Nebraska Feed

Nebraska missing out

A thorough report in yesterday's World-Herald about the major financial gains that Nebraska's missing out on by our failure to expand Medicaid.

A World-Herald analysis shows that hospitals in states that have accepted the federal funds are seeing major drops in uninsured patients and corresponding reductions in the cost of caring for those who can’t or won’t pay. Health care finance experts say much of those costs historically have been passed on to those with insurance as a kind of hidden tax.

Hospital stays for the uninsured have fallen by almost two-thirds in expansion states. In neighboring Iowa, an expansion state, the cost of caring for non-paying patients has fallen by almost 40 percent.

The analysis also found job growth in health care has been higher in Medicaid expansion states. And personal bankruptcies, which frequently can be caused by a pile of big medical bills, also have dropped most in states that expanded Medicaid.


Article on ruling

Reading today's Omaha World-Herald article on Judge Bataillon's ruling, there was something I really liked and a paragraph that was factually incorrect.

I was pleased that the article opened with the judge's primary concern--children of same-sex families.  For the last two years this has become a staple of the rulings (which it appears that our opponents never actually read).  This section was my favorite part of the ruling.

But then the article has a paragraph full of factual errors.  Here is the paragraph:

Bataillon struck down the state’s gay marriage ban Monday but stayed the implementation of his order for a week to give the state time to appeal.

Actually, Judge Bataillon rejected the state's motion for a stay.  He did declare when his ruling would go into effect.  It is often the case that a ruling does not go into effect immediately in order to give people time to prepare for implementation, which is what the judge did.  Here is the relevant paragraph from the ruling:

Because the standards for staying the injunction mirror the standards for issuing the injunction, the court's findings of likely success and severe irreparable harm make the court disinclined to stay the injunction. For the reasons stated herein and in the court's denial of an earlier motion for a stay, the court finds the State's oral motion for a stay should be denied.18 However, in an effort to assuage the State's concerns with respect to administrative turmoil, the court will delay the effective date of the injunction.

Note that he rejected the stay.  And unlike the World-Herald article's misleading paragraph, he did not do it in order to give the state time to appeal.

Also, a footnote explains why he did not grant a stay: "That stays have been granted in other cases in this Circuit pending appeal is of no consequence to this determination because those cases did not involve any showing of the sort of irreparable harm these plaintiffs (especially the Waters family) will suffer."


Bataillon's Ruling

The best part of Judge Bataillon's ruling that Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional is this:

To the extent the State's position is that it has an interest in promoting family stability only for those children who are being raised by both of their biological parents, the notion that some children should receive fewer legal protections than others based on the circumstances of their birth is not only irrational—it is constitutionally repugnant.

The conclusion of the ruling deserves to be quoted as well:

Nebraska's “Defense of Marriage" Constitutional Amendment, Section 29, is an unabashedly gender-specific infringement of the equal rights of its citizens. The State primarily offers as its rational basis for this gender-specific discrimination the encouragement of biological family units. The essence of this rationale has been rejected by most courts and by no less than the Supreme Court. With the advent of modern science and modern adoption laws, same sex couples can and do responsibly raise children. Unfortunately, this law inhibits their commendable efforts.

For the majority of married couples, those without children in the home, marriage is a legal and emotional commitment to the welfare of their partner. The State clearly has the right to encourage couples to marry and provide support for one another. However, those laws must be enforced equally and without respect to gender.

It is time to bring this unequal provision to an end.


Landline

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, when will this book be turned into a film that becomes a Christmas classic? That was the question I had after finishing it during the early morning insomniac hours.

Rowell does have a way of capturing universal aspects of our relationships (Eleanor and Park did that well). Her characters and writing are funny as well.

This is not a sophisticated book, but it didn't need to be. It was an enjoyable read.

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Minimum wage, etc.

An interesting report on Bloomberg news suggesting that the Democratic party can achieve some of its policy aims by unbundling them and running them as initiatives, as this year's success of the minimum wage votes demonstrates.  

This report also informs you that, adjusted for cost of living, Nebraska will have the highest real minimum wage in the country!


Favourite Place in Autumn

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Today I spent the afternoon at my favourite place to be in the autumn in Omaha.  It is at Memorial Park, on a warm day, when the leaves are at prime color.  There is a spot where you can sit under trees with bright yellow, red, and orange leaves and bath in the colored sunlight.  The view is over the west lawn toward the university and the Catholic school, with their towers in site.  

Our second autumn here, on a really nice day, I went out there and found this spot and enjoyed an afternoon drinking wine and reading The Varieties of Religious Experience.  I've tried to do the same every year, but the weather doesn't always cooperate (we don't always get a warm, dry, clear, sunny day when the leaves are at their prime).  

But this year, today, was the best so far.  

This is a good experience to have in the autumn, because winter is coming, and this lovely memory will help to buoy my spirits through it.


Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked it for its sense of humour. For the sharp wit and sarcasm. I liked it for nostalgic reasons, as it recalls some aspects of my own youth, as I'm almost the same age as the protagonists. I liked it because the chapter about the first time they held hands is exactly how it felt the first time I held hands with someone.

Though I never grew tired of their adolescent perspectives, there were times I sorta laughed at them and not with them. And sometimes I wondered at their motivations, only to recall that at 16 those would be their motivations.

It was an enjoyable read, that lived up to its hype.

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The Meaning of Names

The Meaning of NamesThe Meaning of Names by Karen Gettert Shoemaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is a literary renaissance occuring in Nebraska, with the likes of best-selling authors Rainbow Rowell and Timothy Schaffert. Karen Shoemaker's novel is a worthy contribution to this lively literary community.

The Meaning of Names was selected for this year's Omaha Reads book. It is set in Nebraska, almost a century ago, after America enters World War One. The story focuses on Gerda Vogel and Dr. Ed Gannoway. Through Gerda we experience the life of a farmers wife living on the edge of the Sandhills, but, more importantly, we experience the discrimination faced by German-Americans from neighbors who once trusted them. Through Dr. Gannoway, we focus on his struggles as a man of science with the dominant Catholic faith in his community, embodied by the new priest Father Jungels, and then the doctor's fight against the influenza which ravages the county.

Shoemaker's story, setting, and characters are all engaging, including the rich supporting characters like the club-footed driver honored to assist the doctor, the German father who resists any emotion but anger, and the father grieving over the death of his soldier son. And I enjoyed Shoemaker's language. Here is an evocative example of life on the Plains: "'A lazy wind,' Miranda said when they stepped out onto the road. 'Too lazy to go around you so it goes right through you.'"

I recommend this well-written, engaging story, and not just to Nebraskans.

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Maha 2014

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Of course the morning of the day at which I'm going to attend a rock festival, I read an essay by Chuck Klosterman on how rock and pop and hip-hop are really about teenagers and their tastes.  There can be great music that adults listen to, but whatever is relevant at any given time is what the kids are listening to.  Ouch.  Thanks for the reminder that I'm forty.

It had been nine years since I'd attended a festival.  That was the last time I attended the Austin City Limits Music Festival (when I saw this band I'd never heard of before called, at that time The Arcade Fire).  Attending ACL involves preparation.  For one thing, it is three days long.  Second, it is (or at least was when I attended) roasting hot.  So on Saturday morning, I kept having to remind myself that I was planning for a reasonably nice afternoon and evening Omaha, not an unpleasant (weather-wise) three days in Zilker Park.  

That said, my ACL training came in handy.  For one thing, I was surprised by how few Omahans wore hats.  Anyone without a hat at ACL would be pepto bismol pink by the end of the first day and peeling layers of skin halfway through the next.  Note: I did not wear my straw, beachcomber cowboy hat that I purchased in Galveston and generally wear to something like this.  That seemed to "Texan."  I was also wearing a longsleeve linen shirt.  Some guy in a sweat-soaked cotten t-shirt said, "That shirt looks too hot.  Is it?"  I looked incredulously at him, "It's linen and does much better in the heat than your cotton shirt."  Also essential--a bandana to protect the back of the neck from sunburn (bonus: it prevents the sweat from running down your neck).  And I had the umbrella that has been in my chair bag since I vowed after ACL 2004 never to attend one of these things again without that protection.  I did comment to more than one person that this Omaha crowd didn't seem adequately dressed or prepared for sitting outside all day.

And we missed the intense early heat.  I had a church gig and didn't arrive till around 4.  

Lack of preparation was made up for in overall politeness.  Nothing like the obnoxiousness of ACL 2005, about which I blogged here in my rules on Festival Etiquette (which, I must say, is one of the best blog posts I've written.  Glad to get a chance to highlight it again).  

Besides the polite people, the Maha Festival impressed with its bathrooms.  They were the nicest and cleanest port-o-potties I've ever experienced.  #NebraskaNice

I enjoyed the music too.  Here's who we saw: The Both (great to see Aimee Mann), The Envy Corps, Local Natives, Icky Blossoms, The Head and the Heart, and Death Cab for Cutie (which reading my ACL blogs, I'm reminded that I saw them in 2005).  I enjoyed at least a little bit from each of these performances.  The Envy Corps I was unfamiliar with; I want to explore their music a little further.  The Icky Blossoms set was a lot of fun.  I enjoyed singing along to The Head and the Heart songs I knew.  

This festival was filled with friends and acquaintances, so everytime I went for food or to the NebraskaNice port-o-potties, I ran into someone to chat with.

One more thing.  I do like that the beer guys walked around with backpacks serving beer.  That was new from a decade ago.  We are evolving as a species.

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For walks down memory lane:

  • Here is my blogpost on ACL 2004 "Wilco at Sunset."  Besides Wilco, the bands included Sheryl Crow, The Pixies, Elvis Costello, and Ben Harper.
  • Here is my post on ACL 2005 "Dust Bowl."  Among the bands were Coldplay, Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, Wilco (again), and Oasis.
  • Here, again, is the funny post on "Festival Etiquette."
  • And here is a 2011 post on the Wilco album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot as part of my "Post 9/11 Music" series in which I remembered ths significance of the two Wilco performances at ACL.  

Sandhill Cranes

Sometime before our first spring here in Omaha, we started hearing about the Sandhill Crane migration.  That it was a must see.  That it was not only one of the great natural wonders, but often evoked a profound spiritual experience.  There are, even, churches here who host annual retreats to watch and reflect upon the crane migration.  The annual event also gets lots of local media coverage.

So, every spring, I've wanted to go.  But this always falls around Lent and Easter and not the best time for me to get away.  Everyone always recommended going for sunset, spending the night in Kearney, and then catching the sunrise.  It never seemed to work out.

This year, I was determined to make it work.  Discussing this one day with friends, Michael Heller suggested that instead of spending the night, that we simply go one morning for the dawn activities.  It was only about 2 1/2 hours away, and we could leave in the middle of the night to get there on time.  This I could make work, particularly on a Friday when I am off of work.

This Friday, Michael, his husband John, and I went.  We left at 2:30 a.m.  It was snowing.  When I picked them up, I said, "Boy, we sure do know how to pick them."  

Sandhill Crane Migration 002

Michael guided us to an exit with a public viewing area, which we had some trouble finding in the dark of night.  Along the way, we saw some of the organized, paid tour locations, including one with red lights, which actually looked kinda creepy.

We stayed in the car, waiting for a little more light on the horizon before venturing out into the cold.  When we finally did, it was so cold and windy, that we only stayed out for a while before heading back to the car to again wait for more light.

Before the sun rises, the birds begin to stir and make noises.  Soon, what was just a quiet squawk gets louder and louder as more join the chorus.  As the light dawned, we realized that on the island in front of us there were probably thousands  of birds, which had only a few minutes ago simply looked like a dark spot.  They began to stir and fly around.  Many, which were west of us, fly overhead.

Sandhill Crane Migration 016

It is funny watching them land, because of the way their legs awkwardly dangle as they approach the ground.

Sandhill Crane Migration 050

After a while, we decided to drive down the road and look for another vantage point.  We found a good one and spent quite a bit of time there.  Twice we saw big swarms (a better descriptor than flocks) of birds.  Thousands of them flying this way and that.

Sandhill Crane Migration 036

Eventually, we'd enjoyed enough, and the birds were starting to settle down into the fields.  So, we drove along the dirt road till the next bridge crossing back over the Platte, before heading on into Grand Island for breakfast.