Sunday, February 27, 2011

Real threat to democracy in Wisconsin

Here is a good article about one of the implications of the mess in Wisconsin:

The real threat to democracy in Wisconsin - The Week

Did you ever get disgusted with the kid who took his toys and went home when he didn't get his way? I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Free speech denied when billboard offends

An article in the February 23 Bellingham Herald announced that a black New York City politician objected to an anti-abortion billboard; and then on Friday, February 25, an article announced that the billboard would be taken down.

The ad allegedly offended people because it said:
"The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb."  Click here to see an image of the billboard.
It's too bad the offense was directed at the wrong target.  
This was definitely a case of blaming the messenger, and ignoring the message.

And it raises the question:  Can you speak out about abortion and expect a fair hearing in the marketplace of ideas?
Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, called the billboard removal "an outrageous act of censorship."  Here's more of what she had to say, from the CNS News website:
“The message of this billboard is totally accurate,” King said in a statement issued by Priests for Life where she is the director of African-American Outreach. “The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb!”  
She added: “And it (the billboard) should provoke outrage in the African-American community—not because it is racist, but because of the truth it reveals; the truth that is being kept from the African-American community.”

We'll talk more about the truth that the billboard reveals in the next post, and give you some statistics to back it up.

In the meantime, think about this:  When the media downplays or ignores a truth, how can you make your voice heard, as a savvy citizen?  I have some ideas, but I'd like to hear yours, too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rally in Olympia to Support Wisc. Gov. Walker

Do you stand with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on the issue of making tough cuts to state spending?

Then you'll want to attend the Justice for Taxpayers Rally at 11 a.m. Saturday, February 26, in Olympia.  The Freedom Foundation provided these details: is also trying to sponsor a counter-protest at the Capitol on Saturday. We need people to show up and show their support for Gov. Walker, balanced budgets, and ending union monopolies. Please join us!!!
Will you join us? RSVP Here!
WA 4 WI – Justice for Taxpayers Rally
Olympia Capitol – North Steps
Saturday, February 26, 2011 at 11am
Washington shares the same public sector union problem as Wisconsin. We agree with the stand that Gov. Scott Walker is taking and want to see similar reforms take place here in Washington. Our budget is in a comparable place—state pensions and union collective bargaining have got a stranglehold on our taxpayers.

Ending union monopolies is a conversation that we should be having here in our state and there are other proposals that would shift the balance of power back where it belongs—into taxpayers’ hands.

Talking Points:
• This rally is not an attack on the individual public employees who are our friends, neighbors and fellow taxpayers. It is about the unhealthy relationship between union leaders and state lawmakers that is forcing our state into bankruptcy.

• We condemn the labor policies where the State has given unbalanced power to one special interest group.

• We need to see courageous leadership regarding this issue from our elected officials now, before the situation becomes much worse and there is a meltdown similar to what is currently taking place in Wisconsin.

Get Involved

Spread the Word!

If you need the back story about what's going on in Wisconsin:
Polls show that a majority of people stand with Gov. Walker; if that is true in Washington State, there should be a good turnout to prove it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Economics and Free Ice Cream

On one level we're all experts on the economy, aren't we?  We know when it's going well (when we're comfortable) and we definitely know when it's going sour.

Government has lots of ideas to fix the economy: raise taxes, cut taxes; spend more money, save more money; raise interest rates, lower interest rates; support more social welfare, trim the welfare rolls; throw more money at education, cut the education budget. 

With so many conflicting ideas out there, how do you know which to support?

By getting savvy about economics, of course!

Enter the Freedom Foundation's Talk Back on Economics series.  

  • It's free.  
  • It's available online.  
  • And any economics course that uses free ice cream and clips from the cult classic movie "Dr. Strangelove" automatically gets my attention.  

Take a look at the most recent installment, "What Really Works."  The 3-1/2 minutes you spend will be worth it!

Other videos in the series, each 3 to 5 minutes long, can be found by scrolling down the page at the Freedom Foundation's website.    

Get informed now!  You'll need this information in the days and months ahead, as our elected officials try to solve our state and national budget problems.  They need feedback from savvy citizens to help make the right decisions. 

Don't let elected officials in the "free ice cream" group gain any more ground!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

UPDATED: Push Back on Pregnancy Center Bill Now!

New info as of 2/21:  Mea culpa, my friends!  I relied on an email to write this post, and it seems we were both dealing with old news.  But I couldn't be happier about this particular mistake! 
The Senate pulled the bill Thursday night, which is wonderful news signaling that they didn't have the votes to carry it through.  No formal statement from Sen. Kaiser, the chair; but you can read details at  In the meantime, you still need to write to your legislators, and letters to the editor, to stop the House version of the bill going any further... AND to turn the light of regulatory scrutiny back on Planned Parenthood.  

The bill attacking pregnancy centers (SB 5274) will be discussed at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow (Monday, February 21) in executive session of the Washington State Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee Committee.

No public testimony will be taken, but you can make an impact by:

  • attending the committee meeting, in the Senate Hearing Room #4, J.A. Cherborg Building, Olympia;

We also need to write letters to the editor.  I am doing that right now (I may send a modified version of one of my blog posts), and you can do it, too.   Newspapers want to hear your own personal thoughts on these issues. Remember these five tips when writing letters to the editor:
  • Speaking from your heart is powerful.
  • Be respectful.
  • Keep to the facts. Our cause is strong enough; no exaggeration needed.
  • Keep it short.  Editors like shorter letters; so do readers!
  • After you email your letter to the editor, follow up with a phone call to see when it will be published. 

The Bellingham Herald, The Lynden Tribune, The Ferndale Record, the Everett Herald, and The Seattle Times accept letters via snail mail or email on their websites.

I'll keep you posted as details emerge.  I'd like to hear from you, if you make contact.  Let's encourage each other!

Updated Info on State Employee Pay Cuts

Several people have written to me (publicly on the blog comment section and elsewhere) about my article calling for Washington State employees to face cuts in benefits and pay.  

The comments were from people whose spouses work for the State.  They were a little concerned that I would paint such an unsympathetic picture of the pay and benefits they receive.  Their families are facing tough economic times, too.

They're right to point out that the numbers I used in my post last week were averages, and that there are many employees who make a lot less than those figures represent.  Two of the comments were from home-schoolers, and I understand full well that finances are especially tight in families making the sacrifice of time and money to educate their children at home.  

That's the risk you take when you talk about average pay and benefits.  You risk under-emphasizing the outrageous examples at the top tiers.  You risk lumping in even those who are lower-paid (and who have lower benefit levels).  

In the future, I'll address some of the outrageous examples at the top.  But for now, please read this article from today's Washington State Wire.   It shows how non-union State workers would have faced higher cuts than union employees in a budget bill enacted this week by the State Legislature, but vetoed by the governor. 

I don't want to cause an uprising against public employees.  I do want everyone--even those employees-- to start dealing with the real issue facing Washington State:  Our government has made promises it can't afford to keep.  Cuts must be made, and everyone will take a hit in some form or another.  Shared cuts, meaning trimming benefits or wages for all state employees, are better than outright removal of jobs.  

Also on the subject of public-sector (government) unions, read this article by Bob Williams: "Why Private Sector Unions are Much Different than Government Unions."  It will explain why unions in government employment are not a good idea, and never will be.  The article is on the State Budget Solutions website, which I highly recommend to you.

Keep your comments coming.  I appreciate hearing your viewpoints.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

State Should Cut Employee Benefits

Wisconsin's public employees are protesting loudly today against proposed cuts to their benefit packages and union bargaining capability.  But I'm not sympathetic in the least.  In fact, I wish we'd take similar steps in Washington State.

If you look at the salary survey chart in this report by the Washington Department of Human Resources, you'd think State employees are grossly underpaid when compared to other public agencies and the private sector.  But even if pay rates may lag behind (if the survey is accurate), the benefits public employees receive far outdistance anything the private sector offers. 

See this page (19) of the Washington State Employment Benefits Survey published in March 2009 by a consulting firm for the Department of Employment Security.  You'll see that in the private sector:
  • 63.3 percent of full-time private sector employees get paid vacation leave;
  • 37.8 percent get paid sick leave;
  • 60.2 percent get paid holiday leave; and
  • 18.8 percent get undesignated paid leave days.
All full time public employees get paid vacation, sick leave, holiday leave.  Vacation for full time employees runs between 12 and 22 days, depending on length of time employed by an agency.

We pay our state public employees an average of $7,888 to $10,142 a year not to work, according to figures provided by the Sunshine Review.  The Review obtained records of public employee compensation for 2007 under our State Open Public Records Act, because the public's money covers the cost of these wages.  I did some math to figure out we pay public employees an average of:
  • $4,882 per month
  • $58,592 per year
  • $28.17 an hour.

If you add up the 11 paid holidays, 12 paid sick days, and the minimum 12 days of paid vacation time that State employees receive, there are 35 days of the year that state employees get paid but are not on the job.  Multiply that by 8 hour days, at the average rate of pay, and that's a $7,888 a year benefit.  If they've been employed by the state a long time, they could earn 22 vacation days a year, bringing that annual benefit of paid non-working days to $10,142 a year, average, per employee.

They also get paid for jury duty, bereavement leave, and military leave; they get medical, dental, vision, and life insurance benefits; and they can be reimbursed for college degrees and classes taken for professional development.  And of course, that doesn't include the generous pension plans.

Furthermore, under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, an employee who has worked for in the public sector and made college loan payments for 10 years may have the remaining debt erased.

Also, public employee salaries are really hard to cut.  In the private sector, a business hitting hard economic times tells its employees it's time to tighten their belts, and reduces wages and benefits as needed.  In the public sector, wages may go up in good times, but they rarely go down again.

When I worked in the public sector, I knew I had it good.  But many of my co-workers lamented, "We'd be paid so much more if we worked in the private sector!"  Obviously, they were not very well-informed.  Isn't it time we stopped buying in to their misinformation, and making State budget cuts that matter?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Desperate Planned Parenthood Uses Deceptive Practices

Desperate to find something wrong with how pro-life centers operate, Planned Parenthood's legal and vote-getting teams sent in undercover operatives to nitpick and find fault with the centers, even though the centers were operating within the law.

Their report, "The Deceptive Practices of Limited Service Pregnancy Centers," is the basis for legislation that would burden pro-life centers and set the stage for draining, vindictive lawsuits by Planned Parenthood or their supporters.  

This flimsy report is being used to deceive Legislators into supporting HB 1366 or SB 5274 (though perhaps others have been more influenced by Planned Parenthood's contributions to their campaigns).

The report says it's about exposing deception.  Yet it is based on a deceptive plan coordinated by Planned Parenthood's vote-getting arm (Planned Parenthood Votes! Washington) and its legal arm (Legal Voice).  The report is based on hearsay evidence gathered by 23 pro-abortion supporters over a two-year period, and breathlessly proclaims that laws need to be passed to protect women from pro-life pregnancy centers.

Sadly, for the people who paid a pretty penny to produce it, the report jabs wildly at information provided by pregnancy centers to their clients, but never really says how women are harmed significantly by hearing viewpoints that oppose their own, or having interactions while waiting for their pregnancy test results.

Protecting women, and their right to make their own choices, is one reason pro-life pregnancy centers exist.  In fact, some centers make sure women get time away from whoever brought them to the clinic. They want to make sure the woman (or girl, in some cases) is making an informed decision on her own, not because she's being pressured.

They want to make sure to prevent incidents like the ones reported in paragraphs 5, 6, and 7 of this column by Michelle Malkin.

It's ironic that Planned Parenthood's report specifically criticizes the Whatcom County Pregnancy Clinic (see page 6) for having a client go into a room alone, without her companion, to fill out a questionnaire.  

That's the kind of hard-hitting evidence Planned Parenthood has against pregnancy centers.  That's what they want to prevent, apparently.

The report's information has been packaged and fed to State Legislators, alarming some of them into supporting bills that amount to nothing but an attempt to silence a competitor.

Yet the report admits it is based on hearsay.  Interactions with pregnancy centers were not electronically recorded.  Volunteers filled out questionnaires after their encounters, relying on their memories and feelings about the incidents.  And just who were those volunteers?  Look at the "Acknowledgements" section of Planned Parenthood's report:
"Legal Voice and Planned Parenthood Votes! Washington thank the many generous volunteers who investigated, researched, and help write this report. Special thanks are owed to the Planned Parenthood VOX chapters at universities and colleges throughout Washington State; to our colleagues at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and their many college student volunteers who assisted with the second phase of testing; and to the Law Students for Reproductive Justice chapters at Washington law schools who also assisted with the testing project. We also wish to thank the Cedar River Clinics and Aurora Medical Services.
"The investigation was carried out by the field organizers at Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, Mount Baker Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, and their invaluable volunteers."  (See page 12.)

Why don't you make sure that the Legislators you contact about these bills are making a fully informed choice?  That's what all this is about, after all.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pregnancy Center Bill: Committee Votes to Push it Forward

According to the Washington State Wire, the State House Health Care & Wellness Committee passed the bill attacking pregnancy centers (HB 1366).  The article does not give a tally of votes, but it's expected that the Democratic majority was in full support of the bill.  More details should be available tomorrow.

In the meantime, read the Washington State Wire report, posted February 10, for details.

According to the article, the bill now goes before the House Rules Committee, and then perhaps to a vote of the full House.

House Bill 1366 was introduced at the same time as Senate Bill 5274, a similar bill.  No word yet on what is happening to the Senate's version.

Both bills seek to place nit-picky requirements on pro-life pregnancy centers and stiff fines for any violations.  The bill also sets out to force these agencies to disclose to women that the centers do not provide abortions, even though most of them already advertise in the yellow pages under "Abortion Alternatives."  Basically, they are aimed at shutting down the centers by restricting their free speech, and causing them to operate under fear of fines and legal fees.

For more details, read my Pregnancy Center Bills information page.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pregnancy Center Bill May Forwarded by House Committee Today

I highly recommend the two most recent posts on Abortion in Washington, a blog that tracks the attempts of the pro-abortion lobby to shut down non-profits with a pro-life message.

According to the posts, State Rep. Eileen Cody, D-Seattle, is planning to put the bill up for a vote in an executive session today in the House Health Care & Wellness Committee.  An executive session means the meeting is closed to public input, although the public may attend the session. The Committee's website says the matter may be discussed, along with other bills, but does not provide any revised version of the bill or guarantee that action will be taken.

Note:  This is different from the "executive session" some of us are used to dealing with.  Local government meetings, including city and county councils and their subcommittees, can only declare an executive session in certain circumstances.  The session is closed to the public altogether.  However, they have to advertise what they will be discussing, and cite a reason for closing the meeting (pending litigation, financial negotiations, and the like).  They cannot take action within the executive session, but have to move into a public meeting to take a public vote.

I've been told Rep. Cody is an ardent supporter of the bill, as are other Democrats on the committee.  State Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, confirmed this in a reply to an email I wrote opposing HB 1366.   He said, "... the Chair, Rep. Eileen Cody told me that this bill is a priority this session for the majority party.  I do believe they will try to pass it out of committee."

The message for those of you who agree that this bill is a very bad idea:  Get on the phone, write emails, and make your voice heard by contacting Committee members.  

By the way, the fact that the majority party (Democrats) is so excited about passing this bill reaffirms my decision to leave the Democratic Party several years ago.  Their lock-step, adoring-at-all-costs worship of the religion of abortion rights doesn't leave any room for dissent or reasoned arguments.  If you're still clinging to some left-over, stars-in-your-eyes ideal of what the Democratic Party stands for, maybe it's time to rethink your position.

Where to Find Voting Records

To track any Washington State House or Senate member's voting record during the current session, go to

According to the Legislature's FAQ page, the State website will not have voting records of House members until after the session closes (late April or May); and you have to contact the Secretary of the Senate at 360-786-7550 for a Senator's voting record.

You can always contact the offices of individual legislators to see how they voted or are planning to vote.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How to "Read Your Legislator": An Experiment

How receptive is a legislator likely to be to your ideas?  To be most effective, you can check his or her records of sponsoring or voting, and the likely motive for proposing a specific bill. This can help you to appeal to their interests, or to encourage them to vote differently than they have in the past.

We're going to look at two bills as an experiment in reading your elected officials. HB 1715 would designate coffee as the State beverage; and SB 5621 would lower the voting age to 14 for school board elections. Our goals:
  • find out why the bills are being proposed;
  • see if the bills' sponsors are sponsoring/publicly supporting similar bills; and
  • try to guess how strong their attachments to the bills are likely to be.
In both cases, you'd start by searching for the bill number at, bill search

Let's focus on SB 5621, the voting age bill.   Notice that it has only one sponsor, Sen. Scott White of Seattle.  That's a good clue for you right there.  A bill with one sponsor might be signaling that it's not to be taken seriously, or that it's been proposed as a favor to someone back home. 

If you look at Sen. White's info page, you'll see his contact information, a list of bills he's sponsored or co-sponsored, and a link to his website.  Check out the bills he's sponsored; do you detect any patterns? He's posted a statement about the bill we're researching, on his website.

Now do a Google search for something like, "Sen. Scott White" voting, and see what it turns up. Anything contradict his statement?

What do you think Sen. White's motivation was for sponsoring this bill?  Do you think it's a good idea to propose something like this?  If you feel strongly about it, write your senator.

Now I'd like you to do the same sort of search into HB 1715, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Bailey of Oak Harbor.  I think you'll find that this started out as a friendly little non-controversial bill, but some interests groups aren't too happy about it.  What do you think of it's chances?  What does it tell you about elected officials' ability to guess at all the impacts of bills that they propose?

What do you think it says about the voting public when our elected officials feel compelled to take up issues like these?  Is it a good thing or bad?  Just some things to think about.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How to "Read" Your Legislator

In the last post ("A Challenge for You") I challenged you to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you, then see how they respond (if they respond at all).  I'd like to expand on that topic and give you some hints on "reading" your legislator.  Guessing at their motives isn't a perfect science, but it can be something that helps you when you approach them.

I should clarify that if a legislator doesn't respond to you, they aren't necessarily evil, they don't necessarily hate you, they may not even despise your opinions.  They may just be busy.  Or out of the office.  Or fighting the flu.  Who knows.

If you don't get a response from a legislator on an issue that matters to you, follow up with a phone call to their staff to see what might be getting in the way of your response.  This does two things:
  • lets you know what is going on, for real, so you can judge if there is a legitimate reason for delay; and
  • probably puts the legislator on alert that you're not just a "day tripper," someone who really doesn't care about getting a response.

Of course, if you get a snarky or rude response, it is what it is.  File it away as a good lesson learned, but even then, try again on another day, perhaps even another issue.  Legislators are human.  They have bad days.  They may have missed their morning coffee.

Ah, coffee.  That brings me to one of my two examples I'm going to use as an exercise in reading your legislator, beginning with tomorrow's post.  Our "guinea pigs" for savvy citizen studies:
  • House Bill 1715, designating coffee as the State beverage, something that might be more controversial than you'd think; and  
  • Senate Bill 5261, which would allow 14-year-olds to vote in school board elections.

Check them out ahead of time, and we'll get to work on them tomorrow.  You can click on links in the previous paragraph, or try doing the legwork yourself; go to the bill search page on the Legislature's website, type in the bill number, and when it pops up scroll down and click on "original bill."

Have fun, savvy citizens!

A Challenge for You!

To start the week, I'm issuing a challenge to any of you who have never contacted an elected official before:

Do it today! 

We'll stay focused on issues at the State level for now.

Find out who represents you by clicking here.

Each official will have an individual webpage link; go to it.  Read what they think is important, and then send them a message either saying, "Good job! Thank you for serving," or "I don't agree with what you said about this, and here's why."  

I know this is very basic.  But some of you have been sitting on the sidelines, quietly outraged by what is going on in our government.  It's time that you get used to making your feelings known.  You are going to need this skill if you are going to make a difference!
Elected officials are just folks who have lives, opinions and basic needs, just like anyone else.  Too often they only hear from a few people with special interests.  They need to hear from real people like you and me.  This will accomplish two things:

  • Your elected representatives will know that you either like what they're doing, or that you think they need to change course; and
  • You will know if they are someone you can work with, and trust to represent your interests.

You will soon see which ones send a courteous reply, which ones will ignore you, and which ones will be snarky and disrespectful.  This is all useful information, either for when you contact them again, or for when you decide to help whoever runs against them in a coming election!

So get started today.  And then please, post about it in the "comments" section.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Budget Cuts that Make Cents

A friend shared this video, made by a college student in 2009 following President Barack Obama's announcement that he intended to cut $100 million from the federal budget.

That sounded like a lot of money. 

But look at how the videographer "makes cents" out of the numbers, and how small those cuts really are, in this video.

We're stacking up quite a few pennies in Washington State, too, with no way to cover the promises and obligations those pennies represent.

The State Senate announced Thursday it is pushing for $254 million in cuts to the budget.  This is $30 million more in cuts than those included in the House budget.  These sound like really big, effective numbers, don't they? 

But it's not enough!  Even if all those cuts happened, Washington still faces a $200 million shortfall over the next two-year budget cycle, according to the Washington State Budget and Policy Center.

Please contact your legislators and let them know that you support making MORE cuts to the budget.  They need all the encouragement we can give them.  We must make more cuts, but they'll be tempted to pull back on the little they've done.

The Senate will take action in the next few days.  Contact your legislators now! 
For other good ideas on how to take action, see The Freedom Foundation website, especially their State budget page.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Unregulated Abortion Clinics in Washington

If the State didn't regulate your doctor's office or hospital in areas of cleanliness, procedures and staff capabilities, you'd have reason to be alarmed.

Yet abortion clinics aren't regulated by the Washington State Department of Health.  Doesn't sound too far from "back alley" days, does it?

In an email to the Department of Health last month, I asked them to tell me:
  • how abortion clinics are regulated,
  • must they meet the same cleanliness and safety standards as other medical facilities,
  • are they required to provide information about abortion alternatives, and
  • the process for filing a complaint about an abortion clinic (and how can the public track these complaints).
This was the very polite and prompt reply I received from Debbie Puryear-Tainer, Department of Health Office of Customer Service, Health Systems Quality Assurance:
Good afternoon Ramona,

We do not license or regulate abortion clinics in Washington State.
However, we do license and regulate the providers who practice in
abortion clinics.  These clinics do not have any safety or cleanliness
standards, because the clinic itself is not regulated.

If you have a complaint or concern about a provider, you can file a
complaint on our web site.  I have attached a link for your convenience.

You can check a license by using our Provider Credential Search web
page.  You can access the site by clicking the link below.  Once you
open the link, go to the Section 2 - Search by Individual's Name.  Do
not put anything in the 'Credential Type'.  Put the person's name in the
'Name' box.  Click 'Search'.  Next, click on the license number (left
side of screen). This will give you additional information on the


What makes this more outrageous? Pro-abortion forces want to regulate facilities that merely provide information about a woman's pregnancy and all of her choices.  

The worst they are trying to allege about pregnancy centers?
A woman might be inconvenienced.
The worst that can be said about the glaring lack of rules for abortion clinics? 
A woman might be killed.

Get active.  Let's stop unfair legislation from going any further.  See my info page for contacts & facts.