Thursday, May 30, 2013

Obamacare: Voter Education for the Young

California youth whose employers do not pay their healthcare are in for a rude shock. Under Obamacare their monthly medical premiums are in line to double.

For Forbes, Avik Roy reports:
One of the most serious flaws with Obamacare is that its blizzard of regulations and mandates drives up the cost of insurance for people who buy it on their own. This problem will be especially acute when the law’s main provisions kick in on January 1, 2014, leading many to worry about health insurance “rate shock.”
. . .
If you’re a 25 year old male non-smoker, buying insurance for yourself, the cheapest plan on Obamacare’s exchanges is the catastrophic plan, which costs an average of $184 a month. (That’s the median monthly premium across California’s 19 insurance rating regions.) The next cheapest plan, the “bronze” comprehensive plan, costs $205 a month. But in 2013, on (NASDAQ:EHTH), the average cost of the five cheapest plans was only $92. In other words, for the average 25-year-old male non-smoking Californian, Obamacare will drive premiums up by between 100 and 123 percent
Here's the graph that accompanies the story:

It looks like young voters (who gave their votes to Obama in 2012 by a 60 to 36 margin) may be getting a $100/month reminder that someone has to pay for nice political promises.  In this case, it's them.

H/T Byron York

Monday, May 27, 2013

26 Heroes Who Died April 23 to May 16, 2013

April 23 - They died in Pul-E-Alam, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered from enemy indirect fire. Killed were:
- 1st Lt. Robert J. Hess, 26, of Fairfax, Va, and
- Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard, 32, of Selah, Wash.

The Yakima Herald Republic reports:
[Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard] was born in Yakima on April 2, 1981 and grew up in Selah. He attended Lince Elementary and played Little League Baseball. He and his brothers were part of a happy flock of neighborhood children that played in the streets near Crusher Canyon under the close supervision of many loving parents. Aaron learned a love of speed on his Big Wheel, plunging down Fifth Avenue with his feet off the pedals, in order to gain maximum velocity. He decided then that when he grew up he wanted to be an elk, and, were that not possible, a pilot in the US Armed Forces.

Aaron attended Selah Middle School and Selah High School, where he was a varsity wrestler and pole vaulter. He served as a page in the Washington State Senate. He played the trumpet in the Yakima Community Band that was directed by his grandfather. The band even took a great trip to play in Europe.

Aaron was an avid hunter and loved roaming the hills and canyons and mountains of Central Washington with his brothers and beloved Labrador retrievers. He was an accomplished bow hunter and exceptionally knowledgeable about elk. His expertise and frank posts as “Colockumelk” on the “Hunting Washington Forum” earned the respect of a far-reaching network of friends. Aaron and his brothers looked forward to the annual elk hunts that brought together the Blanchard Men for a week in the woods of camping, laughing, and hunting.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly after graduation from high school in 1999. He completed basic training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego and earned certification as an Aviation Mechanic at Pensacola, FL. He made three major deployments including two combat tours in Iraq as a platoon Sergeant. Aaron’s Marine career took him all over the world, across the oceans and through the skies, from Southeast Asia to Iraq.

In 2002 he met the love of his life, Becky. After discharge from the Marine Corps, Aaron and Becky were married. Together they shared a “once in a lifetime” love, filled with laughter and adventure. In 2008 they celebrated the birth of a son, Hunter, and in 2011, the birth of daughter Amalia. He was a doting father and committed husband. The love he gave to his family was his greatest achievement.

In 2005, Aaron and Becky enrolled at Central Washington University, where Aaron was a bull rider for the university Rodeo Club. He joined the Army ROTC program, seeking the bachelor’s degree and leadership training required to be a helicopter pilot. Aaron led the CWU “Wildcat” Battalion to national recognition as the nation’s “Most Outstanding Senior Army ROTC Battalion,” and earned his commission as second lieutenant upon graduation.

Aaron completed pilot training at Ft. Rucker, Alabama; he was reassigned to Ft. Drum, New York, in 2011. In January 2013, his unit spent three weeks in Colorado, where he trained in high-altitude flying in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan. He loved flying his Apache helicopter and showed off his expertise at an air show at Ft. Drum, New York. In early April 2013, he joined the 2nd Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade in Afghanistan, flying an AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter.
. . .
Military colleagues describe him as having a huge heart: “If you told him he couldn’t do something, he’d do it, no matter what.” He took care of others. He is described as having a wonderful spirit, easygoing, able to get along with everyone, and adventurous. Aaron’s friends and colleagues nicknamed him “Rudy,” a reference to Rudy Ruettiger, who, against tremendous odds, pursued and achieved his dream of earning a place on the Notre Dame football team.
. . .
Aaron’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the NATO Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Combat Action Badge, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Service Ribbon , the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Army Aviator Badge, the Navy-Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation, the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, four Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, and two Rifle Expert Badges. He also completed Marine Combat Training, Aviation Machinist Mate Courses, the Apache Aviator Qualification Course, the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course, and the Aviation Office Basic Course.
April 27 - They died near Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, in the crash of an MC-12 aircraft. The cause of the crash is under investigation, however initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash. Killed were:
- Capt. Brandon L. Cyr, 28, of Woodbridge, Va.
- Capt. Reid K. Nishizuka, 30, of Kailua, Hawaii
- Staff Sgt. Richard A. Dickson, 24, of Rancho Cordova, Calif.
- Staff Sgt. Daniel N. Fannin, 30, of Morehead, Ky.

May 1 - Staff Sgt. Michael H. Simpson, 30, of San Antonio, Texas, died in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit on April 27, with an improvised explosive device in Arian, Afghanistan.

May 2 - The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, of injuries sustained in a vehicle accident. Killed were:
- Spc. Trinidad Santiago Jr., 25, of San Diego, Calif., and
- Pfc. Charles P. McClure, 21, of Stratford, Okla.

May 3 - They died near Chon-Aryk, Kyrgyzstan, in the crash of a KC-135 aircraft. The cause of the crash is under investigation. Killed were:
- Capt. Mark T. Voss, 27, of Colorado Springs, Colo.,
- Capt. Victoria A. Pinckney, 27, of Palmdale, Calif., and
- Tech Sgt. Herman Mackey III, 30, of Bakersfield, Calif.

May 4 - They died while conducting combat operations in Farah province, Afghanistan. This incident is under investigation. Killed were:
- Staff Sgt. Eric D. Christian, 39, of Warwick, N.Y., and
- Cpl. David M. Sonka, 23, of Parker, Colo.

They died May 4, in Maiwand, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when their vehicle was attacked by an enemy improvised explosive device. Killed were:
- 1stLt. Brandon J. Landrum, 26, of Lawton, Okla.,
- Staff Sgt. Francis G. Phillips IV, 28, of Meridian, N.Y.,
- Spc. Kevin Cardoza, 19, of Mercedes, Texas,
- Spc. Thomas P. Murach, 22, of Meridian, Idaho, and
- Spc. Brandon J. Prescott, 24, of Bend, Ore. 

The Bend Bulletin reports:
[Spc. Brandon J.] Prescott and the others perished when an improvised explosive device, or IED, detonated as their armored vehicle passed by on routine patrol about 1:30 p.m. local time, said Maj. Joseph P. Buccino of Fort Bliss, Texas. . . . Theirs was the only vehicle in the convoy that was struck.
. . .
That all five died in the same vehicle is unusual, Buccino said. “It just almost never happens," he said. “That's extremely rare given the amount of armor (on the vehicle) and the amount of protection the soldiers wear."
. . .
During his short career in the Army, Prescott earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals, as well as the Combat Infantryman Badge and other distinctions, according to the Army.
The Oregonian:
Prescott was the younger in the family's first set of twin boys, born in West Covina, Calif., said his older brother, Aaron. The second set of twins, Jake and Josh, now 23, arrived soon after.

Prescott grew up in Dana Point, Calif., and graduated from Dana Hills High School in 2006. Two years later, their mother moved the brothers to Bend, where he took classes at Central Oregon Community College. Their father, Joseph Prescott, lives in Montgomery, Texas; their mother, Tracey Prescott has returned to Dana Point.

She said her son volunteered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and took part in a firefighting academy before joining the Army in 2010 in Portland.

Prescott was due to return home in September. However, he signed up for another three years when he discovered he would have to leave his unit behind, Aaron Prescott said.

The older twin said he spoke to Prescott on the phone about four hours before he was killed. The soldier said he loved and missed his family He is survived by his mother, father and three brothers.

"He was a hero and an inspiration for all of us," Aaron Prescott said. "Before he left for Afghanistan, he told us that if he died, he wanted us to be proud of him and hold our heads up because we know he was doing something he loved."

Tracey Prescott described Prescott as a selfless, humble man who loved his family and the beach. She, Aaron and Jake were flying to Dover, Del., to claim his body. Service arrangements were to be announced.

"I'm a broken woman right now," Tracey Prescott said. "I'm sad and angry, but also very, very proud of my son. He definitely was a special kid."
May 14 - They died in Sanjaray, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.  Killed were:
- Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey C. Baker, 29, of Hesperia, Calif.,
- Spc. Mitchell K. Daehling, 24, of Dalton, Mass.,
- Spc. William J. Gilbert, 24, of Hacienda Heights, Calif., and
- Pfc. Cody J. Towse, 21, of Elk Ridge, Utah.

May 15 - Sgt. 1st Class Trenton L. Rhea, 33, of Oakley, Kan., died May 15, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, after drowning while attempting to cross a body of water during combat operations.

May 16 - They died in Kabul, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with a vehicle borne improvised explosive device. Killed were:
- Sgt. Eugene M Aguon, 23, of Mangilao, Guam, and
- Spc. Dwayne W. Flores, 22, of Sinajana, Guam.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Oregonian's Tepid Call for Clearing Up "the AP mess"

In a low key editorial on the importance of a free press, the Oregonian tepidly calls on President Obama to "clear up the AP mess".
We've never thought of President Barack Obama as Richard Nixon, some of whose Watergate plumbers separately broke into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist and otherwise considered bizarre plots to discredit Ellsberg for having leaked classified documents. But the U.S. Department of Justice spying on the AP? Obama must step in and clear up the AP mess, particularly as it comes as the Department of Justice probes whether Internal Revenue Service officials broke laws by auditing Tea Party groups for political purposes. The president's dismissal Wednesday of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller is a start.
"[C]lear up the AP mess"? Certainly not fighting words. It's what one says about broken TriMet vending machines not an assault on the First Amendment--or a body blow to the Oregonian's supposed mission and livelihood.

But, then, the Oregonian doesn't seem to think much of its mission. The best it can do to show the importance of its investigative reporting is to bring up Joseph Rose's reporting on TriMet and unidentified reporting by Bryan Denson.
Surely the Portland transit agency TriMet occasionally pulls its hair out wondering who among its employees tells The Oregonian's Joseph Rose about mishaps. Surely reporter Bryan Denson's telephone directory contains the numbers of folks who would lose their jobs if it were known they furnished information to him. But Rose and Denson, like all reporters and editors at The Oregonian, know they are out of business if they do not carefully establish the basis for all communication and then protect sources deemed confidential.
For the Oregonian editors apparently TriMet is as big as it gets.

Neither Rose nor Denson is known for digging up important information on Oregon or Portland government or political scandals. (Actually, that would be Nigel Jaquiss of the Willamette Week who broke important stories on Neil Goldschmidt, Sam Adams, mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith, and the Columbia River Crossing debacle.)  The Oregonian does not mention anyone covering the governor, the legislature, the mayor or City Council.  Their major political correspondents led by Jeff Mapes don't rate even a phrase about the importance of their sources.

No drum beat by the Oregonian demanding answers from the Obama administration. Or calls for fierce congressional hearings on the issue. The editors find the week early dismissal of the acting IRS commissioner (which has nothing to to with the AP scandal) "a start". But the editors have no specific calls for any other action.
Snooping on this scale by federal officials flouts protections assured by the First Amendment, purposefully designed to protect freedom of the press in a democracy that depends on it. Left unexplained, it potentially undercuts the ambition of newsgathering and certainly throws into question just how much the Obama administration really believes in the U.S. Constitution.
". . . [P]otentially undercuts the ambition of newsgathering . . . ." Ho-hum.

It's a reason why the Oregonian has lost a third of its circulation in the last 10 years and has fallen out of the top 25 daily U.S. newspapers. Sad

Thursday, May 16, 2013

More Egg on Face for Portland Arts Tax; Deadline to Pay Unclear

Another glitch has occurred, and there is more egg on face for the Portland Arts Tax and the City of Portland. "No payments will be accepted online until further notice. . . . A new deadline will be announced in coming days." Clarity and competence are not a part of either this tax or the City of Portland. From the Arts Tax website:

Friday, May 10, 2013

Portland Changes 1984 to 2012

Google Earth has a neat presentation showing time lapse images by year from 1984 to 2012 of any area in the world. Here are images from 1984, 1997 and 2012 for the Portland area.

To use the time lapse program just type in the name of any location in the search box. It is set for Las Vegas.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Lots More People Don't Have to Pay the Arts Tax

It looks like people who get most of their income from Social Security, PERS and state non-taxable sources do not have to pay the new Arts Tax if their other income is under $1,000 per year.

Jennifer Anderson of the Portland Tribune reports:
Mayor Charlie Hales' office said Tuesday that a new analysis shows some people who have received most or all of their income from Social Security or the Public Employees Retirement System have paid the tax. And those types of income are not taxable by the city.

This means some people who have paid the arts tax are eligible for refunds
Here's the City's refund information:
Refund requests
It is possible that you may have paid the Arts Education and Access Income Tax (Arts Tax) when you did not have to. Examples of payment in error include, but may not be limited to:
1. You unintentionally paid more than once.
2. You were not a resident of Portland during the 2012 calendar year.
3. Your only income is from Social Security benefits; pension benefits paid by the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS); or interest income from US Treasury bill notes and bonds.
4. You live in a household with combined income above the federal poverty guidelines, but you personally have less than $1,000 of income.
5. Your household is at or below the federal poverty guideline.
UPDATE: The Social Security, PERS, etc., exemptions are not yet mentioned on the City's Exemptions information page.  They are only listed on the Refund Requests page.  Early payers were penalized by not being given full information on whether they actually owe the tax--and that holds true for current payers who don't have the right news sources.

May 21st Election - Oregon Conservative Party Endorsements

The Oregon Conservative Party has a list of candidates they recommend in the May 21st election for Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas and Marion counties.

It is helpful for local races where candidates are often political unknowns.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Oregonian Loses 7.64% of Circulation in the Last Year

Update 2: 2016 circulation news here.
Update: 2013 and 2014 paid circulation numbers here.

The Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) figures show a 7.64% loss in Oregonian circulation from March 2012 to March 2013.  Of the nine Oregon newspapers surveyed by AAM, only the Gazette Times of Corvallis (+7.63%) showed a gain in daily circulation in the past year.

Using a shorter six month yardstick, AAM's numbers show four Oregon newspapers with a gain in daily circulation since September 2012:

Gazette Times (Corvallis) - 12.81% (up 1,257 from September 2012)
Statesman Journal (Salem) - 3.39% (up 1,182 from September 2012)
Democrat-Herald (Albany) - 2.46% (up 340 from September 2012)
Oregonian - 0.14% (up 310 from September 2012)

Though the Oregonian saw a tiny 0.14% increase in daily circulation from September 2012 to March 2013, its Sunday circulation fell 1,206 (-0.4%) and Saturday circulation fell 3,942 (-1.83%) in the same period.

Here are the AAM daily circulation statistics for nine Oregon newspapers for the period between March 2012 and March 2013:

                                                03/13        09/12       03/12
Bulletin (Bend) . . . . . . . . . . . . 29,294      31,696      31,796
Courier (Grants Pass) . . . . . . .  12,683      14,380      13,748
Democrat-Herald (Albany) . . . . 14,139      13,799      14,283
Gazette Times (Corvallis) . . . . . 11,072        9,815      10,287
Mail Tribune (Medford) . . . . . .  21,381      21,511      22,292
Oregonian . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  228,909    228,599    247,833
Register-Guard (Eugene) . . . .   50,729      51,040      53,812
Statesman Journal (Salem) . . .  36,073      34,891      39,946
World (Coos Bay-North Bend) .   8,646        8,891        9,537