Saturday, July 23, 2005

Warning: Big Brother is watching you

If you haven’t read George Orwell’s 1984 or Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, you might want to pick up a copy. These two books paint a picture that is eerily similar to what is going on today.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to extend parts of the US Patriot Act that will expire at the end of this year. Critics of the bill said that it does not provide enough protection for civil liberties, but Republicans used the emotionally charged London bombings as justification for the bill’s passage.

While the bill is quite complicated, NPR gives a brief description and a “pro” and a “con” of each of the 16 controversial provisions.

Even though 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale are fiction, the US Patriot Act is anything but.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Why would Hoeven listen to Rove?

With the ongoing investigation into "Plamegate," let me say a few things that I've learned about Karl Rove: He will stop at nothing to take out another political candidate. He's always played dirty and "Plamegate" is no exception.

There is an LA Times article from last weekend (which conveniently didn’t get widely reported) shows just how low Karl Rove is willing to sink to try to destroy a political opponent:

Prosecutors investigating whether administration officials illegally leaked the identity of Wilson's wife, a CIA officer who had worked undercover, have been told that Bush's top political strategist, Karl Rove, and Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, were especially intent on undercutting Wilson's credibility, according to people familiar with the inquiry. Although lower-level White House staffers typically handle most contacts with the media, Rove and Libby began personally communicating with reporters about Wilson, prosecutors were told.
A source directly familiar with information provided to prosecutors said Rove's interest was so strong that it prompted questions in the White House. When asked at one point why he was pursuing the diplomat so aggressively, Rove reportedly responded: "He's a Democrat."

So Rove was willing to expose a CIA operative with noc status because her husband - a respected diplomat - had the balls to stand up and speak out against the Bush administration. And the best part is that Rove actually justified this by noting that Wilson is a Democrat (even though he contributed $1000 to President Bush’s 2000 campaign).

And let's not forget back in 1994 when Rove was running the campaign of an Alabama Supreme Court candidate, he initiated a whisper campaign that labeled his opponent, a respected incumbent judge, a pedophile. Yep, that's classy.

Rove is the ultimate political hit man, and now the White House is covering up his role in the "Plamegate."

Will be there soon be a "Hoevengate?" Why was Governor Hoeven meeting with Rove last month? He says it was to discuss Devil’s Lake (but now the Administration is sandbagging our state on that), but frankly that’s BS.

Karl Rove doesn’t do Devils Lake. Karl Rove does politics.

As the conservative blog Say Anything noted, “Gov. Hoeven is traveling all the way to D.C. to talk to the GOP’s number one political strategist about floods? I’m not buying it. Hoeven is meeting with Rove to discuss strategy for 2006.”

Does this mean Hoeven is planning on brining Rove style dirty tricks to our state? We’ve already seen GOP chairman Ken Karls start lobbing ridiculous smears. What can we expect next? Our state has a tradition of high-minded, civil campaigns. We don't want a negative campaign in our state.

Karl Rove should be the last person our Governor takes advice from. Just say no to Karl Rove.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

If Conrad is Batman, is Thune the Joker?

If Conrad is Batman, is Thune the Joker?

With the Batman Begins movie in theaters, I just had to make the analogy.

Let me mention again the great news regarding the Grand Forks AFB. As the leader of the delegation's effort to save GFAFB, Conrad deserves a big thank you for all of his hard work. When the GFAFB saw trouble, they sent the signal and Conrad began the rescue efforts.

Yesterday’s GF Herald noted that incoming Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley also fought hard for Grand Forks:

“The incoming chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force sounded like a big fan of the Grand Forks base … Lt. Gen. Michael Moseley was one of several military leaders who … praised the Grand Forks facility. Moseley was expansive, even redundant, reiterating the Pentagon's plan to send a new mission of unmanned aerial vehicles to Grand Forks, while offering hope that the plan to transfer out the 50 KC-135 air refueling tankers, along with 2,200 military personnel, might change in a few years.”

Compare this to Moseley’s lack of enthusiasm for Ellsworth AFB in SD:

“Neither Moseley, nor any other Pentagon official, gave any such slack Monday to Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, S.D. When BRAC panelists wondered by Ellsworth, once considered a top bomber base, no longer was … Moseley, in short comments, said the world had changed and that closing the South Dakota base made strategic and economic sense.”

There is no doubt that Conrad’s long-running and strong relationship with the Air Force paid off for GFAFB here. Remember, Ellsworth was once a candidate for the UAVs too, and they were trying to set up a Grand Forks vs. Ellsworth showdown for them. We saw yesterday who won that.

From a Grand Forks Herald article in June:

“The Pentagon slated Ellsworth …for closure on its May 13 BRAC list, although five years ago it named Ellsworth one possible bedding site for unmanned aerial vehicles. That's a mission the Pentagon now wants to hand to Grand Forks. The new mission would have brought 1,123 jobs and $171 million a year to the Rapid City area, but the Pentagon decided to base the drones at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Efforts to revive the issue at Ellsworth died with the Department of Defense decision to headquarter the UAVs in California, Rampelberg said. But Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., didn't give up. He picked up where other base communities left off and worked hard to revive the issue and bring an emerging branch of the operation to Grand Forks, Rampelberg said. ‘I know those guys in North Dakota have done a great job, and I have been watching them over the years,’ he said.”

Of course, John Thune told South Dakota voters as a Freshman Senator he'd "have the President's ear" he would be better positioned to save the base than 25 year political veteran Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle. We saw yesterday how much that matters:

Thune Claimed Relationship with Bush Would Keep Ellsworth Open. During an appearance with Senator Allen at Ellsworth Air Force base, Thune said his close relationship with President Bush would keep the base off the closure list. Thune said, “It puts Ellsworth in a lot stronger position than having someone who's going to be in the minority and someone who doesn't have a relationship with the president of the U.S.” (AP, 4/16/2004)

Thune Promised to Make Ellsworth a Priority, Touted Bush Relationship. In an op-ed on the economy, Thune said he would work to keep Ellsworth off the 2005 base closure list. Thune said he would work closely with Bush to do so, while also saying Daschle merely “claims to have worked with President Clinton in 1995 to keep Ellsworth from closing.” (John Thune Op-Ed, Rapid City Journal, 4/24/2004)

Thune Claimed He Was in a Better Position to Save Ellsworth than Daschle. During the KSFY/KOTA candidate debate, John Thune claimed that as a Republican, he was in a better position to help protect Ellsworth Air Force Base than Democratic Leader Tom Daschle. Thune said, "I think we have got to have somebody that has a relationship with the President of the United States, can work constructively across party lines in the congress to get this done if we're going save Ellsworth." (KSFY/KOTA debate 10-17-2004)

Thune Claimed Having an All-Democratic Delegation Would Hurt Ellsworth. According to the Rapid City Journal, Thune “said an all-Democratic congressional delegation would have little political influence if President Bush is elected to a second term.” (Rapid City Journal, 10/27/2004)

In the world of Batman, Thune is the Joker. Too bad nobody in South Dakota is laughing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Did Hoeven sell us out?

In June, the Canadians told us that the White House's "political muscle" was keeping the Devils Lake outlet from being completed. Canadian Environmental Minister Stephanie Dion maintained Thursday the White House's political muscle is keeping the talks going. "We have assurances that as long as we have this process with the council from the White House, the outlet will not be opened." (Winnipeg Free Press, 6/17/05)

As of July 1, the Bush Administration still failed to take a position. With all the rain, the lake's water level is on the rise again.

Hoeven met with Rove last month to discuss Devils Lake. Did he sell us out for their support for his Senate bid?

The Budget: Who gets credit?

Republicans are bragging that the budget deficit has come in $94 billion less than expected. Yes, this is acutally a good thing. And, yes, while this is great news, this isn't because of successful Bush economic policies, as the Republicans would like you to believe.

In fact, most of the good news is due to an increase in the collection of corporate taxes. Yep, that's right. Corporate Taxes. While taxes may not be very interesting, just hear me out.

As CFO.com says that because of a tougher IRS, collected corporate taxes climbed nearly 44 percent in 2004, to $189.4 billion. Those increased collections could help narrow this year's budget deficit by as much as $90 billion (to $325 billion).

The Bush Administration gives much of the credit to economic growth resulting from the president's massive first-term tax cuts, but experts say that other things like the one-year tax "pardon" which is designed to encourage U.S. corporations to send back money they earned abroad.

So we see that the good news isn't due to any changes in our economic outlook, it's due to one-time changes and a tougher IRS. Speaking of which, improved IRS enforcement has long been a key goal of Senator Conrad's.

Unfortunately, this good news won't last.

Here's why: At the end of the day the Congressional Budget Office in D.C. warns that large deficits after 2008 will likely be unchanged.

Republicans throw political grenades

Unfortunately, some Republicans here at home would rather throw political grenades at Conrad and Dorgan than work together to improve our state and country. ND GOP chair Ken Karls seems to be on a rampage lately, lamely trying to distort Conrad and Dorgan’s record on Social Security and judges. The Fargo Forum calls him on it:

Ken Karls leveled a couple of cheap shots at Conrad and Dorgan by suggesting they were guilty of ‘partisan shots and name-calling.’ Karls said they should give the president's nominee ‘a serious, dignified examination.’ If Karls had been paying attention, he would know that's exactly what the senators are doing. Indeed, President Bush himself invited the North Dakota Democrats to consult with him. We suspect the president believes Conrad and Dorgan will be ‘serious’ and ‘dignified’ in their discussions with him and his advisers… If [Karls] wants a serious and dignified debate about a high court nominee, he should start with himself.

Exactly.

Where does Hoeven stand on social security?

As I was surfing the net, I found my favorite Republican blog, which criticized Kathleen Vidoloff’s letter to the editor on social security. Her letter states several good points. As she said, Former Governor Ed Schafer supports the Bush plan. Yet our current Governor continues to dodge the question and will not take a stand. Why won’t he say what he stands for? Did Karl Rove suggest anything to Hoeven during his recent "official business" trip to D.C.?

There was also a recent article published by the Americans United to Protect Social Security which stated that a typical North Dakotan worker will suffer a $84,946 cut in Social Security benefits.

“We knew the President’s plan was bad, but until this report, we had no idea how disastrous the president’s combined plan for benefit cuts and Privatization would be on the typical North Dakota worker,” Morrison said. “This is why Senator Conrad and Congressman Pomeroy taking a stand opposing President Bush’s Privatization plan to privatize Social Security and slash benefits for middle-class families is important.”

Grand Forks off base closing list

Thanks to the hard work of our Congressional Delegation, the BRAC commission voted today to keep Grand Forks Air Force Base off the closure list. This is great news for our state's economy.
Senator Conrad has continually worked to help keep Grand Forks AFB off the closure list. In the Herald Ellsworth AFB retention committee chair Bruce Rampelberg recently praised Conrad’s role in fighting for Grand Forks.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Hoeven is an “empty suit” on job creation

A year ago, Governor Hoeven held a press conference to announce that Verifications Inc., of Maple Grove, Mn., was expanding to Mandan, N.D., with as many as 250 jobs. Hoeven is quoted in the Bismarck Mandan Development Association newsletter of July 28, 2004 as saying, “Verifications Inc. is a wonderful example of a flourishing company that has chosen to expand operations in North Dakota over neighboring states…” http://www.bmda.org/Newsletter/upload/July2004.pdf

But on July 1, 2005, the Bismarck Tribune ran a story stating that Verifications Inc. has apparently decided not to follow up on its promise to Mandan, and instead has sent these jobs to Mitchell, S.D. The Tribune, however, failed to follow up and ask Hoeven for comment. http://www.bismarcktribune.com/articles/2005/07/01/news/local/nws02.txt

Good job, Governor Hoeven! North Dakotans can count on you to be there to announce the good news, but you can slink away when it doesn’t pan out. These actions clearly show how you are ineffective as a job creator. You're all sizzle, but no steak.

Our own governor will cross the state on taxpayer money to announce the creation of a job to install stop signs, but really isn’t effective when the rubber hits the road. What did Hoeven do to keep Verifications Inc. to its promise? Nothing.

I would like to know if the Verifications announcement was merely a pre-election ploy for the upcoming 2006 U.S. Senate campaign. Was it ever even real?

Hoeven even mentioned Verifications Inc. in his 2005 State of the State address as an example of good North Dakota economic development. Talk about counting your chickens before they hatch.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Bush Approval Rating Drops, Leafy Spurge for Hoeven

While ND's Senators earn high approval rating from the state, Bush's approval rating is steadily dropping (CNN/Gallup, CBS/NYT, WP/ABC, Pewf, AP/IPSOS). Is this because he is too busy trying to recruit Republican Governor John Hoeven to run for U.S. Senate against Senator Conrad?

I’d like to thank the Fargo Forum for giving Hoeven a leafy spurge about his “official business” trip to Washington, D.C., which coincided with his political business. By the way, as ND taxpayers, we paid for his “official business” trip to D.C. During his “official business” trip, he met with more than just the President, he met with the White House’s political strategist Karl Rove. As many Americans may know, Karl Rove is likely to have discussed more than just ND’s “official business.”

ND Speaks: Conrad earns high approval rating

Polls show that Senator Kent Conrad is the nation’s 2nd favorite Senator! Check out Survey USA. Scroll down to the third chart that shows Senator Conrad's rank as the nation's 2nd favorite Senator. Senator Conrad's approval rating is soaring at a record 71%! But this is no surprise to me and also not to the Fargo Forum. Senator Byron Dorgan also ranked in the top ten!
Our Congressmen's popularity was clearly shown in the '04 elections as Senator Dorgan swept the state by winning in a landslide reelection against Republican "challenger" Mike Liffrig. Dorgan won with 68% of the votes. Representative Earl Pomeroy also won his reelection bid against Republican challenger Duane Sand with 60% of the votes (http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/ND/).