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01

Gary, with all due respect, I believe I’ll pass on defending (see post below) the drug companies. Have at ‘em with my best wishes.

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01

Sometimes – though I feel a bit queasy about it – I think the liberals may have a point about the oil companies. The New York Times reports that while gasoline and natural gas prices have soared, big oil royalty payments for oil and gas pumped from publicly owned lands is little more than it was five years ago. In fact, the Times reports, if Royalty payments had kept track with market prices, the government would have received $700 million more.



It seems that federal regulations lobbied for, fiercely defended and in part written by oil companies allowed them to tell the Interior Department they received lower sales prices for natural gas – than they told their own shareholders. As a result, they paid lower royalties. And as a result, they paid lower royalties. And as a result, taxpayers – technically the owners of the U.S. oil and gas reserves – get stiffed.


In fact, this happened once before, five years ago, about royalty payments for oil. Back then, oil companies paid a total of $438 million to settle charges they’d understated their sales prices for oil. But since then the Bush administration ‘loosened’ the rules for natural gas.


Maybe next time they should let someone who heats their home with natural gas help write the regulations.

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27

Well, there’s good news on corruption – sort of. The folks over at the Civitas Institute have taken a statewide poll and asked voters which party is more corrupt – Democrats or Republicans.



So, who wins?


Well, when it comes to corruption right here in North Carolina:



25% say Republicans are more corrupt (which puzzling because Republicans haven’t had the power to be corrupt in years).


And 22% say Democrats.


Now the good news: 37% say both.


And what about Washington?



21% said Democrats in Washington are more corrupt (they must remember Clinton selling sleepovers in the Lincoln bedroom).


And 27% said Republicans.


More good news: 40% said both.


So, we’ve got 84% of the voters saying ‘someone’ is corrupt in Raleigh? And, even more, 88% saying ‘someone’ is corrupt in Washington. And there’s an election in ten months.

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27

Oprah Winfrey already had become the most powerful bookseller in the world.



Her endorsement – and an appearance on her show – guaranteed an author fame and fortune.


Now she’s become even more powerful – by eviscerating (one report said “emasculating”) lying author James Frey on national TV.


She also scolded publishers for publishing memoirs made up of made-up stuff.


My bet is you’ll see publishers – and top-notch book reviewers like the N&O’s Peder Zane – operating under new rules.


Call them the Oprah Rules.

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27

Well, there’s good news on corruption – sort of. The folks over at the Civitas Institute have taken a statewide poll and asked voters which party is more corrupt – Democrats or Republicans.



So, who wins?


Well, when it comes to corruption right here in North Carolina:



25% say Republicans are more corrupt (which puzzling because Republicans haven’t had the power to be corrupt in years).


And 22% say Democrats.


Now the good news: 37% say both.


And what about Washington?



21% said Democrats in Washington are more corrupt (they must remember Clinton selling sleepovers in the Lincoln bedroom).


And 27% said Republicans.


More good news: 40% said both.


So, we’ve got 84% of the voters saying ‘someone’ is corrupt in Raleigh? And, even more, 88% saying ‘someone’ is corrupt in Washington. And there’s an election in ten months.

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26

Bush/Rove think they’ve turned some good political judo on the Democrats over the eavesdropping battle.



(Political judo is when you turn your opponent’s strength into his weakness.)


Washington Dems thought they had Bush on the run when the New York Times revealed the eavesdropping program.


Now Bush/Rove have gladly taken up the fight. They’ve served notice they’re going to repeat what they did to Kerry in ’04: Turn the debate into whether you’re for or against the terrorists.


Maybe it’s time for some Demo judo.


My old boss Jim Hunt was a master at it. When Republicans took over the state House in 1994, they thought they had him trapped politically because they wanted to cut taxes. What did Hunt do? He proposed a bigger tax cut than the Republicans did.


And he agreed with one of their proposals: veto power for the Governor. So they had to give it to him – something the Democrats never would do.


Here’s what the Washington Dems should say:



• The problem isn’t that Bush is going too far in the fight against terrorism. He’s never gone far enough.


• He wouldn’t need to spy on Americans if he’d caught Osama and crushed al-Qaeda in the first place.


• Before 9/11, he was too busy clearing brush on his ranch to take seriously the warnings against Osama.


• After freezing like a deer in the headlights and flying all over the country looking for a safe place to land, he started right: He attacked Osama and the Taliban where they lived in Afghanistan.


• But he let them get away. And he started a war far away in a country that had nothing to do with Osama.


• It’s time to get smart, get tough and get serious about this war. And Bush has shown time and again he can’t.

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26

Voters are hearing a lot of talk from politicians these days in Washington about lobbying reform. Both parties have presented packages to ‘clean up the mess’ and though the Democrats say they’re going a little further than Republicans, basically, both parties are saying the same thing, they want to curtail gifts and travel paid for by lobbyists – and other perks.



But all this is lip-service. Neither party has proposed to do the one thing that would make the most difference: prohibit lobbyists from raising money for politicians and giving money to politicians.


Why not? It’s hard to believe there’s any reason but that the politicians want to go on getting the money. Banning trips and lobbyist paid junkets and fine dining is fine but the real money – and the real corruption – is in the contributions lobbyists give to and raise for campaigns. If the politicians – in both parties – really want to drive a stake through corruption, that’s the place to start.


The problem is giving up a few dinners and junkets are one thing, giving up a hundred thousand or a million dollars for your reelection campaign is something else.

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26

Here’s a strange twist. The Morrisville City Council seems about to give Chinese computer giant Lenova $1 million in tax breaks – to relocate there.



Giving tax breaks – even to a Chinese conglomerate – is not strange. But what’s unusual is that the federal government told Lenovo it had to leave the Research Triangle Park Campus (after Lenovo purchased IBM’s computer division) – because federal officials were worried about spying by the Chinese company (News and Observer 1-23-06). So, Morrisville is planning to give a tax subsidy to a Chinese company the federal government thinks may be spying. And, Governor Easley, has chipped in $14 million more in tax breaks from the state.


Now, why would we subsidize a Chinese conglomerate the federal government feels may be spying? And if the federal government doesn’t want Lenova in the Research Triangle Park – because, I guess, of the secrets there – how does it feel about having them a few miles down the road in Morrisville?

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24

Gary, I expect – whether Osama bin Laden carries out his threats or not – the 2006 elections are going to be about terrorism. We’re in a war, they’re people running around out there who chop people’s heads off with swords, take twenty-eight-year-old girls hostage, hate Americans and threaten to blow up or cities. What should the election be about if not that?



Bush may be – as some say – blundering as he fights the war on terrorism, but at least he’s got the one key fact down – we’re in a war, we have to fight, and we have to win. I couldn’t tell you – or guess – what John Kerry or Hillary Clinton or John Edwards want to do to win that war.


The Democrats have a lot going for them in the next election. Scandals. Gas prices. Growing discontent with the war in Iraq. But they’re not going to be able to dodge telling us how they would win the war on terrorism. John Kerry already tried that and it didn’t work.

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23

Friday, January 20, was the 25th anniversary of a dramatic example of events in the Middle East driving American politics: 25 years ago, Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President and Iran released the hostages.



Same day, 2006, our news is dominated by Osama bin Laden’s latest threat against the U.S.


Last time we heard from Osama was just before the 2004 election. That didn’t help John Kerry at all.


What happens next – or doesn’t happen – could have more to do with the 2006 election than Jack Abramoff, the Medicare drug debacle and anything else.


If Osama makes good on his threat – and America, God forbid, gets hit again – one of two things will happen:


• Americans will rally around the President – again.


• Or, Americans will conclude that Bush really did go after the wrong enemy when he invaded Iraq instead of finishing off Osama.


Either way, this year’s elections would suddenly become about fighting terrorists rather than lobbyists.


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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
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