Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Anti-Education, Teacher's Union Goons

I was wrong. I used to believe that the teachers’ union didn’t give a darn about the children they educated and that their sole priority was money. I now know better. Money isn’t number one with the teachers’ union. Doctrine is.

Back in September, the state of Washington was awarded a $13.2 million grant from the National Math and Science Initiative. The NMSI is the creation of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Dell Computers’ Michael Dell and others who are concerned at how poorly prepared American students are to participate in the high tech sector of our economy. Currently, only 18 percent of high school seniors qualify as adequately proficient in science. With a decreasing number of American students graduating with the minimal math and engineering competence necessary to fill the high tech labor pool, these businesses have a vested interest in promoting education in these fields.

More and more, computer and software firms are forced to look abroad for the talent needed to satisfy their labor requirements. Microsoft already outsources a considerable proportion of its software engineering to Communist China. The same United States Congress that has tried every underhanded trick to grant amnesty to illegal aliens has been reluctant to increase the number of work visas for high tech workers. This has created so severe a shortage of competent engineers that it has become an impediment to growth. Unable to find or import the labor they need, our high tech firms have been forced to outsource an ever-greater share of their engineering work, with economic and national security ramifications. For example, computer chips, hard drives and other peripherals imported from China have been found to be infected with trojans and trapdoors that would give Chinese intelligence access to our networks.

Understanding that the current political and educational environment will not solve the problem, the NMSI has endeavored to develop more home grown talent, by encouraging and rewarding education in the needed specialties.

For those who do not practice willful ignorance, the problem stands out in vivid relief. Our teachers know not of what they teach or how to teach what they do know. Two-thirds of all American physical science courses are being taught by teachers who did not major in the subject that they teach. One third of all pupils enrolled in math classes are being taught by non-majors. And, considering that, as a major in college and as a profession, education generally collects those who struggle to keep their heads above water in the shallow end of the aptitude pool, even these woeful numbers overestimate the condition of our math and science education.

Math and science education is so substandard in Washington that the state has repeatedly postponed full implementation of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning graduation requirements. It will now be at least 2013 before the math and science WASL is enforced. And teachers know that all they have to do to force further postponements is to continue doing a lousy job. That’s known as a perverse incentive.
If you want a second opinion, the Scholastic Aptitude Test scores for last year’s graduating class were the lowest in six years.

When the grant was announced, Governor Christine Gregoire crowed, “This award will help us provide significant additional support to teachers and students and, ultimately, will move us closer to a world-class, learner-focused education system.”
But then, her most loyal political benefactors, the Washington Education Association, got involved. The WEA decreed that certain clauses in the grant conflicted with the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the state. Specifically, the offending passages would reward teachers whose classrooms yield the best results. To the WEA, this qualifies as merit pay, and the WEA does not tolerate merit pay.

And so, because the WEA would not permit the state to fulfill its end of the bargain, the state had to give the money back. The Washington Education Association would rather see Washington’s children founder in perpetual mediocrity than allow the infection of merit pay to gain a toehold in the state.

It’s pitiful that while even Red China has permitted market incentives to inject vigor into its economy, American teachers’ unions elect to pursue the same sort of model that has made North Korea and Cuba the cesspools they are. If not for the parasitic passive absorption of vitality from the culture and economy it rejects, the WEA’s prohibitions would yield a similar squalor in our schools.

It’s doctrine first, money second and students last.

ABC News is Encouraging Children to Die in Order to Save the Planet

I am so aghast at this ABC network site, that I can hardly think what to say. I played their manipulative little game, which is clearly aimed at children. According to their site, I have been ruining the world for approximately 45 years too long, so I should do the right thing for the planet and commit suicide immediately. The childrens interactive game is here. We are clearly dealing with evil people who intend harm on the human race.

"Decision expected soon in Wal-Mart appeal"

It seems to be that "Baghdad Chris" Lupke would be the last person in the world you would want as a "spokesperson." The preening, self-important, shrill, know-it-all Lupke's ad hominem attacks continually serve to alienate PARD in the community even further.

Just who are those people that "blindly support" Wal-Mart, Lu Laoshi? The beloved mayor of Pullman who, when he fell ill recently, had a hospital room full of flowers? The democratically-elected members of the Pullman City Council who recently announced their intention to pass a resolution of support for Wal-Mart? How about Pullman's business leaders like Fritz Hughes and Tom Handy? It's no wonder that local business owners like Leslie O'Dell don't want to be associated with PARD's "Think Pullman First" campaign.

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:

A panel of judges is expected to soon decide the fate of a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pullman.

The three-judge panel has six months from the time a case is heard to render a decision, said Renee Townsley, Washington Division III Court of Appeals Clerk. She added that state law requires appellant judges to wrap up all uncompleted matters in that time frame or risk a delayed salary check.

Oral arguments concluded Dec. 19 in the appeal brought by the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development, which has long opposed a super center on Bishop Boulevard. June 19 will mark six months since the hearing took place in a Spokane courtroom.

PARD spokesman Chris Lupke said the group holds out hope that the judges will take its side.

"Obviously, the fact that they've taken this long shows that they're taking the case extremely seriously and it's a lot more complicated than those who blindly support Wal-Mart would have you believe," he said.

Wal-Mart announced plans to build on Bishop Boulevard in October 2004 and a site plan for the store was later approved by Pullman Public Works Director Mark Workman. PARD appealed the city's approval of the company's environmental checklist and site plan on the grounds that the store would affect stormwater runoff and traffic, and would negatively affect Pullman's economy.

Because state law allows only one public hearing on a proposed development, Spokane attorney John Montgomery - who acted as Pullman's hearing examiner - was called to oversee PARD's initial appeal. Montgomery compiled a findings of fact document from Wal-Mart, Pullman and PARD, and concluded Wal-Mart's site plan and environmental checklist was sufficient. Montgomery's decision was upheld by Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier, and PARD's appeal was dismissed.

PARD then took the case to the Division III Court of Appeals.

Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson said the city eagerly awaits a final opinion.

"All I can say is that we can't wait for this to be resolved," he said. "From our standpoint, we believe we did the right thing in the first place."

Johnson said other retail projects around Bishop Boulevard are being held up until a decision is rendered.

"We desperately need the additional retail," he said.

Jennifer Holder, Washington Wal-Mart public affairs manager, said the company is waiting for a court decision before moving forward with any construction.

"(Wal-Mart is) not going to construct anything until the case is over," she said.

Pullman Planning Director Pete Dickinson said the city has not yet received the necessary documents that would allow Wal-Mart to begin construction.

"But the city is in a position to issue those permits at any time," he said.

Lupke said PARD has waited several years, and can patiently await a final outcome.

"They're going to decide when they decide," he said.
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Friday, May 30, 2008

Let Wal-Mart fix US health care

This is one reason why I love capitalism. Business gets things done while politicians dither.

The discount retailer already has made major inroads into accessible, affordable care through lower drug prices, walk-in clinics and electronic record-keeping. Why stop there?

By Jim Jubak
I know who can fix our broken health care system -- and who can't:

Not presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. He proposes a tax credit of $5,000 per family to encourage us to buy private health insurance.

Not Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. She proposes universal health insurance supported by tax credits.

Not Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. He proposes a mix of public and private health insurance with government subsidies to those who don't qualify for government insurance plans such as Medicaid.

I say, let Wal-Mart Stores (WMT, news, msgs) do it. Hold your guffaws. Stifle your impulse to scoff. Control those sputters of rage.

Wal-Mart has done more to expand coverage and lower costs in the past year than any government program to come out of Washington in the past 10 years. And I'd bet the new programs that this company -- known for stiffing its own part-time workers on health care benefits -- has announced in the past year will do more to expand coverage and cut costs than anything likely to come out of a McCain, Clinton or Obama first term.

Government programs, rising costs
The goal, everyone agrees, is to maximize coverage, heighten competition and cut costs. Good goals, all. About 47 million Americans now lack health insurance. Health care costs are rising far faster than general inflation. And health care is on track to consume 25% of U.S. gross domestic product by 2025. That would be up from 16% today and 5% in 1960. (For more on the health care squeeze and the candidates' proposed fixes, see our multimedia package "The Middle Class Crunch.")

If you really think the federal government is up to the task, consider the government's last venture into expanding coverage and cutting costs, the Medicare prescription drug program signed into law in 2003. The program, which went into effect in 2006, was budgeted at $400 billion over 10 years. By the time it had been up and running for a year, the cost estimates had climbed to $800 billion, according to Medicare.

Look at what's happened to costs in another federal program with a much longer history. Of the 44 million elderly and disabled covered by Medicare, 80% have their health bills paid by the traditional fee-for-service program. The other 20% get their Medicare benefits through private health plans that receive payments from Medicare.

These plans, now called Medicare Advantage plans, have been around for decades. And they've recently formed the backbone of many plans to fix U.S. health care by expanding coverage and cutting costs. The theory was that these privately run plans would provide the same services as Medicare at reduced costs -- and then put that money back into new services or reduced premiums or co-pays.

Industry 'consultation' narrows competition
But it hasn't worked out that way. A recent survey by the federal government of the private Medicare Advantage plans found they charge the government 17% more, on average, than it would cost Medicare to provide the same services. From 2009 to 2012, the government projects, the extra costs to the federal government will amount to $50 billion.

Talk back: Would you trust Wal-Mart with your health care dollars?
What's wrong? Why have programs designed to increase coverage and cut costs been only limited successes or outright failures? Because the competition that was supposed to unleash so many benefits and reduce costs has never really materialized.

These programs, like many government programs in other areas, were written in consultation with or in some cases actually by the drug and insurance industries. That "consultation" made sure any competition introduced wasn't too onerous. So, for example, the federal government -- the world's greatest purchaser of medical products and services -- is prohibited by law from bargaining with drug companies to get lower prices.

Letting Wal-Mart run the health care system would fix many of those problems. It's a company that understands how low prices can build market share and thus increase profits. Furthermore, it's a company with a culture of cutting costs that has shown no compunction in pushing suppliers to the wall over price. The Wal-Mart motto ought to be, "Make it cheaper, or we'll find someone who can." I'd love to see that attitude brought to bear in health care.

My wish isn't pie in the sky either. Wal-Mart has decided it can make money by applying its always-low-prices strategy to drugs and medical services. For example, in 2006, the company first rolled out a program to sell a long list of about 300 generic drugs for $4 a prescription. It added 24 more drugs to the list in 2007.

Broad expansion of a generic program
Then on May 7, Wal-Mart expanded that strategy. Customers can buy a 90-day supply of any of 350 generic drugs for $10. In addition, the company expanded its $4 generic program so it now applies to more than 1,000 over-the-counter drugs, about a third of the OTC drugs the company sells, including generic versions of such blockbuster drugs as Zantac and Claritin. And a 30-day supply of generic drugs for osteoporosis, breast cancer, hormone deficiency and other women's health problems will sell for $9.

By offering a 90-day supply -- exactly the same length of prescription the mail-order drug management companies offer -- Wal-Mart is going right at the heart of the drug management business. At $10 for a 90-day supply, the Wal-Mart price is below the co-pay many of its customers face if they have private or company insurance.

The addition of over-the-counter generics is aimed at another trend: the increasing practice of drug-benefit plans to refuse to pay for such medications. Once you can buy allergy medication Zyrtec without a prescription, some plans stop paying for it -- even though a 20-tablet box can cost $20 or more at the average drugstore.

Think any of these price points is a coincidence? Wal-Mart, I'd argue, has studied this market and knows where the price points and vulnerabilities are.

And Wal-Mart isn't stopping there. In April, it opened the first of its walk-in health clinics in stores in Atlanta, Dallas and Little Rock, Ark. This joint venture with local hospitals will build up the almost 80 clinics already in place in Wal-Mart stores. The goal is 400 co-branded clinics by 2010.

Lower costs, less paperwork
Again, the strategy reflects a close study of the vulnerabilities of the existing health care industry. The clinics will be low-cost, of course, charging just $45 for a get-well visit. That price is again below the co-pay in many health care plans.

And it gets even more attractive when you remember that it comes without all the paperwork so typical of the modern co-pay, deductible, delayed-reimbursement health insurance system. No appointment necessary, so harried consumers can get a kid vaccinated while shopping. No insurance necessary either. Got cash or a credit card? You can see a doctor.

And let me tell you, anyone who thinks this isn't an attractive way to deal with a minor problem -- for customers in every demographic and with every kind of health insurance -- hasn't tried to get an appointment to see an overworked doctor to check out what might be strep throat or an ear infection. I've got good health insurance, but I've used clinics like these in stores belonging to Wal-Mart competitors for exactly that kind of problem.

Wal-Mart's clinics also promise to be a major step toward the goal of a national network of electronic health records. Wal-Mart is part of a consortium of eight big employers, including AT&T (T, news, msgs) and Intel (INTC, news, msgs), that are putting their employees' health records online. And Wal-Mart is requiring that all of its in-store clinics use electronic health records to track the patients they treat. The software, from private company eClinicalWorks, keeps an electronic record on each patient that doctors in any Wal-Mart clinic can pull up easily at the next visit. The system also gives clinic practitioners diagnostic cues to aid in treatment.

This sounds like a big step toward the goal President Bush laid out in 2004 for most Americans to have electronic health records by 2014.

Spurring on the competitors
The best thing about letting Wal-Mart do it is that the company won't have to fix the health care system all by itself. Wal-Mart's entry into this field has already galvanized competition from retailers such as Target (TGT, news, msgs) and CVS Caremark (CVS, news, msgs).

Some, like Target, are matching Wal-Mart step by step. Some are arguably ahead of the giant retailer. Clinic operator MinuteClinic is a CVS subsidiary that operates more clinics than Wal-Mart has opened to date.

What Wal-Mart does, though, is take the game up another level. If you're playing against Wal-Mart, it's compete or die. Walgreen (WAG, news, msgs), Rite Aid (RAD, news, msgs), CVS and other drugstores have to run at full speed with their best ideas or get turned into roadkill. Same for Costco Wholesale (COST, news, msgs), BJ's Wholesale Club (BJ, news, msgs) and Target. Think e-health information companies such as WebMD Health (WBMD, news, msgs) haven't noticed? Especially when Google (GOOG, news, msgs) and Microsoft (MSFT, news, msgs) have recently launched Internet-based e-health services. (Microsoft is the publisher of MSN Money.)

And if all those companies are competing, that will force the drug makers, the insurance companies, the health care providers and the health management companies into motion, too. It won't be enough for these companies just to lobby in Washington anymore.

Evolving program for employees, too
There's more than a little irony in seeing Wal-Mart take the lead in the health care market in the United States. The company has received well-deserved criticism for the way its rules prevent part-time workers from receiving health insurance.

For example, part-time workers had to work at the company for two years before they were eligible for health insurance. In 2005, WakeUpWalMart found that 300,000 Wal-Mart workers and their families had received publicly funded health care -- because they didn't have any company insurance -- at a cost of $1.4 billion.

That's begun to change. The company has cut the waiting period on health insurance for part-time workers to 12 months. (For 2007, the company set a goal of having 50% of its employees covered by company health insurance. The national average at big companies in the United States is 63%.) Children of part-time workers will be eligible for company health benefits. And co-pays on generic medications for common conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and infections have been reduced to $3 from $10.

Has Wal-Mart changed enough on the inside? No way. But you don't have to like the company to think it might be able to do what no one else has been able to do: fix health care in the United States.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Home At Last

My daughter and I arrived in Pullman safely around 7:30 tonight after spending the majority of the day crossing the great continent of Montana.

It's good to be back home.

Palousitics Being Picked Up By Accuweather

Go to the Accuweather.com website, enter the local weather forecast and there's a local news section, two of the four listed as of 3:36 PM, May 29, 2008 are from Palousitics.

I don't know how long Accuweather's links last, but you can see Palousitics here and here.

Wal-Mart Keeps Food Prices Down

Women and minorities hardest hit.

"With gas, grain, and dairy prices exploding, you'd think the biggest seller of corn flakes and Cocoa Puffs would be getting hit by rising food costs. But Wal-Mart has temporarily rolled back prices on hundreds of food items by as much as 30% this year. How? By pressuring vendors to take costs out of the supply chain.

"When our grocery suppliers bring price increases, we don't just accept them," says Pamela Kohn, Wal-Mart's general merchandise manager for perishables. To be sure, Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) isn't the only retailer working to cut fat from the food chain, but as the largest grocer - Wal-Mart's food and consumables revenue is nearly $100 billion - it has a disproportionate amount of leverage. Here's how the retailer is throwing its weight around.

Shrink the goods. Ever wonder why that cereal box is only two-thirds full? Foodmakers love big boxes because they serve as billboards on store shelves. Wal-Mart has been working to change that by promising suppliers that their shelf space won't shrink even if their boxes do. As a result, some of its vendors have reengineered their packaging. General Mills' (GIS, Fortune 500) Hamburger Helper is now made with denser pasta shapes, allowing the same amount of food to fit into a 20% smaller box at the same price. The change has saved 890,000 pounds of paper fiber and eliminated 500 trucks from the road, giving General Mills a cushion to absorb some of the rising costs.

Cut out the middleman. Wal-Mart typically buys its brand-name coffee from a supplier, which buys from a cooperative of growers, which works with a roaster - which means "there are a whole bunch of people muddled in the middle," says Wal-Mart spokeswoman Tara Raddohl. In April the chain began buying directly from a cooperative of Brazilian coffee farmers for its Sam's Choice brand, cutting three or four steps out of the supply chain."

Susan Sarandon Threatens To Leave US If Obama Loses

Another good reason to support John McCain. Will she be taking her husband, excuse me, partner with her?

Two for the price of one? That'd be great. But we've endured such broken promises before.

Homeward Bound

We crossed the Continental Divide at Homestake Pass a little while ago and we're in the homestretch now.

We should be home early this evening.

Woo-hoo! They are moving dirt at Hawkins

I just got back from Moscow and dirt is being moved at the Hawkins site.
It's just one guy and a backhoe, but the ground has been broken. It looks like he was moving utilities.

Also, things are moving right along at the James Toyota site. They are currently laying the plumbing in the footings.

Obama Supporters Crap On Police Memorial

This sort of places Barack Hussein Obama's indifference to Memorial Day in perspective.

Portland police officers have asked for an apology after they said organizers of a Barack Obama rally set up Porta-Potties on a memorial honoring fallen officers.

Earlier this month, 75,000 people gathered in Waterfront Park in downtown Portland to hear Obama speak at a pre-primary rally.

Officer Thomas Brennan, a seven-year veteran with the Portland Police Bureau, said he was happy to help at the rally after being called in on his day off.

"On short notice, a lot of people had to cancel trips. But they were glad to do it," Brennan said. "It was very memorable, in more ways than one."

Brennan, who controlled the crowd near the Portland Police Memorial, noticed several Porta Potties set up in the middle of the memorial. Brennan had been at the site five days earlier for an annual memorial service and a flag was still set at half mast on the day of the rally.

"There was plenty of room elsewhere so space wasn't an issue," Brennan said. "So someone used some really poor decision making, whoever elected to put them there. I mean, it's somewhat hallowed ground, I guess you could call it."

Google Recognizes Mountain Climbing

Memorial Day was just another Monday at Google. But, guess what today is?

I'm gonna start looking for a way to transfer my blog from Blogger, which is owned by Google.
This isn't Google's only sin. While Yahoo and MSN have not shown any particular courage, they don't toady up to Chinese goons with Google's eagerness and they don't manage YouTube as a medium for terrorist propaganda.

Quote Of The Day

"I don’t even notice the color of his skin. I do notice the thinness of it, though."

Dennis Miller, on Barack Obama

Dennis Miller for president? I'd vote for him over any of the current crop of candidates. Gay marriage is about the only topic upon which Dennis and I diverge.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This Blog Has Been to WALL DRUG

Ted Hustead could be considered the father of "viral marketing," although it certainly wasn't called that in 1936 when he put up signs advertising free ice water to bring in customers to his drug store in remote Wall, SD.

Driving through South Dakota today, there is a Wall Drug billboard every 5 miles or so. Signs and billboards advertising Wall Drug have been observed in such varied locales as Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya, and the North and South Poles. The friendly folks at Wall Drug are happy to hand out free bumper stickers so you too can join in the ad campaign.

It works. I have been seeing Wall Drug bumper stickers since I moved to the Northwest, so of course we had to stop today to see what it was all about. Growing up on the East Coast, I was familiar with the concept. South of the Border, in Dillon, SC, is a giant third world village of a tourist trap designed to separate Florida-bound tourists from their dollars.

We also stopped in Mitchell, SD, home of the "world's only Corn Palace" and Sturgis, SD, site of the infamous biker rally. The Black Hills area of South Dakota is very scenic. It reminds me a bit of the Palouse Range.

Speaking of the Palouse, the West technically begins at the Mississipi, but it really starts when you cross the Missouri. The vast treeless vistas, the tiny remote towns, the tree-covered rocky buttes, and the death-defying aerobatics of cropdusters we saw after crossing the Missouri are all very familiar sights to me now, much more familiar than the East Coast from whence I once hailed and where my daughter is just now coming from. She has been coming to Pullman since she was 11, but she is very anxious to start exploring on her own now as an adult. She has been very impressed so far with the beauty of the West.

Looking at the Missouri from the stern of a recreated Lewis and Clark keelboat.

Your Tax Dollars Are Working Hard Against You

Save the Sucker! and they don't mean you. My comments are in [red brackets]. The links, highlights and research are my contribution, too.
From yesterday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:

University of Idaho researchers investigate decline of one of the world's earliest fishes.

University of Idaho faculty member Christopher Peery, an assistant research professor in the College of Natural Resources, and the research team in the Fish Ecology Research Lab in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources received funding totaling $800,000.00 for several studies [appeasement] investigating factors that may be limiting migrations and productivity for Columbia River populations. This work is being funded by the Portland and Walla Walla Districts of the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers and by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [Actually, that would be you, the taxpayer. Funny how they portray themselves as private entities, hoping that you will forget that it is your money that they are spending so freely.]

Pacific lamprey are native to this area. [They are also native to the entire Pacific Rim, including Japan and Korea] Like steelhead and salmon, they migrate to the ocean as juveniles and return to spawn as adults, and so must deal with a river system highly modified by dams, habitat loss and now global climate change. Lamprey represent an ecological link to the earliest fishes, having evolved 450 million years ago, or about 400 million years before salmon appeared. [Never mind that the fish have adapted to 400 million years of global climate change. They were probably native to the Mohave Desert and what is now the Grand Canyon. It's just that Al Gore wasn't available then to let them know how endangered they were.]

Ecologically, lamprey are an important food source to other fish and birds as juveniles, and for sturgeon and sea lions during the adult migrations. They also are an important part of cultural heritage for Native American tribes. They are still harvested from the Willamette Falls near Portland, Ore., for ceremonial feasts, when numbers permit.

Results of these and related studies will be available at the University of Idaho Fish Ecology Research Lab Web site, http://www.cnr.uidaho.edu/uiferl/Lamprey.htm.

Close Encounters of the Hillary Kind

It turns out that Hillary was in Rapid City, SD and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation today about the same time as we were passing through.

Hillary is hunting some of South Dakota's delegate gold, such as it is. The SD Democratic primary is coming up on June 3; the absolute last one in the country.

I saw a grand total of one Hillary sign on our trip across the breadth of the state. The Obamessiah had no signs. I saw far more signs that read "God Loves You" and "The Wages of Sin is Death.". Not surprising really. I don't think South Dakota has gone Democratic in a presidential election since native son George McGovern ran in 1972.

Wal-Mart Update From the Road

As we cross the seemingly endless plains of South Dakota, I have some good news and bad news about Wal-Mart in Pullman.

First, the good news: Local contractors are reporting that Wal-Mart has put out bid requests for work at the Bishop Blvd. site. The bid replies had a May 15th deadline.

Now the bad news: The District III Court of Appeals has six months in which to file their first draft of the opinion and an unlimited time to file their final draft. Thus far, nothing has been filed. June 19 will be six months. The court's pace makes the glaciation which laid down all this rich Dakota farmland look positively speedy. We are being very poorly served by these public officials in positions of high responsibility.

Gateway Pundit: Obama Repeats Auschwitz Gaffe on Memorial Day

Gateway Pundit: Obama Repeats Auschwitz Gaffe on Memorial Day

Was Obama's crazy uncle really in the Navy?

Did Barack Obama's Great Uncle (Or grandfather or whatever) Sail Into Auschwitz (or Buchenwald, or whatever)?

It just gets curiouser and curiouser. Apparently, Obama's great uncle liberated neither Auschwitz or Buchenwald because, he was in the Navy.

Much more here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever

But on a cloudy day in Chicago, you can't see Lake Michigan.

As promised, below are my pictures from the Sears Tower today:

At the foot of the third tallest building in the world.

The former corporate headquarters of retailer Sears is a dramatic contrast to Wal-Mart's humble one-story corporate headquarters building in Bentonville, AR (see below.) This hubris would be reflected in Sears' decline. Sears moved out in 1995, just 22 years after moving into at what was at that time the world's tallest building.

103rd floor: linens, home appliances, parachutes ...

The Chicago River, dyed green on St. Patrick's Day.

I-90 through downtown Chicago.

Westbound and Down

We just crossed the Mississippi, so technically we're in the West.

We blew through the Windy City earlier today, with a quick ascent to the top of the Sears Tower. A guy in the elevator from Southern California noticed my short sleeved t-shirt with no jacket (it was in the forties and very windy) and said I must be freezing. When I said no, he asked if I was from Alaska. I said no, but it felt like it this past winter. I'll have pictures later.

Some Cougar connections: Last night we passed through South Bend, IN, home of the College Football Hall of Fame into which Rueben Mayes was just inducted and earlier today we went through Beloit, WI, Kyle Weaver's hometown (I just saw Kyle in Dissmores a few days ago.)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Follow I-90 West 2,100 Miles to Coeur d'Alene, ID

Like many people in Pullman, my experience of I-90 has been limited to stretches between Seattle and Vantage and US 195 and the Spokane Valley Mall.

I-90, of course, is much more than a frequently snowy pass. It is a major cross-country route stretching from Boston to Seattle.

We've just intersected I-90 south of Cleveland and the car will be pointed west from here on out. It's very comforting to be on the interstate that goes through Coeur d'Alene and Spokane; the only interstate that has an exit sign that reads "Pullman." Thank you President Eisenhower.

As far as the bitter white people, I don't know about guns and religion, but they were sure clinging to their leather and Harleys. We passed dozens, if not hundreds, of bikers returning home from the annual Rolling Thunder ride in D.C.

Believe me, all the guys wearing POW/MIA, American flag, Vietnam Vet, 101st Airborne Screaming Eagle, and Ranger tab patches didn't look like this was the first time in their adult lives that they had been proud of their country (nor, I daresay, would anyone have been allowed to say anything like that in their presence.)

Memorial Day On the Road

My daughter and I are making our way towards Pullman on this Memorial Day.

I flew out Saturday to Richmond, by way of Minneapolis (yes, I did use the bathroom, taking great care that my stance wasn't too wide.)

After being away for so long, I'm reminded once again of the history in this part of the country, thick as spiderwebs all around you.

My daughter's apartment, where I spent Saturday night, is near Hollywood Cemetery, where many of the pantheon of the Confederacy are interred.

On our way north out of Richmond, we passed places with names like Fredericksburg and Mount Vernon.

We spent last night in Hagerstown, MD, at the foot of South Mountain by the banks of Antietam Creek. Not far away were the bloody battlefields of Sharpsburg (Antietam to you Yankees) and Gettysburg.

We are about to enter the rolling hills of rural southern Pennsylvania, where we are told folks are bitterly clinging to their guns and their religion.

Talk about your Civil War....

Google Or Yahoo?

I'm inclined to favor Yahoo. Google shows more respect for Ramadan than our fallen soldiers.

Friday, May 23, 2008

On To Richmond

I'm flying out early tomorrow morning for Richmond, VA. My oldest daughter is transferring to WSU. That's right, I'm now officially a

COUG DAD !!!!!!!

something that came up recently while discussing buying Jimmy Buffett tickets. That will be a great first Dad's Weekend for me.

I'm really looking forward to the Father-Daughter cross-country road trip. Most of next week, we will be driving her car over to Pullman through flyover country. Depending on the gods of wireless, I'll try to check in with a few updates from the land of the bitter white people.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day everyone.

Quote of the Day

In a campaign stop in Oregon, Obama called for the U.S. to "lead by example" on global warming. "We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say 'OK.' … That’s not leadership. That’s not going to happen," he said.

A President Obama apparently would decide how to regulate the pantries, thermostats and modes of personal transportation of his fellow Americans based on the emotional temperature of every non-American who happens to harbor an opinion on how we should live.
Steven Milloy, "Global Warming's New 'Consensus'", May 23, 2008

"Schoesler announces plans to seek re-election"

This is great news. Regular readers of the blog know that I am a huge Mark Schoesler fan. He is Eastern Washington's voice of reason in Olympia.

I will be doing everything I can to see Mark is reelected this fall. We need him in the Capitol.

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Washington state Sen. Mark Schoesler announced today he will seek a second term as 9th District state senator.

Schoesler, a Republican from Ritzville, was elected to the Senate in 2004 after serving 12 years in the House of Representatives.

Schoesler said he chose to run for a second term because there still are several issues confronting the state and the 9th District that need to be addressed. The state still faces tough budget and water issues, she said.

"People have been very good to me in the 9th District, and there are issues in the district that I enjoy working on and that are still important," Schoesler said.

While in the Legislature, Schoesler has advanced to several leadership positions. He was chosen as Republican Caucus whip two years into his Senate term. He currently serves as floor leader and is charged with planning the Senate's daily floor action and debate.

Schoesler also is the lead Republican on the Senate Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Committee and serves on the Higher Education and Financial Institutions and Insurance committees. He is a member of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee and has a seat on the Rules Committee.

Schoesler operates a century-old family farm raising wheat, canola and cattle. He and his wife, Ginger, have two children - Veronica and Cody.

He is a graduate of Spokane Community College.

"Washington stormwater rules hit state highway department; Department of Transportation permit will run about $16M to implement"

The out-of-control state bureaucracy is eating itself now. The headline should read, "Department of Transportation permit will cost taxpayers about $16M a year to implement," however, because WSDOT doesn't actually generate a profit. We pay the bills through our nationally-high gas taxes and vehicle registration fees. So who do you think will be picking up this new tab?

This stormwater monster needs to have a stake driven through its heart and fast, before it destroys the whole state.

From yesterday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
The Washington State Department of Transportation soon will expand its regulation of stormwater runoff from state highways, park-and-ride lots, ferry terminals, maintenance facilities and rest stops.

The state Department of Ecology has drafted a stormwater permit specific to WSDOT that likely will go into effect in July.

The permit is equivalent to one issued to the city of Pullman in February 2007, designed to manage the quality and quantity of runoff from development and to control stormwater discharge into waterways. Ecology also is pressing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue Moscow a similar permit because of its effect on area rivers and streams across the Washington border.

State Transportation Communications Director Lloyd Brown said how the pending permit will affect the Pullman area - and specifically the Pullman-Moscow Highway and the adjacent Paradise Creek - is unknown. The highway's recent widening project was constructed using best management practices and likely won't need to be retrofitted to meet the new permit's requirements.

"We're not new to stormwater management. We've had stormwater practices in place for two decades or more," he said. "We know the effect of stormwater on the local environment."

Brown said the new permit is expected to cost the transportation department nearly $16 million more per year to implement. Most of the costs will come from increased inspection and maintenance, along with the additional inventory and mapping duties to ensure stormwater runoff is managed and properly disposed of. The department has up to 24,000 discharge points into state waterways which will need increased monitoring.

Brown said the two state agencies are expected to work together with state legislators to find money to pay for the expanded permit program.

Bill Hashim, an environmental planner with the Department of Ecology, said most state highway infrastructure was built before the federal Clean Water Act was set in motion, which means that some older, existing highways may need to be upgraded to meet the requirements of new stormwater standards.

"A rule of thumb is if you own a place where water flows, whether or not you generate it, it's your problem," Hashim said. That means the stormwater that runs across the Pullman-Moscow Highway before it enters Paradise Creek "is their problem."

Brown said the new permit will replace the transportation department's existing National Pollution Discharge Elimination System. Many cities on the state's west side are expected to meet similar regulations as part of Ecology's municipal stormwater permit Phase 1. Cities in the eastern portion of the state were issued similar permits during Phase 2 in 2007.

Hashim said it makes sense to issue the transportation department its own permit.

"Since their highway system is so unlike any municipalities and their facilities are so unlike a municipalities, we wanted to tailor a permit for them," he said.

Hashim said the department will be required to increase its testing of stormwater into area waterways for both the type and amount of pollution found in runoff and the effectiveness of best management practices. Whether or not this testing will occur along Paradise Creek has yet to be determined. He said the transportation department will choose five testing sites statewide and have been asked to choose an eastern Washington location where traffic counts are between 30,000-100,000 vehicles per day.

"The potential could be that the urbanizing corridor between Moscow and Pullman could be chosen," he said. "My guess is that it will be the Spokane area or the Pullman area that they pick."

A comment period opened Wednesday to allow for public input of the drafted permit. It is available online at www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/stormwater/municipal/wsdot.html.

Written and oral comments on the drafted permit will be accepted through 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24 to Hashim at bhas461@ecy.wa.gov, or by mail to P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA. 98504. Two workshops also have been scheduled to further explain the permit and answer questions from the public. The workshop for this region will be at 1 p.m., June 4 in Spokane at the Spokane Shadle Library.

After the workshops, Ecology will weigh public comment and concern and draft a formal permit, which likely will go into effect by July, Hashim said.

"Whitman planning commission OKs corridor zoning changes"

It's official. Whitman County is open for business.

From yesterday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
The Whitman County Planning Commission approved several amendments to the county's zoning ordinances that, if affirmed by county commissioners, will allow for a broader array of retail, commercial and industrial businesses in the Pullman-Moscow corridor.

One of the approved amendments will add a number of permitted retail operations to the county's list of operations allowed in the corridor with a conditional use permit.

The amendment will permit a variety of stores, including those that sell clothing and accessories, crafts, flowers, jewelry, office furniture and supplies, pets and other goods. It also will permit theaters and restaurants.

Businesses wishing to locate in the corridor must receive a conditional use permit from the county to operate in the area.

Previously, many retail uses were not on the list of permitted uses.

Those additions will clear the way for a variety of retail chains to locate in the corridor and specifically at the Hawkins development. Current company plans call for a 714,000-square-foot retail shopping center just west of the Idaho border. The company expects to break ground in June.

An additional amendment calls for an expansion to the county's code in light- and heavy-industrial districts that will add professional services associated with the construction industry such as architects, engineers, construction management, and developers and planners.

Barack Obama: Hanford? Never Heard of It

What does Barack Obama's ignorance of Hanford tell us about our local politicians? A great deal actually.

We might never know what negotiations take place when Democratic presidential candidates woo the party’s superdelegates for their votes. The ironically misnamed Democratic Party goes to some lengths to insulate its nominating process from the great unwashed, in part by reserving 20% of its national convention delegates to unelected so-called “superdelegates.” These superdelegates are free to choose whom to support for their party’s nomination independent of the votes cast by the little people. They may cut whatever deal with the candidate that they wish in exchange for a vote at the national convention. This mutual back scratching would probably not rise to the dignity of Otto Von Bismark’s sausage making analogy. But thanks to what was revealed in response to an innocent question Monday, we can eliminate from consideration any conversations regarding issues critical to the state of Washington.
Just before the Oregon Democratic primary Tuesday, Barack Obama was floundering in his most unnatural element, extemporaneous speaking during a question and answer period, when he was asked what he intended to do about cleaning up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
“Here's something that you will rarely hear from a politician, and that is that I'm not familiar with the Hanford site, so I don't know exactly what's going on there. Now, having said that, I promise you I'll learn about it by the time I leave here on the ride back to the airport.”
While it’s refreshing to hear a politician admit that there’s something out there about which he is not the world’s foremost authority, Obama’s ignorance on this issue is really quite unforgivable because of what it says about him and for what it reveals about Washington’s governor and the rest of Washington’s Democratic superdelegates.
Hanford is the site where plutonium for the second of the two nuclear bombs dropped on Japan, ending World War II, was made. It is considered one of the nation’s most contaminated environmental sites. Currently, the federal government spends about $2 billion dollars per year on cleanup efforts. Even so, the site remains the stuff of a comic book nightmare. The only thing missing is Blinky, the three-eyed fish of Simpsons cartoon fame. He probably died of radiation poisoning.
Supposedly, Hanford cleanup has been a top priority with Washington’s Congressional delegation, all of whom from the Democratic side of the aisle are superdelegates, as is King County Executive Ron Sims, former Speaker of the House Tom Foley, state party chairman Dwight Pelz, along with several other party hacks, and Washington Governor Christine Gregoire. Ms. Gregoire has announced her intention to support Barack Obama at this summer’s Democratic National Convention.
It is well known that considerable horse trading occurs as the candidates try to entice superdelegates to commit their vote. From all I can tell, there are no rules. One can even purchase a superdelegate’s vote for straight up cash. Hillary Clinton even sent her daughter out on a date with a pimple-faced 21-year old superdelegate.
So, what did Christine Gregoire discuss with Barack Obama before committing her vote to his candidacy? Well, judging by his response in Oregon Monday, it was not the state’s number one environmental issue. Not only was Barack Obama unaware of the issue, the videotape of his response indicates that he seems never to have heard of the place. Clearly, whatever sweet promises Governor Gregoire extracted from Barack Obama before publicly committing to his candidacy had nothing to do with Hanford. And considering how high the Hanford cleanup ranks on most Washingtonian’s agendas, one wonders if any other issues of interest to the state came up. It’s more likely that Gregoire’s political ambitions were at the top of her wish list.
I anticipate that Barack Obama’s side of the bargain will consist of several trips to Washington this fall to help Christine Gregoire raise campaign cash.
Other Washington politicians who have committed to Barack Obama without raising the issue of the Hanford cleanup are US representatives Adam Smith, Brian Baird, Rick Larsen and Jim McDermott, along with the aforementioned Dwight Pelz and Democratic National Committee member Pat Notter.
I suspect that we could imagine a long list of issues that are of critical importance to Washingtonians and to the state of Washington that were never raised as these practitioners of the oldest profession auctioned off their virtue. This certainly gives the lie to any notion that politicians are in there sacrificing themselves for our interests. The promises they make are just another means to achieving their own selfish ambitions.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

PCEI Event Cancelled - Cold Weather

I just got another e-mail from the Palouse Clearwater Environmental Institute regretting to inform me that their
"Annual Membership Appreciation event scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, May 23rd, 2008 at Patty's Mexican Kitchen is being postponed due to adverse weather."

I blame global warming.

There's something eerily familiar about this. Oh Yeah! Now I remember!

"What Is Going Wrong In Washington?"

To be competitive in a modern economy, Washington needs 21st century transportation and education systems. We have neither.

Why? Simple.

The one-party Democratic dictatorship in Olympia is completely beholden to environmentalists and the Washington Education Association to remain in power.

Look at some of the transportation solutions proposed by our "leaders:" Hundreds of millions of dollars pissed away on a Disneyland ride in Seattle (i.e. a monorail) and a proposal to tear down a bridge that carries tens of thousands of commuters every day and replace it with..........nothing.

Just recently, Washington turned down a $13.2 million education grant from the federal government. The WEA nixed the deal because *GASP* it included merit pay for teachers. God knows we don't want our teachers showing any merit or getting paid to do so.

Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business is perplexed by this decision, as well he should be. Washington's businesses depend on a well-educated workforce to compete and surive, not the self-lubricating palms of a greedy and corrupt teachers union.

In his latest column, Brunell wrote:
In the wake of an earlier column about our state rejecting a $13.2 million education grant, people are asking, “What is going wrong in Washington?” Why was Washington the only state of seven to reject funding to improve math and science learning for public school students in advanced placement programs?

Our state’s teachers union, the Washington Education Association (WEA), killed the grant because it included merit pay for teachers. But other heavily unionized states accepted the grant. What went wrong in Washington?

The students who would have benefited from this money are those who will fill the engineering, technology and advanced science jobs in the United States to help us compete with the rest of the world. It is so important that Bill and Melinda Gates and Michael and Susan Dell each donated $15 million to the program, and Exxon-Mobil contributed a whopping $100 million.

But our state missed a golden opportunity by rejecting the money. Our elected officials want to grow the aerospace, software, biotech and technology industries in Washington, but companies like Boeing, Microsoft, Amgen and Schweitzer Engineering Labs can’t find skilled people to fill positions.

It also was a big setback for emerging technology leaders like Scott Keeney, CEO of Vancouver’s nLight Photonics, when the National Math & Science Initiative (NMSI), announced that it ended Washington's grant because the WEA refused to budge on the issue of merit pay for teachers. The NMSI program pays teachers directly, but the WEA insisted that all the money be collectively bargained. Keeney spearheaded the Clark County MAP (Mentoring Advanced Placement) program and the NMSI grant would have been a logical extension for high tech professionals who volunteer to tutor students in advanced math and science.

Heavily unionized states like Massachusetts and Connecticut embraced the six-year grants. But Washington’s teachers union wouldn’t budge. How did Connecticut get the teachers union to go along with the NMSI grant?

First, a strong coalition of business, teachers, government and education leaders pulled together to secure and implement the grant under a program called Project Opening Doors.

Second, they hired Dr. J. A. Camille Vautour, a long-time school superintendent, to ramrod the project. Vautour approached ten school districts in Connecticut and got nine of them to embrace the program.

Vautour bypassed state teachers union officials and put it to local teachers and school districts this way: “We have an opportunity to help our students, and the NMSI grant is non-negotiable. They set the terms, not us, and if we are going to improve our math and science programs, we need to embrace the grant.”

The savvy superintendent took the issue of merit pay off the table. He pointed out that only 22 percent of the money would go to teachers in pay for performance while the other 78 percent went to teacher training and tutoring.

Finally, he sold them on the idea that if students were successful on advanced placement tests in math and science, it would attract additional money from NMSI and the state.

The rest is history, and on Sept. 6, 2007, Governor M. Jodi Rell (R) accepted a $13.2 million NMSI grant.

So, why all the fuss over a $13.2 million grant? Isn’t that pocket change when it comes to education spending in our state?

True, but it is the signal it sends. Consider a couple of key facts:

• About a third of high school math students and two-thirds of those enrolled in physical science have teachers who did not major in the subject in college or are not certified to teach it.
• Only 29 percent of American 4th grade students, a third of 8th grade students, and barely 18 percent of 12th grade students perform at or above the proficient level in science.
• In China, virtually all high school students study calculus; in the United States, 13 percent study calculus.

So, when you look at the facts, you really have to wonder: What is going wrong in Washington?

Sarah Palin for President

Sandpoint native and University of Idaho graduate Sarah Palin, the Republican Governor of Alaska, has been mentioned as a possible VP candidate.

The thought goes that the young (44), snowmobiling, socially conservative, pro-life, former beauty queen would balance out McCain's stuffy, staid, grumpy old RINO image.

It turns out Palin may be too much of a maverick for Maverick.

Palin announced yesterday that Alaska will sue to challenge the recent listing of polar bears as a threatened species. Palin fears the listing will cripple Alaska's oil and gas industry, the bread and butter of the 49th State. She stated:
The listing of a currently healthy species based entirely on highly speculative and uncertain climate and ice modeling and equally uncertain and speculative modeling of possible impacts on a species would be unprecedented.
Predictably, the environmentalist wackos started an immediate ad hominem smear campaign as they do to all global warming heretics:
She's either grossly misinformed or intentionally misleading, and both are unbecoming," said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Alaska deserves better."

Siegel said it was unconscionable for Palin to ignore overwhelming evidence of global warming's threat to sea ice, the polar bear's habitat.

"Even the Bush administration can't deny the reality of global warming," she said. "The governor is aligning herself and the state of Alaska with the most discredited, fringe, extreme viewpoints by denying this."
On a side note, Palin participated last October in the grand opening ceremony for a Wal-Mart Supercenter in her former hometown of Wasilla, where she said:
But we are hard working, very unpretentious, just good, salt of the earth people that live here and are working in this store.
Forget about VP. An elected official gutsy enough to publicly buck the Global Warming Hysteria Express AND support Wal-Mart deserves to be President.

Obama - Planning For When America Doesn't Matter

This New York Times photo shows what Barack Obama is reading - "The Post American World," about a time when America no longer matters. Hmmmm. I often get the impression that this is just what Democrats want to bring about.

No wonder he doesn't want to bother with wearing flag pins or putting his hand over his heart when the National Anthem is played.

Hat tip: The Blogfather.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

This Is Going To Be A Shame

Included among WSU Provost Robert Bates' proposal to trim back "nonessential" courses by 20% yesterday, according to the Lewiston Tribune, was a recommendation to combine the Departments of American Studies, Comparative Ethnic Studies and Women's Studies into a single unit.

Apparently, when President Elson Floyd say WSU "cannot be all things to all people," he is referring to certain WSU faculty members being bullies, racists, and left-wing agitators on the taxpayer's dime.

Allah Be Blessed, For Giving Us Democrats

Speaking of which

"We cannot change the world market," said Robert Malone, chairman and president of BP America Inc. "Today's high prices are linked to the failure both here and abroad to increase supplies, renewables and conservation."

Malone's remarks were echoed by John Hofmeister, president of Shell.

"The fundamental laws of supply and demand are at work," said Hofmeister. The market is squeezed by exporting nations managing demand for their own interest and other nations subsidizing prices to encourage economic growth, he said.

In addition, Hofmeister said access to resources in the United States has been limited for the past 30 years. "I agree, it's not a free market," he said.

The executives pushed the idea that large parts of the U.S. that are currently closed to drilling - like sections of Alaska, the Rocky Mountains and the continental shelf - should be opened.

"The place to start the free market is in our own country," said one executive. [The drilling ban] sets the stage for OPEC to do what we are doing in our own country, and that is effectively limiting supplies."

DinoLand USA

Eric Earling has a post up today at Sound Politics about the number of contributors to Dino Rossi's campaign and what that means.
The rough math on Rossi's contributions thus speaks for itself. He has raised approximately $4.376 million in cash from about 30,000 donors as of the end of April. In that month, he pulled in nearly $630,000 in cash contributions from over 4,000 donors. That's an average contribution consistently in the ballpark of $150, i.e. grassroots support.
Eric is dead on. Dino just doesn't have grassroots support. At least here in eastern Washington, he is generating the kind of spontaneous enthusiasm we have seen previously reserved for Barack Obama and Ron Paul. The fundraising reception here in June is an example. And that my friends, for a statewide Republican candidate in the Evergreen State, is unprecedented.

In Whitman County, everyone from Ron Paulistinians to Mainstream Republicans are unified behind Dino in a way I have never seen before with any issue or with any candidate.

Democrats may point to the latest Rasmussen poll that shows the Queen up by 10 ponts and say that this time she will not take Dino so lightly. They claim the dead will not need to vote in King County this time. But I disagree. Ultimate party apparatchik Gregoire is not inspiring enthusiasm among anyone, even her own party. As liberal Seattle PI columnist Joel Connelly points out:
Gregoire has an activist record, but Rossi can point to a still cumbersome state government. He can, too, bring up the failure of King County's Democratic rulers to deal with transportation gridlock -- and their tendency to nanny-state excess.
Gregoire's "activist" record is almost exclusively paying off the union cronies that helped get her elected in 2004.

The only that might make the race close this November is the coattails from a Democratic presidential candidate. But in this year when "change" is the mantra, most voters in Washington will think it's time for a change in the Governor's Mansion in Olympia, which the Democrats have controlled for over twenty years.

"Eco-Terrorism On Orcas"

Eco-Terrorist Gabriel Thomas Mondragon cuts power on Orcas Island Washington. The dope tried to cut through a 69kV line wearing dishwasher gloves.

This story is from the Island Guardian newspaper: http://www.islandguardian.com/archives/00001878.html
Located in Friday Harbor, Washington. All credit goes to them for this story.

”I did it to punish the rich white people of Orcas Island and make them pay for the death of the whales and the depletion of the rain forests” -Mondragon

Gabriel Thomas Mondragon, 29 years old, who recently arrived from New Mexico, explained to Sheriff’s Deputies that in an attempt to make the people on Orcas “suffer just like the whales and trees”, he attempted to use a tree limbing saw -on a metal pole- to cut through a 69,000 volt power line.

According to the sheriff’s report, the man, identified as Gabriel Mondragon, also stated he wanted to protest “the death of Luna the whale and the destruction of the rain forest.”

Being well informed on the power of high voltage power lines, Mondragon cleverly put on several pair of latex dish washing gloves to isolate him from electrocution, and proceeded to touch saw to power line.

Mondragon was found laying on his back some distance from the line, his pants had been on fire, where they had burned away from his hips down. His gloves had partially melted, and he had “first, second and third degree burns’ on various parts of his body. He was, in short, lucky to be alive. He now has some medical and legal problems to deal with, including some interest in his actions by the FBI.

An OPALCO lineman who responded to the outage was on site at the substation within twenty minutes and called the sheriff’s office for an aid car. The sheriff’s office and fire department arrived with aid within ten minutes.

The substation is surrounded by a barbwire topped fence, so Mondragon first tried to reach the power line by standing on a ladder. When that failed to get him close enough to be electrocuted, he went over the fence, and was then was able to reach a power line.

Thousands of people on parts of Orcas and Shaw only experienced a temporary loss of electrical power as a result Mondragon’s action, while Mondragon was flow off to Harborview Hospital in Seattle via AirLift Northwest, for treatment of what are being called serious injuries..

The incident has been reported to the FBI, and Sheriff Bill Cumming said County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord will determine what, if any, charges may be pending, but at the least he may be charged with trespass. Gaylord said he would review the on-scene reports prior to making a determination of what appropriate charges may be.

OPALCO General Manager Randy Cornelius said he was required to notify the FBI of the incident, but that he had no information on any of the specifics of the case.

Cumming said because the crime involved a utility, the FBI has jurisdiction to enter the case. Given Mondragon’s statements, it seems likely he may also face additional charges related to “eco-terrorism”. The FBI defines eco-terrorism as “acts of violence in protest of harm to animals or to the environment, ” and it “is the United States' No.1 terrorism threat from inside its own borders.”

The County Council met this morning for their normal Monday morning work session, and Councilman Bob Myhr, who also is a siting board member of OPALCO, briefed the Council on the incident. Chairman Howard Rosenfeld said he was sure the OPALCO facilities are “not hardened against this type of thing, and never will be; so we need to stop alienating our own people.”

“This tragic incident underlines the importance of public education about the dangers of power lines and electrical safety, “ stated OPALCO General Manager, Randy Cornelius. “I’m proud of how quickly and efficiently our linemen and emergency services responded; I’m grateful for the professionalism of the law enforcement and fire service personnel who responded and took control of the scene—and am thankful that no lives were lost. Our thoughts are with the family of the young man that was injured.”

Power was restored to most of the island by 11:30 p.m. Some areas were without power until noon Sunday.

OPALCO is a member-owned cooperative electrical utility serving more than 10,000 islanders in San Juan County. OPALCO provides mostly renewable electricity that is 97% greenhouse-gas free and is predominately generated by hydro-electric plants.

This is so funny. This dope thought wearing some dishwasher gloves would save his ass when he was grounded to a metal pole. I have have some electrical gloves rated at 600 volts, they are pretty thick and cumbersome. A few layers of latex would not stand a chance.

The funniest thing of all was, he was cutting of power from a renewable resource.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Pullman business owners not worried about Hawkins; Several say it adds to tax base, they just wish it was closer to Pullman"

That title pretty much sums up my feelings on the Hawkins development.

Some thoughts on the article:

I've blogged previously about what Tom Handy calls the "amount of retail" in Moscow. The Hotelling model and Huff's Law of Retail Gravity explain why Hawkins chose the location it did.

One thing that is never mentioned about potential benefits of the Hawkins development to Pullman is the property taxes that will go to Pullman School District #267. At a 40% buildout, Hawkins will provide an extra $247,500 a year to the district. At 100% buildout, that would be nearly $625,000 annually. Not exactly chump change to a school system looking to build a new high school.

Chris Lupke said pretty much the same thing about the Hawkins' location in his last Town Crier rant as did Fritz Hughes and Handy. The big difference of course is that Fritz and Tom both state the need for Wal-Mart in Pullman as a retail draw. Lu Laoshi, while supposedly not against all big retail, has yet to identify anything he approves of other than Target and Costco, which are both highly unlikely to ever locate here. That provides a convenient veneer to conceal his true anti-capitalist, left-wing sentiments.

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Tom Handy is used watching money pass through Pullman only to be spent at stores in Moscow.

"I think it's a known fact," the Pullman business owner said. "It's because of the amount of retail that's there - that's the thing."

Handy, owner of the Old Post Office Wine Cellar and Gallery and president of the Pullman Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, said he has some concerns that the retail development under way on the Washington-Idaho border may be one more project that draws customers out of Pullman. He's not opposed to the development, just its location.

"I just wish it was six miles this way (west)," he said. "I think the majority of Pullman businesspeople ... would prefer to have people stopping here than going almost to Moscow."

Whitman County commissioners approved a preliminary development agreement with Boise-based Hawkins Companies in February. According to the agreement, the county will finance the public infrastructure construction at the site through the sale of $9.1 million in bonds with the idea of recovering those costs through state funding.

Lowe's Home Improvement will be one of three anchor stores at the site and is the only confirmed tenant. Site plans indicate there will be nearly 20 additional spaces for commercial businesses of all sizes.

Gordon Wallen, owner of Heritage Wheel and Tire, said he won't likely have any competition when the Hawkins development begins to lease out spaces. His business is consistent, and he isn't afraid his customers will go elsewhere.

"It doesn't seem likely," he said. "It's far enough away."

Pullman Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Fritz Hughes said Hawkins likely will create positives and negatives for the Pullman business community.

Hughes said commercial tenants there may draw consumers out of Washington, and those consumers may decide to conduct any additional shopping in Moscow. If a Lowe's is constructed, it could mean competition for businesses such as Pullman Business Supply. He added that potential Pullman businesses may be lured to set up shop at Hawkins, since vacant retail space will be available near popular anchor stores.

"But on the other side, a store like Lowe's would be a draw, so there could be some people that come from Colfax to go to Lowe's, and maybe they'll stop in Pullman for a hamburger or something," he said.

Handy said that although the Hawkins development may draw customers out of Pullman, at least tax dollars generated will remain in Washington and Whitman County. Sales tax from purchased goods and property taxes on the development will be beneficial, and "the more we can add to that the better it is for everyone in the area," he said.

"It's good to see stuff happening on this side of the state line. Something is better than nothing."

Handy said Pullman businesses are doing all they can to keep people coming. They provide "something that is a bit unique" to customers and increased customer service. He said if Wal-Mart locates in Pullman, it likely will improve local business by increasing the consumer traffic from Idaho in to Washington.

Hughes agreed.

"There'll be a strong retail base and that's what we need to keep our community strong," he said. "And there's other retail that follows big boxes."

Wal-Mart officials are waiting for a court decision before breaking ground in Pullman. A site plan for a store has been approved by the city, but that decision is being challenged in the Washington State Division III Court of Appeals in Spokane by the group Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development.

Handy said until the Wal-Mart case is resolved, it's not likely the Hawkins development will do any more damage to Pullman businesses than is already occurring with the Moscow retail community.

"Any additional competition would not be totally detrimental," he said. "As it is right now, Pullman's got competition for any business anyway."
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A Radio Topic on the Blog

Stick with me on this one. Just pretend you're listening to me tell a story on the radio. That's what this will be like...

Playing softball for My Office Bar and Grill we needed to get numbers put onto the uniform shirts. I am the manager of the team so that kind of stuff falls on my head. I got the uniform shirts the day we needed them. So I called Shirt Shack in Pullman. I got a price to get the numbers put on the shirt plus a turn around time. Then I called TriState.

As much as I would like to do business in Pullman I cannot justify the extra expense. Now, you might think that the time and gas I spend driving to Moscow make up the difference. But not in this case. TriState charged $.80 per number to have them put on the shirt. We also got the shirts the same day. ShirtShack was going to cost me around $45.00 to get the numbers on the shirt, at TriState it cost me about $10.00. To me that $35.00 is not a justifiable write off. In fact I have to ask why ShirtShack is SO expensive on the numbering AND why the long turn around time compared to TriState.

So as I made my way to the cash register I was thinking about the fact the owner of TriState is not a big fan of the things we have going here in Whitman County. I am supporting his business, but only because of the laws of economics. He is the cheapest that I know of. He is by far the cheapest. So he earns my money, plus he has the quicker turn around. Another thing that earned my business.

So, getting back to the stroll to the cash register [I told you this was like the radio show...] I was thinking about the above and wishing I didn't have to do business with him, but I am about my bottom line. I got into line and saw a sign where the store was advertising all the money it donates to local groups. It showed more than $65,000 in charity give aways. I scanned the list and saw Alternatives to Violence, the Kenworthy Performing Arts Theatre, as well as other places. It was in alphabetical order, so I thought I would see if any "Pullman" things were supported.

I was surprised to see the Pullman Chamber of Commerce was listed as one of the groups receiving money from TriState. I am walking out of TriState thinking about the fact I was going to write the above story about ShirtShack and TriState and the pricing differences. I figured the money give away was interesting so I thought I would include that.

I was going through some thoughts of what I was going to write. It was raining outside and I was making a quick trip to my vehicle. I heard a voice with a southern drawl call out "Excuse Me." I looked over and saw an elderly lady in a pickup truck with a fifth-wheel travel trailer hitch in the back of the truck. She said "Is there a WalMart in this town?" I affirmed there was.

My mind started to race about the irony of the fact that a lady is sitting in the TriState parking lot asking for directions to WalMart. She told me she is from Missouri. I smiled, not because of the thought of taking business from TriState, but because I am a nice guy and I wanted to let her know I was happy to stay in the rain and help her find her way. I thought I could find out what she was looking for and suggest a local store, or I could simply give her directions to WalMart.

I chose to give her directions to WalMart. I told her to get on the Pullman Road and drive through a couple traffic lights. Look for Warbonnet Drive and take a right. WalMart was at the top of the hill.

Just like my radio show, I am getting to the end of the story and there is really no wrap up, just the end of a story that really had no point.

And now the favorite of The PES... The Reverend, Reverend Horton Heat.... *fade to music*

Losonoco Follow-Up

Just a follow-up to the story about biofuel firm Losonoco deciding not to build a canola oilseed crushing processing plant at the Port of Wilma in Whitman County.

According to the Associated Press, this decision was made because Palouse farmers are not going to grow canola when wheat recently traded around $20 a bushel.

Ironically, this surge in wheat prices is being cause by wheat growers in other states switching their crops over to corn to make ethanol.

Hymenoptera Counter-Attack!

Hiker Falls 200 Feet After Bee Attack

PHOENIX -- A hiker who went off a South Mountain trail Monday was attacked by a swarm of bees before falling 200 feet into a ravine, Phoenix firefighters said.

The man, who is in his early 30s, was hiking alone around 5:30 p.m. when he left the trail to hike up a gully and was ambushed by hundreds of bees.

"He was waving his shirt and then he was actually just full of bees," said hiker Ken MacKenzie, who witnessed the incident.

When the hiker tried to escape the bees, he fell.

Clearly, we must step up our efforts!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Quote of the Day

When you look at the national housing market, we think the Pullman market is really good.
- Darl Roberts, owner and broker at Associated Brokers, "Local real estate markets stay steady," Moscow-Pullman Daily News, May 19, 2008

It's good if you are currently a home owner or a developer. It's not so good if you are a retiree or a young family with children looking to relocate to Pullman or buy a first home. Statistics from the WSU Center for Real Estate Research show that the median resale price for a home in Whitman County increased 19.2 percent over last year to $211,100. With a 10% down payment, an average amount of monthly debt and a 7% mortgage rate, a buyer would require an annual household income of approximately $75,000 to afford an average priced home in Whitman County.

Until Whitman County loosens land use restrictions, there will never be affordable housing here and the county will never be attractive to high-tech or manufacturing businesses looking to locate here.

Is That Where Homer Simpson Works?

Obama's been to "57 states", but he's never heard of Hanford. Now we can see how much he knows about nuclear energy...

"McMorris Rodgers: Farm Bill is veto-proof; Washington congresswoman was part of committee that struck balance between House, Senate versions"

I would like to hear some thoughts on the Farm Bill. There are quite a few Palousitics readers who are actively involved with agriculture. As you know, the new Farm Bill has been met with a firestorm of criticism from many on the right.

In any case, Rep. McMorris Rodgers is to be commended for serving the needs of her constituents.

From Saturday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
McMorris RogersU.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is confident Congress will override a veto of the Farm Bill if President George W. Bush stays true to his word and axes the current form of the legislation.

The Senate voted 81-15 to approve the five-year, $307 billion farm bill Thursday, while the House voted 318-106 in favor of the legislation Wednesday. McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington, said the bill's strong support gives it a veto-proof majority.

"If the president should veto the bill, the House and the Senate can override with two-thirds of the vote," she said.

Bush has said the measure is too expensive and gives too much money to wealthy farmers.

McMorris Rodgers said the bill does have its deficiencies - as any large bill would - but it does provide much-needed support for Palouse-area wheat farmers should the commodities market take a downturn.

"At the top of the list is the safety net it provides for Washington wheat growers," McMorris Rodgers said. "It provides them some certainty."

McMorris Rodgers said wheat farmers are benefiting from recent high prices, but average prices for wheat have been between $3.50 and $4 over the past 10 years. Farmers would no longer be able to support themselves if prices returned to those levels, considering rising fuel and fertilizer costs.

"There's no guarantees (these prices are) sustainable, and during times when prices are down it's important they have a safety net," McMorris Rodgers said.

The bill also includes other provisions to help wheat growers and other specialty crop farmers expand their markets, McMorris Rodgers said. That's welcome news to Washington wheat farmers who export roughly 80 percent of their crops.

The bill also has provisions for research money that could make its way to local universities.

"We will do our best to get some of it to Washington State University," she said.

McMorris Rogers was appointed to a Congressional committee in April with the sole purpose of ironing out differences between separate and differing versions of the Farm Bill passed by the House and Senate. That position allowed her to ensure the interests of Washington and the Palouse were represented.

"I was thrilled to be on the congressional committee and work to protect the interested of Washington growers," she said.

U.S. Rep. Bill Sali of Idaho also voted in favor of bill. In a news release, Sali praised the bill for its support of specialty crops that are important to Idaho agriculture, funding for pest and disease programs, and for its support of alternative fuels.

"While far from perfect, this bill happens to be very good for Idaho agriculture," Sali stated. "It is important that we create a sensible farm policy, so that we will never have a day when we speak of America's reliance on foreign food, the way we speak of America's reliance on foreign oil. A safe, abundant and diverse food supply is essential to our state and our country, and this measure will help ensure that Idahoans and all Americans enjoy high quality food and fiber in coming years."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Thirteen Queens!

I just got back from a bicycle race and found 13 yellowjacket queens in my traps. Not a bad haul.

Update: As of 7:00 AM, 5/19/2008, my body count is up to 16.
Another update: As of Monday evening, 5/19/2008, the body count is 24. That's 120,000 yellowjackets that won't be buzzing my neighborhood this summer.

This is the time of year to dent your yellowjacket population. Put out your traps. Every yellowjacket you see this early in the year is a queen. And every queen you kill today reduces the yellowjacket population by 5000 come late summer. That makes my harvest, 65,000!

Quote of the Day

"The truth is, the majority of people in the state of Washington don't give a damn about the ferry system." ~ Washington State Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chairwoman of the senate's transportation committee in today's Seattle Times.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Seattle Times Defends Adolph Hitler

While most Democrats went ballistic over George Bush's presumed criticism of Barack Obama, the Seattle Times went one better, and defended Adolph Hitler.

What Hitler was demanding at Munich was not unreasonable as a national claim (though he was making it in a last-minute, unreasonable way.) Germany's claim was that the areas of Europe that spoke German and thought of themselves as German be under German authority. In September 1938 the principal remaining area was the Sudetenland.

So the British and French let him have it.

In a way, I'm okay with this. If the Seattle Times wants to join George Bush and me in equating Barack Obama with Neville Chamberlain, I welcome them to the club.