MORTIFIED to be a Nebraskan! High taxes, licensing witch-hunts, ridiculous Safe Haven Law, UNL invited Bill Ayers. Get me outta here!

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Nebraska is supposedly “solidly red” but has high taxation and a recent string of governmental bungles. Three of these embarrassing episodes displaying poor policy and lack of common sense have made national news in the last few weeks. Are these Nebraska events just coincidentally happening within a short period, are they symptomatic of systemic bad decision making, or are the current events here just illustrative of what plagues government in most of America?

This is a long post. I’ve had it with government incompetence and elitist arrogance. Probably a self-indulgent rant, I admit. But also possibly a lot of examples of where we’re going wrong in this country. We seem to be living in a land where there is no longer any common sense or moral standards.

I’m finding out that life-long convictions should be kept if they are based on sound reasoning or even a gut instinct with a good track record. One of mine, previously long held, was that I would never live in the state of Nebraska. Because of a promotion offer made to my husband, we tried to ensure the compensation agreement settled on covered the increased cost of living. Calculated numbers can’t tell you everything. The “won’t live in Nebraska pledge” was based on a lifetime of personal observation regarding the state’s tax policies. What I’ve realized since is that a state’s tax policies are likely to be an indicator of other flaws.

Unfortunately, Nebraska made national news recently multiple times, and at one point, last week, three days in a row. The headlines regarded a loopy state senator’s lawsuit, a newly implemented “Safe Haven” law, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s invitation to William Ayers to speak to students. There’s no question, I’m embarrassed to say, “I live in Nebraska.” The sad part is, I really did know better and I just tried to convince myself otherwise. Sometimes the lessons we learn come in the form of having our head rammed into a brick wall. While I have adequately learned my lesson about maintaining convictions, it doesn’t prevent me from wanting to scream. National embarrassment is actually the least of my concerns. The most recent headlining-making incident affects my family directly, and really sets my blood boiling. But some of the most irritating policies and recent bungles haven’t made national news.

My opinion about living in Nebraska developed based on it’s tax policies in contrast to its immediate neighbors to the north, South Dakota, and east, Iowa. Since I lived for long periods in both of these two states in communities immediately adjacent to Nebraska until two years ago, my observations of the contrast were first hand.  Considering the many issues that arise in any region throughout it’s history, the three state convergence provided me with many examples from which to learn. As would be expected,  tri-state area demographics are used for decision making by businesses, such as whether or not to open a nationally popular chain restaurant. Manufacturers have been able to take advantage of the available labor base while having the option to pick and choose which specific state’s tax structure is most advantageous. In an effort to stay informed, I’d seen many debates and decisions of that kind. Most often, businesses did not choose to locate in Nebraska.

Besides my observations of the business climate as an adult, I was left with an impression as a young adult that you didn’t want to live in Nebraska if you already owned or wanted to own a nice car. The motley collection of clunkers crossing the Missouri River with Nebraska plates told the tale. I would occasionally hear personally of people who had moved into the smaller Nebraska city across the bridge from Iowa, then later were turned into the Nebraska State Patrol by a neighbor with some kind of grudge for having Iowa license plates although they’d been living in Nebraska for several years. The state, of course, charges basic licensing and title fees comparable to others, but there are several other taxes and fees: personal property tax is assessed on vehicles annually, there is a “wheel tax” in many counties, and upon the purchase of any new or used vehicle, the same sales tax rate is applied to the as if one were buying toilet paper, a refrigerator, or a pair of blue jeans, which is 7% almost everywhere in the state. Perhaps that laundry list of taxes and fees is standard practice in many states, but it wasn’t and isn’t in Iowa or South Dakota.

My early and vague impression about Nebraska and the expenses associated with owning a vehicle here  have only been reinforced since our move. Iowa applies the base state sales tax rate of 5% at the time of the purchase. South Dakota has a special vehicle purchase excise tax rate of 3%, again, applied upon purchase. Neither of the two states has a personal property tax, at least not on vehicles or on any item I ever owned while living in either state, and neither have a wheel tax.

Since I’m frugal or thrifty….ok, since, I’m cheap, I found myself whining annually when renewing my license plates in the state of Iowa. The best illustration I can give of differences among these three states is to use my own vehicles and their respective cost to license in each. Certainly, this little illustration will reveal a number of things about my husband and myself, such as the unavoidable truth that we ran the gambit from living within, above, and then below our means in the span of the last fifteen years. So be it. At least we’ve learned something.

In the state of Iowa in 1994, the cost to license a 1993 Ford Taurus sedan was $150 per year, and we paid $425 in sales tax when purchased. Three years later, the licensing fee was still $150, but when moving to South Dakota it cost just $45 for a full year. In 1998, we bought a 1997 Ford Expedition. It cost $630 in sales tax and a whopping $75 to license it in South Dakota. The clerk looked sheepish when she pushed the bill across the counter. “This is the highest rate we charge, because it’s a truck and it’s so new. It will stay that high for a few years. The law just changed and the costs went up,” she said apologetically. I almost wanted to kiss her but wasn’t surprised by the amount. Employing the same logic as we had done when purchasing a vehicle in Iowa, we’d checked prior to buying. In some cases, the taxes and fees can be a deal breaker. $630 is nothing to sneeze at if you value a dollar, but it wasn’t $1400, which would have been the cost had we resided in Nebraska at the time. And that’s just the sales tax. I don’t want to know what the personal property tax would have been.

We continued to pay that “high” $75 fee for a few years. It dropped to $56 and then $45. The clerk told me at the $45 drop that that would be the lowest price it would ever hit. Same clerk who originally waited on me and she was only slightly less apologetic. Every year, I made sure I expressed my gratitude to the County Treasurer and staff at the reasonableness of the costs, and they were pleased. At least I had the sense to appreciate a good thing when I had it.

In 2006, when we licensed the same 1997 Ford Expedition in the state of Nebraska, the total for the license, title fee, personal property tax, and wheel tax was almost $450. At renewal in 2007, it cost over $350. My renewal is coming up soon and can’t wait to see how much an eleven year old truck will cost. In 2007, we added a 1999 Ford Taurus Wagon to our “luxurious fleet”. All of the taxes and fees amounted to over $400. That’s on a vehicle we paid $3800 and gave over a clunky van that had to be jump started (yeah, yeah, redneck, what can I say?) to get it to the dealer. The thing booked at around $5000. Renewal in 2008 was $130+. These are nearly or over ten year old vehicles, for Pete’s sake. We’ve become economic “freaks” in recent years, having adopted a no-debt policy (other than our mortgage). Obviously, we’re not like so many people who buy new vehicles every five years or even more frequently. Yes, our Expedition was high end at the time we purchased it. I’ve already acknowledged we’ve lived above our means at one point. We’re not going to replace that truck anytime soon but I wonder how other people can afford not only hefty car payments, but the increased cost of all the fees that must be sky high on an equivalent vehicle today. I would guess many roll those expenses right into their car loan. We would probably have considered that if we’d lived in Nebraska at the time. If we were dumb enough to go into that much debt on a vehicle, we’d likely have been dumb enough to finance the taxes and fees, too. What are people getting for all of these taxes and fees? I wish I could say that there is something special about the state of Nebraska in that the roads are generally better constructed, in better repair, or noticeably clearer in the winter, but I can’t. I can’t figure out what the heck we are getting for our money.

I can say where at least some portion of that money goes in Nebraska and one reason why Iowa also costs more than South Dakota; that state’s county Treasurer offices don’t fool around mailing reminders to people when it’s time to renew. Wonder of wonders, they expect people to remember to do it themselves. If after sixty days, their is a failure to comply, there is a summons issued. I never knew anyone who found themselves in county jail for that offense. What I found even more interesting was the local news eight years ago detailing how people from Nebraska and even Iowa had been caught in the attempt to avoid the hefty licensing fees in their homes states by opening post office boxes in small South Dakota towns and then using that address as a “residence” basis for licensing in South Dakota. To the best of my recollection, that particular loophole was closed; vehicle licenses in South Dakota are established with residential addresses, post office boxes are no longer accepted.

Although one would expect to, and does see lots of out of state plates in a state university’s home city, it seemed upon moving here, we saw a disproportionate number of South Dakota plates. State officials apparently noticed it as well. Last spring, local news reported investigations by the Nebraska State Patrol of suspected circumvention of licensing laws. The investigations, the report detailed, included actually following cars with South Dakota plates to see if they went to Nebraska residences. The probe went further and we personally experienced what it’s like to become targets of a government witch-hunt, if only on a minor scale.

About a year and a half after moving to Nebraska, and therefore seventeen months after licensing our vehicles here, we and several thousand of our fellow citizens received threatening letters from the Nebraska State Patrol, on the governor’s letterhead. The letter stated, “Our records indicate that a vehicle (or vehicles) has been registered in your name in another state.” The letter also informed that we might not be in violation but “there will be an investigation to evaluate this information.” We were also warned that failure to comply with state law is a felony and we would be prosecuted, but were urged to comply voluntarily.

One wonders at the total expense of this effort. Postage and printing of the letters alone had to be significant. My husband and I always title our vehicles jointly, and as would be expected from oh-so efficient government, there was apparently no effort to weed out duplications by address, joint ownership, marital status, or otherwise. We each received our own letter, so there was double the expense. It may seem trivial, but the paper was heavier than the cheapo standard office stuff, was virtually full of print, included several of those official state seals, and was printed in two colors of ink. Further, there is a statement at the bottom: “Printed with soy ink on recycled paper.” Super! We all know that recycled stuff is so much more cost effective than that which is traditionally manufactured. Glad our tax dollars are not only subsidizing farmers’ with a myriad of government programs, including ill-advised corn-based ethanol, but that we are helping out with soy bean prop-ups as well.

Besides just the cost of sending out these letters, the entire basis for making the contacts must be questioned. What was the criteria, after all? Common sense tells us (now, there’s a concept) that the letters my husband and I received provide decent information with which to make some reasonable surmises about the general plan employed by the state. The letter was sent to our Nebraska residence. Since it doesn’t make any reference to a particular vehicle, we have to do some guessing, but the options are finite. When we moved from South Dakota, we owned two vehicles and a boat. Within thirty days of the move, we licensed the two vehicles in Nebraska. Within a year we made the aforementioned trade of the clunky van for that luxurious station wagon. The wagon was promptly licensed in Nebraska. So, both of our passenger vehicles were licensed by June of 2007. The boat we owned never left the state of South Dakota as it was stored and used there. In 2007, we renewed the licenses for the boat and its trailer, but changed the address on file to our residence in Nebraska. This way of handling the situation was exactly according to the letter of the law in both states; location of majority use determines where a boat is to be licensed. And it took all of ten minutes for me to verify that information, including looking up the necessary phone numbers for the appropriate government agencies. Within a couple of months of renewing the license, the boat was sold by consignment through a South Dakota dealership. In other words, we haven’t owned a “vehicle” of any type licensed in the state of South Dakota since the summer of 2007, under any address.

There are only a few ways that the state could have used to determine their basis for mailing letters to “violators”. Regardless of which one chosen, it was clearly all erroneous. Since the letter was received through and addressed to our residence in Nebraska, the only logical explanation is that the state of Nebraska requested and paid for a list of licenses held in South Dakota with Nebraska addresses and the list included boats as well as passenger vehicles. The letter quotes the state law requiring the licensing of passenger vehicles. Why they would pay money, and you know they had to have paid for the cost of generating such reports, for dated lists that included a lot of clearly useless information is rather mind boggling. In addition to this incompetence, the very basis of trolling for people actually using a Nebraska address with “vehicles” licensed in another state is just plain stupid. People who are truly subverting the law don’t use their Nebraska address; they use a phony one, one of a relative, one for an empty piece of land, one for a hunting cabin they use once a year, and so on. I know this is what goes on, because I know you can’t license a passenger vehicle in South Dakota with a Nebraska address. I also know its bogus because we’ve been in full compliance with the law the entire time. It’s all so ridiculous.

In addition to the cost of obtaining the “fresh” list of supposedly felonious peoples’ names from the neighboring states of South Dakota and Iowa, there would also have been fuel costs for following vehicles around, apparently, to see where they live, the man hours lost on this hot pursuit, the incalculable costs of crimes committed while the State Patrol was looking the other way, and time spent by state officials’ and attendant PR departments dealing with the ugly backlash that followed the news stories and receipt of the letters. Likely, there ware man hours in the State Attorney General’s office at some level, as multiple attorneys stated their angry objections to the language of the letter and advised the public to ignore the letter, since in their opinions, several aspects of it were unconstitutional.

We took the free “advice” of the enraged attorneys. I was more than ready to field any silly inquiries of the State Patrol and happy to produce the proper documentation. Nearly six months later, I haven’t heard a peep out of the state. Have they been following me? Don’t know, don’t care. I abide by the speed limits, wear my seat belt, etc., etc.

So…the state of Nebraska clearly expended a good chunk of change so they could pursue dead ends and actually do little to deal with getting people to comply with properly licensing their vehicles.

Is there any method that would actually be effective in catching the non-compliant? I can’t think of one that doesn’t remind one of checkpoints with a uniformed guy saying, “Papers, please.” I do have a radical idea: how about lowering the cost of licensing vehicles in the state of Nebraska? It’s amazing how compliant people are when these costs are kept reasonable, in fact, how well they can actually remember to comply, on their own, when this is the case. It seems to me that the costs have to be as high as they are just to fund all of the nonsense I just detailed. It’s fantastic to watch our tax dollars at work.

Nebraska’s vehicle taxes and licensing fees are just the tip of the tax iceberg. It has the highest overall tax rate in a nine state region, when considering income , personal property, sale, and real estate taxes. For a family making over $27,000 per year, the income tax rate is 6.84%, in Iowa the same family would be taxed 6.8%, if they made over $40,000, the rate would be 7.92%, over $60,000, 8.98%. (Click this link to check the source of this information.) In South Dakota, there is no income tax. It’s obvious why my family moved from Iowa to South Dakota. Nebraska’s real estate property tax is 1.74% of value, compared to Iowa’s 1.25%, and South Dakota’s 1.30%.

One would think our state is in big financial trouble. What other reason could there be for such high taxes? Not so, in the last few weeks, it was reported that there is a $500 million dollar budget surplus, and state officials are debating about whether that money should be held in reserve or, gasp!, returned to the taxpayers, or double gasp!!, whether taxes should be lowered. Wow, tough question.

Believe me, I’ve already kicked myself a number of times for going against my previous conviction about living here. Besides learning not to get into debt, I’ve also learned one would benefit tremendously by subscribing to the newspaper of a city or town which one is considering moving to for a time prior to making the final decision. So, another lesson learned. But we tried to be smart; we ran all of the numbers, not just taxes. We did make one serious mistake; we assumed that this city would have similar or lower costs for groceries and fuel as compared to the smaller, more rural area from which we were moving. We based that assumption on knowledge of prices in Nebraska’s largest city, Omaha. We all know what happens when one assumes things. At least we had checked everything else, right down to the cost of cable TV. Our weekly food costs went up 25% and gas cost at least $.25 more gallon than we’d previously paid. And that was prior to the overall rises people began experience about year to a year and a half ago.

Incompetence and high expense are not isolated to the state government here. We have the misfortune to have moved to the city in Nebraska with the highest cost of living, and apparently with the most incompetent municipal government. Within six months of our move, there was a city-wide property tax increase in addition to the expected increase resulting from an updated assessment, both of which increased our monthly mortgage payment by $100. After getting settled in to our new community, we discovered that the City of Lincoln has been running budget deficits for several years and have been debating the implementation of a city income tax. Super! At at time when the local newspaper was busy running stories such as the one entitled “A Broke City”, complete with photos of failing infrastructure, the mayor proposed a housing industry stimulus package that would have given a $5,000 – $10,000 bonus to first-time or new construction home buyers. Wonder of wonders, the new home construction industry in the city has been slowing down. This proposal, and a competing one from a City Council member was made a couple of weeks prior to the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac meltdown and the subsequent financial crisis. It’s mighty interesting that not one word about said stimulus has been uttered since…from anyone.

There are a number of other examples of total lack of common sense applied by both the state and local government here, but all that I’ve already mentioned gets the point across amply. When coupled with the several national headlines that appeared last week, three days in a row, any lingering doubts about whether our move was a mistake, have been erased. It’s almost like God heard my internal dialogue and decided to send me a message.

The message came in the form of weeks of national news reports culminating with three days in a row. The first point worthy of note to national press was that a state Senator filed a lawsuit against God. Yes, I did just say “God”, as in Yahwey, the Alpha, the Omega, you get the picture. The case was filed almost a year ago, and last Wednesday, October 15, a judge dismissed the case. It begs the question: why on earth did it take that long? My favorite column or headline regarding the adventure is entitled, “There’s Just No Cure For Stupid” found in the Royse City, Texas, Herald-Banner, in which columnist John Browning examines not one, but two stupid Nebraska cases, among others. “Maybe there’s something in the water in Nebraska”, he mused. Yeah, maybe…

The next, and most frequently reported on Nebraska issue generating national press buzz really ginned up a few weeks ago. In the Unicameral’s 2008 session, those genius state Senators, in reaction (over-reaction?) to an infant abandonment incident at an Omaha hospital, decided to pass a Safe Haven law. Prior to this, Nebraska had no legal way for a parent to legally abandon their child. Oh, the horror! I understand the purpose of Safe Haven laws, but there was not an epidemic of abandoned or dead babies in this state prior to that lone incident of a mother abandoning her baby in the hospital bathroom.

In any case, the over reaction was palpable. The legislature quickly passed a Safe Haven law. Somehow, and no one seems to be able to explain it, the law was written in such a way that allows any child up to the age of nineteen to be abandoned at a hospital without legal recourse. In the last four weeks, 19 children have been abandoned in Nebraska, two of which were trucked in out of state. One mother actually drove all the way from Michigan to dump her teenager off in Nebraska. All of the children were over the age of 2, and all but three of them were teenagers. One of the stories I found in the national press was this AP story chronicling the Michigan mother’s abandonment. When two days in a row saw multiple drop offs, one of which was five children from the same family, local news began reporting about government official’s debating over a potential special session of the legislature to change this very poorly written law. Nebraska doesn’t allow the governor to call a special session. He’s stated the law needs changing, but he’s not sure a special session is necessary. State senate leaders have said the same. Some apparently powerless members of the Senate have called out for a special session, to no avail. This debate began when fewer than a dozen children had been abandoned. As of today, Friday, October 24, a total of 19 have been abandoned, two of which were dropped off in the last 48 hours. Perhaps the debate about a special session will continue long enough that it will be time for the regular session to convene in January. Wonder how many kids will be scarred for life after being abandoned as teenagers by their parents?

The most recent, and most embarrassing in the series of headline splashes, and it appears we’re going for the tri-fecta, is that the University of Nebraska – Lincoln College of Education and Human Science had invited William Ayers, to speak to its students in November. Fire and brimstone hailed down on the college the minute the word hit the streets, in the form of floods of phone calls and emails. College of Education Dean Marjorie Kostelnik said, “It’s been a universally negative response.” How shocking!

I happened to hear this wonderful tidbit from Rush Limbaugh. I was incensed. Within two minutes I was dialing the Office of Admissions. It just so happens I have a high school senior who is corresponding currently with six different colleges in an effort to narrow down to his top three to four choices. Among his six prospects, one won’t find any ivy league school on the list, but one would have found UNL, until a week ago. It may be that we can’t afford to send him to his preferred conservative schools and since so many colleges and universities are incredibly liberal, why pay $20,000 per year for indoctrination when you can pay $7,000? UNL was the fallback choice only because of the in-state tuition and the ability to cut expenses by living at home. I was struggling with my distaste for this option, and once again, it’s like God was urgently phoning in a message. He said, “Wondering about sending your kid to UNL? Wonder no more, my child!” What in the world are the odds that as several early decision dates loom and the Obama / Ayers connection is being hotly debated in the media, my state’s, nay, my city’s university invites the guy to speak? Coincidence? I think not.

I called the Office of Admissions specifically, because I wanted to let that department know how the invitation to Ayers would affect my son’s decision to attend. One thing I’ve learned in life; I’m not unique. If I’m thinking something, so is someone else. There have to be other parents out there who feel exactly the same way as myself. Trouble is, so often, people don’t take the time or trouble to voice to the offending party what caused their decision. I thought that voice needed to be heard. Upon reaching the receptionist, I was transferred to a counselor, who, unbelievably, had neither ever heard of Ayers nor had any knowledge of the invitation. I let this poor woman, who must have been living under a rock for the past six months, know who William Ayers is. I sketched out his background and I made sure I told her that I hadn’t just taken someone else’s word for it, I’d looked into the issue myself. I informed her that if the University had William Ayers on it’s campus, my son would not being choosing UNL next fall and neither of my other children would seriously give the school its consideration in the future. I further informed that there are some people who should be the object of universal scorn in our society, and this fellow is one of those people. I compared Ayers’ impending visit to that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s to Columbia University in 2007.

The very polite, kind counselor informed that she was unaware of this particular issue but appreciated that I was expressing my concerns and my opinion. She further informed me that the University was open to all points of view. PC message received, loud and clear. I accepted the offer to be transferred to the Communications Director.

Finding myself connected to the voice mail of that director rather than the live person came as no surprise to me, as I imagined how many phone calls she was now receiving. I left a message for her. Considering the “We Are the World” attitude I was given by the Admissions’ Counselor, I felt it important to take on the ridiculous world of academia nonsense regarding taking into account “all points of view”. Finally, I expressed my concern as a taxpayer, who had zero desire to participate in funding such an endeavor. I was actually very pleased to have gotten the voice mail; I didn’t have to talk to a PC press person but was able to get my message across.

At the time I made my calls, the University was sticking to its invitation. The next day, Friday, October 17, my husband handed me a copy of the Omaha World-Herald for my reading “enjoyment” on a flight. The headline read “UNL invitation to Ayers raises furor”. Towards the beginning of the article, I was pleased to read that one of the regents, a Randy Ferlic, urged donors to withhold funds and gave his opinion on how the decision to invite Ayers reflected on the University’s Chancellor and staff, “[it] speaks volumes of the arrogance”. And how. Not much further reading in the article allowed readers to sample some of that arrogance.

Chancellor Perlman stated, “In this instance, it is unfortunate that a lecture directed toward an academic subject has become implicated in a political campaign. Nothing in his presence suggests that the university supports his personal or political philosophy or condones any of his former conduct.”

I’m with Randy Ferlic. Speaks volumes of the arrogance, alright. What is actually most arrogant about it is that it is possible for a man who oversees the education of thousands of students every year, to be completely ignorant of the fact that Mr. Ayers didn’t stop being a radical just because he “went on to gain a measure of respect in the education world”, as the Herald informed its readers in the typical mainstream media oh-so-unbiased-way. Ayers acceptance in the world of academia is not an endorsement of Bill Ayers; it’s an indictment of academia. One wonders whether Mr. Perlman has bothered to read the “100 academic articles and 17 books” that Mr. Ayers has written. No one can accuse Bill Ayers of being stupid, that’s for sure. He is actually very intelligent. He realized he could have more impact on radicalizing society by infusing his Marxist, anarchist viewpoint into the academic world. He teaches teachers how to teach. Not only is he an unrepetent terrorist who wanted to overthrow American society, he decided he could do a better job of that by tinkering with the educational system. And apparently, the educational system is only to warmly ready to accept him.

The defense of the invitation and explanation of its history is definately more arrogant even than the Chancellor’s ignorance and an insult to the citizens of the state of Nebraska who took the time to let their voices be heard. The school was very quick to point out that a private donation was being used to fund the event at which Ayers was scheduled to speak. It was actually money raised by the University of Nebraska Foundation. This is a fantastic group. This isn’t the first time its done something marvelous like this; there has been another statewide flap recently (yes, another one) regarding an effort to repeal Affirmative Action throughout the state. This helpful foundation has used some of its funds to fight this effort.

The chronicle of the process of engineering the invitation, and its review by the College of Education is just too rich:

Education Dean Marjorie Kostelnik said that when the college invited Ayers to the conference in February, some on the selection committee were vaguely aware of his controversial past, ‘but it wasn’t high on their radar screen’. They were focused on his academic credentials.

Officials in the college learned more about Ayers after he became a figure in the campaign. They decided then not to withdraw the invitation but to make clear to him that he was to speak only on his research.

Well, that’s just fantastic. I’m sure that would do the trick, really.

But Kostelnik’s rationalization and defense of the decision to hold to the invitation gets even better. Somewhat ironically, one of the better stories quoting Kostelnik appeared in my hometown’s newspaper on Thursday, Oct. 16. The Sioux City Journal article reports:

She said Ayers is an expert in two areas that are of interest to the university’s teaching students: teaching methods that help assure students of all socio-economic backgrounds receive quality education; and research designed to increase teachers’ understanding of how people think and learn.
Kostelnik said Ayers was invited before he emerged as a controversial figure in the presidential campaign but that faculty members who decided to invite him, including herself, had a superficial knowledge of his past.
During a faculty discussion of whether he should be invited, his violent past “never came up,” Kostelnik said.
When his invitation was announced at a faculty meeting in August, a faculty member asked if the group knew who Ayers is. Kostelnik said more research was done on his radical activities, and the group that decided to invite him stuck with its initial decision.
“The group was very clear to me they were purely interested in his research perspectives,” she said.

I’d love for one of these pinheads to define a “quality education” and what the hell someone like Bill Ayers has to substantively say about educational “research”.

I like Regent Ferlic more and more as I think about what he had to say about the arrogance. But he had even more to add:

If the university invites Ayers to speak on educational reform, he said, perhaps the university might want to consider having Osama bin Laden to speak about religion.

This is not about a Democrat or Republican issue, or the elections. This is about the University of Nebraska, and we should not allow staining of the people’s university.

Amen, brother! This guy deserves a Bozo button, a medal, something. This is real straight talk. Meanwhile other university Regents, the President of the University, for Pete’s sake, and the state’s governor, were all doing the political tap dance of offering a negative opinion but stating that their respective offices provided no outlet for stopping Ayers’ attending the event. Can anyone say “No controlling legal authority?” Good grief.

Citing “safety concerns”, the invitation was rescinded on Monday of this week. A pointy-headed spokesperson breathlessly informed that there had been threats of violent disruption, even a vague death threat against Ayers. Ok, maybe, but likely poppeycock. There have been reports that big money donors threatened to withhold funding if Ayers visited the campus.

I’d withhold my funds anyway. I know that after listening to the staements of some of these university people, I’m still not going to consider sending any of my kids to the school, rescinded invitation or no. And like my phone call, I’m going to be sure to let them know why. I actually think this issue, the world of academia is the biggest threat to our society. The whole sorry situation with Ayers being invited to UNL and its fallout is a beautiful illustration of why. I’m just mightily embarrassed that it happened in my state.

Of course, it’s obviously not the only thing to be embarrassed about. South Dakota’s looking reeeaaal good right about now….

Chris Dodd: “I’d like to thank the Academy…”

Senate Majority Leader / Master of Ceremonies Reid, Award Recipient Sen. Dodd, and Sen. McConnell

Senate Majority Leader / Master of Ceremonies Reid, Award Recipient Sen. Dodd, and Sen. McConnell

Washington, D.C. – Post Senate Bailout Vote Award Ceremony

From the halls of the United States Senate:

In a self-congratulatory ceremony Wednesday evening, after the Senate passed the bailout bill, Master of Ceremonies, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, presented the much-coveted award for Best Performance as the Senate’s Most Shameless Grifter, to Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. Prior to turning over the microphone to Sen. Dodd for his acceptance speech, Sen. Reid, for the umpteenth time in the last two weeks, heaped praises on his esteemed colleague, noting how important his leadership in the Senate has been over the years, and particularly in passing the bailout bill.

Award winner Dodd proudly stepped in front of the microphone, saying the bill’s passage was due to “the tone of the Senate leadership”. Dodd, not to be outdone by Leader Reid, made sure he heaped loads of praise on Reid’s leadership, which included pointing out how Reid had made the so very gracious invitation to Senators McConnell and Gregg to work on the bill. Dodd explained that “this moment wouldn’t have come” without all of this great leadership. “I’d be remiss as well if I didn’t thank other people who were critically important in this….” Our coverage ends abruptly at this point as the on-the-scene pool cameraman from whom we received our footage was suddenly struck by a mysterious wave of nausea and didn’t finishing cleaning off his shoes before Dodd stepped away from the microphone….

Following the ceremony, a reporter questioned the president of The Academy for Corruption in Government, on the likely reason for Sen. Dodd having been chosen for the award over Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, who was widely believed to have been a shoo-in. Stevens was recently indicted by the U.S. Justice Department and is currently standing trial for not properly reporting thousands of dollars of home improvement work from a contractor.

“The reason Sen. Dodd was chosen over Sen. Stevens, is simple: Sen. Stevens was disqualified. Once he was being held accountable for his actions, he was no longer eligible for the award. In order to meet the criteria of ‘Shameless’, you can’t be held accountable and you have to appear before the press, make speeches on the Senate floor, and play, or at least create the appearance of playing, a central role in creating legislation that is somehow related to the problem caused by the original graft. Besides, while Stevens is definitely a grifter, his actions are small potatoes compared to Dodd’s. Dodd not only received preferential treatment for mortgages from failed Countrywide, but he’s ground zero in the biggest financial collapse in the history of the country. Once we found out he was the number one recipient of campaign contributions from Fannie Mae, he was the front runner,” explained the Academy president.

The Award ceremony following the House of Representatives vote on the same bill is expected to receive little attention as Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts is expected to win in a landslide. “Of course the envelope is sealed,” grinned the Academy president, “But, the outcome isn’t likely to surprise anyone. Who can think of anyone whose further up to their neck than Barney Frank in the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that led to the financial meltdown? And who has anyone ever known that is more shameless, except former Pres. Clinton, and since he’s not in the running, Frank’s clearly the odds-on favorite.”

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