Pages

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shoot ‘Em Up

Ah, sometimes ya gotta laugh. August 10, 08, L.A. Times story by Richard A. Serrano. “Guns from U.S. equip drug cartels.” “U.S. weapons underwrite Mexican drug violence.”

Ah, yes, The Drug War that’s costing American taxpayers a bundle. “More than 90% of guns seized at the border or after raids and shootings in Mexico have been traced to the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Las year, 2,455 weapons traces requested by Mexico showed that guns had been purchased in the Unites States, according to the ATF. Texas, Arizona and California accounted for 1,805 of those traced weapons.

“No one is sure how many U.S. purchased guns have made their way into Mexico, but U.S. authorities estimate the number in the thousands.

“The body count, meanwhile, is rising. Since a military-led crackdown on narcotics traffickers began 18 months ago, more than 4,000 people in Mexico have died in drug-related violence, including 450 police officers, soldiers and prosecutors, as well as innocent bystanders, cartel members and corrupt officials, according to Mexican authorities.

Tom Mangan, a senior ATF special agent in Arizona, compared the flow to reverse osmosis. ‘Just like the drugs that head north,’ firearms move south, he said. ‘The cartels are outfitting an army.”

“More than 6,700 licenses gun dealers have set up shop within a short drive of the 2,000 mile border, from the Gulf Coast of Texas to San Diego – which amounts to more than three dealers for every mile of border territory. Law enforcement has come to call the region an ‘iron river of guns.” . . . .

“And while U.S. political leaders and presidential candidates have focused rhetoric, money and time on stemming the northward flow of drugs and illegal immigrants, far less has been said and done about arms flowing south, largely from states with liberal gun laws, into a nation where only police and the military can legally own a firearm.”

And, of course, each country wants more from the other: Mexico wants the U.S. to tighten gun laws in the border states (Bwa-hahahha. Notes the Times: “Arizona is a wide-open state for gun lovers. A license lets you carry a gun openly on the street or concealed. . . . Anyone with proper ID and a brief background check can leave with a firearm under his or her belt and reach Mexico in minutes.” . . . ) and the U.S. wants Mexico to be more vigilant in policing the borders cross traffic (Bwa-hahahahha).

Nobody in either country, of course, has stopped to ask: How’s the drug war working for ya? Interestingly, all this river of guns isn’t going south to deal with the sale of Tecate or Budweiser crisscrossing the border for beer addicts on either side of the fence, now is it? Nooooo. That’s because beer is LEGAL and while the medical and social costs of alcohol are high, they tend not to involve St. Valentine Day massacres. Americans discovered that weird, interesting correlation between shootouts and prohibition way back during the era of . . . prohibition.

Then promptly forgot the lesson learned.

Irony Time

Back to the L.A. Times again. “Recovery of condors in doubt.” Seems that hunters in the U.S. are still using lead bullets to go kill things and “poisoning from ingestion of spent ammunition in carcasses is so severe and chronic,” the panel concluded,” that condor recovery cannot be achieved do long as such lead exposure continues.”

“The National Rifle Assn. and other hunting groups have fought restrictions on lead bullets, which are cheaper than copper varieties.

“Last year California became the first state to pass a law prohibiting hunters from using lead ammunition within the condor’s 2,385-square mile range.

“Lead is banned for shooting big game, such as deer, antelope, bear and non-game species, such as feral pigs and coyotes. Smaller game, such as birds and rabbits, can still be killed with lead bullets.”

But enforcing the California ban is problematic; Too many hunters, too few Fish and Game rangers to enforce it. And “Poachers [who] kill large numbers of animals are ‘unlikely to comply . . . as long as lead bullets are easily purchased.’ the study found.”

But here’s the best part of this story, as we bid bye-bye to the condors. “But they [the study’s authors] noted that humans who ingest meat from deer and other game can suffer adverse effects from lead: ‘Removing lead ammunition is not only right for condors, it is right for other scavengers, and it is right for hunters and their families.”

Hahahahahah. The very hunters who are killing the condors are killing themselves and their families off at the same time. Lead is lead is lead.

Naturally, The National Rifle Association spokesman “declined to comment on the report.” Gee, wouldn’t ya at least think that they’d at least pretend to sorta kinda care about their members because they don’t want them to get sick and brain damaged from the dead lead-tainted critters they’re hunting and eating? After all, the NRA likes to portray itself as supporters of a family oriented traditional “sport.”

Oh, right. It’s the money, stupid.

On both stories.

And at home, our own little “war” brewing.

The Tribune reports that the fee-kiosk at the entrance to Montana de Oro state park is Baaaaaacccckkkkkk. Slap up a kiosk, charge a fee to get in, said fee to help offset the rising costs of running the park.

Last time that was tried, folks got up in arms. They wanted “free” parks for them, but wanted The Other Guy to pay for it. That’s the way it goes in our Privitized Republic where there is no longer any value in The Commons.

Assemblyman John Laird, representing a cross-section of Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara, has “introduced a proposal to his colleagues that would generate about $282 million a year earmarked strictly for state parks. He would like the Legislature to increase vehicle license fees by $10. In return, all of the state’s 278 parks would have free entry and maintenance backlogs could be whittled down.
“The proposal is currently on the table in budget negotiations,” Laird said. “It’s caught up in the dogma of whether it’s considered a tax. But we’re going to attempt to move it ahead because it’s revenue that gives direct value to the public by fixing the parks sytem.
“We’re slowly bleeding our park system to death.” He added. “If we can’t pull it off this year, it’s an item that will go to the ballot in 2010.”

Imagine, State residents each “taxing” themselves a piddly little amount to properly fund state-wide natural treasures for the enjoyment of all and preservation for future generations – a true Commons.

Unthinkable!

10 comments:

Shark Inlet said...

In Colorado the day use fee for state parks is $6 per car per day (until noon of day following the purchase of the permit). The annual permit which essentially allows this fee to be avoided at all parks is just $50.

I am not saying I would want to pay an extra $50 per year, but I would gladly do so to continue using Montana de Oro. I just wonder, however, whether the cost of constructing the kiosk plus the cost of staffing the unit plus the cost of enforcement would be exceeded by the revenue taken from the kiosk (and fines to those scofflaws who don't get a permit for their cars).

I prefer Laird's approach to the user fee idea primarily because user fees are likely to be distributed to parks proportionally to the number of visitors the park has. Some of the biggest treasures are not as often visited.

In any case ... I'm a gonna step on everyone's toes here and blame the current (and past) budget crises in California on four things.

1 - Prop 13
2 - Term Limits
3 - Supermajority voting for budget matters
4 - The initiative process in general

I'm gonna sound like a real liberal Democrat here but I can assure you that there is a solid "conservative" argument behind each of these thoughts.


Prop 13 There are good elements in Prop 13, like the ability to essentially know your tax payments for the entire period of your home ownership. However, Prop 13 sets the initial property tax rate too low. When you compare California to other states, we have lower property taxes and higher income taxes. This isn't necessarily bad ... except that the revenue from income taxes is quite volatile. Property tax revenues are far more stable. States which depend more on property taxes than California does tend to have revenue streams which can be counted on from year to year far better. I would suggest that we keep the part of Prop 13 which says that property tax increases are limited to going up by only 1.5% per year ... but that the initial tax rate should be set as part of the annual budget process, that it could not exceed the median property tax rate of the other 49 states and that it would kick in Jan 1 of the following year. This would give time for folks to make reasonable housing decisions.

Term Limits We've got a group of folks in Sacto who are lacking in experience and lacking in relationships. Back in the day the budget was far easier to work out simply because there were folks on the other side you knew were trustworthy and who you knew you could bargain with.

Supermajority The requirement of 2/3 for passing a budget is unusual and while it does keep taxes from increasing, it also keeps spending increasing. The Republicans can effectively veto tax increases in the budget but the Democrats refuse to pass budgets which cause too much pain among those with the greatest need.

Initiatives The vast majority of the State Budget (on a percentage basis) is mandated by voter initiatives. This means that when cuts do occur in the few areas where there is flexibility, those cuts are often far deeper and cause far more serious consequences than had all portions of the budget been cut identically. I am not arguing for across the board cuts, but for flexibility and common sense.

So, the Shark plan for the state will mean higher property taxes for those about to buy new homes and greater flexibility to keep things like education fully funded.

Ron said...

Best blog on the central coast?

Ann, you're the best MEDIA on the central coast!

That was excellent.

"“More than 6,700 licenses gun dealers have set up shop within a short drive of the 2,000 mile border, from the Gulf Coast of Texas to San Diego – which amounts to more than three dealers for every mile of border territory. Law enforcement has come to call the region an ‘iron river of guns.” . . . ."

Wow.

" How’s the drug war working for ya?"

I'd be interested in hearing what others think about those 'pot plant' stories that show up on the central coast... several times a year... every single year.

Me? I'm a bit skeptical (imagine that?). You know the one:

"Thousands of pot plants, worth millions upon millions of dollars, were eradicated from some rural, SLO County hillside by an army of law enforcement officers, using a bunch of really expensive equipment, like helicopters. The plants were discovered after someone just happened to stumble upon the grow, which means that only a tiny percentage of the pot plants grown in local hills every single year is being eradicated... so the people organizing these grows will continue to organize them year, after year, after year. No arrests were made." (I should be a copy writer.)

How that policy makes a lick of sense... I'm scratching my head right now. I don't see it.

How’s the drug war working for California?

Not so good, obviously.

(uhhhh... I think Gup's gone over the edge. Earth to Gup: You are a creepy, anonymous commentor on other people's blogs. You're not running for office. Trust me, absolutely zero people care about the "Guppy plan for the state." Zero. That's laughable. I think I'll go now and whip up my "SewerWatch plan for the state"... or, maybe not -- but if I did, it'd address the issue above.)

Shark Inlet said...

Ron,

Go pound sand. If you have something of substance to say about the state budget or fixing it or funding parks, great. However, it seems your only motivation is to criticize me. If you're gonna do that, at least do it based on what I write.

Mike said...

Hi Shark... I tend to agree with most of what you usually post... always much more thought behind the comments than most of us, including me and especially Ron...!!!

However, you may want to think a bit longer about Prop13...

"...However, Prop 13 sets the initial property tax rate too low. When you compare California to other states, we have lower property taxes and higher income taxes. This isn't necessarily bad ... except that the revenue from income taxes is quite volatile."

Presently, and unless some future modifications weaken the Prop, the "Initial" (Base Year Value) Property Value (not tax) is set esentially by the Purchase Price paid. From that date forward, the Property Tax Roll Value can only rise a maximum of 2% per year as set by State Board of Equalization as based on the Calif Consumer Price Index... People who stay in their homes for more than 10 years may indeed be seeing a "tax break", and when I see elderly folks living in their dream home 20, 30 or more years, I sure don't begrudge their foresight or even plain dumb luck. There are, or were, a lot of young folks changing homes every few years as they grow in their careers...

There is still a shortage of homes for our growing population... but currently, home prices are declining in this cyclical market and related to the house price decline is the increase in unemployment in this American Economy. The Mortgage Lenders are primarily to blame for creating this latest price run up of housing prices, and now the even more rapid decline... California has also created some unique problems effecting both employment and housing cost figures.

Now for my political bitch:

Just what the hell is going on in Sacramento...??? Why does it take so long to pass a budget...??? If I were King, NONE of our Representatives would be paid one cent from July 1 forward, with NO BENEFITS and NO BACK PAY once the Budget is signed... It's not fair that State Employee's have to be made pawns in this stupid game between 2 the Dems and the Republicans... They ALL ought to be trying to live on unemployment!!!

I'll go even further and say that we have WAY TOO MANY SOCIAL GIVE AWAY PROGRAMS...!!! Maybe the Bug=dget could be balanced if we weren't trying to save every one with some excuse for not wanting to work... If there is a very real medical or mental condition, fine, but just because they are too lazy to go to school and would rather become leeches on society, then send them off to the military for a 5 year stint... might just solve a whole lot of this Country's ecomomic and educational concerns...

OK... I'm back off the soap box...

Just take another look at that Prop13... It's a better system than was in place before 1978... probably not perfect, but at least our elder population is not being taxed out of their homes... Now if this sewer doesn't crush their fixed budgets... Let's hope the County can come up with some Federal Grants like the pre-recall CSD was lining up...

Churadogs said...

Shark sez:"The Republicans can effectively veto tax increases in the budget but the Democrats refuse to pass budgets which cause too much pain among those with the greatest need."

Interesting comment. Critical of demos who don't want to cause too much pain among those with the greatest need . . . To that I would posit that maybe Repubs don't want to cause too much pain among those with absolutely no need or wants (i.e. rich folks) and so there's the rub. Do we hammer old, sick, helpless disabled people? Or hammer rich, healthy, fully able people?

Apropos of that, Mike sez:" I'll go even further and say that we have WAY TOO MANY SOCIAL GIVE AWAY PROGRAMS...!!! Maybe the Bug=dget could be balanced if we weren't trying to save every one with some excuse for not wanting to work..."

You might like to compare federal and state tax breaks and subsidies to wealthy corporations. Like the West Valley rancing conglomerates, & etc. before you start complaining about those undeserving weetched poor layabouts. The poor can't afford K Street Lobbyists to write tax break laws for them. (I always get tickled by the staunch Republican Wyoming Rancher hollering about g---d---ed guvm't giveaways to "those people," and claiming for himself staunch boot-strap independence, while standing on land given to his ancestors financed by the federal government giveaways and subsidies to the huge railroad corporations to lure people west & etc. HUGE guv'ment giveaway to often poor immigrant families, like this guy now rich as Croesus whining about "those people" while having no knowledge of his own history.

Ron sez:"(uhhhh... I think Gup's gone over the edge. Earth to Gup: You are a creepy, anonymous commentor on other people's blogs. You're not running for office. Trust me, absolutely zero people care about the "Guppy plan for the state." Zero. "
And Shark sez:" Go pound sand. If you have something of substance to say about the state budget or fixing it or funding parks, great. However, it seems your only motivation is to criticize me. If you're gonna do that, at least do it based on what I write."

Now Children, children. The comment section is for people to feel free to comment on what I've been blabbling on about. Got ideas? Got additional information? Got an opinion? Share 'em, discuss 'em. Y'all might learn something. I know, I do.

As for Prop 13, one of the biggest mistakes (likely deliberate since laws are usually written in the back room with certain wealthy, powerful "special interests" "helping") was to keep businesses in the same class as homeowners. People tend to move far more often than businesses, hence they'd see their taxes increase while huge corporations stay put (or use various shell companies, subsidiaries and land-leasing schemes)thereby benefiting hugely from a continued original low tax base. Naturally, then, the increases fell on average people who end up paying more than their "fair share."

Back to the parks issue, one of the problems with site specific "fees" is that's just another form of "privitization." (popular places get fully funded, the rest die on the vine) My point is that I think we need to return to the idea of the Commons. That all of us pay a bit to fund ALL our parks all the time. Doesn't matter if they're "popular" or not, they're treasures held in trust for the future. The same goes for funding public schooling equally, not simply by school district, with rich districts doing fine but poor districts stuck in the dumpster. It's the KIDS who are our future and they collectively should be held in trust and fully funded as a "commons" resource. And so forth. Ditto for roads, bridges, medical care, various social safety nets. The Commons posits a WE, not an us and them, you know, those people . . . Even more interesting, a collectively fully funded Commons can release the individual to accomplish much more,(he/she has that "floor" underfoot, which guarantees a "leg up," right out of the box -- cf. Denmark, which pays for schooling for all kids up to and including a Ph.D. They end up with a highly educated workforce ready for the 21st century, all of whom will be less of a drag on the whole country than if they were a bunch of poorly educated, trained ignormamuses) thereby in turn bettering the Commons as well.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

If you read my comment about Democrats not wanting to cause too much pain as being critical of Democrats I must have been very unclear. I was just trying to point out the primary historic reason for budget stalemates.

As someone who leans Republican on many issues, I would be one to quickly agree with Ann's diagnosis that Republicans are in favor of massive welfare ... as long as it is welfare that benefits them.

On the fees versus taxes for parks issue, full funding from the state would be best but even an entrance fee would be preferable to closing the parks.

Churadogs said...

STOP THE PRESS! CALL THE TV STATIONS.

We agree on something.

World will now end at 11 p.m.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

I would bet that you and I agree on a majority of issues ... but that our different perspectives may emphasize differences. This is not uncommon.

For example, with the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory, I am a "TJ" person ("thinking" as opposed to "feeling" and "judging" as opposed to "perceiving"). The greatest conflicts I have had with people over politics is with folks who are "FJ" people ("feeling" and "judging"). Essentially the J in each of us sees situations or events as right or wrong but the "F" person uses a gut-feeling holistic approach to reach conclusions but those of us who are "T" people try to think thru the issues to arrive at conclusions.

Churadogs said...

Any data on whether the "conclusions" reached were the same, only arrived at using different methods?

Shark Inlet said...

Dunno,

Ann, you seem quite reasonable if a bit more liberal then me on some issues.

What probably differentiates our opinions (to borrow an insight from Maria) is that you're more focused on the Solutions Group's original promises versus the reality they gave us and I am more focused on the promises of Lisa and the recall candidates versus the reality they ushered in.

You are probably a bit more oriented toward having a fair process than I but I am more oriented toward getting the best long-term deal for our community.

You also seem a bit more willing than me to trust folks named Ripley and I am more willing than you to trust people named Ogren.


The problem with the state budget is a hard one. One chief problem is that the revenue stream has large peaks and valleys by comparison to the financial obligations and needs of the state. Relying too heavily on income taxes causes this. Taxing property more heavily (by comparison) helps considerably with this issue.