This is a time to get together and eat and talk , just time for our friends. There is no format, dues, agenda etc., We can meet anytime or place we decide, picnic pot luck, local food, anything we want to, even invite speakers. But for now please show up, eat and talk to like minded friends. No need to RSVP just stop by and eat. email Trana if you like.
I was on vacation for the last 10 days or so. I hope I wasn't missed.
I can report that Yellowstone National Park is still a great big SOCIALIST monument to Republican President Ullysses S. Grant, who signed into law the legislation that created the park. I hiked in the big socialist mountains, kayaked on the big socialist lake, swam in two socialist rivers, watched Old Faithful go off at sunset and took lots of photos. I was "off the grid" most of the time there, too. No cell phone coverage in most places. No wi-fi anywhere. I didn't buy a single newspaper. It was a great vacation.
Barack Obama has been on vacation too.
Republicans and teabaggers are trying to make a big deal out of the president's vacation...
The Republican National Committee has taken to calling Obama "the Clark Griswold president," a mocking reference to the Chevy Chase character in National Lampoon's "Vacation" movies. With unemployment claims climbing again,the GOPwas hoping its criticism would have a certain national resonance. And maybe it will.
One potential complication: Obama has spent far less time on vacation than his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, had at this point in his presidency.
Veteran CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, a fastidious keeper of presidential statistics, has kept count. By his tally, Obama has embarked on nine "vacations" since taking office, bringing his total days off to 48. Some of those trips lasted a day and some, like his Christmas holiday in Hawaii, more than a week.
By comparison, Bush had visited his ranch in Crawford, Tex., 14 times at this point in his administration and spent 115 days there. And yes, Democrats let him have it, too, complaining that he was a chronic vacationer.
White House advisers made clear in the days leading up to this getaway that a president, especially a wartime president overseeing a country in the grips of economic distress, is never really on vacation.
That's interesting enough. But there's more. During the first 234 days of George W. Bush's administration, Bush took 96 days of vacation. Compare that to the 48 days of vacation Obama had taken during his first 579 days. Bush had taken exactly twice as many days in less than half the time. For you math buffs, that means Bush's vacation rate was 400% of Obama's.
So why did I pick the number 234? That's the number of days Bush was president before the September 11 attacks. But even after that, Bush's vacation rate stayed at 4 times Obama's vacation rate. His final rate of vacationing was 32%, compared to Obama's current 8% (so far).
But we all know black people have to work 4 times harder just to get half the credit, right?
And golf? John Boehner golfs 119 times, Obama golfs 43 times. Who cares?!? I don't. That seems like a lot of golf, but if they can squeeze that much golf in and still get their work done, it's not really any of my business. I don't even care that Bush took 2.67 years of "vacation" during his 8 years in office. It's not really "vacation," I figure, when either president is having daily national security briefings, meeting with cabinet members and foreign dignitaries. I'm fine with all of it, as long as the president can walk and chew gum at the same time. I'm fine with it as long as the president isn't ignoring security memos saying Bin Laden is planning to attack buildings in New York. I can ignore those memos and go "off the grid" when I go on vacation in Yellowstone, but I don't think either Bush could or Obama can. They're always working. Or they should be.
This whole thing is a decoy. Like the New York City mosque "story," this vacation "scandal" is a Fox News/Republican/Right-wing/teabagger ploy to try to draw gullible Fox News watching America's attention away from the fact that Republicans don't have any new ideas for fixing the economy they ruined. They just have their same old ideas: tax breaks for the super rich; table scraps for everyone else.
Some comments here and in the editorial page of The Forum have called the overtime problems in Al Jaeger's office. I don't think they really understand the issue here. Nobody, not Corey, not me, are suggesting that overtime is a bad thing. Of course overtime is a necessary expense for any office. At one point though the cost of overtime eclipses the cost of hiring a temp or a full time employee.
Lets look at some numbers here. A full time employeeworks 40 hours a week. Assume for a rough estimate thata month has four weeks in it. That's 160 hours a month. That's 1920 hours per year. That's a little short, so just round it off to 2000 hours per year, 4000 hours per biennium. Jaeger's office paid out over 7000 hours of overtime in the last biennium. Remember that overtime is paid out time and a half, so you can really look at this being over 10,000 hours. even if you factor inthe costs of benefits, you're still looking at the costs of at least one, if not two additional full time employees for the costs of overtime.
What is also clear about this is that this overtime is not evenly spread across the employees in the office. In fact, Jaeger's top two non-political staffers account for nearly a third of all overtime in the office. The overtime hours they racked up for the first ten months of the current biennium could almost cover a another Full time Employee. Look at it this way. If we assume for the sake of argument that the head of the business division(Business Systems Director) makes a $60,000 annual salary. That means an hourly rate of $28.84. Overtime pay is time and a half, so that makes this staffer's overtime pay $43.27. This person worked 605 hours of overtime in the first ten months of the 2009-2011 Biennium. Assuming these figures, since the end of April, this employee has made $26,188 just in overtime. If current trends continue, this employee will make $31,426 in overtime for FY2010. Add that onto the base salary of $60,000, and you've come away withover $91,000. For those of you who are unaware, the Secretary of State, who doesn't get overtime pay, makes $83,550 per year(NDCC § 54-09-05). Now I could be off a little on my salary estimate, but efen if you knock it down to $50,000, using the same figures, this employee would have made $76,188 by the end of the fiscal year ifthe trend of overtime were extended out. That's less than a ten thousand dollar difference from the Secretary of State's salary.
I don't mean to bash the staff in Jaeger's office. I need to explain that over the past few months I have made a number of records requests with the Secretary of State's office, and I have been extremely impressed with the promptness and professionalism shown by both Al Jaeger, who handled all of my requests, and all of his staff, who I am sure put in a decent amount of time fulfilling my requests. That alone has made me very appreciative of Jaeger's office in particular when it has come to my personal experience with the office. I have personally thanked Jaeger for the professionalism he and his office have shown in this regard. There is absolutely no evidence that any overtime hours were forged, or that any employees did not put in the time that they have declared. If that is the case, a review of the procedures used in reporting and approving overtime pay needs to be reviewed. More likely though is that the hardworking staff in the office are overworked and need relief. We have labor laws that require a forty hour work week for a reason. The head of the business division should not be working 53 hours a week, either putting in eleven hour days or working weekends, in order to get his or her job done.
This office is either overpaid, or more likely, understaffed, and while additional full time employees may not meet the requirement for all of the staffing problems in the office, part time employees and temps should be strongly considered to help ease the load on the staff in the office and keep costs from spiraling out of control.
Either way, this is another sign of Al Jaeger's poor, hands off, head in the cloud management of the Secretary of State's office. He can't keep track of third party candidates in a primary, he doesn't read certifications of nomination following that primary before signing them, and he doesn't know how to keep overtime costs in check.
The insinuation that Corey Mock is somehow out of line, or even unqualified for office for bringing this issue up and asking serious questions about how Jaeger is running his office is ridiculous. Get real.
We, and our hardworking public employees deserve better.
For 24 employees, there was a total of 7200 overtime hours last biennium and another 3600 over the first ten months of this biennium. Now if you're a manager, if you're seeing your overtime numbers already high, as high as an office with seven times the staff as you have(like the Attorney General's office), you hire more employees. Jaeger seems to be content in overworking his existing staff and letting the taxpayer pick up the tab.
Mock is going to be requesting some information from Jaeger's office in an effort to figure out what the problem here is, but what is interesting about this whole story is what the NDGOP did. They issued the following press releas before Corey's presser today.
Desperate to stay relevant, State Rep. Corey Mock is yet again trying to draw attention away from his own record of supporting bigger government and higher taxes in his race against Secretary of State Al Jaeger.
Mock's latest distortions charge inefficiency and excessive overtime pay in the Secretary of State office. This account chooses to selectively ignore key facts about the office's operations.
The number of registered businesses in North Dakota has doubled since Jaeger entered office and his staff size has remained level. Jaeger's office has been at the forefront of agency management in the state, often maintaining a surplus in his office budget despite the increasing demands on his office.
"Liberal activist Corey Mock is running a negative campaign because he doesn't want to talk about his tax-and-spend record," said Adam Jones, Executive Director of the North Dakota Republican Party. "Mock has never even run a popsicle stand and now he's wildly distorting the record of a distinguished public servant to try and stay relevant."
Mock's own record is both liberal and hostile to jobs-creators. In just two years in the legislature, Mock has already amassed a voting record antagonistic to North Dakota businesses. The North Dakota Chamber of Commerce gives him a 50 percent rating.
"We hope Mock uses this press conference to talk about how he will manage the Secretary of State's office in light of all the new regulations and taxes businesses in North Dakota will face as a result of legislation passed by national Democrats," Jones said.
I frankly find this hilarious. First off, I havent seen so many buzz words packed into a single press release in a while. I dont know that a 50% rating from the Chamber is terrible. that means that half of the time he has voted for business interests, while the other half he has presumably voted in the interests of consumers and workers. That's a pretty moderate record, don't ya think?
Second off, as I said, this press release was made at noon yesterday. Mock's press conference was at 1:30. They apparently didnt want to listen to what he had to say, they wanted to go out and attack Corey before he said a single word on the matter. I also would like to know what these "key facts" they speak of (and how can they say he ignores them when he hasnt said anything yet?). All I see are glittering generalities and
terms like "liberal," "tax and spend," "anti-business," and "popsicle stand." Who exactly is going negative here? The candidate making substantive criticisms of the Secretary of State, or the party that has to use buzz words to gin up sentiment against the other candidate?
Lastly, I did a quick search through the NDGOP's press releases, and discovered something. This is the first time the party has said anything about Corey. Did they all of the suddenly get their heads out of the clouds and realize that there's somebody pummeling Jaeger with extremely hard and legitimate criticisms about his inability to run his office and decide, "hey, we better get out ahead of the curve on this one!?"
How flat-footed can you be? For god sakes, at least listen the criticism before you call the person making it "desperate to stay relevant." Especially when you have to resort to character assasination and buzz words instead of talking about substance. The only thing desperate here is this press release. Jaeger's top two employees in the office together have racked up over 1150 hours of overtime just between the two of them in the first ten months of this biennium. Thats over 115 hours a month. A full time employee works 160 hours a month. That sounds pretty substantive to me.
The NDGOP is scared shitless about Corey Mock. They aint seen nothin' yet.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who, from all I can tell, is generally not a wacko, has joined forces, or actually taken leadership of, a group of wackos who want to repeal parts of the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution, specifically Section 1, which grants automatic citizenship to anyone born in the United States. Specifically, that section says, simply, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
Graham is apparently trying to regain some conservative credibility after getting too cozy with Senator Byron Dorgan and other moderate Democrats, but he’s in bad company on this one, with the likes of Senator John Kyl, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, Rep. John Boehner, and Senate candidate Rand Paul.
This is a mean-spirited effort to gain political points in an election year by highlighting the illegal immigration issue once again. Repeal of the 14th amendment would deny citizenship to children born of illegal immigrants. And also those children born of legal immigrants. It’s been in the news lately and you’re going to hear more about it. This is the amendment given to us by President Abraham Lincoln and a Republican Congress to guarantee everyone equal protection under the law. This was one of the reconstruction amendments which abolished slavery and then prevented states from passing their own laws regarding slavery and equal protection. These people, Republicans all, do not deserve to be part of the Party of Lincoln.
I wish these people had known my mother. And two friends of hers, Adolf Schmidt and his wife Leni.
Adolf and Leni (pronounced Laney) emigrated from Germany to Hettinger, North Dakota, in the years after World War II. Adolf had a cousin who ran a café in Hettinger, and they came here, with their pre-school age daughter, Elke, to work in that café. Adolf was a trained chef, and he cooked while Leni waited on tables. Through hard work and good fortune, they were able to buy that restaurant from Adolf’s cousin. They worked 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, and in their little spare time they learned English and studied for their U.S. citizenship test.
After a few years, Leni became pregnant. She worked right up until it was time to have her baby, and then was whisked off to the brand new Hettinger Community Memorial Hospital, the finest medical facility she had ever seen. She gave birth to a son, which she and Adolf had agreed to name Kent. Adolf stayed behind at the café that day, and at closing time, he trotted up the hill to that hospital as fast as his short, fat little German legs would take him.
He found Leni propped up in her hospital bed. She looked up at him and said, in her still-broken English “Adolf, we have a son. His name is Kent.” And then, her face beaming in joy and wonderment, she said “And guess what? He is already an American.”
My mother was the o.b. nurse on duty at the hospital that night, and she was standing at Leni’s bedside when Adolf came in. She loved to tell that story. She called it “the miracle of America.” She said that, as important as that son was to Leni and Adolf, equally important was the fact that their son was a United States citizen. By birth. Adolf and Leni could imagine nothing more wonderful, more important, than being a United States citizen. And they could only marvel that despite the fact they were not yet United States citizens, because of that wonderful document called the United States Constitution, their son was. Their son was an American.
My mother had many fond memories of her 40-plus years in nursing, but none more wonderful than that one.
Adolf and Leni and Elke eventually became naturalized citizens. Adolf and Leni ran the café until they sold it and retired. Kent was a citizen from the moment he took his first breath. He moved away when he grew up. I hope he lives in a state whose Senators and Congressman will oppose this effort. If not, I hope he calls them and tells them his story.
“He is already an American.” Surely some of the best words ever spoken in North Dakota.
Stop the presses. You read that headline correctly. I agree with Bill O'Reilly and the Fox "News" Actresses.
Bill O'Reilly had a couple of Foxxy "News" actresses ("NA") on the Factor last night to talk about his perception of "feminism." They spent some time talking about the important subject of Jennifer Aniston, and then got to this...
B.O. -- The governor of North Carolina, his daughter posed for bikini shots.
NA1 -- North Dakota
NA2 -- North Dakota
B.O. -- North Dakota, I'm sorry, North Carolina. There she is.
B.O. -- North Dakota.
NA1 -- South Dakota
B.O. -- No, it's North Dakota.
NA2 -- She's actually a model.
B.O. -- She's a model. [undecipherable] [Note:She's apparently moved on from modeling and is now working at pappie's bank.]
B.O. -- So here's the question: Does... Do children of famous people, whether they be in show business or political figures, doing bad things, reflect back on the famous person?
NA1 -- They... They... The only reason they're making news is because of the famous person.
B.O. -- That's true...
NA1 -- So of course they reflect back on the famous person. It actually matters, I think, how the famous person handles the brouhaha. I think the swimming suit thing is not a brouhaha. You've got a beautiful daughter who's a model. Scott Brown also posed in a centerfold. Scott Brown's daughter is also wearing bikinis. I don't think it's a big deal to get caught in a bikini.
For the first time, ever, I think I might agree with these people about one thing they said. But for the right wing being all up in arms about this, this would be "no big deal." I still don't understand why people are talking about this now.
The Bismarck Tribune is reporting today (or yesterday)t that the Burleigh County States Attorney's (BCSA) office is telling former North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance Director Charles "Sandy" Blunt to poop or get off the pot.
Today Blunt is a convicted felon, having been tried by a jury of his peers for misapplication of entrusted funds. He was accused of mishandling state government money, to the tune of thousands of dollars, was convicted, sentenced, and appealed the conviction. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the conviction. The case was recently sent back down to the trial court.
Meanwhile, as the appeal slowly worked its way to the top of the North Dakota Supreme Court's pile, "someone" -- and I'm pretty sure I know who [hint: initials "S.C."] (but I can't confirm because the process is a "big secret" -- filed an ethics grievance against the prosecutors, alleging the BCSA had withheld exculpatory evidence (i.e. evidence likely to prove Blunt's innocence) from Blunt's attorney in the prosecution. Now, when I say the process is a "big secret," I put quotation marks around "big secret" because "someone" (and I'll bet I know who [hint: initials "S.C."] (but I can't confirm because that, too, is supposed to be a "big secret.") brought a copy of some of the otherwise confidential papers to someone at the Tribune. I can't find out who because I'm a little too big to crawl under the belly of a snake to find the people at the Bismarck Tribune who print S.C.'s magazine and who chose to write about the "big secret." But the "big secret" of the ethics grievance ended up in a recent story in the Bismarck Tribune, despite its status as a "big secret."
Because of some correspondence from Blunt's lawyer to the BCSA (and presumably because of the allegations in the ethics complaint), it would appear reasonable to assume Blunt is considering bringing a "post trial motion," asking the court to throw out the conviction because of "newly discovered evidence"; evidence that there was prosecutorial misconduct; misconduct in the form of withholding exculpatory evidence. Allegedly.
It appears that the day before yesterday, assistant states attorney Cynthia Feland -- a candidate for district court judge in the Bismarck area -- filed a Motion "In Litis Contestatio" in the Blunt criminal case. The purpose of the motion appears to be an effort by the BCSA to make Blunt bring his heavy artillery if HE really, truly, sincerely believes the BCSA withheld evidence. It's a "poop or get off the pot" motion and brief if I've ever seen one. It looks like the BCSA office is saying to Blunt, "Prove it." Blunt and his attorney now have 10 days to poop.
I've read the motion and attachments. You should too, if you have a bunch of free time. Here it is.
After reading the brief and extensive attachments, I have to say that I don't see any evidence proving documents were withheld from Blunt. There may be an "other side to the story" and I think Blunt deserves a chance to present that. But unless he has something earth-shattering, frankly, it looks like his allegation -- repeated ad nauseam by Steve Cates in his Dakota Bleacon rag and also picked up by a couple other useful idiot bloggers (here and here and I'm sure by Rob Port at SayNothingBlog) -- that documents were withheld from Blunt and his attorney is a frivolous, nonsense claim. From the motion and attachments, it also looks like the ethics complaint against Feland is frivolous. Frankly, unless there's something significant that Feland hasn't addressed -- and I can't imagine what it would be, as she's attached a lot of correspondence and other documents to her motion -- I'll be surprised if the ethics grievance continues to be pursued. But I've been wrong before.
I've read several other ethics grievances written by Steve Cates -- local publisher of plagiarism and right-wing fringe nut propaganda (does $100,000 mean anything to you?) -- and the Bismarck Tribune story about the ethics grievance against the BCSA has Cates' stink all over it.
(This also raises the question "Is the Tribune still printing the Dakota Beacon?" I don't know, but I assume so.)
I'm so sure I recognize the stink of this story that I would bet $10 Cates' fingerprints are all over the ethics grievance against the BCSA. I'd also bet he was involved in "leaking" the documents to the useful dupes at the Tribune. Cates has made Blunt's "persecution" and this alleged withholding of "exculpatory" evidence his right-wing rag's crazed obsession. (Don't believe me? Go to the Dakota Beacon's website, and click on the "Sandy Blunt Persecution" category in the right column. See how obsessed this crackpot is.) And I'm familiar with other frivolous ethics complaints filed by Cates, and this looks like his handy work. I'm also familiar with his crack-pot-i-ness, as I've personally had to engage the police to get Cates' to stop harassing me at home. It's true.
Regardless of whether I win my proposed $10 bet, unless Blunt can -- within the next 10 days -- prove the information Feland has filed with the court is forged or otherwise false, it looks like the "exculpatory" information "withheld" from Blunt was neither "exculpatory" nor "withheld."
Let me summarize that, too. Blunt apparently claims a memo/summary written by an auditor in the State Auditor's Office was not provided to him before trial. He claims the "summary memo" proves (or tends to prove) his innocence. The BCSA's brief and numerous attachments seem to show that the memo actually did not prove Blunt's innocence (in fact, it looks like it might even further prove his guilt [which is kind of... interesting]). AND the BCSA explains that the memo is a summary of other information that WAS provided to Blunt. In other words, it was repetitive/duplicative. Blunt and his attorney already had all the supposedly "exculpatory" (though not exculpatory) information in the memo, though not in summary form. As is noted by Feland in her brief, Blunt's attorney even had an opportunity to cross examine witnesses based upon the identical, non-summary information, and did.
There's also the fact that the BCSA has an "open file" policy. BCSA claims it had sent a notice to Blunt's lawyer inviting him to stop in and read everything in the BCSA's file. I'm not a big fan of this argument, but it's out there. And, I'd note, the State Auditor's file is an open record, too. I read the whole file before Blunt's trial took place. I'd like to assume Blunt and/or his lawyer did too.
It appears Blunt has 10 days to explain why that summary of information he already had that appears to further prove his guilt was something he needed to help prove his innocence.
I'll be sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for Blunt, a convicted felon, to respond.