Tuesday, June 30, 2009
If Rep. Reichert did the right thing voting for the ridiculous Cap and Tax bill Friday, why won't he explain his vote? Kirby Wilbur's show got calls from two leaders of the Republicans in Congress offering to explain Reichert's vote. Why can't Reichert speak for himself? The bill was 1200 pages and got a 300-page pack of amendments at 3 am the day of the vote. Did Reichert read the bill? Did Reichert read the amendments? 00240203650: Reichert sent Rep. Pence (I think) to speak for him on David Boze's radio show on KTTH Tuesday. Rep. Pence basically said Reichert is a fool. He said Reichert was hoping the sponsors would put what he wanted in the bill. So he voted for it? Fool. You hold your vote until they put your pork in the bill. Maybe Reichert should speak for himself. See also Michelle Malkin on the GOP cap and tax eight.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
There is no free lunch. Massachusetts required health care insurance. Easy. Costs the state nothing. Didn't make things better. AMNews: June 29, 2009. Access-to-care problems are resurfacing in Mass. ... American Medical News: Massachusetts' Commonwealth Connector health reforms have reduced the state's uninsured population to less than 3% of residents, the lowest among all states. But a recent survey found an uptick last fall in adults reporting difficulty accessing certain types of care. The outcome of the Massachusetts health system reforms has national implications. Democrats in Congress have offered or are drafting health reform bills based on many of the state-adopted principles, including a health insurance exchange, subsidized private health insurance for low-and moderate-income residents, a requirement for individuals to have health insurance, and a mandate for employers to offer health insurance to their employees or else contribute to a health care fund. ... But not all care access gains have held, the report found. The percentage of non-elderly adults who reported that they did not get needed care from specialists in the last 12 months dipped from 7.1% in fall 2006 to 4% in fall 2007, but then bounced back up to 7% in fall 2008. The survey revealed less significant but similar trends for those having access problems for physician care, medical tests and follow-up care. The recent uptick in access issues may be due to increased demand for follow-up care from the newly insured that is not being matched by available doctors, according to the article's authors. Most of those surveyed who reported problems said they were told by physicians they were not accepting new patients or patients with their type of coverage. Some initial gains in affordability also appear to have eroded. Lower-income residents and those with public coverage reported more access difficulties than higher-income people, which may be due to lower payment rates or the more limited physician networks of the four health plans serving Medicaid enrollees, the authors wrote. The state's reforms also have not produced a decrease in emergency department visits for non-emergency conditions, the article found. Of all the non-elderly adults in the state who said in fall 2008 that they had visited an ED in the last year, the percentage who said the visit was for a condition that could have been treated in a physician's office was just over 15%, roughly the same as in 2006. ED usage can be reduced over time, said Georgia Maheras, private markets policy manager for the patient advocacy organization Health Care For All. "Suddenly giving someone that piece of plastic isn't going to change their behavior right away."
The Seattle Times couldn't avoid mentioning "an anti-tax rally" in its short hit piece on Tim Eyman's appearance Saturday at the Tea Party in Olympia. I call it a hit piece because two words "Professional activist" are intended to delegitimize him. The way his Initiative 1033 lowers property taxes is novel. This isn't just a limit on the growth in property taxes. That, after many trials, is in place with Initiative 747 and stays. When state state revenue grows for whatever reason above the limit the next year the state portion of your property taxes will be lower. Lower for just that one year, but LOWER! The Seattle Times doesn't want you to go to the Initiative 1033 web site and gather signatures. And read Liberty Belle's description of the event. Local News | Seattle Times Newspaper:
Professional activist Tim Eyman spoke to a crowd of several hundred people at an anti-tax rally at Olympia and said he still needs the requisite signatures in a petition drive to put Initiative 1033 on the ballot. Eyman is sponsor of Initiative 1033, which would reduce property taxes by limiting the growth of certain state, county and city revenue to annual inflation and population growth excluding voter-approved revenue increases. Eyman said as of last Monday, supporters of the initiative had 270,055 signatures about 20,000 short of the 292,000 valid signatures required to put it on the ballot in November. The deadline for collecting signatures is July 3. Eyman said other TEA Party rallies this year have been instrumental in collecting signatures for the petition. TEA stands for Taxed Enough Already
The removal of the president of Honduras was not a military overthrow, as many are saying. It was the military carrying out an order by the Supreme Court, because President Zelaya had violated his constitutional duties. Mary Anastasias O'Grady - WSJ.com: ... That Mr. Zelaya acted as if he were above the law, there is no doubt. While Honduran law allows for a constitutional rewrite, the power to open that door does not lie with the president. A constituent assembly can only be called through a national referendum approved by its Congress. But Mr. Zelaya declared the vote on his own and had Mr. Chávez ship him the necessary ballots from Venezuela. The Supreme Court ruled his referendum unconstitutional, and it instructed the military not to carry out the logistics of the vote as it normally would do. The top military commander, Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, told the president that he would have to comply. Mr. Zelaya promptly fired him. The Supreme Court ordered him reinstated. Mr. Zelaya refused. Calculating that some critical mass of Hondurans would take his side, the president decided he would run the referendum himself. So on Thursday he led a mob that broke into the military installation where the ballots from Venezuela were being stored and then had his supporters distribute them in defiance of the Supreme Court's order. The attorney general had already made clear that the referendum was illegal, and he further announced that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out. Yesterday, Mr. Zelaya was arrested by the military and is now in exile in Costa Rica. It remains to be seen what Mr. Zelaya's next move will be. It's not surprising that chavistas throughout the region are claiming that he was victim of a military coup. They want to hide the fact that the military was acting on a court order to defend the rule of law and the constitution, and that the Congress asserted itself for that purpose, too.
It's too cold in Michigan. Has Algore been in northern Michigan - not upper, but the northern part of lower Michigan - this month? There is a long record of snow storms accompanying Albert Gore, Jr.'s, events. See Gore Effect. The Detroit News:
Traverse City, Michigan -- One thing missing from this year's National Cherry Festival in Traverse City will be locally grown cherries. Farmers say the area's cherry crop will still be on the trees during the festival, which runs Independence Day through July 11. That leaves organizers, stores and markets with the need to import cherries from elsewhere. Lingering cool weather slowed cherry growth in the northwestern Lower Peninsula. Dennis Hoxsie grows sweet and tart cherries at his farm in Grand Traverse County's Acme Township and runs a farm market. He tells the Traverse City Record-Eagle it will be 1 1/2 to two weeks before his crop starts coming in, so he's bringing in cherries from southwestern Michigan.
The Senate Democrats have a large tax increase planned to pay for their health-care takeover. They intend to hit "gold-plated" benefits. But not for their union friends. The difference is not according to the higher benefit. No. Just if you are in a union. You say, "That's different." Yes, another pay back. Senator Max Baucus has his defense ready. He claims he is just protecting legal contracts - union contracts. He just doesn't want his law to violate the laws that uphold those contracts. Nonsense. Obama has run all over legal contracts. He stole Chrysler from those who held its senior debt and gave it to the UAW union. If Baucus intends to uphold contracts he can first go and remove ownership from the UAW and restore those debt holders. He will do that first if he is serious. Not! Bloomberg
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, the chief congressional advocate of taxing some employer-provided benefits to help pay for an overhaul of the U.S. health system, says any change should exempt perks secured in existing collective- bargaining agreements, which can be in place for as long as five years. The exception, which could make the proposal more politically palatable to Democrats from heavily unionized states such as Michigan, is adding controversy to an already contentious debate. It would shield the 12.4 percent of American workers who belong to unions from being taxed while exposing some other middle-income workers to the levy. "I can't think of any other aspect of the individual income tax that treats benefits of different people differently because of who they work for," said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington research group that often criticizes Democrats' economic proposals. Edwards said the carve-out "smacks of political favoritism."Via American Thinker Blog: Union health plans may avoid special tax: Also: Union workers would be exempt from Dem health care tax | Washington Examiner :
Friday, June 26, 2009
Professor Robert George of Princeton University is leading an effort to enable Americans to reaffirm the principles our country was founded on: The American Principles Project
The United States of America does not need new principles. It needs renewed fidelity to the principles set forth in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These are timeless principles: truths that we hold, in Jefferson's immortal words, to be, "self-evident." They are, moreover, universal principles, not the historically contingent beliefs or customs of a particular sect or clan or tribe. They are rooted in the nature of man as a being who, by virtue of his God-given dignity and rationality, owns the right to participate in the great project of self-government as a free and equal citizen. Whatever others may say, we at the American Principles Project and all who join with us reaffirm the truth
that each and every member of the human family is, "created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
If these timeless principles are to be restored and our national commitment to them renewed, then a new voice is needed in American politics, a voice that is unafraid to stand up for what is right and speak out against what is wrong. Indeed, that "voice" must be nothing less than millions of American voices raised in unison in defense of political liberty and economic freedom, the sanctity of human life and the integrity of marriage and the family, and the sovereignty and security of our nation. That "voice" must be an informed voice. We must speak from an ever deeper understanding and appreciation of the blessings of freedom and the moral and political responsibilities that freedom entails. The American Principles Project has been created to help every citizen who truly wishes to be part of what our founding fathers called this great, "experiment in ordered liberty," to be an informed citizen, and thus someone empowered to make a difference. Are we conservatives? You bet we are, if by a "conservative" one means a believer in the rule of law, democracy, limited government and respect for civil liberties, private property and the free market, equality of opportunity, the sanctity of human life, the protection of marriage and the family, and the defense of our nation's sovereignty and security. For us, these convictions are not platitudes. We are convinced that the renewal of our nation and the flourishing of our people vitally depend on making these historic ideals and commitments once again operative in the laws and policies by which we govern ourselves. Our ancestors came from Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America . . . and from all over the globe. We practice many different religions. But we are united as Americans in our commitment to the wisdom and goodness of the principles upon which the United States of America was founded and in our willingness to act on these principles and defend them in the public square. We believe that the way forward, economically, politically, and morally, is to rededicate ourselves to those timeless self-evident truths.Go to their web site and join in.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Go to Kona and play with the Guantanamo Bay criminals. You can help their healing and forgiveness. OK, it's risky. They were captured as illegal combatants. Did Kona accept Japanese soldiers during World War II so they could forgive them? It's the Aloha spirit, after all. I have made three week-long trips to the Big Island of Hawaii, plus two day trips. I don't want to play with men captured in battles against US servicemen. Do you? The Honolulu Advertiser:
North Kona Councilman Kelly Greenwell recently sent a letter to President Barack Obama, asking the Hawaii-born commander-in-chief to consider sending prisoners to be released from the prison at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay to the Big Island. The idea isn't to incarcerate the prisoners here, the councilman said, but to release them and begin a process of healing and forgiveness. "We have forgiven the people who bombed Pearl Harbor," Greenwell said, adding that Americans also forgave Germans after World War II. "I think if we want to be known as a place of love and aloha, this is a place to express it." In a letter to Mayor Billy Kenoi, explaining his proposal, Greenwell admits that the idea "may sound insane." But, the councilman continued, collaboration with the president could reap the mayor big benefits. "It places you in the position of helping our president out of a critical predicament, and it wouldn't hurt if you were his best friend," Greenwell wrote. The councilman described the result as "a new stew," a place where various cultures can meet and learn to get along. Further, Greenwell said, the detainees at Guantanamo are "no more than suspects." He acknowledged that some Americans might be unhappy with his offer to accept the detainees, but said that he anticipated negative reactions to be only about 10 percent of the total responses.Where do I register my complaint against this fool, Kelly Greenwell.
RealClearPolitics - George Will The Spanish professor is puzzled. Why, Gabriel Calzada wonders, is the U.S. president recommending that America emulate the Spanish model for creating "green jobs" in "alternative energy" even though Spain's unemployment rate is 18.1 percent -- more than double the European Union average -- partly because of spending on such jobs? Calzada, 36, an economics professor at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, has produced a report which, if true, is inconvenient for the Obama administration's green agenda, and for some budget assumptions that are dependent upon it. Calzada says Spain's torrential spending -- no other nation has so aggressively supported production of electricity from renewable sources -- on wind farms and other forms of alternative energy has indeed created jobs. But Calzada's report concludes that they often are temporary and have received $752,000 to $800,000 each in subsidies -- wind industry jobs cost even more, $1.4 million each. And each new job entails the loss of 2.2 other jobs that are either lost or not created in other industries because of the political allocation -- sub-optimum in terms of economic efficiency -- of capital.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The US Congress's big rush to pass Cap and Trade legislation HR 2454 this week is based on a foundation of sand. Roger Peilke, Jr. shows how one of the foundation reports from Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) misuses research including his own, even to the point of reversing what he found. Roger Pielke Jr.'s Blog: [quote] Imagine if an industry-funded government contractor had a hand in writing a major federal report on climate change. And imagine if that person used his position to misrepresent the science, to cite his own non-peer reviewed work, and to ignore relevant work in the peer-reviewed literature. There would be an outrage, surely . . . The Obama Administration has re-released a report (PDF) first issued in draft form by the Bush Administration last July ... Here is the relevant paragraph of the CCSP report, found on p. 105: Sentence #1:
While economic and demographic factors have no doubt contributed to observed increases in losses,346 these factors do not fully explain the upward trend in costs or numbers of events.344,347Reference 346 is to a paper I co-authored:
Pielke, Jr., R. A., Gratz, J., Landsea, C. W., Collins, D., Saunders, M., and Musulin, R., 2008. Normalized Hurricane Damages in the United States: 1900-2005. Natural Hazards Review, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp. 29-42. (PDF)In that paper we did indeed conclude that economic and demographic factors have contributed to losses related to hurricanes. In fact, we concluded that these factors accounted for all of the increase in hurricane losses over the period of record:
The lack of trend in twentieth century normalized hurricane losses is consistent with what one would expect to find given the lack of trends in hurricane frequency or intensity at landfall.The CCSP report however, says the opposite, that these factors do not explain the upward trend in costs or numbers of events. To support this claim they provide two citations. Lets consider each in turn, first #344:
Mills, E., 2005: Insurance in a climate of change. Science, 309(5737), 1040-1044.If you go to Mills, and I have, you will find that it is a commentary that does not offer any new research. ... But more problematically, why is a report characterized by Science Advisor John Holdren as being the "most up-to-date, authoritative, and comprehensive" analysis relying on a secondary, non-peer source citing another non-peer reviewed source from 2000 to support a claim that a large amount of uncited and more recent peer reviewed literature says the opposite about? [end quote] Via TierneyLab at New York Times
Frontpage Magazine Freedman had just returned from one of her frequent trips to Israel. This time, what amazed her most were “all the illegal Arab settlements” which had grown exponentially “all over Jerusalem.” Illegal Arab settlements? This information is well documented in journalist Aaron Klein’s important new book: The Late, Great State of Israel. How Enemies Within and Without Threaten The Jewish Nation’s Survival. Klein’s book illuminates, infuriates, saddens, and cries out to both heaven and humanity. According to Klein, he chose his book’s shocking title “with a heavy heart,” in order to “awaken people to this very real possibility,” to “prod the world into pondering the unthinkable; and to shed light on the scope of the calamitous threats facing the Jewish state.” ... According to Klein, who has been WorldNetDaily’s Jerusalem bureau chief for four years: The city of Jerusalem, like so many European cities, now has its own “no go” areas. “Israeli police units stay off the streets” of certain “densely populated Arab neighborhoods” which, in effect, constitute a “significant terrorist apparatus (which is) now based in eastern Jerusalem. The clear aim is to keep up a steady stream of attacks on western Jerusalem neighborhoods in order to pressure Israel into ceding eastern Jerusalem.” Over the years, Israelis have allowed more than “100,000 Palestinian Arabs to occupy tens of thousands of illegally constructed housing units in eastern and northern Jerusalem.” Criminals, mercenaries, soldiers dressed as civilians, human bombs and their terrorist handlers, may all live among them. This other illegal occupation or settlement activity began long after 1967, when Israel won a third war of self-defense launched against it by the major Arab powers. These Palestinian Arab immigrants were not living in these places before 1948 or before 1967. Indeed, Klein documents that under Jordanian rule, one of these Jerusalem neighborhoods, Shoafat, was actually a forest. These crowded Palestinian Arab housing complexes, schools, villas, palaces, (my friend Helen Freedman just saw a Saudi-built Polo Club! somewhere nearby), are now filled with weapons and fighters. Worse still: According to Klein, these Palestinian Arabs have built their illegal settlements on land owned by the Jewish National Fund, (JNF), which was entrusted to buy land for Jews in the Holy Land.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Surprise! A NY Times/CBS poll finds increased support for Obama's takeover of the US medical care system when everyone else finds it to be dropping. Politico - Fox News How did they find that? NewsBusters.org: [quote] Realizing that Barack Obama's healthcare initiative has hit some roadblocks in Congress, the good folks at CBS News and the New York Times figured they'd help it along by creating a new poll on the subject that WAY oversampled people who voted for Obama. Although the then-junior senator from Illinois received 53 percent of the votes last November, NYT/CBS surveyed almost twice as many Obama voters as McCain voters. Before we get to the hilarious inner-workings of this truly disgraceful deception, here's how the Times reported its rigged findings Saturday.
Americans overwhelmingly support substantial changes to the health care system and are strongly behind one of the most contentious proposals Congress is considering, a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. The poll found that most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector.Actually, as Bruce Kesler cleverly discovered, what the poll really found was that most Obama voters support substantial changes to healthcare and are willing to pay higher taxes for a government run system:
[A]ccording to the actual poll data, of the 73% of respondents who said they voted in 2008 only 34% voted for McCain and 66% for Obama.As can be plainly seen on page 7 of the poll's data, only 73 percent of respondents divulged who they voted for last November. 48 percent said Obama, 25 percent McCain. What this means is this poll surveyed 66 percent Obama supporters versus 34 percent McCain. As the final tally last year was 53 percent to 46 percent, this poll WAY oversampled Obama voters. And you wonder why the survey found so much support for Obamacare? Honestly, stuff like this should be illegal and any news organization found doing it should be significantly fined. In any industry you could name, such deception of the public would meet with very serious consequences. Why are so-called news outlets allowed to get away with such obvious deceit with total impunity? [end quote] American Thinker Blog
Saturday, June 20, 2009
While signs indicate that the worst of the recession may be over, only six metropolitan areas across the country are expected to regain their pre-recession employment levels by the end of 2009, according to projections from IHS Global Insight, a leading economic forecaster. McClatchy newspapers:
The areas poised for a jobs rebound later this year are: Anchorage, Alaska; Champaign-Urbana, Ill.; Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; Columbia, Mo.; Laredo, Texas; and the Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux areas of Louisiana. Only five areas are expected to see a similar jobs recovery in 2010: Las Cruces, N.M. and El Paso, San Antonio and the McAllen-Edinburg-Pharr and Austin-Round Rock areas of Texas. Most of the country — 286 of 325 metro areas covered in the IHS analysis_ aren't likely to regain their pre-recession employment levels until at least 2012. Of these areas, 112 probably won't return to their recent peaks until 2014 or later. These include Rust Belt towns such as Cleveland, Dayton and Akron, Ohio; Detroit, Warren and Flint, Mich.; the hurricane-ravaged Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss., area and the greater Los Angeles region, where the housing bubble and high unemployment have strangled the local economy.Rush Limbaugh points out that the slow recovering areas are the Democrat strongholds. The map should make them dark blue. The Sacramento Bee has an interactive map and database for deeper exploration.
Their memories are very short. We stood up at tea parties in April to protest high taxes. Then the Legislature did not increase any broad tax the same month. They listened! But now two months later they are again pushing an income tax. "It's inevitable, so just accept it. Stop your tea party protests." Get ready for a Washington state income tax, sooner or later | Seattle Times Newspaper:
Like it or not, before long, Washington state will have a state income tax. It's not going to happen next year, and probably not in the next decade. But it is inevitable, because our state will steadily become unable to function without a structural change in the way we generate revenue. Our current tax structure was developed more than a century ago for an economy based on agriculture, manufacturing and local commerce. It was appropriate then and for many decades afterward, but over time it has become less and less appropriate — and adequate — for the needs of our modern economy.Inevitable? Our Constitution must be changed to allow an income tax and that requires a vote of the people. She says Anti-tax-increase people are stuck in the 19th Century. They just can't accept the realities of the modern day. That's how their spokesperson Senator (she earned it) Rosa Franklin builds her case. How has the income tax worked for California? California has a state income tax, sales tax, property taxes and every other tax known and it's way short of revenue, according to the powerful in Sacramento. Hat tip: EFF WA.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Ross Perot had employees kidnapped in revolutionary Iran in 1979. He went to Iran and rescued them. Algore, Nobel Laureate Albert Gore, Jr., where are you? Townhall I’ve clipped and accumulated about a hundred news articles, decreasing in size and moving further back in the pages week to week, about the first political hostages of the Obama administration, the two reporters who work for Al Gore’s TV network. They were captured, held hostage, fake-tried and sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp in North Korea. I’ve also taken notes on the TV news coverage. At first, mention was routinely made that they were “employees of Current-TV, the company created and owned by Al Gore.” That fact has been mentioned less and less frequently. Even an item in the June 11 Wall Street Journal referred to them as employees of the San Francisco-based Current TV, omitting mention of Nobel Prize Winner, leading hero of the Left, all around good guy and humanitarian, conscience of America, internationally beloved and respected but, for the moment, silent and invisible Mr. Gore. Given that two of the journalists in his employee have been snatched and held hostage, kangaroo court-convicted and are now beginning their term of enslavement, torture, and use as negotiating pawns by North Korea, shouldn’t we and the entire world be seeing at least as much of The Great Gore as when he was running around promoting his movie or preening about his award?
Thursday, June 18, 2009
The Greenway is a continuous band of land preserved for hiking, riding and just enjoying from Puget Sound to and across the Cascade Mountains. It comprises parks and trails and land that is preserved, but not in use by the public. This weekend is their annual kick-off event on June 20th & 21. Take a hike, find a hidden cache, ride your bike or take the Greenway Challenge by visiting a number of the many wonderful sites in the Greenway. The Kick-Off to Your Greenway Summer! With more than 25 events in over 10 communities, there is something for everyone during Greenway Days.
-----Hikers, see also the Seattle PI hikes directory. It's not easy to use, but there is a lot there.
Continue the momentum of the tea parties in April. Our biggest concerns are, first, the growth of government control of our economy - of every aspect of life - in higher taxes, higher spending and just plain control. Olympia at Heritage Park
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgFri. July 3 Tea Parties at Monroe and Prosser Sat. July 4 Tea Parties at Seattle Olympia, Bellevue/Mercer Island, Bellingham, Tri-Cities, Clarkston
See Teapartywa.orgFri. July 17 - Rally in front of the district offices of our senators and congressmen. I don't have a link now. Hat tip: Kirby Wilbur
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
How long will it take the US to clean up the mess President 0 is making? IBD Diplomacy: Should the U.S. scrap its special relationship with the U.K. to fulfill an ill-considered campaign vow? That's the trade-off the Obama administration made by secretly foisting terrorists onto Bermuda. It's wrong. The British Foreign Office had a right to be angry at the U.S. transfer of four Uighur terrorists from Guantanamo detention to the U.K. colony of Bermuda without its knowledge. After all, Britain is a sovereign state and, like any nation, has a right to know who's on its territory. Instead, it got treated like some banana republic. It didn't learn of the move until after the four Gitmo detainees were set to land on the island. Britain is our top ally, having a long-term "special relationship" that has been carefully built over 200 years. Seen in this context, the U.S. move is unprecedented and will likely cost the U.S. more than just Britain's trust. Any nation pondering an alliance with the U.S. will think twice after seeing how the U.S. treats its best allies when it's in a pinch. The root of this pickle is the Obama administration's ill-considered campaign promise to shut down Guantanamo detention camp, in a bid to win far-left voters unconcerned about terrorism. If not for that promise, there'd be no such pickle. The president could make an honest reassessment of the promise in light of the absent alternatives but hasn't. Instead, he's now strong-arming an ally against its own interests, something sure to create resentment.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
The corruption gets deeper in Zimbabwe. A high-income American citizen is stealing farms now. Dr Erikana Chihombori has a family practice in Antioch, Tennessee. Murfreesboro, TN, also. Why does she need to take a productive farm out of production? Because all the friends and family of the powerful in Zimbabwe can. Scotsman.com A RICH niece of Zimbabwe's prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, currently on a three-week tour of western countries to beg for aid to kick-start his country's battered economy, has tried to take over a white-owned commercial farm by force. Dr Erikana Chihombori, who owns a lucrative medical practice in the United States and has citizenship there, tried to seize Bertie Cremer's 60-hectare flower farm near Chegutu, 60 miles east of Harare, but the young land invaders she hired withdrew after complaining they were being paid too little. She insists she has letters from the Zimbabwean government permitting her to expropriate Mr Cremer's De Rus Farm, which has been owned by his family for 81 years. She also says she has a right to the land, and that her takeover will help "correct historical injustices". The attempted land grab by Dr Chihombori, who was born in Zimbabwe, is potentially hugely damaging to Mr Tsvangirai and to his efforts to secure western aid, as he seems to be complicit, at least by association, in her attempt to take the property. Yesterday, he met President Barack Obama in Washington to ask the US to help him and Zimbabwe without assisting powerful president Robert Mugabe.
Exxon Mobil's surprise decision to join Trans-Canada on a vast Alaska gas pipeline project is a big step toward making the U.S. self-sufficient in domestic energy. By defying naysayers, Governor Palin is now vindicated. Investor's Business Daily It must be sweet vindication for Alaska's governor. Against critics who said her 1,712-mile natural gas pipeline project would never get off the ground, who should the project bag but the "big gorilla" of American energy — Exxon Mobil. In a major surprise, Exxon announced Thursday that it had forged a partnership with TransCanada, the Canadian pipeline company that holds the state license for Palin's $126 billion Alaska Gasoline Inducement Act project. It's a big vote of confidence in Palin's top project from a by-the-books company known for its rigid investment standards. "We evaluated all the options and it came down to our belief that this approach with TransCanada and Exxon Mobil was going to be the most successful project," said Marty Massey, U.S. joint interest manager of Exxon Mobil Production Co. He said Exxon might look at expanding its participation. Rival oil firms had whispered to IBD that it would never happen. "It's gonna happen and we're very excited about this development," Palin told "Good Morning America" on Friday. Doubters of Palin's pipeline plan were numerous. Some said the pipeline would be too big to work, and that a rival BP/ConocoPhillips project, called Denali, would doom Palin's plan because Alaska didn't have enough natural gas for both. Exxon's tilt toward TransCanada suggests the oil giant believes that's not true. Exxon is America's largest company, with extraction rights to a third of all Alaska's gas reserves. It can use them to fill either pipeline. "We will make a decision based on commercial reality," Massey said. "But . . . why would we put our money and not our gas in the pipeline?" Obama administration officials who had nothing to do with this, like Energy Secretary Ken Salazar, rushed to claim credit too. What better vote of confidence could there be? Other doubters had suggested the pipeline could never happen because of a global gas glut, making the pipeline uneconomical. But with the project slated for completion in 2018, and the need for natural gas expected to rise between 20% and 40% by 2030, it's precisely now that such a project should be built. "I think it's very shortsighted" to assume that "market conditions are going to stay as they are today," Palin told CNN. In an interview with IBD last July when gasoline hit $4 at the pump, she noted that if drilling had started in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge just five years ago, when policymakers were dismissing the idea of $100-a-barrel oil, "we wouldn't be in our predicament today." This is another in a series of successful steps to build the world's largest commercial construction project. For this, credit Palin. Despite the too-hip ridicule of comedians like David Letterman, she was the one who got the pipeline past Alaska's legislature, something governors had tried — and failed — to do for 30 years.
Friday, June 12, 2009
What does an honest politician do when an inspector general is finding dirt? He lauds him. What does President 0 do when the inspector general for AmeriCorps is finding dirt? Obama fires him. Chicago machine politics is all he knows. Washington Examiner : Some strange and potentially suspicious events tonight concerning the Obama White House and the AmeriCorps program. I've been told that on Wednesday night the AmeriCorps inspector general, Gerald Walpin, received a call from the White House counsel's office telling him that he had one hour to either resign or be fired. The White House did not cite a reason. "The answer that was given was that it's just time to move on," one Senate source told me tonight. "The president would like to have someone else in that position." Inspectors General are part of every federal department. They are given the responsibility of independently investigating allegations of waste, fraud, and corruption in the government, without fear of interference by political appointees or the White House. Last year Congress passed the Inspectors General Reform Act, which added new protections for IGs, including a measure requiring the president to give Congress 30 days prior notice before dismissing an IG. The president must also give Congress an explanation of why the action is needed. Then-Sen. Barack Obama was one of the co-sponsors of the Act. Now, there is the hurried attempt to dismiss Walpin, without the required notice or cause. After last night's call, Walpin got in touch with Congress, and it appears the White House has backed off, at least for now. This afternoon, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who is something of a guardian angel for inspectors general, fired off a letter to the White House about the affair. ...
Scott Oki was a top Microsoft VP in the early years. He left a millionaire and was able to get involved in education, including being a Regent at the University of Washington and more. Oki combined his experience and knowledge in a book - Outrageous Learning. He is a fascinating guy; hear him/ meet him:
Tuesday June 16 - 5 pm to 7 pm Four Seasons Hotel Seattle - 99 Union St. (at First Ave.) Refreshments By reservationWashington Policy Center: New Book by Scott Oki Offers Foundational Ideas for Truly Reforming Public Education Washington Policy Center has released a new book by local philanthropist, entrepreneur, and education reformer Scott Oki. Outrageous Learning: An Education Manifesto describes the real problems facing schools today and offers 11 foundational thoughts for bringing constructive change to public education. Outrageous Learning is intended to start an ongoing discussion of genuine education reform, and so in addition to the book, WPC has launched outrageouslearning.org. This interactive website provides a discussion forum for sharing ideas, asking questions, and continuing a broad conversation about improving public schools. Update: Liv Finne of Washington Policy Institute recommends "Beware the Easy School Fix" by Jay Mathews in the Washington Post on Prof. William G. Ouchi of UCLA. His research on school leadership finds that when the principal controls the school resources he/she makes things different and better:
... they tend to make changes in staffing, curriculum and scheduling that sharply reduce TSL, the number of students each of their teachers is responsible for. Some urban districts have TSLs approaching 200 kids per teacher. But after principals get budgeting power, the load drops sharply, sometimes to as low as 80 kids per instructor. When that happens, the portion of students scoring "proficient" on state tests climbs. A group of New York schools had a surge of 11 percentage points after they reduced average TSL by 25 students per teacher.I don't think they can have that control in this state. The central office has it. But in other states it's been tried and tested and found to work.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Go enjoy some great cartoons, including Bill Clinton praying to Elvis. Mallard Fillmore: Celebrating 15 Years: After 15 years, MALLARD FILLMORE continues to be one of the most highly contentious and celebrated comic strips, providing a unique conservative viewpoint to the funny pages. Mallard Fillmore has been a lightning rod for controversy ever since its launch in June 1994, with the right-leaning duck consistently addressing hot button issues, lampooning liberal politicians and the media alike, and skewering cultural establishments. To honor the occasion, cartoonist Bruce Tinsley is sharing some of his favorite, most acclaimed and controversial strips with readers.
How Hillsdale Beats Harvard - WSJ.com: ... The college would not accept any federal dollars, including financial aid for its students. How different this is from Harvard. On its Web page, Harvard Law School cites the university's nondiscrimination policy and then goes on to describe how it lives up to that principle: "The Harvard Law School makes one exception to this policy. Under threat of loss of funding to the University resulting from the Solomon Amendment, the Law School has suspended the application of its nondiscrimination policy to military recruiters." You don't have to be a lawyer to get the point: Even though we are one of the world's wealthiest universities, we'd rather make an exception to our principles than give up the money. So we'll do what the Solomon Amendment requires and hold our noses. The different reaction to federal funding also translates into different reactions to the uniform. Hillsdale's decision means it's free to tell the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines to go fly a kite. But that hasn't happened. To the contrary, during my visit I found two Marine recruiters happily sitting at a table in the new student union. And they were upbeat about both the number (four for 2009 alone) and quality of Marine officers they were getting.
This map shows all the 737-700s in the air right now! I captured it at 8 am June 10. There were 332; and that's just the -700 model. The new generation also includes -600, -800 and -900; the old -300, -400 and -500. These other models add hundreds more in the air. Amazing. Discovered at Flight Aware.
The children are trying to change the rules after they lost. The Democrats just got control of the NY Senate, but they went crazy with tax increases to pay for their spending. So the Republicans got two New York City Democrats to jump to the Republicans, so they now have the majority and control. So the childishness escalates. New York Senate's new would-be leaders can't get keys to the chamber - syracuse.com:
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- The leader of a coalition that mounted Monday's coup in New York's Senate says he's being denied the keys to the historic chamber. The alliance of Republicans and two dissident Democrats is asking for the resignation of the secretary of the Senate, a position appointed by the Democratic conference that appears to have lost its majority. The secretary holds the chamber's keys. Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. is the new head of the Senate if the overthrow stands, as many now expect. He says that he if can't get the keys to the Senate he will open the session Wednesday in another room, or even a park. Espada, a Bronx Democrat, says he's sure the coup is final and will withstand any legal or political challenge.Golisano, who is leaving New York State because of the high taxes helped the Democrats get control!?
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Only an intellectual, even though very smart, would be so wrong as to think he is smarter than 300 million people who all know their own job very well doing what they know best. The smartest intellectual and his hard-working central planners cannot make as good decisions as the nation of scientists, plant managers, pharmacists, inventory planners, farmers, construction workers and ... all of us. Pajamas TV puts this lesson in Dr. Spock versus Captain Kirk. MoDo is an early kill in this adventure. Outstanding. Bill Whittle at PJ TV
The Democrat political establishment has its heart set on taking all private health care into a public system. They say their proposal is not for a single-payer plan. But everyone knows that is what they want. They say they just want to add competition with the option of joining the public plan. Or you can keep what you have. Professor Greg Mankiw of Harvard asks one question. The two possible answers show that the current proposal is disingenuous. Greg Mankiw's Blog: What's the point of a public option?:
It seems to me that this passage, like most discussion of the issue, leaves out the answer to the key question: Would the public plan have access to taxpayer funds unavailable to private plans? If the answer is yes, then the public plan would not offer honest competition to private plans. The taxpayer subsidies would tilt the playing field in favor of the public plan. In this case, the whole idea of a public option seems to be a disingenuous route toward a single-payer system, which many on the left favor but recognize is a political nonstarter. If the answer is no, then the public plan would need to stand on its own financially and, in essence, would be a private nonprofit plan. But then what's the point? If advocates of a public plan want to start a nonprofit company offering health insurance on better terms than existing insurance companies, nothing is stopping them from doing so right now. There is free entry into the market for health insurance. If a public plan without taxpayer support would succeed, so would a nonprofit insurance company. The fundamental viability of the enterprise does not depend on whether the employees are called "nonprofit administrators" or "civil servants." The bottom line: If the goal is honest competition in the provision of health insurance, the public option cannot do much good but can potentially do much harm.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
President 0 is doing what he said he would do. Surprise. Well, he talked out of both sides of his mouth. But he said he wanted "tax fairness." Here it comes - higher taxes. Steve Ballmer is guilty of wishful thinking. Big time. Hot Air The latest recipient of the Captain Louis Renault Award for shock! shock! at the anti-business nature of Barack Obama and his administration goes to Steve Ballmer, Obama supporter and CEO of Microsoft. Ballmer provided substantial support for Obama’s presidential run, and also giving $100,000 to his inauguration, as did Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Now, however, Ballmer has balked at Obama’s tax positions and now says he’ll move Microsoft jobs overseas if necessary:
Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steven Ballmer said the world’s largest software company would move some employees offshore if Congress enacts President Barack Obama’s plans to impose higher taxes on U.S. companies’ foreign profits. “It makes U.S. jobs more expensive,” Ballmer said in an interview. “We’re better off taking lots of people and moving them out of the U.S. as opposed to keeping them inside the U.S.” Obama on May 4 proposed outlawing or restricting about $190 billion in tax breaks for offshore companies over the next decade. Such business groups as the National Foreign Trade Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable have denounced the proposed overhaul.Also Microsoft fights increasing corporate taxes.
Friday, June 05, 2009
The greedy capitalists who lost all of their shares of ownership of Chrysler included public employee unions in Indiana - teachers and police officers. All shareholders got nothing for their ownership shares. Why take away from these public employees and give to the United Auto Workers? Uh, Mr. President? Indiana Teachers and Cops vs. Chrysler - BusinessWeek:
As gas prices hovered around $4 a gallon and American automakers watched their pickup-truck and sport-utility sales plummet last summer, investment managers for some 100,000 Indiana teachers, police officers, and other civil servants poured millions of pension dollars into what the funds considered a safe investment: secured debt in Chrysler. Now, as the company speeds toward an exit from bankruptcy court, they are crying foul. On Friday, June 5, the Indiana State Teachers Retirement Fund, the Indiana State Police Pension Trust, and the Indiana Major Moves Construction Fund will attempt to block Chrysler's structured bankruptcy and sale to Fiat (FIA.MI) in New York's Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The group argues that the U.S. government's intervention in the bankruptcy is unconstitutional, since the proposed plan will pay back unsecured lenders before those that were secured. The unsecured creditors and the United Auto Workers contend the sale is fair and is supported by a majority of Chrysler's creditors.The Seattle Times forgets to mention that the pensions that lost are of public employee unions.
The US is proposing to tax what US corporations earn overseas. If Obama wants US businesses to move work here from overseas he should lower our corporate taxes, not raise them. US corporate taxes are among the highest in the world. Daily Tech It takes an incredibly powerful company to threaten the U.S. government in hopes of impacting a significant decision, but that's precisely what Microsoft is doing. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made headlines when he publicly attacked President Barack Obama's plan to cut tax breaks on U.S. companies' foreign profits, a plan which is currently awaiting Congressional approval. Mr. Ballmer suggests that if the tax succeeds, Microsoft may begin a significant move out of the U.S., taking with it tax revenue and jobs. He states, "It makes U.S. jobs more expensive. We’re better off taking lots of people and moving them out of the U.S. as opposed to keeping them inside the U.S." The plan, proposed by President Obama on May 4, seeks to help raise tax revenue and balance the budget by rolling back $190B USD in tax breaks for offshore companies over the next decade. Microsoft is not the first to oppose the measure -- the National Foreign Trade Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable are among the numerous others to voice their disapproval. Previously, companies could defer paying corporate rates as high as 35 percent on most types of foreign profits, contingent that the company invests the money overseas. The idea was that foreign profits are not the domain of the U.S. President Obama disagrees, arguing that U.S. corporations' profits are U.S. earnings. He believes that by taxing foreign profits, companies will be more likely to invest in the U.S., rather than shelter their money overseas.
Isn't it extreme to help AWOL soldiers avoid facing their crime? I am sure the Bellingham council will say "We aren't thinking of this. We are just studying it because some students asked us to." Irresponsible. Seattle Times Newspaper: The Bellingham City Council hosts a Monday night meeting on making Bellingham a sanctuary city for AWOL soldiers. The Bellingham Herald reports a group of Western Washington students has asked the council to consider a resolution that would order police not to detain soldiers they discover are AWOL.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Attorney General Holder said Americans are too coward to talk about race. OK, let's talk. She says a Puerto Rican can be a better judge than a white. Where is her proof? Sotomayor’s Mistake by Victor Davis Hanson onNational Review Online:
“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Sotomayor was clear enough. In a broad discussion about sex/race discrimination cases and their history, she stated that judges’ ethnicity and gender make them better or worse at what they do.Added: The White House's stand-up comedian Robert Gibbs says Judge Sotomayor misspoke that one time in 2001. He is caught just making things up. Again. She used her "wide Latina" line multiple times from 1994 to 2003. CQ Politics:
Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor delivered multiple speeches between 1994 and 2003 in which she suggested "a wise Latina woman" or "wise woman" judge might "reach a better conclusion" than a male judge. Those speeches, released Thursday as part of Sotomayor's responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee's questionnaire, (to see Sotomayor's responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee click here and here) suggest her widely quoted 2001 speech in which she indicated a "wise Latina" judge might make a better decision was far from a single isolated instance. A draft version of a October 2003 speech Sotomayor delivered at Seton Hall University stated, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion." That is identical to her October 2001 remarks at the University of California, Berkeley that have become the subject of intense criticism by Republican senators and prompted conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh to label her "racist."
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Let's remember those who risked - and many gave - their lives to bring the popular vote to the people of China twenty years ago. Support among young people in China grew into a broad movement for democracy. China's leadership was split over reforms. The students demonstrated in Tiananmen Square, a very important site in the capital Beijing. It turned into a dangerous face-off. What really happened at Tiananmen - WSJ.com China's economic reforms in the 1980s led to a rift in the top Chinese leadership between those who supported the reforms and those who opposed them. The students demonstrating in Tiananmen Square were calling for the deepening of reform, including democracy. Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping, Premier Li Peng and other conservatives opposed them and were predisposed to respond harshly. Communist Party General Secretary Zhao saw the student demonstrations differently. "I felt that if the student demonstrations could be resolved along the principles of democracy and law, through dialogue and an easing of tensions, it could possibly boost China's reform, including political reform," he wrote. The tragic turning point toward violence came when Mr. Li maneuvered to publish Deng's harsh comments about the protestors in a People's Daily editorial on April 26. When Zhao first heard of Deng's remarks while on a state visit to North Korea, he wrote, "[M]y first thought was that another campaign against liberalism might begin." But much to the government's surprise, the students were shocked and insulted by the defamation of their motives and responded with the April 27 demonstrations, the biggest spontaneous student protest ever in modern China's history. Zhao observed at this time that "even the symbol of the paramount leader had lost its effectiveness." The stakes had now been raised. Mr. Li and his associates were not only gambling with their political agenda but their careers as well. Zhao says: "They were extremely worried that the April 26 editorial might be overturned. . . . Yan Mingfu [director of Liaison Department] reported to me that Li Peng had told him that if, upon my return [from North Korea], I did not support the April 26 editorial, Li would have no choice but to resign." More students gathered and the world watched. They erected a huge statue of Goddess of Democracy and they started a hunger strike in May. On June 3 truck loads of troops quietly entered the city. Then tanks approached. A lone demonstrator was photographed holding off a tank. That night the crack down came. Hundreds died; only the authorities know how many. The leaders were expelled. And sadly, the Communist authorities were able to squelch the yearning for participation. Today we hear that the younger generation knows nothing of this history and won't believe you if you tell them. See Wikipedia & See it in photographs at ChristusRex.com. Twenty years later Bao Tong, one of the then-leaders, thinks China still must give the people the chance to participate in the government. "Tiananmen is still here" WSJ.com Interview with Bao Tong
Mr. Bao believes this combination of "political pressure and the practice of large-scale 'buy outs'" will maintain stability in the current economic environment. "China can survive. But China will not be able to resolve the fundamental conflict between the government and the people. . . . In the long-term view, it's a big problem." The solution to this problem is full parliamentary democracy, he says. "Some people say China has its own unique characteristics and should follow its own path. I don't believe that. As I see it, China uses the same light bulbs as the rest of the world. They aren't light bulbs with Chinese characteristics."And read it from the viewpoint of General Secretary Zhao who strongly opposed the crack down. The Insider Who Tried to Stop Tiananmen - WSJ.com:
Mr. Zhao was general secretary of the Communist Party when students and others held protests in April and May 1989 centered in Beijing's massive Tiananmen Square. In the book, Mr. Zhao discusses how he opposed the imposition of martial law, as well as the ultimate use of armed force to quell the largely nonviolent demonstrations on the night of June 3 and the morning of June 4, 1989. "I told myself that no matter what, I refused to become the general secretary who mobilized the military to crack down on students," Mr. Zhao says in the book. He said the decision to declare martial law was made at a small meeting on May 17 at the home of Deng Xiaoping, then China's paramount leader and chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, and that Mr. Deng demanded no one know of the meeting. Mr. Zhao asserts there was no legitimate vote of the standing committee of the Politburo authorizing the use of military force....Personal side note. On June 4, 1989 my in-laws were traveling in China. My brother-in-law left a message on our answering machine "Mom and Dad are traveling to Beijing today." Needless to say, they didn't get there! They saw more of southern China instead.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
This is backwards - The US is importing oil from around the world. We need energy, but Obama won't allow us to use nuclear power. Iran is sitting on the largest oil reserves in the world and has massive solar energy. But Obama allows Iran to use nuclear power. Why does President 0 allow Iran to use nuclear, but not us? Obama says Iran's energy concerns legitimate - Washington Post: President Barack Obama reiterated that Iran may have some right to nuclear energy _ provided it takes steps to prove its aspirations are peaceful. In a BBC interview broadcast Tuesday, Obama also restated plans to pursue direct diplomacy with Tehran to encourage it to set aside any ambitions for nuclear weapons it might harbor. Iran has insisted its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity. But the U.S. and other Western governments accuse Tehran of seeking atomic weapons. "Without going into specifics, what I do believe is that Iran has legitimate energy concerns, legitimate aspirations. On the other hand, the international community has a very real interest in preventing a nuclear arms race in the region," Obama said.
If they don't want signers harassed, why are they disclosing their names? In California donors to Proposition 8 have been identified and harassed. Time Magazine:
In addition to the protests, gay rights activists have begun publishing lists online exposing individuals and organizations that have donated money in support of Prop. 8. On AntiGayBlacklist.com, individuals who gave money toward Prop. 8 are publicized, and readers are urged not to patronize their businesses or services.Scott Eckern, artistic director of the California Musical Theatre in Sacramento resigned his post after his name was posted. Was he harassed? Here: Seattle Times Newspaper:
A gay-rights group is promising to "out" some people in a way, but in this case it won't mean exposing closeted gays. Instead, members of Washington-based WhoSigned.org plan to shine a light on those who sign petitions for Referendum 71, an attempt by religious and conservative groups to overturn the state's 2009 Domestic Partner Expansion Bill. When it takes effect July 26, the measure will give same-sex couples in Washington state the same rights and benefits as married couples. Partnered with the gay-activist group KnowThyNeighbor.org, which has done the same thing in Oregon, Florida and Arkansas, WhoSigned.org plans to create a searchable database of names and addresses of people who sign petitions asking the Legislature to put the new domestic-partnership measure before voters in November. Names on petitions are a matter of public record, but only after petitions have been certified by the secretary of state, which, in this case would be midsummer. If there aren't enough signatures, the names do not become public. Larry Stickney of the political-action committee Protect Marriage Washington, which is behind the Referendum 71 petitions, said, "This seems to be a typical pattern developing around the country where the homosexual lobby employs hostile, undemocratic, intimidating tactics wherever their interests or intent are challenged. "They take the politics of personal destruction to new levels. I am a personal recipient of dozens of obscene and threatening e-mails and phone calls since we filed this." But WhoSigned.org spokesman Brian Murphy of Seattle said the purpose of making the petition names accessible isn't to incite harassment. ... "The main thing we want to have is a conversation," Murphy said.People can talk to their neighbors without posting them on the enemies list.
Good coverage of the set of tricks our legislature and governor used this year to "find money." They avoided tax increases by hiding the tax increases they passed as fees. But see what they did next. They transfered fee money to the general fund to turn it into tax money must be illegal. Transferring funds between accounts might be their using their own tool, but misusing it. They will be shocked! shocked! when state pensions are short on funding. And the lowest trick yet: they placed controversial actions into the budget so they would not be debated; that cannot be defended with a straight face. It's a bald-faced violation of the legislative process of holding hearings before making changes. Brett Davis and Amber Gunn in the Bellingham Herald: The sputtering economy spawned a 2009 legislative session accompanied by more legislative wailing and gnashing of teeth than a cave full of rabid hyenas fighting over a last meal. Some legislators actually pulled the "people will die" card when it became clear that a general tax increase would not pass. While certain political realities may have prevented a general tax hike, that did not stop legislators from enacting or raising targeted fees and backdoor taxes. These forms of revenue boosting are covert and less likely to be noticed or to incite voter outrage. Over the next two years, taxes and fees-on everything from horse racing licenses to plumbers to hard liquor - will increase by more than $500 million. Politicians regard fees as more palatable than taxes. However, the line between a fee and a tax is razor thin, with fees lending themselves to all sorts of budget chicanery - perfectly legal, of course. For example, this year the Legislature voted to double the tax on boxing, wrestling and martial arts events, depositing the money into a dedicated account instead of the general fund. That act converted the "tax" into a "fee." This enabled the budget writers to avoid the two-thirds vote threshold required by Initiative 960 for tax increases. Fee increases only require a simple majority. But wait, there's more! The Legislature can take the proceeds from the newly enacted "fee" out of the dedicated account and put it back into the general fund by authorizing a fund transfer in the budget. Presto! A de facto tax increase is born, sans pesky super majority vote. Legislators raided $252 million from such dedicated accounts this year to cover their proposed general fund spending. More notable 2009 budget stunt work included a prominent role for the federal government in the form of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the so-called "stimulus" bill passed by Congress in February. Washington state's newly minted budget is thatched together with more than $3 billion in one-time income from Uncle Sam. In addition, legislators swiped nearly $800 million from the capital budget, $450 million from the state's rainy day account, and half a billion from pensions - sure to yield compound pain for future taxpayers. Altogether, the Legislature relied on nearly $5 billion in one-time funds and transfers to balance the 2007-09 and 2009-11 budgets. Another dysfunctional budgeting technique employed this year - and most years - takes the form of a shell game of sorts, where legislation that might not have a chance of passing on its own is inserted into the budget and advanced quietly among hundreds of other provisos and appropriations. Perhaps the most obvious example is the raiding of $29 million from the dedicated performance audit account, a 74 percent reduction in available funds. Last year, the Legislature tried to amend the performance audit law by taking money from the dedicated performance audit account to reimburse audited school districts. The effort failed. This year, rather than give performance audit supporters another chance to stop their raid on the account, budget writers simply amended the voter-approved performance audit law within the budget itself, effectively sheltering their decision from opposition efforts. Such a shell game can only be stopped by a governor's veto pen-a risk budget writers were clearly willing to take. [More...] Via Evergreen Freedom Foundation.
Monday, June 01, 2009
Don't talk about his pork. You can't. He will stop you. Obama is planning to restrict, not just lobbyists, but everyone who has any influence at all. This is censorship - the real thing. White House Blog
Another update from Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, in the spirit of transparency as always: I am writing with an update on the President’s March 20, 2009 Memorandum on Ensuring Responsible Spending of Recovery Act Funds. Section 3 of the Memorandum required all oral communications between federally registered lobbyists and government officials concerning Recovery Act policy to be disclosed on the Internet; barred registered lobbyists from having oral communications with government officials about specific Recovery Act projects or applications and instead required those communications to be in writing; and also required those written communications to be posted on the Internet. That Memorandum instructed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review the initial 60 days of implementation of the stimulus lobbying restrictions, to evaluate the data, and to recommend modifications. Following OMB’s review, the Administration has decided to make a number of changes to the rules that we think make them even tougher on special interests and more focused on merits-based decision making. First, we will expand the restriction on oral communications to cover all persons, not just federally registered lobbyists. For the first time, we will reach contacts not only by registered lobbyists but also by unregistered ones, as well as anyone else exerting influence on the process. We concluded this was necessary under the unique circumstances of the stimulus program. ... [more]Via Tapscott's Copy Desk and Hot Air.