Thursday, August 31, 2006

It's long, but it's a must read

The demonization of dissent is tiring to me. Recently, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld carried on the political tradition of using ad hominem attacks against those who dissent.

Read his speech here.

I have no false image that this tactic is reserved to only Republicans. No, Democrats have been guilty of this poor behavior. But this administration has been particularly vehement in labeling dissenters as traitors.

It's one thing to agree with the Bush administration's policies, it's another to agree with their "below the belt" tactics of demonizing the alternative view. True learning and understanding can only occur in an environment that is safe and welcome.

Keith Olbermann recently wrote a piece about Rumsfeld's speech that is stirring. He emphasizes the importance of respectfully listening to the minority opinion and to beware of arrogance. To watch it, follow this link. The link also includes the full text of broadcast.

Jackie Groves Twilegar

  • This morning I had the pleasure and honor to sit with
    Jackie Groves Twilegar and discuss her campaign. Jackie is running for State Controller. I have been impressed with Jackie since I heard her speak at a lunch for her campaign during the Democratic Convention in June in Idaho Falls.

    Before I begin, I want to give a quick overview of what the position of
    Controller entails:

    -Handle the state's accounting and annual financial report.
    -Manage the payroll for over 26,000 state employees and pay all the state's bills.
    -Oversee the State Computer Services Center and data processing for most state agencies.
    -Hold a seat on the Land Board responsible for stewardship of Idaho's public lands benefiting public education.

    What is impressive about Jackie is not only her education and experience, but her life story. Jackie exudes integrity and the type of values Idahoans value-family, faith, and community.

    After Jackie was widowed and had two children to take care of, she created a business that allowed her to work from home so she could still take care of her children. While pursuing her MBA, she worked two jobs to put herself through school. Jackie has served her community by being active in schools and her church as well as participating in volunteer work.

    Many candidates talk a good game and they make themselves sound impressive in person, on tv, the radio, and through their campaign literature, but the best way to really gauge a candidate is not by the words they speak, but the actions they take. Jackie's actions demonstrate leadership, intergriy, and strength.

    One last thing I wanted to touch on is something that goes beyond partisanship. As a Democrat, I want to see Democrats elected. But more than seeing Democrats get elected, I want QUALIFIED people to get elected, whether Democrat or Republican. When someone who is not qualified gets elected, I feel it reflects poorly on the party itself. I refuse to elect Democrats to office who lack the qualifications needed to properly, effectively, and efficiently serve the people.

    Jackie is the only candidate for Controller who is qualified for the position. Vote for Jackie Groves Twilegar on November 7th and show candidates that Idahoans elect qualified people, whether Democrat or Republican.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Science and technology

This Friday, Gov. Jim Risch will try and pass his special interest tax shift during an expensive special session of the Idaho Legislature.

The tax shift would essential give an 18% tax break for all property owners, while at the same time raising the sales tax by 1 percentage point or 20%. This means big businesses get a break, and homeowners get the shaft.

This disturbs me on so many levels.

In Idaho, as in many other states, property tax goes to pay for education. So, under this new tax plan, financing education in Idaho would put a greater demand on sales tax.

Idaho has some of the lowest tax burden in the U.S.
Idaho has some of the lowest paying jobs in the U.S.
Idaho is one of the worst educated states in the U.S.
Idaho's tech industry is almost non-existent with the exception of Idaho National Laboratories, Micron and HP.
There are 140+ employees in Idaho government who work to assist agriculture based business. There is 1 employee dedicated to promoting science and technology.

Why do I bring all of this up? I mention these things because we should be paying more into education in Idaho! Instead, we tout our beautiful state as the state where businesses can come to use up our water, air, and land, but pay the lowest taxes. Not only that, but they don't have to pay their employees worth squat either.

Even with our ridiculously low tax burden, we still don't attract high tech industries because we don't generate a populace smart enough to work in those industries.

Under the proposed Democratic tax plan, which Gov. Risch refuses to consider, only homeowners would receive a property tax break. Under the Democratic plan, homeowners would see a larger break than under the Republican plan. Under the Democratic plan, school funding would be secure.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

GOP pays to sign up recruits

My last few blogs have been anti-Republican themed. After this post, I'll move to more pro-Democrat type posts.

Blake Roberts, a regular contributer to this blog sent me the article which is listed after these comments.

The story is basically about how the GOP in Arizona are is paying 10 dollars a head to register folks to vote as Republicans. While I recognize dirty tactics are probably used in both parties, I have to come out against this tactic. Paying people to register is only one step away from paying people to vote a certain way.

This seems to me to be counteractive to the spirit behind democracy.
East Valley Tribune

The Arizona Republican Party has put a bounty on the heads of voters this year - and their hired guns are cashing in. Republicans are spending $10 for every person GOP organizations and paid strategists recruit to join the party as it looks to increase its registration edge over Democrats. So far this year, the GOP has doled out more than $300,000 to register nearly 22,000 new members, said Matt Salmon, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party.

Although party officials have characterized the effort as a way for the state party to financially help local GOP organizations, it's been the political operatives that have really benefited.

Salmon said nearly two-thirds of all the money spent has gone to political operatives like noted Republican strategist Nathan Sproul.

Sproul, who is playing a major role on high-profile campaigns such as Len Munsil's gubernatorial race and the effort to ban gay marriages, was unavailable for comment late Friday.

But Salmon said Sproul - who was hired for similar work in the past - was the only professional he was aware of hired by the party to boost registration numbers, which he believes was necessary.

"Had we not done this, I really think we would have been overtaken by the Democrats," he said referring to state registration numbers. "And studies show that if you register someone, they will vote that year."

The latest figures from the Secretary of State's Office show there were 1,042,420 Republicans and 890,861 Democrats registered.

But with less than 82 days left until the November general election, the GOP has upped the ante for new members. About two weeks ago, it started offering $10 a head for every new voter brought into the party. That's up from $2 when the party started its efforts in the spring.

But that doesn't mean anyone who successfully recruits a new member will be paid.

Garrick Taylor, a spokesman for the Republican Party, said only official GOP organizations like legislative districts or Republican clubs can receive the money.

"We're not going to be giving money to organizations called 'Republicans for Janet Napolitano,' " he said. However, he did say they are talking about paying individuals who recruit members.

Taylor also rejected any notion that the strategy of paying professionals to register members was a sign the party is in trouble. The money is a way to drive local Republican groups into the streets and increase the size of the party during a pivotal election year, he said.

This year Republicans are trying to unseat popular Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, as well as defend a U.S. Senate seat held by Jon Kyl from his well-funded challenger Jim Pederson.

Michael Fries, who is in charge of the Democrats' campaign efforts, said his party doesn't hire professionals to recruit new members. He said volunteers are the ones who recruit new members.

Fries also said he wasn't concerned by the concentrated effort of Republicans to increase their edge in registration.

"This is a campaign about talking to voters day in and day out," he said. "(Republicans) are trying to come up with a strategy that works because they don't have a good message."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Church endorsement

I was exploring the Church website when I, again, came across the following statement:

"Candidates for public office should not imply that their candidacy is endorsed by the Church or its leaders, and Church leaders and members should avoid statements or conduct that may be interpreted as Church endorsement of any political party, political platform, or candidate. In addition, members who hold public office should not give the impression they represent the Church as they work for solutions to social problems."

Bart Marcois, a former Bush official and member of the Church, said the political homogeny among church members negatively effects the Church's political influence.

This also causes me to recall a recent statement from the Church that said, "Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of all major political parties."

Not to mention the many statements by various Church leaders that one can be a worthy member of the Church and a Democrat.

I bring all of this up partly to justify my party. But, I mostly bring it up because I have found that many Republicans justify their political party based upon their interpretation of the teachings of the Church.

This is in direct violation of the Church's statement asking us to, "...avoid statements or conduct that may be interpreted as Church endorsement of any political party, political platform, or candidate."

One positive, and admirable example is Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho. He's a member of the Church and he refuses to connect his decisions with the Church. In fact, if you call his office, they have a statement prepared about his feelings about the seperation of Church and state, and his belief that his politics are not a characterization of his faithfulness.

I also ask Democrats to stay away from using faith as a justification for thier political leanings. For the benefit of the Church, we should try our hardest to keep politics with politics, and faith with Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Judge nixes warrantless wiretapping

The AP today reported that a federal judge has ruled the NSA's wiretapping program unconstitutional.

I have conflicting feelings on this.

On the one hand, I don't feel government should be expanding itself to the point where it monitors our phone calls. Yet, on the other, I have to admit that it is probably an effective method of finding and preventing terrorists and terrorism domestically and abroad.

I think that part of the program that bothers me most is the data-mining. Supposedly, the program operates by having criteria entered into a computer that would then search for suspicious business. This kind of behavior smells of "police-state" activity.

Like I said, I feel conflicted. I believe when it comes to terrorism, the federal government is the best way to prevent and protect. But, I'm not sure if giving up basic rights is worth it. Will I sacrifice safety for principle, or principle for safety?

It's probably not even as simple as that.

More stories about NSA wiretapping can be found here and here.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Voters must beware of Republicans' terrorism trap

by Susan Estrich


This is not about the war in Iraq.

It has nothing to do with Joe Lieberman.

This is the Republican trap.

Don’t fall in.

“They have tried to keep it together -- they have to make it one in people’s minds in order to cover the strategic error of Iraq,” says James Webb, Democratic Senate candidate from Virginia, and former member of the Reagan administration.

From the very beginning, the Republican slip of hand has been to convince people that the war in Iraq was the answer to 9/11.

It wasn’t. It isn’t. It never was.

It isn’t the answer to British hijackers either.

This really has nothing to do with the war in Iraq. It needs to be said over and over.

It’s the distraction from focusing on airline safety, on Usama bin Laden, on America’s true enemies. It’s one of the reasons we are so hated around the world.

“The war in Iraq had nothing to do with the war against international terrorism, or very little to do with the war on terrorism,” Webb says in interviews. “It has distracted our attention, it has pulled our forces in, and we are now in a situation where we have 135,000 on the ground, which affects our ability to do a lot of things that we would be able to do otherwise.”

Being anti-war has nothing to do with being soft-on-terrorism or ready to lead the world in dangerous times.

Being anti-war means having the resources we need to fight terrorism effectively.

No party is in favor of taking bombs on airplanes. As to whether either party is better at keeping them off, we are likely to hear more about that than we care to.

The Republicans have only one minor advantage left in the polls. They are now trailing on everything – starting with the war in Iraq, and then continuing on with the economy, the environment, health care, foreign policy-- in some cases well into the double digits-- with the only exception being terrorism. And their lead on terrorism is quite small.

So what do you do when you’re leading on exactly one issue?

What do you do when you have a slight winner and a loser. The loser, of course, the big loser, is the war in Iraq. You marry them, of course.

This is the August surprise. It’s what they have to work with, and they will try to milk it for all it’s worth.

They will try to connect Lieberman’s defeat with the attempted hijackings and say that the Democratic Party is being hijacked by the anti-war, anti-defense (pro-terrorism) crowd. Have you ever heard of anyone who was pro-terrorism? Who wanted to spend less on airport security? Who thought planes were too safe? What could be more ridiculous? But that will be the line.

What Dick Cheney started on Wednesday, saying that Lieberman’s defeat suggested the Democratic Party was not prepared to lead in dangerous times, was just the beginning.

Who is going to let them get away with it?

Say it ain’t so, Joe. Wouldn’t that be a classy gesture? You know it’s not true. They’re saying this about your colleagues of decades standing. Joe Lieberman himself should stand up to that kind of talk. If he fails to, he will continue to lose the respect of his former colleagues and supporters, voters included.

This is what happens when you turn your back on your party. Then others attack your party and they come to you and ask you what you think. And moments like these will define Joe Lieberman as much as his run for the vice presidency did.

His decency is on the line now as much as it has ever been. He knows better. This is another occasion for Lieberman to distance himself from his fellow Democrats, another step in his losing his Senate seat.

Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

All things old are new again.

A small debate raged across my mind today concerning what topic this post would be about. I had two in mind, I settled on this one. Since I am absent from Idaho for another three weeks, I apologize if my posts stray at times from more traditional or local democrat topics. I do my best, I can only try harder.

I’ve had to face the sad realization over the last ten months that my political ideology is on the way out in this country; indeed, in the world. The National Republican Party is moving further and further into the sphere of the neo-conservatives, for which I weep. Gone are the discussions of reduced government spending, state’s rights, individual responsibility, and government minding its own business. Republicans now are doing the exact same thing they once accused democrats of, pandering instead to business then tree huggers, and offering just as many entitlement programs.

The worst part of it is that this is what the people want. For me, the true dawning point was the backlash towards the executive branch over Katrina, with the nation angry for their slow action in a situation that I feel the President had no authority to be involved in (send the hate mail, I don’t care).

But, there is a silver lining on these dark clouds, one that flirts of a future that may or may not be. It is no secret that the Democratic Party is the progressive party. They seek for change and growth, while Republicans seek to uphold the status quo (which has now shifted so far from what my ideal is that they are liberal to me). One says things are broke and need fixing, the other says they are broke because of unneeded fixing. It is for that reason that I wonder if the Democrats will one day be the new Republicans.

If society continues to grow and change, with the Democratic Party continuing to be “progressive” and the Republicans continuing to uphold the status quo, then it is possible that one day the Democrats will clamor for change towards smaller government, while the Republicans cry for standing by the current system. We know that political parties change ideology over time, the question is, do they move in a never ending line or in a circle? If it is a circular pattern, and the Democrats remain the flag bearers of change, then it would be they who would arrive there first. Just as the original colonists who rebelled from Britain were considered to be radically liberal for overthrowing the established order of things in favor of the smaller government we once had, perhaps they will call for that change again (hopefully without bloodshed this time).

It would not likely happen until long after I’m gone, if it does at all. But the hope glimmers for me; maybe one day I will find reason to be a democrat.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Otter grilled for lack of leadership

With the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA) and the Owyhee Initiative (OIAA), two bills which help protect Idaho public lands, Butch “C.L.” Otter has been absent from some of the most important debates facing Idaho. After his initial silence, Otter revealed his objections to any public land protection. In the past week, Idaho newspapers have not overlooked Otter’s weak leadership on the issues. “Butch” Otter.

From the Idaho Falls Post Register (08/03) :
Whatever it is, he’s against it by Marty Trillhasse

“Butch Otter tends to keep his mouth shut, apparently hoping to cruise to election victory this year on the strength of his Republican credentials. With good reason. When he speaks, he gets into trouble. Last week, he lobbed a political hand grenade at fellow Congressman Mike Simpson’s Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill just as it passed the House.

Otter may not like wilderness as a general rule. So it’s no surprise he came out against it (even though he missed the vote). What counts is how he opposed it. Boulder-White Clouds is Simpson’s signature bill, not some obscure budget measure. So you’d think Otter would tell his partner in the House early and forthrightly if he had problems with the legislation.

Presumably they’d find a way to agree — or at least an agreeable way to disagree. Instead, Otter waits until the eve of the House vote — July 23 — to tell a Custer County audience he’d oppose it.

Simpson found out the next day and the voters were told a few days afterward.”

Congressman Simpson published his response to Otter’s opposition to protecting wilderness in the Spokesman Review on 08/06 and in the Post Register on 08/04:

Excerpts: “With the U.S. House passage of the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA), Idaho is one step closer to realizing the benefits of the most important piece of public lands legislation proposed in the last 25 years. Having authored this legislation, I feel compelled to respond to comments made by… Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter to clear up any misunderstandings about CIEDRA.”

“In a recent editorial printed in the Idaho Statesman (July 27), Otter's staff was quoted as stating that one of Otter's concerns is including "release language" for lands that aren't included as wilderness. This statement is difficult to understand since 131,600 acres of wilderness study areas are released from their current status and put back into multiple use. Moreover, under CIEDRA, there will not be a single acre of land in the Boulder-White Clouds managed as wilderness study area.

As for the Sierra Club's and Otter's concerns for the fate of traditional users, they should read the bill.

CIEDRA does not create a motorized playground and it does not eliminate motorized use. CIEDRA locks in motorized use on almost all of the trails and snowmobile areas used today. It comes as close as possible to maintaining the status quo for future generations to use and enjoy. CIEDRA has garnered the widespread support of local and statewide officials including the Custer County and Blaine County commissioners, East Fork ranchers, Sen. Mike Crapo, Gov. Jim Risch, former Govs. Cecil Andrus and Dirk Kempthorne and former Sen. Jim McClure. They understand the importance of passing CIEDRA so that Idahoans, rather than the courts, decide how our land is managed.”

“This legislation is anything but a "rush job." It has been in the works for more than six years and written in bill form for more than three. I can understand that some people are unwilling to compromise and respect their reasons for that position. I am open to criticism of CIEDRA and the constructive dialogue that criticism can generate. But I'm not going to sit back and just listen when I hear… a congressional spokesman make accusations that are inconsistent with reality. To do so would be a disservice to the public and future generations of Idahoans.”

Lastly, Congressman Otter seems unable to work with Republican colleagues in resolving his concerns about protecting Idaho wilderness lands. From the Statesman and the AP (08/04):
“Crapo's bill (Owyhee Initiative) is the second Idaho land-use measure to be put before this session of Congress, joining a House-passed measure sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson that would create 315,000 acres of new federal wilderness in the Boulder-White Clouds Mountains in central Idaho. Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter hasn't read the Owyhee bill yet, but said Thursday that he's already expressed his concerns to Crapo. One of which is to ensure the bill is explicit that any land released from wilderness could not be redesignated. A spokesman for Sen. Larry Craig said the senator hasn't seen the bill and has not been involved with its development. Gov. Jim Risch and Rep. Mike Simpson said Wednesday they support the initiative.”

Former Governor Andrus characterized Otter’s absence on protecting wilderness when he said: “Congressman Otter has never shown the grit for real leadership. He’s never tackled a complicated issue or done the hard work of compromising and working out what’s best for Idaho.”

“Jerry Brady is the man I trust to protect Idaho’s heritage,” Andrus said.