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Posts published in September 2012

Smoky days

smoke

Pulling together the weather report this afternoon for the Weekly Digests I was struck by how the weather in so many places around the Northwest is dominated by smoke from wildfires.

Not west of the Cascades - it did not figure in any of those weather reports.

But in the National Weather Service reports (which I use), the weather reports for the Boise, Idaho Falls and Pocatello areas were dominated by their image you see on this post, signalling heavy smoke. Likewise Yakima, Bend the Ketchum/Sun Valley area, and Lewiston. Idaho seems much the hardest hit overall, with eastern Washington seeing some severe spots.

How’d he get so far, to be so wrong?

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

I’ve recently been told by good authority my life’s work has failed. Come up short. Things I’d striven for and achieved for family and loved ones are apparently overvalued in my own mind. Wanting nothing more than to be a bill-paying, flag-loving, family-values, church-going member of America’s highly valued middle class, I’m told now I’m not middle class. In reality, my loved ones and I are below the poverty line and are part of the nation’s growing needy.

Damn, where have I failed? How could I have been so foolish as to believe I’d achieved modest successes that have given me what appear now to have been false senses of accomplishment and worth? How could I have lived so long with the feelings I’d met my responsibilities and even exceeded some when, actually, I’d never risen even to that vaunted American middle class?

I’ve been drenched with the cold water of reality. My eyes should have been opened to all this before. I could have wound up buried on the downside of the flowers in potter’s field and not known. We’re all much better for this new, more accurate view of our real place on the economic food chain..
It came unexpectedly. It came at the hands of George Stephanopoulos – that finder of all things factual – that national distributor of reality in American life – that funny little former Clinton staffer on ABC Television. Him.

He was talking to – yea, grilling in his own Greek way – that paragon of America’s economic success to whom truth, vision and infinite perspective have been given – Mitt Romney. Mitt – the entire Republican Party’s official nominee for the office of President of the United States no less.

They were earnestly discussing a subject close to my heart all these decades. And this was to be the defining moment. The moment when all of life’s work would be substantiated by someone really successful. A voice to validate from his lofty economic perch the hard work of all of us who’ve spent a lifetime in the trenches – to give a realistic sense of middle class accomplishment for those of us who’ve been striving just to have a garage of our own – much less one with an two-car elevator.

Breathlessly, I listened as Mitt said “No one can say my (tax) plan is going to raise taxes on middle-income people because principle number one is to keep the burden down on middle-income taxpayers.”

“HOORAY,” I shouted! “HOORAY for Mitt. He understands America’s middle class. He’ll take the necessary steps to protect us. In his heart, he knows feelings of lifetime accomplishment and wants to protect me. Me!”

But George wasn’t satisfied. He wanted more. He wanted the truth!

“Is $100,000 middle-income?”

There was calm. Absolute calm. Then, with an air of someone who’s been enormously successful and a tone of voice just hinting at the warmth of a banker’s heart, Mitt replied “No, middle-income is $200,000 to $250,000.”

That did it! My heart sank. A sense of misplaced accomplishment drained from my elderly body. I had just found out I was not middle class at all. That, in reality, after a life of striving and sacrifice, I was below the poverty line. Oh, what have I done? Where did I go wrong?

Suddenly, it all came crashing back. Just as Mitt had said. I had NOT asked my parents for college money. I had NOT thought of General Motors and other corporations as “people.” My wife did NOT have “a couple of Cadillac’s” like other wives. We did NOT have four homes. I did NOT put my money in foreign banks. At least I don’t think so. (more…)

Washington’s job picture

carlson
NW Reading

From a report out today from the Washington Employment Security Department.

Washington’s construction industry led all sectors in employment gains in August, with a seasonally adjusted estimate of 1,900 jobs, contributing to a net gain of 3,900 construction jobs since August 2011.
These and other job estimates are detailed in the latest report from the state’s Employment Security Department. The preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for August was 8.6 percent.

For the second year in a row, the employment estimates for the leisure-and-hospitality industry and the wholesale-trade industry showed unusually large losses for August. They contributed to an estimated net loss of 1,100 nonfarm jobs across the state.

“Based on the raw data, jobs in these sectors didn’t change significantly,” said Joe Elling, chief labor economist for the state’s Employment Security Department. “The reported losses show up when the seasonal adjustments are applied.”

Economists seasonally adjust monthly job numbers and the unemployment rate to remove or discount normal seasonal variations, such as holiday hiring. If an industry adds more jobs or doesn’t eliminate as many jobs as expected based on past history, it shows up as a seasonally adjusted gain. Similarly, when jobs are cut deeper than expected in a given month, or if normal hiring doesn’t occur, that shows up as a job loss.
“It can take up to two or three years to determine when deviations from the seasonal norms are temporary or longer term,” said Elling.

In addition to construction, the industries with the most seasonally adjusted job gains in August were manufacturing, up 1,500 jobs; financial activities, up 1,200; education and health services, up 500; and government, with an estimated net gain of 300.

On the loss side, wholesale trade dropped an estimated 2,600 jobs; leisure and hospitality lost 2,300; retail trade shed 1,600 jobs; and professional and business services lost 200.

Within the government sector, federal employment in Washington grew by 1,800 jobs, state agencies lost an estimated 900 jobs, public higher education declined by 100 jobs, K-12 schools added 500, and local government lost 1,400.

In August, an estimated 301,700 people (seasonally adjusted) in Washington were unemployed and looking for work. That includes 129,676 who claimed unemployment benefits last month.

Also in August, 3,429 unemployed workers ran out of unemployment benefits, bringing the total to 108,669 since extended benefits were activated in July 2008.

A river in pictures

It's not exactly obscure since the Oregonian made a picture from it today's page one centerpiece, but you really should check out the paper's new photo essay on the Columbia River.

Those of us who have often traveled across much of its distance (especially, in my case, the Portland/Tri-cities stretch) will not in recognition at a number of the shots and place them easily - the startling tree farm near Boardman, for example. But there's a lot more, and many of the shots taken from mid-river will give you a perspective you've never seen before.

OR: Min wage pay raise for 128,000

From a release today by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

About 128,000 Oregon workers are due for a raise, following today's announcement that Oregon's hourly minimum wage will go up 15 cents in 2013.

"A rise in the minimum wage is good news for workers and Oregon's economy," said Jason Gettel, policy analyst with the Oregon Center for Public Policy. "It helps the lowest-paid workers make ends meet, and helps the Oregon economy when the workers spend those extra dollars in local businesses."

Oregon's minimum wage will rise from $8.80 to $8.95 on January 1 of next year, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) announced today. The adjustment, mandated by a ballot measure approved by voters in 2002, reflects the increase in the cost of living as defined by the August Consumer Price Index (CPI), which increased 1.7 percent from a year ago.

OCPP calculated that the increase means an additional $312 a year for a family with one full-time minimum wage worker.

According to OCPP, about 128,000 Oregon jobs -- about 1 out of every 13 jobs in the state -- will pay more due to the minimum wage increase set to take effect next year. That estimate comes from Oregon Employment Department analysis of Unemployment Insurance wage records showing the number of jobs paying less than $8.95 in the first quarter of 2012, the most recent data available.

The 128,000 estimate is probably low because jobs paying just above the minimum wage may also have wage increases, as employers adjust their overall pay structures to reflect the new minimum wage, Gettel said. (more…)

A look into Seattle school purchasing

From a Washington state auditor's release about an audit of Seattle Public Schools.

The Washington State Auditor concluded an investigation into Seattle Public Schools construction program small contracts from 2006 to 2009 and found a lack of employee oversight, operation outside normal accountability channels, failure of internal controls, and lack of an adequate means for employees to raise their concerns.

The District asked the State Auditor last fall to conduct an investigation after the King County Prosecutor’s office advised the District of additional potential illegal activity by a former employee. District adopted corrective measures to address the issues in this new report, so no new procedures or corrective measures will need to be adopted as a result of this review

“The School District asked the State Auditor’s Office for this investigation, and we respect the findings,” said Sherry Carr, School Board Director of Chair of the Audit and Finance Committee. “In the past 18 months, the School Board has worked hard to strengthen internal controls and oversight. Through governance measures and partnerships, we are raising the bar with respect to ethical behavior at the District and are creating strong checks and balances for accounting.

In the summer of 2010, SPS asked the Washington State Auditor to investigate issues surrounding the Regional Small Business Development Program. The District paid for that investigation, which resulted in audit findings released in the State Auditor’s Office Special Investigation Report on Feb. 23, 2011. The School Board also asked for an independent investigation, and that report by Patricia Eakes was released on Feb. 25, 2011.

The original investigation was primarily focused on the Regional Small Business Development Program itself and the recruiters and trainers and did not examine the small construction contracts prior to 2009. Once it became apparent that there may have been issues with the construction contracts, the District asked for a second investigation. This second investigation focused on small works construction contracts – those contracts that do not exceed $200,000 - issued from 2006 to 2009.

The Regional Small Business Development Program was eliminated in Spring 2010. All of the management leaders to whom former employee Silas Potter reported are no longer employed by Seattle Public Schools.

Rainey: Diplomacy saves lies, ignorance kills

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

From poorly-informed presidential candidates to bar flies an hour before “last call,” voices are heaping ill-deserved criticism on the Obama folks for the fires and murders in the Middle East. A lot of ignorance is showing.
Shortly after Eve and Adam lost their lease on the Garden for lying, son number one killed son number two and the Middle East has been carrying on the murderous tradition since that time. If it’s not one of them killing the other, it’s one of them killing somebody living somewhere else. Or killing the damned fools from outside who think they can bring “lasting peace” to countries that have never known it.

And for those who think some terribly produced, short hate film made in California directed at Muslims is at the bottom of the current binge, tain’t so, McGee. In nearly every instance of violence there is ample evidence this is terrorist-sponsored. What may have started as legitimate outrage – in the eyes of a very few Muslims over deliberate mocking of their religion – has been quickly turned into nationalist outrage sponsored by those who’ve been sitting in the bushes just waiting for the right fuse to light.

Little groups of haters of this-that-and-all-other-things Western long ago learned how to manipulate large crowds with just a few well-placed voices. They can take an argument between two used camel dealers and turn it into a building-burning horde in 10 minutes. It’s masterful crowd control in the wrong hands. It also goes back centuries.

Evidence of this is plentiful. Black flags of the hate groups hoisted or waived conspicuously in protests across North African countries. Local Taliban or other anti-western groups identified prominently in crowds and taking credit on the I-Net while urging more people into the streets. Some of the participants – in more countries than Libya – showing up with grenade launchers and automatic weapons. Some religiously pissed Muslim locals showing off for the cameras? I don’t think so.

The previous administration got us into two “wars of choice” in the Middle East. The current folks are trying to get us out and have already pulled the plug on one of them. But neither president – and none before them – could have cured the anti-American fever. It’s just the latest outbreak of the continuing sickness that is directed at all things not Western. And a few things that are Muslim but not the kind that’s “pure” enough. (more…)

Carlson: Indices to follow

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

As the contest for the Presidency begins here is a list of “keys to the outcome”:

1) The 80/40 rule. This refers to the President’s standing among minority voters. As long as he maintains above 80 percent of the minority vote (which he is doing), Mitt Romney has to garner over 60 percent of the total white vote. Ronald Reagan came close in his re-election campaign, but not even the Gipper beat the 60 percent mark. On the other hand, it will be difficult for the President to maintain above 80 percent of the minority vote.

2) Where are independent women going? The independent female vote is especially critical for both candidates. Republicans are betting economic concerns will drive their vote. Democrats bet the social issue of access to abortions, especially in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother, will drive this vote. It is noteworthy that Romney, once the nomination was secured, tilted back to his historic position of sanctioning abortion in cases of rape, incest, or the health of the mother.

Hard core, pure pro-life conservatives will swallow their displeasure and still support Romney given the President’s incredibly liberal stance on this issue.

Both party’s made a good pitch for women through strong presentations first from Ann Romney and then from Michelle Obama. Polling results gave the nod to the First Lady for doing the better job of humanizing their spouse----but both did well by their man. The question is who will women identify most with? The betting is with Michelle, not Ann. (more…)