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Posts published in “Reading”

Moo: Tis the end

carlson
NW Reading

One of the Republican Northwest blogs we check out has been MooCountyNews, based in Tillamook - a politically competitive area. But blogger Jim Welsh seems to have gotten turned off politics after the November election, to judge from his most recent - and last, to judge from the headline - post, "I will write no more forever."

From it:

So where to now for those of us who are conservatives in Liberal America? Well, if you have nothing else to do, you can continue to fight a losing battle skirmishing as you retreat and occasionally getting off a lucky shot and electing a conservative. But let’s face it, the jig is up. With a national debt that will soon be 20 trillion dollars, with tens of thousands of baby boomers coming onto the Social Security rolls each month and also onto Medicare for the next 15 years, and, in Oregon, an Oregon PERS liability that will never be addressed until entire budgets of counties and school districts are consumed by retirement payments, and a national and state economy that will not have the ability to grow due to the above situations, does anyone really think that the decline of America can be reversed?

Some offshore loophole options

carlson
NW Reading

As the Washington out east ponders budget balancing, the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group is suggesting some ways to raise $150 billion, painlessly for most us, by hitting offshore tax dodges. Regulatory devices that are legal (the lobbyists make sure of that), but that many taxpayers probably would deem unfair.

From OSPRIG's email this morning ...

With Congress scrambling to agree on ways to reduce the deficit, OSPIRG released a new analysis, pointing out a clear first step to avoid the “fiscal cliff”: closing offshore tax loopholes. Many of America’s largest corporations and wealthiest individuals use accounting gimmicks to shift profits made in America to offshore tax havens, where they pay little to no taxes. This tax avoidance costs the federal government $150 billion in tax revenue each year. OSPIRG’s new data illustrates the size of this loss with 16 dramatic ways $150 billion could be spent.

“When corporations skip out on their taxes, the rest of us are left to pick up their tab.” said Celeste Meiffren, Consumer and Taxpayer Advocate with OSPIRG. “Right now, this kind of tax dodging is perfectly legal, but it’s not fair and it’s time to put an end to it.”

At least 83 of the top 100 publically traded corporations in the U.S. make use of tax havens, according to the GAO. American companies like Wal-Mart, Coca Cola, and Pfizer – which benefit from our educated workforce, infrastructure, and security – keep more than 70% of their cash offshore. Thirty of America’s largest, most profitable corporations actually made money off our tax code between 2008 and 2010 by avoiding taxes altogether and receiving tax rebates from the government. By using offshore tax havens, corporations and wealthy individuals shift the tax burden to ordinary Americans, forcing us make up the difference through cuts to public services, a bigger deficit, or higher taxes for everyday citizens.

To illustrate the size of the revenue lost each year to tax havens, OSPIRG presented 16 specific ways it could be spent, in a fact sheet released today, titled “What America Could Do With $150 Billion Lost to Tax Havens.” Examples include: (more…)

I-502, on the immediate side

carlson
NW Reading

From a note to editors by the Washington State Patrol, concerning new state law on marijuana going into effect tomorrow ...

However, it is unlikely that we will have much to report tomorrow regarding immediate effects of the new marijuana law. In particular, there will be no way to tell how many people troopers might have contacted with less than an ounce of marijuana and who were NOT arrested. It’s fundamental that we don’t keep tabs on people engaged in legal conduct.

It will take a month to six weeks to have completed trooper time sheets that might indicate a change in the number of arrests for possession. However, trooper timesheets only indicate “drug arrests,” they do not indicate the type of drug involved. So even this might not be definitive.

With respect to impaired driving, we hope you’ve all heard our mantra by now: We’ve always arrested impaired drivers regardless of the drug involved. It has always been a crime to drive while impaired by drugs whether they be illegal, legal or even medically prescribed. This new law does not change how troopers will determine impairment at the side of the road.

The THC level in a suspect’s blood will not be known for days or weeks after the roadside contact. That will be an issue for prosecutors and defense attorneys not troopers.

Gone viral: A police dept’s guide to pot

carlson
NW Reading

This may be the most readable police statement you've ever read. It's going viral around the net, and it's not even a video.

It comes from the Seattle Police Department, and its subject is, well, what about marijuana, now that voters in the state (albeit not the federal government) have legalized it? It's quite a read.

While cautioning about the federal provisions, Seattle police say they won't be enforcing them. Excerpts:

Can I legally carry around an ounce of marijuana?
According to the recently passed initiative, beginning December 6th, adults over the age of 21 will be able to carry up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. Please note that the initiative says it “is unlawful to open a package containing marijuana…in view of the general public,” so there’s that. Also, you probably shouldn’t bring pot with you to the federal courthouse (or any other federal property).

Well, where can I legally buy pot, then?
The Washington State Liquor Control Board is working to establish guidelines for the sale and distribution of marijuana. The WSLCB has until December 1, 2013 to finalize those rules. In the meantime, production and distribution of non-medical marijuana remains illegal. ...

Can I smoke pot outside my home? Like at a park, magic show, or the Bite of Seattle?
Much like having an open container of alcohol in public, doing so could result in a civil infraction—like a ticket—but not arrest. You can certainly use marijuana in the privacy of your own home. Additionally, if smoking a cigarette isn’t allowed where you are (say, inside an apartment building or flammable chemical factory), smoking marijuana isn’t allowed there either.

Will police officers be able to smoke marijuana?
As of right now, no. This is still a very complicated issue. ...

What happens if I get pulled over and an officer thinks I’ve been smoking pot?
If an officer believes you’re driving under the influence of anything, they will conduct a field sobriety test and may consult with a drug recognition expert. If officers establish probable cause, they will bring you to a precinct and ask your permission to draw your blood for testing. If officers have reason to believe you’re under the influence of something, they can get a warrant for a blood draw from a judge. If you’re in a serious accident, then a blood draw will be mandatory.

What happens if I get pulled over and I’m sober, but an officer or his K9 buddy smells the ounce of Super Skunk I’ve got in my trunk?
Under state law, officers have to develop probable cause to search a closed or locked container. Each case stands on its own, but the smell of pot alone will not be reason to search a vehicle. If officers have information that you’re trafficking, producing or delivering marijuana in violation of state law, they can get a warrant to search your vehicle.

SPD seized a bunch of my marijuana before I-502 passed. Can I have it back?
No.

Luna on … what happened

carlson
NW Reading

From the transcript of a November 12 reporter session with Idaho Superintendent of Pubblic Instruction Tom Luna, whose 2011 school legislation was defeated at the polls on November 6.

Q: It’s been six days now. What is your assessment of the next step? What reforms might you look at with the Legislature?

I think it’s important that education reform doesn’t stop. We just had a 22-month discussion about education in Idaho at a level of detail that we’ve never had before, and I think that that, if anything, has been very productive. People around the water cooler and the dinner table have had conversations about education reform, so I think the last thing that anyone wants to see is an end to education reform in Idaho. I think it’s critical that we work together and identify parts of the reform legislation that have support from all legislative stakeholders—ones that are easy to move forward in this next legislative session. What those are I don’t know just yet. I think you heard during the campaign that there were parts of these laws that were agreeable to both sides, but there were also parts that were disagreeable obviously to the “Vote No” campaign and to the electorate. Again, I think that we have to take advantage of the conversation we have had over the last two years in Idaho. We need to continue that conversation, and we need to make sure that conversation leads to meaningful reform in our schools.

Q: The “Vote No” campaign has said that it is willing to reach out and open a dialogue with you and other members of your administration. Has that happened?

Yes, I’ve had a number of meetings with stakeholders. Unfortunately, Penni Cyr and Robin Nettinga, the leaders of the IEA, have been gone. They get back tonight; I leave tomorrow morning. So we’re going to have a phone conversation. But there have been other conversations already with stakeholders in person and over the phone with the IEA. We will sit down and meet with them. We did before, and we will continue to do that going forward. It’s important that we do that in a collaborative way, and we will.

Q: Superintendent, do you have any regrets about this entire process and how you’ve handled it?

Well, those are two questions. Let me address the second part of your question. There are some things I wish I had done differently. Particularly, I regret that I used the phrase “union thuggery.” Just some background: there was a 48-hour period of time where some incidences happened. My vehicle was vandalized. I was interrupted during a live TV interview by someone who was unhappy, and if someone hadn’t gotten in the middle of that, I don’t know how that would have played out. And then a gentleman who identified himself as a teacher showed up at my mom’s house, who was a recent widow, to give her a piece of his mind. I think I referred to that as “union thuggery” or “union tactics.” I wish I wouldn’t have used that phrase because obviously it was used over and over and over. I can’t imagine a son not being concerned about his mom in that kind of a circumstance, but that’s one time when I wish I had been maybe a little bit more measured in how I responded to that incident.
I’ll give you some background, so I’m sure you’ll have plenty of opportunities to play Monday-morning quarterback, but hindsight is 20/20. In hindsight, we can all think of things that we would have done differently.

When we ran these pieces of legislation, I never anticipated that we would end up in a referendum type of situation. When you look at these bills, each is very complex. So, it’s easy to identify one or two things in a very complex piece of legislation and focus on that and run a campaign based on one or two things that you are not happy with in a particular piece of legislation.

Q: Are you saying that you wish the bills themselves had been simpler. (more…)

Completing an inventory – of remains

carlson
NW Reading

From the Federal Register, October 11.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has completed an inventory of human remains, in consultation with the appropriate Indian tribes, and has determined that there is a cultural affiliation between the human remains and a present-day Indian tribe. Representatives of any Indian tribe that believes itself to be culturally affiliated with the human remains may contact the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Repatriation of the human remains to the Indian tribe stated below may occur if no additional claimants come forward.

Representatives of any Indian tribe that believes it has a cultural affiliation with the human remains should contact the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission at the address below by November 13.

The human remains were removed from three different locations in Pacific County.

A detailed assessment of the human remains was made by Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission professional staff in consultation with representatives of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe of the Shoalwater Bay Reservation, Washington, and the Chinook Nation, Washington (a non-Federally recognized Indian group). The Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, Washington, were contacted by mail and telephone but declined formal consultation unless neither of the aforementioned groups made a claim.

Sometime prior to 1958, human remains representing, at minimum, one individual were removed from an unknown site located in the town of Ilwaco, in Pacific County, WA. The human remains consist of a mandible and mandibular dentition. Dr. W. Iles discovered the remains and donated them to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, at Fort Columbia State Park. No known individuals were identified. No associated funerary objects are present. (more…)

Fires keep on coming

carlson
NW Reading

A statement from the Oregon Department of Forestry, on how the wildfires are continuing late into the season.

It’s fall but the wildfires keep coming. The 18-acre Buck Mountain Fire near Eugene in late September and a smaller, but high-potential blaze Tuesday evening up the canyon from Sweet Home serve as reminders of the continuing fire danger.

South Cascade District Forester Greg Wagenblast asks hunters and other recreationists not to let their guard down.

“The humidity is low and we’re having dry easterly winds,” he said. “These conditions, combined with the cured-out grasses and bone-dry forest fuels, have set the stage for fires.”

Firefighters were fortunate to stop the Sweet Home fire at small size during the evening when burning conditions had moderated. If it had burned on into the next day, he said, the outcome might have been different.

“Right now we’re hitting every fire start hard,” he said.

The dry conditions are just one reason for the aggressive initial attack. The other is reduced fire staffing. Most Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) field districts are currently at 50 to 60 percent of their peak firefighting force, since this late in the season seasonal employees have returned to school or their regular jobs.

To cope with this year’s unusually late wildfire activity, South Cascade and the neighboring Western Lane District have extended their firefighting helicopter contract into next week.

Lower prices?

carlson
NW Reading

Natural gas prices have been going down. Here's a description of the situation in Idaho, from a Public Utilities Commission report.

Intermountain Gas Company customers received their sixth consecutive decrease in gas rates effective today due to a decline in the cost of gas the company buys for its customers and increased gas supply.

The decrease will come in two components: a reduction in monthly bills effective today as a result of the lower gas prices and a one-time bill credit in December. Combined, those adjustments result in a decrease of 7.1 percent for the average customer.

The yearly Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) projects gas prices for the next 12 months and either surcharges or credits customers the difference between the projection and the actual cost. Sometimes the PGA is adjusted more than once a year if gas prices materially change.

The variable portion of customer rates is based on the Weighted Average Cost of Gas or WACOG, which makes up about half a customer bill. With this application, the WACOG drops from 41.8 cents per therm to about 33.5 cents per therm, as low as it has been since 2002. The WACOG represents about half the total customer bill, which is now about 66.8 cents per therm during the winter months and 70.2 cents from April through November for a customer who uses natural gas for both space and water heating. For that customer, the average bill will decrease by about $1.51 per month. A customer who uses natural gas for just space heating will see a decrease of about 17 cents per month. A commercial customer will see about a $6.46 per month decrease.

In addition to the $6 million price reduction as result of lower gas prices, a one-time credit totaling $11.9 million will be included on customers’ December bill. For residential customers who use natural gas for both space and water heating the one-time credit will be about $29.85. Residential customers who use natural gas for space heating only will receive a credit of about $19.40. The average December credit for commercial customers is about $129.80.

The commission said the credit will help customers during a time of year when natural gas bills are highest. “Instead of embedding the value of the credit in rates throughout the coming year, the single credit method will allow customers more immediate rate relief during a time period when natural gas usage is typically nearing its peak.”

The are several other significant factors in the overall reduction: 1) $3.7 million in benefits generated by release of some pipeline transportation capacity, 2) $4.8 million attributable to the collection of pipeline capacity costs, a true-up of expenses from the 2011 PGA and capacity release credits and 3) a $1.3 million deferred credit balance, which is the difference from the commodity costs Intermountain actually paid for natural gas and the WACOG that was included in rates.

The commission did give the company authority to surcharge customers for Lost and Unaccounted for Gas, which reduced the total credit allowed customers by $2 million.

A digital keepup

carlson
NW Reading

When you're talking about digital information, the line between using public resources for official and unofficial purposes can get awfully blurry. A note out today from the Washington Legislative Ethics Board:

If you have a personal smart hone, tablet, iPad or similar device commoni referred to as a PDA, and you use your PDA to connect both to the legislative e-mail system and non-legislative e-mail, please pay attention to this message.

Recently, some legislators have inadvertently sent carnpaign­related or personal messages from their PDA, only to learn later that the message was sent from their “leg.Wa.gov” address. Use of the legislative network to assist a campaign, to support or oppose a ballot measure, or for most non-legislative purposes is a violation ofthe Ethics in Public Service Act. How do you avoid this? in this situation you must pay careful attention to which e-mail address mail is being sent from and you must use a campaign or personal e-mail address for campaign-related business. To be safe, you should probably set the campaign or personal e-mail account, not the legislative account, as the default or account for sending of e-mail. That Will help avoid inadvertent use of the legislative e-mail address and servers'.

The Legislative Service Center (LSC 360.786.7000) will assist legislators with setting up legislative on a PDA and establishing appropriate default settings, but it is each individual’s responsibility to not use legislative facilities for campaign or inappropriate personal purposes.

In addition, if you are using a PDA that was purchased with public resources, it is treated the same as your legislative computer, laptop, phone, etc. - it is a violation ofthe Ethics Act to use any public resource for political campaigns.

The use of the internet as a communications medium can have unintended consequences. Whether through a YouTube video, a tweet on Twitter, or a Facebook posting, such communications can reach audiences While posted and also have a potentially unlimited life. Literally anyone in the World With access to the Internet can access such communications long after the time they were intended to be available.

In a recent case, a legislator asked for his YouTube video to be removed upon learning there Were ethical concerns about his use of public resources in the production of the video. However, materials on the Internet are generally cached and, are diflicult if not impossible to eliminate completely. Although the video in question should never have involved the use ofpublic resources in the Hrst place, its placement on YouTube prolonged the life of the Clear, visual representation ofthe use of public resources for campaign purposes and may, far into the future, reHect upon the ethics of the Legislature as a whole.