Negociating With Terrorists: Cease-Fire Eyed to Stop Violence in Iraq

May 31, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. military commanders are talking with Iraqi militants about cease- fires and other arrangements to try to stop the violence, the No. 2 American commander said Thursday. Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said he has authorized commanders to reach out to militants, tribes, religious leaders and others in the country that has been gripped by violence from a range of fronts including insurgents, sectarian rivals and common criminals.

Something tells me that Democrats didn’t have anything to do with this since Congress doesn’t control the military.

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Tax cut idea gets negative reviews

May 31, 2007

By JONATHAN RIVOLI
Bismarck Tribune

A proposed ballot measure that could give voters the opportunity to drastically cut their state income taxes next fall met with a thud Wednesday in the state Capitol.

Americans for Prosperity, a taxpayer advocacy group that announced the plan Tuesday, is pushing it as a way to stimulate the economy and give taxpayers more control over how their money is spent. But officials of both parties say the plan goes too far too fast.

“We certainly support tax relief, but we believe this is premature,” said Don Canton, a spokesman for Gov. John Hoeven. “It’s much too early to be depending on revenues we don’t know we have yet for tax relief.”

Canton pointed out that legislators just passed a $120 million tax relief package during the 2007 session and won’t have a good idea of whether the state has enough money to responsibly enact another one until the 2009 session.

Under the proposal, North Dakotans would pay 50 percent less in income taxes while companies in the state would see a 15 percent reduction. For a single North Dakotan, that would amount to about $7 to $8 per week, according to Americans for Prosperity.

The group estimates that this would cost the state $280 million over two years. North Dakota’s total general fund budget is about $2.5 billion.

Jaime Selzler, executive director of the North Dakota Democratic Party, said he’s worried this large revenue reduction would eat into revenues for social services and education.

“It’s understandable that most people would see a tax cut and like it, but the reality is it may result in higher taxes or lost services down the road,” Selzler said.

He said a hit to education funding would be especially damaging because it could lead to an increase in property taxes on the local level, which represent a comparatively larger tax burden and have been the main concern of taxpayers.

State House Majority Leader Rick Berg, R-Fargo, also worries about the possibility of a cut now leading to a tax increase in the future.

Berg said the Legislature would be open to further tax cuts when it reconvenes in 2009 and has revenue projections that give policy makers a better idea of whether the state has enough money to responsibly do so.

“I think this is something that’s premature to look at now,” Berg said.

To get the measure on the ballot, Americans for Prosperity will have to collect at least 12,844 signatures by March 11, 2008, according to the secretary of state’s Web site.

Duane Sand, a former House and Senate candidate who serves as state director for the group, said he anticipates no trouble getting enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

Sand dismisses criticism about reduced revenues, saying that the tax cut will have simulative economic effects that could result in higher revenues from other sources such as sales taxes.

Overall, he called the criticism “predictable.”

“All politicians are cautious about proceeding on a reform platform, especially one as significant as this, before they’ve talked to their constituents,” said Sand.

North Dakota ranks 39th nationwide in state and local tax burden, according to the Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C., based tax research group.


Bush: If you oppose the immigration bill, you are a terrorist

May 30, 2007

Well, that is basically what he said.

New York Times

President Bush today accused opponents of his proposed immigration measure of fear-mongering to defeat it in Congress, and took on his own conservative political base as he did so.

“If you want to scare the American people, what you say is the bill’s an amnesty bill,” Mr. Bush said this afternoon at a training center for border enforcement agents located in this town in Georgia’s southeastern corner. “That’s empty political rhetoric, trying to frighten our citizens.”

Good idea, piss off your own people more.


Group hopes to cut income taxes

May 30, 2007

By JONATHAN RIVOLI
Bismarck Tribune

North Dakotans may get a chance to vote next fall to reduce their own state income taxes.

Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group that promotes low taxes and fiscal conservatism, announced Tuesday that it will be attempting to get such a measure on the ballot.

The proposal calls for a 50 percent reduction in North Dakota’s personal income tax rate and a 15 percent reduction in its corporate tax rate. It would cost the state $280 million over two years, according to Americans for Prosperity.

To get this idea on the ballot, supporters will have to collect at least 12,844 signatures by March 11, 2008, according to the Secretary of State’s Web site.

Duane Sand, a former Republican candidate for the House and Senate who now serves as state director of Americans for Prosperity, said he expects a lot of support for the idea. He said a tax cut would help stimulate business investment in North Dakota and provide a financial incentive to curb population loss.

“We believe people in North Dakota know how to spend their money better (than the government),” Sand said. “And we believe this is going to make the state a better place to live, raise a family and run a business.”

North Dakota’s state income taxes vary from 2.1 percent for those who make less than $30,650 to 5.54 percent for those who make more than $336,550, according to the Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C. based tax research group. In terms of overall state and local tax burden, North Dakota ranks 37th, according to the group.

“I think most people view the North Dakota income tax as being fair,” said state House Minority Leader Merle Boucher, D-Rolette.

Boucher said the Legislature already provided relief for a bigger problem property taxes when it passed a $120 million tax relief bill in April. That bill provides property tax owners with an income tax rebate equal to 10 percent of their property tax liability.

Boucher also predicted that they measure may not be widely supported because corporations have already received many specifically targeted tax breaks and subsidies in the last few legislative sessions.

“I don’t think people are going to get all that enthused about it, though it’s not at all surprising that there’s a measure or that it’s coming from this group,” Boucher said.

Tax Commissioner Cory Fong told the Associated Press that he could not assess the impact until he sees the proposal.

Because the announcement came at around 5 p.m., other state officials could not be reached for comment.


Newt Gingrich: Bush Administration has become a Republican version of the Jimmy Carter Presidency

May 29, 2007

 Party Unfaithful

The appointment of a war czar four years after the invasion of Iraq has struck some as a late and insufficient response to the crisis, and has been a reminder that the Administration, ever since its halting response to Hurricane Katrina, has been judged harshly on questions of competence. Newt Gingrich is one of those who fear that Republicans have been branded with the label of incompetence. He says that the Bush Administration has become a Republican version of the Jimmy Carter Presidency, when nothing seemed to go right. “It’s just gotten steadily worse,” he said. “There was some point during the Iranian hostage crisis, the gasoline rationing, the malaise speech, the sweater, the rabbit”—Gingrich was referring to Carter’s suggestion that Americans wear sweaters rather than turn up their thermostats, and to the “attack” on Carter by what cartoonists quickly portrayed as a “killer rabbit” during a fishing trip—“that there was a morning where the average American went, ‘You know, this really worries me.’ ” He added, “You hire Presidents, at a minimum, to run the country well enough that you don’t have to think about it, and, at a maximum, to draw the country together to meet great challenges you can’t avoid thinking about.” Gingrich continued, “When you have the collapse of the Republican Party, you have an immediate turn toward the Democrats, not because the Democrats are offering anything better, but on a ‘not them’ basis. And if you end up in a 2008 campaign between ‘them’ and ‘not them,’ ‘not them’ is going to win.”


Rules ‘hiding’ trillions in debt

May 29, 2007

 USA Today

The federal government recorded a $1.3 trillion loss last year — far more than the official $248 billion deficit — when corporate-style accounting standards are used, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The loss reflects a continued deterioration in the finances of Social Security and government retirement programs for civil servants and military personnel. The loss — equal to $11,434 per household — is more than Americans paid in income taxes in 2006.

“We’re on an unsustainable path and doing a great disservice to future generations,” says Chris Chocola, a former Republican member of Congress from Indiana and corporate chief executive who is pushing for more accurate federal accounting.

[…]

Bottom line: Taxpayers are now on the hook for a record $59.1 trillion in liabilities, a 2.3% increase from 2006. That amount is equal to $516,348 for every U.S. household. By comparison, U.S. households owe an average of $112,043 for mortgages, car loans, credit cards and all other debt combined.

It’s too bad our own government isn’t held to the same standards as say – Enron.


Watchout Stockmarket, The Governments Coming

May 29, 2007

U.S. probes Google deal on DoubleClick

 The Federal Trade Commission has launched an investigation into Google’s plan to purchase DoubleClick Inc. for $3.1 billion, The New York Times said.

Citing an industry executive who had been briefed on the FTC’s preliminary antitrust investigation, the newspaper said the inquiry was opened last week after it was determined that the commission, rather than the Justice Department, should conduct the review.

The last time the government tried to mess around with the internet the stock market crashed.