January 2009


Prairie Fire Newspaper went on hiatus after the publication of the September 2015 issue. It may return one of these days but until then we will continue to host all of our archived content for your reading pleasure. Many of the articles have held up well over the years. Please contact us if you have any questions, thoughts, or an interest in helping return Prairie Fire to production. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you to all our readers, contributors, and supporters - the quality of Prairie Fire was a reflection of how many people it touched (touches).

Climate policy: From 'know-how' to 'do now'

By Herman E. Daly

Recent increased attention to global warming is very welcome. But much of it is misplaced.

We focus too much on complex climate models, which ask things like how far emissions will increase carbon dioxide concentration, how much that will raise tem­peratures, by when, with what consequences to climate and geography, and how likely new information will invalidate model results. Together these questions can paralyze us with uncertainty.

Exercise for the mind: The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNL

By Herb Howe

Just as there are many changes in one’s physical capabilities as one ages, so some cognitive abilities begin to decline as early as the 30s, while some others continue to grow. It is critical to recognize that there are tremendous individual differences, not only in the maximum level one’s abilities achieve in young adulthood but also in the speed with which cognitive capabilities decline in later adulthood. Given that caveat, vocabulary tends to increase until the mid-50s and is among the cognitive abilities most resistant to decline. Declines in speed in completing mental tasks, reasoning and memory loss generally occur at about the same rate. To put these changes in perspective, the average person in her or his 20s scores at about the 75th percentile on speed reasoning and memory tests. In contrast, people in their 70s score near the 20th percentile on these tasks.


“U.S.A., Inc.”
December 23, 1971

“Few things are growing faster down on the farm these days than corporate influence”—and—“Only 1 percent of the farms are incorporated.” Conflicting statements. Which to believe? The first is the opening sentence of an article in the Lincoln Sunday Journal and Star for Dec. 12, “Down on the Farm: Big Business” by Drummond Ayres Jr. of the New York Times. The second is a portion of a statement by Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz on “Meet the Press,” Sunday, Dec. 5.

The needful recession

Cartoon by Paul Fell

By Andrew C. (Skip) Hove Jr.

As December comes to a close, there is no longer any doubt or argument that the destruction of household wealth, the inevitable consequence of an unwinding of the housing bubble, and an orgy of debt of unprecedented and unparalleled proportions has triggered an intense and dangerous recession in consumer spending. This is the first consumer spending recession since the early 1990s and based on evidence that is piling up rapidly, this recession is destined to rival, if not exceed, in severity the worst consumer recessions in the last 60 years.

If a tree falls

By Robert Bateman

If a tree falls in the forest, who will hear it fall? More creatures than you can possibly imagine. In the forest itself—the tree’s immediate neighborhood—millions of individual living things will hear, or at least feel, the crash, and each tree that falls changes their world forever. Beyond the forest, the sound will be noticed by many others—the thousands of people who are paying attention to our forests and worrying about their fate. Some live so far away that you might wonder why they care, but they know there is reason for concern.

Understanding organized labor

By John Kretzschmar

Few Nebraskans have any real understanding of organized labor, and it’s not their fault. The history surrounding the evolution of the American labor movement is rarely taught in school, discussed around the dinner table or even described in media coverage of current events. Few of us could name our nation’s two large national labor organizations: The American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Change to Win. Fewer may know that our largest single union, the National Education Association, is a member of neither. Unions, like other institutions in the U.S., are human institutions, and their history is full of the frailties of human beings. But for all its faults, organized labor has been guided by some noble goals and ideals.

Sonny's Corner

By Dick Herman

It has never happened before.

It almost certainly will never happen again.


Calling it a fluke is hardly unreasonable. Calling it a rare confluence of circumstances in 2008 would, however, be reasonable, and certainly accurate.

“It” was the unprecedented general election triumph in Nebraska’s Second Congressional District (Douglas County and roughly the northeast half of neighboring Sarpy County) by Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee. An unofficial final count had Obama winning the district by 3,325 votes.

Immigration in Nebraska

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