Thursday, February 28, 2013

Repealing oil co subsidies that don't exist

Special subsidies for oil and gas companies? Where?

Democrats in Congress drafted a bill to end the special subsidies. But... The bill - title below - only removes oil and gas companies from tax treatment that every company gets. They could not find any loop holes limited to oil and gas companies.
See the actual wording at Energy Tomorrow


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Change public-employee pensions

The Washington Legislature has made promises it cannot keep. Public employees get generous pensions but the Legislature doesn't fully fund them. State investments assume 8% growth of the funds set aside. Sign me up. I want the magic investment too.

A Seattle Times editorial proposes switching from defines-benefit to defined-contribution. I agree.

And do it now to existing employees. My employer did that to me halfway through my work career.

Obama's Jack Lew and institutional corruption

Corruption of an Obamaite. Exposed by the Seattle Times? It is linked to by Jon Talton at Seattle Times!?

Naked Capitalism

Let’s look at the presumed incoming Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew. He’s a die hard neoliberal, played a role in financial deregulation as Clinton economics team member, and a backer of NAFTA. But what is surprising is the limited interest in his personal dealings, which have been examined critically by Pam Martens and Bloomberg’s Jonathan Weil. Recall that Lew is essentially a career elite technocrat, with his major stint out of government being during the Bush Administration, when he first served as the Executive Vice President for Operations at NYU (where his noteworthy accomplishment was busting the bargaining rights of grad students) and then became the chief operating officer for Citigroup’s alternative investment group.

Weill zeroed in one provision of Lew’s employment agreement at Citigroup, that if Lew left for a “high level position with the United States government or regulatory body” his 2006 and 2007 guaranteed incentive and retention awards. The 2008 rider to the letter provided that if Lew left for the same type of “high level position” his restricted stock would vest immediately. Frankly, I think Weil is more riled up about this provision than he ought to be. The bank was giving particularly generous guarantees for joining. There was no reason to pay out on those guarantee if Lew broke his contract, unless he went to do something that would be of comparable value to the bank. You may not like the logic, but this is pretty cold commercial logic at work. Weil seems to have misread the “guaranteed incentive and retention awards” to mean Lew’s annual bonus on an ongoing basis. It didn’t. It’s a defined term that refers only to special goodies he got in 2006 and 2007.

What I find more disturbing is if you read the totality of Lew’s agreement versus Citi’s performance and Lew’s 2008 pay.

Remember, Lewis came from a job at NYU where he already looks to have been considerably overpaid. He received over $840,000 for the academic year 2002-2003, which had him earning more than most university presidents, including NYU’s president. And on top of that, as Pam Martens ferreted out, he was apparently given a $1.3 million house. I’m not making that up, go read her piece. The mechanism was that NYU lent the $1.3 million to buy the house to Lew and then forgave it over five years. Oh, and they paid him the money to pay the interest too. We will assume that the forgiveness of debt was reported properly to the IRS.

Now the house deal (which is rather bizarre given that NYU owns lots of nice faculty housing) might be what made Lew’s pay deal so out of line relative to his job. But if the forgiveness of debt was not included in the total, it’s even more insane, the equivalent of $1.1 million a year.

But Citi was still happy to pay over the market. If you read the Lew employment agreement, he got a $300,000 salary and a $1 million a year guaranteed incentive and retention award for each of 2006 and 2007. Oh, and he ALSO got a $700,000 signing bonus in restricted stock (or cash if the relevant committee did not approve the award!) that would vest 25% a year over the next four years. Oh, and the last goodies: he got his offer letter on June 26, 2006, and he joined in July. But his $1 million guaranteed incentive and retention award was NOT pro-rated for that year. And he got to take a $400,000 advance against it when he joined.

It is much longer. It has to be: This is one of Obama's cronies

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Protecting the US is on the list, but farther down

General Dempsey says protecting the US from attack is on his list of priorities - but down the list.

He is busy… Top priority is survival of the US. Good. Next, the stability of the global economic system. Huh? Maybe the Treasury Department should worry more about that than our armed military.

CNS News

Third priority is to protect the US from attack. Who could imagine the US being attacked? On 9/11/2001!. Fourth priority is to promote American values abroad.

That puts the military at odds with our Secretary of State John F Kerry. He is making fun of you and me and our values in other countries. He told a group of students in Germany Monday "you have a right to be stupid if you want to be." Maybe Kerry should be assigned to protect the US from attack, so the military and promote our values. Reuters

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Twenty embarrassing incidents in the history of Demo Party

From the Trail of Tears - forcibly relocating American Indians with lots of deaths - to blocking schoolhouse doors to blacks to abandoning South Viet Nam to the impeachment of President Clinton for lying under oath and the US losing our AAA bond rating.

From John Hawkins at Townhall.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

John & Ginny Johnson in China

To Hangzhou, China to visit son David, September 21 to October 6, 2012.

A million photos on one page. A "feature" of Blogger aka Blogspot.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Obama defended his sequester with veto threat. Now blames everyone else for it

The sequester and its automatic spending cuts belong to Obama. Now President Obama is blaming Republicans in Congress. For what He did.

Belongs to Obama? Yes. First, he proposed it, according to famous reporter Bob Woodward of Watergate fame. Politico

“Then-OMB Director Jack Lew, now the White House chief of staff, and White House Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors pitched the idea to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). (Bob Woodward book could bolster Republican attack on W.H., Politico, Austin Wright, September 7, 2012)

“Lew, Nabors, Sperling and Bruce Reed, Biden’s chief of staff, had initially decided to propose using language from the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction law as the model for the trigger. It seemed tough enough to apply to the current situation. It would require a sequester with half the cuts from Defense, and the other half from domestic programs.” (The Price Of Politics, Bob Woodward, 2012, p. 341)

Then in November, 2011 he threatened to veto any Republican effort to end the automatic spending cuts of his sequestration.

Weasel Zippers

“Already some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts. My message to them is simple: No,” Mr. Obama said from the White House briefing room Monday evening. “I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending.”

“There will be no easy off ramps on this one.,” he added.

Why doesn't Obama accept responsibility for what he did and defended with veto threats?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Jay Carney admits Obama proposed dangerous sequester

The (shifty animal here) is hard to corner. But Jay Carney did admit that the "dangerous" sequester that he says is terminally dangerous was proposed by The One, President Obama.

Ace interviewer Brett Baier on Fox at Real Clear Politics

Will this (six tax increases) be enough?

Six tax increases were considered Thursday at at hearing of the State Senate Ways and Means Committee. Beer, plastic shopping bags! Biased newspapers - who decides what bias is? Removing limitations on the cruel B&O tax. And, based on past popularity, Bill Gates's income tax. Sound Politics

Committee Chairman Andy Hill asked each testifier: Will this (all six tax increases) be enough? The WEA just couldn't find words to answer. Their answer has always been: we need more money. It looks like it still is.

Tim Eyman's latest initiative to requires a 2/3 majority to increase taxes or a vote of the people passed in all 39 counties.

Generic Freedom Foundation

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Al Gore's choice Al Jazeera calls for death for apostasy against Islam

Albert Gore, Jr. is coming to Seattle Thursday. He has been in the news because he sold his Current TV to Al Jazeera. He says he chose them because they do such a good job on news and his partner Joel Hyatt says Al Jazeera shares their goals when they started Current TV. Wall Street Journal

Gore laughs when asked "Mr. Former Vice President you have railed against oil companies for years. You sold to a company that is owned by the government of Qatar, which gets most of its revenue from oil. Do you like money more than the beliefs you have espoused for years?" It is estimated that he gained $70 to $100 million on the sale. Surely he cannot be held to the standard he uses on others.

Now his Al-Jazeera has broadcast death threats to those who leave Islam. Thursday you will want to ask distinguished Nobel laureate Gore if this is what he was talking about when he said he was proud of the sale.

Daily Caller

… Western critics of Islam highlighted a recent broadcast of the network’s regular “Shariah and Life” show, which has an estimated audience of 60 million viewers worldwide.

The show’s host is Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a prominent Sunni Islamic cleric.

He declared that Islam’s mandated death-penalty for apostasy has kept Islam alive since the 1400s. “If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment Islam wouldn’t exist today,” Qaradawi said on the show.

Qaradawi cited specific verses and narrations by Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, and the recorded testimony of his companions, that mandate the death penalty for anyone who tries to leave Islam.

“Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:33 says: ‘The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle is that they should be murdered or crucified,’” Qaradawi quoted on his show…

I don't know the date of this broadcast but he has been broadcasting similar things for years. Daily Caller:

“The most recent Qaradawi quotes about conversion from Islam are pretty much consistent with his own and Muslim Brotherhood beliefs,” said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official who has specialized in Middle Eastern research.

“They fall into Al-Jazeera’s pattern of seeking ratings on the basis of inciting hatred and violence,” he added.

Obama has lowest growth rate in 60 years

I don't rejoice in bad news. But President Obama should recognize the failure of his "more government for everything" policies.

0.8% — The Abysmal Rate of Economic Growth under Obama

Investors Business Daily [quoting]

President Obama's defense of his economic stewardship has effectively amounted to this: At least we no longer have the Bush-era economy. With an entire 4-year term in the books, it's now possible to confirm, and to lament, the essential truth of those words.

Prior to Obama, the second term of President Bush featured the weakest gains in the gross domestic product in some time, with average annual real (inflation-adjusted) GDP growth of just 1.9%. That's according to figures from the federal government's own Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

Obama's first term, however, puts the paltry level of growth during Bush's second term in a newly favorable light. According to the BEA, average annual real GDP growth during Obama's first term was a woeful 0.8%.

To put Obama's mind-bogglingly low number in perspective, consider this: It was less than half the tally achieved during Bush's second term. It was barely a quarter of the tally achieved under President Carter.

It was the worst tally achieved during any presidential term in the past 60 years.
And here's the kicker: If it had been doubled (to 1.6%), it still would have been the worst tally in the past 60 years.

True, Obama inherited a recession, but that recession only lasted for the first six months of his term. Eighty-eight percent of his term was post-recession.

In comparison, that same recession covered fully one year of Bush's second term — a full 25% of it. Yet, Bush's second term witnessed well over twice the growth of Obama's first.
Moreover, the abysmal performance of the economy in 2009 (Obama's first year in office) gave it plenty of opportunity to grow rapidly in the years to follow — there was essentially nowhere for it to go but up.
... [end of quote]

The graphic: Investors Business Daily. Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Obama's Economy - Layoffs this week

Here is Obama's scorecard: Layoffs, bankruptcies and businesses closing = this week.

Daily Job Cuts

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Obama blinked on the Oabama sequester

The sequester was Obama's idea. Bob Woodward was there and tells how Obama proposed it - in Woodward's book The Price of Power. Business Insider

Now he wants out of it and he wants Congress to do the heavy lifting. Looks like another chance to blame the Republicans in the House.

Wash Examiner

In November 2011, President Obama lamented that “some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts” that were part of that August’s deal to raise the debt limit. “My message to them is simple: No. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off ramps on this one.”

Now, it’s Obama who is looking for an off ramp. With the automatic spending cuts about to go into effect, the Associated Press reports, “President Barack Obama will ask Congress to come up with tens of billions of dollars in short-term spending cuts and tax revenue to put off the automatic across the board cuts that are scheduled to kick in March 1, White House officials said Tuesday.”

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Climb the stairs Saturday and every day

There is an event celebrating walking/climbing Seattle's stairs Saturday. Seattle has plenty of them and several web sites that have information about them.

Saturday, February 9 at 10 am. Feet First is hosting 15 stair climbs. Advance registration required. Feet First

I climbed Seattle's highest set of stairs last month - 391 steps - Howe Street from Lake Union to Capital Hill a few blocks north of St. Mark's Cathedral and near Volunteer Park and Lakeview Cemetery. See map and description at Seattle All Stairs

More sources

Seattle All Stairs

Public Stairs

Seattle Stairway Walks - book by Jake Jaramillo - Mountaineers Books

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Where the action is on education reform

The Washington Senate, led by Democrats Senators Tom and Sheldon and all the Republicans, is having substantial discussions about improving lower education and raising funding (used to be K-12, now pre-12). While in the House they are talking about raising funding and there is a shortage of other ideas, according to Peter Callaghan of the Tacoma News Tribune.

In the Senate, ideas long blocked by Sen. McAuliffe, are being heard - revised grading of schools, allowing principals last word on their staff (Shock!) and last-gap intervention for kids who can't read at the end of 3rd grade. And Democrat Hargrove has a bill with some improvement ideas. Seattle Times

And the Senate listened to a professor who shows there is no correlation between funding and educational outcomes. More money doesn't help unless it goes in the needed places. Washington Policy Center and WPC#2.

Callaghan says the Democrats, after leading on education reform for decades, gave the ball to the Republicans. Tacoma News Tribune

The turnaround is nearly complete. The party that birthed the education reform movement in Washington state is now the anti-reform party.

An issue that combined good policy with good politics has now been ceded by Democrats to Republicans. An issue that began as a response to the achievement gap between the rich and the poor, between white and Asian students and children of color has devolved into issues of public employee unions and conspiracy theories.

This is puzzling because it was Democratic governors beginning with Booth Gardner who put political capital behind the drive to stop accepting the status quo of mediocre public schools. Each governor since has embraced the reforms – some more warmly than others.

Sure, Washington has only had Democratic governors since 1985. But Democrats in the Legislature worked with like-minded Republicans to pass the first reforms in 1993’s House Bill 1209. That law created statewide learning requirements and tests to measure those requirements.

Subsequent attempts to hold adults, not just kids, accountable for performance, to use data to measure what works and what doesn’t, and to stop accepting failure would not have succeeded without leadership from Democrats...

Monastery/Fortress at Shegar Tibet

The monastery and fortress at Shegar Dzong, Tibet is remarkable. It is built up a mountain like you wouldn't believe. The British team surveying a route to climb Mt. Everest in 1921 might have been the first Europeans to visit there. Into the Silence by Wade Davis tells about this visit. It was also on the route for the well known 1922 and 1924 Mt Everest climing expeditions led by climber George Mallory.

Carnets-Voyages Sorry the text is in French.

More history at …. Remarkable as it is, I can't find any on-line history of it. The Wikipedia article, titled Xegar, has two references, but no text. There are lots of tours that go there and travel reports like this one, but history. No.

The photo: Carnets-Voyages. Click to enlarge.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Kamchatka volcano eruption

Stunning interactive view of the December, 2012 eruption of Plosty Tolbachik on the Kamchatka Peninsula, bordering the Pacific Ocean in the far east of Russia. The camera crew that specializes in 360-degree photos cancelled plans to be elsewhere and got there just in time to catch the beginning of the eruption.

Daily Mail UK

The second image is interactive. It a 360-degree photo that you can pan left and right. Zoom etc. For most people it's just as well to let it automatically pan to the right. If you use its tools to navigate the area on your own and get lost you can start over by reloading the page.

The photo is by Note the vertical splatter of the highest lava! Click to enlarge.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Can't tackle budget w/o tackling entitlements

We can't tackle our US budget w/o tackling entitlements.

Patterico paints the picture clearly, showing how the numbers (don't) add up.

If the so-called entitlements are truly programs that can never be cut, then we have to close the ENTIRE federal government - even the loving bureaucrats who hand out the entitlement checks - in order to stoop living on massive borrowed money. Is cutting the military and border control acceptable? How about the Food and Drug Administration and FBI? How about the Department of Health and Human Services? The Education Department? Veterans Affairs?

If not, we have to save money on MediCare, Medicaid and other medical care. We have to look at Food Stamps and welfare. We have to consider Social Security.

Patterico shows the situation in words and a few tables of numbers. Pretty compact. And he links to a video of the same.


Saturday, February 02, 2013

Making tunnelling under downtown safe

Dig a tunnel for Highway 99 under dowtown beneath many buildings? Under another tunnel? Yes. That is what they are doing. What could possibly go wrong? Of course they have done the civil engineering to make sure it is deep enough and that the soil will hold above it. But what if?

A team of engineers and technicians are putting sophisticated sensors in place to get early data on any potential problem. They are using at least seven types of sensors to watch 200 buildings.

For example: Extensometers measure the solid density. If it drops the boring has probably encountered a void in the soil. But the primary method is at the boring machine: checking the soil being removed and watching for changes in the density of the soil at the cutting heads.

History: What has gone wrong? I don't think I heard about the following recent history, which is in the Seattle Times story about the sensors:

Seattle Times
A few years ago, soil-measuring errors caused a void that nearly swallowed a house above Sound Transit’s Beacon Hill Tunnel. Contractor Obayashi Corp had to reimburse taxpayers $4 million to locate and fill gaps.
The photo: Sensor on the exterior of a Pioneer Square building. Seattle Times

Friday, February 01, 2013

New pipeline option from Canada to the coast

There is a lot of oil being produced in the middle of the continent, but limited capacity to get it to refineries both for domestic and overseas use. We are waiting for Obama to decide … waiting… waiting.. to approve the Keystone XL pipeline through the central US to the Gulf of Mexico. And Canada is trying to find a route for a new pipeline to one of the north British Columbia ports, but they are having trouble with that.

Here is another idea. Make double the exisiting pipe from Alberta to Burnaby BC, which continues to the Washington refineries. For much of its route this can be done within the existing right of way - that's not hard. In some places development has encroached to the point the second pipe will have to take another route.

Crosscut - a Seattle online news source.

Avalanche at Tunnel Creek - Stevens Pass

Prominent professional skiers were at Steven Pass Ski Area during February, 2012. Several small groups of locals and visitors decided to ski fresh snow on the back side of Cowboy Mountain (Seventh Heaven). Coming together in a large group of fifteen no one blew the whistle on all going at the same time.

They triggered an avalanche that caught five of them. One escaped. One had a deployable balloon on her back that prevented her from being completely buried. Three were buried and killed.

John Branch of the New York Times provides a very detailed account. Each page has a graphic and some are animated, especially the later one showing the descent slope from top to bottom.

NY Times

See also Outside Magazine.