Archive for April, 2008

State Legislative Tid Bit

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

I first read about this Nebraska state legislator last summer. He did something very creative. Made sure that there were no other types of legal executions besides the electric chair. He assumed that the electric chair would be eventually considering cruel and unusual punishment, which it was be Nebraska Supreme Court. Therefore, there is no way for the state of Nebraska to execute anyone.

Here is an article that appears in the NYT today about him. His ousting is a strike against term limits in my opinion. I am not exactly certain where I stand on capital punishment at the moment, but there is something to be said about having experienced legislators like Ernie Chambers.

Lincoln Journal
An Irascible Firebrand, Finally Quieted by Term Limits

LINCOLN, Neb. — The senior senator of Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature is going out just the way he came in nearly four decades ago: obstinately, and with a whole lot to say in his T-shirt and jeans.

It is time to retire from lawmaking, or so the new rules about term limits dictate.

“I have to remind people as they show great sadness that I’m not dying, I’m just getting out of the Legislature,” said the senator, Ernie Chambers, 70. “But a lot of people are going to be very happy when my absolute last day arrives. In fact, there will probably be so much joy in this corner of the world that it will be picked up on the Richter scale. I’m not liked at all.”

Liked or not, Mr. Chambers, a black, divorced, agnostic former barber from Omaha with posters of Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass decorating his office, managed to rise to an ultimate level of power in a mostly rural, white conservative state on little more than sheer determination to do so.

In many ways, he could be the model of the antipolitician: he does not like coalition-building, negotiating or even socializing. He belittles and berates his colleagues. His office does not use call waiting. His name is not on his locked door in the majestic Capitol building here, and visitors have been known to pound their fists numb trying to get an audience.

And he refuses to wear anything more formal than his Levi’s.

Yet, from the office of Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, on down, there is praise for Mr. Chambers as being one of the most effective elected officials in the state — one who is already a part of history books in the Nebraska schools. First elected in 1971 to represent the north side of Omaha, a minority district, he is the state’s only black senator and widely regarded as the dean of the body. That is, until now.

He is packing up, largely against his will. He firmly believes that term limits came about in an effort to end his admittedly pesky tenure.

“They mentioned my name and said we’ve got to get rid of him,” Mr. Chambers said in an interview, referring to the proponents of a petition drive for term limits. But on second thought, he added: “I wouldn’t have wanted to die on the floor. That would have given my enemies too much pleasure.”

Nonetheless, friends and beleaguered colleagues agree that the Nebraska Legislature is not going to be the same without him. An occasional opponent on the issues, Senator Don Priester, addressed Mr. Chambers in front of the entire body. “You taught me a lot of life lessons on this floor over my last 16 years,” Mr. Priester said, adding, “You have continually challenged, cajoled, and used stories to bring us out and to think, and to question whether or not we have practiced what we preach.”

Mr. Chambers is regarded as a master of process, procedure and the filibuster, and his power derived from being as much a bill-killer as law-maker. Some thought him a bully. He would filibuster anything he did not like unless concessions were made to appease him, or he might nitpick at the details of a bill until it fell apart under the weight of his scrutiny.

His tenure made him the senior member by a wide margin; the next-longest-serving senator has been in office about half as many years.

He took special interest in American Indians, poor urban blacks, small farmers and women’s rights. He was unbending in his opposition to the death penalty, nibbling away at it over the years and managing to secure bans for minors and those with mental difficulties.

In perhaps his biggest strategic victory, he opposed the Legislature’s switching from the electric chair to lethal injection as a means of execution, leaving Nebraska as the sole state with the chair as its only method of execution. In February, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled electrocution unconstitutional, effectively suspending executions in the state.

Whether Mr. Chambers is correct or not in his assessment of how term limits came to be, supporters of the law frequently mentioned him as a reason to vote for the state constitutional amendment. But he is not the only casualty. A large group of senators were forced out two years ago. By early next year, 15 other veterans will be gone, including Mr. Chambers.

“There’s nobody else they feared enough to get term limits for,” he said. “They’d get rid of everybody else to get rid of me.”

Regardless, it is a huge turnover in a body known for its slow deliberation and consistency. It is probably also one of the most intimate institutions, being the only one-house, nonpartisan legislature in the nation, and also the smallest with only 49 members. The Nebraska limits, which were approved by voters in 2000, bar senators from serving more than two consecutive four-year terms, but they can return after sitting out one term.

In the last days, any disapproval of Mr. Chambers or his tactics is well hidden. There was nothing but effusive praise everywhere.

There were flowers, even tears.

A lot of the memorializing and back-slapping was directed toward the one man who wanted none of it, Mr. Chambers.

“I feel no sentimentality, no nostalgia,” he said.

He fled the floor before the customary goodbyes began. He was not there when the body voted unanimously to name the judicial conference room in his honor or as more than a dozen of his colleagues offered personal testimonials about why he deserved the rare tribute.

On one of Mr. Chambers’s last days actually legislating, Mr. Heineman’s office called to invite him to be part of the governor’s escort procession onto the floor of the Legislature. Mr. Chambers’s answer was a resounding no.

“I don’t do things like that,” Mr. Chambers grumbled after the call. “No ceremonies. That’s not what I’m here about. I tell you, I’m a loner.”

Tired & Bogus Post

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

As I avoid my MA Thesis, you get a blog post.

Also in avoidance, I double checked when my Princeton health forms were due (thankfully not until June), and I came across my name tag from my Princeton visit.

At home on my wall are all my IDs from Kirkwood High School. My badge from GW’s Orientation is actually up there too. Also I have all of my YiG badge’s hanging with a few others….

On my wall in front my current desk little light with a chain. I clipped the name tag to this chain. The wall is fairly bare, and all the name tag has on is the Princeton logo and “Steven Rogers American Politics.”

In a quite bogus fashon, it is sort of symbolic of where my life is going in the next few months. A simple focus and my destination.

I am wrapping up two of the major stories of my life. My political staffing ambitions will likely come to a close on August 1st. I will have my “hopefully” good story and personal mark on it with DLCCWeb. GW wraps up in May with my MA Thesis and comprehensive exam. Also right now, I am taking donations for the site and a commemorative brick with “ SLU SIGN GUY” on it at the new arena, which will likely be the most permanent mark of other than memories.

Basically, I keep myself busy, but while extremely busy now, a lot of my busyness will end in about 3 months. For the first time, I will be unemployed or not actively in school since I graduated high school. I could pontificate about how scary this is, or how bizarre it is, but you know what….I’m looking forward to it and thats pretty great.

Protected: The Decision

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

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Princeton University

Monday, April 14th, 2008

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The decision was tough, but it is the one I am most comfortable with.

GMail Threads

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

GMail threads when using outlook start to struggle after 100 messages. Just sayin’