- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

North Platte Telegraph. May 18, 2014.

A glimmer of hope, no flash in the pan

The impressive primary election victory of Ben Sasse last Tuesday has the punditocracy atwitter over the state of the Tea Party.

The philosophical mindset that is the Tea Party - that a $16.5 trillion national debt is a bad thing, that government is too big and intrusive and that common sense ought to count for something in government - has been a frustration to the political experts ever since we first heard of the movement.

And it has been amusing to watch the commentators in Washington try to deal with a “party” that has no national chairman, no huge building cranking out fundraising junk mail, and no national convention with delegates wearing silly hats. What they don’t recognize is that the need to get control of spending and government sprawl in Washington isn’t about another nice-sounding party platform that never results in change, but a fervent belief embedded deep in the minds of millions of Americans.

Sasse no doubt benefited significantly from his appearance here in North Platte with Tea Party favorites Sarah Palin, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz. His opponent Shane Osborn may have been hurt by the support of more traditional, establishment Republicans like Mike McConnell, John McCain and Grover Norquist.

We suspect that Nebraskans, in voting for Sasse, showed their frustration with Democrats who favor big government and many Republican leaders who can live with big government as long as they get to run the big government. With those choices from the traditional parties, it is little surprise that Tea Party types appeal to voters weary of huge debt, growing bureaucracy and the disappearance of our precious freedoms. This is about optimism and the belief that we don’t have to go over the fiscal cliff.

And yet in the national media, one of the main stories in recent weeks has been the supposed death, or at least terminal illness, of the Tea Party. They still don’t get it.

For those who support the status quo in Washington, the Tea Party has been nothing but a flash in the pan, another Sagebrush Rebellion that made headlines for a while, but soon disappeared from the national debate. What we see in the actions of the voters, however, is a glimmer of hope that we don’t have to keep going down the disastrous road we are on and that we can still leave a better country for our kids, instead of mountains of debt.

It is possible to be a Republican and embrace the common sense beliefs expressed by Tea Party supporters. In fact, it’s logical to do so. The party needs to embrace those beliefs, not reject them, and the success of candidates like Ben Sasse is an encouraging sign.

Our View: They still don’t get it.


Kearney Hub. May 17, 2014.

What is biggest Benghazi blunder?

Republicans obsessing over Benghazi claim the Obama administration is trying to hide something, but the regrettable truth is, the GOP cannot hide its motive for keeping the issue front and center. The motive is politics, not what the party contends, the belief that unveiling all the facts in the 2012 embassy attack might help prevent the future loss of U.S. diplomats’ lives at some outpost in an unfriendly land.

Instead of picking at a wound and reinforcing the party’s image of insensitivity, Republicans ought to stand down on their Benghazi assault and adopt other issues that really matter to voters, such as our sputtering economy.

Unfortunately, the GOP would rather take the risky approach. Republicans want a select committee to explore - yet again - what happened in Benghazi.

Numerous previous reports and investigations already have resulted in 13 hearings, 25,000 pages of documents and 50 briefings. Similar to the party’s incessant efforts to repeal Obamacare, Republicans can’t kick their Benghazi habit. Why can’t they be satisfied that the tragedy has already revealed weaknesses of President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?

Among mistakes they committed:

- They denied that security was insufficient in Benghazi. Wrong. Four diplomats wouldn’t have been killed if there had been enough security.

- Their initial explanation that the attack sprang from a spontaneous protest was wrong. It was an organized attack.

- They withheld key emails from congressional investigators, saying the House Republicans didn’t ask precisely for what they wanted.

The last mistake violated the first rule of crisis management: Release as much information as possible, as quickly as possible. Had Obama and Clinton been forthcoming about Benghazi, the furor would have subsided soon after the slain Americans were laid to rest. Instead, the administration’s stonewall is the excuse detractors need to continue prying and probing for more information.

We can lay part of the blame on Obama and Clinton for Benghazi’s extended shelf life, but Republicans are committing an equally horrendous mistake by fanning the issue. There comes a time when such tragedies ought to be laid to rest.

If there is some damning evidence to dig up, it eventually will be brought to light.

Rather than pick at the wound, Republicans should focus on reviving our national economy. Create jobs. Get families back on their feet. Resurrect prosperity. Fight for issues that matter most for Americans, and allow the people who were tragically killed in Benghazi to rest in peace.


Lincoln Journal Star. May 17, 2014.

The niceties of nice

When state officials unveiled their new marketing pitch for Nebraska, it was hard to decide whether to yawn or jeer.

“Visit Nebraska. Visit nice,” an announcer intones as pleasant scenes unfold on the YouTube video.

One thing wrong is that nearby states already have dibs on the phrase.

The phrase “Minnesota nice” has been around so long that it’s the title of a documentary about the Coen brothers’ movie “Fargo.”

There’s a Wikipedia entry about Minnesota nice that defines the phrase as “the stereotypical behavior of people born and raised in Minnesota to be courteous, reserved, and mild-mannered.”

In fact, the cultural trait is so engrained that Minnesotans didn’t really put up much of a fuss when Iowans Scott Siepker and Paul Benedict in 2012 created a short video titled “Iowa nice” in which they snarkily punctured media stereotypes about their home state.

There’s an uncensored version and a clean version with certain words bleeped out with farm animal noises. “The next time you fly over, give us a wave. We’ll wave back. We’re nice! That’s right. We’re nice. (Quack)-wad.”

Now there’s a small collection of Iowa “nice” videos on YouTube starring Siepker. After Nebraska announced its new marketing plan, they started selling a T-shirt in Iowa that says, “Nebraska: Nice try.”

Oh well.

More than one state can be nice, presumably.

But did it really take nine months of research, discussion, a branding company and a marketing firm to come up with that?

It sure seems that the Nebraska Cattlemen will get more mileage out of their plan to promote the state’s cattle industry.

They are signing people up to pay $70 a year for a special license plate that will identify Nebraska as “the beef state.”

The license plate is a throwback to the official license plate for the state that was used about a half-century ago.

There’s a basis in fact for the claim, since Nebraska this year took away the No. 1 spot from Texas as the nation’s top cattle feeding state.

Nebraska has an unglamorous tradition of lackluster attempts to dream up marketing pitches.

Those on the trash heap of history include the less than memorable “Possibilities . endless.” And “Welcome to NEBRASKAland, where the west begins.”

Over the years, the phrase that seems to have earned popular esteem among Nebraskans is “The Good Life.” State officials say they’re not creating a battle of good vs. nice. But if they were, we know which one we’d bet on.


Scottsbluff Star-Herald. May 18, 2014.

Resources: We welcome the push for openness the NRD is making

With nearly 800 monitoring wells, the North Platte Natural Resources District’s monitoring program is the most extensive in Nebraska, and is one of the most extensive systems in the country. If you’re interested in how this looks, how it works and the history of how the NRD monitors wells, an animated timeline has also been developed to show monitoring well development since the late 1970s.

This resource is available at the npnrd.org website.

The website also allows people to find a variety of information about a particular well. This information includes the name of the well, a link to the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources website, well elevation data, hydrographs and nitrate graphs.

John Berge, the general manager at the NRD, said this is one part of the NRD making an effort to share and be transparent about what exactly they do. It’s what he calls more thoughtful water policy.

“For the first time in five or six years people are receiving this information,” Berge said. “That’s exciting and important because that’s valuable information.”

The NRD is trying to educate the public about what they do and why it’s important, he said, “to provide an avenue of understanding for people who are not irrigators to understand what it is we do.”

Another change among the organization is a push toward an involvement in recreation. The NRD has been working with Scottsbluff in the zoo area, helping with landscape plans for the arboretum and zoo ponds where people trout fish in the summer.

It worked with the Serenity Garden Club and helped them with a couple of different projects, including bank stabilization, bush and tree planting, and general clean-up along the North Platte River near the YMCA.

The NRD also helped Scottsbluff High School develop an irrigation plan for their garden plot.

“We paid for all of that because it was the right thing to do,” Berge said.

A future recreation project looks to have a sizable impact on the community of Bridgeport. The NRD is working on plans to assist in restoring the old swimming hole behind the old grocery store. Berge said the pond used to be a swimming hole in the late 1910s and ‘20s. Now it’s a trout pond used once a year during Camp Clark Days. The project would also add trail development.

Also in Bridgeport, the NRD is in preliminary talks with Nebraska Game and Parks to help share management duties of the lakes at the Bridgeport State Recreation Area. Berge said the area is very popular, overused and possibly underfunded. They’re in the process of drawing up that plan.

Aside from the recreation work, the NRD has been working to plant some 80,000 trees. In fact, it won an award from the Nebraska Forestry Council for urban forestry initiative and received a grant to plant 100 trees in urban areas.

“We’re going to continue that annually from here on,” Berge said.

As we reported here last week, the organization is partnering with the cities of Scottsbluff and Gering as well as Waste Connection to extend its recycling program.

“The recycling initiative is a huge thing for me and also for the district,” Berge said. “It’s a win-win for everybody and helpful for us because it’s a water quality issue.”

One of the projects the NRD is involved in that we’re most excited about is the mapping of public lands.

Part of the idea is to provide detailed information for visitors to consult before heading out for a hiking or camping trip. For example, Berge said the maps would determine the level of difficulty, including the rise or fall in elevation, for a hiking trail in the Wildcats.

“We’re going to be very, very proud of that,” he said.

More than anything, we’re excited to see this push for openness and transparency from a public organization. Berge seems to be enjoying it as well.

“We’re participating in more public events and doing more public outreach than we’ve done before,” he said.

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