Showing posts with label Sandhills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sandhills. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Of pipelines, poseurs and posturing putzes

On a continent 100-percent wrested from native Americans by the white man, and in a state where the United States Army rounded up the Ponca and forcibly delivered them into starvation in the Indian Territory, you have to have a lot of damned nerve to start whining about "not from here" and "carpetbaggers."

Of course, that doesn't stop some Nebraskans if there are political points to be scored.

Enter Jane Fleming Kleeb, who had the unmitigated nerve to have been born in Florida. But it gets worse. She also had the gall to have married a "Nebraskan" raised overseas . . . who has a Ph.D. from Yale. Yale!

But it gets worse than that. The Kleebs are Democrats, and they run for office -- he for the U.S. House and Senate, she for the Hastings school board.

But it gets worse than even that. Jane started something called BOLD Nebraska. We hear that it's full of lib'ruls and "radical enviro cronies" and stuff.

Furthermore, BOLD Nebraska is against the Keystone XL pipeline, through which TransCanada wants to pump Canadian "tar sands" oil trans-Nebraska on the way to Gulf Coast refineries. Kleeb had the gall to suggest it might really screw up the Nebraska Sandhills -- and the massive aquifer below them -- if this new project started belching the corrosive gunk across one of America's most environmentally sensitive regions.

Tuesday in Lincoln, Kleeb and her "radical enviro cronies" were brazen enough to pack a U.S. State Department hearing on the pipeline.

But --
Dare I say it? Can you stand it? -- it gets even worse than that. Take a nitroglycerine pill. Please.

OK, I'm just going to come out with it. In the course of her carpetbagging opposition to controversial Canadian toxic-sludge pipelines traversing much of Nebraska's water supply, Jane Kleeb. . . .

Jane Kleeb . . . .

The outsider, the carpetbagger Jane Kleeb. . . .

I CAN'T even say it, it's so horrible. The Leavenworth St. blog, as loyal and authentic a Nebraska institution as there is -- it's Republican! -- is made of sturdier stuff than I, so I'll just let it break the awful news:
Jane Kleeb likes to stick out like whenever she is out protesting or marching or generally putting on the pouty face with hands on hips.

Well she was making herself “be seen” at Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln yesterday during the State Department hearings on the Keystone XL Pipeline.

But what was she wearing? Take a look.

Yes folks, that is a “Future Farmers of America” jacket.


We are sure Jane will say she was “urged” to wear it, or she didn’t know the rules, or she was trying to represent or some other breathless retort.

But we get it Jane. We get it with the jeans tucked into your boots and the giant belt buckle and now the FFA jacket:

You’re a poser. You are pretending to be something you are not.

You know, like pretending to care about the Sandhills or aquifer, when you’re really just trying to stop the the Canadian oil at the behest of your radical enviro cronies and sugar daddies.

NO, THOSE engaging in the fine art of American politics never pretend to be something they're not. Absolutely unheard of.

Can you imagine Mitt Romney in blue jeans? George H.W. Bush in a supermarket checkout line? Michael Dukakis in a tank? Hillary Clinton speaking with a Southern drawl in a black Baptist church?

Michele Bachmann pretending like she's not six kinds of crazy?

Deal we must, though, with Jane Kleeb in cowboy boots . . . and a Future Farmers of America jacket.

Apparently, you're not supposed to wear cowboy boots unless your day job involves trudging through cow patties. And you're not supposed to wear an FFA jacket if you're not actually a member. It's kind of like present-day tea partiers -- who live in suburban comfort and only make vague threats about revolting against "tyrants" -- dressing up like it's 1775 and waving Gadsden flags.

Only worser.

In a comment, the state Republican Party Chairman Mark Fahleson explains how much worse:
Wow–that’s not really Jane Kleeb wearing an FFA jacket, is it? As the former president of the Waverly FFA Chapter who remains proud of and thankful for his FFA experience, I can assure you that the hallowed blue corduroy is sacrosanct. A non-member (even a former member like me) wearing the jacket is like a non-Catholic taking communion at Mass. Whether it’s non-physicians wearing white coats at pressers or faux cowboys posing as Nebraska ranchers, apparently what matters to Nebraska’s leftists is the visual, not the truth.
MIGHTY BIG TALK for someone from Kansas City, Mo., doing his level best to tar an "outsider" who stands against Canadian carpetbaggers (ones with a long history of leaky pipelines) cutting through the Nebraska Sandhills with a toxic-sludge superhighway.

Of course, I am not surprised that the head of the Nebraska GOP hails from Missouri. I'm from Louisiana, myself, and we Southerners know a thing or two about Republican carpetbaggers.

What really concerns me, though, is that someone can be so warped by politics and partisanship that he can compare an FFA jacket to the Holy Eucharist.

Catholics believe that the consecrated bread and wine has become the actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. If you don't believe that, you have no business partaking of it, and you have real problems in calling yourself Catholic.

We call it "communion" for a reason -- it is both sign and cause of our unity as Catholics and of God within us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about Holy Communion:

The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life."136 "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch."137

"The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit."138

Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all.139

In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: "Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking."140
AND THE Nebraska Republicans' secular sacrament of the day, the Holy FFA Jacket? It's just a jacket.

Granted, it means a lot to a lot of FFA members who earned one, but when you unstick yourself from stupid and gain a little perspective, you realize that blue corduroy jacket is a lot like the faux outrage of political hacks -- you can get along just fine without it. And them.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oil spill, hell! The Aussies might be offended!

There's a gushing wound in the Gulf, pumping out tens of thousands of barrels a day of this country's toxic lifeblood -- oil.

Right now, Louisiana is choking to death on the stuff. Soon enough, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida will be, too. Later, it will be Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. And maybe more states up the Eastern Seaboard.

That poisonous vein has been gushing out of control for 50-odd days. The oil field is hardly in any danger of exsanguination anytime soon, though south Louisiana, in particular, is in imminent danger of becoming an uninhabitable toxic wasteland -- a giant dead zone -- with countless thousands breathing in benzene fumes as they watch their jobs, their ecosystem and their culture sink beneath the soiled sea, the muck-filled marshes and befouled bayous.

BUT THAT'S not important now, according to the Kearney (Neb.) Hub. What's important is that President Obama might be pissing off Indonesia and Australia by canceling on them a second time to tend to an American BPocalypse:
To their credit, the foreign leaders have graciously accepted Obama’s excuses. They are legitimate. Many Americans opposed much of his health care reforms, but they accepted his judgment regarding the visits to Indonesia and Australia. If Obama believed health reforms would sink without his guiding hand, then it is understandable why he stayed home to finish what he started.

We’re less supportive about Obama excusing himself from the Indonesia-Australia visit for a second time. For all practical purposes, there’s not much Obama can do now about the oil spill other than to act interested.

He’s recently played that role well, having visited the Gulf Coast three times to express that he cares about people’s hardships and to prove that his boot remains on BP’s neck.

Appearances are important for Obama’s approval rating at home. Being present is the best way to demonstrate his resolve to end the Gulf crisis.

However, there’s a pressing need to follow through on his commitments to our Southern Hemisphere allies. Indonesia and Australia are valued trading partners and important to U.S. interests in many other ways.

Obama could fulfill his obligation to those nations while his deputies at home tend to the Gulf crisis.
YES, PEOPLE out in the boonies of Nebraska really can be that clueless. Some of them, like the editors of the Kearney Hub, even get paid for it.

Let me explain this to the booboisie out in Kearney so that even their newspaper editors might be able to understand.

I'm going to start asking some questions now. Try not to panic.

Now what would be the equivalent if BP ran amok in rural Nebraska?

How about this: What if, say, an oil company decided to bury a massive oil pipeline deep beneath the rolling farmland of Nebraska? Not only that, let's say the oilmen, to cut costs, didn't install equipment that could be relied upon to shut off the oil flow once it had started.

And let's also say the oil company decided to use thinner pipe -- to save costs -- and run the pipeline at pressures much higher than the industry norm.

NOW, IMAGINE that -- despite all the sweet nothings and promises of right-of-way fees whispered into the ears of the Hub editors' fellow members of the booboisie -- one day it all went to shit. The pipeline blew. It blew deep underground, nobody could stop it, and not a body knew what to do.

That pipeline blew and blew and blew, pumping millions and millions and millions more barrels of petroleum deep into the Ogallala Aquifer, eventually poisoning it for decades, if not forever.

In a matter of weeks, vast swaths of Nebraska were rendered too damned arid to grow much of anything other than winter wheat, or maybe some sugar beets and potatoes -- not on 15 inches of rain a year. In some places, crops outright failed. In others, yields plummeted without irrigation.

Meantime, streams fed by the aquifer were fouled, killing everything in them. And then the birds and other wildlife started to die, having drunk the fetid water or eaten what was in it.

Drinking water supplies suddenly were poisonous. Livestock began to die en masse, either of thirst or poisoning
. And the government, faced with a logistical nightmare, was failing badly at trucking in sufficient drinking water for humans.

Seemingly overnight, 31 percent of the state's total employment had been to some degree threatened, if not eliminated. Not that any of that would matter if you lived somewhere with no drinkable water.

IF SOME future BP, through utter negligence and recklessness, were to do that to Nebraska, what would it mean for the state's future viability? What would it mean for its citizens' lives? Their livelihoods?

What would it mean to Nebraskans' lifestyle and culture? If much of the groundwater was no good and the land uninhabitable because of that, and if hundreds of thousands no longer could farm --
ever -- how would that affect how Nebraskans see themselves? What, then, would be their identity . . . even the city slickers in Lincoln and Omaha?

If you can't get a job, if you lose your identity, if you can't live on your land anymore, if all you know and love is destroyed because of somebody's greed and criminal negligence . . . do you think that might be a kind of genocide?

If all hell were breaking loose all around you, and the news kept going from catastrophic to unthinkable, would you then be so damned upset that President Obama canceled on the Indonesians and Aussies yet again? Wouldn't you want the president of the United States right here, in country, dealing with the crisis that just blew up your world?

Wouldn't you?

I'm waiting.

WHAT IF that were to happen here? Uh-oh.

According to a story in the
Omaha World-Herald, some much lesser, yet awful still, version of Nebraska's petro-nightmare scenario isn't exactly unthinkable:
The ever-widening oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has state lawmakers rethinking whether Nebraska is doing enough to protect the fragile Sand Hills and groundwater-rich Ogallala Aquifer from a planned crude-oil pipeline.

The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would pump 700,000 barrels of oil a day from the tar sand mines of western Canada.

It would cross 254 miles of Nebraska, including about 112 miles of the Sand Hills, intersecting with a pipeline near Kansas.

Proponents say the pipeline would provide an environmentally safe, politically stable and reliable source of crude oil and avoid risks exposed by the deep-sea drilling blowout in the Gulf.

Opponents worry that the Sand Hills region could host its own oil spill that could contaminate a precious deposit of groundwater.

Duane Hovorka, executive director of the Nebraska Wildlife Federation, said a small pipeline leak in the sparsely populated Sand Hills might go undetected for days and do major damage.

“There's a limit to how closely you can monitor that stuff,” Hovorka said. “You can pump a lot of oil into the aquifer before someone discovers it.”

Of key concern is TransCanada's application for a federal waiver to pump the pipeline oil at a higher pressure, using thinner pipe. The pipe could pump more oil and use less steel.

Cesar de Leon, former head of the nation's pipeline safety agency, said there's no question that using thinner pipe at higher pressure “lessens” the safety margin, although he said increased monitoring and maintenance could offset that risk.

Still, de Leon, now a private consultant based in Boerne, Texas, said using the higher pumping pressure “pushes the technological envelope,” which he likened to BP drilling deeper and deeper into the Gulf.

“It's running beyond what's been the norm,” he said of the pipeline project. “I think they'll be successful in getting it, but I certainly think you'd be safer running at a lower pressure.”

TransCanada, the Canadian company building the pipeline, has been safely using thinner pipe made of stronger steel for years in Canada, a spokesman said.

Jeff Rauh said the company plans several extra safeguards, including X-ray checks on every weld, more confirmation of steel integrity and coatings, and burying the pipeline 4 feet deep instead of the required 30 inches.

Historically, pipeline leaks are rare, small and localized, he said. The historic average is less than three barrels, or 126 gallons, he said. Leaks would be especially slow moving through the sands and groundwater of the Sand Hills, Rauh said.

Aerial surveillance of the pipeline would be done every two weeks. The pipe is designed to withstand puncturing by excavation equipment.

“This is a welded pipeline. It is designed for zero leakage,” he said. “However, if a leak occurs, we are absolutely ready to respond.”

A recent draft environmental impact statement on the project acknowledges that oil spills occur and that some could go undetected for “days or weeks.”

The draft statement also concludes Keystone XL would have “limited adverse environmental impacts” if the pipeline adheres to safety rules and laws.
SO, PERHAPS the time of geopolitically minded editors of a teeny weenie newspaper in the middle of nowhere might be better spent making sure TransCanada does pipelines a hell of a lot more safely than BP does deepwater oil wells.

It would be a terrible thing for them to have a certain editorial thrown back in their faces if everything went to shit one day and some future president took off for parts unknown, figuring the White House aides could handle it because,
after all, it's only Nebraska.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

College Football Nirvana

There's no crying in baseball.

But for Nebraska football fans, reading this blog post by Louisiana-Lafayette's radio play-by-play announcer may have brought on some misty eyes. May, hell.

WHAT JAY WALKER wrote did cause more than a few of us to well up a bit:
I've been to nine SEC stadiums. (I'll go to a tenth next season at Georgia.) I've seen the grove at Ole Miss, experienced the Gator Chomp, the Mississippi State cowbells, been a part of Alabama football in both Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. I've been called "Tigerbait" in Baton Rouge and experienced some pretty good hospitality in South Carolina.

I've said hello to the folks at Illinois and Minnesota. Felt September heat in Tempe, AZ.

Been to Manhattan, Lubbock, Austin, Stillwater and College Station. College Station was probably the best. Folks say "Howdy" when they see you. And they say "welcome."

Haven't been to the Horseshoe, the Big House or Happy Valley. Nor have I seen Touchdown Jesus.

But I've been to College Football Nirvana.

It's located in Lincoln, Nebraska.

From the time we touched down ("Welcome to Lincoln," the police officers doing the escort said) to the time we left the stadium ("Thanks so much for coming, have a safe trip home. We hope you'll come back again") every Cajun fan felt like a guest.

That's right. A guest. Not the opposition...not the enemy....a guest.

Check into the Cornhusker Marriott, not far from campus. Fans of Big Red Nation are already there. Smiles, handshakes....welcome to Lincoln. Good luck tomorrow.

Board the bus for dinner. Arrive at Misty's, Lincoln's famous steakhouse (I mean, you gotta eat a steak, right?). There were about 25 in our party. We had to wait about twenty minutes for them to get everything ready. No problem. As soon as the patrons saw the Cajun gear, they wanted to talk...introduce themselves....welcome to Lincoln....thanks so much for coming. Hope you enjoy the game.....

Is this for real??

And, it continued throughout the evening and into the night. We made lots of friends. We Cajun people make friends pretty easily, but it's even easier when folks want to be friends.

In Lincoln, they all want to be your friend.

Gameday is different in Lincoln. They tailgate, sure....but it's tougher because, well, there's just not a lot of tailgaiting spots. But they do open the soccer field next to the stadium. Families can let the kids roam free. Nebraska radio does a pregame show there. And, a band plays during the commercial breaks.

I did an interview at the soccer field with the Nebraska radio folks. And then, had a pretty good trek to the media entrance. At each gate, the sight was the same. Hundreds lined up, waiting for the gates to open so they could get into the stadium and watch their team warm up.

By the time Nebraska came out, about 45 minutes before kickoff, the stadium was about 65% full. There was no "hey, let's stay outside and pound a few more beers."

Because it was gameday. And they came to see football.

By the time the band was ready to come out, 86,000 strong were in their seats. They stood and clapped along when the Cornhusker Band played "Fight on Cajuns" to honor their guests. And when the band played "There is no Place Like Nebraska" I knew that the statement was true.

WALKER GETS IT. Nebraska is a special place, and game day in Lincoln is something akin to the concentrated essence of a state.

And, at least in Nebraska circles, the Louisiana blog post has gone viral. It's even featured on

I think I know what came over the Cajuns' radio guy. It happened to me in 1983.
Actually, it really started in high school in Baton Rouge, when a Nebraska-native buddy would sing the praises of his home state at every opportunity. And it built a few years later when -- as a student at Louisiana State -- I started following the Cornhuskers in addition to my LSU Tigers.

I was hooked in Miami at the 1983 Orange Bowl, when the Huskers beat LSU 21-20 and I couldn't quite decide who the hell to pull for. But I was awfully happy Nebraska won and knew I had to get to this special place out on the Plains.

THAT YEAR, I took some time off from college and -- somehow -- landed a spring and summer reporting job at the North Platte Telegraph. There, I made friends for life and got the equivalent of a graduate degree in community journalism before I even had finished by BA at LSU.

Out in the Sandhills, I fell in love with Nebraska and knew this place would someday be home. It didn't hurt that I fell in love with the Telegraph's wire editor.

And one fine day in early August, I asked her to be my wife. In Lincoln. In the shadow of Memorial Stadium. At NU's football picture day.

So, I married the pretty wire editor in North Platte on the day we packed up a red Nissan Sentra with Nebraska 15-county plates and a red Chevy Vega with a Louisiana plate and an NU window decal. We then headed south for my final 27 credit hours at LSU and her introduction to culture shock, Tiger football . . . and a year of lame jokes about the state tree of Nebraska being a telephone pole.

Sometimes in Baton Rouge, life can be one big "Tiger bait!" when you're "not from around here." Even when you're nowhere near Tiger Stadium.

SOME 26 YEARS LATER, Nebraska is home. Has been for the last 21 of them -- just like I knew it would. And it all started with Big Red football . . . and with the classy fans who so love "dear old Nebraska U."

As folks say today, Nebraska fans "represent." No matter where they are, they make present what is so special about this place we call home.

And you never know where something like that will lead.

Thanks for coming, Cajun fans . . . happy to hear y'all passed a good time.

Come again soon; bring andouille. I'll get the gumbo started -- best in Omaha.

And because your play-by-play man is such a stand-up fella, this LSU grad will never call UL-Laf(ayette) "You'll Laugh" again. Nebraska is wearing off on me.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What's wrong with being a hick?

I love Omaha, but one might argue -- contra the theme of the "Eastern Nebraska State Song" -- that one sign of being a "hick" state is going to great and self-conscious lengths to convince the rest of the country that you're not a hick state.

Besides, what the hell is so wrong with living in a hick state? I fell in love with Nebraska a quarter-century ago when I moved to a "hick" town in the "hick" part of the state.

I FELL IN LOVE with the Sandhills and that feeling of complete freedom you get when you look out over the grassy dunes that stretch as far as the horizon . . . and beyond. And I fell in love with living in a town where, if you don't know everybody, soon enough you probably will.

I fell in love with friendly and unpretentious people. And with giving folks a little wave when they were driving one way on a lonely road and you were headed the other.

Finally, during my stay in a hick town in -- yes -- a "hick state," I fell in love. And I married my sweetheart in a hick ceremony, in a hick house, in that wonderful hick town.

And while I'm happy for all of Omaha's growth in the two decades we've lived here -- and while it's exciting to see downtown become more and more hip and cosmopolitan every day -- telling the world Omahans aren't "hicks" and we don't live in a "hick state" ain't gonna convince Blue Staters of anything.

Not that anyone ought to give a rat's ass what they think anyway.

IF YOU LIKE where you live, and if your kids are well educated -- if they master their studies, if they likewise learn to be honest and kind and love God and their fellow man -- and if crime is low and neighborliness is high, isn't that good enough?

Because, after all, a lot of the things we value most when we pick a spot to grow roots come from the better, "hick" angels of our nature. Now, call me a hick, but I think it's high time we embrace the best of who -- and what -- we are.

And if that be "hick," "rube," "hayseed" or "Gomer," so be it.

If Noo Yawk don't like that, it can lump it. 'Cause I don't give a flying cowchip one way or another.