Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Survey Says

Cathy McMorris Rodgers posted a survey asking us what Congress should do about the debt ceiling.
I enjoyed how the answers are worded, so much so that I thought I'd offer up some of my own.

* No - Congress has been consistently irresponsible in fiscal matters and America should finally pay the price for it even though it would make the economy even worse than it is
* Yes - Congress has been consistently irresponsible in fiscal matters and wants to lower taxes more and add to the debt
* Yes - Congress has been consistently irresponsible in fiscal matters and this would allow more gridlock so each party can blame the other
* Yes - Congress has been consistently irresponsible in fiscal matters and raised the ceiling 74 times in under 50 years. And ten of those increases have occurred over the past decade when there has been a record run-up in debt.
For some reason she didn't discuss the ramifications of not raising it again. Of course, there may be other reasons.

We'll Pay You To Do Something You're Already Doing

We got this in the mail yesterday.

The first question that popped into my mind was, "What would I do with a second checking account?" The second, and more important question, was "Why would Chase pay me $100 to open a second account?" Could Chase be thinking they would make more money out of the deal?

Nah, they're not like that...are they?

Monday, March 28, 2011

History Repeating Itself--Again

Newton Leroy Gingrich is trying really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, REALLY hard to be a candidate for president. According to Politico, Gingrich had this to say before thousands of evangelical Christians yesterday.

"I have two grandchildren — Maggie is 11, Robert is 9," Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. "I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

Can he make recognizing nonsense any easier? Gingrich says we'll be in a "secular atheist country". Secular means not pertaining to or connected to religion. And an atheist doesn't believe in supreme beings. Yet somehow it could be dominated by radical Islamists. Islam is--wait for it--a religion. Apparently Gingrich thinks that to be on right side of a group evangelical Christians, he needs to tell them he's against secularism, atheists, and Islam.

As to Mr Gingrich's reference to what it once meant to be an American, I would recommend he read Commentaries on the Constitution, written by former Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story back in 1833.

Here's a paragraph concerning Article VI of the U.S. Constitution--I bet Gingrich has one in his pocket--which includes "But no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." (Bolding is mine.)

§ 1841. The remaining part of the clause declares, that "no religious test shall ever be required, as a "qualification to any office or public trust, under the United States." This clause is not introduced merely for the purpose of satisfying the scruples of many respectable persons, who feel an invincible repugnance to any religious test, or affirmation. It had a higher object; to cut off for ever every pretence of any alliance between church and state in the national government. The framers of the constitution were fully sensible of the dangers from this source, marked out in the history of other ages and countries; and not wholly unknown to our own. They knew, that bigotry was unceasingly vigilant in its stratagems, to secure to itself an exclusive ascendancy over the human mind; and that intolerance was ever ready to arm itself with all the terrors of the civil power to exterminate those, who doubted its dogmas, or resisted its infallibility.

Written so well almost 180 years ago. You can't say you weren't warned.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Why can't that guy just sit in one place?

Proof that the wind blows from west to east.

Making those emergency school drills too realistic can be dangerous.

Vanishing bees in Spokane next month.

Disingenuousness And Nonspecificity

Cathy McMorris Rodgers was recently featured on Comcast Newsmakers. (I'd never heard of it either and I realize that by embedding the video I may contribute to the number of views going from 45 to maybe 49 but that's a chance I'm willing to take.)

Listen closely to what is said about unemployment--that we've lost three million jobs since January 2009 with the inference that President Obama is at fault since that's when he took office. And our Congresswoman states that jobs is the number one issue. Given her claim that this is such a priority, here is a summary of the legislation she has supported to create jobs.

(crickets chirping)

But what about this claim that three million jobs have been lost in the last two years? I checked out the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and found the latest unemployment report.

You'll notice a couple of things from these charts. One, the unemployment rate peaked, leveled out, and there's been a slight decline. Secondly, the depiction of job losses shows that taking place and decreasing during the first nine months of 2009. This looks pretty convincing--if you start from January of 2009. It's a convenient starting point, too. Here's an excerpt from our congresswoman's op-ed that was published in several small town newspapers in her district.

The spend, borrow, and bailout policies of the past two years have clearly failed. The national unemployment rate has been above 8.5 percent for 24 straight months – the longest streak since the Great Depression - even though President Obama rammed through a $800 billion stimulus bill in a misguided attempt to revive the economy.

Looking back at the job losses pictured above, you'll find the losses decreased as the stimulus bill projects put people to work. There was the up and down tick for the census conducted last year. Lastly, we have a modest increase of jobs since. Does she expect the economy to kick into high gear overnight?

But let's have a look at the big picture.

"Oh, jeeze," as they'd say on Fargo. It appears that some sort of economic disaster struck and brought all this on before Obama was even elected. Wonder what that was. Also notice that the increase in unemployment did not happen overnight. Neither will the decrease. And since we're talking about millions being out of work, here's a chart from the BLS showing those numbers.

To only consider data from January 2009 and on is disingenuous as best. If you look at what brought it on in the first place, you have a better understanding of the situation. But who needs facts and reality?

The best part of this "interview" is when our fair congresswoman is asked specifically what she would cut in the federal budget. She can't answer. She's been harping on this subject for ages now and she can't give one specific. All she can say is that everything is on the table. That's not entirely truthful in itself. Raising taxes is not on the table. Cutting government subsidies for very profitable oil companies is not on the table. I'm sure there is plenty on the table, but she won't say what because...well...that's open to conjecture and I'm finding it difficult to come up with a good reason. It's tough when she just repeats the same ambiguities and catch phrases. So this is the best I can come up with.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers feels so strongly about economic responsibility and getting the most bang for the buck, she's looking at the long past expiration date of her talking points and saying, "It's still good."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Bright Side Of Mercury

Today's Spokesman has an article about a study that concludes mercury does not contribute to heart disease. Since the Review didn't include any links to the study--hint, hint--I had to look for it myself. I found a free abstract on the New England Journal of Medicine site. They studied the participants of two studies and concluded:

We found no evidence of any clinically relevant adverse effects of mercury exposure on coronary heart disease, stroke, or total cardiovascular disease in U.S. adults at the exposure levels seen in this study.

Great news, right? But when you look up mercury on the EPA site...

For fetuses, infants, and children, the primary health effect of methylmercury is impaired neurological development. Methylmercury exposure in the womb, which can result from a mother's consumption of fish and shellfish that contain methylmercury, can adversely affect a baby's growing brain and nervous system. Impacts on cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills have been seen in children exposed to methylmercury in the womb.

...and CDC site...

The nervous system is very sensitive to all forms of mercury. Methylmercury and metallic mercury vapors are more harmful than other forms, because more mercury in these forms reaches the brain. Exposure to high levels of metallic, inorganic, or organic mercury can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus. Effects on brain functioning may result in irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and memory problems.

Short-term exposure to high levels of metallic mercury vapors may cause effects including lung damage, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increases in blood pressure or heart rate, skin rashes, and eye irritation.

...there's no mention of of heart disease. Isn't it wonderful to now know that it has now been ruled out? It almost makes the mercury coming from coal-fired power plants seem like not a bad thing any more.

The next study we'll hear about will conclude that people who suffer a stab wound to the hand are less likely to die than those who suffer a stab wound to an internal organ.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Back Home Again

I had to spend most of the week in San Diego. If it's any consolation, the weather was bad enough to make me feel at home.

If you paint the utility boxes pretty colors it helps distract from the shopping carts that some of the homeless people live out of.

Notice how this cart is so much easier to catch your attention than the one above?

I get the feeling that this has been here quite some time since even the handlebars are gone. The lock worked--mostly.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Overcoming Obstacles

For track season this year Stephanie decided to go out for the 300 meter hurdles. She's been coming home from practice with bumps and bruises on the sides of her knees from nailing a hurdle or two. Yesterday she ran her first race at the Richland Jamboree. She was scared to be racing in front of so many people for fear she'd wipe out and eat the track but she didn't look nervous at race time.

She cleared each hurdle and finished in 63 seconds which made her very happy so good for her.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Did I Do Good?

The Republicans in the House called an emergency session to consider legislation to defund National Public Radio. I'm guessing it was an emergency because it is one of the most pressing issues we have today. Someone had to take action after the consistently duplicitous James O'Keefe released yet another heavily edited "sting" video which even Glenn Beck's site called into question. Nonetheless, the House voted to defund NPR and our own Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted "Aye".

Last night she sent an email out to everyone on her list.

It looks like the URL in the email contains a code identifying the email of the person on the mailing list so I'm not posting the link because it could look like I tried voting more than once. (What's hilarious is that the survey was emailed out and by taking the survey you agree to subscribe to her newsletter--which you are already are doing because you got the email.) For those of you who don't subscribe to her newsletter there's always her Facebook page.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Can't Be Faithful Enough These Days

A few days ago presidential hopeful Rick Santorum took a shot at John F. Kennedy while addressing a group of Catholics in Massachusetts.

In remarks to about 50 members of the group Catholic Citizenship -- which encourages parishioners to speak out on issues of public policy --- Santorum decried what he called the growing secularization of American public life.

He traced the problem to Kennedy's 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, in which Kennedy – then a candidate for president - sought to allay concerns about his Catholicism by declaring, "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute."

Santorum, who is Catholic, said he was "frankly appalled" by Kennedy's remark.

"That was a radical statement," Santorum said, and it did "great damage."

"We're seeing how Catholic politicians, following the first Catholic president, have followed his lead, and have divorced faith not just from the public square, but from their own decision-making process," Santorum said.

Kennedy caused the growing secularization of America? Let's have a look at what Kennedy said many years ago.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

Pretty radical stuff, especially the part where parishioners are being told how to vote. The reason for Kennedy's remarks before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association was to allay fears that he would take orders from the Pope. Catholics were considered papists by many and Kennedy wanted to allay their fears that he would take orders from a religious leader. My how times have changed since 1960.

Kennedy's speech include this rather prescient paragraph.

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim--but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

That has a familiar ring these days. You'll notice that Kennedy refers to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom, which, by the way, Virginia enacted into state law in 1786. From the law:

Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

Santorum also referenced Jefferson.

"Jefferson is spinning in his grave," he added.

Perhaps, Mr Santorum, but not for the reason you think.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Riding to and from work yesterday--first day of bike commuting--I saw this truck parked in the bike lane on North Addison. The Montana plates expired in 2007. The windshield wipers hug close a couple of plastic-bagged citations and the truck bed is full of trash. On the plus side, the tires have air in them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Limiting The Reach Into Our Lives

Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) posted a blog entry on The Hill yesterday in which he attacks President Obama's recent decision to no longer defend Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act because it's unconstitutional.

Two weeks ago, President Obama made an unprecedented decision to declare a Federal law unconstitutional and thereby abdicate his responsibility to uphold and defend that law.

This is false. Attorney General Holder announced that the administration will not defend the law if challenged in court. The law is still in effect and is being enforced. It's also not unprecedented for a president to take an action like this. So what is the congressman doing to protect marriage? He submitted the Marriage Protection Act of 2011 which states:

No court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, section 1738C.

Here is what Section 1738C states:

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

So what would this bill do is passed? Mr Burton explains it himself.

This bill simply states that no courts created by an Act of Congress – meaning Federal courts – will have jurisdiction to hear cases regarding same-sex marriage. Additionally, the Supreme Court will not have appellate jurisdiction to hear these cases. In short, the bill makes same-sex marriage an issue to be determined by the people through their state legislatures or via referendum, not by Federal judges.

That is a power of Congress as granted by the U.S. Constitution. Article III only creates a supreme court, not the appelate and district courts we have today. Article III states Congress has the power to "ordain and establish courts".

Having established the courts, Congress, except for what's specifically granted in the Constitution, can determine what the courts, including the Supreme Court, does or does not have jurisdiction over. The Detainee Treatment Act is a recent example where U.S. law concerning habeas corpus was amended, removing the jurisdiction of any court or judge over enemy combatants. The purpose of this was to prevent detainees being held at Guantanamo, the majority of them being innocent, from submitting a writ of habeas corpus to a federal court.

I would like to remind Mr Burton of the Republican Party platform which includes this:

Republicans will uphold and defend our party’s core principles: Constrain the federal government to its legitimate constitutional functions. Let it empower people, while limiting its reach into their lives.

A question for Mr Burton. How does telling each state they are not required to respect legal relationships established in other states and removing the courts' jurisdiction constrain the federal government, empower people and limit the reach of the federal government in their personal lives?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Year Of Chilling Out

Having a competitive nature, I tend to push myself too hard when I run and ride. I'm that bike commuter who's always looking at his speedometer, basking in the glow of a wind-assisted 23mph and cursing the single digit from a headwind on a climb. While running, I'd often time each mile, gauging the time lost or gained with each. Not that I'm that fast, but I would focus on pushing rather than enjoying the scenery. I find that doing this is mostly counterproductive for me. Why am I doing this if I'm not going to have fun?

So to remind me to enjoy myself this year I removed the computer from my bike. No tracking the miles or the speed. When I run to work or run at lunchtime, I don't watch my watch.

Today I went for a ride. I looked at the clock when I left and figured on being out for about two hours. After covering quite a bit of territory--and enjoying the scenery--I stole a look at my watch to see if I should start heading home. I was surprised to see I'd only been riding for an hour. Old habits being hard to break, I congratulated myself for cranking out the miles.

Twenty minutes later I realized I had not changed the time on my watch yet, humbling myself with the news that I actually took twice as long as I thought. Well, at least I enjoyed the scenery.

No More Daylight Wasting Time - Until November

So how many days do you go before you stop saying things like, "Well, it's really 7:30 because we moved the clocks ahead an hour, so technically...?"

Erring On the Side Of Caution

There's nothing like a real threat to promote the idea that the threat exists everywhere. Consider that two days after the backpack bomb was found on Martin Luther King Day an abandoned piece of luggage kicked off the same police response. Roads were blocked, traffic was rerouted, and a lot of police resources were expended--for a clothing-filled suitcase.

In a press release late this morning, [police spokesman Officer Jennifer] DeRuwe said, “Based on recent events, our community has been in a heightened sense of awareness. Police continue to encourage citizens to report anything out of the ordinary for it is always better to error (sic) on the side of caution.”

I question whether it's always better to err on the side of caution.

Here's a difference between the backpack bomb and the clothing filled suitcase. Just like you or I probably would, the men who found the backpack examined it. In our society, if you find someone's personal property you most likely want to find out who it belongs to so you can return it to them. You look inside to see if there are any clues that would lead you to the owner. If you don't find any then you probably turn it in somewhere or keep it and put an ad in the paper or online to help locate the owner. The three men examined the backpack and correctly decided they should call the police.

[Brandon] Klaus said that when [Mark] Steiner first found the bag the three of them set it on a bench and spent probably two minutes or less examining it before they decided it was potentially dangerous and police should be called.

“How were we supposed to know?” said Klaus, in response to the concerns that they opened the backpack. “There’s no training for finding a bomb.”

Exactly, but what they found was definitely worth reporting. What are the odds that whatever you see or find contains a bomb? Pretty darn slim. Had someone looked at that suitcase they could have made a simple determination without resulting in an unnecessary police response. I see people in the downtown area carrying backpacks and/or pulling a suitcase all the time. They're quite likely homeless. Sometimes they can be frightening but they're definitely not terrorists.

Three years ago the New York Times published an article about the Metropolitan Transit Authority "If you see something, say something" campaign designed to combat terrorism much like the Homeland Security one displayed above. Out of the many thousands of calls, none had resulted in a terrorism-related arrest.

To quote an article security technologist Bruce Schneier wrote on the subject:

If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security.

We need to do two things. The first is to stop urging people to report their fears. People have always come forward to tell the police when they see something genuinely suspicious, and should continue to do so. But encouraging people to raise an alarm every time they're spooked only squanders our security resources and makes no one safer.

When I hear people discuss this, there's always that one person who pipes up with, "But what if it really was a bomb?" Suddenly the group agrees that it's always better to be safe than sorry, forgetting they were safe in the first place. Go figure.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Denying Climate Change

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has come up with something they entitled The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 that prohibits the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.


`(a) Definition- In this section, the term `greenhouse gas' means any of the following:

`(1) Water vapor.

`(2) Carbon dioxide.

`(3) Methane.

`(4) Nitrous oxide.

`(5) Sulfur hexafluoride.

`(6) Hydrofluorocarbons.

`(7) Perfluorocarbons.

`(8) Any other substance subject to, or proposed to be subject to, regulation, action, or consideration under this Act to address climate change.

`(b) Limitation on Agency Action-


`(A) IN GENERAL- The Administrator may not, under this Act, promulgate any regulation concerning, take action relating to, or take into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change.

`(B) AIR POLLUTANT DEFINITION- The definition of the term `air pollutant' in section 302(g) does not include a greenhouse gas. Notwithstanding the previous sentence, such definition may include a greenhouse gas for purposes of addressing concerns other than climate change.

Bolding mine.

Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts tears into this nonsense.

So how do you prefer your fluorocarbons?

As an aside, I checked out the House Energy and Commerce site. Tweets from Republican members are displayed in a box entitled "what we're working on".

What is Rep Shimkus working on?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Almost Forgot

Did anyone else catch that episode of Jeopardy! last week where the answer to a $200 question in a political leader category was "This person's second book was titled America by Heart : Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag."

You could hear crickets chirping as all three contestants blankly stared at the board. After time expired the ever omniscient Alex Trebek provided the question: "Who was Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin."

I guess smart people don't read that crap.


BTW, why is playing the game while watching it on TV so easy but taking the online Jeopardy! test makes you feel like a dunce?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Same Tired Talking Points

Our former congressman, George Nethercutt, is featured in the Inlander again where he accuses President Obama of acting irresponsibly by submitting "a $3.73 trillion budget for Fiscal Year 2012, the largest in American history with the largest one-year projected budget deficit in American history."

If there's anyone who knows how to be fiscally irresponsible, it's Mr Nethercutt. Through his support of President George W. Bush's shell game to keep the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq off the books and supporting the Bush tax cuts, Mr Nethercutt was part of the crew that contributed mightily to the deficit he now claims to be so concerned about. Like a first grader with crumbs all over his face he points and accuses the new kid of stealing the cookies.

We may eventually have $5 per gallon gasoline as oil-producing nations undergo disorder and American domestic production remains suppressed.

Gas prices are rising because of speculation, not because of a drop in supply. But "Drill, baby, drill" has such a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

Neither he nor Congress shows much courage to reform entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs, which consume two-thirds of the federal budget) anytime soon.

That loud "Pop!" you heard was Mr Nethercutt pulling "two-thirds" out if his backside. Have a look at the federal budget. Social Security is just a little larger than the defense budget. But the difference is that income taxes pay for defense but not for Social Security and Medicare. They are trust funds for you and I that you and I pay into. Social Security is not insolvent and it won't be even if we don't change it. Mr Nethercutt waves a red herring to distract you from the real cause of the red menace--low taxes and unfunded wars.

He continues on with his now familiar position of accusing President Obama of weak leadership. (Last month he declared that Egypt would define Obama's presidency.) He avows that Obama is too frightened to act or doesn't know what to do and bounces back and forth between the topics of government shutdown and the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East.

We're already overtaxed with two wars. The last thing we need is another. We also don't need to earn more disfavor from other countries. We already kill too many innocent people with missile carrying drones.

But that's not good enough for someone who experiences the discomfort of a flag pin poking his collarbone when he sleeps on his stomach and dreams of a leader who will "step forward and take strong stands for a strong America".

But there I go letting myself get distracted by another red herring. Wasn't Mr Nethercutt talking about the budget in the first place? Shut down government welfare, you morans!

Today's The Big Day

Congressman Peter King of New York, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, convenes "the first in a series of hearings on radicalization in the American Muslim community. The hearing is entitled: “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response.”"

Spokane is in the news again and breathless local reporters repeat themselves repeatedly as they report "live on the scene" from the bench at the corner of Washington and Main where the backpack bomb was placed. But it's nothing Congressman King is interested in. This alleged bomber is not a radicalized Muslim but yet another suspected white supremacist.

Let's set that aside for a moment and consider what Congressman King wants to emphasize with his committee's hearings, that radical Muslims are the greatest threat and American Muslims need to do more to combat them. He says there are too many mosques in America and he believes most of them have been overrun by extremists.

Lumping all Muslims together as extremists makes as much sense as lumping Spokane's white population with it's latest bombing suspect. Granted, that wouldn't happen anyway...well...because they're white. However, if you want to get off on the wrong foot with someone, just refer to them as bearing some sort of association with a criminal with whom they share a religion, skin color, etc.

In the meantime, let's hope these so-called hearings don't encourage anyone to act out against American Muslims or their mosques. That would be extreme.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I'll Be Back

The NY Times has an online Rock-Paper-Scissors in which you can take on a Novice or Advanced Terminator-like hand. In my game we took turns leading in wins but we pretty much stayed even overall. You can drive yourself crazy trying to predict what the computer is trying to predict you're going to predict. Be random and have fun!

*** Update

I went back and competed against the Novice and was sorely embarrassed.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Attacking Social Security

House Speaker Boehner reportedly wants to raise the retirement age to 70 for people who will not retire for 20 years. Is this a good or bad idea? First let's check with someone who is very familiar with Social Security.

Last month Robert Reich, a former trustee of the Social Security trust fund, explained why raising the retirement age is not the answer keeping the trust fund solvent.

Remember, the Social Security payroll tax applies only to earnings up to a certain ceiling. (That ceiling is now $106,800.) The ceiling rises every year according to a formula roughly matching inflation.

Back in 1983, the ceiling was set so the Social Security payroll tax would hit 90 percent of all wages covered by Social Security. That 90 percent figure was built into the Greenspan Commission’s fixes. The Commission assumed that, as the ceiling rose with inflation, the Social Security payroll tax would continue to hit 90 percent of total income.

Today, though, the Social Security payroll tax hits only about 84 percent of total income.

It went from 90 percent to 84 percent because a larger and larger portion of total income has gone to the top. In 1983, the richest 1 percent of Americans got 11.6 percent of total income. Today the top 1 percent takes in more than 20 percent.

If we want to go back to 90 percent, the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security tax would need to be raised to $180,000.

It's a matter of increasing the amount of wages the Social Security payroll tax applies to. Since income for the wealthiest has increased at a faster rate than inflation, that means the wealthiest among us would have to pay more. Let's look at some numbers.

Using the current tax rates here are the differences for the two wage limit rates mentioned above.

Employee/Employer at
Employee/Employer at
Social Security TaxIncrease of
Self-Employed at
Self-Employed at
Social Security TaxIncrease of

The employer and employee would be on the hook for an additional $4,538.40 each for the $73,200 difference in wages. The self-employed would have to pay an additional $9,076.80. Note that wages above the $180,000 limit would be exempt.

According to the latest numbers (PDF) at Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are a roughly 9.5 million self-employed workers and about 129 million wage and salary workers in the U.S. as of the fourth quarter of 2010.

Speaker Boehner's proposal would affect those who need Social Security the most, i.e., not the wealthy Americans, by making them pay more into the trust fund before they can collect Social Security. Yes, the wealthy would pay more as they wait until age 70 to retire, but they won't need Social Security to survive.

If you are currently 50 years old, the SSA expects you to live (PDF) for 28 more years if you're a male and 32 more years if you're a female. So men, on average, would retire at 70 and collect Social Security for roughly eight years. Women, on the other hand, would collect Social Security for 12 years on average.

The trust fund does not contribute to the federal deficit. Social Security may be one of the largest single expenditures in our federal budget, but it is a sustainable expenditure--sustained by the FICA taxes placed on our wages. Raising the ceiling so that 90% of all wages are covered would ensure the viability of the program well into the future.


Does it feel like the only economic indicator Americans seem to grasp well is gas prices?

At last, an actual case of voter fraud.

Keep your hands off the hamburger at the store, too.

What's with this prurient interest in passwords to make us more secure online?

One Of The Best Downfall Parodies Yet

"It's all over the Internet."

Oh, about that high speed rail line and the jobs it would create. Hey, let's order up some Ian's Pizza.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Luring The Kids With Ads

The Washington State Senate is considering a legislation concerning the medical use of cannabis.

It includes a new section about advertising.

NEW SECTION. Sec. 802. (1) No licensed producer, processor of cannabis products, or dispenser may advertise cannabis for sale to the general public on broadcast television or radio or on a billboard in any manner that promotes or tends to promote the use or abuse of cannabis. For the purposes of this subsection, displaying cannabis, including artistic depictions of cannabis, is considered to promote or 33 to tend to promote the use or abuse of cannabis.

I'd like to focus on a couple of parts. For example, "No licensed producer, processor of cannabis products, or dispenser may advertise...." Would a person or organization that isn't a producer, processor or dispenser be able to make such advertisements? Quite likely so and an amendment addresses that.

On page 25, beginning on line 27, after "No" strike all material through "billboard" on line 29 and insert "person, partnership, corporation, association, or agency may advertise cannabis for sale to the general public"

But there's another part that I'm wondering about. It's the wording "may advertise cannabis for sale to the general public". Would an ad for cannabis pass muster as long as it explicitly stated that the cannabis is not for sale to the general public? Would the wording "may advertise to the general public cannabis for sale" be a better way to ban all cannabis advertisements? What if the cannabis is not for sale but donations are accepted? Keep in mind I'm not English major but the way sentences are parsed in legal battles it seems these are fair questions.

However, some legislators were concerned that the advertisement ban should apply to other forms of communication so the amendments also includes this:

On page 26, line 10, after "radio broadcast licensee," insert "newspaper, magazine,"

EFFECT: Advertising of cannabis for sale to the general public is prohibited. Newspapers and magazines are not subject to penalties for disseminating advertising in good faith without knowledge that the advertising promotes or tends to promote the use or abuse of cannabis.

Our own Senator Michael Baumgartner expressed his support for this amendment.

"When all of us open these newspapers that have the current forms of medical marijuana advertisements, I think it's quite clear that they're promoting, or have a risk of promoting to children... Let's not lure kids into this sort of a behavior or lifestyle."

I appreciate his concern for children but I hardly think the marijuana dispensary ads in the Inlander and Nickel Nik lure children into "this sort of behavior or lifestyle". And what does he mean by "this sort"? If anything, the kids might point it out to friends or relatives for the shock value. They might even ask their parents about it who would then have to provide an explanation just as they probably do for those ads promoting alcohol, condoms, K-Y Intense arousal gel, and erectile dysfunction pills.

"Mom. Dad. Why do you have to see a doctor if you have an erection that last more than four hours?"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Just Being A Good Husband

When Kathy went to work this morning I noticed she forgot her cell phone. So I sent her a text telling her so.

She didn't get the message until she got home. But she had already figured it out on her own.

Our State's Next Governor

Speaking of public sector workers....

David "Goldy" Goldstein over at The Stranger has penned an enlightening and revealing article about Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna.

An excerpt:


More than the naked, teabagger-pandering politics of it all, what should be most disturbing to voters about McKenna's involvement in the health care lawsuit is the way he's consistently misrepresented its intended goal, by repeatedly implying that most of the health care reforms could survive, even if his lawsuit succeeds. From the official Q&A on his office's website:

Attorney General McKenna believes challenging the two unconstitutional provisions will ultimately not prevent Congress from implementing other features of the health care reform legislation if they see fit... Attorney General McKenna continues to believe that individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion provisions may be deemed unconstitutional without overturning the entire health care reform act.

Recognizing that much of the health care reform package is popular with voters, and would greatly benefit Washington State, Mc-Kenna repeats this line again and again. At a June 4, 2010, conference with the conservative Washington Policy Center, McKenna insisted that "we can only challenge those provisions that we think are constitutionally defective," but "it is inconceivable that one lawsuit could bring down the entire measure." And in a March 24, 2010, interview on TVW, McKenna claimed that he actually likes many of the provisions, bluntly telling NPR's Austin Jenkins:

You can't overturn a 2,400-page law with a trillion dollars in spending and 80 new federal agencies with one lawsuit, nor do we attempt to... The governor and the legislative leaders are making it sound like this lawsuit challenges the provision in the bill regarding preexisting conditions for health insurance; it does not. That it challenges the provisions that 26-year-olds can stay on their parents' health insurance; it does not. It does not address these many, many provisions that they keep citing... The provisions we've been talking about regarding 26-year-olds and preexisting conditions, they are all going to take effect this year. They are not the subject of the lawsuit; they're not affected by it at all.

Huh. That seems pretty clear. So... um... how does McKenna explain the request for summary judgment filed in his very own lawsuit?

Plaintiffs have established that the Act's Individual Mandate and Medicaid provisions are unconstitutional. Because each of these portions is essential to the [Affordable Care Act (ACA)] as a whole, neither can be severed. It follows, as a matter of law, that the unconstitutionality of either renders the entire Act unconstitutional. Accordingly, Plaintiffs ask, as requested in Counts One and Four of the Amended Complaint, that the Court declare the entire ACA unconstitutional and enjoin its enforcement.

In the court of public opinion, McKenna has repeatedly argued that he's only challenging two unconstitutional provisions of the health care act, that the more popular components of the health care act are "not affected" at all by his lawsuit. Yet in a court of law—you know, the court that really matters—McKenna argues that these two provisions cannot be severed from the act as a whole and thus asks the judge to toss out the entire package. Yes, even the provisions regarding 26-year-olds and preexisting conditions.


Go read the whole piece. See you at the ballot drop-off box in November 2012.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Framing The Public Sector Employee As The Enemy

While listening to Nation Public Radio--that government-subsidized, socialist/communist promoting radio--this afternoon, I got to hear Michael Barone talk about an op-ed piece he wrote (published in the Washington Examiner).

He contends that public sector unions, different from the adversarial private sector unions, are collusive in that they "strive to elect their management, which in turn can extract money from taxpayers to increase wages and benefits -- and can promise pensions that future taxpayers will have to fund."

The definition of collusive is "involving collusion; fraudulently contrived by agreement".

During the discussion on the radio, Mr Barone indicated that union dues paid by public sector employees are essentially government funds used to finance an organization that exists to extract more money from the government. Using that same logic, a public sector employee's home is government-funded housing because the government is giving them the money to pay their mortgage or rent. I have to disagree with this line of reasoning. A person's paycheck, regardless of who they work for, is that person's money and they're free to do with it as they please. As to being collusive, public sector unions have been willing to negotiate and accept reductions--even in Wisconsin and Washington--because they recognize the reality of these economic times. That hardly supports his position.

Mr Barone presents some pretty selective evidence for his argument.

States such as New York, New Jersey and California, where public-sector unions are strong, now face enormous budget deficits and pension liabilities.

Yes, and states that don't allow public section unions their collective bargaining rights--probably their greatest strength behind striking (unless that's illegal too)--are also facing huge budget deficits. Texas, for example, has a larger deficit projected for 2012 than New York does.

While the private sector has lost 7 million jobs, the number of public-sector jobs has risen. The number of federal government jobs has been increasing by 10,000 a month, and the percentage of federal employees earning over $100,000 has jumped to 19 percent during the recession.

He's repeating numbers that we've heard before from our own Cathy McMorris Rodgers just over a year ago which I covered in a post back then. I'm not going to rehash all that now.

The public sector employee is the new enemy.

Fear me.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Twofer On May 1

Not only is Bloomsday on May 1st this year, but that day is also International Barefoot Running Day.

Will I be the sole runner in Spokane? (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk)

Net Neutrality - Why Should You Care?

Last Sunday, House Speaker Boehner spoke to the National Religious Broadcasters convention. His remarks include a disturbing disparagement of net neutrality which advocates no restrictions by Internet service providers and governments on content, sites, platforms, the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and the modes of communication. In other words, the free flow of information.

You don't have to watch the entire video. The net neutrality part starts at 4:13. Or you can read the complete text of his remarks on his site.

The last thing we need, in my view, is the FCC serving as Internet traffic controller, and potentially running roughshod over local broadcasters who have been serving their communities with free content for decades.

At the end of the last Congress, some members of Congress sought a compromise on net neutrality that would give Washington temporary control of the Internet while we sort this all out.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no compromise or middle ground when it comes to protecting our most basic freedoms.

So our new majority in the House is committed to using every tool at our disposal to fight a government takeover of the Internet…

We're also going to do what we can to see that no taxpayer dollars are used to fund these net neutrality rules.

He also brings up the Fairness Doctrine which required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the Commission's view, honest, equitable and balanced.

“The ‘Fairness Doctrine,’ that’s another threat to freedom with an innocuous name.

“This, as you know, is a censorship scheme from the 1940s mandating that competing viewpoints be offered on controversial topics. In other words, programming has to meet Washington’s definition of ‘balance.’

“The Fairness Doctrine thankfully met its demise in 1987. At which point, broadcasters from all walks finally had the freedom to practice their First Amendment rights on the airwaves.

This is a bit of an apples to oranges kind of thing, but the ideology he's applying is the same. The airwaves were considered to be held in the public trust and the Fairness Doctrine was created to prevent the media from becoming strictly propaganda tools. With the merging of media organizations there is no clear delineation of news and entertainment, but you probably already know that.

Have a look at what corporations own and you'll find that 90% of the media is controlled by the very few. If you don't care that the sites and information you access with the network connection you're using is controlled or limited by the corporation that provides that connection, then network neutrality does not concern you. If you believe corporations have First Amendment rights to determine what you what you can and can't access, then net neutrality does not concern you.

On the other hand, if you're not okay with allowing corporations make these decisions for you and not even telling you about it, perhaps you should write a letter.

Have you noticed that to get a truly balanced report on anything you almost always have to go to a news organization outside of our country? Sadly, that's telling in itself.