Thursday, July 07, 2005

If not for spite, then what for?

It appears that eminent domain has a very broad boundary. Based on a recent Supreme Court decision, the high court ruled in a brief written by Justice David Souter (See the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision) that local governments may seize private property if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed – all under the umbrella of eminent domain.

But America would not be the great country that it is were it not for citizens to manipulate judical rulings into bad karma. One group has walked Souter’s brief right up his own doorstep. On June 27,
Freestar Media, LLC informed the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire that it wants to begin the permit process to build a hotel on land owned by Justice Souter. If successful – and it’s quite possible – Souter’s estate could become the “Lost Liberty Hotel.”

After all, wouldn’t a new hotel generate more tax revenue for Weare than a single-family residence?

Read more from Freestar’s press release here.

Back from the dead

It wasn’t the end of the world. Not even close. I thought a two month hiatus would only give me time to rejuvenate myself with ideas for Spike, apparently my readers thought different. I have received demand after demand to return from alcoves of the easy life. So it is with this demand that I fulfill those who frequent this site.

There is much to be said of the last two months. Politically speaking, I have missed many opportunities for prime postings to the blogosphere. Our beloved Republican gubernatorial hopeful Dino Rossi called it quits; Senate D’s continue to filibuster and propagandize their wretched minority standing, even amidst an upcoming Supreme Court nomination; and more importantly,
Discovery Institute has snubbed Darwinian strongholds by hosting a showing of the Priveledged Planet film on their own turf at the Smithsonian – my dear friend Logan Gage even bought a new suit for this one.

For now, I leave it all to
Sharkansky and the rest. There is no shortage of blogging on these issues. So rather, I’ve left myself to enjoying some time off from the hustle and bustle of political occupation and instead turn to more personal matters. In just under six weeks I will say “I do” to the woman of my life. The process of prepare for this momentous task usurps all things political.

However, that does not spell the end for Spike the Underdog. I am back to blogging, though not quite as often as previously observed on this site. At least not yet. I am going to continue to enjoy my summer, and focus on my new marriage. Until then, enjoy snippets here and there. I’ll be back with full momentum in the fall. Cheers!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A blog on hiatus?

You may have noticed that there hasn’t been a post on the Underdog since late April. For that, I do apologize. This lack of blogging warrants at least an explanation to those who read my thoughts. I have been on hiatus for the last month; traveling, relaxing, and pondering many thoughts as well as experimenting with a new workout regimine so that I my improve my honeymoon physique.

I assure all of you that Spike the Underdog shall return soon. There is much to write about including more updates on the Senate filibusters, the Washington Gubernatorial trial, how I stole David Broder’s cab in D.C. and more.

Don’t lose heart yet, more is coming…

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Just another day in DC-land

Maybe it’s because of jealousy. Maybe I am star struck. Or maybe this is just plain amusing to me as a shameless political hack. Below is an email I received from my buddy Logan summarizing part of his day while in between Senate meetings on the Hill:

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Tuesday, April 26, 2005 1:45 PM
To: Matthew Cole
Subject: My meeting on the Hill

Today I saw Jim Angle from Fox News. We were both stuck at the Capitol and couldn't get in the building because it was in lock down. It was locked down because Cheney was coming out and going to an office building...and about 25 other senators. I saw Carl Levin, Dick Lugar, and all the bad boys coming my way.

Then, after my meeting in the Capitol, I went out into the hallway to take a phone call. While dialing, I looked up and Hillary Clinton (I am not kidding) was in my face! I almost screamed! I repeat, I am not making this up. It was the scariest experience of my life, and I vowed then and there never to tell it to children under 12--I'll keep it PG-13.

Cross my heart and hope to...well, never mind.


Neo-Darwinism’s new foe

In his homily during his installation mass, Pope Benedict XVI gave a blunt criticism of the evolution theory, calling it ‘meaningless.’ This is a good day for science as it has found a powerful public ally. The new Pope may set the stage for a full assault on materialism, according to the Center for Science and Culture's blog Evolution News and Views. The Pope’s remarks are quoted below.

Today too the Church and the successors of the Apostles are told to put out into the deep sea of history and to let down the nets, so as to win men and women over to the Gospel - to God, to Christ, to true life. The Fathers made a very significant commentary on this singular task. This is what they say: for a fish, created for water, it is fatal to be taken out of the sea, to be removed from its vital element to serve as human food. But in the mission of a fisher of men, the reverse is true. We are living in alienation, in the salt waters of suffering and death; in a sea of darkness without light. The net of the Gospel pulls us out of the waters of death and brings us into the splendour of God's light, into true life. It is really true: as we follow Christ in this mission to be fishers of men, we must bring men and women out of the sea that is salted with so many forms of alienation and onto the land of life, into the light of God. It is really so: the purpose of our lives is to revealGod to men. And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.

*Bold italics added for emphasis

Read the full version of Pope Benedict XVI’s homily

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Political PMS

Yesterday the Democrat’s transportation budget failed miserably in the House after a party line vote in the State Senate last Wednesday. The bill received a 45-53 vote with many Democrats voting against it. Freshman Democrats from swing districts voted ‘nay’ in a spirit of self preservation.

One of my favorite comments from House D’s of the day came from the Cruella De Vil-like majority leader, Lynn Kessler (D-Hoquiam). Kessler has touted two contradictory messages throughout this year’s session, that it is the majority’s “right to to rule” and that “bipartisan” support is expected. In the
Sunday Times Kessler said of the failed vote:

"That's not a bipartisan vote," House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, said furiously.

Kessler said business leaders needed to step up the pressure on Republicans. "The business community promised us we would get a bipartisan vote," Kessler said. "This didn't turn out to be even close."

Kessler pitched a fit that Republicans wouldn’t join her caucus like she wanted. To her the majority party should rule and the minority should follow, even while not including the Republicans in key discussions.

Yesterday’s floor action on transportation was one of the most glorious political events of the session. Let me break this down for you. House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) originally said he would not bring the Transportation budget up for a vote unless he had at least 18 Republicans voting for it. When the bill finally came to a vote, he got only eight.

Anytime there is a controversial vote, or one that can potentially limit Democratic wins come election time, the Speaker has allowed his more vulnerable members to vote against it. Chopp and his Democrats needed bipartisan support for the bill so they could share the blame in the ‘06 Elections. While some GOP members caved, it wasn’t enough to pass the bill.

The Transportation package is not entirely about transportation. It is about elections. Every Republican vote in favor of the bill is a vote that lets a vulnerable Democrat off the hook. Why would Republicans want to cave to Kessler’s strategy at all? To me, this is the Democratic arrogance of power. The Democratic Caucus has all but expected their Republican counterparts to help them out. They have run amok with their rule and grown blind to opposition until it foils their plans.

Deputy Republican Leader Mike Armstrong (R-Wenatchee) is the possessor of my other favorite quote of the day. He said, "We've heard that it's the right of the majority to rule. Well, rule." Armstrong is a very big man. Naturally, when he speaks he commands authority.

Many times he has walked past my desk towards my boss’s office. According to him, my job is to “block” him from just waltzing in “without an appointment.” Armstrong doesn’t need an appointment since my boss works for him, and there is no way in hell I would try to block him anyway – but this is the presumption in the joke. Metaphorically, he conveyed the same message yesterday to Democratic Leadership. They are not going to block his caucus on this one.

A transportation budget of their own doing
Many arguments made for this budget concern safety issues. The Alaska Way viaduct is aged, fragile, and falling apart. The same goes for the 520 Bridge. Democrats insist that a 9.5 cent gas tax is needed to predominantly Seattle-based projects. While Republicans agree that these projects are needed, don’t be fooled into buying liberal arguments that this tax is needed now.

First of all, the earliest construction can begin on these bridges is 2010 – with or without funding today. That’s two bienniums away. We don’t have to fund it this year when gas prices are higher than ever. And we don’t need to do it with an almost 10 cent per gallon tax increase.

Secondly, unlike the operating budget, the transportation budget does not have to be passed by the end of business today. Realistically it can wait another session; but the Democrats do not want to revert to that option because voting on a tax increase in an election year is always a political faux pas.

Republican Leader Bruce Chandler (R-Granger) has made it clear to Democrats; we will help you but you need to invite us to the table:

“Their insistence on bipartisan votes is confusing since they have not once come and asked for our help on the operating budget. In fact they passed a bill on near party-line vote last week that allows them to raise taxes for the operating budget without a simple majority instead of a two-thirds majority,” said Chandler. “They said the ‘majority needs to be able to rule.’ Apparently that doesn’t apply to transportation.

“Now they’ve tied the operating budget to the transportation plan, so our response is simple: Let’s balance the operating budget without a tax increase and we’ll work with them on the transportation funding plan,” Chandler said. “The Democrat operating budget proposal is unsustainable. It spends beyond our means, requiring tax increases and leading to future budget deficits. Unless we demonstrate that the state is using the taxpayers’ money wisely, they can’t make a case for higher taxes.”

Until then, it looks like Chopp and Kessler will have to let their party take the hit. Everyone involved is still not sure what will happen next in the last hours of the session. One thing is clear though, the Democrats are not as in control as they thought.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

What's that smell?

"My sense is that most in the caucus are extremely reluctant to walk in with a new majority and start passing new taxes."

Senator Craig Pridemore (D-Vancouver) following his election to the Senate last fall. Pridemore voted in favor of the operating budget with $500m in new taxes.

EFF: Gregoire recognizes success of Rossi budget

Below is a press release from the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. Their remarks are sufficient enough that I need not add my own:


April 22, 2005 Contact:
Booker Stallworth, Communications Director
(360) 956-3482

Gregoire highlights state's nomination for award for no-new-taxes budget written by Sen. Dino Rossi

OLYMPIA—On April 20, Governor Christine Gregoire issued a press release highlighting the state being a finalist for Harvard’s “Innovation in Government Award.” Washington was nominated for the award because of its use of the priorities of government (POG) budget model in crafting a no-new-taxes budget in 2003. Then-Senator Dino Rossi used POG to write the 2003-05 budget, which he prioritized within available revenue despite facing more than a $2 billion budget deficit.

Gregoire’s release read in-part: “Washington’s pioneering budgeting method—which follows a process to prioritize state services within available resources—is among 18 government initiatives from across the nation to emerge as finalists out of an initial field of more than 1,000 applicants.”

The Governor went on to say that she “used the POG process to prepare the budget[she] proposed…,” even though her budget exceeds available revenue.

Abandoning POG, a majority of legislators are now set to approve a record $26 billion 2005-07 budget that relies on nearly $500 million in tax increases, raids of dedicated accounts and other one-time budget gimmicks. Based on the Democrats’ planned budget expenses, the state will have a budget reserve of less than one percent to address any unforeseen emergency.

To implement the tax increases necessary to reach their record level of spending,
Democrats altered the voter-approved I-601 spending limit to allow them to raise taxes with a simple majority vote and to redefine the state’s spending limit for the 2007-09 budget so state spending can grow at an even faster pace than currently authorized.

“Since the governor ran on a no-new-taxes platform, raising half a billion dollars in tax increases and gutting the voter-approved spending limit is nothing short of a betrayal,” said Jason Mercier, budget analyst for the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. “A tax increase is a tax increase, no matter what label you slap on it.”

“The governor appears not to understand what prioritizing within available resources means,” said Mercier. “Raising taxes by half a billion dollars to increase state spending by nearly 12 percent is not prioritizing spending within available resources. This budget is not based on priorities of government— it’s a $26 billion tax-and-spend deficit maker.”


The discontinuity of the Democratic Caucus

Last Friday, the House voted narrowly (and twice) to pass legislation that suspends I-601. If you remember, this is the famous voter initiative that requires a supermajority (two-thirds) vote of the legislature to increase taxes.

Among the Democrats voting against this bill were Representative Kelli Linville (D-Bellingham), Rep. Tami Green (D-Tacoma), Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) and Reps. Dawn Morrell (D-Puyallup) and Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland)…actually strike that; Reps. Morrell and Springer voted against it before they voted for it. The vote was taken twice because the first time it didn’t receive a Constitutional majority of 50 votes. The Democrats did not like the first outcome of the vote and a motion to reconsider was made so the D-caucus could whip come of their members back. Before you applaud the other three for a brief stint of conservative voting, consider this:

Just a week earlier the House passed its budget bill that includes a tax increase of nearly a half billion dollars and a 12% increase in spending – the highest in a decade! Linville, Green and Kilmer all voted in favor of this bill.

The Democratic controlled House and Senate needed to suspend I-601 to make their budget package work because they knew they didn’t have a supermajority to pass the tax increases in either chamber. So how can these legislators vote in favor of a half-billion dollar tax hike, and then vote against the mechanism to make this possible? Clearly theirs is a political interest rather than a representative one. Kilmer, Green and Springer are all freshmen and have voted conservatively all session long to protect their vulnerable seats. Linville is a legislator who will always ride the fence and please both sides of her constituency and never really takes a stand on these huge issues.

What this comes down to is job security before representation. It’s not that these legislators don’t agree with the tax and spend mentality. Keep that in mind when their voting record is brought up in next year’s elections. They are just as much to blame as the rest. This is a ideological conflict, not a political one.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Recommended read: 'Born-Again Democrats?'

If you are looking for a good read today, I refer you to the Center for Responsible Politics. Today's post is about the Democratic Party's new strategy to get involved in the values debate. While Conservatives have successfully captured that demographic, and while the religious voice seems to matter more in public discourse than it has in the last decade, Democrats are seeing the need to jump on the bandwagon.

This is ultimately a fatalistic strategy for them. Christian Americans are drawn to the political right because it is the ideology that promotes their values. Conservatives exist because of that base. Yet, Democrats appear to think that they can quote Jesus and attend church rallies to have the same captivating effect. There is no having it both ways. The religious demographic is based on moral fabric. Democrats want to court churchgoers, but don’t want to give up their positions on gay marriage, abortion, or stem cell research/human cloning. It’s an all or nothing base. Until liberals give up their secular doctrine, their efforts are in vain.

Read the CRP post
here. So far it’s my favorite read of the day.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The ‘awful’ session

To quote State Senator Dale Brandland (R-Bellingham), “We’ve had an awful session.” Brandland uttered those words just before storming off the Senate floor last week infuriated by anonymous calls to his office making lewd character accusations.

Bawdy phone calls aren’t the only reason this session has been awful. Democrats have run amok with their majorities in both houses and with their so-called governor. At least twice they have unraveled the will of voters by suspending or lifting laws enacted through citizen initiatives. First in suspending
I-601, an initiative passed in 1993 mandating a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature to raise taxes. Last weekend the House and Senate voted narrowly to lift that mandate and delivered a half billion dollar tax increase with just a simple majority.

Yesterday the Senate approved its transportation budget, again with tax increases. It also voted to successfully repeal the $30 car tabs that passed by a strong voter majority 6 years ago in
I-695. Now citizens are facing a $10-$20 increase in their car tabs. This shouldn’t bode well for residents of rural eastern Washington. Most of the funding will go towards mega-transportation projects in the Seattle/Puget Sound area.

I guess I can forget about having the Guide Meridian widened in Whatcom County, damn those Canadians. I digress.

Tim Eyman, the somewhat infamous voter initiative tycoon said of the vote on Wednesday night, "I have never seen such open hostility to the voters' having their voices heard.” No kidding. Eyman fans need not worry, though. He's planning an initiative next year to undo the legislature’s undoing.

These are shameful acts of arrogance. Considering that both of the above mentioned initiatives passed by strong voter majorities, what right does the legislature have to reverse them? When a representative of the people votes contrary to the direct will of his constituency, he has rendered himself a useless part of the Republic.

Voters should take note of this session. They should remember their 37.5 cents per gallon tax (That’s the newly passed 9.5 cents on top of the existing 28 cents) as they simultaneously watch their gas prices soar from external factors. And they should remember this session when they have to front 10% more for their plasma TV warranty at
Best Buy because we forgot to tax it before. Further, they should remember this session when the have to pay estate tax, sin tax, and high surcharges at the county auditor’s office.

They should take note and remove legislators like Rep. Dawn Morrell (D-Puyallup) and Rep. Kelli Linville (D-Bellingham) for their flip flopping on these major issues in the ’06 mid-term election.

My prediction is that this session is the undoing of democratic majorities in the legislature.

Rightfully so.

Possible template changes

You may notice periodic face lifts to this blog. I apologize if it confuses anyone. Spike the Underdog is still searching for an aesthetic appeal appropriate for its audience. Having a graphic design background, this type of thing becomes a never-ending quest. Bare with me through these interval changes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Celebrity Death Match...of scientists

Today’s favorite read comes from the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute. It’s no secret that I have strong leanings toward DI’s work. I am even a member of the organization. This is not in vain. DI has some great stuff to be said.

This week a debate on Intelligent Design and Evolution was hosted by the Discovery Institute at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The debate featured Discovery scholar Dr. Stephen C. Meyer and Dr. William Provine, the Charles Alexander Professor of Biology at Cornell University defending Evolution.

The CSC blog posted a summary of the debate. I encourage anyone who is interested in the topic to read it. You should especially read closely the brief by Discovery’s Logan Gage. Gage is a colleague of mine and a rising star on this issue. He is also quite possibly the smartest young whip under the age of 25 in all the 7 continents (note that I am 26).

You can find that post

Larry David drives a Prius, so should you

I realized on my way to work this morning that I have never heard of or seen a Toyota Prius before I moved to Olympia. Here at the state capital, those cars are all over. Even state agencies buy them for fleet vehicles.

I have no problem with hybrid vehicles. They are energy efficient, and economically sound. They are even making them up to standards with normal cars. A colleague blogged a while back (
here) about the 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid. It has just as much power as its all gasoline sibling.

But when did the car you drive become a political statement? Hmph. Superfluous.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Best of the Web rails Washington Dems

This is a great bit from Taranto’s Best of the Web. I plan to blog about this subject a little more later today:

Democrats Against Democracy
The Seattle Times reports on the latest goings-on in the Washington state Legislature in Olympia:
House Democrats yesterday cleared the way for tax increases by passing a bill that would let lawmakers raise taxes with a majority vote instead of the two-thirds vote now required.

Senate Bill 6078 would suspend part of Initiative 601, the spending-limit measure Washington voters approved in 1993, and make it possible for Democratic majorities in the state House and Senate to raise taxes without Republicans going along. It passed 50-43, with four Democrats siding with Republicans and voting against it.

Some may see an inconsistency in these Democrats opposing supermajority requirements while favoring the Senate filibuster in the other Washington. But the Washington state supermajority, unlike the U.S. Senate filibuster, was passed by the voters, so the Dems are entirely consistent in opposing democracy.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Defend marriage in once sentence or less

Today, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced the “one sentence marriage amendment”. The amendment is geared to advance the debate on the marriage issue more quickly. Several times before the marriage act has been stalled in Congress, but Brownback is hopeful that his new amendment will simplify the definition of marriage.

According to his Senate staff, Brownback “feels very strongly that in order to advance the debate on this issue we needed to have more alternatives on the table, and, as Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee, he believes it to be is obligation to see that such a debate could proceed efficiently.”

Here is the actual language of the Senator’s amendment:

“Section 1: Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.

Section 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
This amendment looks to present one more option on this hotly contested issue. While stalwart actions against this definition of marriage are still expected, I am hopeful that Congress will enact legislation that provides a unified definition of marriage as being between a man and woman only.

As I receive more information on this issue, I will continue to post it. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Pirates of the Senate

At first even I was fooled. Republicans in Congress are trying to abolish the time-honored filibuster? Of course, then I had to bone up on my research and get the facts straight. This was just Democratic hoopla and minority bickering. Hill insiders tell me that we will begin seeing Republicans hammer the liberal rhetoric on this issue in the coming weeks.

The truth is that Senate Republicans are only attempting to restore the “advice and consent of Constitutional obligations of the Senate for judicial nominees.” In layman’s speak, Senate leadership is proposing to reconsider cloture* rules on judicial nominees. This isn’t an elimination of the filibuster by any means.

Democrats are once again flip-flopping. Ten years ago the Democrats tried to abolish the filibuster altogether. Senators Bingaman, Boxer, Feingold, Harkin, Kennedy, Kerry, Lautenberg, Lieberman, and Sarbanes all wanted to end the filibuster permanently. Now they want to "preserve" it?

In 1995, the only Senators on record supporting the end of the filibuster were all Democrats, nine of whom are still serving in the Senate. (See Karen Hosler, “Senators Vote 76-19 To Maintain Filibuster,” The [Baltimore] Sun, 1/6/95)

Nor is changing these rules unconstitutional as some would have you believe. Senate debate is governed by rules adopted by the Senate every two years at the convening of each new Senate. The number of votes for cloture has gone up and down throughout the years. Originally two-thirds (67 votes) was required to end a filibuster. Those rules were eventually changed to three-fifths (60 votes).

Ironically, those who allege the unconstitutionality of this issue are forgetting that it is the responsibility of the Senate to confirm presidential nominees under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution. To block votes on judicial nominees negates legislative obligations prescribed in our legal framework.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has previously made proposals to adjust the rules so that a simple majority (51 votes) is required to end debate on judicial nominations only. The recent hype on the so-called “nuclear option” is to revisit this proposal to minimize the amount of votes needed to end debate.

This is largely a maneuver to fight fire with fire. Democrats in the Senate have been using the filibuster to block most of President Bush’s judicial nominations. This is a cheap political move lacking the refinements required of such a prestigious body. It is a misuse of the filibuster which was originally intended to block debate only on policy issues, but never on judicial nominations. Republican leadership is simply proposing that the Senate return to it’s Constitutional duties and move on with the business of the government.

Liberals argue that Republicans pulled the same tactics on Clinton nominees. The truth is that President Clinton’s nominees were not filibustered and never before has a judicial nominee with clear majority support been denied confirmation through a filibuster. According to
David Reinhard of The Oregonian, the confirmation rate for Bush nominations is the lowest of any modern president. Reinhard says that,
“A better figure would compare Bush’s four-year appellate confirmation rate to recent presidents. According to the American Enterprise Institute’s John Lott Jr., Bush’s four-year rate was 69 percent, the lowest of any modern president. Bill Clinton’s rate was 74 percent.” (David Reinhard, Op-Ed, “Judge Not Lest Ye Be … Filibuster,” The Oregonian, 3/17/05)
There was a record number of Clinton nominees to the federal bench that were confirmed in 1994 under a Democratic majority in the Senate. Fifty-four of these nominees were pushed through in the 3 months prior to the 1994 elections. Conversely, ten of fifty-two circuit court nominees from the Bush White House have been filibustered according to a recent AP story (Jesse J. Holland, “Senate Confirms First Judge Of Bush’s Second Term,” The Associated Press, 4/11/05). Blocking votes on judicial nominees is unprecedented.

This is an issue of principle, not politics. The Senate should be concerned with fulfilling its constitutional obligations. Either it confirms or doesn’t confirm judicial nominees. To thwart that function is to shut down a major tenant of government, and the democratic process itself.

In a press conference yesterday, Senator Frist
said, “At the end of the day, I fundamentally believe that advice and consent under the Constitution of the United States of America means that we should be given the opportunity to vote. And that's all that we're asking for. We're going to continue to work in that regard.”

The President’s nominees deserve a fair up or down vote. If these judges are as poor a selection as Senators like Minortity Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) say they are, then let the Senate decline their confirmation by vote. Anything else is poor gamesmanship.

In many respects this issue has been blown out of proportion. Legislative rules in both Houses of Congress are often amended. The purpose of the “nuclear option” is to advance the purpose of the U.S. Senate. For certain Senators to block that process makes me question whether they know why they are there to begin with.

*Cloture is the only procedure by which the Senate can vote to place a time limit on consideration of a bill or other matter, and thereby overcome a filibuster. Under the cloture rule (Rule XXII), the Senate may limit consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours, but only by vote of three-fifths of the full Senate, normally 60 votes. Source:
Glossary of Senate Terms

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Send them to Melmac instead

Headline: “Wisconsin Gov. Dampens Cat Hunting Hopes” Fox, April 13

"I don't think Wisconsin should become known as a state where we shoot cats," said Gov. Doyle, a Democrat who neither hunts nor owns a cat. "What it does is sort of hold us up as a state that everybody is kind of laughing at right now."
The Gov is right, we're all laughing. Hysterically. Wisconsin is still above the fray though. Neighbors South Dakota and Minnesota both allow wild cats to be shot.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Bipartisan means ‘Do it my way’

If you have ever heard a politician tout the virtues of bipartisanship, you should know that it means nothing.

Oh, it’s true that “bipartisanship” comes in some forms. Usually it arrives on a meager bill like designating the Potato Commission, or to authorizing a special theme for a license plate. But that’s not true bipartisanship. Those are nonpartisan issues – how can you be bipartisan on an issue where no party line exists?

What politicians usually mean when lobbing bipartisan idiom is that the other side needs to adopt their views.

A perfect example of this came last week when Senate Republicans released their budget solutions. Senator Joseph Zarelli (R- Ridgefield) revealed that the half billion dollar tax increase wasn’t necessary, but that Democrats weren’t willing to quit spending.

House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler (D-Hoquiam) said Republicans should quite trying to make political hay and adopt a bipartisan spirit. “I wish they would work with us instead of jamming us with all this tax-and-spend criticism,” she said.

Kessler and her colleagues don’t really want to meet in the middle to fix the state’s budget woes. If you listened to any of the floor debate on the budget, you’d see that clearly. Instead our legislators should look to find a solution that does more than band-aids our budget with continued excessive spending. All else is drivel.

Monday, April 11, 2005

End the political charade, give DeLay a break

No doubt, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s travel practices have raised some ethical questions. Were there violations of House Ethics Rules in DeLay’s travels abroad? Did DeLay knowingly and intentionally violate these rules?

But further, the public (namely those who reside in DeLay’s district) should consider the character assailing by DeLay’s foes suspect. Sen. Rick Santorum (R–PA) said yesterday on ABC’s
This Week:

"Now you may not like some of the things he's done," said Santorum, who is up for re-election next year in Pennsylvania. "That's for the people of his district to decide, whether they want to approve that kind of behavior or not."
Two years ago Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) was forced into stepping down as Senate Majority Leader by way of the same tactics. When ambiguous racial comments were made by Lott regarding the late Sen. Strom Thurmond’s bid for the presidency, Lott was immersed into a firestorm that ended in his resignation from Senate leadership.

The GOP should not permit such sophomoric tactics on a second go-around. This formula appears to go as such: Take an allegation to which there is little or weak evidence of, blow it out of proportion, get the liberal media to back your efforts, and force a leader to step down.

My addendum to that formula would be: Continue to lose elections.

Cheap shots like that don’t work. While the opposition may succeed in waging a successful smear campaign, such tactics are not a majority-winning game plan.

Instead, the Democrats should follow the advice of their leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 8th) and focus on issues concerning the business of the government. Pelosi said in an
AP article last week that the controversy was distracting DeLay from dealing with more-pressing problems.

However, it would behoove DeLay to hold a press conference and be up front about his travel practices to diffuse the situation.It’s political common-sense to do so. When a high-profile politician hides from potentially damaging allegations, he will only be caught looking by the backspin.

Until then, political foes should back off and concentrate on issues with substance.

More on guber-election ‘oh four: WSJ’s Fund rocks truth

Wall Street Journal’s John Fund writes today of the ongoing election debacle here in the state of King County…er…Washington. Fund’s column appropriately summarizes the events over the last 5 months. Again, KC Election officials are growing increasingly weak in their arguments that this was a legit election.

[Dean] Logan admitted it had been "a messy process."

He wasn't kidding. During the two recounts, Mr. Logan's office discovered 566 "erroneously rejected" absentee ballots, plus another 150 uncounted ones that turned up in a warehouse. Evidence surfaced that dead people had "exercised their right to vote"; documentation was presented that 900 felons in King County alone had illegally voted and that military ballots were sent out too late to be counted. A total of 700 provisional ballots had been fed into voting machines before officials had determined their validity. In the four previous November elections, King County workers had never mishandled more than nine provisional ballots in a single election.

Fund’s column, Florida With Rain, can be found at

Shark Tales

Props to Stefan Sharkansky for his surge of good press in days of late. Shark appeared on Robert Mak’s Up Front on King 5 as well as receiving a mention in Fund’s column.

If you haven't done so already, check out It's one of the most informative blogs on Washington State politics.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Plus one

The incompetence of the King County Elections division keeps growing, one ballot at a time. Last week they found 93 previously uncounted ballots. Just yesterday, one more surfaced.

I am going to go ahead and make the obvious prediction: Inductive reasoning* says that there will be more, oh yes, there will be more.

*I was corrected by Banks when I originally said this was deductive rather than inductive reasoning. I have a knack for mixing those details up. My apologies to my philospher friend.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I tip my forty to your memory…

Today John Paul II was laid to rest in a beautiful ceremony. Up until now I have refrained from joining in the chorus of blogging about the Pope’s passing. However, today I feel it is appropriate to blog my respects to the late Pope.

Having Irish heritage (no, really), we have a benediction; the Old Irish Blessing that I think is a fitting farewell to a great man:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

This is a good week for the church. We have been able to reflect upon the life work of a saint who now enjoys the sweetest of rewards for his dedication to the will of God. The Pope said it best when he breathed his last, “Amen.”

Thursday, April 07, 2005

You’re right; the ’04 Election hasn’t been boondoggled enough

Council Chairman Larry Phillips, D-Seattle, said it would be ‘premature’ to call for Logan’s resignation.” Seattle Times, April 5, 2005

Porn star mustaches, escaped ballots and bad elections management, oh my!

King County should fire Dean Logan. You’ve heard that one before. But now, Ron Sims should really, really fire him. It is safe to say that King County probably has the poorest election management in the country. I echo Slade Gorton on that.

Just yesterday, the KC Elections division found another 93 ballots. Are you kidding me? Even after election officials found 83 ballots just lying around after the first recount in November, and after they found scores more here and there they are still finding more ballots? I am beginning to wonder if they have counted any at all?

It would behoove Logan and his clan to ensure that all those mistakes were corrected in a timely manner – before the election was finalized and the “winner” took office. To find another 93 ballots when the election was only won by 129 votes is beyond incompetence, it is…it is…words escape me.

Republicans are right to demand a Federal investigation of the election. It is obvious that King County has not earned the trust of its constituents. It is only appropriate that a third party mitigate this bunk.

We are beyond partisanship now. This isn’t a matter between democrats and Republican (and Ruth Bennett). We have surpassed that; it is now an ethical issue – a matter of right and wrong.

Sims has said that he stands behind Dean Logan telling
King 5 News that he hired Logan to overhaul the county’s election system. However, there should come a point where the County must concede that Logan has not done enough to ensure that elections have been efficient enough. KC Elections have not improved under his watch. Finding 93 ballots 5 months later is not an improvement. The question is, how many ballots will it take?

The Office: Yeah, we’ve all worked there

Here’s a shameless plug: Hands down the best new show on television isn’t another reality piece of garbage. No The Donald, no skanky biznitches in hot tub scenes, no cast feuds. Though all that has been quite amusing in the last 5 years, it’s now grown trite and old.

Quite possibly the funniest thing since
Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office is the TV’s best new comedy and proves you don’t have to have a bunch of no-talent-ass-clowns to provide your boob-tube entertainment.

Steve Carrel (formerly of the Daily Show) is a work of comedic genius. Check it out Tuesdays at 9:30 on NBC.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

What's left? A Time-Out?

“Seattle police restrict Taser use” – headline, Seattle PI, April 4

It’s the taxes, stupid!

Democrats in the Senate, as well as the current governor have proposed significant increases in taxes for the coming biennium. This week, the House is also expected to release its proposed budget where tax increases are expected to mirror the Senate’s proposals.

While Washingtonians await the final verdict on what taxes new taxes they will pay, they should keep in mind that the legislature has already passed roughly a half billion dollars in taxes and fees already this session. When calculating your tax increase, be sure to add this figure to the likely $400+ million to take effect in the new revenue package.

Here’s the breakdown on what has been approved by the House thus far:

HB1031: A B&O tax on gambling businesses; a 0.13% B&O tax increase = $763,000

HB 1314 Marriage and divorce fee: A $10 fee on Marriage Licenses and Divorce Petitions =
$1.35 Million

HB 1386 Historical documents fee: A $3 recording fee increase = $10.68 Million

HB1484 Local property tax for schools: 75 cents per $1,000 = $443 Million increase if all counties imposed. (This figure is low because it’s based on 2004 Home Assessments, not 2005)

HB 1631 Property tax: 3.75 cents per $1,000 – proposed tax increase = $50.77 Million if all counties imposed - For Conservation Futures

HB 2085 Waste tire cleanup: A $1 fee per tire = $7.58 Million

HB 2163 Ending Homelessness: A $10 recording fee surcharge = $27.24 Million

HB 2259 Utility Tax: Water-sewer districts 6 percent utility tax –

Total new taxes so far = $539 Million!

Clearly taxpayers have been misled. Overall, Democratic leadership in Olympia has been disappointing at best. The current governor went against her campaign pledge to not raise taxes in the first biennium (blogged about
here) and House and Senate democrats have reversed reforms enacted two years ago (like unemployment insurance, found here), placing further strains on our frail economy. Such policies are the equivalent to beating up a kid in a wheelchair on the playground.

I have long thought that raising taxes to pay for over spending is an uncreative way to increase revenue to the government. Instead we should be looking to relieve the tax burden on our state economy to encourage spending.

One of Washington’s greatest revenue tools is our sales tax. Encouraging people to spend the money they have will bring far more back into the state General Fund that lackluster tax hikes.

If we were to cut property tax, and decrease the amount of fees we impose, Washingtonians would have far more capital. I hope to be married soon. Anyone who has been through the wedding process knows that a wedding is an expensive event. With current fees and surcharges imposed on marriage licenses, newlyweds will now pay $50 to get hitched. Lawmakers also want to tax items not previously taxed, (insurance and warranties). These are all costs associated with marriage as well. If we were to cut those fees, I would have far more money to spend on things like boutonni√®res, a new pair of cufflinks, champagne for a toast, and on and on and on…

We need to cut taxes, encourage consumerism, stay the course, Thousand Points of Light, stay the course…

*Utility Tax Increase (HB 2259) has not been determined and is not reflected in the $539 million tax increase figure. Actual increase can be seen on your utility bill.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Cease Fire! End the Spanish-American War

Today I was surprised to learn that I am still financing a war we fought over 100 years ago.

In 1898 Congress enacted an excise tax on telephone service to help finance the Spanish-American War. Now, five generations later, Americans are still paying for that war. Today our phone bill includes a 3% Federal telecommunications tax – the same tax imposed to pay for our war with the Spaniards.

Peter J. Ferrara of
Americans for Tax Reform writes:

The telephone excise tax imposes a total burden on the public of $5-$6 billion per year. It is one part of the oppressive overall tax burden, which costs the average family more than food, clothing, and shelter combined. Taxes overall take 40% of national income, which is far too high. There is no justification for the telephone tax and it should be repealed, as part of a broader, overall tax reduction program.

The late President Ronald Reagan couldn’t have been more right when he said, “There is no such thing as a temporary government program.”

Monday, April 04, 2005

Governator meets Gipper

"No one has ever raised taxes and solved the problem, nor will we solve the problem. We don't have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem."
Gov. Arnold Schwazenegger

If I didn’t know any better I’d swear the Governator plagiarized Ronald Reagan on that one. I’d like to see someone provide me evidence that disproves this. Even the current governor of Washington has admitted that her new taxes don’t solve our problem, they just band-aid it.

“I don’t like it,” she [Gregoire] said. “It’s not sustainable. It’s what’s wrong with the budget in the state of Washington.” Christine Gregoire, Seattle Times, 3/21/05

There is a $2.2 billion deficit predicted for the coming biennium. The budget shortfall is only created by the assumption that we must spend at the same rate we always have. The state’s proposed spending is far higher than projected revenue.

If we would limit our spending for this biennium, we would have enough tax revenue to increase spending by $1.6 billion and fix our budget woes in the process.

The key to fixing the states budget is not the death tax, and it’s not in sin taxes. The legislature needs to curb spending to fit within our budget. This means that state employees and teachers may have to wait a year for a much deserved pay raise. It means we may have to wait until the next cycle to purchase new vehicles for the state motor pool, or hold off on enacting one more health care mandate that could drive up insurance premiums to the state by as much as 10%.

The Dems don’t really want to fix our budget problems in this state. If they did, we would quite spending.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Twelfth Grade Economics Absentia

Here’s an idea: To create a budget, decide on everything you are going to spend, and then decide how you are going to pay for all you have spent. Sound a little backwards?

Senate Democrats have done just that. Only days after releasing their proposed budget, the Senate rushed to vote yesterday on its spending programs. All told, the new budget has $26 billion in spending.

Next week Senators are expected to vote on the funding mechanism for their budget. None too surprisingly, tax hikes are expected to reach $482 million – that’s $200 million more than the current governor’s proposal. Not even Sir Edmund Hillary could climb that high.

I must admit my malaise at this, and not for fiscally conservative reasons. Last week I tried to purchase a new car. The vehicle I wanted was listed at $18,925. However, my bank would only finance me for $18,825. With the steep 9.1% Pierce County sales tax, the car would have been just shy of $21,000 when all was said and done. I had to determine how much I could spend before I spent it, and it turns out that wasn’t enough. My envy rests with the government here as they are not confined to such rational principles. Otherwise I’d be rolling in my new whip right now instead of writing this blog.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Outlaw Sin

The new trend making its mark on the state budget is sin taxes. In recent years, boosting the”big three” (property, sales, and B&O taxes) has become an increasingly unpopular idea. Democrats have since strayed from the “tax and spend” moniker since the days Reagan used to blast them for it and since “new Democrats” like Bill Clinton have become more fiscally moderate.

In Washington State, sin taxes replace their hardcore predecessors. This year both the current governor and Senate Democrats are relying heavily on cigarette excise taxes for new revenue.

According to the
Yakima Valley Herald sin taxes are increasing sharply and are predominate factors in the new biennial budgets.

Gregoire's proposed budget calls for generating $73.2 million over the next two years by boosting the state cigarette tax by 20 cents a pack over the current $1.425. The increase would jump an additional 60 cents in the summer of 2007.

Senate Democrats unveiled their budget earlier this week and front-loaded their hikes. They would raise $168.2 million from cigarette tax increases — 60 cents per pack over the next two years and an additional 20-cent-per-pack increase thereafter — also bringing total increase to 80 cents.

In her press conference announcing her budget two weeks ago, the current governor said that if she could tax people out of smoking, then she is doing something good for the health of our state. Meaning, she is taxing smokers for their own good.

That seems to be the justification for taxing tobacco. We’ll force people into being more health conscious because no one will be able to afford to smoke.

If smoking poses such a high health risk, then why do we continue to allow it at all? Wouldn’t it be more prudent – in the name of health, of course – for Washington (or even the Feds for that matter) to outlaw tobacco?

This would seem at least a little fairer to tobacco companies in lieu of the outright discrimination against a single industry.

Just the other day I saw a television ad by Phillip-Morris that offered services to help smokers quit. This is in every logical way a bad business practice. Could you imagine Nike running ads to encourage people to go barefoot? To be sure, there is a tax incentive for companies like Phillip-Morris to be, well….anti Phillip-Morris. That doesn’t make it right.

In order for the government to truly adhere to its righteous principles, then smoking should be illegal. I don’t mean smoking in public should be illegal. I’m not a New Yorker. It should be illegal to buy, sell, and consume tobacco products. If liberals are truly concerned for the health of our citizens, then we should prevent them from unhealthy practices.

However, their neglect to move towards prohibition is truly telling of their real motives. Health and welfare masquerades the fact that democrats might not be so new in their ideology after all.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

If you haven’t acquired your daily vitriolic diatribe, I recommend you read this senate staffer’s email response to a state senator’s announcement of Washington’s annual Prayer Breakfast.

-----Original Message-----
From: Sen. Joyce Mulliken
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2005 8:55 AM
Subject: Your Invited!

This coming Friday, April 1 is the annual Governor's Prayer Breakfast. Please come and enjoy the inspirational music, speakers from our Legislature...*

In your Service,
Senator Joyce Mulliken
13th Legislative District

*Irrelevant details have been omitted

-----Original Message-----
From: Keller, Barbara
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2005 9:20 AM
Subject: RE: Your Invited!

Actually, I am not invited.

As an atheist - the only belief system that relies on science not mythology to explain the natural world - I continue to be appalled that, more than 200 years after the signing of the Constitution, even our legislators do not understand the concept of separation of Church and State.

While this breakfast and all the "fellowship" meetings may technically meet the requirements of the law, they are totally out of keeping with the spirit of our Constitution.

Throughout my employment here I, and others, have felt oppressed by this inundation of emails and events and its apparent endorsement by the State government of one particular religious belief system. I simply can no longer sit quietly by while those in charge of ensuring others' rights tread on mine.

Barbara A. Keller
Aide to Senator Adam Kline

It is ironic that Ms. Keller has asserted that her rights were violated. Surely she cannot mean her moral rights; to her those do not exist – you’d need God for that. So she must really mean that it is her legal rights that were violated….but wait, the email and the event itself “technically meet the requirements of the law”!

In any event, I recommend Ms. Keller seek the 9th Circuit on this, I hear they do wonders with religious oppression

Friday, March 25, 2005

Stem Cell Opponents Take Heat From Jewish Community

As blogged previously here, the Washington legislature’s passage of the stem cell bill undoubtedly allows for human cloning. Seemingly innocent now, this is what I might humorously call “gateway science” that could lead to all sorts of unethical and gratuitous experimentation with our newfound legalized science.

Republican arguments in the House floor debate on this bill cast comparisons of Auschwitz and the Third Reich to state sanctioned embryonic human cloning. The legislators who drew these comparisons simply meant that the Nazis aimed to establish the perfect human race and allowing human cloning could lead to experimentation on the same level.

House Republicans are now taking heat from Jewish organizations that are crying anti-Semitism. The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and the Coalition for a Jewish Voice are seeking an apology from legislators who made such comparisons in the debate.

The Olympian has now reported the Jewish outrage at the comments made during the floor debate.

"To take such unspeakable horrors and inhumanity, and to try to create a moral equivalency to using scientific and medical knowledge to alleviate the suffering and the pain of people, is something which is totally inappropriate and terribly disappointing," said Rabbi Moshe Kletenik, leader of Washington's oldest synagogue, Bikur Cholim-Machzikay Hadath in Seattle. Both of his parents are Holocaust survivors.

Yet House Republican remarks should have hardly been inflammatory to the Jewish community. If anything, the arguments made on the floor were in defense of such atrocities.

Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City, said in his floor speech that Nazi Germany's policy was "in order to perfect humanity, it was necessary to selectively destroy humanity. And the medical experiments at Auschwitz were carried out for that explicit purpose."

It is irrational to tie anti-Semitism to such arguments. Many opponents of government endorsed cloning do not want science to repeat the awful experiments that occurred under Nazism. Nazis reportedly did horrific things to holocaust victims at Auschwitz and elsewhere. Rep. Jim Clements (R-Selah), a man I deeply admire, also made comparison during the debate.
He talked in his floor speech about how "the Jewish people suffered in the history for science -- the 'Super Race' and all those theorems of a better life in the 1930s all come to pass."

I watched this debate from the sidelines of the House floor. Many of my colleagues were offended that Jews would single themselves out as being the only persecuted group during the Holocaust and therefore any arguments in comparison were incomparable to their suffering. Let’s not forget that there were Catholics, Gypsies, mentally disabled, and many other groups who suffered the same atrocities in the Holocaust.

One thing needs to be made clear in all this. The Republicans who made these comments, as well as the rest of their caucus are not against scientific research that would find cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s et al. However, when such research expends human life – even in its earliest stages – we should be wary. Additionally, we should never allow for the cloning of human embryos no matter what the intent of its use is (i.e. therapeutic or reproductive).

As for the argument itself that compared embryonic stem cell research and human cloning to the Nazi experiments, never will such comparisons win the hearts and minds of those unsure of such technology. Sadly, I’d say that social conservatives (and House Republicans) lost the PR battle in this one.

Monday, March 21, 2005

What people are saying about Spike the Underdog blog...

"he is so political, silly guy. but bright, for a republican...lives with undeniable conviction. has a dog named bella. i wish i had a dog..."
- welshrats

"You guys are tools."
- rfb

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Hello, Dolly

Last night, the Washington State House approved House Bill 1268 to provide guidelines for embryonic stem cell research. Despite explicit language, the bill is supposed to strictly prohibit human cloning, that is exactly what this bill allows.

The bill’s authors have been clever with their definitions. While they forbade human cloning in one breath, they permitted it with the next. The bill’s definition of cloning is made up to best suit their needs:

"Cloning of a human being" means asexual reproduction by implanting or attempting to implant the product of nuclear transplantation [e.g., an embryo] into a uterus or substitute for a uterus with the purpose of producing a human being.

But wait! Cloning doesn’t actually begin when you implant an embryo in a womb. It occurs before that, through a process called Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT).

Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at Seattle’s think tank Discovery Institute has done some leading studies on this issue. Smith does a good job defining complicated scientific procedures in layman’s terms. He describes SCNT as such:

In the case of asexually creating a human, the biotechnologist removes the nucleus from a mature human egg (an oocyte). The nucleus of a body cell from the DNA donor is removed, and put into the place formerly occupied by the egg's nucleus. The genetically modified egg now has 46 chromosomes, the full human compliment. Meanwhile, the ability of the mature egg to transform and begin embryonic development remains fully potent.

A little shot of electricity comes next, and if all goes well, a new human cloned embryo comes into being and begins to develop in the same way as a sexually created embryo. At that point — and this is important to understand — there is no more cloning to be done since a new human organism now exists.

Let’s be clear about this: SCNT is cloning. Anything else is what Smith would call “junk biology.” Yet the authors of this bill – as well as others who advocate cloning – will usually retort that only religious conservatives call this immoral. Those people apparently are only limited to Bush-Cheney bumper stickers and a Sunday school worldview. These are the same tactics used by Darwinists to slam those who argue (quite well) for intelligent design.

The promoters of this type of science contend this issue by using scientific terms like blastocyst (meaning, a week old embryo) to confuse the circumstances. They will also assert that those who are in moral opposition to human cloning must be against saving lives by advancing this research. Don’t be fooled by that red herring.

The real issue is not whether or not we should try to save more lives by curing more diseases. The issue is how far do we go to do it? The scientific elitism in this is overwhelming. I find it patronizing to be told that my views only derive from right-wing conservatism as June Walker and Jaquie Bayley of Hadassah, have done in today’s Seattle P-I, located

Opponents, including conservative lawmakers and religious leaders, cited sanctity-of-life issues and characterized the process, called Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, as reproductive human cloning.

However, it appears that minute understanding and bad logic is their basis for justifying their position. Their definition of SCNT is rather empty.

SCNT is about saving lives and the betterment of humanity, plain and simple. We are doing a great injustice to humanity and the future if we allow ourselves to be frightened by the unknown and political and religious agendas. This appeal is really based on pathetic appeal, not a logical conclusion. Again, opponents to this type of research

In last night’s House floor debate we heard another common fallacy. Science has classified cloning into two categories: therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning.

Democrats argued that while therapeutic cloning would take place under embryonic stem cell research, it still wouldn’t be cloning (despite the obvious in its name). Therapeutic cloning is using that human embryo for purposes of research. Keep in mind that SCNT has already taken place. If a human organism is implanted in a womb and brought to birth, then it is reproductive cloning. But both of these are not different types of cloning, they are different uses for cloning. Again, let’s be clear: this is still cloning.

Last night, Democrats like Rep. Shay Schual-Berke (D – Normandy Park) and Rep. Ed Murray (D – Seattle) argued different saying that therapeutic cloning is different from reproductive cloning and is in fact not cloning at all. Either the Democrats are quite ignorant and they shouldn’t be voting on such a magnanimous issue, or they are directly using deceitful tactics. Either way they have done a large disservice to the people of this state in advancement of political wills.

When we legislate human life we are playing a dangerous chord. We should look for ways to advance our abilities to cure difficult diseases. We have already made significant progress through adult stem cell research, and we could do more with it. Now that we have gave legal endorsement for the creation and subsequent destruction of human life, what is next?

This is a venture that extends beyond the authority of man to tinker with. Let’s pray the Senate and governor have better sense.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Bush lied, road rage?

Apparently being an angry democrat will land you jail time these days. According to a Florida news report, a man was arrested for trying to run a woman off the road whose SUV sported a BC’04 sticker.

Alan Winkler told police officers he got upset with the woman, 35-year-old Michelle Fernandez, after she made an obscene hand gesture, Durkin said. Fernandez was taking her 10-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter to a ball field in her Ford Expedition Tuesday when the incident occurred.

"Whatever gestures I made, I made them because I was trying to figure out why he was honking at me and pointing at his sign," Fernandez told the St. Petersburg Times.

Police said Winkler had a sign in his Nissan sedan that read, "Never Forget Bush's Illegal War Murdered Thousands in Iraq." "Maybe he has that sign with him so he's prepared any time he comes up against a Republican," Durkin said.

Having had my own BC’04 sticker and even my Dino Rossi sticker tarnished by the likes of those who become compulsively mad at campaign trunk junk, I am more than glad to see that McGruff the Crime Dog put a stop to this one.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Dollar bet of the day

LPG: Has to ask any co-worker in the office when was the last time they French Kissed someone.

MLC: Has to introduce himself to someone in a public restroom and offer that person his business card.

Current score: Even

The sex ed. debate: Who should teach our kids?

Last Friday, the Washington State House passed a bill that enacts a top-down mandate on sex education in local schools.

House Bill 1282 would require school districts to adopt state Department of Health guidelines for comprehensive sex education as well as to teach an abstinence program. If the bills goes through the requisite next steps of Senate passage and a gubernatorial signature, school districts will only have the option to teach state mandated sex curriculum, or no sex education at all. Many local districts opt to teach abstinence-only curriculum.

This bill represents another classic example of big government-knows-better-policy. Now the same sex education courses being taught at Franklin High in inner-city Seattle will be taught at Columbia High in rural Walla Walla. These are two very different locales that may have different views on how sex education should be taught.

This diminishes the role of local school boards in making decisions on how to teach their students. The legislation will also have the unintended consequence of having no sex education courses in many more schools.

Education begins at home – parents should be the foremost educators on matters concerning sex. Yet studies show that the home is usually the last place children learn about sex. Regardless, parents should be involved in decisions concerning how sex is taught in schools. When government at the state level decides the needs of local communities, the effectiveness of the school authority is squelched.

Rep. Shay Schual-Berke (D – Normandy Park), one of the most ostensibly liberal members of the House was none too surprisingly the prime sponsor of this bill. “If we don't give our teenagers the complete and accurate information they need,” she argued, “then why would we expect them to make the best decisions available to them?”

This is true. It behooves us to have the “bird and the bees” talk with our students. But it is the voice of Olympia the best way to give them this information?

Both Schual-Berke and the Health Department have touted that the new curriculum is modest and informative and most districts should agree with it already. If that is the case, then why does the state feel the need to demand they use only their ideas? A better alternative would have been to write the curriculum and present it to school districts as a teaching option. This would be effective for the schools that don’t want to devise their own sex ed classes.

Ironically, democrats whose campaigns are bought by teacher’s unions and public education activists have only passed legislation that will shoot them in the foot. Democrats have for years argued against allowing the expansion of school vouchers. When the state mandates how curriculum like sex ed (and who knows what else in the future) will be taught, the demand for school vouchers – public monies paying for private school options – will only come back to haunt them.

To say, “you’ll do it our way or you won’t do it at all” is a rather Machiavellian way to educate our children on the risks of pre-marital sex. Eliminating the role of the parent in how their child is educated further exudes an elitism that will leave many local districts opting out of teaching sex curriculum altogether. If the legislature were serious about making quality education decisions for our students, then it would allow such decisions to be made locally.

To my friend, the serial killer

So I have this daily book that I follow religiously. Each day it gives me something that will supposedly change my life. Many of them have in some way or another alterted the world around me. I'll post more of the things I have to do each day as time goes on, but today I want to share one task in particular.

I once had to a letter to a mass I did. I wrote Robert Lee Yate, aka "The Spokane Serial Killer." He was convicted for killing 14+ people. Here's what I wrote:

Mr. Robert Lee Yates, Jr.
AKA “The Spokane Serial Killer”
c/o Washington State Penitentiary
1313 N. 13th
Walla Walla, WA 99362

13 January 2005

Dear Bob,

I have decided to do something that I have never done before. Today I have decided to write a mass murderer. I have never had any correspondence with a convicted serial killer. I suppose it could be perceived as an act of irreverence toward the magnitude of crimes you have committed. However, I look at as a way to lend to you some reading, and to me the chance to say I’ve actually written a serial killer. That’s a story I can tell the rest of my life.

So here it goes: My name is Matt and I live in Olympia, WA. I was going to school in Spokane during your heyday, and was still there when you were caught. That was big news. In a way I was somewhat relieved. No longer did we citizens of Spokane have to dodge dark alleys and lurking corners in fear of being nabbed by the “Spokane Serial Killer” as you were dubbed. Not that we truly lived in that fear. After all, nobody ever thinks it could happen to them.

Alas, now the news media could also cease their relentless reporting on your activities and whereabouts. I don’t think we should glorify those situations any more than they warrant. Heavens, I wonder if those reports gave you any feelings of celebrity. Or do you usually not watch the news because of the bad press you get?

Here’s what I often wonder when it comes to those who mingle in your circles. Did you ever think you would get caught? Usually when one takes such adverse risks it’s because they believe the odds are in their favor. Or maybe you were so wrapped up in your illicit activities that you never considered the idea of being caught or not caught.

You are most certainly what they call on the inside a “lifer” now, aren’t you? (I had a buddy go to prison and he let me in on some of your prison lingo). Now that you have been forced into giving up your occupation of murdering people, have you found a new activity there? If I were given a life sentence to prison, I think I would take of whittling. On second thought, no I wouldn’t. I bet they don’t issue you a Swiss Army Knife® with your prisoner starter kit, do they?

Okay, so what about cards? In the movies those swank prisoners always play cards and they are pretty darn good. Not to mention Texas Hold ‘Em is a popular thing right now. I don’t know if you get cable in there, but Celebrity Poker is a cool program on the Bravo channel. Could you imagine if you ever got out (let’s only pretend) and they let you on Celebrity Poker (because, let’s face it, villain though you are, celebrity is in your title) after you have been mastering Poker all these years? Man, you’d clean up. But you’d have to donate all your winnings to your favorite charities and as a mass murderer, I don’t know if you are required to have any.

Well, that about does it for me. I don’t want to go on too much more – that would be too much for a letter to someone I don’t know beyond the media. If you ever get bored, I suppose you could right me back. However, I would hope you keep any creepy thoughts to yourself. Keep it G-rated, Bob.

Stay out of trouble.



Read their lips: No new ideas

For those of you who didn’t catch Meet the Press Sunday, it featured a debate on the President’s Social Security plan between Sens. Dick Durban (D-IL) and Mitch McConnel (R-KY). You can get the full transcript here.

The Dems are stonewalling the president on his Social Security plan, but they seem unable to derive any thoughts of their own this.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Durbin, if the president took private and personal accounts off the table, would you then sit down and have on the table raising retirement age, raising the cap on payroll taxes, perhaps cutting benefits in out years? Would you be willing to put that on the table?

SEN. DURBIN: If the president takes privatization off, if he makes a commitment to the future of Social Security, we're ready to sit down on a bipartisan basis and put everything on the table.

Here’s Harry Reid’s quote from a news conference in Las Vegas:

SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV): We're willing to work with the president for the Social Security in the out years when we recognize there are some problems 40, 50 years from now. We're happy to work with the president in that regard, but not until he takes privatization off the table. We are not going to negotiate with ourselves until the president takes privatization off the board, period.

Russert exercises a classic reporteresque style and calls Durbin out on flip-flopping on this issue. However, Russert stopped short of saying the Dems have no ideas other than being exactly opposite of what the president is proposing.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you Dick Durbin in 1998. This is when Bill Clinton was president. This is a press release you issued: "...due to the increasing number of `baby boomers' reaching retirement age, Social Security will be unable to pay out full benefits beginning in 2032, but the sooner Congress gets to avert this crisis the easier and less painful it will be." How could it be a crisis in '98 under Bill Clinton but not a crisis in 2005 under George Bush?

SEN. DURBIN: Well, even then, 2032 is the year that we projected. Now, it's 2042, so it's in stronger position today than it was then. But let me just say, I think we should do something, and I believe most Democrats believe we should, on a bipartisan basis, do something sensible that is dedicated to the long- term survival of Social Security. Privatization accounts, and I think the president now realizes, it, they're non-starters. People in his own party, Chuck Grassley and others are telling him, "Let's get way from that conversation." Last week, did you hear the president when he went up to New York and out to Indiana? Now, he's talking about the safety net of Social Security. He's starting to sound like a Democrat. We understand it's an important safety net. Let's make our first commitment to the long-term solvency and permanency of Social Security.

As a conservative, I don’t expect the Democrats to be for individual retirement accounts; their political philosophy doesn’t permit resourceful solutions. Yet, they haven’t been able to really make any great arguments against it. I would think that if you were use blockade tactics to stifle the president’s agenda, then it might be useful to have the backup plan be your own agenda. This is where the party has become an empty shirt. The Democratic message appears to be a form of denial. Essentially that everything is fine as it is; that a crisis doesn’t exist. Durbin’s remarks are in line with the DNC message:

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that we currently have a crisis with Social Security?

SEN. DURBIN: I wouldn't use the word crisis. Untouched, Social Security will make every single payment for the next 37 years to every retiree, maybe 47 years. But beyond that, unless the economy grows well and grows us out of the problem, we need to address it. And there are ways to address it in sensible, commonsense approaches today that will play out in 40 or 50 years.

To them, they have 37 years until the problem expires. Congressional Democrats look more like college students writing a mid-term essay the day before it’s due than legitimate policy makers. In the least they should recycle an old Clintonian plan and mend the system as it exists. Clearly this party has lost its ideological framework for sound policy.

I’ll maintain that if we whip enough votes with Congressional Republicans – a much easier task then convincing D’s to do something – then we can pass it out of the House in the least. The Senate might be more of a challenge but having a GOP majority in both Houses makes this pretty attainable.