Wednesday, March 31, 2010
The Washington Legislature just can't find one more penny of spending to cut, so they have to force you and me to pay more for the state's high-paid employees. EFF WA They need a new source for the revenue they need. There are so many people in favor of higher taxes in this state; Olympia is crawling with them. Let them pay more "Don't cut here; don't cut there." Surely they will pay voluntarily pay higher taxes when they are given the opportunity. Hey, Legislature: Create a way that people can voluntarily pay additional taxes. Virginia tried it and collected $1500 this year. Old Dominion Watchdog
As disputes rage in Richmond over proposed fees to balance the troubled state budget, some citizens want to send even more than they have to into a fund that collects voluntary giving to the state. But not many. Contributions to the “Tax Me More Fund” have hovered between $1,000 and $1,700 most years ever since lawmakers created it in 2002, according to the Virginia Department of Taxation. Exceptions include the fund’s first year, when taxpayers contributed $6,602, and a low point in 2006 when $19.36 was doArkansas, Massachusetts, Kansas and New Hampshire have voluntary funds. Probably other states as well. And the United States government accepts gifts. Treasury Direct - They received $3 million last year from 300 million people; that's one cent per person. Update 4/5/10: In Boston Herald Howie Carr says the big talking liberals who like high taxes are not paying.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Steve Jobs and Apple Computer Company promote Che Guevara, and boycott Glenn Beck. Promote? Yes, there is a Che Guevara quote app on the IPhone Did Jobs include these Che quotes on his IPhone?
The Negro is indolent and spends his money on frivolities and booze, whereas the European is forward-looking, organized and intelligent. My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood… Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any surrendered enemy that falls in my hands! With the deaths of my enemies I prepare my being for the sacred fight and join the triumphant proletariat with a bestial howl! Hatred as the central element of our struggle… Hatred that is intransigent… Hatred so violent that it propels a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him violent and cold- blooded killing machine… We reject any peaceful approach. Violence is inevitable. To establish Socialism rivers of blood must flow. The victory of Socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims! The U.S. is the great enemy of mankind! Against those hyenas there is no option but extermination! If the nuclear missiles had remained (in Cuba) we would have fired them against the heart of the U.S. including New York City!Big Journalism provides the above quotes and describes the boycott effort.
“More than 200 companies have joined a boycott of (Glenn) Beck’s program,” reports the Washington Post. “A handful of advertisers, such as (IPhone owner) Apple, have abandoned Fox altogether.” We can only assume this Apple “boycott” was prompted by what CBS’s Katie Couric (quoting the Fox commentator’s critics) describes as Beck’s “inflammatory, unfair, despicable, hateful rhetoric.” ...I am typing this on my Macbook Pro and my IPhone is in my pocket. I have owned Apple computers since 1980 - over 30 years. I choose Glenn Beck and his American brand of independence, responsibility and responsible use of our God-given liberties. Steve Jobs and Apple, will you make me choose? Via World Net Daily
Monday, March 29, 2010
See update at the bottom The Democratics said ObamaCare would cause children to be covered for preexisting conditions this year. But it doesn't. Who are they mad at? Themselves? How could they be? They are mad at the insurance companies for not voluntarily doing what the law doesn't require. And for saying so. Seattle Times: Coverage for all children? Check the new health-care law's fine print. First, how insurance companies see the law:
Insurers agree that, if they provide insurance for a child, they must cover pre-existing conditions. But, they say, the law does not require them to write insurance for the child and that it does not guarantee the "availability of coverage" for all until 2014. "The fine print differs from the larger political message," said William Schiffbauer, a lawyer whose clients include employers and insurance companies. "If a company sells insurance, it will have to cover pre-existing conditions for children covered by the policy. But it does not have to sell to somebody with a pre-existing condition. And the insurer could increase premiums to cover the additional cost."Now, those who voted for Obama's takeover:
Congressional Democrats were furious when they learned that some insurers disagreed with their interpretation of the law. "The concept that insurance companies would even seek to deny children coverage exemplifies why we fought for this reform," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate commerce committee, said: "The ink has not yet dried on the health-care reform bill, and already some deplorable health-insurance companies are trying to duck away from covering children with pre-existing conditions. This is outrageous."They don't talk about the law, but intentions: theirs good; insurance companies evil. They were in a big hurry to pass this thing. They passed it before we had the chance to read the whole thing. It looks like they didn't even take time to read it. They controlled the calendar. They can't say they didn't have time to know what is in their monstrosity. The state insurance bureaucrats' association agrees with the insurance companies:
Experts at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners share that concern "I would like to see the kids covered," said Sandy Praeger, the insurance commissioner of Kansas. "But without guaranteed issue of insurance, I am not sure companies will be required to take children under 19."Should we be governed by the law that passed Congress or by what Henry Waxman and Jay Rockefeller III intended it to be? Update 3/30/10: Secretary of Health and Human Services Sibelius says she doesn't care if the insurers are right about what ObamaCare contains. She will defy the letter of the law with a regulation. AisiaOne
Sibelius said she plans in coming weeks to issue regulations that will erase any ambiguity about the law and make certain that by September of this year, "children with pre-existing conditions may not be denied access to their parents' health insurance plan." "Now is not the time to search for non-existent loopholes that preserve a broken system," Sibelius wrote. "Instead, we should work together to do the hard work of improving the affordability, quality and accessibility of our healthcare system."Dear Madam Secretary, the problem isn't "non-existent loopholes;" it is the law. How about you obey it? This provision got left out. Get Congress to change the law to what you want it to be.
Friday, March 26, 2010
First District Congressman Jay Inslee appears to be vulnerable, according to a poll commissioned by his opponent James Watkins. In the poll
- Only 37% say Inslee deserves re-election
- In a first head-to-head, Inslee gets 41%; Watkins gets 27%
- In a second head-to-head, after hearing the two candidates’ backgrounds, Watkins gets 44%; Inslee gets 42%
- 66% don’t know what Inslee’s greatest accomplishment is as a congressman
- 64% describe themselves as fiscal conservatives
Andrew Breitbart looks at the evidence, that is, the lack of evidence. People at the scene had videocams. Where is the video? Breitbart at BigGovernment
As I have said over and over and over, the left has one trick that it will use again and again when its back is in the corner: shout ‘racist’ in a crowded country. On Saturday, during the peaceful and patriotic tea party protest at the Capitol, the Democrats staged a series of symbolic acts meant to manipulate the media to do its bidding. The Congressional Black Caucus pulled the Selma card and chose to walk through the crowd in the hopes of creating a YouTube incident. This is what it looked like: [link to video] and this: [link to second video] There is no reason in 21st century America on an issue that is not a black or white or a civil rights issue to have a bloc of black people walk slowly through a mostly white crowd to make a racial point. The walk in and of itself — with two of the participants holding their handheld cameras above their heads hoping to document “proof” — was an act of racism meant to create a contrast between the tea party crowd and themselves.Breibart offers Rep. John Lewis $10,000 for film of one shouted N-word. Honorable John Lewis, what evidence do you have?
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Obama promised everyone would get the same health care as Congress. But Congress exempted its members and most of its staff from what they are forcing us into. Also the president and vice president. Are we surprised? Washington Times
... The new health care law exempts the president from having to participate in it. Leadership and committee staffers in the House and Senate who wrote the bill are exempted as well. A weasel-worded definition of "staff" includes only the members' personal staff in the new system; the committee staff that drafted the legislation opted themselves out. Because they were more familiar with the contents of the law than anyone in the country, it says a lot that they carved out their own special loophole. Anyway, the law is intended to affect "ordinary Americans," according to Vice President Joe Biden (who - being a heartbeat away from the presidency - also is not covered), not Washington insiders. Mr. Obama frequently tossed around the talking point that the new law gave people the same type of coverage as Congress enjoyed. In his March 20 health care pep talk to wavering Democrats on Capitol Hill, the president said one of the advantages of the health care legislation was that "people will have choice and competition just like members of Congress have choice and competition." At yesterday's signing ceremony, Mr. Obama said Americans will be "part of a big pool, just like federal employees are part of a big pool. They'll have the same choice of private health insurance that members of Congress get for themselves." But the American people will have a public pool; the executive branch and congressional staffers kept their country-club pool private. Last year, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, spearheaded efforts to have all Americans included in the plan, but he ran into heavy opposition. ...Update: Multiple sources find that Congressmen and their personal staffs have to go under ObamaCare (maybe they have their own private pool, versus the public pool they force us into, as the Washington Times described above), but Congressional committee staff and leadership staff will not be required to participate. Politico CBS
One such surprise is found on page 158 of the legislation, which appears to create a carve out for senior staff members in the leadership offices and on congressional committees, essentially exempting those senior Democrat staffers who wrote the bill from being forced to purchase health care plans in the same way as other Americans.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
There is no excuse. The Nobel Laureate Krugman based his column on a falsehood on March 21. Krugman claims to be quoting Newt Gingrich:
“They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation.But Gingrich never said that. Note that the controversial part is not a quote. That's Krugman's putting words in Newt's mouth. If Krugman knew anything about history he would know that Republicans supported the 1964 Civil Rights legislation in greater proportions than did the Democrats. Or he could look it up, if he didn't know already. Gingrich was speaking about Johnson's "Great Society" welfare state. Quote him, distinguished Professor. And Krugman's editors... Does anyone dare edit him? Only after his embarrassment was in print, his editors added the following correction, quoted verbatim:
Editors' Note: March 23, 2010 The Paul Krugman column on Monday, about the health care bill, quoted Newt Gingrich as saying that “Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation. The quotation originally appeared in The Washington Post, which reported after the column went to press that Mr. Gingrich said it referred to Johnson’s Great Society policies, not to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Now that Obama's health-care takeover is passed we can see what's in it - according to Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week. President Obama promised any bill would be online for five days before he signed it. Are there five days between Sunday and Tuesday? ObamaCare will reduce our liberties. Here are 20 ways. Some of them target pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, medical-device makers or large companies. Don't affect you? They raise your cost; they are intended to. Investors Business Daily 1. You are young and don’t want health insurance? You are starting up a small business and need to minimize expenses, and one way to do that is to forego health insurance? Tough. You have to pay $750 annually for the “privilege.” (Section 1501) 2. You are young and healthy and want to pay for insurance that reflects that status? Tough. You’ll have to pay for premiums that cover not only you, but also the guy who smokes three packs a day, drink a gallon of whiskey and eats chicken fat off the floor. That’s because insurance companies will no longer be able to underwrite on the basis of a person’s health status. (Section 2701). 3. You would like to pay less in premiums by buying insurance with lifetime or annual limits on coverage? Tough. Health insurers will no longer be able to offer such policies, even if that is what customers prefer. (Section 2711). 4. Think you’d like a policy that is cheaper because it doesn’t cover preventive care or requires cost-sharing for such care? Tough. Health insurers will no longer be able to offer policies that do not cover preventive services or offer them with cost-sharing, even if that’s what the customer wants. (Section 2712). 5. You are an employer and you would like to offer coverage that doesn’t allow your employees’ slacker children to stay on the policy until age 26? Tough. (Section 2714). 6. You must buy a policy that covers ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services; chronic disease management; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care. You’re a single guy without children? Tough, your policy must cover pediatric services. You’re a woman who can’t have children? Tough, your policy must cover maternity services. You’re a teetotaler? Tough, your policy must cover substance abuse treatment. (Add your own violation of personal freedom here.) (Section 1302). 7. Do you want a plan with lots of cost-sharing and low premiums? Well, the best you can do is a “Bronze plan,” which has benefits that provide benefits that are actuarially equivalent to 60% of the full actuarial value of the benefits provided under the plan. Anything lower than that, tough. (Section 1302 (d) (1) (A)) 8. You are an employer in the small-group insurance market and you’d like to offer policies with deductibles higher than $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families? Tough. (Section 1302 (c) (2) (A). 9. If you are a large employer (defined as at least 50 employees) and you do not want to provide health insurance to your employee, then you will pay a $750 fine per employee (It could be $2,000 to $3,000 under the reconciliation changes). Think you know how to better spend that money? Tough. (Section 1513). 10. You are an employer who offers health flexible spending arrangements and your employees want to deduct more than $2,500 from their salaries for it? Sorry, can’t do that. (Section 9005 (i)). 11. If you are a physician and you don’t want the government looking over your shoulder? Tough. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is authorized to use your claims data to issue you reports that measure the resources you use, provide information on the quality of care you provide, and compare the resources you use to those used by other physicians. Of course, this will all be just for informational purposes. It’s not like the government will ever use it to intervene in your practice and patients’ care. Of course not. (Section 3003 (i)) 12. If you are a physician and you want to own your own hospital, you must be an owner and have a “Medicare provider agreement” by Feb. 1, 2010. (Dec. 31, 2010 in the reconciliation changes.) If you didn’t have those by then, you are out of luck. (Section 6001 (i) (1) (A)) 13. If you are a physician owner and you want to expand your hospital? Well, you can’t (Section 6001 (i) (1) (B). Unless, it is located in a county where, over the last five years, population growth has been 150% of what it has been in the state (Section 6601 (i) (3) ( E)). And then you cannot increase your capacity by more than 200% (Section 6001 (i) (3) (C)). 14. You are a health insurer and you want to raise premiums to meet costs? Well, if that increase is deemed “unreasonable” by the Secretary of Health and Human Services it will be subject to review and can be denied. (Section 1003) 15. The government will extract a fee of $2.3 billion annually from the pharmaceutical industry. If you are a pharmaceutical company what you will pay depends on the ratio of the number of brand-name drugs you sell to the total number of brand-name drugs sold in the U.S. So, if you sell 10% of the brand-name drugs in the U.S., what you pay will be 10% multiplied by $2.3 billion, or $230,000,000. (Under reconciliation, it starts at $2.55 billion, jumps to $3 billion in 2012, then to $3.5 billion in 2017 and $4.2 billion in 2018, before settling at $2.8 billion in 2019 (Section 1404)). Think you, as a pharmaceutical executive, know how to better use that money, say for research and development? Tough. (Section 9008 (b)). 16. The government will extract a fee of $2 billion annually from medical device makers. If you are a medical device maker what you will pay depends on your share of medical device sales in the U.S. So, if you sell 10% of the medical devices in the U.S., what you pay will be 10% multiplied by $2 billion, or $200,000,000. Think you, as a medical device maker, know how to better use that money, say for R&D? Tough. (Section 9009 (b)). The reconciliation package turns that into a 2.9% excise tax for medical device makers. Think you, as a medical device maker, know how to better use that money, say for research and development? Tough. (Section 1405). 17. The government will extract a fee of $6.7 billion annually from insurance companies. If you are an insurer, what you will pay depends on your share of net premiums plus 200% of your administrative costs. So, if your net premiums and administrative costs are equal to 10% of the total, you will pay 10% of $6.7 billion, or $670,000,000. In the reconciliation bill, the fee will start at $8 billion in 2014, $11.3 billion in 2015, $1.9 billion in 2017, and $14.3 billion in 2018 (Section 1406).Think you, as an insurance executive, know how to better spend that money? Tough.(Section 9010 (b) (1) (A and B).) 18. If an insurance company board or its stockholders think the CEO is worth more than $500,000 in deferred compensation? Tough.(Section 9014). 19. You will have to pay an additional 0.5% payroll tax on any dollar you make over $250,000 if you file a joint return and $200,000 if you file an individual return. What? You think you know how to spend the money you earned better than the government? Tough. (Section 9015). That amount will rise to a 3.8% tax if reconciliation passes. It will also apply to investment income, estates, and trusts. You think you know how to spend the money you earned better than the government? Like you need to ask. (Section 1402). 20. If you go for cosmetic surgery, you will pay an additional 5% tax on the cost of the procedure. Think you know how to spend that money you earned better than the government? Tough. (Section 9017). The section [numbers] are taken from HR 3590 as agreed to by the Senate and from the reconciliation bill as displayed by the Rules Committee Chair Slaughter.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
The Congressional Budget Office has to do the committee chair's bidding; it is not allowed to properly score ObamaCare - given fantasy it has to put on a straight face, pretend it's real and give the score. Even when everyone knows it is fantasy. The bill CBO scored this week will add $562 billion to the deficit, not help it. Pelosi, Harry and Obama - well, the first two anyway - know the surplus number is a lie. It's their lie. Even the New York Times can tell the truth now that it's too late:
... In reality, if you strip out all the gimmicks and budgetary games and rework the calculus, a wholly different picture emerges: The health care reform legislation would raise, not lower, federal deficits, by $562 billion. Gimmick No. 1 is the way the bill front-loads revenues and backloads spending. That is, the taxes and fees it calls for are set to begin immediately, but its new subsidies would be deferred so that the first 10 years of revenue would be used to pay for only 6 years of spending. Even worse, some costs are left out entirely. To operate the new programs over the first 10 years, future Congresses would need to vote for $114 billion in additional annual spending. But this so-called discretionary spending is excluded from the Congressional Budget Office’s tabulation. Consider, too, the fate of the $70 billion in premiums expected to be raised in the first 10 years for the legislation’s new long-term health care insurance program. This money is counted as deficit reduction, but the benefits it is intended to finance are assumed not to materialize in the first 10 years, so they appear nowhere in the cost of the legislation. Another vivid example of how the legislation manipulates revenues is the provision to have corporations deposit $8 billion in higher estimated tax payments in 2014, thereby meeting fiscal targets for the first five years. But since the corporations’ actual taxes would be unchanged, the money would need to be refunded the next year. The net effect is simply to shift dollars from 2015 to 2014. In addition to this accounting sleight of hand, the legislation would blithely rob Peter to pay Paul. For example, it would use $53 billion in anticipated higher Social Security taxes to offset health care spending. Social Security revenues are expected to rise as employers shift from paying for health insurance to paying higher wages. But if workers have higher wages, they will also qualify for increased Social Security benefits when they retire. So the extra money raised from payroll taxes is already spoken for. (Indeed, it is unlikely to be enough to keep Social Security solvent.) It cannot be used for lowering the deficit. A government takeover of all federally financed student loans — which obviously has nothing to do with health care — is rolled into the bill because it is expected to generate $19 billion in deficit reduction. Finally, in perhaps the most amazing bit of unrealistic accounting, the legislation proposes to trim $463 billion from Medicare spending and use it to finance insurance subsidies. But Medicare is already bleeding red ink, and the health care bill has no reforms that would enable the program to operate more cheaply in the future. Instead, Congress is likely to continue to regularly override scheduled cuts in payments to Medicare doctors and other providers. Removing the unrealistic annual Medicare savings ($463 billion) and the stolen annual revenues from Social Security and long-term care insurance ($123 billion), and adding in the annual spending that so far is not accounted for ($114 billion) quickly generates additional deficits of $562 billion in the first 10 years. And the nation would be on the hook for two more entitlement programs rapidly expanding as far as the eye can see. The bottom line is that Congress would spend a lot more; steal funds from education, Social Security and long-term care to cover the gap; and promise that future Congresses will make up for it by taxing more and spending less.
Friday, March 19, 2010
"This is the first time since 1994 that a special session has been needed with one party in control of the Capitol," according to Politics Northwest at Seattle Times. Even though they have one-party rule they can't use their time responsibly; they have been there full time since the first week in January. Now Christine Gregoire is leading. She told the Democrat-led Legislature yesterday to get done by Sunday or .... They are working hard. It sure is hard finding ways to cut costs. Wrong. They are not doing that; they tried, sort of, a little. The Senate's proposed budget would raise spending $2.95 billion; the House only $2.7 billion. EFF (pdf) Their union supporters see only small trimmings here and there. But no reductions in pay. And many employees get step increases while "pay is frozen." That's what we call an Olympia pay freeze = pay raises for some, but not for those who answer the phones. Today in Olympa is all about increasing taxes. By majority vote your Legislature overrode Initiative 960 that required a 2/3 vote to raise taxes. They overrode it because it was "an emergency." If it were truly an emergency 2/3 of them would vot for the tax increases they need. So a bunch of Demos can run in November saying they voted against the tax increases. But they should not be allowed to hide: everyone who voted to gut I-960 was voting to increase taxes on individuals and businesses.
Principled people firmly opposed using the Slaughter rule to move legislation in 2005. Guess who? Hot Air
The year was 2005, and Republicans needed to raise the US debt limit in order to cover the costs of their increased spending. The GOP used a self-executing rule to protect both Republicans and Democrats in the House from having to take an embarrassing vote to increase the national debt rather than start paying it down and cutting spending. A lawsuit by a famous political gadfly gave some Democrats an opportunity to make deficit spending a big issue in the upcoming midterms, and guess which Democrats seized that opportunity by writing amicus briefs for the lawsuit? Mark Tapscott recalls: But put aside the present for the moment and step into my time machine. Dial the date selector back to 2005 when the Republican majority in Congress approved a national debt limit increase using a self-executing rule similar to the Slaughter Solution.Distinguished Harry Reid, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Louise Slaughter herself opposed using the Slaughter rule. Then it was called "self-executing rule." "Principled people"? No, politicians.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
GE - General Electric - has decided that it doesn't need to hide its long relationship with Ronald Reagan. They have instituted a web site honoring him on his centenial. Among other features, Rudi Guiliani describes how Reagan took on the Soviets in the Cold War with purpose and strategy and won.
Before Ronald Reagan came along the West was dangerously close to losing its will. Soviet leaders were flush with confidence, their communist policies on the march, while in the West many in the so-called foreign policy establishment accepted the doctrines of moral equivalence and inevitable coexistence. Reagan realized that, to win the Cold War, the West had to rediscover its confidence. It had to be galvanized around not just the idea of freedom, but the principle that every person in the world had a right to be free. Reagan understood this truth and made it his purpose to communicate it to the world, as when he stood at the Brandenburg Gate and demanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”There are more pieces by celebrities and film clips. They sure find it hard to say Reagan won the Cold War. The usual mush about Gorbachov and Reagan ending it.
Update 4/8/10 at the bottom House Judiciary Chair Conyers refuses to help his wife have defense counsel. He is one of the highest ranking Democrats and is paid $174,000. So the taxpayers will pay for her appeal of 39 months in prison and two years probation. Conyers pleaded guilty last summer for her role in a bribery scheme involving a $1.2-billion sludge hauling contract between the city and Texas-based Synagro Technologies. National Journal (requires registration)
[Conyers] says she can't afford a lawyer...despite the fact that her husband — who is the second-longest serving current member of the U.S. House of Representatives — makes $174,000 a year....The court said that Monica Conyers provided information that established her inability to pay for a lawyer, including "a detailed description of her financial resources in the presentence investigation report and [the information] that Mrs. Conyers was on her own — so to speak — as to such resources." Therefore, the court said, "Further inquiry was not appropriate and would have intruded on private matters."According to federal guidelines, a family member's wealth cannot be considered when determining a defendant's ability to pay, "unless the family indicates willingness and financial ability to retain counsel promptly." Clearly Conyers refuses to help his wife. Conyers sure is big on dependence on government. He won't even defend his own wife! Via Washington Examiner. Note: Detroit Free Press says she doesn't need a lawyer for the appeal because she signed a plea bargain that waived the right to appeal her conviction or sentence. Update 4/8/10: The Justice Department did not allow Mrs. Conyers to appeal, because the sentence matched the terms of her plea bargain. Detroit News
We thought Ron Sims went to DC to mismanage Obama's HEW department. But his spirit is active in Hawaii. Workers in the Health department in Honolulu are receiving 10 to 20 email requests per week, so the Legislature is taking action with SB2937. Poor people, so overworked. Associated Press:
Birthers beware: Hawaii may start ignoring your repeated requests for proof that President Barack Obama was born here. As the state continues to receive e-mails seeking Obama's birth certificate, the state House Judiciary Committee heard a bill Tuesday permitting government officials to ignore people who won't give up. ... The issue coincides with Sunshine Week, when news organizations promote open government and freedom of information.But there are questions from elected representatives about this strange law:
"Do we really want to be known internationally as the Legislature that blocked any inquiries into where President Obama was born?" asked Rep. Cynthia Thielen, R-Kaneohe-Kailua. "When people want to get more information, the way to fuel that fire is to say, 'We're now going to draw down a veil of secrecy.'"The law would label a repeat questioner as a "vexatous requester" and block his access to government records for two years. That's severe. It won't bother a "birther" in New York, but will hurt Hawaii government-watching citizens.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Our Washington Legislature cut spending to the bone, but was reluctantly forced to raise taxes. Right? FOOLED YOU. State workers are sacrificing during this downturn in the economy. Right? WRONG We have all heard that our Senate and House have cut spending to the bone; can't cut another penny. But they didn't cut; they increased spending. Increased it! Since they increased spending they are forced, painfully forced to increase taxes. And you are supposed to fall for this line. Spending Evergreen Freedom Foundation digs deeply into the details. (pdf) They found that the Senate's proposed budget would raise spending $2.95 billion; the House only $2.7 billion. They are using a bunch of gimmicks: one fund "borrowing" from another fund when it must be paid back; changing actuarial recommendations for short-term gain; using one-time federal stimulus funds for ongoing programs. Using one-time funding for ongoing programs is short sighted. Salaries - Salaries for your state civil servants are $4,302 higher than private sector employees. Collective bargaining caused an increase of 25.4% from 2005 to 2009. Cut pay? Unthinkable. Source: - Sen. Joe Zarelli (pdf) Benefits - increased by 50.5% from 2005 to 2009. The state employee benefit fund is facing a $220 million deficit. Even Democrat State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreider says that if this fund were a private company he would throw the book at its management. But of course he takes a lot of weasel words to say that. State employees pay 12 per cent of their health care premiums. Even other states require more from the employees - four times more according to Washington Roundtable. Pensions - It's so easy to promise more and put off paying the bill. After all, some of these employees won't retire for ten, 20, 30 years. So we can fund their pension next year. That's what they have been doing according to Wasahington State Actuary Mike Smith. He recommends tripling (that's 3 times) state contributions for the next 12 years. Christine Gregoire wants you the tax payer to pay more to sustain these generous benefits, not her supporters, the state employees. State debt - In addition to all the gimmicks and delays the state has doubled its debt since 2003. Moody's downgraded Washington's bond rating to "Negative" on 12/31/2009. That will cost you the taxpayer. You You, taxpayer, have been the problem. Olympia has to continue increasing spending, but you haven't paid enough. So your elected representatives are extending their stay in Olympia (at your expense) to increase your taxes. But tax increases will slow our economy! They have heard that before. But funding more pay and benefits for state employees comes first. Angie Vogt at Red State covers this.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Be careful, Microsoft employee. What if you get caught using your iPhone at work? WSJ
The perils of being an iPhone user at Microsoft were on display last September. At an all- company meeting in a Seattle sports stadium, one hapless employee used his iPhone to snap photos of Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer. Mr. Ballmer snatched the iPhone out of the employee's hands, placed it on the ground and pretended to stomp on it in front of thousands of Microsoft workers, according to people present. Mr. Ballmer uses phones from different manufacturers that run on Microsoft's mobile phone software. A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment and declined to make executives available for this story. Apple CEO Steve Jobs referred an email asking about iPhone use at Microsoft to a spokeswoman, who declined to comment. Despite Mr. Ballmer's theatrics, iPhone users are in plain sight at Microsoft. At the sprawling campus here in a Seattle suburb, workers peck away on their iPhone touch-screens in conference rooms, cafeterias and lobbies. Among the top Microsoft executives who use the iPhone is J Allard, who helped create the Xbox game console and is chief experience officer for the entertainment and devices d Nearly 10,000 iPhone users were accessing the Microsoft employee email system last year, say two people who heard the estimates from senior Microsoft executives. That figure equals about 10% of the company's global work force.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Rachel Corrie of Oympia died in 2003, run over by an Israeli bulldozer. The dozer was demolishing a house in Gaza. She was trying to stop it. The bulldozer driver could not see her. Israel has released footage from a camera that showed what the driver could see. Even Mother Jones magazine found this report credible.
The idf compiled a video about the Corrie incident that includes footage taken from inside the cockpit of a D9. It makes a credible case that the operators, peering out through narrow, double-glazed, bulletproof windows, their view obscured behind pistons and the giant scooper, might not have seen Corrie kneeling in front of them.Why was she trying to stop a huge bulldozer? She was protecting a house that hid a tunnel for smuggling weapons into Israel. She also fomented anti-American hatred. In February, 2003 she was photographed burning a paper American flag in front of Palestinian children. Her parents have actively tried to keep the memory of her death "alive." The Palestinians expressed thanks by trying to kidnap them in 2006.( Also covered by Sound Politics in January, 2006.) Now her parents are suing Israel. I guess Israel is allowing them to. The trial started yesterday. NWCN
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Governor Butch Otter of Idaho welcomes Washington raising taxes, which the Legislature did yesterday. He put out the welcome mat for businesses fleeing tax increases and bad environment for business. Was he ready for Christine Gregoire putting on the gloves? But, as we see below, her final punch is that's "simply not fair." Otter's "love letter to our neighbors:"
It’s true that a rising tide lifts all boats. But how those boats are handled makes a big difference when the tide is out and the waters get rough. State governments across the country are dealing with the continuing national recession in different ways. In Idaho, our focus is on stability. Predictable tax and regulatory policies are what our employers need in order to maintain their operations through this rough patch, and it’s what employers elsewhere are looking for when they consider expanding or relocating. Other states, however, have chosen some interesting and in my view counterproductive approaches. Last month, for example, Oregon voters approved their legislature’s decision to raise taxes on the wealthy and on many businesses by $727 million. The immediate result was that my phone started ringing – and so did phones over at our Department of Commerce. It seems that word has spread about our Project 60 initiative, and that we are open for business, including theirs! The businesses that have called are emotional about this subject, and they have every right to be. Rising costs – especially during a recession – could put some employers out of business, or at least prompt layoffs. More than 2,000 Oregonians joined a Facebook group to protest the tax increase and commiserate about the repercussions. No less an Oregon business icon than Nike’s Phil Knight calls it “Oregon’s Assisted Suicide Law II.” Legislators in the state of Washington are talking about even bigger tax increases to tackle a budget deficit that figures to be as big as Idaho’s entire State budget. Businesses in both states are like those in Idaho; they are facing the most challenging times in decades, and even incremental cost increases can mean the difference between surviving and closing up. The problem in Oregon is that folks were convinced that state government was what needed to be shored up rather than the jobs- and revenue-producing private sector for which state government is supposed to work. As a result, they’re chasing some of their cash cows to the border. And I welcome those businesses with open arms. We now are reaching out to hundreds of Oregon businesses, and will do the same with those in Washington if the legislature there follows Oregon’s lead. We aren’t offering many bells and whistles, but what we can offer is a business-friendly State government, a highly qualified and motivated work force, and communities where people understand that while government cannot be the solution to their problems it can and must be a champion for their own solutions. [...]Christine Gregoire fights back using her favorite tool: Forbes Magazine. Quoted at Seattle Times Politics NW blog:
"I'm not an expert on Idaho," Gregoire said, but then rattled off from notes several observations about Idaho's tax and business climate. "It looks like they have a corporate tax of 7.6 percent, a sales tax of 6 percent, an income tax ranging from 1.6 to 7.8 percent," she said. "And let's talk about Forbes' ranking," Gregoire said, referring to her favorite magazine's annual rankings of state business climates. "We're now the second best state in the country and they went from seventh to 11th. They're going down in the rankings. Regulatory environment we're ranked 5th, they're ranked 35th. You get my point?" Gregoire said she had a call in to Otter's office. "So I intend to say to the governor, you know, I'll go recruit companies that you have in your state. Everything is fair game," she said. "But to suggest that somehow there is this massive tax going on in my state that puts my business to a detrimental level compared to yours is simply not fair."If she is such a big fan of Forbes Magazine she might read it and learn about what makes the economy grow. One example: lowering taxes so you can compete with your competitors - other states.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
CNN Opinion Research found that 75% - 75 per cent - of adults surveyed don't support Obama's health-care takeover bill.
Pass similar bill- 25% Start work on new bill - 48% Stop working on health care - 25% Other (vol.) - 2% No opinion - 1% Feb. 12-15 2010(Ask CNN why the total is more than 100%.) President Obama says to let Congress know. Let them know that you oppose his bill. Call Congress today. And join Liberty Belle's Seattle Sons and Daughters of Liberty. To remind yourself of the total control they are trying to force on you and your family, look at just one of many onerous features your senators approved last Christmas eve. If you don't pay your health care fees there are penalties. If you don't pay the penalties they aim the big guns at you and fire:
[page 78] ‘‘(D) UNPAID PENALTY FEES.—Any amount of a penalty fee assessed against a health plan under this subsection for which payment has not been made by the due date provided under sub- paragraph (C) shall be— ‘‘(i) increased by the interest accrued on such amount, as determined pursuant to the underpayment rate established under section 6621 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986; and ‘‘(ii) treated as a past-due, legally en- forceable debt owed to a Federal agency for purposes of section 6402(d) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.BTW: The bill with the changes Obama promised - claiming to use ideas from the Republicans - does not exist.
Monday, March 08, 2010
President Obama is talking big about how he has changed ObamaCare to include Republican ideas. He claims to have added Malpractice insurance reform and other ideas. Where is the bill he is talking about? Now he demands the final vote by March 29. But there is no bill. It will be massive, like the others. But it doesn't exist. How can the Congressional Budget Office score the costs of the bill that doesn't exist? How can Congress debate the nonexistent bill? Will the phantom bill have Cornhusker Kickbacks and Louisiana Purchases? Of course. That's how they operate. Hurry up and vote on it now. "Trust me," says Obama. Hugh Hewitt considers this to be suspending self government.
Saturday, March 06, 2010
In their textbook Macroeconomics Paul Krugman and coauthor Robin Wells say:
Side Effects of Public Policy. In addition public policy designed to help workers who lose their jobs can lead to structural unemployment as an unintended side effect. . . . In other countries, particularly in Europe, benefits are more generous and last longer. The drawback to this generosity is that it reduces a worker's incentive to quickly find a new job. Generous unemployment benefits in some European countries are widely believed to be one of the main causes of "Eurosclerosis," the persistent high unemployment that affects a number of European countries. [p. 220]Yes, extending benefits results in people spending more time without work. The Nobel laureate economists says so. What does Krugman the political columnists say? Responding to Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona this week: Kyl's words:
... unemployment relief "doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work."Krugman scoffs: "To me, that's a bizarre point of view--but then, I don't live in Mr. Kyl's universe." (Why doesn't he address him as "Senator"?) I believe Krugman the professor in his textbook, not Krugman the Enron adviser and political pundit.
Friday, March 05, 2010
The Senate had a hearing about their proposed income tax yesterday afternoon. But of course they don't call it that; they call it a sales tax reduction. Fooled you! You didn't know about the hearing because they gave less than five hours notice. It was plenty of time for Evergreen College students to turn out in force. They Dems like what the students say. And I hear that the text of the bill wasn't available until less than an hour before the hearing. Why? They are saying they just "want to give voters their choice." Nice. But they don't want to give us a choice on reducing spending, just raising taxes. A state income tax would require amending the state constitution due to a Supreme Court ruling in 1933 and that requires a 2/3 vote of the public. But, ignoring the constitution, the Demos intend to give the voters a referendum that would only require majority vote, not the constitutional amendment that requires 2/3, according the to Andrew Garber of the Seattle Times. This is for YOU. The current proposal is to TAX THE RICH. But once they put the structure in place they will redefine "rich" lower and lower and lower. Not that they will want to, but conditions will force them to. And the tax rate will go up and up and up. Because they just can't cut spending. AND they won't have to cut spending. So the income tax will get you sooner or later. Do you want it? The voters in Oregon voted yes in January and employers are moving out. Do you want the same? Also KIRO.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Seattle Times Politics NW blog:
How worried are state Democrats about Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna running for governor in 2012? They're already testing out some anti-McKenna attacks on a Web site: www.robmckennaforgovernor.com This was flagged for me in an e-mail from Steve Lawson, an Issaquah social media & communications consultant, who stumbled across the site Wednesday and blogged about it here. (Also check out Lawson's cool video biography.) The anti-McKenna Web site has been registered to the state Democratic Party since last June. That's shortly after McKenna hired Randy Pepple, a long-time Republican political consultant, as his chief of staff, a move ripped by Democrats as an overt sign McKenna was positioning himself to run for governor in 2012. The Democrats' Web site gives a pretty good indication of how they'll attack McKenna if he does run. It paints him as an anti-transit, hypocritical, self-promoter who also happens to be a closet ultraconservative. "They are afraid," said state Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser. "Good for Rob that they're concerned that he would be a very formidable candidate for governor." "We're just getting ready for him to run for governor," said Washington State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz. "I think McKenna has had a steady track record of turning the AG's office into sort of a press release mill to take on the popular issue of the day."We see that Havana Dwight confessed.
Why did Chile survive a much, much larger earthquake with a fraction of the damage to building compared to Haiti? Brett Stephens in WSJ
Milton Friedman has been dead for more than three years. But his spirit was surely hovering protectively over Chile in the early morning hours of Saturday. Thanks largely to him, the country has endured a tragedy that elsewhere would have been an apocalypse. Earthquake magnitudes are measured on a logarithmic scale. The earthquake that hit Northridge in 1994 measured 6.7 on the Richter scale. But its seismic-energy yield was only half that of the 7.0 quake that hit Haiti in January, which was the equivalent of 2,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs exploding all at once. By contrast, Saturday's earthquake in Chile measured 8.8. That's nearly 500 times more powerful than Haiti's, or about one million Hiroshimas. Yet Chile's reported death toll—711 as of this writing—was a tiny fraction of the 230,000 believed to have perished in Haiti. [Photo: Chile's presidential palace survived the quake intact. Haiti's did not.] It's not by chance that Chileans were living in houses of brick—and Haitians in houses of straw—when the wolf arrived to try to blow them down. In 1973, the year the proto-Chavista government of Salvador Allende was overthrown by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile was an economic shambles. Inflation topped out at an annual rate of 1000%, foreign-currency reserves were totally depleted, and per capita GDP was roughly that of Peru and well below Argentina's. What Chile did have was intellectual capital, thanks to an exchange program between its Catholic University and the economics department of the University of Chicago, then Friedman's academic home. Even before the 1973 coup, several of Chile's "Chicago Boys" had drafted a set of policy proposals which amounted to an off-the-shelf recipe for economic liberalization: sharp reductions to government spending and the money supply; privatization of state-owned companies; the elimination of obstacles to free enterprise and foreign investment, and so on. ... As for Chile, Pinochet appointed a succession of Chicago Boys to senior economic posts. By 1990, the year he ceded power, per capita GDP had risen by 40% (in 2005 dollars) even as Peru and Argentina stagnated. Pinochet's democratic successors—all of them nominally left-of-center—only deepened the liberalization drive. Result: Chileans have become South America's richest people. They have the continent's lowest level of corruption, the lowest infant-mortality rate, and the lowest number of people living below the poverty line. Chile also has some of the world's strictest building codes. That makes sense for a country that straddles two massive tectonic plates. But having codes is one thing, enforcing them is another. The quality and consistency of enforcement is typically correlated to the wealth of nations. The poorer the country, the likelier people are to scrimp on rebar, or use poor quality concrete, or lie about compliance. In the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, thousands of children were buried under schools also built according to code....
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
If the concern is cost of health care, there is a proven way. Indiana instituted health savings accounts (HSA) for its employees. After five years less is being spent and more employees are choosing the plan. In the Wall Street Journal yesterday:
When I was elected governor of Indiana five years ago, I asked that a consumer-directed health insurance option, or Health Savings Account (HSA), be added to the conventional plans then available to state employees. I thought this additional choice might work well for at least a few of my co-workers, and in the first year some 4% of us signed up for it. In Indiana's HSA, the state deposits $2,750 per year into an account controlled by the employee, out of which he pays all his health bills. Indiana covers the premium for the plan. The intent is that participants will become more cost-conscious and careful about overpayment or overutilization. Unused funds in the account—to date some $30 million or about $2,000 per employee and growing fast—are the worker's permanent property. For the very small number of employees (about 6% last year) who use their entire account balance, the state shares further health costs up to an out-of-pocket maximum of $8,000, after which the employee is completely protected. The HSA option has proven highly popular. This year, over 70% of our 30,000 Indiana state workers chose it, by far the highest in public-sector America. Due to the rejection of these plans by government unions, the average use of HSAs in the public sector across the country is just 2%. What we, and independent health-care experts at Mercer Consulting, have found is that individually owned and directed health-care coverage has a startlingly positive effect on costs for both employees and the state. What follows is a summary of our experience: State employees enrolled in the consumer-driven plan will save more than $8 million in 2010 compared to their coworkers in the old-fashioned preferred provider organization (PPO) alternative. In the second straight year in which we've been forced to skip salary increases, workers switching to the HSA are adding thousands of dollars to their take-home pay. (Even if an employee had health issues and incurred the maximum out-of-pocket expenses, he would still be hundreds of dollars ahead.) HSA customers seem highly satisfied; only 3% have opted to switch back to the PPO. The state is saving, too. In a time of severe budgetary stress, Indiana will save at least $20 million in 2010 because of our high HSA enrollment. Mercer calculates the state's total costs are being reduced by 11% solely due to the HSA option. Most important, we are seeing significant changes in behavior, and consequently lower total costs. In 2009, for example, state workers with the HSA visited emergency rooms and physicians 67% less frequently than co-workers with traditional health care. They were much more likely to use generic drugs than those enrolled in the conventional plan, resulting in an average lower cost per prescription of $18. They were admitted to hospitals less than half as frequently as their colleagues. Differences in health status between the groups account for part of this disparity, but consumer decision-making is, we've found, also a major factor. Overall, participants in our new plan ran up only $65 in cost for every $100 incurred by their associates under the old coverage...But it doesn't give Obama's friends control. That appears to be a high priority with the Democratics.
Monday, March 01, 2010
Feb 9, 2010 Tuesday We sailed/motored west in the Beagle Channel, arriving at Ushuaia while a beautiful sunrise was lighting up the southernmost city in the world. Travel Dynamics helpfully arranged for our group spending the night in Buenos Aires to be on the first flight, so we could have the full day in Buenos Aires, since we had already spent two days in Ushuaia. Those who were going directly to international flights took later flights and had free time or bus tours of the Tierra del Fuego National Park which we saw before our embarkation. I appreciate such thoughtful planning. This was a great trip. The ship is well appointed; even the cheaper rooms are much larger than the standard rooms on the big cruise lines. The meal service was first class - white cloth table cloths for every meal. It is challenging to do first class meals when you visit no ports for ten days. How do you acquire fresh produce? We were asking the waiters on the last days how there were serving fresh lettuce. They told us they have a greenhouse on the top deck. But they weren't offering tours and the area is not open to us passengers, so we took that with a grain of salt. The meals were excellent. The guides/naturalists were excellent: all good communicators and very knowledgeable. The zodiac boat operation went so well that I was repeatedly amazed at how they had boats in the water while the captain was setting the anchor then a few hours later the ship seemed to depart the anchorage while the last boat was being hoisted. Photos: My photos: Ushuaia sunrise. Fons and Tom are Dutchmen who are a credit to their country. For ten days they were always friendly and cheerful. Corinthian II staff photos: Dining staff. Our only view of most of the cooks - when they cooked outdoors at Vernadsky Station.