Goldy’s year in review

I wrote a shit-ton of posts, the election didn’t go so well, and my daughter, alas, grew yet another year closer toward adulthood. Other than that, 2010 was mostly a blur.

A labor shortage in Pierce County?

According to a blog post on the Business Examiner website (which bills itself as “The South Sound Business Information Resource”), Pierce County businesses are having a helluva time finding qualified employees:

About 70 percent of businesses responding to a Workforce Central survey said they find it necessary to seek talent outside the county to fill job openings. And 47 percent of respondents said they find it necessary to look outside the county for qualified workers most or all of the time.

WorkForce Central surveyed 130 Pierce County employers from across industries in November and identified the following concerns:

  • 52.5 percent have difficulty finding a sufficient supply of local talent.
  • 45.1 percent say that current employees do not have up-to-date skills and knowledge needed.
  • 28.7 percent are concerned about a talent/brain drain because of an increase in retirements of experienced employees.

Um… really? At the time this survey was taken, Pierce County’s unemployment was hovering around the 8.6 percent rate, about the same level as the state as a whole. And employers still couldn’t find enough qualified local workers to fill the available jobs?

Hard to believe, but if it’s true, you gotta wonder about the wisdom of slashing funding and raising tuition at Washington’s community colleges and four year universities at the same time jobs remain unfilled in the midst of 8.6 percent unemployment. I mean, forget about taxes, there’s no way businesses can afford to stay in Washington state if we don’t have a qualified workforce, right?

Or maybe Rob McKenna is just a crappy lawyer?

Of course the Seattle Times editorial board enthusiastically supports Attorney General Rob McKenna’s call for liability reform. He’s Rob Fucking McKenna, the WA GOP’s Kwisatz Haderach. Hell, if McKenna had come out in favor of strangling kittens, the Times would’ve surely urged broad bipartisan support:

“Kitten lovers will not like these ideas,” the Times editors might write. “Democratic lawmakers are sure to be lobbied against them. McKenna is a two-term Republican appealing to a Democratic-controlled state Legislature for reform.”

Oh please.

Consider this: In 2009, the state paid out more than $50 million in legal judgments and settlements. According to McKenna, that is between four times and 12 times as much as comparably sized states, including Massachusetts, Arizona, Tennessee and Indiana. The tally for this biennium may approach $125 million.

Now, I’m not totally dismissing out of hand the notion of some sort of liability reform, and I’m willing to hear the arguments pro and con, but consider this: perhaps it’s not just our liability statutes that account for the rising cost of legal judgments against the state, and the dramatically lower costs elsewhere. Perhaps, just maybe, Massachusetts, Arizona, Tennessee and Indiana pay out less in legal settlements because they have better lawyers?

I mean, it’s not the law that changed back when McKenna first won election in 2004, just the management of his office. So shouldn’t he accept at least a teensy bit of responsibility for losing all those expensive cases, rather than, as the Times attempts to do, pinning all blame on the trial lawyers who keep kicking the AG’s ass (not to mention Democratic legislators)? Isn’t it reasonable to at least consider the possibility that the rise in the cost of judgments against the state has something to do with a decline in the quality of our legal representation?

Republicans are fond of saying that government should be run more like a business. Well, if I were the CEO of a large corporation, and my legal costs suddenly spiked concurrent to the tenure of my Chief Legal Counsel, I’d probably look into hiring myself a new Chief Legal Counsel… you know, one who’s not such a sucky lawyer.

Open Thread

- Publicola provided an update on the ongoing friction between the ACLU of Washington and Sensible Washington regarding legalization initiatives. Last year, the ACLU didn’t like the way the initiative was set up and refused to endorse it. Sensible Washington is once again planning to file an initiative and there are two issues that continue to keep these two organizations apart.

The first is the lack of regulation language in the bill. After the failure of Proposition 19 in California this year, it should be pretty clear that an initiative that doesn’t adequately address the regulation aspect of ending marijuana prohibition is a ripe target for effective “scare” ads. I think the ACLU is absolutely right to pressure Sensible Washington to include some language to that effect.

The other issue involved the timing of an initiative. I’m not in agreement with the ACLU that there’s much to be gained by waiting until 2012. When I crunched the numbers to compare demographic turnouts between 2008 and 2010 in California, I found that it would’ve only made a 2.4% difference in the percentage of Yes votes. But those two years represented two opposite extremes in which types of voters came out to vote. As Publicola points out and Dawdy backs up, off-year elections don’t tend to be skewed too greatly either for or against liberal causes in this state. And it’s not clear that 2012 will have as heavy a liberal turnout as 2008 did. It’s very likely that the difference between running in 2011 and running in 2012 would be negligible.

- The Cannabis Defense Coalition was curious about how the Washington State Department of Revenue arrived at their recent decision to send out tax notices to the state’s still-illegal medical marijuana dispensaries, so they did what they do best and filed a public disclosure request. After reading through the documents, there are few surprises to be found. The Department of Revenue was contacted several times (the first time in 2006) about whether dispensaries should collect sales tax on what they sell to patients. The DOR investigated and found that: a) it doesn’t matter that the money is being made illegally, and b) medical marijuana is not a prescription, so it isn’t exempted by the existing laws that don’t allow a sales tax on prescription drugs. Despite this, the internal emails among the DOR did reveal some interesting discourse.

- Some data was released recently showing that 59 police officers across the United States were shot and killed in the line of duty this past year. That figure includes federal, state, and local officers. To give some perspective on the Mexican drug war, nearly 70 municipal police officers were shot and killed in Juarez alone in 2010.

On free speech

When a troll comes to my blog, in my comment threads, and in response to my political speech, repeatedly and viciously attacks my daughter, and then backs up his threats by posting my home address, well, I suppose the appropriate course of action would be to forward his comments and IP address to the police. Instead, and for only the second time in six years, I’ve permanently banned a troll from the threads.

I think even my harshest critics would agree that no blogger anywhere has been more tolerant of dissent than I have, even when that tolerance has been flagrantly abused in the most hateful, personal and disruptive manner. But in the end, this is my blog, and everybody who comments here does so only through my grace. The First Amendment guarantees you a right to free speech, but grants you no such right to expect me to publish it.

I never wanted my comment threads to be a one-sided yahoo chorus of the type one so often sees on other partisan political blogs, and so I steadfastly refused to moderate them. It’s too bad so few on the other side could manage to treat this open forum with respect.

I am a fairly respected writer

There’s been a bit of an uproar recently over a series of new “history” books in Virginia, which amongst other errors, repeat the bullshit claim that African Americans fought on behalf of the Confederacy during the Civil War:

“I absolutely could not believe the number of mistakes — wrong dates and wrong facts everywhere. How in the world did these books get approved?” said Ronald Heinemann, a former history professor at Hampden-Sydney College.

To be fair, much of what we teach our elementary school children about our nation’s past is a carefully sanitized, if not outright mythologized version of American history, but really… a century and a half after Fort Sumter, and the South is still fighting to defend its traditional values? Can’t we just settle this once and for all that slavery was bad (you know, for the slaves), and that in fighting to maintain the institution, the South was on the wrong side of history? No ifs, ands or buts?

Of course the author, Joy Masoff, vehemently defends her work:

“As controversial as it is, I stand by what I write. I am a fairly respected writer.” But when it came to one of the Civil War’s most controversial themes — the role of African Americans in the Confederacy — she relied primarily on an Internet search, according to the report. And the results were based on the work of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a neo-confederate group based in Tennessee.

Masoff’s other literary achievements include “Oh Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty” and “Oh Yikes! History’s Grossest Moments.”

Now that’s what I call quality scholarship, and since we both primarily rely on the Internet for our research, I suppose that makes me a “fairly respected writer” too. Maybe I should put my Ivy League history degree to good work, and write some elementary school textbooks? Couldn’t do much worse.

And the Internet should get out of the advertising business too!

The Seattle Times editorial board wants Metro Transit to get out of the advertising business… you know, just like the Times itself has been gradually, if involuntarily doing over the past couple years.

Metro is learning the hard way that it should not be in the advertising business. Instead of scrambling to craft better policies on noncommercial ads on buses, Metro should get out of the advertising business altogether.

And I’m sure the fact that the Times competes with Metro for local ad dollars has absolutely nothing to do with their opinion.

One word I would never use to describe FOX News’ Megyn Kelly

FOX News’ Megyn Kelly is livid over an effort by the Society of Professional Journalists to persuade news outlets to stop using the prejudicial phrases “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” in favor of the more neutral “undocumented immigrant,” leading her to rail against what she sees as the tyranny of politically correct language:

“You know, we did a segment earlier in the year on how little people find the term midget offensive, and so you can’t say that anymore,” Kelly lamented. “There’s so many words that are suddenly becoming hurtful, and part of the group thinks it’s hurtful, and the other group doesn’t, and you’re left as a journalist saying, I don’t know what to do.”

Huh. Okay, so, if someone were to defy the tyranny of political correctness and describe Kelly as, I dunno, a “cunt,” would that be fine by her?

I mean, I’m not using that word, and I’d never use it to describe Kelly or any other woman. In fact, I’m not even sure I’ve ever typed that word before. But if someone else were to use that word to describe Kelly and her mean-spirited, disingenuous screed (no Megyn, “undocumented immigrant” is not equivalent to calling a “rapist” a “non-consensual sex partner”), well, I’d kinda understand what they were getting at, even if I found their choice of words to be offensive.

But then, who am I to bow to political correctness?

Legislature should follow Seaquist’s lead on tax exemptions

State Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor) plans to introduce legislation this coming session, aimed at raising an additional $2 billion a year in education funding by eliminating nonproductive tax preferences exemptions loopholes.

“In my opinion, the cuts on eduction would do disproportionate harm,” Seaquist said.

Rep. Seaquist proposes creating a Commission on Tax Exemptions, an idea I wholeheartedly endorse, but I’d argue that legislators should go even further. The pending cuts in education and healthcare represent an immediate crisis, and thus require immediate action, and so I urge the Legislature to jump start the process by finding the first billion dollars of exemptions on their own, and putting their repeal on the November ballot.

Let voters decide for themselves what they value more: adequately funding K-12 education, or providing special interest tax exemptions to, say, gold bullion dealers and newspaper publishers?

A former Navy captain and commander of the USS Iowa, Rep. Seaquist presumably knows a thing or two about leadership. His colleagues in Olympia would do well to follow his lead on this issue.

RE: Priorities

strandedOf course, the phrase the Seattle Times’ headline writers are searching for is “Planes, trains and automobiles,” but I guess they just couldn’t resist their pro-car/anti-rail bias, explaining why they left out the latter, while shifting the primary emphasis to “trains.” Yup, that was the top headline on the Times’ home page this morning, even though the article itself mostly focused on delays at airports, while making only a passing reference to yesterday’s story about the shorted-out surface tracks near JFK.

And not worthy of a prominent headline on the Times’ home page this morning…? The news that 2010 tragically saw a 39% jump in police fatalities, to 160 nationwide. The number one cause of death: traffic accidents.

Seattle Times railroads rail in coverage of NYC blizzard

Of course the big story today—big enough to garner a link on the front page of the Seattle Times’ home page—is the startling news that New York City subway trains were stalled for hours in snow drifts:

Passengers have been stuck for several hours on two New York City subway trains stalled in snow drifts near Kennedy Airport.

NYC Transit spokesman Charles Seaton says that snow drifts and ice on the third rail have stalled trains at two stops in Queens, north and south of Kennedy Airport.

So how exactly does a “subway” train get caught in a snow drift? Of course, it doesn’t. The trains run on the surface by the time they get to JFK. And of course, the “third rail” the article mentions is the one that provides power, so our own light rail system with it’s overhead power supply would not stall for the same reasons.

Still, no doubt the Times sought to front-page this tidbit as a warning to those of us here who would champion light rail. Which of course, completely misses the larger picture of how the blizzard is really effecting transportation in NYC:

Christopher Mullen tells NY1 cable TV that he took the subway after he couldn’t get a car service or taxi out of Kennedy on Sunday night.

I’ve lived in NYC during snowstorms, and I can tell you that when the surface streets shut down, the subway is the one part of the transportation system that pretty much runs like normal. But you wouldn’t know that from reading the Seattle Times.

Life lessons from the smartphone wars

Speaking of change, the internets are abuzz with reports that competitors like RIM and Microsoft thought Apple was literally lying when it unveiled the iPhone back in January of 2007, believing that it was impossible to build a device like that with a usable battery life.

The iPhone “couldn’t do what [Apple was] demonstrating without an insanely power hungry processor, it must have terrible battery life,” Shacknews poster Kentor heard from his former colleagues of the time. “Imagine their surprise [at RIM] when they disassembled an iPhone for the first time and found that the phone was battery with a tiny logic board strapped to it.”

Friends who were Microsoft employees at the time were also said to have had a similar reaction.

Ultimately, it wasn’t a lack of ability or resources that held RIM, Microsoft and the others back, giving Apple its opportunity to seize the smartphone market. It was a lack of imagination.

Something our governor and legislators should keep in mind as they head into this very bleak legislative session.

I’m not sure their thoughts are even worth that much…

The sentiments expressed in the Seattle Times’ pointless editorial about the new penny design and the old one it replaces, pretty much sums up my sentiment toward our new, electronic media transcending the old, print-based stuff:

In the meantime, listen for the complaints, and then know how beloved the interloping new coin will be to future generations. Change happens.

Yup. Change happens. Time to stop subsidizing the old dying dailies with with special interest tax breaks, and move on.