Saturday, January 17, 2009

Oh, Great...

I'm sure you've heard that California has a budget crisis. You may not be aware of the astounding magnitude of the deficit we're facing: $42 billion, which is about $1,200 for every man, woman, and child in the state. That means that the state has spent $42 billion more than it collected in taxes and fees last year – and this rate of deficit spending is continuing at an even higher level right now (because the worsening economy has greatly reduced “revenues”, and spending has actually increased as welfare programs kick into high gear).

Our legistators and governor have demonstrated themselves to be brainless and irresponsible to a degree I wouldn't have imagined possible in a democracy. Apparently I have grossly overestimated the competence of the average voter, because we keep reelecting these evil clowns year after year.

But yesterday came some news that might just wake up some of the voters: John Chiang, California's Treasurer, announced that he'd have to delay payment on income tax refunds by at least 30 days. This will free up some cash ($3.7 billion) California needs to pay its bills. This is a wonderful illustration of the way politicians think about such things: they're simply going to steal money from the citizens of the state to pay the bills that they never should have incurred in the first place.

It's highly unlikely that any bureaucrat or politician will be held accountable for their actions. It's far easier just to steal money from the citizens.

Politicians in Sacremento.
Some assembly required.
Citizen help gratefully accepted.

Miracle on the Hudson...

Just like everyone else, I was overjoyed to find out that everyone on board Flight 1549 survived the crash landing into the Hudson River. I remember well the very different outcome when Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the Potomac River on a wintry day in 1982, and when I first heard about Flight 1549 going down, that was the outcome I was imagining. The miraculous news came in about everyone surviving, and the later reports of the cool competence of the pilot and the instant competent reactions of ordinary people nearby...ah, that was a very good feeling, which I will cherish for some time, I think.

But I got to wondering about the cause of the crash that's being bandied about (no official cause has yet been released). The crew of the aircraft, and passengers who witnessed it, all say that Flight 1549 flew through a flock of geese that took out both engines. From friends in aviation, I knew that airports expended considerable energy getting rid of birds – and especially large birds like Canadian geese – from the areas around airports. They do this because “bird strikes” are well-known aviation hazards, one that pilots have been worried about ever since the dawn of the jet age (jet engines are particularly vulnerable to bird strikes). So I wondered why there was (apparently) a large flock of geese so close to La Guardia airport.

With just a bit of searching, I discovered that Senator Chuck Schumer used our tax dollars to help fund an organization called GeesePeace that advocates “non-lethal” methods for controlling Canadian geese populations and location. Reading through the news stories, press releases, and other materials, one can't help but ask this question: did we make a bad tradeoff between risk to aircraft and humane treatment of geese? I'd have to know a lot more to reach a conclusion, but I know enough right now to be suspicious. And it doesn't help me feel one bit better that Chuck “showboat” Schumer is involved...