Friday, August 31, 2012

Eastwood Speaks at the GOP Convention

Whatever Romney campaign aide arranged for Eastwood to speak at the GOP Convention should be tarred and feathered. What a disaster. I felt sorry for that 82 year-old man, really.

It’s instructive to check out the audience and the audience reaction to Eastwood’s rambling incoherence and off-message mumblings. Look at all those angry white faces.

Today's GOP is an anachronism. A throwback to a tainted era in our history, brought back to the arena by the election of a black president.

"Make my day," indeed. Defeat these retro-Republicans, and send them back where they belong, the dustbin of history.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Getting to Know Rob McKenna

Rob McKenna seems to have been running for political office right out of the crib. He has an impressive resume; two bachelor’s degrees, law degree, high school and college student body president, Eagle Scout, county council member at age 33, and most recently, Attorney General for the State of Washington. According to the Seattle Times, McKenna’s high school friends joked about him being president of the United States someday.

It certainly wouldn’t surprise people who know McKenna. He is nothing if not ambitious. President may be in his long-term plans, but right now he has his aim on the State House. Being the Governor of Washington might well be McKenna’s idea of a stepping stone to a presidential run.

McKenna is a politician’s politician. On the one hand, when speaking to union employees, he states that collective bargaining is a recognized right. When speaking to Republican supporters he says that collective bargaining is merely a “statutory right,” and characterizes public employee unions as “dangerous.” The Seattle Times reported that the head of the Republican Governors Association told Washington’s delegates to the Republican National Convention that McKenna would be a leader similar to Scott Walker, the pugnacious, anti-union governor of Wisconsin.

Despite portraying himself as a moderate Republican, McKenna’s actions speak louder than words. McKenna is consistently anti tax and told a Tea Party rally, “I represent you.” The Tea Party is as strongly behind McKenna as they are their favorite, Clint Didier, who claims global warming is a hoax perpetrated to pave the way for a UN takeover of US sovereignty

In the face of increasing evidence of habitat destruction and declining biodiversity, McKenna parrots the Republican lament about burdensome environmental regulations, and he has implied that home buyers, rather than shady mortgage companies, are to blame for the foreclosure crisis.

But what really elevated McKenna to the national stage and got him noticed by Republican Party functionaries was being one of the first state attorneys general to join a multi-state law suit against the Affordable Care Act. Here again, McKenna, the adroit politician, tried to have it both ways, arguing that he was “only” against the insurance mandate. But King County Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong said that McKenna’s “consistent legal position” has been to repeal the entire health reform law and that his campaign talk of maintaining its popular provisions were merely “political statements.”

McKenna’s stance on health care reform and his tactical “political statements” have vaulted him into the conservative limelight and generated millions of dollars in campaign contributions from special interests, including many from out of state. He currently holds a half million dollar lead over his main rival, Jay Inslee. With less than 70 days until the election, that represents a significant advantage.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Election for Washington Commissioner of Public Lands

Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has one of the most complex missions in state government. Managed by the Commissioner of Public Lands, DNR administers a $625 million, two-year budget.

Peter Goldmark is finishing his first 4-year term as Commissioner and will be facing Clint Didier (who filed at the last minute) in the 2012 election for the position.

In order to assess which candidate is best qualified to lead DNR as Commissioner, Goldmark or Didier, it's important to understand what the Commissioner and DNR does.

What is the job?

As Commissioner, Goldmark chairs the Board of Natural Resources, which sets policy for the management of state trust lands. These lands include some 5.6 million acres of publicly owned forests, agricultural and grazing lands, and commercial properties. The Board’s functions include: approving trust land timber and mineral sales; establishing the sustainable harvest level for forested trust lands; approving of sales or exchanges of trust lands; and guiding DNR’s stewardship of state Natural Area Preserves, Natural Resources Conservation Areas, and aquatic or submerged lands.

State lands raise millions of dollars each year to fund the construction of public schools, colleges, universities, and other government institutions, as well as county and state services. In fiscal year 2007 alone, the lands managed by DNR under the leadership of the Commissioner, produced more than $209 million in revenue for trust beneficiaries.
DNR is also responsible for approximately 2.6 million acres of aquatic lands, which include shorelines, tidelands, lands under Puget Sound and the coast, and navigable lakes and rivers and natural lakes, generating nearly $35 million every two years.

The Commissioner must ensure that DNR monitors cleanup and restoration efforts from mining operations, and assists communities by providing scientific information about earthquakes, landslides, and ecologically sensitive areas.

Science is the basis of DNR’s work and the Commissioner must be sufficiently conversant with the various disciplines used by DNR foresters as they use techniques based on science to help manage state forests, including trust lands, for long-term public benefit. They regulate timber harvest practices on state and private forestlands that reduce timber losses, and protect clean water and habitat. DNR foresters also help small forestland owners improve forest health and reduce wildfire risks, and maintain public access to recreation on state lands, and they protect natural, undisturbed, and unique ecosystems.
DNR scientists provide a wide range of research, monitoring, data, information, and expertise that support state policy, resource management, and resource protection programs. They work on riparian restoration and management, conservation and preservation of natural areas, silvicultural prescriptions and resulting forest stand treatments, Washington’s geological survey, watershed analysis, and endangered species conservation strategies, to name a few. Sciences essential to DNR’s work, and for which the Commissioner must have more than a passing knowledge, include forest entomology, forest health, aquaculture, geology, biology, hydrology, and other natural resources sciences.
DNR aquatic staff work near the waters of the state with businesses, government, communities, and volunteers to manage and protect these precious resources for long-term public benefit. Aquatic responsibilities also focus on public recreational access, navigation, commerce, environmental issues, aquatic leases and easements, and special projects. 
DNR engineers build forest roads, bridges, culverts, and fish barriers and crossings that protect streams and habitat. They produce data and products to assist with management of trust lands and regulatory functions. DNR engineers also create aerial maps, and identify and maintain a statewide repository of land boundary information, along with other responsibilities. 
DNR also manages the largest on-call fire department in the state. DNR forest fire fighter crew members and natural resource workers perform pre-suppression and suppression activities in order to protect 12.7 million acres of non-federal land including private, state-owned, and tribal land from wildfires. The Commissioner of Public Lands chairs the state Forest Practices Board, which sets regulations concerning private timber harvests, forest road building, and other forest operations.

What are the candidates' qualifications?

Peter Goldmark is the current Commissioner of Public Lands and has held that position for the last 4 years. He earned his BA from Haverford College, near Philadelphia, in 1967, and earned his PhD in Microbiology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1971. He was also selected for a post-doctoral fellowship in Neurobiology at Harvard.

Goldmark has had a lifelong involvement with agriculture, science, education, and public service. To this day he maintains a small scientific research facility at his ranch and has published scientific articles in national and international journals. He currently maintains a wheat-breeding program at his facility and has recently released new varieties for Washington wheat farmers.

Included among Goldmark’s many public service positions are the following:

  • Director of Agriculture for State of Washington, appointed by Governor Lowry in 1993
  • Chairman of the Governor's Council on Agriculture and the Environment in 1994-1996
  • Governor's Council for a Sustainable Washington in 2002-2003
  • Governor's Council on Biodiversity in 2004-2005
  • Founding board member and past Chairman of the Board of Farming and the Environment, a unique coalition of farmers, ranchers, and conservationists founded in 1999
  • Board of Regents of Washington State University, 1996-2005; President of the Board in 1999-2000
  • Board of the Washington State University-University of Washington William D. Ruckelshaus Center, 2003-present 
  • Okanogan School Board, 1998-2005
  • Wildland firefighter, Okanogan County, Fire District No. 8 - 30+ years
  • Commissioner of Public Lands, 2009 to present

Goldmark has been endorsed by Washington environmental groups, labor unions, Native American tribes, and all Washington's major elected leaders (for a full list click here).

Clint Didier is a farmer in Eastern Washington near Pasco, and owns and operates an excavation company. He earned an Associate of Arts degree from Columbia Basin College in Pasco, and a BA in Political Science from Portland State University, where he excelled in football.

After graduating from PSU, Didier played professional football for the Washington Redskins for 7 years, during which time he participated in three Super Bowls, and then played another 2 years for the Green Bay Packers.

Didier was assistant coach for the Connell High School football team for 9 years. He stepped down in 2009 to run for the US Senate against Patty Murray.

Didier has been endorsed by the Tri-Cities Tea Party, the Spokane Homebuilders, the Gun Owners Action League of Washington, the Franklin County Farm Bureau, and Pastor Fruiten's Picks, among others (for a full list, click here)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Excerpt of Neil Armstrong's Commencement Address To USC in 2005

Neil Armstrong hailed from the Midwest originally, but he spent quite a bit of time in Southern California. He transferred to the nearby Edwards Air Force Base, where he worked at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NASA's predecessor) as a research pilot. He also completed his master in aerospace engineering from University of Southern California, where I graduated with a BS in Aeronautical Engineering in 1961. I also had the opportunity to sit in the cockpit of the X-15 (which Armstrong flew) at Edwards AFB, during a USC class field trip. It was a very tight fit.

Students of my vintage did not have calculators, cell phones, credit cards, personal computers, Internet or reality TV. Some might say they were very fortunate. At the time of my college graduation, airliners were propelled by propellers. A few military jets existed, and rocket engines were primitive. Had a faculty member at that time suggested preparation for a career in spacecraft operations, he or she would have been ridiculed. The most serious proposals for space flight were found on a Sunday evening television program, “The Wonderful World of Disney.” But within just three years, the Soviet Union launched the first Earth satellite and the space age was born. Within a decade, satellites were being used for a variety of scientific and commercial purposes. Probes had been sent to nearby planets and humans were frequently flying into space. That suggests that you can’t imagine the change and related opportunity that will arise for you in the years ahead. Hopefully, the things you have learned here will help you be ready for them. And you will not stop learning - learning is a lifelong process - and you have a great start.

Custom dictates that a commencement speaker give a word of advice to the new graduates. And I feel a sense of discomfort in that responsibility as it requires more confidence than I possess to assume that my personal convictions merit your attention. The single observation I would offer for your consideration is that some things are beyond your control. You can lose your health to illness or accident. You can lose your wealth to all manner of unpredictable sources. What are not easily stolen from you without your cooperation are your principles and your values. They are your most important possessions and, if carefully selected and nurtured, will well serve you and your fellow man. Society’s future will depend on a continuous improvement program for the human character. And what will that future bring? I do not know, but it will be exciting.

The author of “The Little Prince,” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, was a pilot in World War II, which, unfortunately, he did not survive. Fortunately, his writings did survive, and I will pass along one piece of his advice. In Saint-Exupéry’s “Wisdom of the Sands,” he wrote: “As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” And so it is. Congratulations and good luck.
Armstrong with the X-15

Mt. Rainier -- What If?

It took a concerted effort of scientists and conservationists to establish Mt. Rainier National Park. Lands within what is now the park boundary had been granted to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company. Northern Pacific, which later became a proponent of the park (because they hoped for tourist traffic on their railroads), employed a geologist, Bailey Willis, in the 1880s, to search for coal deposits on the north slope of Mount Rainier. Imagine if coal had been discovered.
Mountaintop Mining in West Virginia

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Voter ID is Common Sense -- Isn't It?

Let's be honest. Republicans have never been keen on extending voting rights to all the citizens of this nation. Their reasoning is straightforward. If the poor, the elderly, and the disabled are allowed to vote, they'll vote themselves a big piece of the treasury pie. This will require raising additional revenues to pay for the government services and handouts that this demographic of the citizenry will demand. That, in turn, will cause taxes to go up, and as we all know, only about half of all Americans pay taxes, those being hard-working Republican businessmen -- the job creators -- who need tax breaks for outsourcing jobs overseas.

To claim, as some do, that Republicans are racist because their attempts to disenfranchise poor voters tends to discriminate against African-Americans and Hispanics, is just plain unfair. No one made minorities poor. They made themselves poor by failing to be white.

"Voters were turned away from the polls because their race didn't match the election supervisor's records. But race isn't even on our identification cards, so why would this be an issue at all? I personally had a problem at the polls - I had to be very insistent that I could vote. That happened to me, and I consider myself pretty informed” (Adora Obi Nweze, President of the Florida NAACP, November 4, 2000).

Elderly people have had their chance to vote and now that they've reached an age where they're eligible for Social Security and Medicare, they should stop voting, because they no longer contribute to a vigorous economy. They are on the dole and it's only right that they let people who are still working make the decisions about what elected official is going to eliminate their entitlements.

Now Republicans have nothing against the disabled, per se, but letting them vote seems imprudent, as many of these people are demonstrably challenged when it comes to intelligence, which is demonstrated by them voting Democratic. Furthermore, they are also dependent on things like health care, which hard-working Republicans strongly believe should be the right of everyone to pay for.

It would be difficult for Republicans to pass a constitutional amendment limiting the right to vote to people making over $250,000 per annum, or to simply deny the right to vote to certain select members of society (see above), and so Republicans are ramming voting laws through Republican-controlled state legislatures that accomplish much the same thing, although with some inevitable leakage. These laws require people wanting to vote to produce a government approved identification, preferably stamped with their party affiliation, which would allow precinct workers to quickly determine which IDs are likely to be fraudulent, i.e., those produced by Democratic voters.

In order to assist those intrepid soles attempting to obtain said government approved ID, states passing voter ID laws have issued on-line information for all the poor, elderly, and disabled would-be voters with access to and technical know-how on computers and the Internet. For example, Floridians must show:
  • Florida driver’s license showing that you are an organ donor and have donated an organ to a Republican candidate.
  • Florida identification card issued by an office of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which if you live in a predominantly Democratic district, has been closed.
  • United States passport showing that you have not visited any socialist countries, Muslim countries, or countries whose national debt is less than ours.
  • Debit or credit card, that can be verified as having been used for a contribution to a Republican candidate.
  • Military identification accompanied by a statement that you do not have PTSD and oppose repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
  • Student identification with an expiration date, and with confirmation that you are a business major and have never taken a social sciences course.
  • Retirement center identification, with a stamp certifying that you have met a death panel.
  • Neighborhood association identification for any neighborhood in which the medium income is $250,000, or above.
  • Florida public assistance identification that includes a photo of you in the nude.
Florida Governor Rick Scott is going a step further and "purging" the state's voter registration rolls of questionable registrants, despite the Department Justice’s concerns that his plan might actually disenfranchise legitimately registered voters. Apparently, the risk of dropping a few thousand questionable (read Democratic) voters is worth the reward -- delivering the state to the GOP in November.

Although in-person voter fraud, the type of fraud photo ID is meant to curtail, is vanishingly rare (.0004%, as measured), Republicans believe strongly that prophylaxis in our voting laws, if not in our bedrooms, is absolutely necessary. Thus, the plethora of voter ID laws, which Republicans feel are especially important in swing states, like Florida and Michigan. They feel that if they can suppress the vote there -- I meant to say, authenticate the vote there -- and perhaps in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, well who knows what might be achieved? A one-term Obama presidency?

Hasn't that been the objective all along?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Christy Once Again Misinforms Congress

The water level in Austin, Texas, Lake Travis is 45-feet below full
Christy Once Again Misinforms Congress
As always seems to be the case when climate contrarians are invited to speak to policymakers (or the public), John Christy has done nothing more than repeat a bunch of common and long-debunked climate myths.  Even worse, in doing so Christy referenced the unpublished and incomplete paper he has co-authored with Anthony Watts, which contains numerous fundamental errors that completely undermine its conclusions.  Despite these errors, and despite the fact that the paper has not been reviewed or even submitted to a journal, and despite it contradicting his own satellite measurements which he has held to be the gold standard, Christy presented those wrong conclusions to US Congress.
Unfortunately, one of the two main political parties in the USA only seems interested inpropagating climate myths rather than educating themselves about what the body of climate science research tells us.  And just as unfortunately, John Christy seems more than happy to provide them with the desired misinformation.  In fact, during the question and answer session, Christy refused to admit the simple reality that global warming is not a hoax, which makes it very difficult to take anything he says seriously.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Same Sex Marriage

Why do you think so many people, especially Republicans, seem so adamantly opposed to same sex marriage? Do you suppose it's because they focus on the act of sex, rather than the bond of love?