Archive for May 2011
In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Stanford Professor John Taylor asked, “If government agencies and programs functioned with 19% to 20% of G.D.P. in 2007 why is it so hard for them to function with that percentage in 2021?” It’s disheartening to see a prominent college professor making simple arithmetic mistakes.
First, as a percentage of the G.D.P., health care expenses are by far the fastest increasing item, even on a per patient basis. And they are certainly increasing faster than the G.D.P. Because Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are such a substantial part of the total federal budget, the increases in health care costs are increasing disproportionately in relation to the other items in the federal budget.
Second, the population isn’t related to the G.D.P. in fact, as Baby Boomers begin to make increasing demands on the health care system through Medicare and Social Security, those costs are going to increase significantly, again with no relationship to the G.D.P.
The problem is compounded the Bush administration’s increases in Medicare prescription medicine coverages.
Honestly, you don’t have to be a college professor to figure this out.
As Paul Krugman put it, “here’s the quick-and-dirty summary of what the federal government does: It’s a giant insurance company, mainly serving older people, that also has an army.” Because the number of older people is increasing, and will increase more still, the amount of “claims paid” by the United States Insurance Company is going to increase as well.
Professor Taylor’s question betrays either willful misstatement or vast, unplumbed depths of ignorance. Neither is very reassuring in a college professor.
U.S. House Speaker Boehner isn’t adding any light to the conversation, either. By refusing to even consider tax increases, by carrying out his unspoken desire to crash the entire federal government, he is meddling with issues he does not understand. Will we turn away at the hospital door elderly patients who have exhausted their “vouchers”? Will we turn away from the emergency room injured persons who don’t have health insurance? It seems unlikely. They will be cared for. And you and, who do have insurance, will pay for that care, even that substandard care, in the form of higher health care bills ourselves.
WC wishes that politicians and academics didn’t enact health care reform, or mandatory insurance, because they felt like it; it’s the product of necessity. Any other system is demonstrably worse.
Osprey are uncommon in Interior Alaska. Although they breed a little further north and much further west, our area is near the limit of their range. WC was pleased to find an active nest yesterday, and a very impressive nest it is, too.
Consider the the sticks are brought up one at a time. Osprey really are “prodigious builders.”
Alaska’s short summers work against successful breeding. There aren’t many studies of breeding this far north, but estimates are that egg-laying occurs 7-14 days following arrival. Eggs take 35-40 days to incubate; chicks take 55-60 days to fledge. Remember too Osprey can’t feed themselves until there is enough open water to allow fishing. And that it’s a long flight back to winter range in Central and South America. It’s a tight schedule.
But WC is happy to have Fish Hawks in the Interior. Their spectacular dives and wonderful adaptations are a pleasure to watch. In their northern breeding areas, global warming may actually benefit them; in their southern, winter range, it’s more problematic.
As an aside, they are famously tough to photograph: the stark whites and very dark browns are easy get wrong. A careful view of the Osprey taking off will show a loss of detail in the parts of the whites and parts of the browns. Ah well.
Would Speaker John Boehner stop pretending?
Boehner claims his goal is to reduce the budget deficit. Yet he also claims he is opposed to raising taxes, even to repealing the Bush-era tax cuts. He’s not that stupid. So he is intentionally deceiving the voters as to his real motives.
WC has displayed this chart before, but it is absolutely imperative that every voter study and understand it.
The overwhelmingly biggest sources of the budget deficit over the next ten years are, in order of size, the Bush-era tax cuts, the tax loss resulting from the recession, and the two land wars in Asia. Take away those three sources, and the budget very nearly balances.
WC grants that Medicare is out of control and that Medicaid is becoming a problem. But they are miniscule, not even relevant, in comparison to the big three.
So why are Speaker Boehner and the Teabaggers lying to the voters? Why are they making cuts to effective social programs that protect the poor? Is it because the poor don’t make major campaign contributions? Is it because Speaker Boehner’s real agenda is different than reducing the deficit?
Herring Gulls breed in Interior Alaska (which is one reason why birders dislike hearing them called “seagulls”). Herring Gulls are opportunistic feeders, and their diet includes carrion. Along the Denali Highway, where this photo was taken, carrion often includes road kill. And it was probably dining on road killed porcupine that caused this guy a problem.
If you look closely, you can see a porcupine quill stuck in the lower half of his bill, in his mandible. It’s a real problem. Quills work inward. WC has no idea what became of this bird, but it’s not good.
As is often the case, WC didn’t see the quill in the field; only at home on the computer monitor. Luck places more of role in nature photography than most nature photographers are willing to admit.
Back in the late Dark Ages, when WC was a law student, his tax law professor, the late Vance Kirby, told WC’s class, “The only way to make sense of the Internal Revenue Code is to read it as a balance among competing special interests; otherwise, it doesn’t make sense.” It was true in the Dark Ages (c. 1974), and it is true today.
Because reform of the tax code is now being called for by both parties, WC will offer just one glimpse into what an awful, complicated task it will prove to me. We’ll start with what a few bloggers are calling the chicken shit tax credit.
When chicken farming went industrial – and WC has relatives who were at the forefront of the trend – it created a new kind of waste problem. Chickens produce a lot of manure; industrial chicken farms produce truly extraordinary volumes of the stuff. It’s a massive waste disposal problem. You can’t put it in the water; it’s a kind of super-fertilizer. You can’t bury it because it contaminates ground water. So you have to dry it and burn it. But that costs money, which would raise the price of eggs and chicken meat. So the chicken industry went to Congress and obtained a tax credit.
Section 45 of the Internal Revenue Code grants a substantial tax credit to chicken ranchers (and other livestock industries) who burn chicken manure to generate electricity. It can’t be done cost-effectively without either a tax subsidy or raising the price of poultry and eggs to the consumer. It’s a lot easier to grant a tax subsidy than to face voters who are angry about higher prices for food. So the tax code, in effect, subsidizes the cost of chicken and eggs, in this instance.
Cumulatively, tax credits cost the U.S. about $1 trillion a year in lost revenue. It’s a subsidy, no different than writing the chicken ranchers a check. It’s just paid with a credit. In economic terms, there’s no difference; in political terms, it’s far more palatable (sorry).
And it’s entrenched. Abolishing the chicken manure subsidy would add a considerable amount to the price of eggs and chicken; it could even be inflationary. Oddly, even the most rabid teabagger isn’t calling for abolition of tax subsidies.Partly that’s because their Daddy Warbucks supporters are among the biggest beneficiaries of the tax credit scheme. Like the Koch Brothers, who use it as their business model.
So it’s not going to happen. But it’s $1 trillion in low-lying fruit.
Sen. John McCain (Rep., AZ), a man WC formerly admired, has earned back a few lost points by coming out unequivocally on the question of the U.S. torture and its role in taking down bin Laden.
In fact, not only did the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed; it actually produced false and misleading information.
In short, it was not torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden. I hope former Attorney General Mukasey will correct his misstatement. It’s important that he do so because we are again engaged in this important debate, with much at stake for America’s security and reputation. Each side should make its own case, but do so without making up its own facts.
Senator McCain’s life experience gives him special credibility for WC on this issue. Despite the lies and distortions of some Republicans, there is no evidence that America’s war crimes served any useful role in tracking down Osama bin Laden.
Sometimes WC stumbles across a website that is so amazing he is compelled to share it. The street artist BLU has one such site. Here’s one of his wall paintings from Lisbon, Portugal:
The straw could just as easily be drawn in Alaska. More of his wall paintings are here. As a sometime amateur web site designer, WC is in completely in awe of this website’s design and layout.
WC cautions readers that some of BLU’s Sketchbook pieces are powerful but deeply disturbing. You have been warned.
If you have the time and can live with a few omitted facts, read The Tragedy of Sarah Palin in the current issue of Atlantic Magazine. Joshua Green’s thesis is that the two major successes of Palin’s abbreviated term as Governor of Alaska involved tactics that are anathema to her today: raising taxes and cooperating with Democrats. It’s an interesting view of events from an outsider.
During her gubernatorial campaign, Alaska’s Shame ran against her own Republican Party, casting herself as the outsider who would come in and clean house. Understandably, during her brief tenure as governor, her own party wanted nothing to do with her, including most of the Republicans in the state Legislature. So to accomplish her goals of reforming the Alaska petroleum tax structure and pushing through a gas line, she had to ally herself and work closely with the Democrats.
Green’s point is that up to the start of the scandals – Troopergate, babygate and per diem for living in her own home – she was successful precisely for raising taxes on the oil industry in Alaska and cooperating with Democrats. Which makes her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention all the more amazing. What’s even more amazing is that she has stuck to that line of attack, the pit bull with lipstick schtick, ever since. All of her real success at leadership came from being and doing the antithesis of what she has since claimed to be.
Green does a fine job of documenting and describing to outsiders the lies and contradictions that make up The Quitter. Alaskans have known about them for much longer; since her claim to have not sought and to have rejected the funds for the “Bridge to Nowhere,” or, before that, being the outsider who came in to clean up the Republican mess, invited us to scrutinize her, and then charged the State per diem for living in her own home.
The essay isn’t perfect. As WC said at the top, there are omitted facts, and Green gives Alaska’s Shame too much credit in some cases. But the essay doesn’t need to be perfect. It needs to be persuasive. And it is.
The Palinistas, the Palin supporters who back Caribou Barbie no matter what, won’t be changed or affected by Green’s article. In fact, their outrage already poisons the comments to the article. But a few undecideds may re-think any lingering attraction to Alaska’s half-term governor after they finish reading Green’s essay.
Well done, Joshua Green.
Update: Thanks to alaskaranger for alerting WC to a typo in the penultimate paragraph.
WC is a fan of Andrew Sullivan, whose Daily Dish is arguably the most popular single blog in the U.S. So WC approaches criticism of one of Sullivan’s blog entries deferentially. After all, Sullivan has 4-5 orders of magnitude more readers than WC. Although WC’s readers are more intelligent, perceptive and charming, of course.
Sullivan got the following email:
So let me get this straight: You’re against the enhanced interrogation and/or waterboarding of someone like [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed], but you’re in favor of the murder of an un-armed bin Laden? This is who we are now? These are our values now? Please explain yourself.
In a just war, enemies are killed. Someone who has orchestrated the mass killing of thousands has declared war on us, and we are morally permitted to defend ourselves with violence. But equally in a just war, if someone is captured, whoever he is, he is treated humanely in captivity.
The difference is between an enemy at large where he can still inflict casualties and an enemy already detained, where he cannot. This used to be well understood. But for pacifists on the far left and for torture advocates on the far right, violence is either all equally wrong or all equally right. But the ability to make distinctions is what makes a civilization in a fallen world, where evil endures and also seduces.
The “fallen world” is Sullivan’s nod to his religious beliefs, and WC will pass this once on that issue. But Sullivan’s response, while articulate and persuasive, is also superficial and incomplete.
In the best case, the assassination of bin Laden exists in legal limbo. If the raid into Pakistan to assassinate him was definitively a Department of Defense operation, it violated a slew of restrictions on the use of military force in a country that is not a formal enemy of the United States. Or a quasi-ally like Pakistan. While Congress authorized the use of force against Al Qaeda, it didn’t repeal either U.S. law restricting U.S. armed forces operations in foreign countries or the many treaties to which the U.S. subscribes barring that kind of action. Remember that the assassination was conducted without the knowledge or consent of the Pakistani government.
If it was a Central Intelligence Agency operation, it was a political assassination, which is illegal under a 1976 Executive Order, supplemented by Executive Order 12036 among others: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” Because the key term “assassination” is not defined in any of the series of Executive Orders, there has been a lot of fuzzing of the edges. Bombing a building that might have bin Laden in it was “targeted destruction” of a “command and control structure” and if bin Laden happened to be in it, well, that was “collateral damage.” Long memoranda were written by John Yoo and others rationalizing the definition of “assassination” to exclude terrorists, on the grounds they were not “political” murders.
As WC said, it’s a legal limbo.
But if you turn the facts around, you can see how unsatisfactory these quibbles are. As just one example, President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq led to the death of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Iraqis. Suppose Iraq declared the former President a “war criminal” and “terrorist” and mounted a covert action to assassinate him at his ranch in Texas. And succeeded. Is the hypothetical assassination of President Bush different from the U.S. assassination of bin Laden? Other than the obvious, WC means.
It may be that we need a new body of laws and new treaties to deal with the kind of stateless terrorism that confronts the world today. Or for the U.S. to abide by United Nations processes that are now trying or have convicted a number of third world dictators. The U.N. processes are admittedly slow, tedious and can’t involve the death penalty. And the U.S. has declined to join in many of them for fear of jeopardizing our “national sovereignty.”
The Biblical Golden Rule would have the U.S. do unto others as we would have them do unto us. The Capitalist Golden Rule would have those with the gold make the rules.
Which Golden Rule do we want to follow?
Scott Horton’s excellent report in Harper’s on the alleged suicide by three Guantànamo Bay prisoners won the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Congratulations to Scott Horton on a fine example of diligent investigation and writing.
Now can we do something about closing that concentration camp? WC thinks that America and American values have no place being in the concentration camp business.
The Taliban, the former governing Muslim extremist group in Afghanistan, is infamously terrible in its treatment of women, giving misogyny a new definition. It was a crime, in Taliban-dominated Afghanistan, for women to receive formal education, for example.
But our allies, or elements of our allies, seem to be as misogynistic as our enemies, it turns out. Here’s the iconic photo from the Situation Room as President Obama and his staff waited for word on the success or failure of the raid that assassinated Osama bin Laden:
And here’s the same photo as it appeared in Ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish newspaper, Der Tzitung:
You can see the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been photoshopped out (as has an unidentified woman in the upper right hand corner). The official White House photograph has been “fauxtoshopped,” as it were.
Not everyone in Israel thinks this is a great idea, obviously, and it has been criticized. But there has been no official statement from the Israeli government. That may be because Israeli Prime Minister Netenyahu’s fragile coalition government depends upon the presence of the ultra-orthodox minority parties.
What did these folks do when Golda Meir was prime minister of Israel?
WC’s precept: Any religion that has to tamper with reality to preserve its beliefs is so dysfunctional as to qualify for delusional.
WC headed down to Denali National Park Sunday, forsaking better birds for a chance at some charismatic megafauna while at least part of the road is open to private vehicles. It was pretty slow. There were far for private vehicles than critters on Sunday afternoon. And, oddly enough, birds captured most of the excitement.
Mammals? One Caribou, two Arctic Ground Squirrels, two Moose, one Snowshoe Hare and ten or so Dahl Sheep. Well below average.
Birds? an American Kestrel, half a dozen Northern Harriers, two Golden Eagles, dozens of American Tree Sparrows and a Hairy Woodpecker. And two genuine rarities: a flock of 5-6 Rusty Blackbirds and a Mountain Bluebird, a species listed as only hypothetical on the bird list for the Park. Oddly, there was only one Willow Ptarmigan, a female in transition plumage, at Savage River bridge. Which resulted in a fairly mediocre photo:
Usually, the species is everywhere. But it was a pretty nice day, with only a few scattered snow flurries. A surprising amount of the snow is already gone and the road is in excellent shape.
Still, WC has not made his annual trip to Denali N.P. Maybe again in the autumn for the tundra colors. But not until the crowds of visitors thin out.
It’s all well and good for WC to blather along, but it’s probably past time to see what WC’s readers have to say. So it’s open comments for readers today.
Several readers have asked WC about his photo gear and how WC prepares photos for the web. At the risk of losing still more readers, this post will describe WC’s field equipment and post-processing. Non-photographers should probably just read some other post.
Caution: Serious Geekery Ahead!
WC shoots primarily with an Olympus E-5 body. His primary bird photography lens is the excellent Zuiko 300mm f2.8. It’s by far the best lens WC has owned. Much of the time, to get the birds to a useful size, WC adds a teleconverter, either a 1.4, yielding an effective 425mm lens at the cost of a single f-stop, or a 2.0 teleconverter, yielding a 600mm lens at the cost of two f-stops.
The camera is mounted on a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod using a Really Right Stuff ball head. If WC carries the entire rig on his shoulder for a day, he may be lightly bruised but nothing is broken. The Olympus 4/3rds technology keeps things relatively light (at the cost of a smaller sensor). The rest of the photo gear goes in a vest or, if circumstances require, a LowePro camera pack.
WC does his post-processing on an aging Macintosh Pro, running Photoshop CS5. He uses Apple’s excellent Aperture 3.0 for photo management. Specialized software includes Noise Ninja for noise reduction as a Photoshop plug-in, and DigiMarc for embedding identification code.
As WC has described earlier, for extended field trips WC uses a Brunton 26 watt solar charger to keep the batteries charged.
Gear is important, but it isn’t a substitute for getting out in the field and shooting. Two things are necessary to develop decent photo skills: practice and critique. For critique, WC relies on Nature Photographers Network. For a modest membership fee, you can get comments on your work from a skilled, thoughtful and generally kind group of photographers. And you can learn as much by commenting on others’ photos.
For the practice bit, you are on your own.
WC spent some time yesterday wandering around Fairbanks’ birding hotspots to see what had arrived. It was mostly waterfowl, but that’s all right because they are decked out in breeding plumage and look particularly spiffy. Here are some samples:
While they don’t commonly breed around Fairbanks, Speckle-bellies are reliable early arrivals at Creamer’s Refuge. This guy was suspicious about WC and that big lens even at 40 meters. WC has always thought White-fronteds has extraordinarily big feet, even for a goose.
This Wigeon drake was at Tanana Lakes (neé South Cushman Ponds). Wigeon do breed in the Interior, and are one of the more common puddle ducks. The males are at their very brightest right now.
Barrow’s are a diving duck, and generally breed in mountain lakes. They are in Fairbanks mostly on spring migration. The male is distinguished from the Common Goldeneye by the shape of the white patch under the eye; the females, at least for WC, are indistinguishable, although the males can obviously ￼tell them apart. This pretty pair was at the Peat Ponds on Goldstream Road.
The Honorable Dirty Don Young, U.S. Representative for all Alaskans who voted for him and maybe a few others, has been an annoying boil on the butt of Alaska politics for a third of a century.
He has famously paid lawyers more than $1 million bucks to defend him against charges that have never been filed. Now WC is always in favor of paying lawyers. But even at Akin, Gump‘s ruinous hourly rates, that’s a breathtaking pile of donated dough (Dirty Don never uses his own money).
But it apparently all ended happily for Dirty Don. Back in August, he announced that the Justice Department had told his lawyers USDOJ had decided against indicting him, and that it had dropped its investigations. USDOG didn’t independently confirm Dirty Don’s claim. But they didn’t deny it either.
So why is Dirty Don still raising money for his Legal Defense Fund? Crimes planned but not yet committed?
Why won’t Dirty Don provide an explanation or an accounting? Even though he refused to answer any questions or offer any explanation, the good voters of Alaska re-elected him yet again.
Why won’t the Feds explain anything about the investigation? Why are Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics being forced to sue the Feds for failing to meet public records obligations?
Dirty Don is one of the most senior Republicans in the Republican-controlled House, yet he has no committee chairmanships and has a nearly invisible profile. Dirty Don runs on his seniority, yet despite being the 6th most senior member of the U.S. House and second most senior Republican, he has no plum committee assignments. That suggests that Republican House leadership knows something we don’t.
So maybe Dirty Don does still need his slush fund. We can hope.
WC apologizes for calling Minnesota Representative Matt Dean (R, District 52B) ”A Weasel” for bad mouthing Neil Gaiman.
This whole affair started when Representative Dean, was reported by the Minnesota Star Tribune, to have said:
Dean also singled out a $45,000 payment of Legacy money that was made last year to science fiction writer Neil Gaiman for a four-hour speaking appearance. Dean said that Gaiman, “who I hate,” was a “pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota.”
WC is a serious fan of Mr. Gaiman and his writing, and took immediate offense at Rep. Dean’s ignorant, cheap shot. WC said Dean, who WC automatically disliked, was “an ignorant teabag weasel who wouldn’t know good literature if it bit him on the ankle, and probably has to move his lips to read.” WC also accused Dean of not knowing when to use “who” and “whom.”
After WC had calmed down and investigated this story, it turned out to be a little different than Rep. Dean had said.
How did Gaiman “steal” the money? By giving a speech in Stillwater, Minnesota. Mind you, he was invited. You can listen to the speech here.
But Gaiman accepted — stole, for a given definition of the term – a $45,000 speaker’s fee from the Washington County Library. If by “stole”, you mean “donated to charity,” which would make him a modern-day Robin Hood Weasel, if anything.
Gaiman’s response to all this says more about him than WC can possibly offer. Gaiman is, after all, a professional and a professional writer. From Gaiman’s blog:
You’ve likely never heard of Ronnie Gaubert, but even among the many nature photographers WC has been privileged to know, Ronnie’s work stood out. Among avian photographers, he was one of the very best.
WC wants to emphasize this: Ronnie was a superb, gifted photographer, whose work really is extraordinary. Apart from everything else.
Because Ronnie died earlier this week of A.L.S., sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease. If you visit his galleries, and WC urges you to do so, think about the extraordinary effort he had to have gone through the last few years to produce those superb photographs. Ronnie would never want to be judged as a nature photographer with A.L.S. He didn’t think of himself that way, and would have been offended if anyone had. In his mind, he was simply a nature photographer.
You can read his posts about his disease. He was amazingly upbeat and positive in face of a horrible, devastating prognosis. In a late March email to WC complimenting WC on a photo, he talked about how happy he was…
So for WC, Ronnie is also an inspiration. Any time any of you or WC starts to feel sorry for themselves, think for a moment about Ronnie Gaubert, who despite a relentless, debilitating disease, produced amazing art.
Pundit credibility – the accuracy of prognosticators – is the subject of a well-written paper from Hamilton College. The statistical analysis is particularly impressive. WC recognizes that the study has its critics.
Here’s the abstract:
We evaluated the predictions of politicians, journalists, and pundits (collectively, “prognosticators”) over a 16-month period surrounding the 2008 United States federal elections. We sought to test the accuracy of these predictions and understand what makes individuals unusually good or bad at prognostication. We evaluated a random sample of Meet the Press, This Week, and Face the Nation transcripts and printed columns from the most prominent American prognosticators. Ultimately, we determined that some prognosticators are significantly better than others, and there are characteristics that significantly impact a prognosticator’s predictive power.
(Yes, WC had read the criticisms of the study, including the situational bias favoring liberal commentators. It might explain Krugman; it doesn’t explain Thomas.)
For WC, there’s good news and bad news. The paper finds that WC’s favorite columnist, Paul Krugman, is by a considerable extent the most accurate predictor of events, getting 16 of 18 predictions right. Good writing and high levels of accuracy; what’s not to like?
More good news: liberal pundits are by a considerable margin more accurate than conservatives. Of course, Cal Thomas (correct only 1 time out of 16!) single-handedly pulled down the conservative score.
On the other hand, lawyers were by far the worst profession at predictions. Ouch.
WC makes no predictions regarding the accuracy of this essay.
The title is not original to WC; it comes from Sheila Toomey at the Alaska Ear. But it’s the best two word summary WC has found for the unbelievable, awful mess that is the Alaska Legislature. Although ”persistent legislative state” is pretty good, too.
Since the current special session began on April 18, for the purpose of accomplishing ten specific tasks. Sixteen days along, the Legislature has accomplished none, zero, zilch of those ten specific tasks.
Here’s a complete list of bill adopted so far during the special session:
|HB 97||EXTEND INVASIVE PLANTS LAW||JOHNSON||CHAPTER 3 SLA 11||04/22/11|
|HB 98||HANDLING OF STATE FLAG||JOHNSON||CHAPTER 5 SLA 11||04/28/11|
|HB 101||TED STEVENS DAY||RLS||CHAPTER 2 SLA 11||04/22/11|
The word that comes to mind is “embarrassing.” There’s no general budget. There’s no capital budget. Handling the state flag?
Of course, the Legislature didn’t arrive at this problem unassisted. It had extensive help from Governor Parnell. The Governor’s clumsy threat to line-item veto the pet projects of state senators unless they gave him his ill-considered oil tax bill was incendiary. While WC doesn’t usually agree with state senators, this time they had it right: the threat is outrageous and the oil tax changes are breathtakingly stupid.
The threats, in turn, led to the state senators’ clumsy effort to craft a bill that couldn’t be touched by a line item veto. The poison pill solution is probably unconstitutional and is in any event an abdication of their obligation to work together. The Governor should retract his threat to leverage one bill – the oil tax changes – by threatening another – all of state government.
At a time when the State of Alaska has vast budget surpluses, and can stash billions in a savings account, our elected officials are quibbling over a fairly conservative budget. Among other faults, it doesn’t seriously address the hundreds of millions of deferred maintenance of our public schools.
Any time folks fight over money when there’s a surplus, you have to identify the real issue. And the real issue is that Governor Parnell is acting like a grade school bully. And the Legislature – House and Senate – are enabling him.
Is there a grownup in the House? Or Senate?