Friday, November 27, 2015

Surrounded by Reasons to Be Grateful

Rep. Adrian Smith


The holiday season gives us an opportunity each year to dedicate quality time to our families and friends, reflecting on all we have for which to be grateful. It is understandably more difficult to engage in joyous celebration with the growing turmoil in our world. However, it is important for us to focus on and give thanks for all the goodness in our lives and communities.
In his address to the nation on Thanksgiving Day 1985, President Ronald Reagan observed, “We are grateful for our abundant harvests and the productivity of our industries; for the discoveries of our laboratories; for the researches of our scientists and scholars; for the achievements of our artists, musicians, writers, clergy, teachers, physicians, businessmen, engineers, public servants, farmers, mechanics, artisans, and workers of every sort whose honest toil of mind and body in a free land rewards them and their families and enriches our entire Nation.”
President Reagan’s words help us reflect on the countless blessings to be thankful for in the greatest country on Earth. The American dream still inspires people to achieve, create, and innovate in ways which benefit all of humanity. Our country continues to be one of the most generous in the world, giving and volunteering to serve those in need. Nebraska agriculture produces far more than we consume, providing us the opportunity to help feed the world.
Despite the challenges we face, we are surrounded by so many reasons to be grateful.
With recent attacks and heightened security worldwide, we owe our deep gratitude to the first responders who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. In the wake of tragedy, police in Paris and around Europe have spent countless hours capturing terrorists and preventing additional attacks. Throughout our country, we have seen increased patrols and more officers devoted to protecting our homeland. Amidst grave challenges, these heroes put others before themselves to ensure our security.
We also remember our military men and women around the world who are sacrificing holidays with their families to defend our country against those who wish to do us harm. The selfless commitment of our men and women in uniform has allowed Americans to live in freedom for nearly 240 years.
To show appreciation for our troops, I am again helping to collect cards for the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Through this effort, we can send gratitude and holiday greetings from Nebraska to our service members, veterans, and their families around the world. This tradition is a wonderful opportunity for families, schools, and local communities to show their support for our troops and our veterans.
My district offices in Scottsbluff and Grand Island are serving as collection points for Nebraskans to drop off or mail cards through Friday, December 4, 2015. To ensure your cards reach their destination, please use generic salutations such as “Dear American Hero,” and do not include your personal contact information, inserts, glitter, or postage. For more information and guidelines, please visit
I remain deeply grateful for the privilege of representing you in Congress. As we enjoy the holiday season, I hope you will join me in thanking the brave men and women who protect us each day as well as expressing gratitude for our many blessings as Nebraskans.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator
     Gosh, can it really be that time of year already? Thanksgiving is upon us and as I write this many turkeys have left the grocery store and is likely being prepared for the many feasts that will occur across this great Nation. I hear many people say “Happy Turkey Day” and I used to take a little offense to that, but if you think about it, that turkey is a big part of the celebration. In actuality this bird has long been the holiday's star! Let’s explore the world of the turkey this week.
     As Americans sit down to supper this Thanksgiving, the centerpiece of their celebratory dinners will, most likely, be a turkey. Why exactly the Turkey has been the star of “Turkey Day” since at least the mid-19th century is a matter of much debate, particularly given the consensus amongst historians that the Pilgrims and the Native Americans probably didn’t focus on the bird at the “First Thanksgiving” in October of 1621. They were just simply thankful. Thankful for surviving the conditions in the new land that they decided would be their new home – leaving everything else behind them, including families. They were thankful for the new friends they made and the help that was afforded to them by the Native American Indians - including the very first Ag Agent (whose name was Squanto) who helped secure crops and animals for harvest.
     If you think about it, beginning with the American pilgrims, Thanksgiving has always focused on celebrating the harvest and the abundance of food we are able to share with our friends and family. This year is no different. We can celebrate a great harvest and harvest weather this year, and what better way than with fellowship and food? Food in reality is a part of our lives every single day. We rely on it for nourishment. We look forward to it on holidays. And we share it with those we love most. It seems that it even becomes more important this time of year. The time of year that everyone loves.
     The history of the Thanksgiving turkey is a bit of a mystery. Nobody knows exactly how this particular bird earned a place of honor at the table each November, but historians have a few different theories. Thanks to letters and records kept by early American settlers, we know that when the colonists sat down to dine with the Wampanoag Indians, beef and fowl were on the menu. This historical meal would later become known as the first Thanksgiving. We do know that George Washington first advocated for Thanksgiving Day on Oct. 3, 1789 and that finally President Abraham Lincoln officially proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in Nov. 1863. In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving Day forward one week, as it is presently celebrated. No matter what, thanksgiving is a National Holiday and for good reason.
     For a historic item of interest is that the Plymouth Plantation recounts the history of the First Thanksgiving, as Governor Bradford’s description of the Pilgrims’ first autumn in Plymouth makes it clear, “there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.”  Historians also note a letter written by pilgrim Edward Winslow which mentions a turkey hunting trip before the meal. So from the very beginning the turkey was an important part of this truly American tradition and that great American bird that has become the centerpiece of this tradition – the turkey!
     Turkey? What an odd name for a big bird. I always wondered where that name came from. From what I can determine there are several theories about how turkeys got their name. One story claims the Christopher Columbus heard some birds say “tuka, tuka”, and his interpreter came up with the name tukki, which means “big bird” in Hebrew. Some other historians believe that Columbus thought that the land he discovered was connected to India, and believed the bird he discovered (the turkey) was a type of peacock. He therefore called it 'tuka,' which is 'peacock' in Tamil, an Indian language, even though the turkey is actually a type of pheasant. Which I guess I didn’t know. Another theory is based on the Native American name for turkey which is supposedly 'firkee’, which if true makes sense. Simple facts, however, sometimes produce the best answers—when a turkey is scared, it makes a "turk, turk, turk" noise. Now that makes sense to me. I have scared a lot of turkeys in my day and I can say that that would make a pretty good description of the sound – a “turk” ish sound.
     How about some quick Thanksgiving and turkey trivia? Did you know? The main drink of choice at the time of the first Thanksgiving was beer, as they felt the distilling would kill any bacteria as the water was not good. The first Thanksgiving lasted three days and involved 90 American Indians and 53 Pilgrims. As far back as 1000 A.D., Native American Indians raised turkeys for food. Aztec Indians in Mexico raised them as early as 200 B.C. Turkeys are the only breed of poultry native to the Western Hemisphere and that Benjamin Franklin proposed the turkey as the official United States' bird, Only tom (male) turkeys can gobble, hens (females) cluck or click. Turkeys have great hearing, but no external ears. They can also see in color, and have excellent visual acuity and a wide field of vision (about 270 degrees), which makes sneaking up on them difficult. However, turkeys have a poor sense of smell (what's cooking?), but an excellent sense of taste. Domesticated turkeys cannot fly. Wild turkeys, however, can fly for short distances at speeds up to 55 miles per hour. They can also reach speeds of 25 miles per hour on the ground. Turkeys can have heart attacks from being frightened. 
     The first Thanksgiving Day football game was played in 1934 between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears. In 2014, 235 million turkeys were raised in America with 45 million turkeys cooked and eaten just during Thanksgiving. Americans will consume about 16 pounds every year in all holidays. Sleepy after the big meal? Turkey contains an amino acid called "Tryptophan" which sets off a chemical chain reaction that calms you down and makes you sleepy. I do wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your time with family and friends and count your blessings!! Be thankful!

The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or UNL Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: or go to the website at: 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Blue Hill Resident Amanda Cox places in Bronco Forensics home tournament

(Hastings, Neb.)Sophomore Kenzie Shofner from Maple Plain, Minnesota, took the top speaker award at the annual Broncolope competitive speaking tournament held November 14-15, 2015, in Hastings, Nebraska.
A member of the Hastings College Bronco Forensics team, she competed in Poetry, Persuasion, Prose and Duo. Her strong performances, combined with those of her teammates, helped the Broncos place third on the tournament’s second day.
The full weekend results follow.
Saturday, November 14:
Cami Sharratt, a freshman from Savage, Minnesota: 1st place in Prose
Carly Spotts-Falzone, a freshman from Wayzata, Minnesota: 3rd place in Informative
Andrew Boge, a sophomore from Johnston, Iowa: 4th place in Communication Analysis, 3rd place in Prose
Austin Heinlein, a freshman from Hutchinson, Kansas: 3rd place in Dramatic Interpretation
Sunday, November 15:
Shofner: 6th place in Poetry, 2nd place in Persuasion, 1st place in Prose, 2nd place in Duo with Caleb Merritt, a sophomore from Brookings, South Dakota
Eunice Adounkpe, a senior from Omaha, Nebraska: 3rd place in Poetry, 3rd place in Dramatic Interpretation, 6th place in Prose
Dianna Rulon, a freshman from Arcadia, Indiana: 6th place in Communication Analysis
Kathryn Edwards, a junior from Louisville, Nebraska: 5th place in After Dinner Speaking, 4th place in Extemporaneous Speaking, 5th place in Impromptu Speaking
Amanda Cox, a junior from Blue Hill, Nebraska: 6th place in Oral Interpretation
Caleb Merritt, a sophomore from Brookings, South Dakota: 2nd place in Duo Interpretation with Shofner
Spotts-Falzone: 3rd place in Prose
Heinlein: 5th place in Dramatic Interpretation
Founded in 1882, Hastings College is a private, four-year institution located in Hastings, Nebraska, that focuses on academic and extracurricular achievement. With 64 majors and 15 pre-professional programs, Hastings College has been named among “Great Schools, Great Prices” by U.S. News & World Report, a “Best in the Midwest” by The Princeton Review and a "Best Bang for the Buck" school by Washington Monthly

Fischer’s Office Teams-Up with American Red Cross for 2015 Holiday Mail for Heroes Campaign


 U.S. Senator Deb Fischer’s office is teaming up with the American Red Cross to help Nebraskans send holiday wishes and appreciation to members of the military, their families, and our veterans. This is the third year Senator Fischer’s office has coordinated the Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign with the Red Cross. Senator Fischer released the following statement encouraging Nebraskans to participate:
“The Holiday Mail for Heroes program is a simple way for Nebraskans to share their holiday cheer, along with their gratitude, to the men and women of our military. I hope the people of Nebraska will join me in sending greetings to the dedicated members of our armed services around the world, their families, and our veterans.”
The Holiday Mail for Heroes program collects cards and messages to send to our military men and women serving both abroad and in our local communities. Nebraskans who wish to participate can make or purchase a card to sign, and mail them to Senator Fischer’s Omaha office. In order to guarantee delivery, cards must be received by December 6, 2015.  They can be dropped off at, or mailed to, the following address:
Office of Senator Deb Fischer
11819 Miracle Hills Drive
Suite 205
Omaha, NE 68145
In addition to your homemade cards, Senator Fischer and the Red Cross have created a card specifically for Nebraskans that can be printed and signed at home. You can download cards through Senator Fischer’s website by clicking here
To ensure holiday cards can be quickly screened and mailed, the Red Cross asks participants to follow the guidelines listed below:
  • Ensure that all cards are signed.
  • Use generic salutations, such as “Dear Service Member.” Cards addressed to specific individuals cannot be delivered through this program.
  • Only cards are being accepted. Do not send or include letters.
  • Do not include email or home addresses on the cards. The program is not meant to foster pen pal relationships.
  • Do not include inserts of any kind, including photos. These items will be removed during the reviewing process.
  • Please refrain from choosing cards with glitter or using loose glitter, which can aggravate the health issues of ill and injured warriors.
  • If you are mailing a large quantity of cards, please bundle them and place the cards in large mailing envelopes or flat rate postal shipping boxes. Each card does not need its own envelope. All envelopes will be removed from all cards before distribution.
For more information, please visit the American Red Cross website by clicking here.


Duane A. Lienemann
Unl Extension Educator

     It seems that as you get older your body ends up paying for the abuse you punish it with over the years. I am writing this column the night before I go in for some surgery on my shoulder, rotator cuff and bicep tendon. I am not complaining, as I was warned years ago that if I kept doing things like I was still 25 years old that it would come back to haunt me - and it has. I am not asking for sympathy, and I doubt I would get too much anyway. This will however make it a little more difficult to do the things I normally do, including time in the office, out in the fields and all the other sundry things that I am used to doing, including writing.  I will see how it goes and how this old body reacts to the work being done on it, but I felt I should let individuals know should they be looking for me over the next several days to a couple of weeks. Now that this is off my chest let us look at some things that caught my eye this week. Are you ready for some incredible stuff?
     Slaughter Trucks?  I have to add this to the “You have got to be kidding me file!” The attack against animal agriculture just keeps on coming. Now growing up on a farm and even hitching a ride with a trucker or two with our cattle or hogs to the sale barn or even to Omaha Stock Yards, I never thought of the straight truck or a semi-tractor with a pot as anything more than a truck. But “slaughter truck”? It’s a new term to me, and I would bet a new term and for that matter an insult to farmers, ranchers, feeders or anybody with a CDL that makes their living transporting livestock. 
     But more than 9,500 misguided and misinformed souls have signed a petition at asking Walmart CEO C. Douglas McMillon to “stop selling toy slaughter trucks in Walmart stores.” The petition states, “Normalizing the enslavement and murder of animals to kids is not OK.” They don’t even try to point out that livestock trucks are used for many purposes on the farm, not just to take animals to slaughter. These trailers are used as a transport! It doesn't mean that they are going to the slaughter house. Most are just moving their livestock from one location to another. Perhaps from farm to farm or maybe they've been sold to another rancher, or they are being moved to another pasture or home.  
     Those “slaughter trucks” are what most of us would call toy livestock transport trucks, mini versions of the ones that roll down the highways of America. Walmart is selling an “ERTL Big Farm 1:32 Peterbilt Model 579 semi with livestock trailer” for $34.99. But somebody using the online name “Vegan Oso” started the petition and claims that “normalizing the enslavement and murder of animals to kids is not OK.” This is taking the Vegan movement one giant leap further than what I can stomach. It is one thing to call attention to your thoughts on animal agriculture, but in this way? I draw the line! I am amazed and dismayed at all the different ways that people can shoot at livestock production and the producers of our food!
     If you have a strong stomach read what they say to justify this petition: “No matter how "humanely" animals are raised for food, inevitably the pigs, cows, horses and other animals doomed for factory slaughter are crowded onto slaughter trucks; there is no shelter against the weather, no food or water and no place for the animals to defecate or urinate except on each other and under their own feet. Someday, look inside a slaughter truck; there you will see the eyes of an animal treated worse than anyone can imagine. They foam at the mouth, their eyes are crusted with infections, their faces silently scream from abject fright and abuse. At truck stops, they watch humans passing them by; hoping someone will save them before their last day on earth in a slaughter line. This is not what a child's toy should represent.”  All I can say is “What?
     If it wasn’t so incredibly stupid, it is almost entertaining to read some of the comments that have been posted. You will be shaking your head and wondering what is coming of this world. I will guarantee that I will be responding to this petition and I would suggest that if you want to offer your opinion, you can visit the petition site ( ) and leave a comment, or you can visit Walmart’s Facebook page (  ) and tell Mr. McMillon to keep selling the toys and for him to tell this idiot - Vegan Oso - that calling livestock transports “slaughter trucks” is an insult to the responsible, professional farmers, ranchers, and truck drivers who work hard to help put food on America’s tables and do so in an humane and caring way. If you agree with this wingnut, I hope you get more informed and don’t do the knee jerk reaction to misinformation and become one of those people who unwittingly further the cause of a group committed to their own particular agenda regardless of who they hurt!
     PETA Wants to Rename Turkey, Texas: Let’s just add one more to the file. You read the headline correctly.  Of all the asinine, publicity-seeking ideas from one of my “favorite” groups - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) this one was about as appealing as a barefoot walk through a chicken coop. It ranks right up there with their last endeavor to have fish renamed as “Kitties of the Seas”.  The folks at PETA have asked the folks in Turkey, Texas, to change the town’s name to – get this – “Tofurkey” for one day. That day being on Thanksgiving. PETA sent a letter to the Turkey Mayor (no pun intended) on Monday, offering to provide a vegan feast for the whole town. Tofurky is described as "a savory, flavorful, 'meaty' vegan entree with wild-rice and bread-crumb stuffing that is 100 percent cruelty-free." The meal would come with "mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes (made with vegan margarine), and vegan apple pie topped with vanilla dairy-free ice cream." It is not surprising to me that the 410 townsfolk basically responded “Tophoey!” The old adage of you don’t mess with Texas. I am glad that they stood their ground and proved to these PETA nut jobs that you also don’t mess with Turkey either!

The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or UNL Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: or go to the website at: 

To Protect Americans, Stop Underestimating ISIS

Rep. Adrian Smith
A series of terrorist attacks by ISIS militants have taken hundreds of innocent lives in the past few weeks alone. The Nov. 13 attack in Paris, which killed at least 129 people, came one day after more than 40 people were murdered in a double suicide bombing in Beirut. On Oct. 31, a bomb on a Russian jet killed all 224 people on board. As I prepare to send this, a hotel in Mali is under siege by gunmen, though the terrorist group responsible has not yet been confirmed.
My prayers and deepest condolences continue to be with the grieving families of the victims in each of these attacks. The callous taking of innocent lives by terrorists is a heartbreaking reality our world must face head-on. Not only has ISIS attacked one of our closest allies in its horrifying assault on Paris, but these terrorists now threaten to attack the United States.
The federal government has no greater responsibility than keeping Americans safe. However, President Obama and his administration continue to underestimate ISIS and downplay the threat posed by this brutal terrorist group, even as their attacks increase and become more sophisticated.
On the morning of Nov. 13, mere hours before the Paris attack, ABC’s Good Morning America aired an interview with President Obama in which he said about ISIS: “I don’t think they’re gaining strength” and “we have contained them.” Even after the attack, the President referred to the atrocities as a “setback.”
In reality, it was an act of war by radical Islamic terrorists.
The attacks in France, Egypt, and Lebanon have brought renewed focus to the reach of ISIS beyond their original areas in Syria and Iraq. As the New York Times reported this week, “ISIS is likely responsible for nearly 1,000 civilian deaths outside Iraq and Syria” this year.  The article also noted, “The Islamic State has declared official provinces – or wilayat – in areas of Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen that had networks loyal to ISIS, many of which have adopted the organization’s signature brutality.”
Clearly, ISIS is not contained or losing strength. One of the most visible outcomes of the Obama administration’s failing strategy against ISIS is the massive refugee crisis.
At least one Paris attacker used a fake passport to enter Europe in a wave of refugees. While we are called to demonstrate empathy to those fleeing war, we must ensure refugees are thoroughly vetted to prevent Americans’ compassion from being exploited by those who would do us harm.
I support a freeze on President Obama’s refugee resettlement plan until we have a better understanding of the individuals seeking refuge and the means to comprehensively screen them. Congressional approval should also be required before any refugee resettlement efforts resume.
To address these concerns, this week the House passed H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, of which I am a cosponsor. The bill requires the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of the FBI, and the Director of National Intelligence to unanimously certify to Congress any proposed Syrian or Iraqi refugee does not represent a security threat before admission to the United States can be granted.
With growing dangers to our country due to violent extremism, the federal government must first and foremost ensure the safety of American citizens. President Obama must also make our national security his top priority and present a comprehensive plan to destroy ISIS. Together with our allies, we can triumph over terror.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Game and Parks to Release Pheasants at 10 Wildlife Management Areas

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will release rooster pheasants at 10 wildlife management areas in time for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The 10 areas are: Oak Valley (Madison County), Wilkinson (Platte County), Sherman Reservoir (Sherman County), Pressey (Custer County), Branched Oak (Lancaster County), Yankee Hill (Lancaster County), Twin Oaks (Johnson County), Hickory Ridge (Johnson County), Cornhusker (Hall County), and Peru Bottoms (Nemaha County). Wilkinson and Peru Bottoms are non-toxic shot only, but otherwise all normal regulations apply.
The pheasants will be released to increase hunting opportunities over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and to encourage families to go afield together.
The pheasant season runs through Jan. 31, 2016. Permits, including the nonresident two-day hunt permit, may be purchased at The nonresident two-day permit is valid for any two consecutive days of upland game or waterfowl hunting during the calendar year. Applicable stamps must be purchased.
For more information, contact Game and Parks at 402-471-0641.

Sasse Continues to Press HHS for CO-OP Answers


        "These questions are not going away and we will ask them for another six months if that is what it takes."

Tonight, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) announced his intent to continue blocking fast-tracked consideration and confirmation of HHS nominees until the Administration gives a complete and transparent accounting of the systemic failures of the Affordable Care Act’s CO-OP program. Last night, after months of silence, HHS sent a letter which was non-responsive to the Senator's request. Sasse issued the following statement:

"HHS sending a letter is not the same as providing real answers. These questions are not going away and we will ask them for another six months if that is what it takes. After 12 failed CO-OPs, six months, and numerous letters and press inquiries to HHS, families who lost their insurance plans still do not know what went wrong. HHS has not yet answered the most important question: why did it give $1.2 billion to 12 failed CO-OPs? We know that HHS relied upon so-called ‘milestone’ or ‘performance’ reviews to give out loans, but that information has not seen the light of day. Until HHS produces a full accounting, which must include these milestone reviews, they remain non-responsive to the core of our request. Families who lost their plans and taxpayers who paid the bill still deserve answers."

Monday, November 16, 2015

Unprovoked Dangers

Sen. Deb Fischer
Recently, the world witnessed unimaginable terror and the threat Islamic terrorism poses to free and open societies. As the events in Paris have united the world in grief, so too must the world unite with resolve. Those responsible for planning and coordinating this horrific assault on innocent civilians must be held to account. The messages of hate and radicalism that underpin these attacks demand a global response and the strengthening of our national defenses.
This tragedy underscores the fact that we live in a dangerous world. ISIL continues to murder innocent people, Putin is positioning himself as a power broker in the Middle East, and Iran is doubling down on bad ambitions. The threats to America are very real, and they continue to grow. During this time of global turmoil, we are now facing unprovoked dangers at home.
This month, reports began circulating about President Obama’s intention to circumvent Congress and unilaterally transfer dangerous terrorists from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to our homeland. 
The Pentagon is allegedly preparing a new report that will outline the options for closing Guantanamo and transferring the facility’s remaining 112 detainees to the United States. As of now, federal or military prisons in Kansas, South Carolina, and Colorado appear to be the administration’s top locations of choice. 
Congress has made it clear that Guantanamo should remain open. The most recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets the policy and priorities for our military, included language regarding Guantanamo. Specifically, the provision would directly prohibit the transfer of detainees to this country by banning any funds from being used to prepare U.S. facilities to house detainees. This bipartisan bill already passed both the House and Senate by veto-proof majorities, and President Obama is expected to sign it. Any action by the president to close Guantanamo would violate both the law and the will of the American people as expressed by their representatives in Congress.  
Supporters of closing Guantanamo argue that the facility is an easy recruiting tool for barbaric terrorist groups like ISIL. I disagree. Simply relocating terrorists to a different prison will not stop extremists who recruit terrorists by poisoning vulnerable minds with ideologies of hate and violence. 
The top priority of the federal government is to provide for the common defense. Unfortunately, it appears that this administration would rather fulfill a political promise than ensure the safety and security of the American people.
As we have seen all too often, executive orders from the president have resulted in long, drawn-out battles in federal court. For example, President Obama’s actions on immigration following the 2014 election have faced multiple legal setbacks. Additionally, the implementation of the administration’s “water’s of the United States” rule, which would expand federal control over water across the country, was recently blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. If the president acts in an unconstitutional manner regarding the transfer of Guantanamo detainees, his actions will likely face similar scrutiny in court.
As your voice in the U.S. Senate, I will continue to focus on my most important duty: protecting our country from all threats. I join all Nebraskans in our deep sorrow and solidarity with the people of France as they grieve and persevere through this tragedy. In the days and weeks ahead, I hope the people of France will take comfort in the prayers and aid of the American people. We are in this together.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator

     I was in Kearney for the Nebraska Extension Fall Conference this past week when I received several phone calls and emails about what was happening in and around the Meat Animal Research Center. It seems that the USDA had invited HSUS (Humane Society of United States), ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and the Animal Welfare Institute among other groups to tour the Meat Animal Research Center at Clay Center. Apparently this was done to demonstrate “transparency” after the fallout from the NY Times story and subsequent investigation. A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that last week’s tour and listening session at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center was held to “start a discussion with groups that reacted strongly to allegations of livestock abuse leveled at the facility earlier this year.” I guess that I don’t understand why they would invite these groups, because anyone that has dealt with them should know that they would not just sit there and be part of constructive dialogue and verify what is being done is correct and animals are treated in a humane manner, because in their collective minds we in animal production cannot do anything right. It is common knowledge that they have an agenda that is not friendly or conducive to animal agriculture!
     This became apparent pretty quickly, because prior to event there were several reports of activity by an off-shoot animal rights group known as SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) in the Clay Center area around the Meat Animal Research Center (MARC). There were also a drone and at least one helicopter, likely seeking to capture video footage of the center and area livestock facilities that were observed, as well as increased road traffic of unknown vehicles and people. Of consternation to me is that there has also been reported trespassing in livestock operations. There was an unexplained fire out in the middle of the MARC grounds, buildings entered that have never had issues before, and vehicles that have gone onto the grounds that should not have been there. There was also a black van that had a very visible drone inside.
     What makes me the angriest is that Kissinger’s R Lazy K feedlot reported that gates were opened inside the feedlot, allowing animals to roam the yard and mix. These groups call themselves animal welfare activists, but yet with these actions endanger the health and welfare of the cattle, created stress for them and I was told that it took four days for the feedlot to sort the animals. That means a big loss of time, gain and revenue to the lot. So much for showing animals respect and kindness!!! Don’t think for a minute that these activists will not make visits to other livestock facilities all across South Central Nebraska. They will want to get as much “bang for their buck” as possible and will most likely try to extend their agenda while they are here, so I would suggest that small and large feedlots and are livestock producers be vigilant.
     While it is legal for folks to take pictures and protest from public access areas, you should contact local law enforcement immediately if anyone is trespassing or you feel threatened.  Obviously diffusing any situation is the primary concern, but if you are directly targeted by these groups, I concur that you should first contact your local law enforcement but then also contact “We Support Ag’ group by calling 308-631-2165 or I also suggest that you get ahold of the Nebraska Cattlemen office by calling 402-475-2333. I know they are interested and willing to help in any way they can.
     For you that do not know what precipitated this, you may recall that in January 2015, Michael Moss, a writer for the New York Times, whom I may add has a history of sensationalism as it relates to food and animal agriculture, wrote an article alleging inhumane practices at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) in Clay Center, Nebraska. In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General (USDA OIG) began a review of USMARC practices and overall operations. An Interim Report of this review was released several weeks ago. Despite the USDA affirming it stands behind USMARC’s protocols and scientists, the article, “Animal activists condemn USDA interim report on Clay Center,” released last month by the Lincoln Journal Star, included only the perspectives of critics. The article even quoted Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS – an organization dedicated to ending animal agriculture – without a single account from a Nebraskan employed or impacted by USMARC. And now this? Which I think is a slap in their face.
     Those individuals who work and dedicate themselves daily to the work of MARC and to the animals they attend have to feel like nobody appreciates or understand what they do. They are probably wondering why people are not supporting what they do. I guarantee that I do, and that I have nothing but respect and awe for what they do and what they are accomplishing and have accomplished in the past to make us more effective, productive and at the same time in a quality assured manner. I know a lot of the folks that work there and know where their hearts are, and feel their passion and their pain when they are accused of things without being able to properly tell the real story of what goes on there. I also know that MARC is quite literally the envy of agricultural researchers and educators worldwide. I have had the opportunity to talk to many people and when they know I live and work close to the center - quite honestly - I have heard nothing but good and appreciation for what is accomplished there. It has made me proud to work with and to be close to the proximity of the Center!
     I think it needs to be pointed out that the research at MARC is a cooperative effort between producers, veterinarians, scientists, and other stakeholders to improve animal health and food safety, and the contention that their practices are anything less than humane has no basis in reality. Ignoring science and refusing to embrace agriculture research will only result in putting growers of all sizes out of business and increasing the cost of food. Don’t be fooled by these groups!

The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or UNL Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: or go to the website at: 

Friday, November 6, 2015


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator

 When we think of November holidays, chances are Thanksgiving comes to mind first. But the first November holiday we celebrate in America is actually a day to give thanks to the men and women who have served in the military. As I write this I make note that Veterans Day will fall on the middle of the week. Most federal workers are given the day off and there is no mail service on this day. I think it is good to give pause to think about why we celebrate this day and as is my nature, I wanted to find out a little more about the holiday and what we celebrate on Veterans Day?
To be sure, we mean to honor the brave men and women, living and dead, who have fought America’s battles, past and present. But honor them how, and for what? Let’s take a look at this special day, at the history behind the celebration and why it is important to us.
     Many Americans mistakenly believe that Veterans Day is the day America sets aside to honor American military personnel who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained from combat. That's not quite true. Memorial Day is the day set aside to honor America's war dead. Veterans Day, on the other hand, honors all American veterans, both living and dead. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for dedicated and loyal service to their country. November 11 of each year is the day that we ensure that veterans know that we deeply appreciate the sacrifices they have made with their blood and their lives to keep our country free. I think sometimes we forget these patriots and contributions.
     To commemorate the ending of the "Great War" (World War I), an "unknown soldier" was buried in highest place of honor in both England and France (in England, Westminster Abbey; in France, the Arc de Triomphe). These ceremonies took place on November 11th, celebrating the ending of World War I hostilities at 11 a.m., November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). This day became known internationally as "Armistice Day". In 1921, the United States of America followed France and England by laying to rest the remains of a World War I American soldier -- his name "known but to God" -- on a Virginia hillside overlooking the city of Washington DC and the Potomac River. This site became known as the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier," and today is called the "Tomb of the Unknowns." Located in Arlington National Cemetery, the tomb symbolizes dignity and reverence for the American veteran. I have had the opportunity to visit this memorial a couple of times and witness the somber ceremony. It is an incredible experience.  In America, November 11th officially became known as Armistice Day through an act of Congress in 1926. It wasn't until 12 years later, through a similar act that Armistice Day became a national holiday. 
     The entire World thought that World War I was the "War to end all wars." Had this been true, the holiday might still be called Armistice Day today. That dream was shattered in 1939 when World War II broke out in Europe. More than 400,000 American service members died during that horrific war. In 1947, Raymond Weeks, of Birmingham Ala., organized a "Veterans Day" parade on November 11th to honor all of America's veterans for their loyal and dedicated service. Shortly thereafter, Congressman Edward H. Rees (Kansas) introduced legislation to change the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day in order to honor all veterans who have served the United States in all wars. Both of my grandfathers were in this war.
     In 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day, and called upon Americans everywhere to rededicate themselves to the cause of peace. He issued a Presidential Order directing the head of the Veterans Administration (now called the Department of Veterans Affairs), to form a Veterans Day National Committee to organize and oversee the national observance of Veterans Day. Congress passed legislation in 1968 to move Veterans Day to the fourth Monday in October. However, as it became apparent that November 11th was historically significant to many Americans, in 1978, Congress reversed itself and returned the holiday to its traditional date. 
     Veterans Day is now always observed on November 11, regardless of the day of the week on which it falls. The observance of Veterans Day not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.  As we get prepared for Thanksgiving Day where we celebrate all the bounty we have, we need to remember Veterans Day which precedes that day as it our way of saying thank you to those that made it possible for us to have all of the things that we are thankful for – including, not only that bounty but our freedom. They fought and died for the things that we sometimes take for granted. We should honor them for their service!
     Veterans Day should be a very important day. It should remind us to be thankful to those who have served our country and those who still do. It is very important to recognize those who fallen in all wars for our country. If it were not for them it is very possible we would not be the great nation we are today. So please take a few moments this November 11th, at 11am - in remembrance of those who have fallen serving our country. I will stop whatever I am doing and offer up a silent prayer to honor my grandfathers who both served in WWI; my father and father in law who both served in WWII; and all of my other relatives, friends, and all others who served our country in war and peace from the American Revolution that started this country to the violent places where we defend it today. Be sure that you too offer a prayer and thank those veterans who served our country and have given so much for our nation. To all of our heroes who've served our country, we thank you and honor you all this Veteran's Day. Thank you for all your sacrifices and for fighting for our freedom!

The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or UNL Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: or go to the website at: 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Blue Hill football season Ends

Burwell 43  Blue Hill 40  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Senator Ben Sasse's Maiden Speech

Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you, Mr. President. I rise to speak from the Floor for the first time today. I have never been in politics before, and I intentionally waited a year to speak here. 
I want to talk today about the purpose of the Senate, about some of the historical uses of the Floor of this special body, and about what baby-steps toward institutional recovery might look like. 
Before doing so, let me explain briefly why I chose to wait a year since Election Day before beginning to fully engage in Floor debate. 
I’ve done two things in my adult worklife: I’m a historian by training and a strategy guy by vocation. Before becoming a college president, I helped over a dozen organizations find strategies to get through some very ugly crises. One important lesson I learned over and over is that, when you walk into any troubled organization, there is a delicate balance between expressing human empathy and yet not passively sweeping hard truths under the rug. On the one hand, it is absolutely essential to listen first, to ask questions first to learn how a broken institution got to where it is – because there are reasons. Things drift and fray for reasons; people rarely set out to break special institutions they inherit. 
Still, empathy cannot change the reality that a bankrupt company is spending more to build its products than customers are willing to pay for them; a college with too few students is not only out of money but out of spirit; a charity that cannot persuade enough donors to invest in its cause might not have the right cause. 
This is the two-part posture I have adopted in my rookie year. Because of this goal of empathetic listening first, of coming to sit and privately interview many of you – and also because of a pledge I made to Nebraskans in deference to an old Senate tradition – I have waited. 
But please do not misunderstand: Do not confuse a deliberate approach with passivity. I ran because I think that the public is right that we as a people are not tackling the generational crises that we face: We don’t have a long-term foreign policy for the age of jihad and cyberwar; our entitlement budgets are completely fake; we are entering an age where work and jobs will be more fundamentally disrupted than at any point since hunter-gatherers first settled in agrarian villages. And yet we don’t really have any plans. I think the public is right that we as a Congress are not shepherding the country through the serious debates we must have about the future of this great nation. 
I will outline the key observations from my interviews of you another day. For now let me flag the painful, top-line take-away: No one in this body thinks the Senate is laser-focused on the most pressing issues facing the nation. No one. Some of us lament this fact; some are angered by it; many are resigned to it; some try to dispassionately explain how they think it came to be. But no one disputes it. 
And if I can be brutally honest for a moment: I’m home basically every weekend, and what I hear – and what I’m sure most of you hear – is some version of this: A pox on both parties and all your houses. We don’t believe politicians are even trying to fix this mess. To the Republicans, to those who claim this new majority is leading the way: Few believe that. To the grandstanders who use this institution as a platform for outside pursuits: Few believe the country’s needs are as important to you as your ambitions. To the Democrats, who did this body harm through nuclear tactics: Few believe bare-knuckled politics are a substitute for principled governing. And does anyone doubt that many on both the right and the left now salivate for more of these radical tactics? The people despise us all. 
And why is this? Because we’re not doing the job we were sent here to do. The Senate isn’t tackling the great national problems that worry those we work for. 
I therefore propose a thought experiment: If the Senate isn’t going to be the most important venue for addressing our biggest national problems, where is that venue? Where should the people look for the long-term national prioritization? Or, to ask it of ourselves, would anything be lost if the Senate didn’t exist? Again, this a thought experiment, so let me be emphatically clear: I think a great deal would be lost if the federal government didn’t have a Senate – but game out with me the question of "Why?" What precisely would be lost if we had only a House of Representatives, rather than both bodies? The growth of the administrative state, the fourth branch of government, is increasingly hollowing out the Article I branch, the legislature – and many in Congress have been complicit in this hollowing out of our own powers. So would anything really be lost if we doubled-down on Woodrow Wilson’s impulses and inclinations toward administrative efficiency by removing much of the clunky-ness of legislative process? 
Or, we could approach this thought exercise from the inside out: What is unique about the Senate? What can this body do particularly well? What are its essential characteristics? What was it built for? Consider its attributes:
  • We have 6-year terms instead of 2-year terms (and the Founders actually considered lifetime appointments to the Senate);
  • We have proportional representation of states, not of population counts – reflecting a federalist structure where we are supposed to be especially attuned to the distinction between agreeing that government might have a role to play in tackling certain kinds of problems – and yet guarding against a routinized assumption that only a centralized, national government can ably tackle problem X or Y;
  • Third, we have rules designed to strengthen the hand of individual senators, not to the end of obstruction, but rather to ensure full debate and engagement with dissenting points of view – for the Founders had less concern with governmental efficiency than with protecting minority rights and culturally unpopular views;
  • Fourth, we had no formal rules acknowledging political parties until as late as the 1970s; we had merely a 20th century convention of acknowledging to speak first the leaders of the two largest party blocks;
  • We have explicit constitutional duties related to providing the executive with advice – chiefly on the building of his or her team and on the long-term trajectory of foreign policy.
Six-year terms; representation of states, not census counts; nearly limitless debate to protect dissenters; no formal rules for political parties. What then is the answer to the question, "What is the Senate for?" Possibly the best shorthand is: "To shield lawmakers from obsession with short-term popularity to enable us to focus on the biggest long-term challenges our people face."
Why does the Senate’s character matter? Precisely because it is meant to insulate us from short-termism. This is the point of the Senate. This place is built to insulate us from opinion fads and the short-term bickering of 24-hour-news-cycles. The Senate was built to focus on the big stuff. The Senate is to be the antidote to sound-bites. 
I have asked many of you what is wrong with us. And, as in most struggling organizations, there is a high degree of agreement in private about what ails us – about what incentivizes short-term over long-term behavior:
  • the incessant fund-raising;
  • the ubiquity of cameras wherever we talk;
  • the normalization over the last decade of using many Senate rules as shirts-and-skins exercises;
  • constant travel (again often to fundraise) meaning that sadly, many families around here get ripped up.
This is not to suggest that there is unanimity among you in these private conversations. The divergence is most pronounced at the question of what comes next, whether institutional decline is inevitable: Some of you are hopeful for a recovery of a vibrant institutional culture. But more of you are pessimistic. 
The most common framing of the worry is this: Okay, so this might not be the Senate’s finest hour. But isn’t the dysfunction in here merely an echo of the broader political polarization out there? It’s an important question: Isn’t the Senate broken merely because of a larger "shattered consensus" of shared belief across our land? 
Surely, this is part of the story. But there is more to say: 
First, the political polarization of the country (outside Washington) is often overstated. We could talk about the Election of 1800, the run-up to the Civil War, the response to Catholic immigration waves, the bloodiest summers of the Civil Rights movement, or the experiences of returning soldiers from Vietnam if you want to talk about high-water marks of polarization.
Second, civic disengagement is arguably a larger problem today than is polarization. It isn’t so much that most regular folks are locked into predictably Republican and Democratic positions on every issue; it’s that they are tuning us out altogether. And despite the echo chambers for those of us with these jobs, are we aware that the Pew Research Center notes that the total 24-hour viewership of CNN, Fox, and MSNBC is only between 1.8 and 2 million? That’s it. 
Third, one of our jobs is to flesh out competing views with such seriousness and respect that we should be mitigating, not exacerbating, the polarization that does exist. This is one of the reasons we have a representative, rather than a direct, democracy. 
Fourth, surveys reveal that the public is more dissatisfied with us than they are scared about the intractability of the grand challenges we face. Consider this contrast:
  • Between two-thirds and three-quarters of Americans think the country is headed in a bad direction; that the experiences of their children will be less than the experiences of their parents. That’s really bad.
  • But consider this: Only one in ten is comforted that Congress is doing a decent job.
  • Let’s be clear about what this means: If the voters were given a choice to fire everyone in Congress, does anyone have any doubt what they would do?
There are good and bad reasons to be unpopular. A good reason would be to suffer for waging an honorable fight for the long-term that has near-term political downsides – like telling seniors the sobering truth that they’ve paid in far less for their Social Security and Medicare than they are currently getting back. 
But we all know deep down that the political class is unpopular not because of our relentless truth-telling, but because of politicians’ habit of regularized pandering to those who already agree with us. The sound-bite culture – whether in our ninety-second TV stand-ups in the Russell rotunda, in our press releases, in the habits honed in campaigns – is everywhere around us. 
This is the very reductionism – the short-termism – that this institution was explicitly supposed to guard against. The "Senate" is a word with two meanings – it is the 100 of us as a group, a community, a "body" (that’s an important metaphor); and it is this physical chamber. The Senate is what we call this special room in which we assemble to debate the really big things. 
But what happens in this chamber now is what is most disheartening for a newby like me. As our constituents know, something has gone awry here. We – in recent decades – have allowed the short-termism of sound-bite culture to invade this chamber, and radically reduce so many debates to fact-free zones. 
Mr. President, I mentioned that I’ve done two kinds of work before coming here: historian/college president and crisis turn-around guy. While they might seem quite different, both depend on a certain kind of deliberation, a kind of Socratic speech. 
Good history is good story-telling. And good story-telling demands empathy; it requires understanding different actors, differing motivations, competing goals. Reducing everything immediately to good and evil is bad history – not only because it isn’t true, but because reductionism is unpersuasive; it is boring. Good history, on the other hand, demands that one talk socratically – that one can present alternate viewpoints, not strawman arguments. 
Similarly, can you imagine a business strategist who presents just one idea, and then immediately announces that it is the only right idea, the only plausible idea? How would companies respond? They would fire that guy. A good strategist, by contrast, puts the best construction on a range of scenarios; and outlines the best criticisms of each option, including especially the option he or she wants to argue for most passionately. And then one assumes that your competitors will upgrade their game in light of your opening moves. This is again a kind of socratic speech. 
But bizarrely, we don’t really do this very much here. We don’t have many actual debates. This is a place that would be difficult today to describe as "the greatest deliberative body in the world" – something that has often been true historically. 
Socrates said it was dishonorable to make the lesser argument appear the greater – or to take someone else’s argument and distort it so that you don’t have to engage their strongest points. Yet here, on this Floor, we regularly devolve into bizarre partisan-politician speech. We hear robotic recitations of talking points. 
Well, guess what: Normal people don’t talk like this. They don’t like that we do. And, more importantly, they don’t trust us because we do. 
It’s weird, because one-on-one, when the cameras are off, hardly anyone here really believes that senators from the other party are evilly motivated – or bribed – or stupid. There is actually a great deal of human affection around here – but again, that’s in private, when the cameras aren’t on. 
Perhaps I should pause to acknowledge that an introductory speech like this makes me nervous. Talking about the recovery of more honest, Socratic debate runs the risk, I fully recognize, of being written off as overly romantic, as naïve idealism. To add to the discomfort, I’m brand new to politics and 99th in seniority.
But talking bluntly about what is not working in the Senate in recent decades is actually not naïve idealism, but aspirational realism. Here’s why: I believe that a cultural recovery inside the Senate is a partial prerequisite for a national recovery. I don’t think that generational problems like the absence of a long-term strategy for combating jihad and cyber-war; like telling the truth about entitlement overpromising; like developing new human capital and job retraining strategies for the emerging era of much more rapid job change – I don’t think these long-term problems are solvable without a functioning Senate. And a functioning Senate is a place that rejects short-termism, both in substance and in tone. 
The Senate has always had problems – it’s a human institution populated by sinners. But it hasn’t always had today’s problems. There have been glorious high points when the Senate has flourished. And I believe a healthier Senate is possible again – but it will require models and guides. To that end, I have been reflecting on three towering figures of the last half-century who used the Floor differently than we usually use it today, and who thereby have much to teach us. 
Before naming them, though, let me clarify my purpose: I do not think there is any magic bullet to restore the Senate. My purpose in speaking today is basically just to move into public discussions I’ve already been having in private as I try to define a personal strategy for how to use this Floor. I want advice. I am opening a conversation and soliciting input on how to contribute to the broader team – and there are many of you – who want an upgrading of our debate, our prioritization, and our seriousness about the bigger challenges. 
Two weeks ago, in discussion about this with one of you, I was asked: "So you are going to admit our institutional brokenness and call for more civility on the Floor?" No. While I am in favor of more civility, my actual call here is for more substance. 
This is not a call for less fighting – but for more meaningful fighting. This is a call for bringing our A-game to the debates on the biggest issues here, with less regard for the 24-month election cycle and the 24-hour news cycle. This is a call to be for things that are big enough that you might risk your reelection. 
So let’s name three folks who can instruct us, because they brought a larger approach to this Floor: 
First, I sit quite intentionally at Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s desk. The New Yorker who cast a huge shadow around here for a quarter century famously cautioned that, while each of us has a right to our own opinion, we most certainly don’t have any right to our own set of facts. He read social science prolifically, and sought constantly to bring data to bear on the debates in this chamber. Like any genuinely curious person, he asked lots of questions – so you couldn’t automatically know what policy he would ultimately advocate just because he asked hard questions of everyone. He had the capacity to surprise us. 
Second, in a time when circling the partisan wagons and castigating the opposing party can feel reflexively easy, we could all benefit from reading again Margaret Chase Smith’s "Declaration of Conscience" speech on this Floor from June 1950. The junior senator from Maine was a committed anti-communist – sometimes called the first female cold warrior. And for her, that meant not knee-jerk opposition to competing views but rather the full-throated defense of what she called "Americanism," defined as "The right to criticize; The right to hold unpopular beliefs; The right to protest; The right of independent thought." Senator Smith was rightly worried about Alger Hiss and the infiltration of the State Department by spies, and that meant that grand-standing and lazy character smears were not only dishonest; they were distracting and therefore dangerous. And thus, the freshman senator – and at that point the only woman in the body – went to the Floor to demand publicly what she had previously asked for unsuccessfully in private: Was there any evidence for all of Joe McCarthy’s scandalous claims? Because a committed truth-teller challenged someone in her own party, on an issue on which she had ideological alignment with him, to reject strawman arguments and disingenuine attacks, the Senate would – four years later – censure McCarthy and banish McCarthyist tactics from this place. 
Finally, and for my purposes today most importantly, I would like us to recall Robert Byrd, one of the larger figures in this body’s two and a half centuries. As a historian, I have long been a student of the West Virginian, troubled though he was. 
We sometimes conceive of our role today as merely policy advocates – as those who argue for our respective party’s position on some short-term policy fight. And that is sometimes important. But that is only one of our roles. We don’t have a parliamentary system – and that choice was on purpose. 
With Moynihan and Margaret Chase Smith, we also need to contextualize our debates about our largest national challenges with facts and data; we need to agree on what problems we are trying to solve before we begin bickering about which programmatic levers might work more or less well; we need to challenge those in our own party not to construct lazy strawman arguments of those we are debating. 
But there is something else we need as well. Beyond policy advocating and policy clarifying, we need an overarching narrative. We need to pause to regularly recall the larger American principles that bind us together – our Constitutional creed, our shared stories, and our exceptional American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all 320 million of our countrymen. 
We all know in our marriages that sometimes the only way to navigate through small and medium disagreements is by pausing to embrace again our larger shared commitments and our history. We need more of that here. We need to be able more often to agree on some big things before we get to the work of honorably disagreeing about some smaller policy fights. 
One of the important legacies of Senator Byrd (and again, this is no commentary on other aspects of his messy past) is that he forced the Senate to grapple with its history, specific duties, and unique place in the architecture of Madisonian separation of powers. 
To return to our thought experiment: Do we think the Founders would have regarded a 9% Congressional approval rating – a stunning level of distrust in representative government – as an existential crisis? Do we? Is it conceivable that we can get away with just drifting into the future, or is it essential that we fix this? 
Count me emphatically among those who think we need to fix it. We should not be okay with this. And if we are going to restore this place, part of it will center on recovering the executive/legislative distinction. The American people should demand more of us as legislators, and they should demand more of the next president as a competent administrator of the laws that we pass. That is only possible if we again have some identity commitments that are about the Constitution’s Article I (the legislature) in tension with the duties of the Article II branch (the executive). Everything cannot be simply Republicans versus Democrats. We need Democrats to speak up when a Democratic president exceeds his or her powers. And I promise you that I plan to speak up when the next president of my party exceeds his or her proper powers. 
Despite all his other failings, Robert Byrd labored hard to mark those non-partisan lines. We should too.
To that end, in the coming months, I plan a series of Floor speeches on the historic growth of the administrative state. This will not be a partisan effort; it will not be a Republican senator criticizing the current administration because it is Democratic. Rather, it will be a constructive attempt to understand how we got to the place where so much legislating now happens inside the executive branch – for this kind of executive overreach came about because of a great deal of symbiotic legislative underreach. Republicans and Democrats are both to blame for grabbing more power when they have the presidency; and Republicans and Democrats are both to blame in the legislature as well for not wanting to lead on hard issues and take hard votes, but rather to sit back and let successive presidents gobble up more authorities. We can and we must do better than this. And the century-long look at the growth of executive branch legislating over the next many months will be an attempt to contribute to the efforts of all here, both Democrats and Republicans, who would like to see the Senate recover some of its authorities and some of its trustworthiness. 
Each of us has an obligation to be able to answer our constituents’ question: "Why doesn’t the Congress work? And what is your plan for fixing the Senate in particular?" And if your only answer is that the other party is fully to blame, then we don’t get it, and the American people understandably think that we are part of the problem, not the solution.
This institution wasn’t built just to advocate for new policy X versus new policy Y for next month. We must also serve as a forum for helping the nation understand and navigate our hardest debates. Our ways of speaking should mitigate polarization, not make it worse. As was well said around here recently: "We will not always agree – not all of us, not all of the time. But we should not hide our disagreements. We should embrace them. We have nothing to fear from honest differences honestly stated…I believe a greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us."
Again, saying we should be reducing polarization doesn’t mean we should be watering down conviction. Quite the contrary. We do not need fewer conviction politicians around here; we need more of them. We do not need more compromising of principles; we need clearer articulation and understanding of competing principles – so that we can actually make things work better, not merely paper over the vision deficit. 
We should be bored by lazy "politician speech," bored by knee-jerk partisan certainties on every small issue. We should primarily be doing the harder work of trying to understand competing positions on larger issues. Good teachers don’t shut down debate; they try to model Socratic seriousness by putting the best possible construction on arguments, even – and especially – if one doesn’t hold those positions. Our goal is not to attack strawmen – but to strengthen and clarify meaningful contests of ideas. 
Representative government requires civic reengagement. Our people need to know that we in this body are up to the task of leading during this time of nearly universal angst about whether this nation is on a path of decline. I think we can do better – and I want to labor with all who want to figure out how. 
Thank you, Mr. President.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November Birthdays

November 1,  Charles Toms IV
November 2 Cheryl Carper , Tonna Gilbert
November 3 Zora Yoder
 November 4, 1994 Garret Sharp
 November 5 Lori Derby
 November 6 Annette Spencer
November 8 Kerry Whipple
November 9 Donna Rose
November 10 Nina Garner
November 11 Jim Hoffman
Noveber 14,  Kevin Williams
 November 13  Heather Skarin
 November 14 Gerry Skarin , Peggy Kerr
 November 15 Josh Henderson, Jacob Tenhoff
 November 15 Leslie Frazier, Pat Myers ,
November 15 Heath Arterburn
November 16  Molly Coffey
November 18 Sue Magrin
November 19 Sandi Bostock
November 21 Rocky Zimmerman , Ray Mazour
November 22 Paul Wormuth , Adam Kort
November 23 George Mohlman,
November 24, Joshua Lowe, Katie Brenn, Stephanie Curtis
November 24 Leanne Ensign
November 26,  Donna Kort , Sonja Krueger, Eldon Kearney
November 27 Tammy Maupin Alber , Mark Stanley Petska , Bill Zimmerman
November 28, Vicki Alber
November 30,   Darren Gaede, Henry A. Seeman