (the issue being LGBTQIA rights) and works for 2014 Democrat Senate nominee Dave Domina. She was not Beutler’s preferred candidate—his team wanted newcomer Mitch Paine to prevail, but Paine looks like he’s 12 (until he started growing a Justin Bieber mustache in the final weeks of the campaign) and didn’t work hard.

Lincolnites can watch as outside money and groups attempt to impact these elections. In the Camp/Newman race, Lincolnites can expect the unions to do an opposition research dump on Camp, and some expect the unions to even go so far as to drag Camp’s son’s recent legal issues into the campaign.

In the Lamm/Mikolajczyk race, voters can expect liberal interest groups and Domina to come to Mikolajczyk’s aid, and it’s anticipated that Sen. Deb Fischer, Gov. Kay Orr and Republican/conservative activists will rally around Lamm. Lamm cannot be easily pigeonholed; she has a compelling personal story (was once homeless), is wicked smart, works hard, and has a bevy of committed campaign volunteers (Rs, Ds and Is) who will door knock until the polls close.

If Camp and Lamm prevail, that will flip the Council from 4D/3R to 4R/3D. If voters want to keep Mayor Beutler around, why not have a check-and-balance on his actions with a Republican-controlled Council?

***

Lincoln loves Purple Penguins

In recent months the Lincoln Board of Education has received not-so-positive national attention over Purple Penguins, purported social indoctrination on LGBTQIA issues, and teachers being charged with sexual assault.

One parent activist—Rachel Terry—stepped forward and put her name on the line to challenge the administration over the direction of Lincoln Public Schools. She was soundly defeated by Connie Duncan, part of the respected Duncan Aviation family.

Moderate Republicans, Democrats and the teacher’s unions made it clear that Duncan was their choice, and Purple Penguins live another day in Lincoln.

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ICYMI, here is Jerry Kratochvil’s interview with Andy Stebbing on Jerry’s podcast, The Wheels Down Politics Show:

(Click above to play in the browser or Direct download by clicking here, or by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.)

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Annnnnd, ICYMI, be sure to listen to the latest podcast of The Wheels Down Politics Show where Jerry Kratochvil talks with Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.

(Click above to play in the browser or Direct download by clicking here, or by searching Wheels Down Politics on iTunes.)