Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Terri Schiavo: In Memoriam

I have been thinking about the tragedy of a nation’s judges authorizing a woman to be deprived of food and water until she died--almost a two week process. Four years ago the nation waited until Terri Schiavo died of thirst (dehydration).

A question seemingly always with us: How does one treat a fellow human being?

From Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address:
It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Republican Plans to Reverse Oregon's Rising Unemployment

Though Oregon has the third highest unemployment rate in the nation, Governor Kulongoski (D) and the Democrats in control of the Oregon legislature have offered no plans other than using stimulus money to increase jobs in Oregon and staunch the growing tide of unemployment.

Republican state legislators have prepared proposals to create jobs and help the unemployed. The video footage below is of the news conference where they explain their main proposals:

House and Senate Republicans announce plans for job creation from Oregon Senate Republicans on Vimeo.

Hat Tip: Coyote of NW Republican. As Coyote notes, the sad fact is that mainstream media sources are not reporting on these proposals. What a loss for Oregon and the families of the 10.8% of its workers who are unemployed. How high does the rate have to go before Oregon leaders and media get serious?

Oregon Drop in Employment Worst among the States

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski (D) was not surprised by the spike in the state’s unemployment last month. But, it was a record setter.* The Bureau of Labor Statistics summary released yesterday reports that Oregon’s employment rate decreased 1.3% last month--the worst decrease among the 50 states.
Oregon reported the largest over-the-month percentage decrease in employment (-1.3 percent), followed by Arizona and Washington (-1.0 percent each), Connecticut and Georgia (-0.9 percent each), and California, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin (-0.8 percent each).
[emphasis added]

The decrease in employment pushed Oregon to 3rd worst jobless rate in the nation (from 5th worst jobless rate a month earlier). In February Oregon’s jobless rate jumped to 10.8% (up from the reported January rate of 9.9%--later adjusted to 9.8%). Only Michigan and South Carolina saw a higher unemployment rate in February.
In February, Michigan again reported the highest jobless rate, 12.0 percent. The states with the next highest rates were South Carolina, 11.0 percent; Oregon, 10.8 percent; North Carolina, 10.7 percent; California and Rhode Island, 10.5 percent each; and Nevada, 10.1 percent.
[emphasis added]

Over the space of a year Oregon had the second largest jobless rate increase (5.4%) behind North Carolina (5.5%).
North Carolina reported the largest jobless rate increase from a year earlier (+5.5 percentage points), followed by Oregon (+5.4 points) and South Carolina (+5.3 points).
[emphasis added]

Apart from hopes for help from federal stimulus funds neither Governor Ted Kulongoski (D) or the Democratically controlled Oregon state legislature have reacted with further proposals on how to slow Oregon’s increasing unemployment or at least bring it near the national average. Kulongoski saw the decline as a trend to be endured.
"We're in a very steep decline," Kulongoski said. "Economists tell us this is a trend that may last until the middle of this year."

*The Oregonian did not think the BLS summary and Oregon's worsening position worth either a front page story (or, apparently, any story since a search of the Oregonian website turns up no story yesterday or today on Oregon's unemployment surge relative to the rest of the nation).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Louisiana and Alaska Bucking Unemployment Trend

Cross posted at The Next Right

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released the February, 2009, data on U.S. employment. Two states topped the list of those bucking the high loss of jobs trend last month: Louisiana under Governor Bobby Jindal (R) and Alaska under Governor Sarah Palin (R).
“In February, nonfarm payroll employment decreased in 49 states and the District of Columbia and increased in 1 state (Louisiana). The largest over-the-month decreases in the level of employment were recorded in California (-116,000), Florida (-49,500), Texas (-46,100), and Pennsylvania (-41,000), while Alaska (-100) experienced the smallest decrease. The only state to report an over-the-month increase in the level of employment was Louisiana (+800 or less than +0.1 percent).”
[emphasis added]

Both Alaska and Louisiana had positive news not only in last month’s rate but in the yearly rate. Alaska and Louisiana were among only four states (along with the District of Columbia) to see employment growth in the last year.

+1.6% Wyoming
+1.4% District of Columbia
+0.9% Alaska
+0.3% Louisiana
+0.2% North Dakota

[Unfortunately, my state (Oregon) under Governor Ted Kulongoski (D) surpassed even California in bad news dropping from 46th to 48th place nationally with a 10.8% unemployment rate. This was a 1.3% raise over January’s figures--the biggest raise of any state last month. Not good governance news.]

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Whither Daniel Hannan

Cross posted at The Next Right

It will be interesting to see where Daniel Hannan will come down on President Obama's economic policies. Hannan is the MEP who brilliantly took apart British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the disastrous growth of the UK’s debt. (see video below)

Hannan supported Obama’s presidential bid last year and is still in the Obama camp. Will the facts of Obama's economic policies sway Hannan? This Heritage Foundation chart might give him pause:

It's always interesting to see how politics, personal attachment and principles shake out in an individual's public positions.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

C-SPAN and Brian Lamb: 30 Years of Excellence

Cross posted at The Next Right

Thanks are due to C-SPAN and its founder and CEO Brian Lamb for 30 years of excellence.

There is not a better source of indepth, unbiased political, social and literary coverage in the country. It’s the only place to get complete political speeches (no sound bites) and full presentations from the authors of books on a vast variety of subjects. Not to mention the ability to hear one’s senators and representative in the U.S. Congress state their position on the issues that face the country.

Brian Lamb was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush in 2007.
"Lamb was saluted for 'elevat[ing] America's public debate and help[ing] to open up our government to citizens across the nation. His dedication to a transparent political system and the free flow of ideas has enriched and strengthened our democracy.'

"The president called him a visionary whose network has 'revived the town hall spirit for a modern, continental nation.'

"'For nearly 30 years,' the president pointed out, 'the proceedings of the House of Representatives have been televised unfiltered, uninterrupted, unedited, and live. For this we can thank C-SPAN. And for C-SPAN, we can thank a visionary American named Brian Lamb.

"C-SPAN, said President Bush, has no agenda, and only one assumption: 'that interested viewers are intelligent and can make up their own minds about what they see and hear.'

"C-SPAN, said the president, 'is a tool that enlightens democracy and informs and educates citizens at all ages and at all hours. But, putting his presidential seal of approval on Lamb's behind-the-scenes approach to changing the political coverage landscape, President Bush said that, in all those hours--some 17,000 a year of coverage--'you can watch for years and never hear anyone say the name Brian Lamb. Even Brian never says it.'

"'For his enormous achievement and his personal modesty, for his high standards and his contribution to our democracy, America is grateul to Mr. Brian Lamb.'"

Well said, and a medal richly deserved.

Thank you, Brian, for 30 years of outstanding public service!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Alaska Good Sense

Cross posted at The Next Right

It's no wonder that Governor Sarah Palin remains extremely popular in Alaska with over 61% approval rating. She continues to show how good government is done.

Stimulus Funds
Palin announced yesterday that she has carefully assessed Alaska’s part of the huge, hard to digest $787 billion stimulus bill and is accepting only 55%* of it.

Palin’s reasoning:

1. It is “not sensible” to accept stimulus funds that require ongoing state spending after the federal dollars are gone.
"We will request federal stimulus funds for capital projects that will create new jobs and expand the economy," Governor Palin said. “We won’t be bound by federal strings in exchange for dollars, nor will we dig ourselves a deeper hole in two years when these federal funds are gone. For instance, in order to accept what look like attractive energy funds, our local communities would be required to adopt uniform building codes. Government would then be required to police those codes. These types of funds are not sensible for Alaska.”

2. “We can’t keep digging” the huge, growing hole of $11 trillion national debt and adding programs the state can't fund.
I don’t want to automatically increase federal funding for education program growth, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, at a time when Alaska can’t afford to sustain that increase." "Simply expanding state government under this federal stimulus package creates an unrealistic expectation that the state will continue these programs when the federal funds are no longer available,” said Governor Palin. “Our nation is already over $11 trillion in debt; we can’t keep digging this hole.”

3. Only funds that create jobs and promote economic growth will be accepted.
"The law requires me to certify that the requests I forward for legislative approval will meet the requirements of the ARRA to create jobs and promote economic growth," Governor Palin said. “Legitimately, I can only certify capital projects that are job-ready.”

State Savings Balloon
Careful fiscal management is Palin’s hallmark. She more than tripled Alaska’s savings from $2-1/4 billion to begin 2007 (when she became governor) to almost $7 billion to begin 2009.

State Budget Slimmed Down
The plummeting price of oil led Palin to cut the Alaska budget proposal for 2009. The current Alaska budget proposal is based on an oil price of $57.78 per barrel (current rate has climbed in three months from a low of $32.40 to above $50 today). So, it looks like that rate may be met and exceeded.

Unemployment Goes to Below National Average
Alaska’s unemployment rate has not seen the same big jump experienced in the last few months by most of the rest of the nation. In the last year Alaska has significantly improved its unemployment position among the states. Alaskas has gone from 1.7% above the February 2008 national unemployment average of 6.5% to 0.1% under the February 2009 national average of 8.1%.

*The Anchorage Daily News claims it's 70% when Medicaid funds are added in.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Prolonged Winter Kills Half of Rare Birds

The 2008-2009 extra long cold winter killed half the population of the rare kingfisher in the Netherlands.

"The prolonged period of frosty weather this winter dealt a heavy blow to the kingfisher population.

"Figures published by bird research foundation SOVON show about 50 percent of the small bright blue birds succumbed to the cold and the lack of food.

"Last year 300 of the rare birds were counted, but this year there was only 150 spotted."

Hat Tip: Andrew Bolt

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

President Obama Thanks Himself

Taoiseach Cowen and President Obama (White House photo)

Cross posted at The Next Right

President Obama: “First, I’d like to say thank you to President Obama!”

So went President Obama’s gaffe yesterday in following exactly the words on his teleprompter.

One might have thought there would be a red flag at “President” since the guest’s title was Taoiseach. Or at least a stutter at the name “Obama” since it is not that common (not like Smith or even Cowen), but apparently the words flowed easily to the end of the sentence because the remarks were not thought out ahead of time but a mere following of the teleprompter.

Of course, this doesn’t say anything about Obama’s intellect any more than Bush’s sometime stumbles reflected on his. It’s a part of public speaking. But, if this had been President Bush, the story would have been featured in the US press and Bush laughed at. But, as it is President Obama’s gaffe, the US press doesn’t find it interesting or funny because it doesn’t back up their stereotypes.

Leave it to the British [UK Times online] to write up a real report. (Maybe we need to outsource our news.)
On this occasion, as a laughing Mr Obama returned to the podium, the script was belatedly switched over to the Taoiseach's text – leaving Mr Obama inadvertently thanking himself for inviting everyone, to further laughter. "First, I'd like to say thank you to President Obama!" the President said.
As Andrew Bolt remarks:

“How we’d laugh ... if George Bush had done this. Because, as you know, he’s such a moron that he was once even accused (falsely) of doing an Obama:
“‘Was President Bush literally channeling Karl Rove in his first debate with John Kerry?… So was the bulge under his well-tailored jacket a hidden receiver, picking up transmissions from someone offstage feeding the president answers through a hidden earpiece?’
“Odd, that if anyone is being fed lines it’s not Bush the Inarticulate but Obama the Great Communicator.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Oregon Unemployment Doubles in a Year; Democratic Governor Not Surprised

Cross posted at The Next Right

Oregon unemployment figures are the worst in more than two decades. Oregon's unemployment rate has doubled since January, 2008, and increased a whole percentage point in the last month.

  • 10.8% - February, 2009 unemployment
  • 9.8% - January, 2009 unemployment (adjusted)
  • 5.3% - January, 2008 unemployment

Only two employment sectors saw gains in February:

  • government (adding 6,200 jobs)
  • private educational and health services (adding 6,700 jobs)

Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski was not surprised by the steep upward spiral, and did not present a plan of action for bringing the rate down. He saw it as an economic trend that could last through summer.
“Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he wasn't surprised by the double-digit jobless rate. Monday's numbers signal that the state's revenues will continue to decline into the 2009-2011 budget, he said.

“‘We're in a very steep decline,’ Kulongoski said. ‘Economists tell us this is a trend that may last until the middle of this year.’”

However, University of Oregon economist Tim Duy was staggered by the increase.
“To Tim Duy, a University of Oregon economist, that rate is staggering, having soared from 5.9 percent in June. But Duy finds the 21,700 jobs lost in February particularly dire.

“Duy's pessimistic projection had anticipated losses of 10,000 a month for five months. But Oregon lost more than twice that last month -- on top of 13,000, as revised, in January.

“‘What that suggests to me is the state's budget forecast is not going to work,’ Duy said. ‘My main problem is I barely see any light in the tunnel.’”

Both Governor Kulongoski and economist Duy expressed concern over the impact of the high jobless rate on the collapsing state budget. Neither mentioned the impact on the unemployed (or the downsizing or closing of businesseses that employed them).

The Oregonian didn’t think to ask Kulongoski about plans to reverse the downward trend or the human impact of high unemployment even though reporter Richard Read’s story highlights the plight of a senior citizen who almost lost her home.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

EPA on Sewage Cleanup: Nevermind.

Cross posted at The Next Right

The EPA has let the City of Portland off the hook for cleaning up massive sewage spills. It dropped an investigation started eight years ago to pressure the city to do a better job cleaning up sewage spills. This saves Portland from spending big bucks for clean up costs.

Oregon’s senior senator, Ron Wyden (D), has been pushing the EPA to drop this for years.

“Over the years, the EPA's response to the good-faith efforts of the city and its ratepayers to spend $1.4 billion to solve the runoff problems and to control sewage overflows was to threaten lawsuits and refuse to meet with city officials,” Wyden continued. “While I'm glad the EPA has seen the error of its ways, this is a battle between federal and local government that should have never been waged.”

The investigation started when Oregon farmers complained that they were fined for small amounts of cow feces going into waterways, while the City of Portland was getting fined less for huge sewage spills.

The egregious nature of Portland's sewage spills was not mentioned by Senator Wyden nor by reporters for the Portland Tribune or the Oregonian.

In 2005 the Oregon State Department of Environmental Quality, under Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D), levied the biggest water quality fine in its history against Portland. The city was fined almost half a million dollars for major sewage spills including 1.1 million gallons of sewage in two spills dumped into the Willamette River and Fanno Creek. These huge sewage spills were in addition to massive ongoing sewage overflows which Portland gets a pass on because it is working on combined sewage overflow (CSO) construction.

DEQ officials noted that the Willamette River is already significantly polluted by wet-weather discharge of raw sewage from the city’s combined sewers. These combined sewer overflows (CSOs) are not subject to DEQ enforcement action, as outlined in an agreement between DEQ and the city to allow the city to complete timely construction of its updated CSO facilities.

Portland's sewage spill problem has been of major concern since the early 1990s. The City of Portland signed an agreement with the State of Oregon to care for the problem in 1991 with the solution to be in place by 2001. But huge spills continue. Portland is still working on the fix--the Big Pipe project. The city’s hope is that the Big Pipe project will be complete in another two years.

Currently Portland puts 2.3 billion gallons of raw sewage into local waterways each year--down from 6 billion gallons in 1991. Which is okay by the EPA--though cow feces are not.

Monday, March 09, 2009

President Obama Overwhelmed, Weary, Irritated, Fails to Fake Interest in Foreign Policy

Cross posted at The Next Right

After only six weeks in office, the President is overwhelmed, weary, irritated, and not much interested in foreign policy. Maybe the PC/environmental crowd should let the poor guy smoke. That would at least ease some of his tension.

From the Sunday Telegraph:

“Barack Obama's offhand approach to Gordon Brown's Washington visit last week came about because the president was facing exhaustion over America's economic crisis and is unable to focus on foreign affairs, the Sunday Telegraph has been told.

“Sources close to the White House say Mr Obama and his staff have been ‘overwhelmed’ by the economic meltdown and have voiced concerns that the new president is not getting enough rest.”

. . .

“Allies of Mr Obama say his weary appearance in the Oval Office with Mr Brown illustrates the strain he is now under, and the president's surprise at the sheer volume of business that crosses his desk.

“A well-connected Washington figure, who is close to members of Mr Obama's inner circle, expressed concern that Mr Obama had failed so far to ‘even fake an interest in foreign policy’.”

. . .

“The Sunday Telegraph understands that one of Mr Obama's most prominent African American backers, whose endorsement he spent two years cultivating, has told friends that he detects a weakness in Mr Obama's character.

“‘The one real serious flaw I see in Barack Obama is that he thinks he can manage all this,’ the well-known figure told a Washington official, who spoke to this newspaper. ‘He's underestimating the flood of things that will hit his desk.’ A Democratic strategist, who is friends with several senior White House aides, revealed that the president has regularly appeared worn out and drawn during evening work sessions with senior staff in the West Wing and has been forced to make decisions more quickly than he is comfortable.

“He said that on several occasions the president has had to hurry back from eating dinner with his family in the residence and then tucking his daughters in to bed, to conduct urgent government business. Matters are not helped by the pledge to give up smoking.

“‘People say he looks tired more often than they're used to,’ the strategist said. ‘He's still calm, but there have been flashes of irritation when he thinks he's being pushed to make a decision sooner than he wants to make it. He looks like he needs a cigarette.’”

Hat Tip: Andrew Bolt

Friday, March 06, 2009

House Dems: Stock Market Drop Has Worst Effect on Workers, Small Business

Image from Yahoo! Finance

Cross posted at The Next Right

Democrats on the House Small Business Committee understand that the people worst hit by the stock market plunge are employees and small businesses. Retirement plans are the only source of savings for many workers. When stocks go south workers take major losses to their only savings.
For small businesses and their employees, these problems are compounded. Unlike Wall Street executives, small firms do not have golden parachutes to fall back on. For many of these men and women, pensions and 401(k) plans are their only form of savings.
[emphasis added]

Unfortunately, House Democrats don’t have many good ideas on how to alleviate the problem. Suggestions include:

1. Capping what small business owners owe in retirement benefits to their employees (not much of a win for the employees and retirees counting on what was promised)

2. Allowing small firms to “look further ahead for pension values when calculating how much they must pay into employee’s retirements” (meaning promise what you can’t pay now but hope one day to pay?)

3. Encouraging “small employers to offer retirement plans by making it easier to borrow against them” (thus putting the funds at even greater risk because they are now collateral?)

Still, unlike President Obama who sees the stock market as a tracking poll, House Democrats know what millions of working class Americans know up close and personal. When working families and retirees lose 45% of their savings in one year, that’s not a tracking poll.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Bush More Popular Than Obama

Cross posted at The Next Right

Peter Wehner notes that George W. Bush had a positive rating of 63% with 22% disapproval in the Gallup March 5-7, 2001 poll--a month after his inauguration.

The current Gallup Poll for Barack Obama shows 62% approving and 28% disapproving–-a month after his inauguration.

Wehner puts it in context:
George W. Bush’s greatest moment in his presidency was still months off. We will see if Barack Obama, facing a crisis of a different kind, is able to meet the challenge before him. So far, with the market having plunged on his watch and lost trillions of dollars in the process, and still with no serious plan on how to deal with the banking system and toxic assets, the early signs are not encouraging. But it’s still very early. Life and politics, as we have all learned, has many surprises.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Who Cares About Abused Children and Hazardous Waste?

Cross posted at The Next Right

Turns out Oregon's Democratic governor and Democratic led legislature are finding a better use for designated funds than their original intent.

The Oregonian's Harry Esteve reports:
But lawmakers say they faced a crisis and had to look for other sources of money to plug an $855 million hole in the $15 billion 2007-09 budget by June 30. They cut more than $300 million from agency budgets, they agreed to spend more than $400 million in federal stimulus money. For the rest, they looked at any account they could find that still has money.

In all, the new balanced budget proposal contains $72.5 million in what are referred to as "sweep" funds shifted from accounts such as the Cultural Trust, 9-1-1 and more than 40 other sources.
. . .

Among the fund shifts that raised eyebrows: $2 million that goes to counties for economic development; $1.2 million to treat problem gamblers; $4.1 million aimed at cleaning up sites contaminated by hazardous waste; and $900,000 to prevent child abuse.

Problem is that some of those, like the Oregon Cultural Trust, who had their funds, er, reallocated, think it is an abuse of designated giving:
"People are very, very concerned about this," said Christine D'Arcy, executive director of the Oregon Cultural Trust. She said she learned late in the game about the decision by legislative budget writers to shift $1.8 million from the trust's account and apply it to the state's dwindling general fund.

The trust is funded through donations -- mainly by taxpayers who receive tax credits in return -- and by sales of special car license plates. People don't buy those plates because they want the money to go to the state's operating budget, D'Arcy said.

"We believe there is donor intent," she said. "They do so knowing they are going to be benefiting something they care about."

Further, Oregon Democrats may be buying trouble in defying federal regulations.
"It's a potentially serious problem," said Hasina Squires, a lobbyist who represents emergency communication officers that run 9-1-1 systems around the state. She said the state could run afoul of federal rules that prohibit using 9-1-1 money for other purposes.

Republicans urge a rollback of recent state executive raises instead, but Governor Kulongoski isn't buying.
Republicans have said repeatedly that the best way to help balance the budget would be for Gov. Ted Kulongoski to rescind pay raises he gave state executives. Kulongoski has frozen pay for state managers and rescinded a step increase, but he has been unwilling to changes the raises he approved last year.

Neither is Democrat Peter Buckley who co-chairs the budget committee:
"We examined every possible agency," said Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, co-chairman of the committee responsible for the budget. If budget-writers determined that taking the money wouldn't disrupt the "core function" of the agency, they took the money.

The real surprise is not that Governor Kulongoski and Democratic legislators don't want to fill the budget gap by rolling back state executive salaries, cutting expenditures or using state savings (which, though miserably small, are more than sufficient for the $72.5 million taken from designated funds).

The real surprise is that only the Cultural Trust and 9-1-1 people are complaining about their funds being swiped. MIA are advocates for Oregon employment opportunity, social welfare and environmental protection programs:

- county economic development (maybe that's why Oregon's unemployment rate is soaring and ranks it among the worst 5 states in the nation)

- treatment of problem gamblers (lottery revenue has declined--so perhaps this isn't as big a need as originally thought)

- cleaning up sites contaminated by hazardous waste (Where are the environmental protection advocates when you need them?)

- prevention of child abuse

Hat tip: Oregon Watchdog