February 2009

Paulsen’s office springs a leak … literally

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Nothing would get written about in Washington if congressional offices weren’t prone to leaking information, but Minnesota’s own U.S. Rep. Erik Paulen’s office took it to a whole new level on Monday.

Paulsen’s Capitol Hill office became flooded, quite literally, with water Monday after it started shooting through the wall. At first, the water was managable, Paulsen spokesman Andy Foxwell told Politico, filling small recycle bins every 15 to 20 seconds. But then things got worse, as the water blew a two-inch hole in the wall, spraying 15 feet across the office in the process.

Though Paulsen was back in Minnesota for the day, his staff sprang into action running recycling bins full of the water back to the bathroom sink until maintenance could arrrive to fix the problem. One staffer decided their effort would be better spent videotaping the whole ordeal. Time for Phil the intern to get his 15 minutes (although more like seconds) of fame. Who said congressional intern was a thankless job?

Storm follows stimulus comments by Bachmann

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has made a name for herself nationally with statements that inflame the left wing blogosphere and cable TV and seem to embolden her with right wing supporters and conservative talk radio. She has stirred things up again with a radio interview she gave last week on the eve of the vote on the federal stimulus package.

Among the thoughts she shared with KTLK’s Chris Baker, as documented by the always vigilant http://dumpbachmann.blogspot.com/:

-Billions in the stimulus package are headed to the controversial community organizing group ACORN. “This is the community organizer in chief paying off his best friends,” she says.

-A form of socialized medicine is written into the bill, with a national rationing board so that a doctor will no longer be able to make health care decisions.  “It’s breathtaking what they have done,” she says.

-The Obama administration will be using the census to crush Republican congressional districts and set up what amounts to an insurmountable Democratic majority, using the “mother lode” of data from the census  “The have-nots will be Republican districts that are left pouring money into Washington, D.C., to be redistributed out to the Democrat districts, which will suck up all of the money. I don‘t know where they‘re going to go to get all of this money, because we‘re running out of rich people in this country.
… Under Obama, ‘Big Evil” is anyone with a combined  income of $100,00 or more.”

Her comments set off a viral storm not seen since an ill-fated October interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in which she suggested the media should investigate members of Congress for un-Americanism, a tempest that nearly cost her re-election.

Her latest thoughts found their way nationally from Dump Bachmann to the Huffington Post, by way of the irascible blogger Twoputt Tommy in the Minnesota Progressive Project.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/17/michele-bachmann-were-run_n_167650.html

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, pointing out that in Minnesota, Bachmann’s congressional district would reap the largest number of projected jobs under the stimulus package, picked up the challenge on Wednesday’s “Countdown,” opening a segment on her comments with this:

“Let me warn you: You are going to hear excerpts from what may be the craziest interview in American political history. And if I use the terms craziest … Republican… and Congress … Who else could I be talking about… Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.”

Olbermann goes on to dismiss her arguments, saying the community organization ACORN is not under indictment, the contention about health care rationing comes from Betsy McCaughey, whom Olbermann has described as a paid shill for the drug companies; and that the states, not the White House, determine congressional districts.

Four minutes into a seven-minute segment, Olbermann asks a guest from The Nation magazine: “Is she a. dumb, b. crazy, or perhaps c: the perpetrator of the most brilliantly disguised brilliant political strategy in world history?”

The website FactCheck.Org took a look at the ACORN argument about money in the stimulus bill and found a hint of accuracy in the claim in that ACORN might be eligible to apply for some funding. But it also chided congressional Republicans for stretching their argument so thin that it amounted to “faulty logic.”

http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/does_the_stimulus_bill_include_a_52.html

Additionally, the credibility of Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York, has raised more questions than answers, particularly since Olbermann took her on and accused her of being paid by the pharmaceutical industry. She has demanded an apology from him. He has told her to buy air time.

We asked Bachmann’s office if it would like to respond to the accusations. Communications Director Dave Dziok provided this:

ACORN
At the time of the [radio] interview, the amount of funding from the House version of the bill dedicated to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program was $4.19 billion. The final version that is now law and was made public after her interview, reduced the funding to $2 billion.

As for the money allocated to ACORN, there is no precise provision that said a certain amount of money would go directly to ACORN. However, the $2 billion that was passed in the final stimulus bill will go towards the Neighborhood Stabilization Program from which ACORN will likely receive money. ACORN has received at least $53 million from direct federal funding since 1994.

To dig a little deeper here, the 110th Congress passed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act last year which included standards that barred groups such as ACORN from receiving assistance under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. ACORN was rendered ineligible for funding with language that prevented any group indicted for federal election fraud or that hired an individual indicted for federal election fraud from accessing funds made available through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

The new stimulus bill that is now signed into law removed those safeguard provisions put in place by the 110th Congress, thus allowing ACORN to once again receive funds from the NSP. In fact, attached is a letter Rep. Bachmann signed along with other House members to Speaker Pelosi urging that she place those provisions passed last Congress into this latest economic stimulus bill. It never happened.

Here is just a sampling of ACORN’s most recent media coverage:

“A suburban Philadelphia man is charged with forgery, allegedly altering 18 voter-registration applications during his employment with an organization [ACORN] whose voter-outreach efforts have become a flashpoint in the presidential campaign.” – Associated Press, 10/23/08

“Clifton Mitchell helped register nearly 2,000 voters for the community group ACORN. But not one of them actually existed…  Mitchell was convicted last year and spent nearly three months in prison.” – CNN, 10/22/08

“An internal report by a lawyer for the community organizing group Acorn raises questions about whether the web of relationships among its 174 affiliates may have led to violations of federal laws…  The June 18 report, written by Elizabeth Kingsley, a Washington lawyer, spells out her concerns about potentially improper use of charitable dollars for political purposes; money transfers among the affiliates; and potential conflicts created by employees working for multiple affiliates, among other things.” – New York Timesstrong>, 10/22/08

ACORN as an organization has not been indicted for voter fraud, but several of their employees have been, making the organization ineligible to receive funds according to the 2008 law. However, this stimulus bill once again opens them up to receive funding.

HEALTH CARE
Regarding her comments about health care rationing, I need to point you to a recent Bloomberg article written by the reputable Betsy McCaughey, the former Lieutenant Governor of New York and an adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Take a look:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601039&refer=columnist_mccaughey&sid=aLzfDxfbwhzs

The final bill provides $1.1 billion to conduct “comparative effectiveness research” to evaluate the effectiveness of different preventative healthcare interventions.  We should be concerned that the money for comparative effectiveness research could be used to sanction government rationing of health care goods and services, consistent with the draft House Appropriations Committee report that said that “more expensive [treatments] will no longer be prescribed” as a result of such research.

Essentially, doctors will have the government looking over there shoulders, guiding them as to the most cost-effective treatment based on a person’s particular age and probability of success. So while you as a patient may still be meeting one on one with a doctor, his course of treatment will be influenced by the “Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research.”

CENSUS

To a certain degree, we expect some political influence from the White House in carrying out the census.  After all, the Commerce Department is part of the Executive Branch.  But, the plans now are for the control of it to lie directly within the White House under the care of Chief of Staff, who is also the former head of the Democratic Congressional Committee (DCCC), Rahm Emmanuel.  It’s important to note that the announcement of this change in control was made to placate concerns within the Democrat community about the choice of a Republican Senator, Judd Gregg, for Commerce Secretary nominee.  Clearly, the White House was fully aware of what implications came with this announced change.

The second funniest senator

Friday, February 6th, 2009

“I would be so thrilled to be the second funniest senator from Minnesota,” Al Franken said.

In an interview Friday with the senator-elect-presumptive, Franken said he had very little to do with Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s reportedly knockout comedy turn at the Washington Press Club Foundation dinner Wednesday night in D.C. The longtime comedian and entertainer went over a few of the jokes at her request, he said, but she wrote most of it herself.

Franken would like to be senator, period. As Norm Coleman’s trial challenging his 225-vote recount lead finished its second week, Franken acknowledged that he’s spending a lot more time studying policy and getting briefed on issues than he is following the trial. Coleman has been in the courtroom several days, but Franken hasn’t made an appearance.

“I don’t have any plans to come down but I’m not ruling it out, either. Mainly, what I’m trying to do is prepare” to go to Washington, he said.

Franken, who opposed the bailout bill passed during the late stages of last year’s campaign, said he supports the need to pass a stimulus package. ”The balance of the package between spending and the tax cuts is pretty good,” he said, but he would make at least a few tweaks.

He’d like to see tax incentives to encourage investment in the “smart grid” — a modern electrical network using digital technology. Infrastructure improvements, which he promoted during the campaign, would be a good way to create jobs while finishing needed projects; Franken mentioned a flood mitigaton project in Roseau that could soak up some of the recent plant layoffs in that northern Minnesota town.

This is also the right time to invest in a new energy policy, he said, which may not yield dividends immediately but would pay off down the road.

“The substance of the package is about right,” he said. “I’d like to be there, and be in the room.”

If you followed Franken as much as I did during the campaign, you know it was a rare speech where he didn’t mention Harry Truman and his 1940s committee ferreting out  fraud in the defense industry as the United States geared up for World War II. Franken would like the same kind of committee formed to oversee and prevent waste as stimulus bucks are deployed across the country.

Franken said he also supported President Obama’s limits on executive compensation in firms taking government bailout funds, although he might take more of a surgical approach so that talented executives not responsible for huge losses aren’t penalized.

Regarding the Obama cabinet, Franken said he would have confirmed Tim Geithner for Treasury secretary despite his tax issues. Franken was accused during the campaign of failing to pay personal income taxes to several states, although it turned out he had paid the taxes – just to the wrong states.

Franken said his efforts to be provisionally seated in the Senate don’t prejudice the outcome of the recount trial. He wouldn’t comment on whether he would support any efforts (only rumored so far) by Senate Democrats to seat him without an election certificate. “That’s really out of my control,” he said.

Franken and his wife, Franni, were in Washington on Jan. 20 for Obama’s inauguration, an event he called “incredibly inspiring.” He was moved by the waves of people stretching back to the Lincoln Memorial, and thoughts about how much his late mother and father would have enjoyed the day. His dad, a rockribbed Republican, left the party in the 1960s because of Goldwater’s opposition to civil rights; as a teen, his mother wrote a letter to the editor protesting Marian Anderson’s cancellation at the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Which brings us to today. Franken noted that this week marks two years since he began his Senate campaign.  

“We believe,” he said with a laugh, “that the third year of our campaign will be the best yet.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A smart grid delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers using digital technology to save energy and cost. Such a modernized electricity network is being promoted by many governments as a way of addressing energy independence or global warming issues. For example, if smart grid technologies made the United States grid 5% more efficient, it would equate to eliminating the fuel and greenhouse gas emissions from 53 million cars.[1]

The then President-elect; now

 

 

  

 

A purplish gift for a high-profile Bears fan

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Even in the midst of the most high-profile Super Bowl party in the free world, Sen. Amy Klobuchar couldn’t help but let her Minnesota colors show.

Klobuchar was among the handful of lawmakers and their families invited yesterday to the White House to watch the big game with President Obama. Keeping with Obama’s message of bipartisanship, the party included 11 Democrats and four Republicans.

Not one to be a rude guest, the senator brought her own personalized gift for Obama the Chicago Bears fan: a signed copy of a book written by Klobuchar’s father, long-time Star Tribune columnist Jim Klobuchar, titled “Will the Vikings ever win the Super Bowl?”

And written on the inside?

“For President Obama — After watching the Bears play last fall, I don’t know why I should be apologizing for the Vikings?” it read.


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