Friday, January 29, 2010
He hasn't been able to bring the US economy to its knees through terror strikes. This is just a change in tactics.
So, what is the difference between Al Gore and Bin Laden? Size of their carbon footprint, I guess. Bin Laden lives in a cave, Gore in a 20,000 sf mansion.
In the summer of 2005, Katrina destroyed most of the New Orleans Public School District infrastructure—a blessing to many, since the district was one of the worst performing in the country. According to published reports, 73 of its more than 120 schools were considered to be “failing,” according to the state’s educational accountability standards. On one 2004 measure (the GEE test of highschoolers) 96 percent of Orleans Parish students were below basic in English, and 94 percent were below basic in math.Carla Axtman thought that was "disgusting," and called him an "ass."
In the wake of Katrina, the Louisiana State Legislature turned over most of the area to a Recovery School District headed by its own superintendent. That superintendent has begun chartering many of the Recovery District schools, which in turn has attracted some of the leading charter school operators in the country. Sixty percent of schools in New Orleans are now chartered.
OK, fine. But guess who agrees with Matt Wingard?
President Obama's U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan! The Washington Post reported today that in an interview to be aired this weekend, Duncan said that the hurricane was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans."
Duncan apparently went on to make precisely the same point that Matt Wingard made, about the fact that New Orleans had a rare opportunity to start over from scratch with their public schools, and they are building a new system based on charter schools, choice and competition.
Gee, maybe Rep. Matt Wingard is perhaps the TRUE progressive here. He cares about how well the school system serves its clients.
It sure seems as if BlueOregon and Carla Axtman care a lot more about unions than about the kids. Gee, how "progessive."
The evidence is accumulating daily, so much so that it is seeping into local media coverage and even the race for Metro President:
Oregon's land-use laws are killing our economy. Just in the last few days, more stories have emerged:
- Democrat Rep. Peter Buckley from Ashland is trying to help a large southern Oregon orchard operator survive by allowing 1000 acres of its fallow land near urban areas in southern Oregon to be developed. The company is struggling under a large debt load and would use some of the proceeds to make its balance sheet healthier. All the usual land use groups oppose it. Prime farmland! they say.
- In today's Oregonian, columnist Andy Parker talks about the race for Metro President, in which all three candidates are talking about how Metro needs to do a better job of "economic development." The only candidate who really has any clue at all is former Hillsboro mayor Tom Hughes, but the other two candidates know which way the wind is blowing, so they have to recreate themselves. So now Rex Burkholder is trying to talk intelligently about job creation! (Breaking news - he can't.)
- This farmer out side of Wilsonville wants Oregon land use laws to lock down all the area around his farm for a half-century so his kid can farm it after he dies.
For years, folks like Rex Burkholder and Bob Stacey, two candidates for Metro President, have been at the forefront of this Soviet-style planning system. So it is laughable to see them now try to lip-sync a "jobs" tune.
But the real problem is the land use system itself. Pretending that Metro will somehow reshape itself to have an economic development focus is just dreaming.
Metro, and the land use system it has fed off for thirty years IS THE PROBLEM.
Will Oregon leaders ever figure this out? I doubt it. This is about world view and ideology. That doesn't change. We have competing world views in our political leadership, and one has held power in Oregon for going on three decades. The long-term damage of that view is coming home to roost.
It will have to be defeated.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Do you know of an Oregon business which will have to lay off workers or might even move out of state because of the impact of the retroactive tax hike voters passed on Tuesday?
If so, please send a message about it to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide information, e.g. personal stories, news links, contact info, press releases, etc., that is verifiable and not hearsay.
This must be the 7th or 8th time I have seen this guy's byline on he op-ed pages of the Oregonian, each and every time chiming in on supporting tax hikes, keeping the kicker, reforming the tax code, etc. I would venture a guess that this fellow has been published more as a guest columnist than any other single person over the last five years.
What gives? Who is this guy and why does the Oregonian seem to publish everything he sends to them, especially since every single piece seems to say the same exact thing: "Send more money."
Well, I know the guy. He was superintendent of Hillsboro School District, and I dealt with him on several charter school issues. He was always a huge obstacle to charter schools and school reform, and he supported all the crap like CIM/CAM every step of the way. And his district under his tenure summarily failed students of Hispanic descent - just look at the reading scores.
In other words, he is just the kind of guy who would rise in the dysfunctional bureaucracy of our public school system.
And he retired to enjoy his PERS pension a few years ago. I would estimate his annual PERS income at $120,000. Which he of course gets for life. And because he retired as a young man, we will be on the hook for supporting him this way for a long, long time.
Gee, isn't it just a tad bit self serving for this trough feeder to be lecturing us repeatedly on making sure the government doesn't have to feel the effects of the recession? I mean it is easy to sit on the lofty perch of a guaranteed $120K and tell everyone to pay more lest he have to cut back on his poolside daiquiris.
Joe Rodruiguez - you are the poster child for what is wrong with this state. Thank you for your regular reminders of just how screwed up this place is.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
First, stop the blame Bush already? How many times did he make some disparaging remark about the "last 8 years?" I stopped counting at 19.
He spoke about the economy like a person who thinks he is running "Federal Government Inc." Constantly said "we will invest in..." and talk about something the private sector does. His whole section on business vitality really showed his lack of understanding as to how an economy works and creates wealth.
He tried to be subtantative, but he doesn't do substance very well. He does inspiration well. So it was flat.
And he was constantly telling his lies: His health care bill will reduce the deficit by a trillion dollars and make Medicare stronger? Oh yeah we all believe that.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
But, with apologies to General Larry Platt, here is the Viking's theme song for the game:
Ball on the ground! Ball on the ground! Vikes look like fools puttin' the ball on the ground! Got punched in the mouth/Favre's helmet turned sideways. Can't win the game puttin' the ball on the ground! "
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Commercial and investment banks are all of a sudden making huge profits, even though from what I have read, the typical lending and underwriting activities of these institutions hasn't recovered much at all from the economic crisis.
So where is the profit coming from?
Here is what I suspect: The Federal Reserve's balance sheet has ballooned, much of it due to providing massive amounts of liquidity to the banking system in order to forestall collapse. The discount rate (the interest rate the Fed charges member banks when they borrow money from the Fed) is at 0.0%.
Which means the Fed has basically said:
"The government will not let you fail. No matter how bad your own balance sheet, no matter how much your own assets have fallen in value, even if you are completely insolvent from a asset/liability standpoint, we will lend you money so your depositors know they can get their money back if they want it."
Normally, insolvent banks just fail. But in the collapse of 2008 and 2009, both Bush and Obama bought the "too big to fail" line, and the government stepped in to provide banks with the liquidity that the markets would certainly have not.
Which gets me back to my original question: So how and why are these banks making so much money now? Are their balance sheets now healthy? Are their banking activities now generating record revenue? If so, how could this possibly be the case if the economy is still so putrid?
Here is what I am pretty sure is the answer, and I would very much appreciate someone with more recent industry knowledge than myself to confirm this:
Banks are borrowing massive amounts from the Federal Reserve at zero percent, and lending that money to the ..... FEDERAL GOVERNMENT by buying treasury bonds to finance the deficit.
So if you can borrow basically unlimited amounts at 0% and then "invest" it in Treasury Notes at 2-3%, what a great business model! I wish I owned a bank. I'd think I could manage to turn a profit doing that.
So if I am right, this is just the federal government monetizing its debt, with a 2-3% leakage to commercial banks. From the taxpayer standpoint, we get doubly screwed. Monetizing the debt is hugely inflationary, but normally the government can do it without simultaneously enriching the managers of insolvent financial institutions!
So this brings me to the Obama "tough on banks" rhetoric and his bank tax idea. It is so disingenuous. Should these bank managers be earning huge bonuses? ABSOLUTELY NOT! If I am right about the above, their profits are basically just 100% taxpayer subsidy. Why should they make millions by running a government sanctioned scam in which they borrow money from the taxpayers and then lend it back to us for a 3% spread?
The structural damage this causes is almost incomprehensible. First, when does it end? If the Fed stops lending money to the banks at zero percent, or starts charging what the market would charge for banks with insolvent balance sheets, the banks would fail. So is the Fed going to continue to lend at zero until these bank assets somehow recover in value? That is just not going to happen. These sub-prime loans were NEVER worth what they were valued at, so they will certainly never "recover" to that level.
The only way the bank balance sheets can "recover" to a point where the capital markets will once again lend to them and get them off of the Fed's dole, is by either getting new capital from investors (some of which has happened, but I am pretty sure not anywhere near enough to make the banking sector's balance sheets healthy) or by the US Government taking the toxic assets off their hands at above market values.
In the case of the latter - which is what the TARP program was supposed to do - this is just another form of subsidy.
So the upshot is: Why SHOULDN'T we object when banks are now paying huge bonuses, if their profits are basically from public subsidy?
But I resent we are in this situation in the first place. It was absolutely predictable as soon as we bought the notion of "too big to fail." If we bail out the banks, they will be dependent on taxpayer largesse to survive. And that puts us in the position of either accepting whatever the bank managers want to pay themselves for the "profit" they squeeze out of us taxpayers, or start regulating the salaries of the "private" sector.
Thanks a lot, Bush and Obama!
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The various commentators - Keith Olberman, Chris Mathews, Rachel Maddow - all agreed that the Democrats should use any and all maneuvers they can think of to shove the health care bill through. They all said that the worst thing that could happen now is to lose the health care bill.
I hope the Democrats follow this advice.
Mapes said they were wrong when they wrote: "In the last budget, the Democratic controlled state legislature doled out a $259 million pay raise to the government work force, even as the state was facing a near $1 billion deficit."
That's just not the case. State workers agreed to a pay freeze, 10 to 14 furlough days and a year deferral of a step increase. It amounts to a slight pay cut over the 2009-11 budget cycle.Mapes is wrong. The "last budget" is the 07-09 budget, in which the state was indeed facing a billion dollar 'shortfall" and during which time the governor did indeed raise state manager salaries by $259 million.
Mapes seems to think that what the WSJ was referring to when they wrote "the last budget" is the 09-11 budget, and Mapes is I guess making the point that the pay hike didn't happen in this (current) budget.
This is odd for two reasons:
1) It should be clear that the WSJ was referring to the 07-09 budget because they specifically pointed out that the shortfall at the time was one billion dollars. if they were referring to the 09-11 budget, they would have said the shortfall was around $4 billion.
2) The cost of that pay hike is still included in the 09-11 budget anyway, since they simply work from that level to create the 09-11 budget.
Pretty sloppy reporting, and even though he was corrected by a commenter on his blog, he hasn't acknowledged or corrected the mistake.
Lesson: When you point out mistakes made by others, make sure you got your facts straight!
Now, to give him some credit, Mapes does go on to point out what DOES seem to be an error in the WSJ editorial, where they give some strange numbers about the growth of government jobs vs. the decline in private sector jobs.
3. Now He Gets Combative?
Politico: "President Barack Obama plans a combative response if, as White House aides fear, Democrats lose Tuesday's special Senate election in Massachusetts, close advisers say."
Well, we didn't really expect humility, did we?
Great to know, Mr. President, that Iran shot protesters dead in the streets and beat the hell out of young kids, North Korea's firing off missiles so regularly you can set a clock to them, al-Qaeda tried to blow up a plane on Christmas, al-Qaeda's Yemeni branch is winning "Franchise of the Year," China's hacking Google until every search brings back at least one smiling Mao photo, Kabul's blowing up, our southern border looks like a war zone, and after a year of outreach, reset buttons, "changing the tone" and 365 days of kumbaya we finally get to see a "combative response" from you . . . to a Republican winning a race.
I look forward to his Oval Office address announcing that the electorate has deeply disappointed him, and that he expects more of us.
Monday, January 18, 2010
What's wrong with this picture? The BETC program is nothing more than a huge corporate subsidy. The tax credits pay for up to HALF the capital cost of building out a solar or wind power project. That means these projects are not even close to making economic sense on their own terms.
In other words, our tax dollars buy really really expensive energy. Terrific.
So the Democrats somehow managed to give hundreds of millions in corporate welfare, raise taxes by almost $3/4 billion, and CUT K-12 education.
Think we need a change?
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Then he says he doesn't like air-conditioned air because it feels artificial, and says that he always smiles when he sees a label on a machine that says 'climate controlled."
"It isn't possible to control the climate. The climate goes its own way without worrying about what we want."
Now, I know Andy Rooney is a famous liberal. I would be shocked if he doesn't buy the whole global warming agenda lock stock and barrel. I wonder if he realizes what he said?
But now it looks like Brown might actually win this thing!
A poll just out (taken on Jan 15) by Merriman group has Brown up by 9.6%. This was a touch tone poll, 4.1% margin of error, 565 voters. Not my favorite type of poll, but still. CNN is reporting that White House advisors to Obama think Coakley is going to lose. Charlie Cook says that Brown is now favored. InTrade is now running 60/40 Brown.
President Obama flew to Boston and spoke at a rally for Coakley. At the same time, Brown held his own rally. It is worth the speech Brown gave, knowing that the national media would carry it, because this is a pretty talented guy. I can see why he is winning, with messaging like this.
If Brown wins this race, President Obama loses big time. Not just his health care package, but his own political clout. He will be a political liability in Congressional races around the country - Democrats will look to distance themselves from the President, which means they certainly won't be casting any tough votes for him.
It's far from over, and part of me still can't accept that a Republican could win the seat held for three decades by Ted Kennedy. But if Brown wins, the Obamagenda is toast.
I've said many times in the last year that American's didn't vote for Obama in order for him to fundamentally transform the country, and that I was confident the people won't stand idly by while he turns us into a European welfare state.
I didn't think it would happen this quickly. Holding my breath until Tuesday!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
"One Fortune Global 500 company remains. But its founder and chairman is not merely an economic man. He has webs between his toes. But he, too, has some limits."
What is interesting about this is that Knight is not given to chiming in on Oregon political issues. Nike has avoided political controversies like the plague. To get him to the point of not just taking a position on these measures, but to so publicly and stridently - is quite a development.
I tell you, the sands are shifting. The Democrats have really agitated the business leadership in Oregon. This is significant.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
When I first clicked through to the link, I thought to myself: "Interesting. Kitzhaber is a government guy. He spent eight years drafting off of the Intel-created economic boom in Oregon to dramatically expand Oregon's government. If even HE is starting off his campaign by talking about jobs and the economy, then perhaps this will indeed be a different election cycle."
Go read the "plan.' The front page is titled "Jobs for today, jobs for tomorrow - A strategy for Oregon's economic prosperity." He spends precisely two paragraphs giving platitudes about the need for a robust Oregon economy, and then immediately reveals what he believes the whole purpose of the private sector is in the first place: "... to adequately support the public infrastructure on which stable, long term economic growth and prosperity depend."
He proceeds to go on for nine paragraphs about how our "public systems" were created in the 19th and 20th centuries and need to be "transformed" by "challeng[ing] the structures and assumptions of some of our most cherished programs," and "... jettisoning our current state budget process which is inadequate for the kind of transformational change we need; and replacing it with one based on transparent, long term performance-based investment allowing us to set clear priorities among the difficult fiscal choices which will define the next biennium."
This is the FRONT PAGE of his JOBS PLAN!
The 24 page plan itself is just a collection of the same kind of bromides we have heard forever from the central planning culture in Oregon. All the usual genuflections to "family-wage jobs," "energy efficiency" (through subsidies for inefficient energy projects, of course) and government training programs. There is nothing in this thinking that is remotely innovative or new. It is government focused, and even when he talks about natural resources, like forests, he can only imagine using them for "carbon sequestration" and "woody biomass" energy projects.
Perhaps most revealing is his section on how to "Create the Fundamental Conditions for Long-Term Job Creation and Prosperity." This is really the crux of the matter: how do we create the environment for a robust private sector?
According to Kitzhaber, this happens through public sector programs: re-thinking the delivery of education, restructuring health care (even though he is the achitect of our current health care budget disaster,) "progressive land-use policies," and meeting our "goals of greenhouse gas reduction."
This is the kind of thing you get when a public sector guy tries to pretend he understands the private sector. It's like asking a fish to explain the sky. He can only think in terms of government.
Kitzhaber wants to pretend that this is "transformational" thinking, but in truth, there is nothing transformational about even the public sector elements of his plan. Oh sure, he calls for "ten year budgets," but that wouldn't transform anything - it would just calcify the status quo more deeply and increase the damage of any bad decision or incorrect planning assumption.
No, truth be told, for Kitzhaber, this is just a very poor attempt to pretend he actually understands and will be focused on the #1 issue everybody cares about right now, the economy.
He has that fatal conceit of many politicians - that we are no more clever than he. He assumes if he writes a big plan for economic prosperity, that we will be fooled into thinking he "gets it." He thinks we won't read it and immediately recognize that it is nothing more than the same old public sector stuff that got us in this mess in the first place.
Actually, he probably isn't being deceitful at all. Kitzhaber, I think, so badly misunderstands the private sector, wealth creation and economic vitality that he honestly believes this kind of thing is the prescription for prosperity.
And that is perhaps the scariest part of the whole plan.
Monday, January 11, 2010
A nice relaxing afternoon, the last day before my son returns to college. We decided to eat lunch at Papa Haydns, and then kill some time browsing at Powells. Found a parking spot about two blocks from Powells, and spent about an hour and a half there.
Returned to the car - oops! A parking ticket. On a Sunday? I then remembered: those geniuses in City Hall decided to start charging on Sundays. Crap. Oh well, I completely forgot. I guess that one is on me.
So my wife opens the envelope - we are both wondering out loud how much they will nick us for. My wife predicted $12. I said "No, these things are $24!"
Forty-two freaking dollars!
OK, I get it. It won't happen again - I can assure you of that. I, and thousands like me have gotten the message.
No more shopping, eating, or any other discretionary activity whatever in Portland. Enjoy my $42.
Friday, January 08, 2010
No, in Oregon, the left wants to dominate BOTH sides of the debate, so they create a bunch of phony advocacy groups whose name sounds as if they would advocate for the private sector, but who actually just push for the same old stuff that the rest of the left-establishment wants.
For instance, the Oregon Business Association. It was founded in the early 2000's, and it has supported every tax increase since. It doesn't even have the guts to oppose the current measures. Its chief is a former Democrat legislator, Ryan Deckert, who has never had a real job in the private sector in his adult life, much less ever run a business.
The media in Oregon plays along, of course, and writes about the Oregon Business Association as if it is a real business advocacy group. I will never forget a meeting I was in about a year ago, where Deckert described OBA's top issues as "global warming and sustainability."
The political strategy I guess is a good one. If you have a group that presents itself as pro-business but constantly advocates for the public sector's needs, as long as the media doesn't call you out, you can do a lot to diffuse the message and impact of the ACTUAL pro-business advocates.
Apparently the left isn't satisfied, however, with just having the OBA (and to some extent also the Oregon Business Council) acting as their Potemkin Villages. They have now created yet ANOTHER pro-government "business advocate."
It is called the Oregon Small Business Council.
A couple nights ago I saw a news story on one of the local networks breathlessly reporting that the Oregon Small Business Council supports Measures 66 and 67. They interviewed the owner of the Paloma dancewear store, and he explained how small business benefits from higher taxes.
I wondered who the heck this outfit was. I pay a lot of attention to the Oregon political/business scene, and I had never heard of them. So I did a little digging.
Sure enough, a brand new organization. They have a very basic blog web site, and here is their facebook page. I paged through the "fans" list, and it is all the usual Democrats and lefties, including Jack Roberts, whose claim that he is a Republican is more suspect every day.
It looks like this pretend organization got started in October 2009! I would be shocked if the seed funds didn't originate in the pro-tax campaign. The web site says it is a "project of Oregon Action and the Main Street Alliance." Oregon Action is also brand new, and looks to be primarily a government health care advocacy astroturf non-profit. Main Street Alliance is about a year old, and is a coalition of local chapters pushing, again, for government health care.
So one of our local network news outfits buys the con hook line and sinker, and gives this fake business group prime time coverage because a "business advocate" is supporting the higher taxes.
And then today I open up the Oregonian and see an op-ed piece from the "Executive Director" of the Oregon Small Business Council, Andrew Plambeck. The piece is all about how we should "buy local," since we are Oregon and we can choose to not be a part of the globa economy.
So I looked into this guy Plambeck. Heck, the leader of a major Oregon business advocacy organization must have some pretty substantial bonafides, right? I mean, heck, the Oregonian is prominently presenting his opinions as speaking for small business in Oregon.
Sure enough, Plambeck is a heavy hitter. Here is his Linked-in profile.
After he graduated from U of O (in June of 2009!) he spent 4 months as the Climate Policy Intern for the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon Interfaith Network for Earth Concerns before taking over the helm at the Oregon Small Business Council!
Wow! We haven't seen this level of talent leading Oregon's business community since the OBC tapped that titan of industry Ryan Deckert!
This is just so typically Oregon. Another phony business group, and the mainstream media plays along, elevates these pretenders to a status where the general public finds them indistuishable from the real business voices (such as they are) in Oregon.
So the left invades both sides of the debate, occupies both territories.
And unemployment mysteriously persists.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
She thinks it is just a dandy idea, because of all the environmental devastation caused by the bags. She's all embarrassed that DC did it before Portland.
She might be even more embarrassed when her employer points out that such a tax could cost the paper millions. Every single morning my copy of the Oregonian is delivered in a plastic bag. I find them useful. Not only do they keep the paper dry, but they make wonderful dog-poop bags.
If half of the Oregonian's papers are delivered in these bags, a 5 cent tax would work out to about $2.3 million per year.
Is it possible that Anna Griffin didn't consider that her own employer might be subject to such a tax? What possible rationale would there be for their plastic bags to be exempt from the tax?
Saturday, January 02, 2010
They apparently are unaware of the irony revealed in such obvious and nauseating moral preening. As they try to outdo each other with carbon correctness and confess where they sin, what they implicitly acknowledge is that no matter how "green" you are, no matter how virtuous, their really is only one way to be completely carbon free: stop breathing.
Short of that, once you go along with the game that consumption is a bad thing, you are a hypocrite.
The greatest irony of all is the one that none of the preeners figured out. They all give their green bonafides, but not one of them confessed the biggest green sin that each and every one of them commit:
They all work for what is arguably the biggest greenhouse gas villian in the state. Imagine! A business whose very economic life depends upon the daily harvest of vast amounts of timber, which is then delivered each and every day to roughly 300,000 households by fossil fuel powered vehicles, for a product that literally has a one day useful life!
In terms of green virtue and green sinners, a daily newspaper has to be the moral equivalent of Satan himself!
But somehow none in this collection of oh-so-virtuous-but-still-guilty-'cuz-I-could-do-more hipsters have figured out that their paychecks depend on the least "green" business on the face of the Earth!
It is also a bit puzzling that the editorial was posted online Saturday morning for what is no doubt a Sunday edition lead editorial.
Be that as it may, the Oregonian gets it right.