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….


Obama Was Co-Counsel Against Citibank in 1994 Suit for “Red-lining” – Can You Say ACORN?

Senator Obama Has Said He “Never Organized With ACORN” or “Worked For Them in Any Capacity” and Has Pointed Fingers at Wall Street and Bush’s Policies,  Anyone, and Everyone But Himself (or His Own Party) in the Sub-Prime Mortgage Mess…

But His Associations and Prior Activities Put in Him Directly At Ground Zero of the Financial Crisis and Only Raise Many More Questions

On June 12, 2008, Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama’s campaign set up a website dedicated to fighting “viscous rumors” about the candidate. The site, entitled “Fight the Smears” seems to have a “smear du jour” which it addresses and lists nineteen separate issues on which the campaign apparently feels its candidate has been unfairly “smeared” to date. For instance, the issue of the day, October 9, regards Sen. Obama’s “tangential” relationship with unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist-turned Professor of Education and author, William Ayers.

One of the issues addressed concerns the now widely discussed organization, ACORN. The group’s acroynm stands for Associatons of Community Organizations for Reform Now, and describes itself as:

The nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people with over 400,000 member families organized into more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in 110 cities across the country.  Since 1970, ACORN has been building community organizations that are committed to social and economic justice, and won victories on thousands of issues of concern to our members, through direct action, negotiation, legislative advocacy and voter participation.  ACORN helps those who have historically been locked out become powerful players in our democratic system.

ACORN has a purportedly separate, incorporated entity, that was specifically created to address housing issues:

National non-profit ACORN Housing has been providing free housing counseling to low and moderate income homebuyers since 1987. We have opened HUD-certified, Fannie Mae-approved housing counseling offices across the US, helping over 50,000 families to achieve homeownership.

Obama’s “Fight the Smears” site includes a page with “acornrumor” in the address bar. This page states that “Obama never organized with ACORN.” In addition, the Campaign asserts that Obama never trained for ACORN nor was he employed by them in any other capacity other than his representation of the organization in a 1995 suit against the Justice Department for violations of the “Motor Voter” law in Illinois. Finally, the campaign reports that ACORN was not involved in Obama’s 1992 effort “Project Vote“. The Fight the Smears site addresses accusations by a Ken Blackwell that the campaign describes as a “voter suppression guru”. If Mr. Blackwell, whoever he is, was the only party questioning Mr. Obama’s associations with ACORN, he might be worth looking into. Rumor aside, there is no question that Sen. Obama has a long history with ACORN.

Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and an investigative reporter for National Review, has spent months intensively investigating Senator Obama, including his connections with William Ayers and the Annenburg Challenge, and with ACORN. One of many, the article “Inside Obama’s ACORN” best details the organization’s true history, intent, and Obama’s connection with it.

Any spinning Obama and his campaign have done notwithstanding, Mr. Kurtz has done his homework. He cites many sources for his articles. One of those mentioned in “Inside…” is an LA Times article, which quotes ACORN’s Madeleine Talbot:

” ‘He got people to vote with their feet’ on the issue, organizer Madeleine Talbot said. At the time, Talbot worked at the social action group ACORN and initially considered Obama a competitor. But she became so impressed with his work that she invited him to help train her staff.”

Perhaps Obama and Company intend to play the careful parsing of words game on this issue. It’s wildly reminiscent of “It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.” However, this one doesn’t pass “the smell test”. Mr. Kurtz’s article begins with, “What if Barack Obama’s most important radical connection has been hiding in plain sight all along?” Mr. Kurtz may not know how right he was. Unbelievably, on the Obama campaign site, there is a “Community Blog” post by a Sam Graham-Felsen dated February 21, 2008, which details, among other things, how Obama himself, addressing ACORN leaders in November, 2007 said:

“I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career.  Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drive in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.”

The unbridled arrogance of Mr. Obama, his campaign, and the media truly leaves one speechless. None of these superior beings apparently anticpates that any of us know how to read or work our way around a search engine.

It is not surprising that the tip-toeing through the tulips on the ACORN issue is in full swing, considering the recent public outrage at the possibility of additional ACORN funding being slipped into the recent Bailout Bill and rapidly mounting reports of voter fraud by the organization.

The community organizations element of ACORN is the official entity currently embroiled in voter registration fraud in twelve states throughout the country. ACORN’s Political Director in Ohio, Mari Engelhardt, admitted on Tuesday, October 7, that it couldn’t “perfectly” prevent fraud. ACORN attorney Teresa James admitted, “We do not have the resources to know if a particular card is fictitious.”

Late this evening (Oct. 9), a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge issued a temporary restraining order against Ohio Attorney General Jennifer Brunner because, to paraphrase the information relayed by Greta Van Susteren during her show, On the Record, “Brunner is not doing enough to investigate voter fraud.” The Attorney General intends to appeal the ruling. Despite my extensive efforts to discover detailed information about the ruling, there is nothing as of yet available online.

Apparently, all of the above concerns prompted House of Representatives Minority Leader from Ohio, John Boehner, to call today for all federal funding to ACORN to stop as well as for a prohibition against any candidates for federal office contracting with ACORN for campaign work.

Obviously, the outcome of the voter fraud problems are yet to be determined as are any actions that result from Sen. Boehner’s proposals. The second appeal from Boehner results directly from the fact that Barack Obama, despite denying any connection with ACORN, contracted with Citizen’s Services, Inc, a subsidiary of ACORN for services rendered to his campaign in the amount of $800,000. As an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on August 22, 2008, details, Citizen’s Services, Inc. was described on an ACORN publication in 2006 as “‘ACORN’s campaign services entity”‘. Besides ACORN’s own publication, the article also details that the headquarters of Citizen’s Services, Inc., are listed as existing at the same address as ACORN’s national headquarters. As the links above note, there is ample information available that confirms the assertion is true. I intend to spend further time looking at the address, 1024 Elysian Fields, New Oreleans, LA, and for further newinformation on ACORN and Citizen’s Services, Inc., as my researching their addresses reveals a large number of other organizations at the same address, which must mean this is a huge building or there are some questions that need to be raised. Further, the tax-exempt database I linked for the ACORN address above displays that ACORN keeps its money in an offshore bank account in the Virgin Islands, which I find just plain odd.

It is clear that Citizen’s Services and ACORN are essentially one and the same. The Obama for America campaign initially reported a varied list of services that the group was supposed to have performed (see the sidebar in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article linked above) that seem curiously out of place, considering the nature of the organization. The campaign ultimately revised its reports, citing simple filing error. The revision is to report the services of Citizen’s as “field work”.

Not only is it disturbing that Mr. Obama and his campaign believe that denying any connection to ACORN is plausible, it is disturbing that the ACORN entity in Louisiana appears to be registered as the incorporated housing entity. It is troubling because the organization receives federal funds and calls in to question why this federally funded group would have any connection with an affliate that performs campaign services. There is a clear conflict of interest, at the very least. ACORN, in any form, having been the recipient of tax dollars, should not be working for any political candidates nor should it be endorsing them. The left-wing publication The Nation, proudly crowed on February 23, 2008, that ACORN’s PAC had given Obama it’s “important endorsement”. Yes, in addition to ACORN’s many other tentacles, the organization seems to have a Political Action Committee. The above mentioned “Community Blog” is actually a report of ACORN’s endorsement of Obama for President.

The only relationship Obama publicly owns in regards to ACORN is his work as an attorney for them in suing the Justice Dept. per the Motor Voter Law. Besides all of the other connections, it appears that there is another legal case Mr. Obama has failed to mention.

In 1994, Obama was one of the attorneys listed on a lawsuit against Citibank in which the plaintiffs claim the bank was engaged in “red-lining” or refusing to grant mortgages to people in particular neighborhoods in Chicago.

Clicking here will allow you to see actual final documents in the case. It is a .PDF file.

Clicking here will allow you to see detailed records of the case at a site called “The Civil Rights Litigation Clearing House”

Note that the case is entitled “Buycks-Roberson v. Citibank Fed. Sav. Bank”. Due to the nature of such a case, which, to the best of my understanding, requires an individual private citizen or citizens as plaintiffs, and not a non-profit organization, ACORN’s name is not listed anywhere in the documentation. In order for the plaintiff to have standing in the case, they have had to have been damaged. Since ACORN as an entity doesn’t apply for mortgages on private homes for itself, it cannot sue banks, and so the organization most likely found some victims to prove its point.

Even if this particular case has no connection whatever to ACORN, and that looks most likely not plausible at this stage, it is clearly a tactic straight out of the ACORN playbook. There is no denying that Mr. Obama engaged in filing a lawsuit that had the same purpose as pushing for more and more people to be granted loans who couldn’t afford them. These kinds of measures share not only the same purpose, they had the same effect: the collapse of the sub-prime lending market, in addition to terrible monetary policy by the FED, have led us to the current financial crisis.

Citibank likely rejected loan applications for homes in the neighborhoods that were “red-lined” because they were graded as areas for high-risk of default or were of market values that were so low, the costs of establishing and servicing mortgages for homes in those areas exceeded any potential profit. In other words, Citibank was likely employing sound business practice and attempting to avoid granting mortgage loans to people who they had deemed were at high risk for default.

Lawsuits like Buycks-Roberson v. Citibank directly contributed to forcing banks to grant risky mortgages. It again, is not surprising that Obama makes no mention of any such measures taken by “community organizations” or attorneys that helped to lead to the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Instead, he blames the Bush policies and capitalism. There is no question that Pres. Bush, his Treasury Secretary, and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board deserve much blame for the current crisis, but the entire strategy of giving loans to people who couldn’t afford them, gets at least half of the blame.

Besides his involvement in the Citibank suit, Obama received $105,849 from Fannie Mae and its employees since being elected to the Senate in 2006. That makes him the #3 recipient on the list. He is only topped by Connecticut Sen. Dodd at $133,900 and Massuchusetts Sen. John Kerry at $111,000. The list actually records all donations received from 1989-2008. Dodd has been in office since 1981, meaning the amount he has received may have been spread out over the last seven years, and the same is true for Sen. Kerry, who has also been in office for much longer than the term of the report. Sen. Obama has been campaigning for much of his first term in the Senate, and has reportedly spent 141 actually serving in Washington, D.C., since taking office. That means he received $756 in contributions from Fannie Mae and its employees for every day he served.

It’s hard to imagine that kind of money has no influence on a politician’s policy decisions. Further, it causes one to wonder why Fannie Mae executives and employees thought the Senator was so worthwhile an investment? Could it be that the continued reckless practices of out-of-control lending were concepts he particularly endorsed? Put together with his involvement the Citibank suit, tax policies of forced “fairness”, belief that healthcare is a “right”, and intent to tax businesses at high rates, it doesn’t take a leap to understand that Fannie Mae would find a friend in Barack Obama.

The questions that beg asking are: Where is the media to ask these questions? Why didn’t they dig up the information about the Citibank suit?

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.”

**UPDATE**: This blog has moved. For more recent posts, click here.