Thursday, April 30, 2009

Slow Joe Biden - the gift that keeps on giving

I miss Governor Palin. She runs a state and has a track record. Look what we got instead. Slow Joe Biden: The adults had to run out to say he hadn't said what he said. Carol E. Lee and Amie Parnes - POLITICO.com: In an interview Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show, Biden said, “I would tell members of my family — and I have — I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now,” Biden said on NBC’s “Today” show.. “It’s not that it’s going to Mexico. It’s [that] you’re in a confined aircraft. When one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft. That’s me. … “So, from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you’re out in the middle of a field when someone sneezes, that’s one thing. If you’re in a closed aircraft or closed container or closed car or closed classroom, it’s a different thing.” UPDATE: Friday: One day after saying he wouldn't travel in tight quarters because of the swine flu scare, Vice President Joe Biden rode a train Friday from Washington to Delaware. Known for speaking freely, Biden told NBC's "Today" show on Thursday that he had urged family members to avoid airplanes and subways for fear of contracting the H1N1 flu virus.

Washington Policy Blog: Forcing you to work and live where the government wants

Washington Policy Blog: Forcing you to work and live where the government wants : Ron Utt at Heritage President Barack Obama's early comments on his opposition to suburban sprawl and his intention to alter the way Americans live and travel took a step closer to reality when he created an interdepartmental initiative on housing and transportation costs. A March press release issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a new interagency partnership to create "affordable, sustainable communities." Included among its many goals are projects to: - Develop a new cost index that combines housing and transportation costs into a single measure to better illuminate the true costs by "redefining affordability and making it transparent," - Encourage "transportation choice," and - Require even more planning by the many federally funded regional planning entities that are already attempting to guide Americans toward a suppos edly better life. Rich in the sort of progressive euphemisms used to mask real intentions, the press release heralds a process that could likely lead to an unprecedented federal effort to force Americans into an antiquated lifestyle that was common to the early years of the previous century. More specifically, these initiatives reflect an escalation in what is shaping up as Presi dent Obama's apparent intent to re-energize and lead the Left's longstanding war against America's suburbs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Israel: 61 years

Congratulations to Israel for 61 years independence living among enemies that shoot rockets at towns, that is, civilians. It has been difficult; keep it up. Obama congratulates Israel on 61 anniversary of independence | Israel | Jerusalem Post :
The US bond with Israel is "as unshakeable as ever" as both nations pursue peace, US President Obama said on Israel's 61st birthday. "On behalf of the people of the United States, President Obama congratulates the people and government of Israel on the 61st anniversary of Israel's independence," said the statement issued Tuesday by the White House. "The United States was the first country to recognize Israel in 1948, minutes after its declaration of independence, and the deep bonds of friendship between the US and Israel remain as strong and unshakable as ever. "The President looks forward to working with Israel to advance our common interests, including the realization of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, ensuring Israel's security, and strengthening the bilateral relationship, over the months and years to come," the statement continued.
More about those neighbors. The Palestinian news agency Ma'an reports that a military court has imposed a sentence of death by hanging on 59 year old Anor Baririt, of a village near Hebron. He was convicted by unanimous vote of the judges for the crime of selling land to Jews. Selling land to Jews is worse than murder; the death penalty for it.

Record-Breaking Amateur Rocket Launch - Heaviest ever

See the photos at the link. Popular Mechanics: Steve Eves broke two world records Saturday, when his 1/10th scale model of the historic rocket—built in his garage near Akron, Ohio—lifted off from a field on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The 36-ft.-tall rocket was the largest amateur rocket ever launched and recovered successfully—and at 1648 pounds, also the heaviest. Eves' single-stage behemoth was powered by nine motors—eight 13,000 Newton-second N-Class motors and a 77,000 Newton-second P-Class motor. (Five Newton-seconds is equivalent to about a pound of thrust.) All told, the array generated enough force to chuck a Volkswagen more than a half-mile—and sent the Saturn V more than 4440 feet straight up. It was arguably the most audacious display of raw power ever generated by an amateur rocket.

Tax Freedom Day by State - Animation

The redder the state the later taxpayers are free. This is how long we work for the the government. After that date we get to keep what we earn. Washington was among the worst in 1977. It gets better, but always remains a late date - red or orange = worse than all of our neighbors except California in the later years; not in the earlier years. But always well above average. The Tax Foundation - 4-D Animation of Tax Freedom Day by State: Our friend Alex Lundry, Research Director at TargetPoint, is at it again. (As he said from a Twitter post yesterday, "Can't help myself.") Alex uses software from UUorld to create a 4-D animation of Tax Freedom Day by state from 1977 to 2009. Check it out!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Panic in NY due to White House 747 flyover

A White House official says he takes full responsibility. Oh, sure. I have seen lots of videos of the airplanes. But this is the only one I found that shows that panic on the ground. It was loading so slow where I found it linked that I am including the source URL: http://www.youtube.com/v/Jn0tMMYEkQU&hl=en&fs=1

Swine Flu

He sure looks like our grandson a year ago! I could have saved some time by adding this photo to the Goreacle story below. But why would I?

Big, huge spenders

Washington Legislature - EFF's Big Spenders List - This is the tax and fee increases they proposed. My "representative" is at the top, way out in front. Does she have a good reason?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Democrats Refuse to Allow Skeptic to Testify Alongside Gore

Evidence is not allowed. The Goreacle speaks and no one can question any word he brings from heaven. Climate Depot: UK's Lord Christopher Monckton, a former science advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, claimed House Democrats have refused to allow him to appear alongside former Vice President Al Gore at a high profile global warming hearing on Friday April 24, 2009 at 10am in Washington. Monckton told Climate Depot that the Democrats rescinded his scheduled joint appearance at the House Energy and Commerce hearing on Friday. Monckton said he was informed that he would not be allowed to testify alongside Gore when his plane landed from England Thursday afternoon. “The House Democrats don't want Gore humiliated, so they slammed the door of the Capitol in my face,” Monckton told Climate Depot in an exclusive interview. “They are cowards.” According to Monckton, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Energy & Commerce Committee, had invited him to go head to head with Gore and testify at the hearing on Capitol Hill Friday. But Monckton now says that when his airplane from London landed in the U.S. on Thursday, he was informed that the former Vice-President had “chickened out” and there would be no joint appearance.

823,076 reasons to be skeptical - Updated

823,076 - That is the estimate of total attendance at tea party events at Pajamas Media TV aka PJTV. The political class are pretending to ignore the large number of people who spent their own time expressing their political opinions. Pretending, but they can't. First, about the huge number - Rosslyn Smith at American Thinker Blog
As we approach the 100th day of the Obama reign the media is full of stories about how popular he is with American voters. Often these stories are supported by polling results commissioned by these media organization especially for the celebration. It is hard for me to reconcile polls showing wide based approval for Obama's actions with the information reported at Pajamas Media, which currently calculates the attendance at the various tea parties at 823,076 . That number is based on the media reports, videos and still photos forwarded to them by citizen correspondents across the country. I urge readers to visit their site and check out their coverage. What particularly interests me is that many of these demonstrations were held in locations your average reporter for a national media outlet probably couldn't place within 200 miles of its actual coordinates without significant help from Google Earth. For example, 500 people showed up at the Tax Day tea party protest in Abingdon, Virginia, population 7800. Then there were the 100 who showed up in Alpine, Texas, population 5,800. The names of Boone, North Carolina and Branson, Missouri conjure up images of vacation condos, not protest marches, but each resort town had a respectable turnout on April 15. It is hard for me to imagine 250 sign carrying protestors in either of the sleepy towns of Dixon, Illinois, the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan, or Fairmont, Minnesota, a southwestern Minnesota town where my father went to hunt pheasant on a friend's farm each fall. It is equally difficult to picture 300 protestors in Florence in northwestern, Alabama or, Oshkosh b'gosh, a whopping 1,000 protestors assembling at Fond Du Lac in central, Wisconsin. Add in 250 in Gillette, Wyoming. 500 assembled in Greeneville, the seat of Greene County Tennessee with another 400 marching in Newport, the seat of adjacent Cocke County, Tennessee. Then there are the 300 demonstrators in Harrison, Arkansas, 2,000 in the heart of Cajun country in Lafayette, Louisiana, 400 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, 1,000 in Loveland, Colorado, 150 in Owensboro, Kentucky, 1,500 In Rapid City, South Dakota, 650 in Traverse City, Michigan. 700 in Tupelo, Mississippi and 521 in Valparasio, Indiana. [...]
Second, Mark Davis in Dallas on the response from media and politicians:
[T]he behavioral portrait that begs to be analyzed is the torrent of unhinged tantrums thrown by those repulsed by the exercise. Disagreeing with tea party politics is fine. I would expect a massive pro-life event to be met with pro-choice responses or a global warming rally to be answered with constructive skepticism. But from White House officials to actors with time on their hands, it was not enough to simply disagree with the tea party cornerstone of lower taxes and spending. The Americans attending these events had to be eviscerated as mobs of evil, violent psychopaths. YouTube the MSNBC diatribe from Janeane Garofalo, who manages to cash a paycheck in the current season of 24, a television series that surely offends her by painting a favorable image of fighting terror. Maybe the pain of enduring such an environment fueled her attack on the generally conservative tea party crowds. "It's about hating a black man in the White House," she spewed, oblivious to the absence of that theme from the vast majority of the nearly 800 events. But why let facts obstruct a good smear? "It is a neurological problem we are dealing with," she continued, falling back on the most dog-eared index card in the radical left's file: demonize your opponents so you don't have to address what they actually say. [...]
Update: Reader Johnny gives the update: "...lawmakers knew constituents had no stomach for higher taxes. Nixing a planned sales-tax hike for a range of health services was the wise course considering the state's sputtering economy." Seattle Times When was the last time democratic lawmakers gave a fig about what people thought of taxes? Maybe - just maybe having thousands of taxpayers show up a few weeks back to protest taxes had something to do with it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gore lies to Congress about personal finances

Nothing new today: Albert Gore, Jr., is lying. He never stopped. Now it's about his finances. Canada Free Press: When Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn confronted Al Gore with his profiteering from global warming legislation at today’s House Energy and Environment Subcommittee hearing on the Waxman-Markey climate bill, Al Gore said that every penny he ever made from his business activities went into non-profit efforts. [See transcript below.] That is a flat-out lie, according to this March 6, 2008 Bloomberg report that indicates that Al Gore invested $35 million of his own money in various for-profit endeavors.
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore left the White House seven years ago with less than $2 million in assets, including a Virginia home and the family farm in Tennessee. Now he’s making enough to put $35 million in hedge funds and other private partnerships. Gore invested the money with Capricorn Investment Group LLC, a Palo Alto, California, firm that selects the private funds for clients and invests in makers of environmentally friendly products, according to a Feb. 1 securities filing. Capricorn was founded by billionaire Jeffrey Skoll, former president of EBay Inc. and an executive producer of Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary film on global warming.
Kudos to Rep. Blackburn for asking one of the ”10 Questions for Al Gore” and exposing Gore as the fundamentally dishonest operator that he is.

Free lunch - Bogus models used to justify CO2 limitation

Few things are more appealing in politics than something for nothing. As Congress begins considering anti-global-warming legislation, environmentalists hold out precisely that tantalizing prospect: We can conquer global warming at virtually no cost. Robert Samuelson at Newsweek Here's a typical claim from the Environmental Defense Fund: "For about a dime a day (per person), we can solve climate change, invest in a clean energy future and save billions in imported oil." This sounds too good to be true, because it is. About four-fifths of the world's and America's energy comes from fossil fuels — oil, coal, natural gas — which are also the largest source of man-made carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. The goal is to eliminate fossil fuels or suppress their CO2. The bill now being considered in the House would mandate a 42% decline in greenhouse emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels and an 83% drop by 2050. Re-engineering the world energy system seems an almost impossible undertaking. Just consider America's energy needs in 2030, as estimated by the Energy Information Administration. Compared with 2007, the U.S. is projected to have almost 25% more people (375 million), an economy about 70% larger ($20 trillion) and 27% more light-duty vehicles (294 million). Energy demand will be strong. But the EIA also assumes greater conservation and use of renewables. From 2007 to 2030, solar power grows 18 times, wind six times. New cars and light trucks get 50% better gas mileage. Light bulbs and washing machines become more efficient. Higher energy prices discourage use; by 2030, oil is $130 a barrel in today's dollars. For all that, U.S. CO2 emissions in 2030 are projected at 6.2 billion metric tons, 4% higher than in 2007. As an example, solar and wind together would still supply only about 5% of electricity, because they expand from a tiny base. To comply with the House bill, CO2 emissions would have to be about 3.5 billion tons. The claims of the EDF and other environmentalists that this reduction can occur cheaply rely on economic simulations by "general equilibrium" models. An Environmental Protection Agency study put the cost as low as $98 per household a year, because high energy prices are partly offset by government rebates. With 2.5 people in the average household, that's roughly 11 cents a day per person. The trouble is that these models embody wildly unrealistic assumptions: there are no business cycles; the economy is always at "full employment"; strong growth is assumed, based on past growth rates; the economy automatically accommodates major changes — if fossil fuel prices rise (as they would under anti-global warming laws), consumers quickly use less and new supplies of "clean energy" magically materialize. There's no problem and costs are low, because the models say so. But the real world, of course, is different.

Liz Cheney! puts Microsoft/NBC talker in the corner

Power Line Bill Kristol observes: "Of course, everyone's first choice for president in 2012 is Dick Cheney. But Liz Cheney's boffo performance yesterday in the lefties' den, MSNBC, defending sensible interrogation policies in the war on terror, surely puts her in contention for the runner-up position." Norah O'Donnell interviews Ms. Cheney on the "torture" controversy in light of the OLC memos and related commentary. O'Donnell is either willfully obtuse or a victim of adult-onset attention deficit disorder. One of the points that Ms. Cheney makes is one that John Hinderaker has frequently made here: that waterboarding is used in training certain of our own military personnel and that we are not torturing them. Ms. Cheney's "boffo performance" is accessilble here and is well worth watching in its entirety. Bravo!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tax increases and tricks in the LARGER budget

Increasing any tax requires a vote of the taxpayers or 2/3 majority in both houses of the Legislature. How can they pass a tax increase in HB 1614 without the required majority? Not legally. Republican leader Doug Ericksen says they intend to. "No. It's not a tax increase; it's a fee on evil oil refineries." What's the difference between a fee increase and a tax increase? Both come out of your pocket.
HB 1614 ... creates the water pollution account and requires the department of ecology to develop criteria for administering the program and ranking projects for funding.. Imposes a fee on the first possession of petroleum products that contribute to storm water pollution to offset the harm caused by petroleum pollution of storm water.
This budget is $1.5 billion larger than the last. Is that a cut? And they move money from one account to another. Tricked you! But it has to be paid back. And they defer funding commitments, such as pensions. Again... you will pay for this! via Kirby Wilbur on KVI.

Vote on the budget - Read it? Don't have time!

How they minimize objections and reduce the pain of voting for this budget: Leadership in the House won't give the members time to read what they are going to vote on. How can responsible leaders (all members are leaders, right?) allow this? Again and again. Political Buzz - Tacoma News Tribune
The budget document -- which will have some, but nowhere near all the details -- is supposed to come out at 9 a.m. today. [snip] The floor debate probably will start at 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 p.m. And the final vote will be sometime tonight. The Senate will have a little more time. They probably won't vote until Saturday. The Legislature adjourns Sunday. Yep. This is the way it's done. In fact, the script is being followed so closely, I thought I should re-post the prediction of an unnamed lobbyist from two months back. This feels more like the traditional approach of past legislatures in which you keep as much as possible hidden, reveal details toward the end of session, and then compel worn-out members to take hard votes when they desperately want to go home. This strategy has often worked in the past, but I have a hard time understanding how it works in this situation.
Here is the official summary. Don't worry about the details; that's where a few things are hidden. Politics Northwest - Seattle Times Newspaper Blog:
2009-2011 Operating Budget "Cuts with a conscience" Total Budget: $ 31.4 billion Ending fund balance: $830 million K-12: -- Total spending: $13.4 billion -- Net cut after federal stimulus dollars are included: $794 million -- I-732 suspended for two years: $353 million -- I-728 reduced by $600 million -- K-4 class-size reduction fully funded -- Average per school district cut: 2.6% -- One Learning Improvement Day (LID) is eliminated: $35.7 million -- School district levy capacity increased by 4% (capping at 35%) Higher Education: -- Reductions, after tuition increase, are: 7% at UW/WSU; 6.5% at regional universities; and 6% at community colleges --Tuition raised 14%/year at four year schools; 7%/year at community colleges -- Number of enrollments eliminated: 9,028 -- State Need Grant is fully funded -- Total financial aid increase: $52 million Health Care: -- Basic Health Plan - attrition of 40,000 enrollees, saving $255 million -- No reductions to Medicare Part D premium support or to Adult Vision Human Services: -- General Assistance program is preserved - more focus on getting the right services to people -- Long-term care programs - rate reductions approximately 4% -- Adult day health - in-home services is preserved Corrections/Juvenile Rehabilitation/Institutions: -- Public safety concerns were tantamount in making savings - public defenders and law enforcement in support -- No specific institutions are closed Natural Resources: -- No parks closed: all revenues from opt-in fee go solely for maintenance and operation of parks -- No hatcheries closed unless not enough revenue from fees Compensation/Employment: -- Agencies are encouraged to use strategies such as reduced work scheduled, use of voluntary leave without pay, and temporary furloughs that enable employees to maintain permanent employee status, full insurance benefits, full accrual of retirement service credit, and a living wage. -- Administrative cuts totaling roughly $250 million.
I saw a fee/tax increase or two in there. I hear there are more at the local and county level.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Back to work

Blogging here and at Sound Politics must slow now. After 5 weeks off work with disability I started back yesterday. So my energy, which is still short, must give first priority to satisfying my employer. I am still on crutches due to the bone graft that was necessary. I just realized it's misleading to tell people my surgery was hip replacement, because that is very routine. But my surgery was not going to be routine, due to my prior injury. So I had a second pelvis surgery that included the hip replacement.

Partisan Obama - Criminalizing policy differences

In the US after the election for president the losing party willingly gives over power to the loser. Most countries are astonished that the loser give up their power easily. The winner gets to set policy for the future. But that's not enough for Obama. He intends to go back and punish those he disagrees with. Not the CIA analysts he now relies on to keep us safe and his reputation for doing so. No; he is after the people who had responsibility, but gave it over to him - the decision makes in the Bush administration. But he won't get the full picture if he casts such a narrow net. Congress funded the terrible programs; they must have been informed. He should put Nancy Pelosi under oath to see what Congress knew and when. Presidential Poison - WSJ.com:
Policy disputes, often bitter, are the stuff of democratic politics. Elections settle those battles, at least for a time, and Mr. Obama's victory in November has given him the right to change policies on interrogations, Guantanamo, or anything on which he can muster enough support. But at least until now, the U.S. political system has avoided the spectacle of a new Administration prosecuting its predecessor for policy disagreements. This is what happens in Argentina, Malaysia or Peru, countries where the law is treated merely as an extension of political power. If this analogy seems excessive, consider how Mr. Obama has framed the issue. He has absolved CIA operatives of any legal jeopardy, no doubt because his intelligence advisers told him how damaging that would be to CIA morale when Mr. Obama needs the agency to protect the country. But he has pointedly invited investigations against Republican legal advisers who offered their best advice at the request of CIA officials.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The pirates who are robbing us

Cartoonist Michael Ramirez again cuts to the chase. Click the cartoon to enlarge it. Cartoon via Powerline Blog.

Hiking Maui

I love to hike and I love Hawaii. Hawaii is what you make of it. If you just want to lie in the sun and read, you can. If you want the bar scene, it's on every island. If you want to be active you can hike, swim, snorkel, climb, sky dive, cycle, etc. Our family owned condos on Maui for 23 years, so I have been there more than 15 times; I lost count. I like to hike. Maui has great hikes. But it also has problems with hikes not being accessible due to private property. I know as many hikes within the city of Honolulu as in all of Maui Family members are going to Maui next month. Not me; I am returning to work. I spent my five weeks off work doing trivial exercises in my own bedroom. I built a page on Maui hikes; take a look. Maui Hikes A sample: La Perouse Bay This is not known as a hike. Don't miss it in any case. It is unique and not very far [from Kihei]. The hike: The King's trail goes south the La Perouse parking area. It is over very rough lava. Boots are strongly recommended. (Parking - Try to imagine cars parked between 2 to 4-foot high lava outcroppings.) "Haleakala’s last display can be seen on Mau‘i’s southeast shore at La Perouse Bay. Scientists estimate that in 1790 Haleakala erupted to form the jagged lava rock coastline. Now there is a monument and ruins of Hawaiian natives who made their home on the sharp a’a lava rock. "La Perouse is the end of the road, literally, in south Mau‘i. It is located at mile marker 7 at the very end of Makena Alanui Road. From Kihei take Piilani Hwy south to Wailea. Turn right on Wailea Iki road and bear left on to Wailea Alanui Road which turns into Makena Alanui. Look carefully around you as you drive between mile markers 5.5 and 7. On either side you should see fields of a’a littering the landscape. There used to be a sign by the road: "Simulated Moon terrain." When we took [my sister] to Maui our first attempt for La Perouse was cut short due to danger of flooding. The rain caused flooding in every low spot in the road; many seemed designed for run off. But we chose not to be victims. We went to Wailea's shopping mall and sat in the sun!

Monday, April 20, 2009

For Earth Day - Movies that correct what "everyone knows"

Watch Albert Gore, Jr.'s movie to learn about indoctrination. Watch the following to correct what you have been taught. "Not Evil Just Wrong: The True Cost of Global Warming Hysteria" From Washington Policy Center:
The film highlights the high cost of the ban on DDT and the millions in Africa and Asia who have died from malaria as a result. Two years ago, the World Health Organization, saying they could no longer ignore the science, approved the use of DDT as a tool against malarial mosquitoes. The film combines interviews with scientists, environmental activists and average citizens to raise concerns about the current wave of regulations and taxes being proposed to fight global warming. You can see clips of the film at the Not Evil Just Wrong Youtube site...
Washington Policy Center will be showing "Not Evil Just Wrong" Wednesday at Rachel Carson Elementary (an appropriate location) in Sammamish, WA. Did you know that the ban on DDT that has killed millions was put in place by local hero William Ruckelshaus? Did he base his decision on science? No. Junk Science has the details. "Mine you own Business" is by the same film makers - Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney. Rich environmentalists are going to poor regions and fighting against developments that create jobs. Because they like the quaint poverty of Romania, Madagascar and Chile they are happy to deny jobs to the locals. Do the locals prefer outhouses over indoor plumbing? Do they want poverty? Are they willing to have a mine in their region? They speak for themselves in this movie.
See a clip at YouTube.
Albert Gore Jr.'s Inconvenient Truth is Fisked at Junk Science. I have heard there is a movie responding to Gore after a British judge ruled that it has nine significant inaccuracies, so when it is shown these inaccuracies must be disclosed. But I couldn't find it.

Quiet tax increases and the big one

Our Washington Legislature is quietly raising taxes. They can do it without a vote of the suckers aka taxpayers if they can get a 2/3 vote. And when is a fee increase a tax increase? Always. Also notice the trick: In many cases they are not raising your taxes; they are allowing your city or county to do it. But what will the county say? "The Legislature forced us to raise your taxes; they cut our funding, so we had to." Is 10 per cent high enough sales tax? With King County's extra tax on restaurant meals for Paul Allen's stadium (or was it John Ellis's Mariners stadium?) I have already paid 10% sales tax. So will you vote to raise it above 10%? Spokesman.com | Tax, fee plans may induce sticker shock
OLYMPIA – As Olympia struggles to agree on a major tax plan to send to voters in November, they’re also talking about a lot of small things that will never appear on any ballot – but that are still likely to cost you. Among them: - Letting cities impose a 6 percent tax on water and sewer districts. - Allowing state college tuition increases of nearly 30 percent over the next two years. - Letting local school districts collect tens of millions of dollars more in property taxes. - Raising some court fees by $50 to $200. - Tripling the $50 “document fee” that auto dealers can charge buyers. - Letting counties tack a new 6 percent tax onto power, garbage, cable-TV and other utility bills for residents who live outside cities. - Charging a new, voluntary $5-a-car annual fee for state parks. - Boosting the costs of hunting and fishing licenses, as well as raising licensing fees for thousands of health care workers.
The Big One this year: Your Legislature hopes you will fall for "it's for health care."
At the state level, House lawmakers will hold a hearing today on their leading tax plan. It would boost the state sales tax by about a third of a cent for the next three years. If voters agree to that in a statewide vote in November, the state would collect hundreds of millions of dollars to help pay for health care programs across Washington.
If you believe this tax increase would be for health care... Gullible! It's to pay for your Legislature's foolish overcommitment to spending in 2008. Update: The Seattle Times has found some politicians who claim it's not bait and switch (really Washington Monument syndrome) to fund second and third-priority functions while holding top priorities hostage unless the taxpayers vote for higher taxes.
During a public hearing this morning, anti-tax activist Tim Eyman accused lawmakers of "the oldest trick in the book - fund non-essential programs with existing taxes, then hold essential programs hostage, demanding a voter-approved ransom to get them back." "Dante's Inferno describes the seven circles of hell. There needs to be an 8th circle added and reserved for politicians who are willing to throw the elderly and the disabled under the bus, defund their programs, and then exploit them, using them as props and pawns in their never-ending pursuit of higher taxes," he said.
Cross posted at Economic Freedom.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

You be the jury - Sec. State Sam Reed vs. KIRO-7

You have the chance to hear the complaint, review the evidence, then cast your vote as a member of the jury. Washington News Council is an independent group, headed by John Hamer, that provides a forum for complaints about actions of the Washington news media - print, radio, television. WNC has no special standing; it's not a court, but a private venue for discussions. When a complaint is filed WNC works to get the parties talking to resolve it. They have a process for a formal hearing for when progress stalls, but only one case out of six gets that far. How can they judge a journalist on how he does his job? Journalism has standards, of course! The primary set WNC uses is Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. WNC is asking for public participation in their most recent complaint. We are invited to read the evidence and judge for ourselves over eight questions and enter our votes. Go to the WNC web site to participate; it's on the home page. There are links to the complaint, Sec. State Sam Reed's defense in a letter and both video and text of the KIRO news stories of Oct. 15 and Nov. 3, 2008. The link for voting - CLICK HERE TO VOTE AND COMMENT - is about two screens down. The deadline for voting on this is April 30. Below is the wording on the WNC home page. WA News Council: We had a formal complaint from Washington's Secretary of State, Sam Reed, against KIRO7 Eyewitness News (CBS affiliate in Seattle). We invited KIRO to comment, but they did not respond to repeated letters, phone calls or emails. In his written complaint, Reed contended that the stories were "factually incorrect, incomplete, misleading, sensationalized, inflammatory and unfair." However, Reed and his office staff decided NOT to ask for a full News Council hearing on this complaint. In an email to the WNC, they stated: "After several conversations as part of the News Council negotiating period, KIRO eventually agreed to pull down their stories from the Web site if we would muzzle ourselves and not inform the News Council of the nature of this accommodation. This we cannot agree to, since this leaves KIRO offering very little and conceding nothing. "At the same time, we weary of this frustrating battle and the countless man-hours devoted to researching chapter and verse of this sorry episode, and we see little value in continuing to bang our head against the wall, knowing that KIRO will boycott the proceedings and will not acknowledge errors in fact and in tone, much less fix the problem. A News Council finding in our favor would not change the dynamic; properly, in a nation that so values the First Amendment, the council cannot order KIRO to do anything." True: We cannot order KIRO to do anything. However, we invite members of the public to view or read the stories and to read Sam Reed's complaint and letter. We also invite members of the public to vote on the Draft Questions that the News Council would have voted on IF this case had gone to a WNC hearing. In other words, we're inviting you to be members of a "Citizens Online News Council" and render a public verdict on the merits of this complaint. Call it a "virtual hearing."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

If you were offended ... the weakest apology from Sec. DHS Napolitano

She says If veterans were offended ... (weasel words). In other words, it's your fault you took offense. After 4 minutes: "If you read it ..." "I have read it. On page 2 there is a foot note ... extermism. It may contain groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single cause such as opposition to abortion or immigration... That report makes Catholics extremists." "... I would change that ..." I.e. you caught me there. Watch her pitiful spinning.

White tails at Boeing - not

Some new Boeing airplanes are being parked rather than be delivered to the customer to enter service. Two wide-bodies in Everett are painted white, but these are not white tails. "White tail" is the industry term for an airplane built on speculation - without a customer. But Boeing has not NOT built any white tails. All these aircraft were built for customer orders. But some customers cannot use the aircraft now, so they are delaying delivery. Take a very close look at this photo and you see red and white on the tail. It is a 777 Freighter for Air France. Boeing parking jets around Puget Sound, the desert as buyers struggle | Seattle Times Newspaper: They look like ghost airplanes and they are a bad $300 million omen for the airplane business. Two brand new Boeing wide-body freighter jets painted all white are parked at Paine Field outside the Everett assembly plant. Two more freighters freshly painted in the colors of China Southern and worth another $300 million flew this week not to Asia, but to a jet parking lot in the Arizona desert. Meanwhile at Boeing Field, three 737 single-aisle jets have been parked outside for many weeks awaiting delivery to Arik Air, of Nigeria. Next to them is a completed but idle AirTran 737. And in Renton, outside Boeing's single-aisle assembly plant, two 737s originally ordered for a Chinese airline are now repainted in the livery of a Dubai-based airline that doesn't start service until June. Because of a global downturn in air traffic, with the airfreight sector particularly hard-hit, many airlines don't need new jets. In some cases, they can't use the planes they have committed to take from Boeing.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sarkozy mocks President Obama

Obama promised to regain the world's respect for the US. On his first trip overseas everyone praised him to his face. But now what are they saying? President Nicholas Sarkozay of France mocked him recently in the French press, said he would invite BO to walk on water. L'Express.fr reports in French:
Nicolas Sarkozy relativise l'état de grâce dont bénéficie Barack Obama :"Les journalistes n'ont pas de mémoire! En 2000, George W. Bush était si populaire que Jacques Chirac s'était arrangé pour dîner avec lui avant même qu'il ne soit investi." Le président français, qui accueillera son homologue américain sur les plages de Normandie le 6 juin, pour le 65e anniversaire du Débarquement, ironise sur l'"obamania" des médias : "Je vais lui demander de marcher sur la Manche, et il va le faire, vous verrez..."
Translated:
Nicolas Sarkozy criticized the Obama's popularity : "Journalists have no memory! In 2000, George W. Bush was so popular that Jacques Chirac had arranged to dine with him before he was inaugurated. " The French President, who will host his U.S. counterpart on the beaches of Normandy on 6 June for the 65th anniversary of the Normandy Landing, is ironical about "obamania": "I will ask him to walk on the Channel, and he will... "

Anti-Christian actions by our "Christian" president

No one has to make this up. Obama has his staff trained to do it. And he has deniability. He didn't know they did it. This is just one small thing; there are many more we don't know about. CNS News Georgetown University says it covered over the monogram “IHS”--symbolizing the name of Jesus Christ—because it was inscribed on a pediment on the stage where President Obama spoke at the university on Tuesday and the White House had asked Georgetown to cover up all signs and symbols there.   As of Wednesday afternoon, the “IHS” monogram that had previously adorned the stage at Georgetown’s Gaston Hall was still covered up--when the pediment where it had appeared was photographed by CNSNews.com.

Can you wait for 100 MPH trains going through your town?

The flyover people are now the "100 MPH through your neighborhood" people. Our president said so today. Yes, there are benefits. But also costs. In SW Washington two teens were killed by a passenger train. They should not have been on the tracks, but they didn't hear it because of another train passing. CNN The audio clip I heard today was Obama singing the praises of zooming through towns at 100 MPH - your town, not his.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sensible Drilling: Gone With the Wind

Obama talks growth, but acts against it. He is stopping oil exploration and production. Because we can get our energy needs from renewable sources. Can we? If we cover the US in solar panels and wind generators. But none can be within sight or sound of any liberal or progressive. "That's different," they say. So where will be put 528,000 windmills? Barrons.com: INTERIOR SECRETARY KEN SALAZAR, THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION'S energy architect, apparently thinks the answer to all our energy worries is blowing in the wind. Salazar has slammed the brakes on efforts to develop vast new gas and oil fields offshore and in his home state of Colorado. During the campaign, candidate Obama said he would drill to find oil offshore. But Salazar now says he needs six months to formulate a comprehensive offshore-energy plan and to have "an open and honest conversation" about it with the American people. Increasingly, Salazar sounds like a man bedeviled by the winds. In speeches he suggests that huge wind turbines placed off major cities on the East and West Coasts will generate 1,900 gigawatts of clean and relatively cheap electric power, double the current total output of all U.S. power plants. He doesn't say how long it would take to achieve this. But if it were so, there would be no need to build new coal or nuclear plants. We would, in Salazar's rumination, simply breeze along. He must be thinking of a whole lot of windmills. I don't know for certain, because my multiple phone and e-mail entreaties for information from spokesman Frank Quimby went unanswered. But we can assume he is thinking half a million or more of the gigantic contraptions. I derive the estimate from a wind project planned off Nantucket involving 130 wind-driven turbines. These big machines will generate a total of 468 megawatts, which comes out to 3.6 megawatts per windmill, or .0036 gigawatts. Divide Salazar's 1,900 gigawatts by 0.0036 and the result is 528,000 windmills.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

WEA demands play for pay in email to Legislators

The Washington Education Association has sent letters to legislators demanding action in exchange for the cash and people support they have given. The same demand by the Washington State Labor Council killed the bill to gag employers speaking to their own employees. True to form, the WEA is trying to kill HB 1410 that does restructuring based on a thorough study. Instead they want more funding. It hasn't worked before - funding has climbed and climbed in real dollars, while measured results have moved little. Rep. Deb Eddy (D, Redmond, Bellevue) blew the whistle in a comment to this entry at Publicola. Publicola is the blog of the liberal response to Washington Policy Center. Their blog gives a more thorough report:
[WEA sent a letter to] Speaker of the House Rep. Frank Chopp (D-43, Wallingford). The letter condemns a pair of education reform bills. It says, in part:
“Our members have contributed time, effort and dollars to candidates we respect and who share our educational values. We have been active and generous regarding candidates on the state level as well… I hope you will be able to alleviate our concerns by ending any consideration of any bill containing the onerous provisions of of HB 1410 and SB5444 in any form or fashion.”
HB 1410 and SB 5444 are education reform bills that do things like allow the state to intervene in failing schools and upgrade graduation requirements—provisions the WEA opposes in lieu of funding, but provisions that reform advocates support. The reformers argue that despite the lack of funding right now, the state must put “a stake in the ground” so specific reforms are queued up when funding becomes available. They also argue that without these specifics, Washington state will lose out on federal dollars. The WEA argues that this is no time to define or mandate reforms, given that schools are reeling from cuts. Rep. Deb Eddy (D-48, Redmond, Bellevue), who supports the education reform bills, says, “I hope legislators don’t cave to this quasi threatening letter. I hope we do the right thing and pass an education reform bill.” Eddy also pointed out that these WEA letters were similar to the controversial emails the Washington State Labor Council (WSLC) sent out earlier this year about a different bill—a bill that protected workers from captive anti-union meetings—which the WSLC supported. A now-infamous WSLC email threatened that Democrats wouldn’t get “one dime” unless they voted WSLC’s way on the bill. “I don’t know how what they’re [the WEA] is saying is substantively different from the [WSLC] letter,” Eddy says. Eddy acknowledges that the WEA and the WSLC has every right to make support contingent on voting records and says this type of lobbying goes on all the time, but says she thinks it’s inappropriate when financial support is made contingent on one vote. The Democrats—infamously now—didn’t cave to the WSLC threat earlier this session, and Rep. Eddy hopes they don’t cave to the WEA threat. “What kind of signal do we send?” Eddy asks, “if we cave.”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thai protesters break up international summit

I love Thailand. But it doesn't have basic law and order. Here is proof. The Prime Minister failed to protect international guests in Pattaya for an Asian summit. Based on following events there for about 3 years I was convinced that former PM Thaksin was doing excellent work (though he like many US politicians seemed to think his position entitled him to enrich his entire family) and was thrown out of office on a ruse. But any sympathy I had for him evaporated today. NewsDaily: Thai PM moves to restore order after summit fiasco:
Prime Minister Abhisit suffered a political humiliation when the summit he had presented as a sign of the country's return to normality had to be canceled after red-shirted protesters broke into the venue, sending Asian leaders fleeing by helicopter. "Yesterday was a truly shameful day for our country, which had its international image destroyed," the Bangkok Post said in a front-page editorial. Thaksin's supporters say Abhisit only became premier because of a parliamentary stitch-up engineered by the army. They want new elections, which they would be well placed to win.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ken Salazar's Wind Power Fantasy

Reality versus Obama: The Foundry : Remember back in the summer of 2008 when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) falsely and repeatedly claimed natural gas was a “cheap alternative to fossil fuels”? Well Interior Secretary Ken Salazar did her one better this Monday when he told a public hearing in Atlantic City:
The idea that wind energy has the potential to replace most of our coal-burning power today is a very real possibility. It is not technology that is pie-in-the sky; it is here and now.
The AP goes on to report:
Salazar said ocean winds along the East Coast can generate 1 million megawatts of power, roughly the equivalent of 3,000 medium-sized coal-fired power plants, or nearly five times the number of coal plants now in the United States, according to the Energy Department. Salazar could not estimate how many windmills might be needed to generate 1 million megawatts of power, saying it would depend on their size, and how near or far from the coast they were located.
There is a good reason Salazar “could not estimate how many windmills might be needed” to replace coal power production in the United States: such an idea is pure fantasy.

2009 Index of Economic Freedom - Heritage

The Index of Economic Freedom offers a time- tested formula for sustained economic growth. Grounded in the classical liberal economic theories of Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek, the Index promotes economic policies that: - Put the individual first and allow people to decide for themselves what is best for their own well-being and that of their families; - Recognize that the free market is the only reliable predictor of the real prices of goods, labor, and capital; - Use government to shape a fair and secure environment, protect private property and the value of money, enforce contracts, and promote competition, but not to produce or sell goods and services; and - Emphasize openness to international trade and investment as the surest paths to increased productivity and economic growth. A government that limits its involvement in economic activity consistent with these principles maximizes opportunities for individuals to reach their full economic potential and promotes the greatest levels of prosperity and human well-being for society as a whole. Heritage Foundation 2009 Executive Summary (pdf)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday - Jesus suffered

Today is Good Friday. Jesus suffered for us. Kevin McCullough at Townhall.com Jesus had been tried. He had been pronounced guilty of a series of crimes, even though he was innocent, and had never committed the smallest sin. In the atmosphere of the politically charged and stacked system he was in, the outcome of what he faced had been sealed. By the end of Good Friday, he had been whipped until the flesh of his back looked like raw meat. He had been forced to drag a cross until he could carry it no more. He was wrongfully accused, criminally framed, and brutally punished--long before his tormented death that he would endure. By the end of Good Friday his hands had been poked through with nails that punched the bone, muscle, blood and tissue together and then ripped it apart. The fire that must have been felt in the exposed nerves ran up his arm, to his brain and through the rest of his body. By the end of Good Friday his feet too had been run through with stakes that sent shock waves through the rest of his body. He had been crowned with thorns, and had them pushed down into the flesh of his head. By the end of Good Friday his belly had been poked with the tip of the spear, and his water and blood came pouring out. He suffered all this... because He had never known sin.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

I have a cool idea - Let's shoot pollution into the upper atmosphere

The junior scientist with the hair-brained idea is 0bama's chief scientist John Holdren. This science advisor must have Albert Gore, Jr. as his science advisor. They know a lot of data shows Earth is cooling now. This has been done successfully before. HIstory has evidence for him. In 1992 Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines put enough material in the upper atmosphere to reduce energy from the Sun by 2% and its chemicals destroyed 4% of the ozone layer. Sunsets were redder (more red) for about a year! From Ron Huerco via Ronalfy.com. So shooting pollution up there will cool the earth. What could go possibly wrong? What responsible person could be against introducing pollution into the upper atmosphere? AP Newsbreak: Obama looks at climate engineering:
WASHINGTON – The president's new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth's air. John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort. "It's got to be looked at," he said. "We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table." Holdren outlined several "tipping points" involving global warming that could be fast approaching. Once such milestones are reached, such as complete loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, it increases chances of "really intolerable consequences," he said. Twice in a half-hour interview, Holdren compared global warming to being "in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog."
Update: And while distinguished Science Advisor Holdren is at it he can end all our expensive efforts to clean up the atmosphere. CFCs were banned for this purpose at great expense in 1997. See Science Daily. Update: James Taranto at Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web brings out some TV history:
Life Imitates 'The Simpsons' Smithers: "Well, sir, you've certainly vanquished all your enemies: the elementary school, the local tavern, the old age home. You must be very proud." Burns: "No, not while my greatest nemesis still provides our customers with free light, heat and energy. I call this enemy the sun. Since the beginning of time man has yearned to destroy the sun. I will do the next best thing--block it out!"--dialogue from "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part One," aired May 21, 1995 "Obama May Block Sun's Rays to End Global Warming"--headline, FoxNews.com, April 8, 2009

Protest tax increases at a Tea Party April 15 - Updated

Protest tax increases at a Tea Party April 15. Let people in your area know that you don't think tax increases are necessary. There will be over a dozen of them in Western Washington. Some are in the middle of the day; some all day and a few at evening rush hour. I started to make a list, but Kirby Wilbur has the best list at his Facebook Fan page, link below. In addition, he mentioned the following on the air, but not on this page: Anacortes, Oak Harbor, Port Angeles, Fife. There are probably more pools/buses to Olympia being organized, as well. Facebook | Kirby Wilbur Show: I think you have to join Facebook to see it. "Living in a Liberal State Broadcasting Live from the Heart of it's Bluest City, Standing his Ground Since 1993, An Authority on the Issues that Impact Your World, His Core Conservative Values and Lifelong Belief in Liberty are a Northwest Institution." Update: Whoops. I didn't include the Tea Party events already placed on Sound Events, our community calendar. Check there (in our right column) for added events. Thanks, Tim in the comments. Olympia - at the Capitol steps at 12 noon - hosted by Evergreen Freedom Foundation Spokane - outdoors at the Convention Center at 4:30 - Evergreen Freedom Foundation Seattle - Westlake Park at 4th and Pine St. at 5:45 - Seattle Sons & Daughters of Liberty Update: An excellent list is at Distributing Knowledge.

The number without health care is much smaller than reported

Obama wants a crisis in health care, so he can force a government takeover of it. So his minions are working to create the needed crisis. How? They confuse "health care" with "health insurance." The issue should be how many people are not getting the care they need, not what kind of arrangement they have to pay. They make the number much larger by talking about who lacks insurance and ignoring two important groups: (1) people who choose not to buy insurance because they are healthy and can afford to pay, and (2) people who are in between and will have it in a few months; they started a new job and have a waiting period. I did the same when I was young. I chose to take 4 months off between jobs; I didn't get insurance because I was young and healthy and after I started working I had a delay before insurance started. Doug Ross -- The curious case of 200 nearly identical MSM headlines
Data from the Census Bureau debunks the lie continually promoted by the mainstream media of the legendary 47 million uninsured Americans: • 9.5 million people are illegal aliens • 8.3 million uninsured people are those who make between $50,000 and $74,999 per year and choose not to purchase insurance • 8.7 million uninsured people are those who make over $75,000 a year and choose not to purchase insurance This leaves approximately 20 million uninsured; less than 7% of the population. Why do some people choose not to purchase insurance? 60 percent reported being in "excellent health or very good health" and purposefully decided not to buy insurance. Further, 45% of the uninsured will have insurance within the next four months according to the Congressional Budget Office. Many are transitioning between jobs and purchase health insurance through their employers. So what is the true extent of the "health care crisis" continually marketed by the big government leftists? The Kaiser Family Foundation, a liberal non-profit frequently quoted by the media, puts the number of uninsured Americans who do not qualify for current government programs and make less than $50,000 a year between 13.9 million and 8.2 million. That is a much smaller figure than the media report and is also subject to "the 45% rule", wherein that percentage will transition to new jobs within a four-month time-frame.

Another state refuses Obama's higher spending requirement

It is not wise for any state to accept all of Obama's stimulus money because of the strings attached. The strings are the requirement to broaden the eligibility for welfare and it must continue after the money stop flowing. It's one step forward and 3 steps back. If you were offered $1,000 a month to room and board a homeless person would you take it? What if the funding ended after 2 years, but you were required up-front to commit for 4 years. The first two years you would be ahead on the cash, but over 4 years you would be most of $20,000 behind. Governor Sanford of South Carolina refused this unfair offer. And the Legislature of Virginia did so also yesterday. If Obama is so caring why did he set this up so any responsible leader has to refuse it? His action causes more people on welfare. Does he want more people dependent "his" government. Va. Assembly Rejects Stimulus Funds That Would've Expanded Jobless Benefits - washingtonpost.com: RICHMOND, April 8 -- A divided General Assembly narrowly rejected $125 million in federal stimulus money Wednesday that would have provided additional unemployment benefits to thousands of jobless Virginians. The defeat was a blow to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who had pushed the matter as the state legislature reconvened for a one-day session. A visibly angry Kaine berated legislators after the vote and hinted that he might try to find another way to accept the federal money. "There's an awful lot of people who are hurting in Virginia, and the message to them seemed to be: 'We don't care. Fend for yourself,' " he said. The GOP-controlled House of Delegates, a fiscally conservative body that has long opposed fundamental changes to laws that extend such benefits, killed the proposal after members argued it would translate into higher taxes for businesses once the supply of stimulus money was exhausted. "We are being used," Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R-Fairfax) said. "Actually our constituents . . . who are now unemployed are being used by this administration to hold a gun to the head of this General Assembly with the assistance of the governor to force through a bad bill." ... The battle in Virginia reflects a partisan debate taking place in states around the country. Republican governors in several states have refused at least some federal stimulus money approved by President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress to expand benefits for the unemployed.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Anacortes, Washington

We are paying a short visit to one of my favorite cities in Washington. It is a gem, but is overlooked. Anacortes is on Fidalgo Island and is the gateway to the San Juan Islands. So people drive through on their way to the ferry to the San Juans and to Sidney, BC to get to Victoria. Some also come for day cruises or chartering a boat. But these people just rush through and don't appreciate Anacortes. Anacortes is a peninsula - water all around - and has 3 large marinas and some smaller ones. The view to the east is Mt. Baker and two oil refineries - oh, forget that; to the north Guenes Island is very close and served by a county ferry. To the northwest Cypress Island is not regarded as one of the San Juans, but it is more mountainous than any San Juan, but Orcas Island. To the west Decatur and other San Juan islands are as close as 5 miles away. To the south are two private, largely undeveloped islands. There are at least two shipyards. One of them just built a 90-foot catamarn for BMW-Oracle - Larry Ellison - Racing Team for their America's Cup challenge. Washington Park is a gem - 220 acres on a small peninsula overlooking Rosario Straight. Camping, boat launch, beach walks, etc. For us walkers - soon - and cyclists - soon also - they main loop road is closed every day until 10 am. To enter Anacortes you either drive through Washington's famous tulip fields - they are just starting to open today - or through Deception Pass State Park - 77,000 feet of saltwater shoreline - and across the spectacular high bridge over Deception Pass, which is so narrow that boaters need the table for the current speed and direction for safe passage. What a choice.

Illegally hiding public records - Ron Sims picked by Obama

We have suffered through 12 years of very marginal leadership by King County Executive Ron Sims. But the nadir of his reign has been his repeated illegal withholding of public documents from our citizens. So 0bama chose him to run a $39 billion agency. Michelle Malkin has two major examples; one involves my co-blogger Stefan Sharkansky at Sound Politics.com Michelle at Townhall.com If you need a shining example of the utter disingenuousness of Barack Obama's commitment to government transparency, I have two words for you: Ron Sims. This lifelong political hack is to transparency what sunlight is to Dracula, what salt is to a slug, what kryptonite is to Superman, what "The View" is to intelligent debate. That is: lethal. In its press release announcing the nomination of the Seattle-area county executive to the No. 2 post at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the White House described Sims as a "visionary urban leader." The White House also touted Sims' "willingness to make the tough choices necessary to ensure that American tax dollars are spent wisely." But Sims' key accomplishments in the Pacific Northwest have involved illegally keeping taxpayers in the dark. Despite his long-known notoriety in Washington State as an incompetent manager and obstinate campaign finance law-breaker, President Obama trusts Sims to oversee the day-to-day operations of a federal agency with 8,500 employees, a $39 billion yearly budget, and a chronic history of corruption and cronyism.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Book: The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath: The Past and Future of American Affluence by Robert Samuelson

Inflation might not sound so bad during discussions of our sick economy. But you don't want to live through it. We did. It is very discouraging to see prices fly up while your income creeps up. We bought our current home with seller financing at 12%! A bank loan would have been higher. The prime rate for commercial transactions reached 20%. You can say we brought it on ourselves because we elected the President who called himself Jimmy - Honorable Jimmy Carter. No! I voted against the sorry man. Robert Samuelson is one of the best economic journalist/columnists he is thorough and nonpartisan and readable. He does an excellent job of simplifying what seems complex. I recommend his book: The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath: The Past and Future of American Affluence Amazon.com This is the mini-review from Publisher's Weekly: Newsweek and Washington Post columnist Samuelson is one of the rare journalists who debates politics and economics with a healthy skepticism toward conventional wisdom. The severity of the inflation that plagued the U.S. economy throughout the 1970s and early 1980s is often overlooked, but at the time it threatened to destabilize our entire monetary system. After World War II it was believed that downturns could be avoided by simply maintaining high employment, but that model ultimately led to the “stagflation” of the late 1970s and contributed to Jimmy Carter’s loss to Ronald Reagan in 1980. Through an unspoken alliance between Reagan and Fed chairman (and Democrat) Paul Volker, a deliberately engineered and very painful recession finally ended the inflationary spiral. Samuelson compares the challenges of that era to those we face now, and he is concerned that few leaders today have the fortitude to make the unpopular choices that will bring long-term solutions to the current economic crisis. Politicians would do well to study these errors of the past that teach that choosing quick fixes only delays and worsens the inevitable.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Community college censors student speech

The term censorship is often misapplied; it is the prior restraint of speech by the government. And this case is the real thing. From the Sound Politics public blog with permission: Spokane Falls Community College Claims Pro-life Speech Against Washington Law Not to be believed, but yes, SFCC "threatened Beth Sheeran and members of a Christian student group with disciplinary measures, including expulsion, if they chose to hold a pro-life event on campus to share information with other students because the message was 'discriminatory' and did not include a pro-abortion viewpoint." They were also told it was against Washington law. Read the whole story from the ADF who is representing the students in their law suit against SFCC. Here's the offending flyer the pro-life students wanted posted in a display case. What these pro-life students went through, not only with the school administration but with their faculty advisory is outrageous. Not only were they told that their "pro-life display was 'offensive' and 'discriminatory,' they were also required to also present the opposite point of view during the event. But here's another whopper, "Defendant McKenzie (Director of Student Funded Programs at the College) also told SFCF's (Spokane Falls Christian Fellowship) president that Washington is a "pro-choice" state, so SFCF could not use state money for "non-pro-choice" speech events. And it gets worse, Ms. Kurtz, a professor of English at the College and SFCF faculty advisor, told Ms. Sheeran and SFCF members that the pro-life event violated state law according to Wash. Admin. Code § 132Q-30-242. (Verified Complaint of Plaintiff: pp 10-11 (PDF)) She capped that information off with a lovely, "You don't want to be expelled, do you?" How did this woman get selected as faculty advisor to a pro-life group?! A preliminary hearing has been set for April 29 at 3:00 p.m. at the Federal District Courthouse in Spokane. Sheeran will have the opportunity to present her case at the hearing. Posted by 6p01053614339a970b If you have doubts the State should allow pro-life students to speak on their campus then read at least the introduction to the complaint filed in court. Here is how it begins:
1. The hallmark of a free society is the ability of people to express their ideas without government restraint. Nowhere is this freedom more necessary than on America’s public college campuses—the marketplace of ideas. However, Washington State Community College District 17, the Community Colleges of Spokane (the District), as well as Spokane Falls Community College (the College), systematically prohibits religious and political student speech that is outside the campus political mainstream. 2. This case arises from the efforts and policies of a public community college, through its officials, to restrict the expressive rights of its students and student organizations. The District, as a public institution of higher learning, is bound by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution to refrain from infringing on the free speech rights of those it educates. Instead, the Defendants in this case have engaged in unlawful censorship. Through a series of unconstitutional policies and practices, they have attempted to suppress constitutionally protected expression on campus simply because that expression offended the sensitivities of some.
If you have doubts the actions are illegal and unconstitutional then read the whole brief.

Another temporary tax becoming permanent

$1-per tire fee that was supposed to go away is here to stay Political Buzz | The News Tribune At least, it will be if the House goes along with a Senate proposal to remove the "sunset" date on the tire fee. The "sunset" date is when a tax is supposed to expire. This one was supposed to go away on June 30, 2010. SB 5976, passed by the Senate, gets rid of that expiration date and keeps the fee in place permanently. It passed the Senate 36-11, a supermajority. The first $1 million each year will go to clean up tire piles, the rest will be used for highway preservation projects. The House Transportation Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill today at 1:30 p.m. You may recall that some taxes that were supposed to expire, the ones used to build the Seahawk stadium and Mariners ballpark, now appear headed for an indefinite extension. ... The fee did expire once, but lawmakers brought it back in 2002.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

It Really Is All Greenspan's Fault

Alan Greenspan allowed/forced very low interest rates which encouraged excess home building which caused over supply, which melted down. Journalist Susan Lee cites John Taylor who uses his own measure to show the gap between the low interest rates and what would have been stable market rates. Self serving? Some what. But his Taylor Rule is widely used. It Really Is All Greenspan's Fault - Forbes.com:
It's been quite a spectacle for those who have followed Alan Greenspan's career for decades. Gone is the financial rock star or even the statesman testifying before Congress in a measured baritone. Instead, over the past several months, Alan Greenspan has morphed into a totally new person. The first incarnation was the shaken Greenspan who was stunned that greedy and reckless short-term behavior could overwhelm long-term, rational self-interest. That was rather amazing all by itself. But now, there's a newer Greenspan--a decidedly prickly and whiny one. I'm talking about Greenspan's recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. A 1,500-word attempt to move blame for the financial crisis away from himself and onto ... China. It was, writes Greenspan, Chinese growth that led to "an excess" of global savings. That growth kept long-term interest rates low, which fueled the housing bubble. As for himself, the lowly chairperson of the Fed, he says he was helpless. He only had control over short-term rates. Why this recent incarnation as a self-pitying victim of historical forces? Most likely, it's because of John Taylor, a mild-mannered professor at Stanford and former colleague of Greenspan's at the Fed. In his Getting Off Track, a nifty little book, Taylor exposes, as plain as day, the culprit behind the financial boom-bust: Greenspan. His weapon of choice is the "Taylor rule" (discovered by Taylor--but not named by him, as he modestly points out.) (The Taylor rule is a recommendation about how the Fed should set the short interest rate--suggesting the amount it should be changed given economic conditions.) Here's Taylor's take. Short interest rates fell in 2001 in response to the dot-com bust. But--and here's the important moment--beginning in 2002, the Taylor rule indicated that Greenspan ought to have tightened. Indeed, from 2002 to 2005, rates ought to have climbed to a touch over 5% and then stayed there through 2006. But the Fed kept to a loose monetary stance, and rates kept falling during the period 2002 through 2004. Rates didn't start back up until middle of 2004 and didn't reach 5% until 2006. You can check this out in Figure 1, below. The result? The Greenspan Loose policy went on to fuel a boom, while the Taylor Tight would have avoided one. As Taylor says, all the Fed needed to do was follow "... the kind of policy that had worked well during the period of economic stability called the Great Moderation, which began in the early 1980s." The connection between Greenspan Loose and the housing boom is also clear. Housing starts took a sharp spike up in 2003 and then continued to climb through 2006. If the Fed had followed Taylor Tight, however, housing starts would have peaked at a much lower level at the end of 2003, and drifted down through 2006.
But Greenspan says he was powerless.
What about Greenspan's argument that he only controlled short-term rates? And that short rates became decoupled from long-term rates in 2002? Nonsense, says Taylor. Surely the existence of adjustable-rate mortgages (accounting for about one-third of mortgages starting in 2003) linked the mortgage market and short-term rates. Moreover, says Taylor, whatever minor decoupling occurred, happened because bond investors were flummoxed by the Fed's odd behavior. Taylor also takes on Greenspan's excuse that he was helpless in the face of a global saving glut. Cutting off the feet of Greenspan's excuse, Taylor says there wasn't a glut, there was a shortage. Figures from the International Monetary Fund show global saving rates, as a share of world GDP, were low during 2002 to 2004--way lower than rates in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, the global saving rate fell at the end of 1990s, hitting bottom about 2003.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Washington Monument Syndrome

Why perform CPR when band-aids are at hand? You would think that this year's extreme circumstances would force our Washington Legislature to stop pushing problems toward our own goal and start playing defense. You would think, but you would be wrong. The proposed budgets continue to use gimmicks, but the gimmicks are much larger of course, since the situation is much worse. Let's move money around and find one-time sources of funding, so spending can continue to climb - out of control. Let's cut essential services that everyone depends on so they will accept tax increases. Cut our State Parks everyone uses while paying people to attend meetings of the dozens of state commissions. This is so common that there is a name for it: Washington Monument Syndrome. The proposed 2009-11 budget is a combination of all these bad ideas and more. It is littered with minus signs on large numbers. That's good, isn't it? No. It takes the money away this year, but leaves the program in place. Next year it will need to be funded plus all the lobbyists for that group will insist the Legislature go back and fund what was cut this year. They won't even wait for the next two-year budget; they will be there January 2, 2010. For example: We were told if we funded teacher pay COLA with Initiative 732 it would come out of the surplus; we would never have to cut anything else to pay for it. It loses its funding this year, but remains law. $358.5 million - page 172. By the way: losing this COLA doesn't mean teachers don't get pay raises; they are elsewhere also. Do you get one this year? Much of the funding for highway repairs we have reluctantly paid higher taxes for - gone. Gone to pay for the Arts Council and a dozen more. But the projects still have to be done. Taxpayer, how are you going to pay for your highway repairs? Finally, The "Fun Budget" is the capital budget where fun things get funded: I personally support the Washington State Museum aka Washington State Historical Society. But should it and its Eastern Washington counterpart get over $14 million in this crisis? And why provide the theater in the West Seattle neighborhood where I grew up with $140,000 = Admiral Theatre-No Theatre Left Behind. The list is long at Washington Policy Center.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

President O disgraced us

President Obama bows to royalty. Americans don't and never have. Today at the G-20 summit he bowed to his sovereign KIng Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Not my sovereign. Powerline Blog goes into more details.

Ask Michigan about the benefits of population decrease

Tell us, Zero Population Growth (renamed to a deceiving name) about the benefits of depopulation. Leaving Michigan Behind: Eight-year population exodus staggers state | detnews.com | The Detroit News: Joe LaCross drives American cars. Always has. Born and raised in the blue-collar suburbs of Detroit, this son of a welder wouldn't dream of rolling past his autoworker neighbors in a Toyota. But not long ago the 38-year-old pulled into the driveway of his Sterling Heights home in a vehicle wreaking even more havoc in his home state. A moving van. "I grew up here," said LaCross, as he packed to move to Florida in search of a job. "My family is here. My wife's family is here. I love everything about Michigan. "Everything," he said, picking up a plastic storage tub, "except the economy." People are leaving Michigan at a staggering rate. About 109,000 more people left Michigan last year than moved in. It is one of the worst rates in the nation, quadruple the loss of just eight years ago. The state loses a family every 12 minutes, and the families who are leaving -- young, well-educated high-income earners -- are the people the state desperately needs to rebuild.

Cut the budget of that guy watching over my shoulder

This is worse than "penny-wise and pound-foolish." This is reverse feedback. If you cut funds for the state auditor for performance audits he will not root around and find systemic waste, which would save us far more than the cost of his audits. For example in 2007 a performance audit found $10 million per year in wasted spending by Washington State Ferries - again. But performance audits were forced on the powerful of the state by the voters by Initiative 900 (Tim Eyman!), so they are a top target for reducing or eliminating. And if they do it in the budget maybe no one will notice. The House budget (pdf) (page 6) takes about half the State Auditor's budget away. It is designated for a bunch of things, some of which appear to be audits.
Performance Audit Account Program Funding (-$13.5 million General Fund-State; $13.5 million Performance Audits of Government-State) Funding for JLARC, GMAP, WSIPP, K-12 budget driver audits and conservation district audits is provided from the Performance Audits of Government Account for the 2009-11 biennium rather than with General Fund-State.
Washington Policy Center also has State Auditor Brian Sontag's testimony on this proposed shot in the foot.

Great applications make the IPhone great

The IPhone is too good to miss. As soon as my income again becomes firm I have to get one. I have been leery of committing the additional $625 plus taxes and fees per year over my current plan. But its combination is too good - cell phone with texting, IPod, web browser (though very small screen), synchronizing calendar and address book to ICal and Address Book on our Mac, GPS AND thousands of applications, many are free or very cheap. What did I leave out? The home run for me is GPS. I am a geographic/location-oriented person. The IPhone has the GPS and applications are available that use it. But its software cousin the IPod Touch doesn't have GPS hardware. Watch "Goatberg" Walt Mossberg cover the applications.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Voros: WaMu failed because it retained risk - Inside Bay Area

Their competitors passed the bad loans, or at least the risk of them, on to unsuspecting investors and us, the taxpayers. But WaMu said "the buck stops here," and took responsibility for the risk. Result: WaMu is dead. Inside Bay Area: ... But what did WaMu do that wiped out its very existence while others like Chase and San Francisco-based Wells Fargo seemingly avoided the same mortal wounds? WaMu assumed the risk of its mortgages, choosing to keep a large portion of the loans they made as well as servicing nearly $500 billion in mortgages from other banks. It all seems logical. Bank aggressively markets loans, amasses hundreds of billions in mortgage "assets'' only to watch those values evaporate as the housing industry experiences its worst collapse since the Great Depression. Bank goes under. Over on the other side of the fence, Chase and Wells Fargo approached things differently. While the two banks also worked hard to build their mortgage businesses, they did not have as low a lending standard as WaMu, nor did they keep as many loans as they made, as WaMu did. While avoiding the subprime pitfalls certainly played a major role for Wells Fargo and Chase, the securitization of their loan portfolios proved to be a lifesaving hedge and removed risk quicker than you can say "FDIC seizure.'' And here lies the heart of our current economic problems. The proliferation of bad debt was fueled by the repackaging of loans, primarily mortgages, into investment vehicles commonly referred to as mortgage-backed securities, which greatly dilutes risk. Typically, 200 to 300 mortgages would be pooled into one portfolio. To qualify for the pool, a mortgage would need to have only the first three months of payments made. A formula — which few humans could understand — for creating value to the portfolio is applied and then sent to Wall Street to be sold in shares. By pooling the mortgages, nonperforming or underperforming mortgages are absorbed by the large majority of performing mortgages, in a perfect world. We have seen what happens when mortgages in the portfolio fail at such a high rate that it poisons the portfolio, creating a toxic asset that is worth pennies on the dollar and that no one except Uncle Sam will touch. For WaMu, their entire mortgage portfolio became toxic, sending it to its grave. Meanwhile, other banks that worked frantically to securitize their mortgages couldn't care less whether the loans they originated performed or not, because that was someone else's problem — which is now the taxpayer's $3 trillion problem.

Rusty and me

Rush's neice! Rusty and me | Salon : ... From third grade on, I have been asked, "Are you related to Rush Limbaugh?" My teachers' whispered questions about the man on the radio made me feel important, even though my 8-year-old comrades had no idea who he was, since he didn't appear on the Disney Channel or in ABC's Friday-night sitcom lineup. During those years, I didn't know who he was either. I knew Cousin Rusty kicked a football pretty well and always brought Cuban cigars to family gatherings. Sometimes he would get Aunt Patty to smoke one and my cousins and I would laugh at her coughing as we watched from the neighbor's trampoline. I was proud of him like I was proud of my brother, who's older than your brother and can beat your brother up. It was pretty hit-and-miss but clear-cut all the same. People either didn't know who he was or didn't care or loved him or hated him. There was no like in the equation. If they had an opinion about him, once they learned of our connection, they offered that opinion. "Really?! Well, this is what I think of him …" Just when a school would know me, know my family, know Rush was my Dad's cousin, ask the questions, tell about their love or hate, my dad's career as a lawyer in the military would move us and the process would start over. Once again, new friends and acquaintances would introduce me as "the girl related to Rush Limbaugh." And I would evaporate. Limbaugh -- it was like when my dad would pick me up from middle school in his '87 maroon conversion van with the canoe strapped on top and my dog slobbering out the passenger window. Dad loved me and I loved him, but I just wanted him to disappear so I could blend in on the bus like all the other kids. And it's still like being the girl who threw up in seventh-grade science class 15 years ago; the story/rumor/legend that no one has forgotten. (Her name was Eva.) My cousin warned me before I left for college that it would continue. ...

WaMu staff promised retention bonuses may be hit by 90% tax

Hundreds Washington Mutual employees were promised bonuses if they stayed to help the transition to JPMorgan Chase now face punitive taxes imposed by our senators and representatives. Senator Maria Cantwell is greeting them with the top tax rate of 35% in S.561.* Tax cheater Honorable Charles Rangel will tax the higher middle-income ones at 90%. H.R.1586* has passed the House and is now in the Senate. A two-income family receiving this bonus could pass the $250,000 cut-off and get the rest taken away. Let's look at a family with two people making $90k each where one is a WaMu employee in the transition for 12 months.
The WaMu employee's bonus equals that pay for the transition - $90k more. So the family income would make $270k - once only. So they would lose 90% of the amount over $250k in addition to all the regular taxes, just when they need the cash to survive being unemployed for months. The employee could have left months ago when the job market was better, but stayed to help and now gets clobbered by the new owner - Congress.
Seattle Times Newspaper:
Hundreds of former Washington Mutual employees, expected to lose their jobs this year after working temporarily as part of JPMorgan Chase's transition team, could get winged by the congressional shotgun blast aimed at recouping multimillion-dollar bonuses paid to executives at insurance giant American International Group. That's because the retention bonuses JPMorgan Chase promised those workers to get them to stick around would be taxed heavily under either of two bills in the Senate. [...] After word of the AIG bonuses spread, an outraged House quickly passed a bill aimed at recovering them. Ninety percent tax -- The measure, now in the Senate, would slap a 90 percent tax on bonuses given to employees of companies that received more than $5 billion in federal bailout money (including JPMorgan Chase). The tax would apply to all workers whose household adjusted gross income exceeds $250,000. The Senate also is considering another version. That bill — whose co-sponsors include Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. — would impose a 35 percent tax but apply to a wider range of banks and financial-services companies. Some 4,200 people worked at WaMu's downtown Seattle headquarters when the thrift was acquired by JPMorgan Chase late last year. More than 1,500 of those workers have been laid off; 1,900 or so were asked to stay on temporarily but are to be let go this year. Those transitional workers are accruing a retention bonus equal to their regular pay rate. They get the bonus when they're laid off. With severance pay and a spouse's salary added in, "... You could easily have a year where a family hit the $250K mark for the first time in their lives ... only to have it confiscated by the federal government in a recession where we need that money to survive a long job search," another WaMu employee wrote in an e-mail.
* Search Thomas for H.R.1561 and S.651.

Correcting history 'American Troops Were Greeted as Liberators'

Let's not let "main-strem media" rewrite history. We saw Baghdad be liberated. Our US troops were greeted as liberators - for a while. Here is a review of the situation by the New York Times' man on the ground - he was there. NY Times Iraq Reporter Corrects Russert: 'American Troops Were Greeted as Liberators' | NewsBusters.org: Reminded by Tim Russert on Russert's Saturday night CNBC show, about how Vice President Cheney predicted U.S. troops would be welcomed as “liberators” by the Iraqi people, New York Times Iraq reporter John Burns corrected Russert's presumption that Cheney was misguided:
The American troops were greeted as liberators. We saw it. It lasted very briefly, it was exhausted quickly by the looting.” Burns added: “I think that the instincts that led to much that went wrong were good American instincts: the desire not to have too heavy of a footprint, the desire to empower Iraqis.”
As for what led to the inaccurate assumption that Iraqi would “stand up” for democracy, Burns contended that journalists made the same error: “I think that the policy makers in Washington, and to be on honest with you the journalists also, to speak for myself, completely miscalculated the impact of 30 years of violent, brutal repression on the Iraqi people and their willingness, in President Bush's phrase, ' to stand up' for themselves, to take authority, to take risks.” Burns also rejected the notion that different U.S. strategies would have prevented the current chaos: “My guess is that history will say that the forces that we liberated by invading Iraq were so powerful and so uncontrollable that virtually nothing the United States might have done, except to impose its own repressive state with half a million troops, which might have had to last ten years or more, nothing we could have done would have effectively prevented this disintegration that is now occurring.”