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Ryan’s Reccomendations — Election 2006

Bernie referenced it as he beat me to the punch, and now it has been formally requested (yes, I consider comments “formal”). Presenting, Ryan’s Reccomendations for the 2006 election:

Initiative 920 — Repeal Washington’s Estate Tax — I am voting Yes

I am generally against taxes, and this here is a tax. However, the issue is a lot more subtle than that. The estate tax (called the “death tax” by its oppoenents) is one of the more sound taxes theoretically. After all, few things make lives worthless as qucikly or as thoroughly as inheritting a large sum of money. Furthermore, the children of the rich are generally the very best prepared to contribute to society and thus produce wealth for themselves — they do not need the help of inheritted money. So, why do I oppose this tax? The problem isn’t theory — its application.

There are more than enough loopholes for anyone with enough money and a tax advisor to pass their money on anyway. So, in the end, its not the super-rich that really get laid out with this tax — its the hard working small business owner who dies in an untimely manner and didn’t have all the tax shelters set up. Then its the family that has to try to take over and while grieving find a large chunk of cash to pay the tax, or as usually happens, sell the business to pay the tax. The rub is, of course, that all the money they use to pay this tax has already been taxed when it was earned.

Bear in mind that the current system — even without the help of estate taxes — is not somehow terribly broken. The large majority of the rich in this nation got there without major help from inheritance, and most family wealth is lost within several generations.

Initiative 933 — Require Compensation When Government (Partially) Takes Land — I am voting Yes
This initiative is far from perfect — in fact, I’m pretty sure it will lead to some future headaches. Fortunately, the law is a malleable thing, and these headaches can be dealt with as they are recognized. But I’m still very much in favor of this initiative because it is a neccesary reaction to the insane land-use restrictions that have been put into place in several parts of Western Washington — including right here in King County.

Although I am generally in favor of some local land use regulation, I think it should be apllied fairly to everyone. Unfortunately, here in King County, a Seattle-controlled majority is telling rural land owners to the east what they can and cannot do with their personal property. For example, a rural land owner who owns land on a slope cannot develop two thirds of the property. I’d be unhappy, but morally ok with this law if it also applied to Seattle as well as rural King County. In other words, if Seattle had to restore two thirds of its sloped property to its natural state then this would be a fair law. Of course, Seattlelites would think that this is as ridiculous as rural owners currently think it is. How the current system is actually working is that Seattle gets to stay the way it is and just tell other people what they can’t do to thier property. Yet among the guarantees of Washington’s Constitution are that “No private property shall be taken or damaged for public or private use without just compensation having been first made” (Section 16). With today’s land-use laws, the result is often the same as if the government had taken two thirds of an owners property, but no compensation is currently being made. I-933 corrects this problem.

Initiative 937 — Require Energy Companies Meeting Arbitratry Number to Pay Arbitrary Fines — I’m voting No
Today’s alternative energy will become readily available — and therefore no longer “alternative” — as soon as it makes economic sense. I have no doubt that this will happen in my lifetime. And I’m not entirely opposed to governments pushing in that direction. However, I think government should approach the issue intelligently — not as this initiative does with arbitraty numbers or fines. I’d be more in favor, for example, of a consistent flat tax on all carbon dioxide release. That way, there is always an incentive for all power production to produce less carbon dioxide. This initiative, on the other hand, creates no incentives to small eletric utility companies to do anything, and raises electricity costs to most people with no social benefit (most likely, all the “non-alternative” power, including hydroelectric, would still be produced the same old way, but shipped to California).

House Joint Resolution 4223 — Ammend Constitution to Raise Exemption Limit — I’m Voting No
Constitutions, in my opinion, should be changed little. This seems far too minor an annoyance to warrant the change, especially when the correct thing to do is eliminate the tax that this would raise the exemption for.

King County Proposition No. 1 — Authorization to Sell Certain Real Property — I’m Voting No
But there is no real good reason for that, except that I refuse to rubberstamp county will. Also, the percentage voting yes on this one (as well at HJR 4233) helps me gauge the number of sheep in the county/state.

King County Proposition No. 2 — Public Transporation Sales Tax — I’m Voting No
I believe that Public Transportation, as present constituted, is not the answer to traffic woes. It is especially unfair to force rural king couty voters, who get no bus service, to pay for this. Do we really need more empty busses?

United States Senator — I will follow the lead of a friend and rank them in preference:

  1. Bruce Guthrie (L) — Guthrie has tacked ar left to influence the election, but he is a true libertarian at heart. That means less federal government, which will make people on the right and the left happy. Libertarians are the real center.
  2. Mike McGavick (R) — The moderate right-leaning candidate, talks tough on spending and goes light on the social issues. Also knows how to make hard decisions — like firing people — for the greater good — like saving an entire company.
  3. Maria Cantwell (D) — The competent left-leaning incumbant who narrowly defeated Slade Gorton 6 years ago and looks poised for another victory.
  4. Robin Adair (I) — Weird, but does not embrace bad ideas wholeheartedly, like…
  5. Aaron Dixon (G) — As John Evans said, “Is proud of some bad ideas.” Also, like a watermellon: Green on the outside, Red on the inside. Sure, its a joke, but its far too true.

Congressional District No. 8 — Dave Reichart
Dave Reichart has carried on the moderate-right legacy of the very popular Jennifer Dunn that represents his district well. As the Seattle Times puts it, though, “it is hard to discern where Burner differs from the Democratic Party line.” East King county, a moderate district, would not be well represented by Darcy Burner.

Legislative District No. 41
Position 1 — The incumbant Fred Jarret (R) is the better of two bad choices.
Position 2 — Erik Fretheim (R) provides a more fiscally responsible choice than incumbant Judy Clibborn.

State Supreme Court
Position 2 — Challenger Stephen Johnson is a better choice for judging based on laws as they are written as opposed to how they “should have been written,” as Susan Owens seems to do all-too-often. Owens also fails to show at scheduled debates.

District Court Northeast Position 2
Everyone running for this position is bad. I haven’t figured out who I am voting for yet.

Night Photography With Dan

From Dan’s Perspective

From My Perspective:

Qwest Field
Qwest Field

Downtown Seattle
Downtown Seattle

Pacific Medical Center
Pacific Medical Center

Port Of Seattle
Port Of Seattle

I-5 / SnakeNightLight
I-5 / SnakeNightLight

Seattle Times’ Investigative Reporting

I have been consistently impressed with The Seattle Times’ investigative reporting series “Your Courts, Their Secrets.” In the series, they are opening up all sorts of Washington Court cases that were improperly (ie, illegally) sealed from the public record. What they have turned up ranges from simply disappointing tales on human nature to shocking scandals that have been meticulously covered up. The most recent article is much more the latter, accusing one of the more highly regarded school districts in the State of gross negligence over a sexually abusive elementary school teacher, who was allowed to continue teaching despite repeated warnings from many parents, students, and co-workers.

The fallout has been swift and immediate. The Northshore school district, where the incident happened, immediately responded, as did the Issaquah school district, where a key administrator accused of negligence in the article now works. The administrator also responded.

Isn’t it amazing how fast government employeez act when it is their own feet to the fire? On the other hand, when you need a field trip permission form, or permission to use the school for an educational purpose, it takes weeks if not months of forewarning to get approval. I know from firsthand experience having done such things as both a student and as a mentor for the Titan Robotics Club.

Keep up the good work, Seattle Times.

You Shouldn’t Have…

Hey Seattle, this is what you get when you vote against Ryan’s reccomendations. At the time that Pat Davis was reelected, I said (emphasis added):

Incumbent Pat Davis lies through her teeth on her statement, claiming that she helped reduce the port tax rate by 33% — the opposite is true. Any property owner who has statements dating back a few years can show you the large jump the port taxes took under Davis’ watch. I don’t know why so many newspapers support Davis, but she also has lots of support from within the Port community, something to be wary of in my opinion. Jack Jolley has run his campaign as an advocate for those that just want a self-sufficient, accountable port.

And now, from the Seattle Times, Pat Davis shows us why she had strong support from the port, and why taxes under her kept going up:

Mic Dinsmore is paid more than any other top executive at a major U.S. port, and he’s due to retire in less than six months.

Today Port of Seattle commissioners are due to consider awarding him a 6 percent raise that would boost his annual salary by $16,400 and lock in an extra $3,000 a year in future state pension benefits.

If he gets the raise, the 61-year-old Dinsmore would have a final pay packet of $339,841 a year — substantially more than his peers at other big ports — and more than double the $150,995 Gov. Christine Gregoire earns as chief executive of the state.

Commission President Patricia Davis said she thinks he’s earned an annual raise, and she is confident the commission will give it to him.

But several commissioners said Dinsmore’s performance as chief executive officer doesn’t merit such an increase.

Yeah, she’s advocating a large raise to a guy who is already overpaid (almost $100k more than comparable ports like L.A., Boston, and New York), a guy who is vastly underperforming (falling tonnage and revenue) and is about to retire anyway (so there isn’t even a need for an incentive to keep him here, even if we were doing a good job).

Amazing. Yet most of y’all out there voted for her. Shame on you.

The Prestige

I went to see The Prestige tonight with Dan. He brought along his Dad and Alex, and I brought along Kunlun, and Courtney who brought along her sister Jackie. Dan and his dad were nice enough to save seats for the my and my guests, who arrived a few minutes into th previews. Unfortunately, I was unable to stick around and thank Dan for his kindness, as Courtney seemed to be in a hurry to get back. So, my apologies for running off on you Dan, and my sincere thanks for holding some excellent seats. Hopefully, a public thanks will make up for taking off so abruptly.

As far as the show goes, I enjoyed it a good amount. It certainly was had some interesting ideas and twists that I had no idea were coming. I would give it a 4 on my 0-5 scale.

A Letter to The Man

Dear Ed Taylor c/o Office of Undergraduate Education,

You said you wanted to hear about my UW experiences. Here are a few:

I’m a transfer student with credits coming in from two different institutions. So when I arrived last autumn, I had a lot of work to do to make sure my credits were properly transfered over. I had to talk to many different departments and advisors, filing multiple petitions and filling out many forms. For the most part, that process worked. I got the proper transfer credit for most of my math and science classes, and that made getting a degree here at the UW much more attainable. However, along with all the courses that became a direct equivalent here at the UW were many courses which became “dead credits.” I call them this because they weigh own my transcript without serving any useful purpose. Let me give you some examples:

1) Out of high school, I attended BYU. Unlike the UW, BYU doesn’t accept college-in-high-school credit. So the calculus classes I took in high school, and recieved BCC college credit for, didn’t count at BYU. It didn’t bother me much at the time; I simply took honors calculus at BYU my first two semesters, and I was merrily on my way. However, the result now is not nearly as clean. Since the UW does accept college-in-high school credit, here, I have credit for those high school calculus classes. I also have credit from my BYU calculus classes. Only one set of these credits is useful, but I’m stuck with both.

2) During high school, I took some running start classes. But having no particular degree in mind at the time, I guess I didn’t choose them very well, since mostly they ended up showing up here as “Biol 1XX” or “Math 1XX.” When I ended up back at BCC after my time at BYU, I pursued an AAS for the Direct Transfer Agreement, and this time I ended up with credits that shows up as specific things, but mostly useless things for the degrees I happen to be pursuing.

So, I have a lot of irrelevant credits. No big deal, right? Wrong. Because every quarter I’ve been here, save one, I have had to deal with a registration hold. Each time, the hold has become progressively harder to get rid of. First, I just had to email some people to clear some things up. Then it was simply talking to an adviser at Mary Gates and getting a signature. That was my very first quarter here. At that point, I already had “too many” credits. Now, I need a signature of the college dean or an appointee. What will I need next, Mark Emmert’s signature? Then God’s?

I have a graduation plan. It is on track. I have only one year here at the UW under my belt, and yet I deal with this crap every quarter. It takes up my time that I would rather spend learning and passing classes so I can get out of here.

How about we strike a deal? You give me the option of blasting away credits that I earned elsewhere and which count for nothing. Then your mighty machine of bureaucracy stops flagging me and wasting all of our time. Everybody ends up happy, right? I don’t have “too many” meaningless credits, and you don’t have to bug me every quarter about my failure to graduate after a year at your institution.

It sounds good to me. Does it sound good to you?

~Ryan McElroy

Office of Undergraduate Education wrote:

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An Armed Society is a Polite Society

Victim fatally shoots downtown assailant

By Jonathan Martin

Seattle Times staff reporter

A bizarre case of what appeared to be justifiable homicide rattled the heart of Seattle’s swanky downtown shopping district late Saturday morning.

Seattle police are still piecing together what happened, but this much is known: A young man was killed on the crowded sidewalk outside Westlake Center, and the confessed shooter was allowed to walk out of a police station.

The case, according to police and witnesses, began at 11 a.m. Saturday with a 911 call.

Witnesses reported a man in a yellow shirt acting erratically, insulting and threatening passing pedestrians at Pike Street and Boren Avenue near the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, said Seattle police spokeswoman Deb Brown.

A half-hour later, a man matching the same description was reported near Westlake Center. At the same time, a second man, described by witnesses as balding and wearing a leather jacket, was walking through the nearby plaza after finishing his lunch.

Neither man’s identity was released by police on Saturday.

The man in the yellow shirt apparently focused in on the second man, saying, “I am going to kill you,” Brown said. He then began punching and kicking the second man until the man fell to the sidewalk.

“He was down there, minding his own business. There is nothing to think he was anything but a random target,” Brown said.

The victim happened to have a concealed-weapons permit, Brown said, and he was carrying a handgun. He pulled out the gun and fired once, hitting his attacker in the abdomen.

“It looked to me like he shot him in self-defense,” said Linda Vu, who was across the street from the shooting, handing out fliers for political activist Lyndon LaRouche. “It’s kind of crazy.”

No, “kind of crazy” is the LaRouche supporters. This event does not qualify.

The man in the yellow shirt died after being taken to Harborview Medical Center. The King County Medical Examiner was trying to determine his identity, a task complicated by the fact that the man carried no identification.

Several nearby Seattle police officers heard the gunshot. When they arrived at the shooting scene, the victim, sitting on a streetside planter full of purple pansies, handed the gun to them and said, “I am the one who did this,” according to Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel.

The man was arrested, but after questioning him and other witnesses, detectives determined they did not have probable cause to book him into the King County Jail. The man was released. Police said they were withholding his name as a crime victim — of the assault.

It will be up to the county prosecutor to determine whether the man will face charges. But Pugel said, “It could be considered justifiable homicide.”

“Could be?” What kind of question about the incident is there? Was he just supposed to take the beating and pretend it wasn’t happening? I think this is clearly justified. End of story.

The shooting stunned Jim and Edith Welsh, tourists from Australia who’d just left the Nordstrom store across the street when police arrived. Peering across the police tape draped across Pine Street, Welsh hugged his wife. “I think we’re going back to our hotel right now,” he said.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

Oh noes! Crime stopped in its tracks by an armed citizen? What could be more disturbing?!