Saturday, January 28, 2012

Romney directed company that defrauded the U.S. of $25 million

Mitt Romney is getting clobbered with a new set of ads in Florida that describe how the Damon Corp., a company that Mitt Romney's company purchased and that Romney directed, defrauded the Medicare program of $25 million, was caught, and eventually paid $119 million in fines.

Politifact reports
The story begins in 1989, when Romney was the head of Bain Capital, a private equity firm that specialized in buying troubled companies, turning them around, and then selling them for a profit. That year, Bain bought Damon Corp., a medical testing company based in Needham, Mass.

Bain took the company public in 1991, and Romney served on the company’s board of directors. In 1993, Bain orchestrated a sale of the company to Corning Inc., getting a handsome return on its investment and earning Romney himself $473,000, according to The Real Romney. After the sale, Corning closed the main facility in Needham, laying off 115 people.

In October 1996, federal prosecutors announced that Damon was agreeing to pay $119 million in both civil and criminal fines after pleading guilty to defrauding Medicare. The company was providing doctors with forms that didn’t make clear what tests included, so doctors were checking off additional tests that weren’t necessary, according to the Globe’s summary of the government’s case.

The overbilling went from 1988 through 1993, prosecutors said. "This is a case, pure and simple, of corporate greed run amok," U.S. Attorney Donald Stern said when the settlement was announced.
The story is all too typical of the "heads I win, tails you lose" approach of modern big business.

Under the most charitable explanation, Romney failed in his ethical and fiduciary responsibilities. Despite these failures, he was handsomely rewarded and was able to walk away from this mess he was involved in.

In this week's debate, Romney said,
...I think it's important for people to make sure that we don't castigate individuals who have been successful and try and, by innuendo, suggest there's something wrong with being successful and having investments and having a return on those investments.

Speaker, you've indicated that somehow I don't earn that money. I have earned the money that I have.
There is "something wrong" with running or overlooking a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise. There is "something wrong" with pocketing money that activity. And there is "something wrong" with foisting that illicit enterprise off on some other unwitting investors.

The same types of unethical and irresponsible behavior--create a mess, take your cut, and sell it to the next person--were at the heart of the financial crisis that led to the Great Recession. Romney was just a few years ahead of his time.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The next big GOP worry after voter fraud

Why do Republicans hate business regulations?

Maybe because the ones they come up with themselves are so ridiculous.
An Oklahoma Republican is pushing a bill to outlaw the use of human fetuses in food, because, as he says, “there is a potential that there are companies that are using aborted human babies in their research and development of basically enhancing flavor for artificial flavors.”
This level of stupidity should be disqualifying; instead, some folks wear it like a badge of honor.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jobs for Greensboro?

The company that is proposing a new commercial development at the corner of W. Friendly Avenue and Hobbs Road, has released plans to the News & Record.
The developers of a proposed shopping center at West Friendly Avenue and Hobbs Road met with News & Record reporters and editorial writers today. Here is some of what the developers said:

• The center will have four buildings that encompass about 53,000 square feet on 6.7 acres. The two buildings on the north side of the property will be leased to small shops. On the south side along Friendly Avenue, there will be a grocery store and a drugstore...

• The project will create 135 construction jobs and 160 permanent full- and part-time jobs. It will add roughly $200,000 to the city's property-tax base.
Just in case anyone has forgotten, Greensboro is hungry for jobs, especially construction jobs. In November, the unemployment rate in the Greensboro-High Point metropolitan area was 9.9 percent. Nearly 36,000 people are unemployed in the area.

People in the neighborhood are gathering the torches and pitchforks to drive the developer off (though judging by the many Bill Knight signs that were seen a few months ago in the neighborhood, some of them weren't so opposed to a trashier development in backyards a bit further east). That development, however, is somebody else's future livelihood.

The development is sensibly placed. It would front a busy road and be sandwiched between a large commercial center and a church. In Greensboro's long-range plan, this area was slated for moderate-density residential redevelopment. However, a parcel just down the block at the corner of Hobbs Road and Northline Avenue, which was originally slated for commercial development may be developed as condominiums. Essentially, the long-range zoning of commercial and residential plots within a block of each other would be swapped. In the last few years, another plot a few blocks away at the corner of Friendly and Green Valley was effectively turned into a park. Other parks--the Bicentennial Garden and Bog Garden--are within a few blocks.

Put me down as one neighbor who would like the jobs and tax revenues this infill development would bring. A Trader Joe's wouldn't be so bad either.

North Carolina did not add teachers

The Civitas Institute (and others) are pushing selective numbers to try to show that the draconian K-12 budget cuts by the Republican legislature actually increased the number of teachers being funded by the state in 2011-12.

Civitas is taking its numbers from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Statistical Profile and focusing on the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. Below I show the figures for teachers from the 2008-09 through 2011-12 school years.

Full-time teachers in public schools
School year State-funded Federally-funded Locally-funded Total
2008-09 86,447 5,699 6,952 99,098
2009-10 81,746 9,245 4,386 95,377
2010-11 78,963 11,443 4,473 94,879
2011-12 81,020 8,791 4,153 93,964

Data from the NC DPI Statistical Profile.

Civitas is touting the fact that from 2010-11 to 2011-12, the number of teachers that were paid for through state revenues increased by 2,057 from 78,963 to 81,020. The figure that's relevant to children, however, is the total number of full-time teachers in North Carolina's public schools, which decreased by 915 this from 94,879 to 93,964 and which has decreased by more than 4,000 since 2008-9.

The claim that this is anything other than a loss is ridiculous. If I took $3,000 from your savings account and only put $2,000 of it back in your checking account, you wouldn't be thanking me for my "generosity."

Civitas tries to explain this discrepancy away by saying that the losses were really caused by the federal government, which started scaling back its stimulus funding resulting in a loss of 2,652 teaching positions. Decreases in funding by local governments also contributed to the decrease, causing a loss of 320 teaching jobs.

What Civitas overlooks is that the federally-funded teachers were originally state-funded teachers who were put on the put on federal revenues temporarily. In 2009-10 and 2010-11 with the availability of stimulus funding, North Carolina shifted nearly 6,000 teachers from state revenues to federal revenues. In 2010-11, shifts of teachers to federal and local revenues mostly offset shifts out of state revenues. In 2011-12, a third of these "temporarily-shifted" full-time teachers were shifted back to state funds.

Civitas also overlooks decreases in the other funding that the state has sent to local school districts. In 2011-12, these cuts were more than $300 million, on top of the $459 million reduction in other state spending.

When all full-time personnel are included, full-time employment in North Carolina's public schools dropped by 4,840 positions in 2011-12.

Full-time personnel in public schools
School year State-funded Federally-funded Locally-funded Total
2008-09 144,789 12,573 33,764 191,126
2009-10 128,540 24,715 29,684 182,939
2010-11 125,981 26,070 28,419 180,470
2011-12 130,594 18,650 26,386 175,630

Data from the NC DPI Statistical Profile.

Once again, personnel on state revenues increased but were more than offset by decreases in personnel on local and federal revenues.

Civitas goes on to claim that the 4,840 decrease in employment shows how mild the cuts were. As if.

First of all, the cuts compound cuts of nearly 11,000 full-time people in the preceding two years. Taking a pint of blood on one day leaves you woozy; taking pints on three consecutive days represents a serious health risk.

Second, the figures that Civitas uses (and that are shown above) are limited to full-time personnel and do not include part-time jobs. They also exclude pre-K positions. The schools estimate that when all of these positions are included that the employment loss was 6,400 jobs this year and 17,300 since 2008-9.

Third, the reports do not account for reductions in work days and work hours that occurred in about two-thirds of school districts.

More fundamentally, Civitas overlooks how unnecessary these cuts were. The legislature eliminated a tax surcharge on higher-income households, eliminated a temporary sales tax surcharge, and cut corporate taxes. These cuts led to the losses in positions in pre-K, K-12 and higher education.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The job picture in NC ain't pretty

Some blog posts should come with child warnings.

The monthly labor report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that jobs continue to pass the Tar Heel state by. While the number non-farm jobs nationally grew by about 200,000 on a seasonally-adjusted basis in December, the number of non-farm jobs in North Carolina actually fell slightly, dropping by 4,400.

The first graph below shows North Carolina's employment each month since January 2007.

Seasonally-adjusted non-farm employment (in 000s) in North Carolina from the BLS Current Employment Statistics

The next graph shows the corresponding national figures.
National seasonally-adjusted non-farm employment (in 000s) from the BLS Current Employment Statistics

Employment in North Carolina bottomed out in early 2010 -- the same time as the rest of the country (though the percentage drop in employment was greater in North Carolina). Employment temporarily surged in the state and nationally with the Census in the spring of 2010. Since then, employment in North Carolina has oscillated around a relatively flat trend. Employment grew early this year (the state and national unemployment rates were actually equal in the spring) but fell as the state ended the last fiscal year. The state still hasn't regained the levels of employment from this spring. In contrast, national employment has increased fairly steadily.

One thing that the figures don't show is population growth. Population increased both nationally and in North Carolina, but the growth has been faster in North Carolina. This means that the state's anemic job performance is even more immiserating than these graphs suggest.

2011 clearly ended badly. Let's hope that 2012 is brighter. North Carolina has a lot of catching up to do.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pope's misinformation for UNC alumni

The John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy can be faulted for a host of sins, but a lack of ambition is not among them. Not content to mislead and misinform state lawmakers to cut public funding for North Carolina's public university system, the Pope Center also operates a misleading web-tool to also discourage private donations from some alumni.
Did you attend a North Carolina college or university?

If so, you undoubtedly receive frequent pleas from your school for financial support. Does your school deserve your donations?

Find out using this Alumni Guide to North Carolina colleges. Select your college or university from the list below to answer a short survey to determine whether your giving priorities line up with your alma mater’s current activities and performance.
I went to the Alumni Guide for my institution, UNCG, to see what dastardly things my colleagues and I were doing. Below I post some of the Pope Center's statements, along with English translations.

Pope: UNC Greensboro has a free speech rating of "Red"

Translation: A free-speech group objects to UNCG's policy on discriminatory conduct--specifically to the statements
UNCG will not tolerate any harassment of, discrimination against, or disrespect for persons. UNCG is committed to equal opportunity in education and employment for all persons regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, age, national origin, disability, military veteran status, political affiliation or sexual orientation.
The same group rates 65 percent of the colleges and universities that it surveyed as also "severely restricting free speech and open debate." Only four percent of colleges and universities meet with the group's approval.

Pope: UNC Greensboro has a grade of "B" in ACTA's "What Will They Learn" assessment.

Translation: Another group has marked UNCG down for allowing students with SAT or ACT writing scores in the top decile to opt out of its first-year English 101 composition class. Students would still have to take an additional "Reasoning and Discourse" class and also complete two additional "writing-intensive" classes. The group also objects to UNCG allowing students to take courses like Western Civilization, Introduction to Greek Civilization, and Europe 1400-1789 in place of a course on either U.S. History or U.S. Government. In addition, the group objects because UNCG doesn't require students to take Economics (okay, they've got a point there).

Describing this as a "what will they learn" index is odd. At one end of the distribution (tied for worst in the state), our sister school, UNC Chapel Hill, gets a "D" from the group. UNC Chapel Hill students seem to learn a lot (just ask one of them). At the other end of the spectrum, getting "A's" are the University of Texas -- San Antonio, which graduates a whopping 27% of its students, the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, which graduates 32% of its students, and Kennesaw State University, which graduates 41% of its students. The distinction between putting an extra requirement in the undergraduate bulletin and actually learning something seems lost on the Pope Center.

Pope: UNC Greensboro received a rating of "Unbalanced: Democratic" for faculty political balance.

Translation: Pope explains
This category measures the number of professors in the economics and political science departments who are registered Democrats versus the number who are registered Republicans. Ratios of greater than 5:1 are considered "Very Unbalanced." Ratios between 5:1 and 1.5:1 are considered "Unbalanced." A ratio of 1.5:1 or less is considered “Balanced.” Data were gathered from the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
So, in one breath, Pope criticizes UNCG for not forcing students to take government and economics classes. In the next, it decries those faculty as being unsuitably democratic. It's really hard to win with these folks.

Pope: UNC Greensboro has a 6-year Graduation Rate of 52 percent. The national average for 4-year schools is 63.2 percent.

Translation: The 52% statistic listed for UNCG is the percentage of students who started their careers at UNCG in 2003 and who completed their degrees at UNCG by 2009. The 63.2% statistic is not comparable and appears to be the proportion of students who start at a four-year institution seeking a bachelor's degree and ever attain one at any institution. At UNCG, just over a fifth of students transfer. UNCG (and other colleges) don't track graduation rates for their former students. The 63.2% statistic appears to come from a completely different data series based on a government survey (the kind of government spending other folks in the Pope Empire routinely object to). The comparable statistic for students completing a bachelor's degree at the same four-year institution they started at is 55.5%; for public institutions, the comparable statistic is 53.5%.

Incorrect and misleading statistics? Just another day at the office for the folks at the Pope Center.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Disenfranchising voters right and left

Republicans in state houses throughout the country, who have busied themselves gerrymandering voting districts and disenfranchising the poor, disabled and elderly through voter-ID requirements, have found yet more ways to disenfranchise voters.

In Iowa, it appears that we will never know who won the Republican caucuses. In part because, Iowa Republicans have lost the results from eight precincts. The Des Moines Register reports
There are too many holes in the certified totals from the Iowa caucuses to know for certain who won, but Rick Santorum wound up with a 34-vote advantage.

Results from eight precincts are missing — any of which could hold an advantage for Mitt Romney — and will never be recovered and certified, Republican Party of Iowa officials told The Des Moines Register on Wednesday.
Rather than count further, Iowa Republicans are simply declaring that the results are "close enough."

Closer to home, approximately 43,000 residents of Guilford County are slated to go unrepresented in their own county government because of a mistake in a redistricting law that state Republicans rushed through the NC General Assembly.
Last year, the General Assembly rushed through a redistricting plan that redefined Guilford County voting lines and reduced the county board from 11 members to nine.

The new district map was heavily criticized. Beyond claims about racial bias in the map, it created logistical problems:

• Some districts are left without any direct representation by commissioners.

• Other newly created districts are represented by more than one commissioner.

• No provision is made for electing at-large representatives until 2014, which would mean no at-large representation on the board for two years.
Republicans tout their strict adherence to Constitutional principles, but it seems they have a blind spot to the Constitutional right to vote.

Either that or they are grossly incompetent.

Come to think of it, they could be both.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pope Center says there are too many UNC students; the data say there are too few

Earlier this year, the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy recommended a host of budget cuts for the UNC system, based in good part on false and misleading statements about enrollment growth.
In recent years, expansionist policies have pushed the UNC system far beyond its natural limits.

...The recent rate of growth in the university population is unsustainable. The population of North Carolina grew approximately 16 percent between 2000 and 2009; over that period, UNC enrollment grew 38 percent. This growth places an increasing burden on taxpayers to subsidize additional students...
Enrollments at the schools in the UNC system did grow substantially from 2000 to 2009, though by slightly less than the figures that the Pope Center reported (from 162,761 students in Fall 2000 to 222,322 students in Fall 2009, an increase of 36.6 percent). The Pope Center, however, chose not to report that enrollments in Fall 2010 fell to 221,727 students. Since their report was posted, enrollments fell further to 220,305.

Are these enrollments unnatural or unsustainable? Let's stick with the Pope Center's high-watermark enrollment figures from Fall 2009, as these are the most favorable to its case.

Nationally, enrollment in 4-year institutions grew 37.8 percent from 9.36 million students in Fall 2000 to 12.91 million students in Fall 2009, so UNC's enrollment lagged the general growth in demand for post-secondary education and skills (of course, reporting that college enrollments in the U.S. grew 37.8 percent and UNC's almost did too makes for a very different headline).

Another indicator is the growth in enrollments in two-year institutions. From 2000 to 2009, enrollment in North Carolina's public two-year institutions grew 48.3 percent from 38,369 to 56,896.

We can also consider UNC enrollments relative to the size of the potential student population. There's no perfect measure for this because enrollments include graduate students, non-traditional students, and returning students, but the number of 18-24 year-olds is a general benchmark. The Census Bureau estimated that there were 930,000 18-24-year-olds living in North Carolina in July 2009. So, in Fall 2009 there were 0.239 UNC students per 18-24 year-old living in the state. Nationally, there were 0.253 four-year public-institution students per 18-24 year-old. Far from over-serving its population, the UNC system enrolls fewer students relative to the numbers of youths and young adults.

We can also use the Pope Center's comparison of students relative to the general population. In North Carolina, there were 0.0235 UNC students for every state resident in Fall 2009; nationally, the figure was 0.0251 public-four-year students. Put another way, in Fall 2009, there were 42.5 North Carolina residents potentially supporting each UNC student. Nationally, there were only 39.8 people supporting each public university student.

Jobs in North Carolina and elsewhere demand increasing amounts of skills. North Carolina's youths will have to compete with workers from other states and other countries whose skills are increasing. The state's lower--and now falling--enrollment rates put them and the state at a competitive disadvantage.

The problem in North Carolina isn't too many public university students, it's too few.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Are some first amendment tax breaks better than others?

David Taintor, who has blogged critically at TPMMuckraker about tax breaks for a religious-themed amusement park in Kentucky, today turns his attention to an Oklahoma lawmaker who wants to repeal that state's sales tax loophole for newspapers and magazines.
An Oklahoma lawmaker wants to repeal a sales tax exemption on his state’s newspapers and magazines. Because apparently people are still reading too many newspapers these days.
We tax other media, including books. Is that because lawmakers want to discourage reading?

We tax children's coats. Is that because lawmakers want children shivering?

I like newspapers; I don't like unemployment, and I don't like taxes. But why should for-profit newspapers get special tax treatment that is not available to other businesses? The goods and services that those businesses sell are also important, and the people that they employ (or could employ) are worth our consideration.

North Carolina his its own newspaper sales-tax loophole. It and other sales-tax loopholes could (and should) be closed, which would broaden the tax base and allow the nominal sales tax rate for everyone to fall.

Gun deaths up in 2010

On a chilly January morning, a dismal scientist's thoughts naturally turn to death.

The CDC reports that 31,513 people in the U.S. died in 2010 from guns, up from 31,347 the year before. Homicides involving guns were down (11,105 in 2010 from 11,493 the year before), as were homicides generally. Gun deaths from accidents and suicides accounted for the overall increase. A gun is still nearly twice as likely to be used in a successful suicide than in a homicide.

The cheerier news is that overall death rates decreased nationally, though the cheer will have to be reserved for other states--North Carolina's death rate actually increased.

Update: Figures for 2011 also show an increase in gun deaths.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Millions stolen from NC workers

The North Carolina Justice Center last week issued a research brief on wage theft--the non-payment or under-payment of owed wages by employers. The brief tallies statistics from the North Carolina Wage and Hour Bureau on workers' complaints about being stiffed on promised wages by their employers. The total value of confirmed, investigated wage theft by employers rose from $3.8 million in FY 2010 to $4.7 million in FY 2011; however, the amount recovered fell from $1.9 million in FY 2010 to $1.8 million in FY 2011.

Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis indicate that about $230 billion was earned by NC in wages and salaries in 2010. So the $4.7 million figure represents a tiny fraction of total payments, but the $4.7 million also likely undercounts the total extent of wage theft because it omits small cases (the Wage and Hour Bureau won't even consider a case under $50), other cases that were not reported, and cases that were pending investigation.

The extent of investigated and confirmed wage theft is up sharply from previous years. From FY 2007-2009, the amounts of documented theft ranged from $1.3 million to $2.0 million. The proportion recovered is down substantially--88 percent of the wages due were recovered in FY 2007, but only 38 percent of wages due were recovered in FY 2011.

When a worker takes money from an employer, it is theft or embezzlement, and the worker can be hauled off to jail. When an employer takes money from workers, it is an administrative or civil matter, and when the employer closes its doors, it's a tough sh*t, just bidness matter.

Monday, January 9, 2012

If only we could "solve" the debt crisis

The News & Observer ominously warns
    The failure of Congress to slash the national deficit threatens to cascade from Washington straight into North Carolina's schools, stores and doctor's offices. 
    Automatic spending cuts - triggered by the lack of agreement in Congress over ways to reduce the more than $1.2 trillion deficit - will begin in 2013 and could mean:
    • An estimated 9 percent cut in the $417 million that Duke University gets from the National Institute of Health to research cures for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's, alternative energy and national security.

    • The loss of federal funds for public schools with large populations of low-income students. In Cabarrus County, for example, that means the school system could lose money that pays for a series of federal programs, including $210,000 in Title 1 funding, which helps low-income schools hire teachers and assistants to reduce class sizes, improve computer labs, purchase supplies, and increase teacher training.

    • And the death of mom-and-pop shops in military towns like Fayetteville that could lose $351 million in defense contracts and tens of millions in civilian payroll.
The article, correctly, points to the economic harms associated with automatic spending cuts that will be triggered by Congress' debt deal last summer and by Congress' failure to agree on an alternative debt reduction plan. We've seen this kind of government retrenchment at the state level, and it retards and can even reverse economic growth.

However, the article fails to mention the harms that would be associated with a debt deal.

There are only two ways to rein in the deficit: cut spending and increase taxes. The article lists cuts that would hurt university research, school spending, and military base businesses, but other cuts would fall on somebody else.

Cuts to poor people's medical care or food assistance, college students' education assistance, extended unemployment, or the elderly's medical care would also hurt specific people and take money out of the economy. Similarly, increases in taxes, perhaps in the form of closing "loopholes" (a.k.a. somebody else's tax break), letting the payroll tax cut expire, or straightforwardly raising rates, would take money out of wallets and pocket books and slow the economy.

Those are the unpalatable choices on the table. The News & Observer complains about one serving of brussel sprouts but doesn't tell you that the other serving bowls are filled with lima beans and that dinner will be followed by a big spoonful of castor oil.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A remarkably solid jobs report

The monthly national jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor for December showed moderately strong growth as the U.S. added 200,000 jobs on a seasonally-adjusted basis and as the unemployment rate dipped to 8.5 percent.

The 200,000 job gain is important because it is solidly above the growth in the working-age population, which means that the country is actually making progress in its jobs recovery. The job gains of around 100,000 in previous months were much closer to population growth, meaning that we were only treading water. Indeed, the 58.5 percent of people who are working in December 2011 is the same rate as October 2009, when the unemployment rate crested at 10 percent.

Also notable was how widespread the employment gains were. Nearly every major industrial sector added jobs. The only declining major sectors were temporary help agencies, which is something of a good sign, and the public sector, which was weighed down by local government job losses. Among those who were working, there were also big shifts from part-time work (338,000 fewer workers) to full-time work (553,000 more workers).

As with last month's report, the number of people who were "in the labor force" (people either working or looking for work) dipped slightly. The fall, however, was mostly attributable to decreases in labor force participation among teenagers. Nevertheless, expanded definitions of the jobless rate that include discouraged, marginally attached, and involuntary part-time workers all dropped.

Overall, the figures, although slightly better than expected, suggest only gradual improvement in the employment situation. It will take job gains closer to 400,000 a month to begin making noticeable improvements.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Could it be Magic? The NC Republicans' Midnight Special

In the wee, dark hours of this morning, North Carolina Republicans in the General Assembly put on a Midnight Special and showed us all a little bit of magic.

No, not this kind of magic.

Instead, Republicans performed some much cheesier magic (who knew that anything could be cheesier than Barry Manilow).

Republicans waited until six Democratic representatives had disappeared. They then gaveled a quickie legislative session in with just a few minutes of notice and made a previously vetoed bill to weaken state teachers labor representation magically re-appear.
Just after 1 a.m. today, in a secreted session critics called unconstitutional, Republican legislative leaders passed a bill aimed at weakening the state's largest teachers association.
Republicans over-rode the governor's veto and then promptly adjourned.

When blindsided Democrats and teachers complained, Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis, aka "the Amazing Tillini," accused them of not having enough magical thinking.
Speaking to reporters after the session, House Speaker Thom Tillis maintained the legislature was transparent and lawmakers and the public should have known this bill could come before the House, even though it was not noticed.
If there's any good news from this sorry performance, it's that we might all be spared Republican moralizing about how they will be different from their predecessors.

Monday, January 2, 2012

"I am fearful of what Benjamin is capable of"

"I am fearful of what Benjamin is capable of with the small arsenal he has in his home and his recent threats of suicide."

So wrote the mother of Benjamin Colton Barnes' infant daughter in papers supporting her request for a restraining order this July.

Yesterday, Barnes validated those fears by using parts of his arsenal to gun down a park ranger (and mother of two).
A man who was being sought in the shooting of four people at a New Year's party in South King County early Sunday is suspected in the fatal shooting of a park ranger in Mount Rainier National Park later in the morning.

Park Ranger Margaret Anderson, a mother of two who was married to another ranger at the park, was shot about 10:30 a.m. after setting up a roadblock to stop a car that was fleeing another officer.

She was shot when the driver apparently stepped out of the vehicle with a shotgun and opened fire. It took authorities nearly 90 minutes to get to her because the assailant continued to fire an assault rifle at Pierce County SWAT team officers as they tried to assist the injured ranger, officials said.
Despite reportedly threatening himself and others and despite earlier run-ins with the law, Barnes was able to keep his arsenal.

At last report, he still appears to be loose in the woods with an assault rifle.

2012 is picking up where 2011 left off.