The Iowa Caucus is only four days away, and national media is enamored with the Hawkeye state. Yeah, but did they invent Kool-Aid or Arbor Day? Didn't think so. Here's your Roundup:
Popularity Contest: Considering how awful most of the GOP presidential hopefuls' policy ideas are (think Rick Perry’s goal to cut the Dept. of Ed, EPA, and… and …), it’s easy to wonder where the appeal for these candidates lies. In three dozen interviews conducted across Iowa this week, the answer is now clearer. Voters readily acknowledged their decisions would be driven just as much by personal chemistry and biography as by political positions and policy. They shared personal qualms with the candidates, such as Rick Perry’s “swagger” and Mitt Romney’s voice, as deterrents from giving them their vote. Candidates’ personal stories such as Michelle Bachman’s raising of foster children is a positive, winning her many votes. Read here
Occupy Obama: Occupy protests continue this week in Iowa. Yesterday, Occupiers were outside the Democratic Party headquarters in Des Moines. Twelve people were arrested in the symbolic protest, and one arrestee was a fourteen-year-old girl. Occupy Iowa outlined its specific demands for Obama in a press release: end home foreclosures to ease the mortgage crisis, stop taking campaign money from Wall Street, end indefinite detentions of terrorism suspects, and "start listening to the issues of the 99% instead of the issues of Wall Street." Thursday’s protests and subsequent arrests demonstrate that this movement isn’t going away until serious changes are made in Washington. Unfortunately, the gridlocked government and refusal to even act bipartisan means changes will be hard to make. Read here
Positively Progressive: A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows that “progressive” is the most positively viewed political label in America, with 67% holding a positive view compared to just 22% who viewed the term negatively. Our mission at Bold is to give moderates and progressives in Nebraska a greater political voice. This year has been a whirlwind of success for implementing that mission. With the 2012 elections coming up and the New Year on the horizon, we look forward to building a more progressive, independent, moderate and bold Nebraska.
Ashford Ditches GOP: State Senator Brad Ashford is officially an independent. Ashford cited the Republican party's move to the far-right fringe and intolerance for moderates as he reason for ditching the GOP label. NEGOP Chairman Mark Fahleson only lamented that Ashford hadn't changed his party affiliation before his 2010 reelection campaign. Ashford pointed out that state leg races are non-partisan and that is obligation is to his constituents, not a political party. Sounds like a bold leader to us. Read here
Thursday, December 29th
We are saddened by the loss of State Senator Utter of Hastings, who passed away Tuesday. Utter was elected into office in 2008 and is praised for his short but influential legislative career. Previously the mayor of McCook, his dedication to public service and hard work is admired. Services will be held Friday. Here’s your Roundup:
GOP Must Swallow Their Medicine: Despite State Department warnings that the KXL rider attached to the payroll bill would effectively kill the project, Congressional Republicans who are supportive of the pipeline insisted it was necessary to force a decision on the “shovel-ready project,” and the rider survived. It appears they made a huge strategical error (which makes us happy). Both the White House and State Department have made comments that the rider ensures the pipeline will not be approved, and some have said it would be illegal for approval to be granted in such a short time span. Furthermore, the KXL measure is written in such a way that it forces Obama’s hand, meaning he will have no choice but to reject the KXL. We need the administration to stick to its guns. You can help by writing to Obama to show him there is overwhelming support for the denial of the KXL pipeline. Read here
Misrepresenting Representative: Looks like Sen. Johanns can’t take being called out for his “patent disregard for the safety and well-being of Nebraskans.” In response to a letter by a KXL opponent, Johanns continues to perpetuate the myth that the pipeline will bring jobs and energy security. He also misrepresents the support for the rider, making it appear as though the vast majority of Senate would like to see approval on this pipeline, which is simply untrue. Those who voted for the bill predominately dealing with the extension of the payroll tax cut had the economic interests of the working class in mind, and many were likely comforted by the fact that the administration outright said the KXL rider would force the rejection of the pipeline. Read here
Children Come First: While Gov. Heineman continues to resist scrapping the privatization of child welfare in Nebraska, which began in 2009, Nebraskans show that we see what he can’t. The Kearney Hub illustrates the financial failure of the privatization effort, which has forced three of the five contractors out of the program because they couldn’t manage their finances and increased state spending by 27%. More importantly, the overhaul has failed “to deliver services to the young wards of the state who deserved better treatment and never received it.” Leaders have an opportunity to abandon this failed project and bring the services back to the state. We just need them to step up to the plate. They need to hear from Nebraskans that we do not support the privatization of child welfare. The system must be centered on children, not profits. Read here
Controversial Countdown: As the countdown for the New Year continues, the Huff Post provides us with a rundown of controversial laws will be implemented in 2012. They range from harmful anti-immigration measures to positive laws like Colorado’s to protect young people after sports-related injuries. These laws caused a stir in 2011 and will likely continue to do so in 2012. The implementation of voter ID laws in Rhode Island and Tennessee represent an issue that will be controversial in Nebraska (and here) as soon as the legislative session starts. Read here
Wednesday, December 28th
Centennial Mall is getting revamped. Construction plans look great with designs focusing on Nebraska’s stewardship of our natural resources. This includes our water, something we all know is worth the fight. Watch the video of the redesign and learn how to donate. Here’s your Roundup:
“Time to Move On”: Senator Ben Nelson has decided to retire after two terms in the United State Senate. His service to the state of Nebraska over the course of his life deserve gratitude from all us, and we certainly thank him for taking some tough positions that protect Nebraskans over the years. We’re not quite certain how the Senate race will play out now, but we know one thing, Republicans shouldn’t be too quick to claim victory. No candidate at the moment was willing to take a stand against the pipeline, and what we have shown is that you can never rule out the unexpected. So thank you, Ben Nelson. We wish you well and hope your replacement does your position justice. Read here
Backdoor Bruning: A recent Journal Star letter to the editor by the Nebraska Environmental Action Coalition president summarizes just how skeptical we are about Jon Bruning’s recent ‘gift’ to We Support Agriculture. This money should be returned, because like many of Bruning’s dealings, something just seems too fishy. The $100,000 was given using funds paid for pollution violations, and livestock producers have paid $225,000 in these fines over the last 5 years. Ted Thieman asks a valid question, “How many of these violators are members of Farm Bureau, the Nebraska Cattlemen, or the poultry, pork and dairy associations that formed We Support Agriculture?” Cheers to Senator Mello who's trying to bring some accountability to the issue. Read here
We Always Knew: Keystone XL supporters are quickly losing ground with the facts. A new study to be published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences presents new information about the toxicity of oil in aquatic environments. New findings show levels of toxicity to be worse than previously thought, drawing the evaluation techniques of environmental impact studies into question. So will Bill Sydow from the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and Sen. Christensen finally stop trying to tell us oil isn’t toxic? Read here
Up He Goes: Barack Obama’s approval rating has climbed to 47%. Americans are acting positively after Obama fought with House Republicans to get the payroll tax cut passed. The President can also claim the spot of the most admired man in America for the fourth straight year. Things are going well at the moment for Obama, but many things can change to hurt his numbers. One thing we urge the President to do to avoid this is to deny the Keystone XL pipeline. You can continue to let him know you expect this too by sending him a handwritten letter. Read here
Tuesday, December 27th
This time of year always brings out those “best-of...” lists. Some worth taking a look at are Mother Jones’ Readers’ Tob Albums of 2011, the NY Times’ Design Honors List, and NPR’s Best Books of 2011. We’re also looking forward to the rest of Nebraska Watchdog’s Top 10 Stories of 2011. Here’s your Roundup:
Nebraskans Deserve Better: EPA regulations have become a political football for Republicans nationwide, who claim the regulations are essentially killing the economy. Indeed, our own Governor Heineman is on the bandwagon. EPA in Nebraska is centered around new regulations on coal fired power plants. The cost of retrofitting is often cited as a problem, but several programs already being used in Nebraska show that compliance to the rules can actually save consumers more than the initial investment cost. Lincoln Electric System and NPPD have sustainable energy programs that provide incentives for residential, commercial, and industrial customers to be more energy efficient. Unfortunately, these investments are limited to only a few million dollars and only reach about 1% or less of Nebraskan homes. In the meantime, Nebraska utilities are contemplating taking the traditional route of retrofitting the old power plants. Nebraska ratepayers deserve better. We deserve programs that allow us to save, not spend more. We deserve public power that will do more than a quick, inefficient fix. We need Nebraskans to come to the NPPD Board Meeting to voice their opinions. Read here
A Detached Congress: It used to be commonplace for a factory worker or barber to successfully run for a seat in Congress, but in the last couple of decades, spotting a pipe fitter or house painter in Congress has become less and less likely. Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of Congress has more than doubled, while the median net worth of the average American has decreased. When keeping in mind the skyrocketing funds that are needed to campaign, which can come from personal wealth, this seems to be the natural outcome. The growing disparity in economic experiences between Congress members and average Americans means a Congress that is becoming increasingly detached from the people it represents. Read here
Voter ID Laws Fail: On Friday, the Department of Justice blocked a voter ID law in South Carolina from going into effect. The DOJ found that minorities are 20% less likely to have an acceptable form of identification under the new law, which backs up national findings that such laws would disparately affect minorities, youth, and citizens with disabilities. The voter ID law currently pending in the Nebraska legislature would have similar consequences for 130,000 Nebraskans. The setback for the SC law provides ammunition for the case against the law introduced by Senator Janssen and changes the debate, showing that voter ID laws are not a neutral policy protecting against voter fraud. They’re an outright attempt by Republicans to disenfranchise voters who tend to vote liberal. Read here
Iowa Shenanigans: With the much anticipated Iowa caucuses ready to take off next week, the GOP candidates have flocked to Iowa and will be roaming all over the state this week. For a glimpse of who we might see running against President Obama, Politico provides a summary of what can be expected out of each candidate. The actual predictive power of the Iowa caucuses is questionable, but it undoubtedly has implications for the race. This year’s primary campaigning guarantees one sure outcome of this year’s Iowa Caucuses: plenty of hilarious videos to keep us entertained this holiday season.
The Omaha World-Herald listed the Keystone XL fight as one of its most notable stories from 2011.
Monday, December 26th
We hope you all had a Merry Christmas and wish the best for those of you whose holidays continue on. The political world stayed relatively quiet over the weekend, so much so that opponents of President Obama had to make up a conspiracy theory involving his dog Bo. Here’s your Roundup:
Independents Rise: Republicans and Democrats both saw large reductions in their voting base, as more than 2.5 million voters left both parties since 2008. Democrats saw the greatest reduction but still possess about 12 million more voters than the Republicans. Independents remain the only voting block that continues to grow. The increasingly partisan nature of politics in Washington has been driving voters away from parties for years, and has done so in greater effect in the last four. In Nebraska, both the GOP and Democrats lost voters, totalling at about 15,000. Read here
Infamy, no. Blasphemy, yes: By now you may have heard that Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich were among the candidates who didn’t qualify to be on the ballot in the important Virginia primary. This is especially painful for Gingrich because polls showed him with a commanding lead in the state. While this may be sad news to some on the right, to others it’s merely inconvenient; most probably don’t care. That’s what makes what Newt’s campaign director’s said so out of line. Michael Krull said compared the setback to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Read here
WiFi and the Road to Green: American intercity bus systems surged, exceeding the increase in air travel in the past year. High gas prices, new routes and curb side pickup are encouraging more riders, but what really has many jumping on is the ability to surf the web via WiFi while they travel. Incentives like this are good news for our country. We shouldn’t undermine the fact that little things like Internet can spur more action, even if it is unknowingly, that helps our environment. Read here
No Clue: When it comes to what’s happening in America’s only active war, most Americans have no idea. That’s not entirely their fault because there’s little-to-no media coverage. With the beginning of the Iraq War, attention was refocused off Afghanistan. However, even after Obama’s renewed attention on Afghanistan, Bin Laden’s death, and the ending of the Iraq War, U.S. media continues to only devote about 2% of coverage to the matter. Americans are undoubtedly tired of the war, but journalists have a duty to keep citizens informed, especially when that news deals with the endangerment of U.S. service men and women. Read here
Don’t forget to recycle your Christmas tree this year. You can find the free recycling locations in Lincoln here and in Omaha here. Drop-offs are accepted until January 8th and free mulch will be available the following day.