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5/10/2006 – Editorials

By Richard Peterson

Our April 19 issue had no obituaries, a very unusual happening. This issue will have at least 10, which is also quite unusual.


I’m told the purple martins arrive about two weeks after the scouts arrive, looking for suitable nesting sites. There were a couple scouts in my yard on April 26, so I’m expecting them any day now.

They say purple martins eat as many as 2,000 mosquitoes per day. But the Purple Martin Conservation Association says that’s not so. Here’s what I found on its Web site:

"Martins, like all swallows, are aerial insectivores. They eat only flying insects, which they catch in flight. Their diet is diverse, including dragonflies, damselflies, flies, midges, mayflies, stinkbugs, leafhoppers, Japanese beetles, June bugs, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, cicadas, bees, wasps, flying ants, and ballooning spiders. Martins are not, however, prodigious consumers of mosquitoes as is so often claimed by companies that manufacture martin housing. An intensive seven-year diet study conducted at PMCA headquarters in Edinboro, Pa., failed to find a single mosquito among the 500 diet samples collected from parent martins bringing beakfuls of insects to their young. The samples were collected from martins during all hours of the day, all season long, and in numerous habitats, including mosquito-infested ones. Purple martins and freshwater mosquitoes rarely ever cross paths. Martins are daytime feeders, and feed high in the sky; mosquitoes, on the other hand, stay low in damp places during daylight hours, or only come out at night. Since purple martins feed only on flying insects, they are extremely vulnerable to starvation during extended periods of cool and/or rainy weather."

I enjoy purple martins primarily because they provide a symphony when a few of them congregate.


In a move that proves US Postal Service bureaucrats live in La-La Land, effective next week we cannot send fewer than 24 newspapers in a sack. Before we were sending as few as one newspaper in a sack directly to the post offices to those subscribers experiencing problems.

Under the new rule, newspapers will pile up in sacks in the big distribution centers. Service will become even worse than it has been, service to Southern California and Arizona has been miserable the past few years and I’m sure it will become even more miserable.

In fairness I have to add that service in North Dakota is excellent.

Subscribers should complain to us if they don’t get their newspaper within six to seven days of the date on the newspaper.


Jim Fuglie’s News from the Trail appears on the ND Dem-NPL Web site

( and he came up with some compelling arguments against doing away with the inheritance tax. Here’s an edited version of his comments:

Here’s what you do if you’re REALLY, REALLY rich. You get together with a bunch of your other REALLY, REALLY rich friends, and you all throw a couple million dollars in the kitty, and you form an organization, and you give it a name like Free Enterprise Institute and you set about getting your taxes cut.

A spokesman for those REALLY, REALLY rich folks came to Bismarck recently, called a press conference, and showed a tasteless television commercial they’re going to run here to try to persuade North Dakotans to persuade Senators Dorgan and Conrad to cut taxes for REALLY, REALLY rich people.

Now why would we want to do that? How dumb do they think we are? We just don’t have any REALLY, REALLY rich people here, so why would we want our senators to vote for tax cuts for REALLY, REALLY rich people somewhere else? What sense does that make?

This Free Enterprise Institute bunch wants to eliminate the inheritance tax. So that when REALLY, REALLY rich people die, their heirs don’t have to pay any taxes on the money they inherit. You and I wouldn’t benefit by this bill. Right now, 99.9 percent of all North Dakotans would not benefit from this bill. Only North Dakota’s version of REALLY, REALLY rich people would benefit, and they are one tenth of one percent of our population. But let’s take a look at who would benefit.

Senator Dorgan was in the news recently pointing out that Exxon Mobil Corporation just gave its chief executive officer Lee Raymond a retirement package worth nearly $400 million. Gulp. That’s 400,000,000 dollars. That’s a lot of zeros.

So let’s say good old Lee has a pretty fun first year and manages to blow about $5 million of that. And then he drives his car off a cliff and doesn’t get to spend the other $395 million. Bummer. Poor Lee. So the money goes to his family. All $395 million.

But wait. Before they get it all, they have to pay some taxes on it.

It’s new income to them, so they have to pay taxes, just like you and I pay taxes on our income. I don’t know how it all works, exactly, but let’s just say for the sake of an example that they have to pay, oh, 40% tax on it. That means they’d only get $237 million.

And that is what the Free Enterprise Institute is all about. $237 million is not enough. They want the whole enchilada, all $395 million. That is not free enterprise like we know it here in North Dakota. That is greed. Real greed. Pure, unadulterated greed.

And this group comes marching in here and tells us that they want us to call Kent and Byron and have them vote for that. Are they nuts?

Don’t they think we know what happens when those REALLY, REALLY rich people don’t have to pay that tax any more? It means the rest of us have to pay more to make up for it. While there are almost no North Dakotans who pay estate taxes (Kent says there were only 34 in 2003, the last year he could find numbers for) because we can already pass along $2 million without paying any estate taxes, there are REALLY, REALLY rich people in other places who do, and if this estate tax on multimillionaires is repealed, it would cost the US Treasury about $40 billion over the next six years. And that means taxpayers like you and me have to pick up the tab for those freeloaders. Huh-uh. No thanks.

I’m calling Kent and Byron and telling them to vote against this scheme. You should, too.

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