Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Snowy, icy weather returns to Sound

The winter of 2006-2007 isn't ready to call it quits yet, even though March is here:
Winter made a ferocious return to Western Washington on Wednesday, with heavy mountain snow causing a 60-vehicle pileup on Interstate 90, shutting down the state's major east-west freeway for more than six hours and triggering dozens of other accidents through the evening rush-hour commute.

Snow started falling in late afternoon, with the heaviest accumulations north of Seattle and in the Cascade foothills.

The biggest pileup was west of the Snoqualmie Pass summit near Milepost 52, where an estimated 60 cars, trucks -- and even a couple of boats on trailers -- collided about 3:30 p.m. in the blizzard-like conditions. Seven people were hurt, four seriously.

"We've got semis that are sideways and trailers that were hauling boats, and trailers that are destroyed, and trucks and cars. It's a mess," State Patrol Trooper Jeff Merrill said.
Interstate 90 was closed in both directions over Snoqualmie Pass for most of the evening. If you were planning a mountain crossing today you might want to put your preparations into deep freeze. Conditions are still treacherous.

Meanwhile, the lower foothills and suburbs in the northern Puget Sound are seeing plenty of snow. A convergence zone has arrived and is moving south over Puget Sound. Snohomish County residents can expect to wake up to plenty of snow tomorrow morning - perhaps as much as half a foot in some areas.

A heavy snow warning is in effect until 4 AM for most of Snohomish County. Between one and three inches of additional snowfall are expected.

Northern King County should also see some snow, with some areas receiving perhaps nothing more than a dusting but others seeing as much as three to four inches. Residents of the Eastside will see more snow than Seattleites will.

Temperatures are hovering around freezing, so commuters should expect some ice mixed in tomorrow morning. More information about dealing with the elements is available at Pacific Northwest Portal's Winter Weather Preparedness section.

I, Jellyfish

So nice to see other activists attacking a senator who voted against the war.
Rep. Inslee and Sen. Murray should be sent Spineless Citations for lobbying against citizens using their Constitutional right to enforce a check on executive authority, and provide a level of executive accountability that they themselves have been unwilling to initiate. Shame on them.

And shame on the entire US Congress for allowing the disaster in Iraq in the first place, then funding it year after year. This is Washington State business because it has cost Washington State dearly in priceless lives and at least 9.6 billion dollars (National Priorities Project).
Seriously, what is this? We should just arrest the entire Democratic Congress because they're not obsessed with impeaching Bush? Anyone who isn't mindlessly bent on a relentless pursuit of justice is somehow spineless?

But it's good to know that your backbone is so superior to us jellyfish. Have fun with your giant puppets 'n stuff. I wrote a chant for you:
Hey hey, ho ho, stupid chants have got to go
So do you use acrylic paint or tempera paint on the giant puppets, and if the latter, what happens when it rains?

The American people expect Democrats to start cleaning up the mess left by the Bush administration and the right wing agenda.

We can't do that if we are blindly fixated on trying to oust the lame duck residents of the White House and Number One Observatory Circle.

Can your giant puppets vote? More to the point, are you just clueless about the American politics or does your moral superiority somehow exempt you from dealing with it? Just wonderin'.

Fix the care of troops, now

Allegations are surfacing that in the wake of the Walter Reed scandal, the Pentagon is limiting access to wounded troops in response. From Editor and Publisher:
A report today that soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are being told not to speak with the press is apparently just the latest move in a recent effort to tighten restrictions on journalists' access to many military facilities, according to the president of Military Reporters and Editors.

James Crawley, a military reporter with MediaGeneral and MRE president, said today's revelation by Army Times that Walter Reed patients had been barred from speaking with reporters is not the first case of tightened restrictions. In recent months, he says several MRE members have reported similar crackdowns. What's worse, many of the denials are apparently in reaction to the potential negativity of a planned story.
Screw politics. These are real people with real families. I don't care if someone is the most right-wing Republican imaginable, if they served in the armed forces they need to be taken care of. They are Americans. Trying to wall wounded soldiers off from the rest of society is just sick.

This needs to be fixed, fast. Whatever can be done to cut red tape and improve care and conditions needs to be accomplished, be it by Democrats, Republicans, Whigs or whatever. You don't do this to people.

Simple majority legislation fails State Senate

This is disappointing. Looks like we've got more work to do:
A proposal that would make it easier for school districts to win voter approval for property tax levies failed today in the state Senate by three votes.

“I don’t think it is over,” said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane. She said the bill may come back up for a vote this session.

Despite an earlier assurance that many Republicans would likely vote yes if Democrats agreed to an amendment, most GOP senators voted no. Several said they don’t want to make it easier to raise property taxes, which are already high.

The Senate is the battleground for the measure, badly wanted by rural and suburban school districts that sometimes struggle to win the required 60 percent “supermajority” to pass their levies. The state House of Representatives has repeatedly voted in favor of reducing the requirement to a regular 50-percent-plus-1 “simple majority.”

The vote needed to get 33 votes in the Senate; it got 30.
Ironically, the simple majority legislation needs a supermajority vote to make it out of the chamber since it is a constitutional amendment. Republicans are apparently holding it up because Democrats won't agree to strict property tax caps which would reinstate badly designed rules from Tim Eyman's Initiative 747.

Republicans are essentially playing a bait and switch game:
Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, predicted widespread GOP support for the measure if Democrats agreed to allow levy votes only on the main November ballot. (As things stand now, the school budget schedule requires levy typically requires that levy elections be held in the spring, when fewer people vote.)

With that change, Brown quoted Hewitt as saying, GOP votes would “be there in a heartbeat.”

So she called their bluff. To the chagrin of longtime proponent Sen. Tracy Eide, D-Federal Way, Democrats agreed to an amendment allowing levy elections [only] in November.

“A half a loaf is better than none,” Eide sighed.

But she didn’t even get a slice. Even with the change, all but two Republicans voted against Senate Resolution 8207.
If your state senator voted against simple majority for public schools (roll call here), let his or her office know that you expect your representatives to support this critical legislation and are displeased with the vote. Note that Senator Lisa Brown, the Democratic Majority Leader voted against for parliamentary reasons (so she can bring it up again later) and actually does support the bill.

You can use the Legislative Hotline to contact your representatives:
Call our HOTLINE at 1-800-562-6000 (TTY for Hearing Impaired 1-800-635-9993). Callers to the Hotline can leave a brief message for their district legislators or for the Governor or Lt. Governor on issues of concern or on questions they may have about bills or laws. These messages are forwarded electronically to the appropriate individuals. When leaving a message with the Hotline, please be prepared to give your name and street address. For non-English speaking callers we offer interpreter services for many languages.
Or follow this link to do so electronically.

Supreme Court's decision to take up primary case isn't worrisome

Early yesterday, I wrote that supporters of a flawed "Top Two" primary should temper their enthusiasm about the United States Supreme Court's decision to hear the consolidated cases Washington State Grange v. Washington Republican Party (06-713) and State of Washington v. Washington Republican Party (06-730). Responding to that post on Washblog, Emmett O'Connell wrote:
Folks who are working for closed primaries in Washington should be worried that the Supreme Court picked up the case of the Top Two Primary.

The 9th Circuit court already struck down the Top Two Primary, pretty much using the already laid out arguments of the two major state parties, and strangely enough, the Supreme Court itself when it struck down California's primary.

So, that the Supreme Court is now picking up the case of the Top Two, means something. The Supreme Court wouldn't have picked up the case had they totally agreed with the ruling.
A few corrections are in order here. First, we're not "working for closed primaries in Washington". We support an open primary, which is not the same thing. Here's a comparison of the two, courtesy of Wikipedia:
An open primary (also known as the pick a party primary or Montana style primary) is a type of direct primary open to voters regardless of their party affiliation. Voters need not publicly declare their party affiliation but must vote for candidates of only one party.

A closed primary is a type of direct primary limited to registered party members, who must declare their party affiliation, generally in advance of the election, in order to vote in it. The closed primary serves to encourage party unity and prevent members of other parties from infiltrating and voting to nominate weak candidates.
The entries on Wikipedia correctly note that the two systems are actually opposites. The terminology is important because there is a major difference. Washington currently has an open primary system and that is what we support. We are not and have never been advocates of a closed primary system (which would require party registration outright).

Second, as I just pointed out, the Evergreen State already has an open primary in place. We're not working to install such a system - we're defending what the state has been using for three years already.

The Supreme Court can take up a case for any reason it wants to. The Court may take a case even if all of the justices agree with the lower court's ruling. It's worth remembering that the decisions of the 9th Circuit only apply to one region of the country. The Supreme Court's decisions are effective across all fifty states.

As Emmett notes, the Supreme Court declared back in 2000 (in California Democratic Party v. Jones) that the Golden State's primary, similar to the earlier "blanket primary" used in Washington was unconstitutional.

Emmett fails to make a convincing case that supporters of an open primary should be worried about the Court's grant of judicial review.

Rick at the Election Law blog offers his take on on the writ of certiorari:
[It] might mean that enough Justices have doubts that the Washington system is indistinguishable from the California system. Or it might be - and here's a trend I see perhaps developing with the grant of Lopez-Torres as well - that the Court simply finds these election law cases interesting, and enticing to take even when there are not high stakes involved (as in the major campaign finance cases, redistricting cases, or Bush v. Gore).
Whatever the reasons may be for taking the case, we believe the Court will again affirm the First Amendment rights of political parties to select their own nominees.

We'll get back to you

Atrios writes:
Why Bill Clinton's past infidelity is more relevant to his wife's candidacy than Rudy Giuliani's own infidelity is to his own candidacy is an exercise left to the reader.
Because moral failures by Democrats are, by definition, an indictment of all Democrats, who smell bad and would steal all our stuff.

Moral failures by Republicans are specific, individual failures in which case it is unfair to blame even those who looked the other way in situations like Mark Foley-gate.

The press has set up a "heads we win, tails you lose" system for Democrats in this country. The more we understand that and refuse to buy into games of "gotcha," the better off we'll be.

Put simply, all Democratic candidates at every level need to learn a little about playing hard to get, instead of stampeding towards any microphone or camera that appears, especially if that camera is marked "Fox." If people were wondering why Maria Cantwell's campaign tended not to get back to people and to issue terse, one sentence statements, it could be she rightly senses the grave political risk that one tiny mistake represents. In many instances, the right distorts what is actually said, further reducing the incentive to engage the press at all.

People may not have agreed with Cantwell's positions on the war, but her campaign probably showed the way of the future. Deal with the press as little as humanly possible, go around them and win a massive landslide. Admittedly, it doesn't hurt to have a great deal of money to do this, but a lot of people are just sick and tired of the double standard against Democrats in this country. The ultimate irony, of course, is that Republicans have managed to take this double standard against Democrats and convince millions of people that it's a double standard against them.

You have to admire those kinds of stones, even if it is a putrid spectacle to behold. Meanwhile, the (senator or representative) will get back to you on that.

MORE-- Frontline ran the third part of its series "News War" last night. It's called What's Happening to the News, and is well worth a look.

Governor says state hasn't shut the door on a surface+transit option for Seattle waterfront

Here's a bit of welcome, refreshing news: Governor Christine Gregoire told Evergreen Politics' Lynn Allen in a just published interview that the state hasn't completely shut the door on a surface plus transit option, despite whatever her communications staff might have said recently:
As a resident of Seattle, I will have to ask if there is any way the surface and transit option would be entertained by the state.

Gregoire: Absolutely. We did entertain it earlier but couldn’t make it work. We have a set of criteria we have to meet. We have to maintain safety. We have to meet capacity for both moving freight and people in that corridor.

We're not accommodating increases in capacity if we either rebuild the viaduct or build a new tunnel. There won't be an increase in today’s capacity. It's now somewhere in the neighborhood of 110,000 per day.

So, no matter what we do, we still have to maximize transit and surface. No matter what happens, there has to be a comprehensive transit component. We will need to be able to increase the capacity for moving the increase in population we are expecting.

Then, too, what we decide to do has to be fiscally responsible and friendly to urban design.

That's why we’re working with Ron Sims.

The state is saying, "Show me what you're talking about here". We’d like to see what the possibilities are.
Since this is directly from Gregoire herself, this must be the Governor's position. It's a much more reasonable and sensible approach than what has been conveyed in recent traditional media stories, and we strongly applaud it.

UPDATE: To be clear, we don't read the Governor's statement in this interview as a turnaround in her position. She said something very similiar previously during her most recent weekly media availability. We do view it as a refreshing clarification that sets the record straight.

We're strongly applauding Gregoire's willingness to talk to the netroots community (which is certainly to her credit) and to keep an open mind.

There's a lot more in the interview, and we encourage you to read the whole thing.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

CRC task force favors extra alternative

The news is in late this evening about the CRC task force vote tonight, and it appears an extra alternative has survived. From The Columbian:
After a four-hour meeting attended by more than 100 people, the Columbia River Crossing group voted 33-0 to launch its draft environmental impact statement (EIS), which will look in detail at replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge with a new bridge that includes mass transit.

But the panel also agreed to draft an additional alternative for inclusion in the draft EIS. It will be considered at its March 27 meeting.

Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, who will be on the committee drafting the new alternative, said he expects to see it include lower cost ways to move more people and consider keeping the existing I-5 Bridge.

The compromise means the draft EIS can get started even with the new alternative under study. Henry Hewitt, the task force co-chairman, said he expects the new alternative will be included in the draft EIS.
Lora Caine, President of Friends of Clark County and a task force member, says that Rex Burkholder of (Oregon) Metro offered an amendment, which she typed and emailed to me:
On February 22, 2007, the Metro council adopted the attached resolution regarding the alternatives to be considered by the CRC Task Force for inclusion in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The resolution supports:

1. Including the staff recommendation in the DEIS.
2. Adding an additional alternative that would analyze a supplemental bridge for use by autos, trucks, high capacity transit, bicycles and pedestrians and retain the existing bridges for a variety of objectives.
3. Analyzing in the DEIS a variety of issues relating to land-use, tolling, environmental justice, access issues on Hayden Island, and TDM/TSM measures.

I am, therefore, recommending to the Task Force that a subcommittee of the Task Force be formed with the charge to return to our next meeting with the more defined alternative that would be analyzed in the DEIS. I would expect that the subcommittee would work closely with CRC staff to develop an alternative that would offer the most practical alternative for reuse of the existing bridges and meet the Metro Council's objectives.

Thank you for consideration of this request.
Caine also had this to report about the vote on the amendment (these are Caine's words now:)
In the end, the vote went 26 for adding the amendment (-ed. out of a possible 39) with Mayor Pollard and Dean Lookingbill voting against the amendment (others, too but didn't see who they were). There were two task force members on the phone with a staff person who put in their no vote, too. They were representing trucking and freight mobility. It was unanimous for accepting the staff recommendation of the three options.

On March 27th, the subcommittee, led by Rex Burkholder which includes Steve Stuart, will come back with a report. It is expected at that time to have an alternative in simplified form for another up-or-down vote from the task force.
Offhand it sounds like a pretty reasonable compromise, given the magnitude of the project.

Studying things costs money, as many folks have frequently pointed out, but it may very well be worth it to include the "Burkholder-Stuart" alternative to help build the consensus this project is going to need.

The "land-use" bit still puzzles me, as it would seem to imply that changes in Clark County land use would be required. Whether that would impact the current efforts to revise the Comprehensive Plan by expanding the UGB's is not clear.

UPDATE 7:00 AM Feb. 28-- Chris Smith over at Portland Transport calls last night's decision a "mildly positive" outcome, but he has reservations.
So good news for the moment, but I wonder about the longer term. Clark County Chair Steve Stuart openly opined that staff would try to kill the 4th option before it was born, and I fear that he may be right. There was much discussion of the new option needing to "meet the Purpose and Need" and pass "the same criteria" as the other options (and many feel the criteria applied are actually much more stringent than what the Purpose and Need statement requires).

So whatever comes out of the subcommittee is likely to face an uphill climb. And if no fourth option survives, I think the task force may well splinter permanently.

Rex will chair the subcommittee. Let's see if he can navigate his way out of the box.
I was lucky enough to attend a forum in January where Smith was one of the panelists, and he presents his views well without being at all nasty about it; a true gift these days.

Smith (and Stuart) are probably right about the "extra option" not faring well in the end. CRC staff has repeatedly said a supplemental bridge will face a host of problems, like dumping too much traffic into downtown Vancouver, and re-using the existing bridges is both incredibly expensive and impractical. That being said, it's definitely worth taking the time to look at these issues in more detail.

CLARIFICATION 9:20 AM Feb. 28-- According to The Oregonian, the task force vote was 26-7 in favor of the Burkholder amendment, as six task force members were absent.

Steinbrueck to leave Seattle City Council

Saying that "I feel like this era’s come to an end", one of Seattle's most respected elected leaders is departing the City Council:
Surrounded by friends, fellow architects, and his three siblings — David, Lisa, and Matthew - City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck announced at an American Institute of Architects gathering tonight at the Hotel 1000 downtown that he will not seek reelection to the city council (as first reported in the Stranger.)

Instead, he will focus on working to defeat the new elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct supported by Gov. Christine Gregoire and most of the state legislature, and to promote the surface/transit option, which has gained momentum as opposition to a new elevated viaduct and a politically moribund tunnel has grown.
His decision not run again will almost certainly touch off a huge battle to fill the office. As for Steinbrueck, he says his immediate mission is to defeat a new viaduct - and he may set his sights on higher office in the years to come.

In Brief - February 27th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:
  • The Project for Public Spaces, a group dedicated to promoting the idea of placemaking (and an organization we have a lot of respect for), has ranked Seattle's waterfront as one of the seven worst in the world. PPS advises that "Seattle could also make huge gains by taking down the Viaduct along the waterfront, and investing in transit service instead. The waterfront now feels disconnected from downtown, but the removal of the viaduct would open up new links between people and Puget Sound. Public destinations that are floundering today would flourish.". Seattleities, help the Emerald City reclaim its waterfront - vote NO on Measure 2.
  • Seattle's Drinking Liberally chapter is screening Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth tonight at the Montlake Ale House in honor of the film's two Oscar wins last weekend. Arrive before 8:15 PM to catch the whole thing.
  • As I predicted last night, it didn't take long for that Drudge garbage about Gore's electricity use to be picked up by the traditional media - it made it into CNN's The Situation Room this afternoon and was mentioned in the preview by the network's John King following the end of Lou Dobbs' program. It just goes to show that we have much work to do before the Republican Noise Machine's ability to spread filth is neutralized.
  • Yesterday, the governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington (who are all Democrats, except for Arnold Schwarzenegger) announced the formation of the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative to implement a joint strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement directs each state to develop a regional target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions within six months. A "market-based" program will be implemented to reach the target (probably a load-based cap and trade program). The San Francisco Chronicle has an article which skeptically wonders if California's neighbors are really committed to cutting emissions.
Finally, the Dow Jones Industrial Average tanked 416 points today, while the NASDAQ lost 97 points. The losses for the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 all topped 3 percent for the day, and it was the Dow's worst day since September 17th, 2001. BusinessWeek has some solid analysis:
The slide may have awakened investors to the market's inherent risks, after weeks of growing complacency. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX), a measure of investors' risk tolerance often classified as a "fear gauge," surged more than 60% Feb. 27, its biggest-ever increase. The VIX had fallen as low as 8.6 as recently as Dec. 18, 2006, down from a 52-week high of 23.81 set last June.

A sharp overnight drop in China's stock market helped jump-start Tuesday's sell-off. Still, analysts say a weak manufacturing report and broader economic worries were probably more to blame for U.S. losses. Now might be an opportune moment for investors to make sure their portfolios reflect their risk-tolerance levels, though market pros say it's no time to panic just yet.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

POSTSCRIPT: The Associated Press has joined the Gore-trashing game with a non story by reporter Kristin M. Hall. The headline? "Group: Gore a hypocrite over power bill." It's time to fight back against the media's legitimization of right wing nonsense.

CRC task force vote tonight

It's not the Academy awards, but for transportation wonks in Portland and Clark County nothing will beat the the CRC task force vote this evening.
But the task force seems divided with the outcome uncertain. Several task force members seem ready to propose adding alternatives to the draft EIS. The Metro Council, for example, authorized its representative on the task force, Rex Burkholder, to seek construction of a third bridge while keeping the old one.

In addition, Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart may ask for relocation of the BNSF Railway swing span, now at the north side, to the center.
We may not find out until tomorrow what happened, as the meeting is in Portland and I can't attend. I do have a couple of emails out asking folks to let me know, so we'll see.

It's a significant decision for the region, to say the least. However it comes out, it's been a fairly impressive process, and the communities involved owe their thanks not just to the CRC staff and elected officials, but also to the many private citizens who volunteered countless hours.

Surprise: SCOTUS will rule on primary

This wasn't expected, but it isn't necessarily unfortunate:
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear arguments on the state's appeal of a federal appellate court's decision last year striking down Initiative 872, the top-two primary ballot measure.
Proponents of the ridiculous "Top Two" primary system are all saying that they're excited the Supreme Court has taken the case.

They should temper their enthusiasm.

They haven't won anything yet. If they lose - and they're likely to - the door will be slammed for good on that lousy system that no other state, save for maybe Louisiana, uses. The leaders of both the state Republican and Democratic parties have expressed confidence that the Supreme Court of the United States will uphold the lower court rulings invalidating the "Top Two" primary.

Said Chairman Dwight Pelz:
"I'm confident that once our case is made, the Supreme Court will follow in the lower courts' footsteps and uphold the right of political parties to choose their own nominees."
The case will not be argued until this October, meaning the open primary will thankfully stay in place for its fourth consecutive year no matter what. The open primary is a reasonable system that preserves political parties' Constitutional rights while allowing voters to select the nominees.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Practicing what you preach: a statesman who does and a legislator who doesn't

The Republican Noise Machine, simmering with anger at the positive attention Al Gore and his supporters are getting after "An Inconvenient Truth" won two Oscars at last night's Academy Awards ceremony, is going after the Vice President with another round of phony attacks and distortions.

Matt Drudge ran a headline on his website today which read "Gore Mansion Uses 20X Average Household, Consumption Increase After 'Truth'"

They know they can't argue against the scientific consensus on global warming so instead they are making up nonsense about Mr. Gore's electricity use. It typically starts with Drudge and his copycats, then it makes its way to conservative talk radio and FOX Noise Channel, then into right wing rags like the Washington Times, and from there the traditional media.

David Brock, who is the President & CEO of Media Matters, a terrific organization) documented how this all works in his 2004 book - a must read for every progressive activist.

The right loves to play the hypocrisy game. They jump at any chance to tar a progressive who calls for change (whether that be an end to preemptive wars started on false pretenses, a cleaner environment, universal healthcare, etc.) with that label. But rarely do they back up their charges with truthful information.

A whole apparatus exists on the right for attempting to destroy the careers of Democratic activists and elected officials. The Republican Noise Machine is interwoven into it - it serves as the echo chamber which amplifies the garbage produced by right wing cartels masquerading as nonpartisan, independent research centers. The ones who pretend to serve the public interest.

That's what is happening in this case.

Since the right evidently thinks hypocrisy is such a big deal, I'd like to hear an explanation as to why Representative Charles Ross, a Republican from Yakima, is spending so much time and energy with his "let's get tough on crime" talk. Here's an example of what I mean. From a GOP press release:
Rep. Charles Ross views public safety as one of his legislative priorities, and his first bill as 14th District state representative reflects that: it would dramatically increase the penalties for drivers who attempt to elude law enforcement officers.

[...]

"I want criminals who see a patrol car’s lights flashing in their rear view mirror to ask themselves, when they’re deciding whether to hit the accelerator: is trying to outrun this officer worth a year in prison on top of any other sentence I might receive?"
You see, it's all about trying to out-tough the Democrats - something we saw last legislative session with legislation to punish sex offenders:
"Because the Democrats have a supermajority in the House, and can pass any bill they like, some people asked me why I’m going ahead with a bill that has tougher penalties than what the Democrats have proposed," Ross said. "I think the question answers itself: I'm doing it because I believe the penalties should be tougher than the Democrats have proposed."
But to really illustrate what I'm talking about, here is a list of all the bills Representative Ross has prime sponsored this session:
  • HB 1198 - Changing eluding provisions
  • HB 1971: Prohibiting vehicle and driver's license renewal due to unpaid traffic fines.
  • HB 1972: Regarding proceeds from irrigation district foreclosure sales.
  • HB 2126: Limiting rates paid for medical care provided to jail inmates.
  • HB 2170: Protecting employees, contract staff, and volunteers of a law enforcement agency.
  • HB 2308: Making residential burglary a crime against persons.
  • HJR 4224: Resolving to amend the state Constitution to make public safety a paramount duty of the state.
With one exception, they all have to do with crime. And if you look at Ross' secondary sponsorship of bills, the same theme is there.

For example, he has cosponsored HB 1655 (doubling the amount of monetary penalties for traffic infractions on high accident corridors) and HB 1191 (making it a felony to drive or be in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug when the person has two or more prior offenses within seven years) among many others.

The reason that I find all of this let's get tough on crime talk curious is that last October, the Yakima Herald Republic reported this:
Charles Ross, the Republican candidate for a state 14th District House seat, was cited in March by Yakima police for racing his car against another vehicle, a charge his lawyer said will be dismissed next month.

Ross, 35, was also arrested eight years ago for driving under the influence of alcohol. He pleaded guilty to an amended and less serious charge of first-degree negligent driving.

[...]

Ross was charged with "willfully comparing speed," or racing, which is a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to a year and a maximum fine of $5,000.

Racing usually, but not always, involves speeding, according to prosecutors.
How interesting. A Republican who was ticketed for street racing is the prime sponsor of a bill to toughen penalties for high-speed chases and eluding the police.

Ross, if you've watched him in Olympia, has been a Republican mouthpiece for anti-crime legislation this session - whether that be in floor speeches, media events, or press releases (as referenced above).

Ross' Republican friends said last fall they don't believe the 1998 DUI incident should prevent Charles from holding public office. And Ross seemed remorseful:
Ross said Monday in a telephone interview that he felt no obligation to disclose the arrest or traffic ticket information, but wasn't hiding it either.

Of the drunken-driving arrest, he said: "It's something that happened to me. I don't expect any person to be perfect. We all make mistakes. It's how you live up to your mistakes."
(Emphasis mine). If you believe in second chances, then what's with all the legislation to make life harder for lawbreakers?

It's truly ironic that a young Republican out of the greater Yakima area with a criminal record would make harsher penalties for criminals his top legislative priority. I had a good chuckle when I read that bit about his lawyer saying the police charge would be dismissed in short order.

If you're a reader of local right wing blogs, you might be led to believe that traffic infractions are a real stain on a Washingtonian's political reputation (of course, it's okay if you're a Republican).

Regardless of whether or not you believe Ross' history proves he isn't fit to hold public office, the representative's rhetoric about crime, as well as his bill sponsorship, confutes his past actions and even his recent comments about not expecting "any person to be perfect".

Hypocrite is defined by Random House as "a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements."

It's hard to argue that calling Charles Ross a hypocrite would be unfair. He doesn't want his prior mistakes to be held against him - but you don't see that spirit of forgiveness in his public life. Doesn't Ross believe in the Golden Rule - "do unto others as you would have them do unto you?"

The other side is constantly, gleefully, unapologetically trotting out charges of hypocrisy that often have no merit whatsoever.

But when progressives dare to honestly point out their duplicity, the right wing cries foul and complains about smears.

The right is engaged in the politics of personal destruction - a never ending campaign to sabotage journalism, democracy, and truth. Charges of hypocrisy are one of the tools they use to accomplish that goal. Ultimately it's not even about hypocrisy - it's about a permanent political war against the left.

It's not okay to make up nonsense and level it as a serious charge against a political figure, as the right wing is doing in attacking Al Gore.

It is, however, fair to question the motives of a lawmaker mounting a rhetorical and legislative crusade against crime who has pleaded guilty to a criminal offense in the past and who told the media he doesn't "expect any person to be perfect."

If Charles Ross wants to defend himself and disagree with our conclusions, he's welcome to do so. Unlike most of our political opponents on the right, we'll listen if he has something to say in response.

About the wingnutosphere

What Atrios says.
You know, the wingnutosphere was always populated by lunatic morons, but back in the old days we actually felt obliged to engage them. Now we just mock them.
We might add a sound addendum: not only that, but in the case of people who think it's okay to trace IP addresses and resort to various other petty acts, it's not only okay but advisable to ignore them, since their instinct is not to state rational reasons why they disagree with people, but to attempt subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) intimidation. This worked somewhat in 2002-2003, when the horrors of French Toast were on display for all to see; not so much now that the architects of the Great and Glorious People's Crusade to Teach Hippies a Lesson by Attacking Iraq are widely known to be idiots.

Freedom of speech also includes the right to ignore people who are not credible, whether the issue is wars, elections or country music bands who speak their mind.

If only journalists could figure this out, we'd be half way home.

NPI releases eleventh podcast

We've released our eleventh podcast - the first of a special series of Priorities podcasts focusing on important issues in the statehouse.

This episode concentrates on education and features a conversation with Representative Dave Upthegrove about his high school education completion bill as well as a discussion of other issues facing our state's public schools.

If you have comments or suggestions for the podcast, or ideas for future episodes, send us a note.

If you want to subscribe to our Media RSS feed to be notified immediately when new podcasts are released, follow this link.

Members of NPI - Northwest Progressive Institute - Northwest Progressive Institute

If you are an iTunes user and want to subscribe to our podcast in iTunes, click the button above to do so directly.

Kos on Fox flap: a "step back"

I don't know who this Kos guy is, but he makes a lot of sense regarding the deicsion by Nevada Democrats to allow Fox Noise Channel to host a debate:
The best thing Barack Obama may have done this young primary season was to freeze out Fox News after their "Madrassas" smear of him. I don't know if he's still cutting them off, but fact is, he sent an unmistakable message -- he'll only deal with legitimate news operations, and Fox News ain't one of them.

This was a huge step forward. Fox News is unabashedly movement oriented -- focused on promoting Republicans at the expense of Democrats. Every decision they make, from top to bottom, is predicated on that very simply mission.

But they cannot exert serious pressure on media narratives unless it creates some semblance of respectability. Its so-called "fair and balanced" nonsense. It's much easier to ignore Newsmax as partisan dribble. But when reporting news, any "serious" news operation gets deference by its peers. And Fox News has taken advantage of that deference to promote some of the worst smears against Democrats. Yet for years, Democrats have helped fuel this right-wing propaganda arm by appearing on their various programs, lending it an air of legitimacy.

But I suppose politics is about measuring baby steps. And the Nevada Democratic Party's decision to give Fox News rights to one of our field's debates sets back much of our hard work.
The Democratic candidates really need to take this seriously, for their own good.

Watch out for the free shoes

Sure, the Seattle Times says it has a great news department, and we're supposed to just believe them.

But the P-I has reporters everywhere.
Virtual P-I reporter Cooper Priestly can be reached through Second Life instant messenger. To create a Second Life account, visit secondlife.com. Membership is free except for premium accounts, which cost $9.95 per month.
Even more, um, interestingly:
You will have to buy the appropriate body parts for mature activities. Until then, your avatar will have the anatomy of a Ken doll.
Very realistic game it sounds like. I remember mowing lawns and painting fences in high school for much the same purpose. (Well, come on, I didn't mean I had to actually--oh, never mind.)
Beware of gifts from strangers. Somebody offered me a pair of shoes that made my avatar pregnant.
In my day the rumor was toilet seats.

Leaving that aside, clearly what this game needs is bloggers.

What would happen if a Second Life blogger started blogging about Second Life, and then that one created a character, and so on and so on? Watch out, space-time continuum!

Sounds like a job for this guy.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Al Gore's Oscar moments

Think Progress has the video you want to see:
It's been a great night for the former Vice President, without a doubt.

UPDATE: A snippet from a must read commentary in The Nation:
Gore knows he has time to make a decision; indeed, he knows that as long as he isn't running he will be just about everyone's favorite son.

For Al Gore, politics can finally be fun. And so it was Sunday night.

His Oscar night adventure offered the former vice president a perfect opportunity to show the side of the ponderous politician that is rarely evidenced in public. Despite his reviews, Gore is one of the wittier people in public life. And so it came as no surprise to anyone who has spent much off-camera time with the man that he played the Academy Awards like a Saturday Night Live appearance.
Read the whole piece - Announcing Al Gore.

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH WINS!!!!

Al Gore's documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, is the WINNER of the Best Documentary Feature for 2007. It certainly deserved this honor and all of us at NPI are thrilled that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences picked it.

Congratulations to Davis Guggenheim, Laurie David, Lawrence Bender, Scott Z. Burns, Leslie Chilcott, and of course, Al Gore. All I have to add is hurrah!!!!!!

UPDATE: And kudos to Melissa Etheridge, who just won the Academy Award for Best Original Song - "I Need to Wake Up". That really sweetens the cake - two Oscars for An Inconvenient Truth!

Ellen DeGeneres hosts the Oscars

Tonight is Hollywood's biggest night - comedian Ellen DeGeneres will host (for the first time) the 79th annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California. The live broadcast begins in less than an hour on ABC.

We'll be watching the show and hoping Davis Guggenheim wins an Oscar for directing Al Gore's amazing documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Melissa Etheridge is also set to perform "I Need to Wake Up" from the film (which is nominated for Best Original Song). Other nominations in the documentary category include Deliver Us from Evil, Iraq in Fragments, Jesus Camp, and My Country, My Country.

I'll be posting the winners of each award in this post as they're announced, live.

UPDATE I: Here we go - the most international Oscars ever! Ellen's keeping the laughs coming. Of Gore, she said: "Al's here - America actually did vote for him!" - which drew sustained applause.

Academy Award Winners for 2007
  • Best Art Direction: Pan's Labyrinth (Art Direction: Eugenio Caballero, Set Decoration: Pilar Revuelta
  • Best Makeup: Pan’s Labyrinth (David Martí and Montse Ribé)
  • Best Animated Short: The Danish Poet (A Mikrofilm and National Film Board of Canada Production, Torill Kove)
  • Best Live Short: West Bank Story (An Ari Sandel, Pascal Vaguelsy, Amy Kim, Ravi Malhotra and Ashley Jordan Production)
  • Best Sound Editing: Letters from Iwo Jima (Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman, distributed by Warner Brothers)
  • Best Sound Mixing: Dreamgirls (Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer and Willie Burton, DreamWorks and Paramount)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin in "Little Miss Sunshine"
  • Best Animated Feature: Happy Feet (George Miller, Warner Brothers)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: The Departed (William Monahan, Warner Brothers)
  • Best Costume Design: Marie Antoinette (Milena Canonero)
  • Best Cinematography: Pan’s Labyrinth (Picturehouse, Guillermo Navarro)
  • Best Visual Effects: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and Allen Hall, Buena Vista)
  • Best Foreign Language Film: The Lives of Others (from Germany, A Wiedemann & Berg Production)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, for Dreamgirls
  • Best Documentary Short Subject: The Blood of Yingzhou District (A Thomas Lennon Films Production, Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon)
  • Best Documentary Feature: An Inconvenient Truth (Directed by Davis Guggeinheim, starring Al Gore, released by Paramount Classics)
  • Best Original Score: Babel (Gustavo Santaolalla, Paramount Vantage)
  • Best Original Screenplay: Little Miss Sunshine (Michael Arndt)
  • Best Original Song: "I Need to Wake Up" (written and performed by Melissa Etheridge, for Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth)
  • Best Film Editing: The Departed (Thelma Schoonmaker, Warner Brothers)
  • Best Actress: Helen Mirren in The Queen
  • Best Actor: Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland
  • Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed (Warner Brothers)
  • Best Picture: The Departed (Warner Brothers)
UPDATE II: Apple had an commercial for its iPhone (coming in June), which did not even include the word "iPhone". Gee, wonder why that is...

UPDATE III: Well, this is interesting. As a prelude to the awards for sound, they're showing clips from movies past and a "sound effects choir" (no joke) is providing the noise (instead of music) as accompaniment.

UPDATE IV: Well, Eddie Murphy didn't win Best Supporting Actor as many had expected he would. Oh, well. There's always next time.

UPDATE V: Randy Newman is kicking off the performances for Best Original Song with "Our Town" from Disney/Pixar's "Cars". Melissa Etheridge is following with "I Need to Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth.

UPDATE VI: Here's Leonardo DiCaprio...and Al Gore! to talk about environmentally friendly practices at the Oscars. "You are a true champion for the cause," Leonardo said. The Vice President thanked him....

Leonardo just asked Gore if he wouldn't like to make a major announcement, and Al appeared poised to launch a presidential bid, telling DiCaprio he was convinced, and even taking out a piece of paper...but then he got cut off by the music. It's wrong, just wrong, to get our hopes up like that! How dare you, Producer Laura Ziskin!!!

At least the world gets to see Al Gore has a sense of humor.

UPDATE VII: The Departed wins Best Picture...and that's it for the 79th Oscars.

Al and Tipper Gore arrive on the red carpet

The Gores have just arrived on the red carpet at Hollywood's Kodak Theater for the 79th annual Academy Awards. They stopped to chat briefly with George Pennacchio and Richard Roeper (normally Ebert & Roeper are together, but Ebert is at home recuperating from surgery and watching the festivities on television - Ebert says he "hopes to be back next year for this annual legendary event.")

Asked about Hollywood's reception to An Inconvenient Truth, Gore noted that "they really care about the environmental crisis" and said he was pleased with the support the film had received. Richard Roeper observed that the Al Gore in the movie is not the same Al Gore the nation saw in 2000. Gore chuckled and said he believes that candidates are viewed through a different lens, but added "Maybe in the last six years I've gained a little strength."

You certainly have, Al. You certainly have.

Talk of Gore presidential run won't die

And why should it? There are so many people who would like him to run:
Forget about sharing the stage with fellow Democrats on cable TV. Al Gore goes prime time, red carpet Sunday night at the Academy Awards before tens of millions, reviving talk of a possible presidential run.

"An Inconvenient Truth," the documentary about the former vice president's crusade against global warming, is the odds-on favorite to win an Oscar.

If the movie takes top honors, director Davis Guggenheim would accept the golden statuette and Gore would join him onstage. He doesn't plan an endless "thank you" speech, but the liberal-leaning Hollywood audience may have a different idea.

And all the buzz on the West Coast and in Washington on Friday was about another special Gore appearance during the ceremony.

An Oscar would be the latest accolade in a remarkable year for Gore, who became a best-selling author, announced plans for a seven-continent series of concerts to fight global warming and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Al Gore has indeed had an incredible year. His work to bring global warming to the forefront has been nothing short of remarkable. As Markos has said, "More than any other Democrat over the last four years, Gore has actually delivered". The former Vice President's work has simply been tireless.

Years ago, he correctly predicted that a preemptive invasion of Iraq would be nothing less than titanic disaster:
"The chaos in the aftermath of a military victory in Iraq...could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam."

- Al Gore
We have said numerous times that we're staying out of the presidential sweepstakes...but there's one thing that could change that: an announcement by Al Gore that he will seek the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2008. Though Gore has said repeatedly that he has no plans to run, the greatest thing he could do for his country would be to grace us with a real campaign for President.

A campaign that would allow America to see the real Al Gore - not the consultant melded Al, but the Al who is caring, witty, understanding, and intelligent. Some say Gore has reinvented his image - we say that free of establishment pressure, Gore's been able to show us who he really is.

Tonight, we'll be cheering for An Inconvenient Truth to win an Academy Award....and praying that Al will make the decision to run this year.

America needs you, Al.

Oregonian: build a new I-5 bridge

The Oregonian editorializes in favor of the CRC staff recommendation. Well, that's how I read it anyhow:
Some people want to see the existing bridges kept, even if a new bridge is built, but that isn't practical. The old bridges would require a seismic upgrade and a huge maintenance investment. Plus, they could interfere with the new bridge.
Offhand, it appears that many forces are lining up in favor of getting on with moving the staff recommendation to the DEIS phase, although it's still not clear from press accounts how the Tuesday vote by the 39-member advisory task force will go. My guess is that the staff recommendation will pass.

I still lean towards the staff recommendation, with a huge caveat: The Oregonian editorial, for instance, kind of glosses over the issue of federal funding. It's a key component in any decision, and it would be nice to hear that discussed a little (or a lot) more on Tuesday.

UPDATE-- The Columbian has a lengthy overview of the CRC project in this morning's issue. Worth checking out whether you are somewhat unfamiliar with the project or have been following it closely.

A Pentagon revolt?

The Times of London is reporting that the Bush administration faces a possible Pentagon revolt if it attacks Iran.
A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.
So let's take yet another quick look back to 1968, via PBS's American Experience: Vietnam Online
CLARK CLIFFORD: I know for three full days I spent down in the tank with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where you sit with all of the communications devices that go all over the world. We had long talks. How long would it take? They didn't know. How many more troops would it take? They didn't know. Would 206,000 answer the demand? They didn't know. Might there be more? Yes, there might be more. So, when it was all over, I said, "What is the plan to win the war in Vietnam?" Well, the only plan is that ultimately the attrition will wear down the North Vietnamese and they will have had enough. Is there any indication that we've reached that point? No, there isn't.

As a result of that kind of interview, and that kind of information, before the final examination was over and we submitted our reports to President Johnson, I had turned against the war.
It is, of course, facile to say that history always repeats itself. Clifford was dealing with generals who tended to be "hawks," in Cold War parlance, and I've long suspected that we have some very intelligent, thoughtful generals today who have been hamstrung by the idiots in the Cheney adminsitration. Still, one cannot help but be struck by the potential parallel of a Secretary of Defense breaking with a president on a disastrous foreign adventure. (And yes, I do notice that the Times of London report is talking about Iran rather than Iraq, but it's kind of difficult not to see the saber rattling against Iran as part and parcel of the same bad policy in that region of the world.)

If Gates and senior Pentagon officials are indeed deeply concerned, then it speaks to the resilience of American democracy and to the kinds of quality citizens we can find, still, in the military and the government.

That being said, I can't find any evidence at all that the Bush administration will listen to anyone, at all. They're still fighting the war on Fox Noise Channel, as if creating a conservative fantasy universe on television in the US will transfer their will to the other side of the world. It's bizarre, it's dangerous and I sure hope that good folks in the Pentagon see that, as the British news report suggests.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Meet a petitioner? Observe right wing signature gathering activity? Tell us!

A reminder to all progressive activists: this is initiative season and several right wingers have filed initiatives they hope to qualify for the November 2007 ballot.

Paid signature gatherers are, or soon will be, out on the streets soliciting signatures for Tim Eyman's Initiative 960, which wreaks havoc on the legislative process by allowing a minority to defeat any bills that increase revenue (a supermajority vote would be required).

Two other initiatives that petitioners may end up hawking are Bob Baker's anti-immigrant initiative (which does not yet have a number or ballot title) and Ken Hutcherson's initiative to legalize discrimination (I-963).

If you see petitioners collecting signatures for any right wing initiative, please use Permanent Defense's reporting tool to tell us about it so we can more efficiently organize and mobilize.

We also have buttons available that you can add to your own blog or website pointing to the reporting tool. The smaller version of the button is on the Official Blog's sidebar (to your right) while Permanent Defense's main page has been using the larger version.

Feel free to download either or both:

Report Right Wing Signature Gathering Activity
(Smaller version - 14 KB)

Report Right Wing Signature Gathering Activity

(Larger version - 16 KB)

The more people that know about the reporting tool, the better. If progressives keep their eyes and ears open and report signature gathering activity when they observe it, that will help us to track how the right wing signature drives are going and allow us to mobilize volunteers that we can send out to exercise our free speech rights.

Telling voters who might sign these petitions the other side of the story is extremely important if we want to stop Eyman and his right wing cohorts from deceiving the public. And before local right wing bloggers start screaming, let me remind them that this is not a campaign to harass petitioners. It is not an effort to encourage any kind of malicious activity. It is a project to help voters understand the truth about right wing initiatives. It's First Amendment protected free speech no matter what they claim.

Our thanks to everyone who adds a button to their site for their help.

A postscript: Attempts to spam the reporting tool with bogus submissions are easily defeated, and we warn political opponents with such intentions not to bother. It's a total waste of your time to make stuff up. A commenter on FreeRepublic last year urged his fellow posters to "freep" our system:
Now this sounds like an excellent opportunity for a web FReep! Everyone should submit fake reports about activity all over the state to keep the morons busy.
We can easily identify and delete non-genuine reports, so anyone who thinks they're going to "keep us busy" sorting out spam is sorely mistaken.

Friday, February 23, 2007

D.C. Highlights - February 23rd, 2007

Here is today's overview of interesting items from our nation's Capitol:
  • Oregon's two Senators (Smith and Wyden) led a 90 minute Town Hall in Bend, discussing topics such as health care, and Iraq. They both kick off each new session of Congress by holding joint town halls with constituents throughout Oregon, a practice they started in 1999.
  • U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Patty Murray (D-WA) this week wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, urging him to launch an Inspector General's investigation of the deplorable living conditions facing returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans at the Army's flagship military hospital, Walter Reed Army Medical Center. A copy of the letter can be found here. Patty Murray has a long history of advocacy and support for the military, has service members in her family, and gets an 'A' rating for her record on military matters from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
  • The House and Senate were not in session this week in honor of the President's Day Holiday, and will reconvene Monday, February 26th, 2007.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Say no to a bigger, noisier, uglier viaduct

Our allies at the Not Another Elevated campaign have put together a new video clip which urges Seattle voters to reject a new aerial highway (Measure 2), in the March 13th special election. You can view the ad on YouTube.

If you're a Seattle resident, you may be surprised to learn the new viaduct won't be like the one we have now. It's not a rebuild. It is a new viaduct:
There's no hope of building a better viaduct. Because of earthquake and other safety requirements, a new elevated highway will be much bigger and much wider than the existing viaduct— at least fifty percent wider with shoulders and walls that will even take away the stunning view enjoyed by motorists. This huge new double-decker highway will permanently place even more of the downtown waterfront in shadow.
The people of Seattle have an important opportunity to let state leaders know it's time to rethink our approach to transportation. By voting NO on 2, you can help send the message.

Please go, Joe - with our blessing

You know you're truly a Republican - we want you to be one too. Here's why we'll stay the majority party even if you leave:
With Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) publicly stating he'd consider becoming a Republican if Democrats block new funding for the Iraq War, many Democrats worry that control of the Senate hangs in the balance. However, their fears are unfounded. Many think back to 2001 when former Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT) began caucusing with Democrats instead of Republicans, taking control of the Senate out of GOP hands. However, the two situations - though outwardly similar - contain one important difference.

If Lieberman were to caucus with the Republicans, they would still not take full control of the Senate, despite Vice President Dick Cheney's ability to break 50-50 ties. This is because of a little-known Senate organizing resolution, passed in January, which gives Democrats control of the Senate and committee chairmanships until the beginning of the 111th Congress.

What's the difference between now and 2001? A small but important distinction. When the 107th Congress was convened on January 3, 2001, Al Gore was still the Vice President and would be for another two-and-a-half weeks. Therefore, because of the Senate's 50-50 tie, Democrats had nominal control of the chamber when the organizing resolution came to a vote. With Dick Cheney soon to come in, however, Democrats allowed Republicans to control the Senate in return for a provision on the organizing resolution that allowed for a reorganization of the chamber if any member should switch parties, which Jeffords did five months later. There was no such clause in the current Senate's organizing resolution.
If Joe decides to caucus with the Republicans, he will merely be joining the minority party...and that's perfectly fine with us. Joe's threat to leave if Democrats block funding for the war is very much welcome. He's not a Democrat and we don't want him in our party. We would be pleased if Joe Lieberman declared himself to be a Republican, because then he'd finally be displaying some honesty.

Snackers

This story and video is about a New York City KFC:
Rat infestations are not a new problem for this KFC.

Just last December, the city's Health Department cited this KFC for evidence of "live rats present in the facility's food and non food areas."

The franchise was also cited rats on at least three previous occasions by the Department of Health since 2004.
Ok, it's not fair to pick on all of KFC, because it's a franchise system and those rats are some 3,000 miles from here. New York City rats (the actual rodents, not the former mayor running for President) are infamous.

But sometimes it's worth it just to write the "headline" title. Snackers. Ha! I crack me up. Have a nice weekend, maybe see what Subway has to offer?

Oregon Metro supports another I-5 bridge alternative

As expected, Oregon's Metro is calling for the study of another alternative for the Columbia River Crossing project. From The Columbian:
Burkholder's proposal, which passed the council 7-0, calls for a third, low bridge with a lift span to carry cars, trucks, bicycles, high-capacity transit and pedestrians while keeping and upgrading the current Interstate 5 Bridge. His proposal also calls for moving the swing span from the north end to the center of the BNSF Railroad Bridge a mile downstream and aligning it with the wide, middle span used by many tugs to pass under the Interstate 5 Bridge. The current misalignment of the water-traffic passages is just one of many factors that make the bridge project so complicated.

Burkholder acknowledged that the Crossing task force has studied many options, including 23 possible ways of crossing the river and 14 separate transit options. But he said more ideas need to be in the draft statement.
The CRC task force is scheduled to vote next Tuesday, so it should all be very interesting.

As the article notes, essentially this means that Metro is instructing its task force member to ask for the additional alternative to be included in the DEIS. So it's hardly a done deal, but it should lead to some vigorous discussion.

Yeah democracy!

McCain to meet with religious right leaders today

Welcome to pander day. The P-I previews John McCain's big visit to kiss the rings of social conservatives.
More than any of the other candidates, I think (McCain) is making the right moves to reach the right people" in the conservative Christian community, said the Rev. Joe Fuiten, senior pastor of the Cedar Park Assembly of God Church in Bothell and head of the Positive Christian Agenda. Fuiten said he will attend.

---snip---

Fuiten's group has been lobbying in Olympia for legislation requiring parental notification for girls' abortions and against measures dealing with sex education in schools, domestic partnership rights and embryonic stem cell research.

McCain, a longtime opponent of abortion rights, said in South Carolina on Sunday that the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion "should be overturned."

Other Christian-right leaders invited to meet with him here include a Fuiten ally, Gary Randall, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Network, which also has been lobbying for a conservative social agenda in Olympia, and the Rev. Wayne Perryman, a conservative black Seattle minister.
Nice. Let's hope they give him a silver ring at least before they (ahem) consummate this wonderful political marriage.

And it seems like some folks aren't too keen on the Discovery Institute's involvement. Can you say "backpeddling?"
Some critics of intelligent design called on McCain to cancel his appearance. The Discovery Institute, however, has a lesser role in the event than it has implied on its Web site, which says the institute is "pleased to co-present (McCain's appearance) with CityClub of Seattle and the Seattle World Affairs Council."

The council said it and CityClub are the "co-sponsors" in charge of the event. Council spokesman Hilbren Buys said the institute, one of 10 "co-presenters," is merely helping to promote it -- "sort of hopped on board and wanted this to happen. ... They put it on their Web site with a bit too much credit on their side."
See, it's kind of like the Oscars for the conservative right. So Discovery has been kind of shunted off to the side and charged with presenting the award for best foreign language documentary, which happens right at the start when everyone is still popping the corn. First they lose Kansas and now they get dissed in their own town. How embarrassing for them.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

World class cities don't build concrete highways over their waterfronts (Feb 22nd)

...Or do they?

Elevate Waikiki

Measure 2 on Seattle's March 13 special election ballot presents a disastrously flawed option for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The new elevated viaduct option would be:
  • Bigger — at least 50% larger than the current one
  • Noisier — louder traffic noise on our waterfront
  • Uglier — 50% more cement and shadows
Don't let this plan ever get off the ground. Vote NO on 2...and stay tuned for future installments of this new series!

A postscript: Last week's installment - the first in this series - was met with some hostility from a few readers who didn't appreciate the humor of it. (The centerpiece of each post in this series is, after all, a photoshopped picture). The use of the phrase "world class" fits with the imagery. We'll admit we thought it would be funny to see if we could provoke that kind of a response.

It's a joke. What makes a city "world class" is open to debate and argument. It's all in how you define it. Getting rid of the viaduct does not magically make Seattle a "world class" city. The existence of the viaduct doesn't mean it's impossible for Seattle to be considered a "world class" city now.

The serious point that goes along with the humor is that a progressive, liberal city like Seattle shouldn't have a backwards mindset about mobility. We need to be thinking outside of our cars. Building a new viaduct is a clear statement that we're still preoccupied with trying to move automobiles instead of trying to move people. By voting no on 2, Seattleites can send the message to elected leaders that the construction of a new elevated highway is unacceptable.

McCain campaign arrives in disarray

The John McCain presidential campaign arrives in the Northwest for an appearance tomorrow clearly off balance and struggling. From Think Progress:
Yesterday in California, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said what has now become conventional wisdom: that the Bush administration’s inaction on global warming has had damaging consequences for our environment. “I would assess this administration’s record on global warming as terrible. And I have held hearings when I was chairman of the Commerce Committee for years and got no cooperation from the administration on this issue whatsoever,” McCain said.

For speaking such a casual truth, McCain has come under attack from the small contingent of global warming deniers on the right who refuse to accept science. A few examples of the attacks:

Ankle Biting Pundits: McCain Sides With The Loony Left On Global Warming. … No Senator McCain, the President’s record on global warming is not terrible. Just because he doesn’t want to go along with the Euro’s and the lefties in voluntarily destroying our economy doesn’t make him wrong.

Jon Fleischman: McCain Embraces Environmental Extremism in California Appearance

National Review: He’s in CA doing “non-political” global warming events?? Gee, and they wonder why conservatives don’t trust him.

Tonight, Fox pundit Mort Kondracke said McCain’s comments were an example of him “popping off” and demonstrating he is “not entirely in control of his mouth.”
I know, I know. Be careful what you wish for before you wind up with President Brownback, but that ain't gonna happen anyhow, so sit back and enjoy the cons spitting and burbling as McCain tries to figure out how to appease them without actually becoming certifiably insane himself. Which is of course impossible.

It's all so sad.

Kyle Petty insults hippies

Always with the dirty hippies. From an AP article about NASCAR considering switching to ethanol:
Driver Kyle Petty says NASCAR's marketing horsepower might drive alternative fuels into the mainstream, helping consumers get over the image of hippies tinkering with their 1980s Mercedes to make them run on vegetable oil.

"I think once you start seeing alternative fuels show up in places like racing and places where you least expect them, then you don't think about that guy with the Volkswagen van that runs off of whatever," Petty said.
Yes, if people think that dirty hippies do it, they won't do it. Because only true Americans can show the way towards a cleaner energy future.

MORE-- And as the above AP article alludes, there's always the alternative fuel apparently favored by Michael Waltrip.

SR-520 bridge needs emergency repair

Meanwhile, on roads that don't go in a circle, the SR-520 bridge will be closed early tomorrow for emergency repairs:
An expansion joint, a steel plate that cars drive over on the bridge, has come loose on the drawspan and must be reattached, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Work will begin at 3 a.m. and end at 5 a.m. During this time, drivers can expect the bridge to be closed for up to 30 minutes at a time.
Insert Richard Petty comment here.

Flippity floppity flop flop flap flop

So what is John McCain's position this week?
Though McCain is a staunch supporter of the president's plan to add troops in Iraq, the 2000 Bush foe and 2008 contender called Bush's initial pursuit of the Iraq War "a train wreck" and labeled the administration's record on global warming as "terrible."
It would be super neat-o if someone from the press could ask him about it.

I can't attend, seeing as I'm not in Seattle and I am busy making purple band-aids for the next Republican convention. Plus those Republican gigs are expensive, like $75, and Democrats give you all the crab you can eat for about twelve cents and your phone number. Really, which party would you choose?

Free advice for Obama and Clinton

Dear The Hillary Clinton Campaign and The Barack Obama Campaign:

Stop it and they will go back to covering celebrity corpses. Don't play their game. Unless, of course, one or both of your campaigns intends to seek an advantage by acting like Republicans. In which case, good luck.

Just sayin'.

Attack Fox

Check out a new web site called Fox Attacks, dedicated to not only monitoring but doing something about Fox Noise Channel. Currently there is a video documenting the recent Fox falsehoods about Barak Obama and a nifty-looking database form that will allow viewers to enter information about local advertisers that support Fox.

Neat idea. Companies have gotten a free pass for too long in supporting liars. Initially they will be shocked and probably petulant, and the right will start blubbering about their freedom of speech. But remember, we have a right to point out lies and tell businesses we won't buy from them if they support liars like Fox Noise Channel. It's not abusing anyone's freedom of speech to point out lies.

A company would have a First Amendment right to place ads in neo-Nazi publications, but that doesn't mean anyone but a lunatic would do so.

The car dealers and insurance companies and appliance stores that tend to support not just Fox but the right wing talkers need to be shown that they are damaging their own business interests.

Because Richard Petty is a Republican, that's why

Over at Postman on Politics, David Postman suggests that opposition to NASCAR is a class issue. And he definitely seems to have a bee in his bonnet over something Frank Chopp said:
NASCAR greats Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip are in Olympia today and tomorrow pushing for state help in building a new track in Kitsap County.

House Speaker Frank Chopp is unimpressed. When Chopp was asked about Petty's presence today, he told reporters:

"I was going to make a bad joke about, 'Who's he.' But then I decided, You mean the guy who got picked up for DUI, that guy?"

He added a few seconds later:

"By the way, on that last point? I was told that, so I'm not sure. You better check to make sure it's accurate. But he's not a member of the House last time I checked."
Then we find out this morning that Chopp was most likely remembering a reckless driving charge rather than a DUI involving Petty. From the News-Tribune via The Olympian:
Petty was charged with reckless driving and hit and run in 1996. Petty was accused of bumping another car from behind on an interstate highway, then passing it and driving away. He paid a $65 fine.
Postman says he searched hard for anything involving Petty and a DUI and came up empty. Fair enough, maybe Postman didn't think to search for other traffic offenses. It happens. Postman is still one of our favorite reporters.

However, if we are going to talk about Richard Petty in a political context, let's briefly examine his history. Petty was a Republican candidate for state-wide office in North Carolina, his home state.
In 1995, Petty successfully underwent surgery for prostate cancer. A year later, the Republican Party, seeking to capitalize on "The King's" popularity, made him its candidate for North Carolina's Secretary of State. He lost. During the campaign, Democrats made much of the fact that Petty used NASCAR tactics on I-85 when, boxed in by a slow commuter, Petty tapped him from the rear.
So Petty isn't just a rank and file Republican, he ran for state-wide office. Which is his right as an American, but clearly he is more than a race car driver.

As I stated in comments at Postman's, the opposition to NASCAR is not class-based in any traditional economic sense. If you're truly poor you probably can't afford to shell out hundreds of dollars to attend races and buy merchandise. It's a very middle class sport in many ways.

But NASCAR is a Southern sport, and I think it owes a lot of its success to what Kevin Phillips calls the "southernization" of America in his book "American Theocracy. You don't need a masters in political science to understand the political message being delivered by 100,000 drunk white people waving Confederate battle flags.

NASCAR, on a cultural level, represents the Lost Cause of the Civil War. NASCAR has been eagerly adopted not only as a spectator sport but as a political and cultural statement by many of its fans.

So once again we witness how conservative framing allows the perpetuation of an absurd notion: the conservative claim to victimhood. It's essentially the same song that white segregationists sang. (And if someone wants to pop a vein over that statement, I'm not suggesting that all NASCAR fans are racists, but there is a common theme in the history of the American South that runs in a direct line from the Civil War to today's conservative movement, from the real victims of carpetbaggers to the phony victims of today's evangelical right-wing Christian supremacy movement.)

It's not elitist to be unenthused about either Richard Petty or the prospect of using taxpayer money to fund a NASCAR track. Chopp did get the facts wrong about Petty's highway misbehavior, so he should say "sorry" about that. But it is clear even from Postman's quotes that Chopp was trying to figure out what actually happened and wasn't sure he had the story correct.

Postman is concerned about some of the comments made by legislators that play into the stereotypes about NASCAR fans, which are basically the stereoptypes about white male southerners. Now, of course all racing fans are not white, male southerners, but that is the public image they have. And if Frank Chopp is being an elitist, what are we to make of Larry the Cable Guy, who currently has this little gem up on his web site?
It's a good thing Al Gore released that movie when it was hot because it's hard to convince people about global warming when there's icicles on orange trees. I don't know about the CO2 level but the (baloney) level is higher than a pair of nuts on a Giraffe! It was so cold this morning I had to light a match BEFORE I took a poop!
And they brag about this sort of belief system, it's a point of honor with them. In essence, they are so threatened by the world around them that the only thing they can do, in many instances, is attack us. Willful ignorance as entertainment may sell well but it's still willful ignorance.

Race car drivers tend to be overwhelmingly Republican. It's something NASCAR drivers and their fans embrace.

From a 2004 Washington Times article entitled "Racing pros revved up for GOP:"
Here's a challenge: Try finding a Democrat in the NASCAR garage.

Richard Petty looked around and smiled.

"You'd be hard-pressed," said Petty, the winningest driver in Nextel Cup history and — oh, yeah — a hard-core Republican.
And a little further down:
"He's just a great American," said Terry Labonte, a Bush supporter and fellow Texan. "In times like this, I'm glad we've got someone like him in office."
And Labonte passes on the right:
Labonte put it more bluntly.

"I guess most of 'em just have a lot of common sense," he said, referring to his fellow drivers and Republicans. "I like to say we're true Americans. We don't fall for as much ... as those guys on the other side of the aisle."
So who is doing the stereotyping to whom? In one simple statement that driver just declared me to be not a true American. Maybe he's just a dumb race car driver, but if NASCAR wants public money then they are now going to have to deal with all Washingtonians, especially the ones who hold large majorities in the Legislature.

Again, Postman is one of our favorite reporters. But I disagree with his take on how a lot of Democratic elected officials are reacting to an idea that seems wholly out of time and place. We're not the ones who politicized NASCAR; it was the GOP and many involved in NASCAR who did that. Basically NASCAR can get in line behind real roads, schools, health care and everything else.

UPDATE--3:25 PM Frank Chopp has issued a statement apologizing to Richard Petty, according to the House press shop:
"This morning I personally apologized to Richard Petty for a comment I made yesterday. It was inappropriate and wrong.

"I appreciate his willingness to meet with me."
Postman has more today, including Petty's fairly diplomatic response to a question from Postman about Chopp's comment.

So, whew and hey, how about that Ichiro?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Legislator seeks halt to EFFWA nonsense

Adam Wilson notices a bill filed by Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia.
Rep. Brendan Williams has filed a bill, HB 2326, that would prevent disclosure of public “records from any collective bargaining, labor negotiations, or grievance or mediation.”

It appears to be a direct response to the Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s attempt to obtain copies of notes made by Gov. Chris Gregoire’s negotiators during talks with state worker unions last year.
Awesome. Good for Williams.

Of course, if EFFWA would spend even a small fraction of the resources it uses to mess with workers on something productive, legislators wouldn't have to step in and try to put a stop to EFFWA's nonsense.

But since EFFWA seems to exist mainly to throw a monkey wrench into whatever it can, it's good that people like Williams are ready to step in and regulate the mischief.

Joint Chiefs chairman delivers Marshall lecture

Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, was in Vancouver today to deliver the annual George C. Marshall lecture.
By adding 21,500 new U.S. troops and training up 328,000 Iraqi troops, the United States is fighting hard to establish security, the general said. But Iraq’s government must also supply good governance, and the international community must help provide economic opportunity in the country.

All three elements must be in place to produce a stable Iraq, he said. He believes the strategy can work.
Ok, I don't have any problem with Pace. But whatever. No general could fix a war policy that has failed this badly.

About the only interesting thing was this:
A half dozen peaceful protesters silently waved anti-war signs during the speech, some of them in the gym. Police escorted them out of the gym and off the school grounds, threatening to arrest them, saying they violated a state law against disrupting a school assembly.

The speech wasn’t disrupted.
Heaven forbid some people tried to stand there silently with signs. How terrible. Nice example for the kids. What you do to non-disruptive people who disagree with you is have the cops threaten to arrest them by citing some bogus law intended to protect pep rallies?

They didn't even try to interrupt Pace's speech, according to the article.

What has this country come to?

Action item: Say no to Fox Noise Channel

Chris Bowers at MyDD posted an action item related to the moronic decision by the Nevada Democratic Party to partner with Fox Noise Channel for a presidential candidate debate later this year.

They've set up a Blogpac form that allows people to send an email to a number of key Nevada Democrats, including Harry Reid. So head on over there if you wish, and tell them what a truly terrible idea it is to partner with Fox Noise Channel.

Fox Noise Channel will not be fair.
For an example of how disrespectful and counterproductive such Fox News-sponsored Democratic debates are, consider the September 9, 2003 Democratic debate in Baltimore, Maryland, hosted by Fox News in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus. Fox News graphics, as well as a banner over the stage, titled the event as the "Democrat Candidate Presidential Debate," a misconstruction of "Democrat" used as an an epithet. Fox News then summarized the debate with a story titled, "Democratic Candidates Offer Grim View of America," continuing with such jabs as, "The depiction of the president as the root of all evil began at the top of Tuesday night's debate...." Controversial questions included the accusation that Howard Dean had a racist gun policy by Fox News analyst Juan Williams. There were also multiple interruptions by protesters throughout the debate, leading to four arrests.
I have no idea why any Democrat would consider participating in a debate that involves Fox. I don't understand why any Democrat would even talk to a Fox "reporter." Clearly, the Nevada Democratic Party doesn't get it. But they will.

Funny Conan O'Brien bit

Wm. Steven Humphrey, posting at Blogtown, PDX links to a very funny Conan O'Brien bit called Meet the Press....for Idiots. Really funny stuff.

Blogtown PDX is, of course, the blog for The Portland Mercury, the sister paper of The Stranger. It gets confusing, because thanks to the miracle of the internets, someone in one city can post something on the other paper's blog! Either that or they are all, in fact, stationed in a bunker somewhere in Lewis County, from whence they can drive quickly to either location.

McCain panders to extremists

Joel Connelly pens a column about McCains past and present:
The McCain of 2000 characterized televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as "agents of intolerance."

But he spoke last year at Falwell's Liberty University. And, as a 2008 front-runner, he met privately Monday in Florida with conservative religious broadcasters.

McCain will have a similar session here Friday, disclosed Tuesday by Gary Randall of the Faith and Freedom Network.

Randall quoted McCain on reversal of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1973 abortion decision. During a South Carolina speech last weekend, McCain declared: "I do not support Roe v. Wade. It should be overturned."
Some moderate. Tim Hardaway gets smacked around and meanwhile John McCain is going to waltz into Seattle and do some pandering, but somehow that's just fine.

We need to find a cure for Republicanism, because it's a very destructive lifestyle choice, especially for New Orleanians, US service members and Iraqis.

And don't forget the anti-science bigots.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hartmann moves Portland to center of universe

The Oregonian profiles Air America's Thom Hartmann, who is replacing Al Franken in most of the country.
Hartmann's success extends far beyond Portland's politically blue borders. His nationally syndicated talk show -- a separate three-hour show that begins at 9 a.m., just after his local show ends -- is heard coast to coast every day by more than a million listeners. And starting today, when Hartmann's national show moves into Air America's midday slot (though it will continue to air locally at 9 p.m.), recently abandoned by political comic turned U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken, his audience will nearly triple.
So not to put too fine a point on it, but Portland thus surpasses Seattle as the center of the progressive universe. And Vancouver is right across the river from Portland. We may have tons of wingnuts but we can smell progressive values from here. And Portland-Vancouver is both a fake radio designation and a legally defined metropolitan census area.

Seattle had grunge in the last century, we have Thom Hartmann. You'll notice in the article that he eats oatmeal without sugar.

Put that in the tank of your Prius, Seattle.

Too bad

Via Eschaton we are privileged to read this:
NBC News’ David Gregory bemoaned how political coverage has “become so polarized in this country…because it’s the internet and the blogs that have really used this White House press conferences to somehow support positions out in America, political views.” Tony Snow admitted he sometimes reads blogs (”I’ll occasionally punch it up”) only to find “wonderful, imaginative hateful stuff that comes flying out.”

Newsweek’s White House correspondent Richard Wolffe added, “[Bloggers] want us to play a role that isn’t really our role. Our role is to ask questions and get information. … It’s not a chance for the opposition to take on the government and grill them to a point where they throw their hands up and surrender.”
Or, you know, actually answer questions, although to be fair Gregory has tried in the past.

What the internet and blogs have done is allow many more people to see and understand how imperfect American journalism is. Me, for example. I used to walk around before the war in Iraq arguing that Democrats who constantly complained about the press didn't get it. Journalists are just human beings trying to do a job.

Which they are, but they are human beings trying to do a job in the midst of the largest and most underhanded attempt to manipulate them in United States history. It's understandable and maybe even forgivable that so many of them fall short, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't point out the obvious manipulation that takes place. If we hurt Judy Miller's feelings or Tim Russert's feelings, too bad. In many ways Miller and Russert and many others have chosen to be manipulated for career reasons.

Democracy is more important than them.

Gee our old LaSalle ran great

While researching something else, happened to run across this 1997 Seattle Weekly profile of Linda Smith.
Indeed, the current fashion in politics-with partisan animosities being replaced by a broader-based distrust of the government in general-shines a positive light on Smith's outsider persona. So do many in the media. The Seattle Times' 1994 endorsement of Smith reflected such delight in her brash incorruptibility and impolitic willingness to actually say something that the Times' editors all but admitted they didn't much care what her politics were.
If I could make up a word, it would be "putri-fawning," as in "The world of editorial journalamism was putri-fawning over Linda Smith in much the same way it would later putri-fawn over Dave Reichert, despite the superficial differences between the candidates in time and demeanor."

Look, editorialists. Policy matters. Glib, unthinking endorsements of shallow people don't do anyone any good, even if you get to play cute games. Stop it before 2008 already, it's been like 20 years. We're in two wars. Stop it.

About that gubernatorial election....

Spokane Spokesman-Review reporter Jim Camden has a superb post up at his blog (Spin Control) about the efforts of local and state election officials to clean up the voter rolls using new technology:
Remember all the aspersions cast on Washington state's voters after the 2004 gubernatorial election? All the hand-wringing about people voting twice to stuff the ballot box and dead people and felons casting ballots?

What if we told you that potential voter fraud in the November election was, at most, a one in 2 million chance?

[...]

At most, we had one case of double voting out of 2,107,370 ballots cast. Which is a .00004 percent rate of possible fraud.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said he was "pleasantly surprised" with the results. The state is doing a better job of cleaning up its voter records, but added "we really don't have a history of voter fraud here."

Which will come as a huge shock to some of his Republican brethren, who still hope to run Dino Rossi in a gubernatorial grudge match against Chris Gregoire to win the seat that was "stolen" from him. It also might give pause to some of their pollsters, who seem to delight in reporting that people don't have confidence that the problems of the 2004 elections have been cleared up.

On the eve of the November election, one polling firm said its survey showed that 71 percent of the people lacked confidence there'd be no problems in 2006.

Of course, if people [ahem, Stefan & Co.] keep insisting there are problems, even if they don't provide any proof, some folks might just conclude those problems exist.
Exactly. (Emphasis is mine). The outcome of the 2004 gubernatorial election was resolved over a year and a half ago, but unfortunately the massive campaign of deceit orchestrated by state Republicans and Rossi operatives has not yet fully dissipated. Democrats need to do a better job of debunking and refuting the misinformation. Camden's post, though, is quality journalism at its finest - and what we expect from reporters in the traditional media.

Anti-monkey bigots from Discovery Institute

Flash back two years to the Kansas evolution hearings:
The state's board of education yesterday kicked off a spirited four-day hearing on proposed changes to school science standards that could determine how evolution is taught to the children of Kansas -- five years after voters rebelled against a state school board that had sided with creationists.

Employing a courtroom format similar to the famed 1925 Scopes Trial in Tennessee that pitted creationists against evolutionists, the dispute seemed similar - only this time evolution's critics insist science, not religion, is their motivation.

Instead of relying on pens, these lawyers used PowerPoint projections in an auditorium packed with local residents and journalists from around the world.

The ''jury" consisted of three school board members who had already made up their minds - a veterinarian, an elementary school teacher, and a former preschool operator. All three continued to make clear, as they have in the past, their personal doubts about evolutionary theory.
Thankfully, the state of my birth has rejected the arrogant intrusion into their educational system by the outside agitators from the Discovery Institute, so my nieces and nephews will stand a chance of getting into college. Which, you know, is kind of important. But why does John McCain hate monkeys? I demand that John McCain fire John McCain.

The Story of the Embarcadero

"A generation ago, people believed that they had to make a choice between our city's beauty and our city's needs.

This generation says: 'We won't buy that choice.'"


- The Honorable Art Agnos, Mayor of San Francisco, February 27, 1991

This interesting slideshow, put together by A21 Design, tells the story of the aerial Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco, which was torn down at the beginning of the 1990s (and not replaced with a new elevated structure):
From 1958 to 1992, the double-decked Embarcadero Freeway ran along San Francisco's waterfront, from Howard Street to Broadway. The following pages will give you an idea of how this monstrosity, now slowly being forgotten as the Embarcadero is now fully redeveloped, dominated the center of The City's waterfront.
What may surprise you is that the proposal to demolish the Embarcadero Freeway was a controversial idea and wasn't practical until the mayor at the time (Art Agnos) found the funds to pay for it through negotiation with state and federal officials.

Agnos lost his 1992 reelection campaign in part because of neighborhood anger over his successful efforts to remove the freeway. But years later, he is being honored for his vision and courage.

Last June the Port of San Francisco unveiled a monument to Mayor Agnos, noting "This pedestrian pier commemorates the achievement of Mayor Agnos in leaving our city better and stronger than he found it."

While the political dynamic is different up here, Mayor Nickels and the majority of the Seattle City Council should be proud of their opposition to a shortsighted new viaduct - and should not cave to pressure from Olympia.

Fox Noise wants to host Dem debate

Via MyDD comes this stunner from Media Bistro:
Fox News Channel will host an August 2007 Democratic Debate in Reno, Nevada.

The network is working with the Nevada Democratic Party and the Western Majority Project to host the debate, "which is expected to attract the top Democratic contenders for President," the press release says. It will air live on FNC and FNR on Aug. 14 in Reno.
That has to be the stupidest thing I've heard in a long time. That would be as stupid as Darcy Burner agreeing to a 2008 debate involving The Seatle Times editorial board, it's that stupid.

Look, forget about the old saw that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Fox Noise Channel is an illegitimate propaganda tool of the Republican Party. Any Democrat who participates in this should not be supported. Period.

Hopefully Harry Reid will do something about this, quick.

Ex-admiral calls for withdrawal

Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Penn., has a plan. From McClatchy:
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Joe Sestak, then an admiral, commanded a carrier battle group in combat near Afghanistan and then in the Persian Gulf in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Now a Democratic member of Congress from Pennsylvania, Sestak has introduced a bill calling for total withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2007, while strengthening the U.S. military presence in the region and in Afghanistan.

Sestak, who defeated 10-term Republican incumbent Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania in November, proposed the total pullout at the beginning of his campaign. Earlier this month he introduced it as a bill that would cut off most funds for military operations in Iraq by Dec. 31.
While Republicans in Congress were regurgitating fake Abraham Lincoln quotes last week, serious people like Sestak were busy trying to figure out how we get out of this mess in a responsible manner. We really, really need to deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan, folks.

But Sestak was just an admiral, so what does he know? It's not like he gets paid by right-wing foundations and media outlets to make stuff up, the true gold standard of today's Republican Party. Maybe if Sestak called us dirty hippies they would listen to him. It would be worth the sacrifice.

Anti-journalist bigots at Discovery Institute

Carl catches one of the "brain trust" at The Discovery Institute coming to a rather strange conclusion about "the surge" and the media:
The only way you might know that the Surge is already underway in Baghdad and that it is succeeding is that the bombings Sunday were trumpeted as big news in the mainstream U.S. media. It would not have been worth so much notice before, but now the war is being tested against a higher standard.
This from a Discovery Brain Trust member who appears to get paid over $130,000 a year to come up with such gems.

Maybe the media could wander over on Friday and ask St. John McCain how well the surge escalation is going and how it got done so quick. 'Cause if it did then I guess it must have been a plan that was intelligently designed. Discovery may have lost Kansas, but by gum they are going to see this Iraq thing through to the bitter end, no matter the financial or human cost.

But be forewarned, reporters: the Discovery Brain Trust thinks you are covering up the facts. And they get paid huge sums of money to do it.

Me, I blog for love.

Planned Parenthood closure sign of things to come

The Planned Parenthood facility in Longview is closing due to federal Medicaid cuts:
The closure of the small clinic, which is open each Thursday, comes as low-income patients are having difficulty finding reproductive care and Cowlitz County has growing rates of sexually transmitted diseases, Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Jennifer Allen said.

The clinic provides STD testing and treatment, condoms, menopause treatment and gynecological exams. It has operated in the county Health Department's Longview headquarters for the past three years.

Allen said Friday that the closure was necessary after federal officials cut family planning services for 7,800 people in the "Take Charge" program. The clinic's last day will be March 8.
If this seems short sighted, that may be just the tip of the iceberg, according to a recent report issued by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It lists some "key findings:"
The Administration’s budget would cut federal Medicaid funding by $25 billion over the next five years ($61 billion over the next ten years).

$21 billion of the $25 billion in federal savings would be accomplished by shifting costs from the federal government to the states.

To compensate for the loss of federal Medicaid funds, states would have to choose between cutting back on their Medicaid programs by reducing eligibility, benefits, or payments to providers; cutting back on other state programs and using those funds to replace federal Medicaid dollars lost; or increasing taxes.
Broadly speaking, most Americans seem to understand that the health care system needs major reforms. It's going to be a major factor in the 2008 elections.

There will be those on the right who immediately start babbling about "socialized medicine," which may be a convenient talking point but ignores the real fact that health care is currently being rationed by private, for-profit corporations already. Try gettitng a prior-authorization for a medicine if you don't believe me.

There should be some middle ground, if the debate doesn't immediately go south into "Harry and Louise" territory.

And really, what kind of society cuts off health care to low-income people? The Bush administration is a slave to ideology and doesn't care what happens to real people. It's pretty sick stuff.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Will Metro vote to study another idea for I-5 Columbia crossing?

Chris Smith at Portland Transport reports some potentially key developments regarding the CRC on the Oregon side:
Two resolutions (PDF, 83K) are being offered for Metro's consideration. The first, from JPACT chair and Metro's representative to the CRC task force, Rex Burkholder, asks for the addition of one more option to the DEIS mix: a new arterial bridge as a supplement to keeping freeway traffic on the existing bridges.

2. In addition to the CRC staff recommended alternatives, the Metro Council supports including in the DEIS for additional analysis an alternative that includes a low rise with lift span supplemental bridge built to current seismic standards to carry cars, trucks, high capacity transit, bicycles and pedestrians. This alternative retains the existing I-5 bridges for freeway travel with incremental improvements to those bridges and the key access ramps, to improve flow and increase safety on I-5. Additionally, this alternative would include replacing the swing span of the downstream railroad bridge with a movable span located in a mid-river location on the railroad bridge, thereby aligning with the current lift span of the I-5 bridges.
The second resolution, by Metro Councilor Robert Liberty, is more expansive and inludes things like a "land use alternative" that would attempt to reduce the cost of the project. Which is interesting but would run smack into the Clark County Commission's on-going project to discard the 2004 Comprehensive Plan and enact a new one with larger urban growth boundary areas.

Smith says the smart money is on Burkholder's resolution. It's an important discussion to have. Smith notes that it's good to see the railroad bridge being mentioned, and on this side of the river it's fair to note that Democratic county commissioner Steve Stuart has been talking about that as well.

There's an article in the print version of The Oregonian today (sadly not on-line that I can find) that follows up some of Stuart's thoughts about the bridge project. According to Stuart, the federal government might pay at most half the cost of a new project. If that's so, we really do need to consider whether it's realistic to expect that Oregon and Washington could each come up with about $1.5 billion for the CRC.

Just so we know what has been stated previously, on page 4 of the CRC staff recommendations (PDF file) they discuss "Supplemental Bridge options" and um, they don't seem to think it's such a great idea:
All of the options would cause an increase in congestion in downtown Vancouver and Hayden Island compared to the Replacement Bridge options due to traffic diversion to local streets that would result from congestion on I-5, especially for the Supplemental Arterial option. Other traffic impacts would result from routing Clark County trips to Hayden Island through downtown Vancouver.
So that's the context of what is shaping up as an important Feb. 27 task force meeting. There seem to be some genuine differences of opinion, and the jaw-dropping potential costs of a new bridge combined with other improvments really have to be examined somehow.

I've been leaning toward the staff recommendation, frankly, but I'm still listening and interested in what people are saying both here and south of the river. Should Metro endorse another alternative to study in the DEIS, that would be a fairly major statement.

Ain't democracy grand? If nothing else, elected officials and many others have been making, for the most part, very sincere good-faith efforts to grapple with a very complex topic. I still don't envy them their task.

Lead: it's what's for lunch

Why would there be lead in any lunch box? And why would the government downplay it?
In 2005, when government scientists tested 60 soft, vinyl lunch boxes, they found that one in five contained amounts of lead that medical experts consider unsafe — and several had more than 10 times hazardous levels.

But that's not what they told the public.

Instead, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a statement that it found "no instances of hazardous levels." And it refused to release its actual test results, citing regulations that protect manufacturers from having their information released to the public.

Those data were not made public until The Associated Press received a box of about 1,500 pages of lab reports, in-house e-mails and other records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed a year ago.
Parents have a reasonable expectation that the government will regulate things like lead in children's lunch boxes. Laissez-faire economics is all well and good as an abstraction, until you wind up with something like this.

This story highlights any number of concerns, namely the tendency of this administration to protect corporations instead of citizens, and to ignore repeated safety problems involving goods made in China, as according to the article most problem lunch boxes were made there.

And credit where credit is due: Wal-Mart stopped selling lunch boxes with vinyl liners, the kind in question, and offered refunds. Even Wal-Mart is more progressive than the Bush administration (because it does not make business sense to sell products for children that contain toxic materials).

There does appear to be a debate about the science used to test lunch boxes, but show me a parent who wants to go ahead and give their kid a lunch box knowing it contains lead. Something like that you don't fool around, you err on the side of children's safety.

The shameful treatment of wounded veterans

AT AMERICAblog, John in DC expresses justifiable outrage at how wounded veterans are being treated. He has links to the Washington Post series about conditions at Walter Reed, and "national disgrace" doesn't even begin to describe it.

We just finished with a debate in Congress where the Republicans repeatedly claimed that Democrats do not care about the troops. Yet the GOP Congress and administration have allowed wounded troops to be treated so badly that the mind recoils in abject horror.

Obviously, the first thing Democrats need to do is make sure that proper resources are devoted to Walter Reed and all facilities, and that troops are not left to suffer. Proper medical care must be given to all troops.

Those who became disabled during their service deserve to receive the financial support they earned. This needs to be done now and if the GOP obstructs the effort for political purposes, leadership needs to keep Congress in session 24 hours a day for as long as it takes to get the troops what they need.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

McCain scandal

It seems the Discovery Institute's presidential candidate guest was not exactly chaste. I'm waiting for the AP to faint, because it's shocking that someone had sex. Ok, it would be shocking if a Democrat had sex or did real estate or smoked tobacco, but at least McCain didn't shave his head. So far as we know.

Discovery Institute pays known anti-math bigot

So why is John McCain paying homage to a group that pays a known anti-math bigot and still lists him as a fellow? Math has feelings too. On behalf of the American Math and Arithmetic League and Order of Benevolent Dart Players, I demand that the Discovery Institute fire William Dembski.

State legislators agree on I-5 bridge costs

According to The Columbian, Oregon and Washington legislators intend to share costs of a new I-5 bridge.
Washington and Oregon will split the state-level expense of building a new bridge over the Columbia River, legislators from the two states said last week.

Senators from the Oregon and Washington transportation committees met in a joint session in Portland on Friday for a briefing on the proposed Columbia River Crossing project, which is devising a new Interstate 5 bridge.

The meeting was for information only. No firm price tag has been set, although the task force points to $6 billion as a rough estimate. No source of money has been identified, although federal, state and local sources will probably all be tapped to pay the bill.

But whatever the amount the state-level share will be, Oregon and Washington will split it 50-50, the legislators said while on a tour of the bridge in Vancouver following their briefing.
What's drawing a lot of attention right now is the $6 billion "guesstimate," which is awfully preliminary but a frightening figure nonetheless.

It's a little less frightening if one considers it would include transit and interchange costs, and that the hope appears to be that Congress will so love the ultimate plan that lots of federal money flow to the project, even though we keep hearing that federal money is tight. So what the "state-level costs" will be is unknown. The costs will certainly be hundreds of millions for each state, if not (yikes) over a billion each.

We also don't know what local taxes might be needed to say, operate transit systems.

The unknown cost is a huge potential factor in the court of public opinion. There seem to be very real reasons the way the process is working as it is, based on federal funding requirements and how projects progress from draft to final form.

While it's understandable that CRC project managers are careful not to create breakdowns of costs when they cannot be accurately calculated, it might be helpful to discuss previous interchange costs with reporters for purposes of illustration. It might not ease the pain of talking about $6 billion, but it could help the public understand that substantial portions of the cost would not be on the bridge itself.

There are almost certain to be arguments raised during the Feb. 27 task force vote about how to do something more cheaply. Given the enormity of the project, it's worth having that discussion one more time, even if it can be difficult to see how to get there.

This is what public process is all about. People will disagree on what to do, but in the end a decision must be made. In our view, the CRC has made a pretty decent effort at public outreach with public workshops, forums and televised task force meetings. Progressives may not agree with every aspect of the projct, but in a broad sense government can only offer the opportunity to participate, it can't force citizens to do so.

If you haven't had a chance, you can always check out the CRC web site and submit your thoughts on the project.

Anti-atheist Republican bigots

Atrios has a link to a video of Mitt Romney being heckled about being Mormon. It's pretty painful to listen to, and gets more painful when Romney resorts to some platitudes about respecting all faiths but saying "We need to have a person of faith lead the country." Atrios, as usual, start us off on the sensible way to think about this:
We believe different stuff. The alliance of "people of faith", both organizationally and rhetorically, has created an artificial distinction between "believers" and "nonbelievers," perpetuated the notion that what you believe is unimportant as long as you have faith in something, and reduced any public discussion of the genuine differences in belief that exist.

It's become vogue for politicians to make their religious beliefs, their "faith,"central parts of their campaigns. If they do so, it's quite fair for people take a look at just what those beliefs are.
If a candidate, for example, believes that a woman with a liquefied brain can "recover" and that it's appropriate for the United State Senate to pass a law (on a Saturday no less) that takes control of a medical situation away from the legally designated family member, the people have every right to know what is informing those beliefs. (To be clear, Romney was not in the Senate during the Schiavo madness, but John McCain and Sam Brownback were.)

So if Republicans want to play this game, then they will have to deal with it when it bites them in the behind. In a just and rational media landscape, the AP would be doing stories questioning why McCain is appearing before a group of strident anti-atheist bigots later this week in Seattle.*

That would require discarding the predominant media narrative in this country about religion, of course, namely that religious folks are "good" and everyone else is at the very least, questionable.

That narrative doesn't stand up to even cursory scrutiny, and never has (can you say "Elmer Gantry?")

*For those who haven't been following along closely or are slow on the uptake (I'm looking at you, Republicans,) the use of the term "anti-atheist bigots" comes in response to the rantings of alleged Catholic leader Bill Donohue in the last few weeks. If you object to the Discovery Insitute being called "anti-atheist bigots," I suggest you attack the employer that pays me to say such outrageous things**

**I (gladly) do it for free+

+And will continue to do so until we make Republican anti-atheist bigots a permanent minority++

++Have a nice day, may The Force Be With You

Senate Democrats pledge to apply "relentless" pressure to Bush on Iraq

This is exactly what our elected officials need to be saying...and doing:
After Republicans blocked a Senate debate for a second time, Democrats said Saturday they will drop efforts to pass a nonbinding resolution opposing President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq and instead will offer a flurry of anti-war legislation "just like in the days of Vietnam."

The tough talk came one day after the House passed its anti-Iraq resolution and as the GOP used a procedural vote to stop the Senate from debating the 21,500-troop increase.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said his party would be "relentless."

"There will be resolution after resolution, amendment after amendment ... just like in the days of Vietnam," Schumer said. "The pressure will mount, the president will find he has no strategy, he will have to change his strategy and the vast majority of our troops will be taken out of harm's way and come home."

Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the vote showed that Senate sentiment was running against the president.

"A majority of the United States Senate just voted on Iraq, and a majority of the United States Senate is against the escalation in Iraq," Reid said as he withdrew the resolution.
What's the matter, Republicans? Afraid of an up or down vote on a non binding resolution? Well, no matter. The pressure will be amplified and Republicans will pay a political price for not holding Bush accountable.

America has had enough of this disastrous conflict. Our troops are too important to be sent over to die in Iraq based on lies and faulty intelligence, and too valuable to kept over there on false pretenses and other sorry excuses the administration continuously offers to justify our presence there.

The American people are opposed to escalation. It is time to bring our troops home, not increase our the size of our force in Iraq.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

D.C. Highlights - February 17th, 2007

Here is today's overview of interesting items from our nation's Capitol:
  • Senate to work overtime: A rare Saturday session to bring an anti-escalation resolution passed by the house to a vote is scheduled this weekend. The House passed a similar initiative early this week, with Doc Hastings (R-WA) in opposition, declaring that this bill "simply declaring that we don't wish to be at war anymore does not make our enemies surrender". There are unlikely to be the necessary 60 votes needed to pass the measure in the Senate, even with John McCain (R-AZ) not in attendance. McCain calls the vote "meaningless", and will be campaigning in Chicago.
  • Alternative Energy: Gordon Smith (R-OR) has introduced legislation that they hope will stimulate investment in solar power, which has been co-sponsored by several Pacific NW political representatives, including Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
  • Fired US Attorneys: As part of a investigating panel looking into the dismissal of key federal prosecutors, Patty Murray has indicated that she has found nothing warranting their firing, saying that specifics supporting the performance-related charges against the prosecutors were not provided to the panel by the Department of Justice.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

UPDATE: As anticipated, the resolution failed, but not by too much:
Senators voted 56-34 to invoke cloture and proceed to a floor vote on the resolution, with seven Republicans joining all the chamber's Democrats in calling for an end to the debate. But the motion fell four votes short of the threshold needed under Senate rules.
Interestingly, Joe Lieberman (who is a strict adherent to his Orthodox Jewish faith) is so supportive of Bush's war that he took time out of the Sabbath to back the Republicans in today's vote.

What's McCain's position?

At AMERICAblog, Joe in DC asks the vital questions about John McCain's view on sex education:
So, if this is such an important issue, we must ask: What is the abstinence policy for the McCain staff? If one works for John McCain, must one sign a "I won't have sex" pledge...or does the no-sex thing only apply to other people. Does his "no-sex" policy apply to unmarried soldiers? And, what exactly are people supposed to abstain from? Everything? Is oral sex okay?

If McCain wants people to abstain from pre-marital sex -- and he opposes gay marriage -- does that mean McCain doesn't think gay people should ever have sex? Maybe one of the many gays working on his campaign can answer that question for us.
Maybe someone can ask him in Seattle next week, when "The Forked Tongue Express" visits the stinkiest of the Northwest stink tanks.

Who should Republicans nominate, a panderer or maybe a philanderer? Choices, choices. If only Rudy would pander, he'd be perfect.

Civility is just a word

Strange what some people find funny.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected a Miami Beach man's application to trademark the name "Obama bin Laden" because the name "may falsely suggest a connection with the individuals Osama bin Laden and Barack Obama," USPTO lawyer Karen Bush said in a Feb. 6 rejection letter, the Miami Herald reported this week.

You can't get a trademark for "immoral or scandalous matter," Bush said.

The applicant, Alexandre Batlle, sells coffee mugs, T-shirts, hats and such. One has a cartoon of presidential candidates Obama — in a robe and turban and holding a machine gun — and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., in an Arab caftan.
There are always people looking to make a quick buck with stuff like this, but back in the day this sort of thing was reserved for people like Ayatollah Khomeini (anyone else remember "Aya-toilet paper?")

Now various elements on the right seem to think it's ok to treat Democrats as enemies rather than opponents. Which is a thoroughly predictable outcome of years of Limbaugh, Malkin and Coulter, to name just a few responsible for the utter debasement of civic discourse.

So the next time some right winger wants to come on here and demand that we be "civil," let's remember what the Republican Party has become: a home for racists, homophobes and various other borderline personalities. There may be a genuine desire on the part of many Americans for less hostility in politics, but that kind of ignores the smear-based politics practiced by the right. People who object to nastiness can take it up with Karl Rove and Richard DeBolt. You don't think they would do fake sex offender postcards again if they could get away with it?

The very next blurb in the link above is about a new Swift-Boating style movie aimed at Hillary Clinton. If Democrats have to smile and mouth niceties in public when dealing with Republicans, so be it. But you can't trust the Republican Party and 2008 is, again, going to be outright partisan warfare. In many ways it's already started.

I long ago gave up trying to understand why some Republicans seem to think that being as deceitful and nasty as possible is just "good, vigorous politics" or however their apologists like to put it. I do know that they tend to howl like whiny babies when the same tactics are thrown back in their face, and they whine even more when in the minority. God do they whine. You can't disagree with them or you're enabling terrorism, still. It's ridiculous.

So until the GOP becomes a reality based party and somehow controls its worst elements, something that is very unlikely to happen in the next two years, no Republican has any standing to talk about civility. And if that causes them digestive problems, may I suggest my new brand of Mitt Romney Republican NASA diapers, for the GOP whiny baby in your life?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Clark county commissioner Stuart on CRC

Today in Clark County, Democratic county commissioner Steve Stuart delivered the state of the county address. Here's what he had to say about the Columbia River Crossing project, the plan to build a new bridge on I-5 between Portland and Vancouver. From The Columbian, which posted a prepared text of his remarks:
Now it’s 2007 and we’re still tying to get people across the Columbia River. Currently, more than 65,000 county residents cross the river each morning to work in Oregon.

While I’d rather those people kept their time and tax money in Clark County, we still need to ease the congestion they deal with every day at the I-5 Bridge, which frustrates them and slows down delivery of goods throughout the region.

But when you’re looking at a multi-billion dollar project, it’s much easier to talk about a solution than it is to fund one. There are only so many transportation dollars to go around, and always more projects than dollars.

In Clark County, the focus has been on easing congestion in Salmon Creek, creating a new I-5 interchange for Battle Ground, widening SR-14 in Camas, and easing congestion on East Mill Plain and 18th Street in Vancouver, among many other necessary projects. These are road dollars spent IN Clark County, FOR Clark County residents.

This brings up an interesting question posed by an economist at a recent Columbia River Crossing town hall. He said, “If Bill Gates dropped by Southwest Washington … and said “you know, I want to help take care of your most pressing needs, so I’m writing you a check for $6 billion”, would you spend all of that $6 billion on the Columbia River Crossing?”

Before you “armchair quarterbacks”, “grassroots gurus”, and “sidewalk superintendents” take too much time thinking about that, I have two things to say to you.

Thank you, and keep it up. This is YOUR project, using YOUR tax money, to deal with YOUR commute and economy, and will only happen if YOU decide to vote for taxes and tolls to pay the bill. And let’s be clear – the Board of Clark County Commissioners believes that any bridge or high capacity transit that needs public funds from Clark County residents must go to a public vote.

But before you get your checkbook out, let’s have a reality check. I believe that we need to be honest with each other about this project, instead of painting an overly rosy picture just so we can get something built.

First and foremost, we cannot end rush-hour congestion on the I-5 corridor by building a new bridge over the Columbia River, no matter how much we spend on it. This is not opinion. It’s math.

Even with a new bridge, the Delta Park widening project, and eventual widening at both the I-5/I-405 split and Rose Garden, we’ll still only have three freeway lanes from here to downtown Portland. Each one of those lanes can handle about 2,000 vehicles per hour, so 3 lanes can handle a MAXIMUM of 6,000 vehicles per hour. As of 2005, there were already about 5,000 vehicles per hour traveling along the I-5 corridor during the peak travel hours. By 2030, that number will jump to at least 7,500 – more than I-5 can handle under the best circumstances. Put another way, Columbia River Crossing staff estimates that congestion during the commute southbound every morning will increase from 2 hours in 2005 to 4.75 hours in 2030. That’s WITH a new 12-lane replacement bridge, AND high capacity transit, AND likely a toll to pay the multi-billion dollar price tag.

Bottom line – Build a new 12-lane bridge. Build a new 30-lane bridge. Shortly after that bridge is built, congestion will return.

Let me be clear that I know doing nothing is NOT an alternative we should consider. If we do nothing, people and goods will be stuck in a rush “hour” that extends through most of the day. That’s not acceptable, for our commuters or the neighborhoods who will see greater health risks caused by the increased car exhaust from stalled traffic. Also, I recognize that there are safety and movement issues that would be helped by replacing the existing spans.

What I am saying is that because our carrying capacity is limited, we need to look at how to move traffic at different times, different directions, and using a variety of modes to clear that capacity for freight and commuters who have to drive.

That means an alternative that’s a complete departure from the business as usual approach of just building a big new I-5 bridge. But you know, sometimes bigger isn’t always better – it’s just bigger.

So let’s start looking at doing something different, with an eye toward a more positive result. An alternative to:

-Increase transit ridership with more efficient service that works for people’s busy schedules. And yes, that likely means pairing bus service with a new bridge structure for either bus rapid transit or light rail.

-Prioritize signals, ramp meters, and lanes for vehicles with more than one person.

-Fix the interchange system around the I-5 bridge to clear the congestion that happens when people try to weave on and off at Hayden Island, SR-14, and downtown Vancouver.

-Move the swing arm on the rail bridge to the center channel and make it a lift span. This $40 million fix would eliminate the need to use the I-5 Bridge lift for barge traffic.

-Work with employers to provide incentives for flexible schedules that allow workers to commute south during non-peak hours when there are no congestion issues.

-Aggressively bring jobs to Clark County so people can live and work closer together and avoid the hours of commuting that keep them away from family and community.

Only by changing how, when, and where we travel will there ever be hope for true congestion relief on the I-5 corridor. We have an opportunity right now to show true vision and leadership that addresses the root of our congestion instead of just putting a band-aid on it.

Please understand that I’m not giving you an answer to what the preferred alternative should be for the Columbia River Crossing project. I’m simply asking that we include an alternative in the study that shows vision, creativity, and lower costs to move more people.

If all we get from analyzing another alternative is a moderately priced solution that helps us better understand the corridor’s limitations and some ways to deal with them when we’re finally sick of banging our heads against the same wall, the money will have been well spent.

I’m asking all of you to think about that, and if you agree, to contact your elected officials and the Columbia River Crossing staff. Let them know what you think now, because this is YOUR commute, economy, and money that they’re working with.
The challenge facing those who want the CRC to pursue another alternative is that there doesn't seem to be an alternative that people are broadly rallying around. To generalize, you have your third bridge people, your "arterial bridge" people and various other viewpoints which range from crunchy granola to extreme wingnut. Somewhere there is probably a guy walking around with plans for a transporter people mover slash atomic atomizer that uses microwaves and hang gliders.

Stuart is right when he says we must change how and when we travel. And we're all concerned about the cost of the CRC project. That being said, it's not clear to me that folks who are talking about alternatives to the CRC staff recommendation have made much of a case to the public in terms of concrete alternative proposals. It's true that it's tough to get the public involved, and it's true that WSDOT engineers tend to build things. But vague talk about alternatives probably isn't going to result in much meaningful action.

Elway poll looks good for Democratic agenda

David Ammons reports on an Elway poll about hot issues facing Olympia. From the AP via the P-I:
Seven out of 10 Washington voters turn thumbs down to spending public money on pro sports facilities, but a strong majority favors same-sex domestic partner benefits, according to a new statewide poll.

The Elway Poll, published Friday by independent pollster Stuart Elway, also showed support for simple-majority approval of school levies and backing for paid family medical leave. A plan for public financing of some judicial races was supported by only 41 percent of those polled.
The article goes on to state that a majority support either a new viaduct or shifting the money to other projects, but the details are confusing further down in the piece. Plus it's a statewide poll, so it's a reasonable to assume that citizens outside the Puget Sound region may not be following the issue that closely.

Offhand, what I take away is that if it weren't for the infernal viaduct Democrats would be doing pretty well. (However, even with the fight over the future of the waterfront, the party's not doing too bad).

And as a resident of Southwest Washington I still refuse to offer an opinion on which option is best, but I do sincerely hope this debate can be resolved so that we can move on. It's not the end of the world that people continue to struggle with such a huge challenge, but I'm guessing there is some fatigue setting in already.

Basically what you have in this poll is a firm endorsement of the non-viaduct Democratic agenda. Simple majority for schools is a huge issue for everyone in the state, and for those of us who have experienced first hand the absurdity of losing an election with 59% of the vote, its time has certainly come.

And it looks like onions enjoy a lot of support in the poll, so it looks like the end for Big Potato. They're fried.

Making new Democrats through sheer personality

Check out this letter to the editor from two 18 year old government students at Evergreen High School in Clark County. It seems one of their state representatives, Republican Jim Dunn of the 17th District, first forgot about their scheduled meeting and went to lunch for 40 minutes, then proceeded to insult them:
Although our first impression was less than perfect, we excused his tardiness and began to discuss his legislative agenda. During this time, our opinion of him did not improve, but rather, worsened as time went on. He evaded legitimate questions or changed their meaning so as to suit him. Numerous times throughout our discussion he insulted our intelligence by stating, “You will understand when you grow up.”
Yeah, you stupid kids, what do you think you're doing trying to talk to an elected offical about his policy positions? Why the nerve. Next thing you know these silly 18 year olds will want the right to vote.

Seriously, good on these new voters for making the effort to become involved. Let's hope that they don't sour on politics because of a know-nothing like Jim Dunn. Even his own party doesn't think much of him, from what I hear. You kind of wonder what he does in Olympia all day, besides eat lunch.

Legislators meet to discuss CRC

Chris Smith at Portland Transport alerts readers to a bi-state legislative meeting about the CRC happening in Portland at 11:30 this morning at the Port of Portland building. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, and chair of Transportation, is listed as representing the Washington state Senate.

Other notables from the Washington side include Doug MacDonald of WSDOT and Hal Dengerink, chancellor of WSU-Vancouver and co-chair of the CRC task force.

The information posted by Smith mentions a Washington concurrent resolution, SCR 8405, which would establish a "joint interim work group" to follow and report back on the CRC. Once you get past all the "whereas's," the resolution would enable Lisa Brown and Frank Chopp to pick four members from their respective chambers and instruct them to report to the Legislature in 2008. Smells like funding to me, but hey, you never know how these things are going to go. The puzzle pieces are not set yet.

There are many things in motion with CRC right now. The task force is scheduled to vote on the staff recommendation on Feb. 27, and Democratic County Commissioner Steve Stuart is scheduled to give the annual state of the county address later today. Stuart has expressed some frustrations with the CRC at times, and it will be interesting to see how he expresses those in his speech.

As always, you can rummage through the CRC web site if you wish to explore the project in greater detail. You can also check out a Jan. 30 overview that we posted here at NPI.

McCain to worship false idol of intelligent design

The "Forked Tongue Express" will be in Seattle appearing before the Discovery Institute next week.
Yet, on February 23, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will be the keynote speaker for the most prominent creationism advocacy group in the country. The Discovery Institute, a religious right think-tank, is well-known for its strong opposition to evolutionary biology and its advocacy for “intelligent design.” The institute’s main financial backer, savings and loan heir Howard Ahmanson, spent 20 years on the board of the Chalcedon Foundation, “a theocratic outfit that advocates the replacement of American civil law with biblical law.”
OK, candidates run to the right in Republican presidential primaries, we get that. But really, couldn't McCain have found a more credible way to do it? Or is the GOP so far gone that bowing before a group that has been rejected by Kansas the best he could do?

The next time Chris Mathews burbles out some idiotic comment about McCain's vaunted independence, please scream into a pillow. If GOP candidates still have to go around sucking up to Jerry Falwell and his pretend university and bogus right wing stink tanks like Discovery, then nothing has really changed.

People keep asking me who I think is going to win in 2008. With the usual caveat that it's early and my crystal ball needs a new flux capacitor, I tend to think that saying "the Democrat" is a fairly safe answer. It's not like the GOP is getting any less crazy. I was watching some of the Iraq resolution debate last night, and with most of the GOP it's lilke watching a tape from 2003. One guy was even bagging on France again, although you could kind of see the gears start to turn as some part of his lizard brain went "Uh-oh, I should stop now."

McCain isn't a moderate; he's as conservative as they come and has little principle, otherwise he would have spoken out against the fiasco in Iraq. He has little chance to become president because he has thoroughly squandered his once decent reputation by placing party over country. He and Colin Powell were probably the two people who could have prevented this insanity, and they didn't even try. History will not judge them kindly.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

World class cities don't build concrete highways over their waterfronts (Feb 15th)

...Or do they?

Elevate Paris

Measure 2 on Seattle's March 13 special election ballot presents a disastrously flawed option for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The new elevated viaduct option would be:
  • Bigger — at least 50% larger than the current one
  • Noisier — louder traffic noise on our waterfront
  • Uglier — 50% more cement and shadows
Don't let this plan ever get off the ground. Vote NO on 2...and stay tuned for future installments of this new series!

Tax cuts will solve all our problems

That's the message from Republicans in Olympia, who are bankrupt of ideas:
"Government is good at taxing the people when it wants money. Now that there's more money in the general fund than is needed, government ought to be giving some of that money back to the people," said Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama.

House Republicans say the state has enough money to offer a $400 tax rebate for Washington homeowners.
There's more money than is needed? Um, Ed, have you taken a look at the state of our schools lately? The crisis facing Puget Sound? The problems with our healthcare system? Our decaying public infrastructure?

If your party was in charge, no progress would be made on any of the above mentioned challenges, because you and your fellow Republicans are almost never willing to raise the revenue it takes to tackle them.

Fortunately, the adults have been in charge of the statehouse for the last few years, and consequently, we've invested in transportation improvements and preserved badly needed funds for our public schools. Voters have been saying "no" to right wing tax cutting initiatives for years now.

Orcutt and his fellow Republicans' call for a tax cut isn't leadership, it's pathetic political posturing. The state GOP needs to look no further than its own press releases to understand why it is the minority party in Olympia.

Reichert now owns the war too

Via David Postman comes Dave Reichert's endorsement of the war in Iraq. (PDF file)

Such a piece of puffery and nonsense from Reichert. The Iraqi insurgents aren't the Wehrmacht, they aren't Johny Reb and they aren't the Hessians. Geez, it's like Reichert deliberately picked every non-relevant example from American history and threw it in a blender. Threw in a reference to Osama bin Laden for good measure.

Reichert wasn't in Congress when the war in Iraq started, as he repeatedly mentions. But he owns this war now just as much as Shrub.

He'll pay for this in 2008, and the Seattle Times editorial board won' be able to bail him out. But at least he is finished "investigating."

WSRP chairman still working for Attorney General Rob McKenna?

A press release from the Attorney General's website, posted a few days ago (February 8th), indicates that new State Republican Party Chair Luke Esser is still in the employ of Attorney General Rob McKenna (Esser is listed as the contact person, under the title of Outreach Director).

Doesn't Esser have enough to do now that he's taken over from Tebelius? Or is he just trying to double dip for as long as he can?

Convicted forger starts new signature gathering business in Oregon

In previous posts here we have argued that strengthening the integrity of the initiative process is imperative. Defenders of the status quo like to pretend there are no problems and reform isn't needed. They're wrong - and Loaded Orygun has an excellent example of why they're wrong.

Convicted forger Gregory Moser, who also goes by the name Ronald Phillips, has an ad on the Portland Craiglist trying to recruit paid petitioners for his new firm:
We still have a few positions open for circulators. The position(s) entails working directly with the public using the petition process to get various issues on the ballots for November 2008. You will be working outdoors so being used to Oregon weather is a plus.

Our organization is not affiliated with any political party. We simply want to make a difference and allow all Oregonians to vote on the ideas that the people of this state are proposing. This is a perfect position for a student or someone seeking a part time or second job (full time hours are available). You make your own hours and work where you want. No experience is required and training will be provided.

Requirements for applicants:

- Cheerful disposition

- A genuine belief in making change through the petitioning processes afforded to the citizens of Oregon

- Ability to communicate given issues clearly and honestly

- Be able to follow simple directions and rules

- Clean appearance

Compensation ranges from minimum wage to twenty plus dollars an hour and paychecks are given every two weeks. If this position interests you please call (503)317-0201 or email us at gmoser (at) takeinitiativeoregon (dot) us
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Take Initiative Oregon LLC is an equal opportunity employer. Criminal background checks will possibly be run, but most convictions will not automatically disqualify you (we believe in second and even third chances).
Or maybe even fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh chances...

Loaded Orygun reports that Moser has previously associated himself in Oregon with Bill Sizemore cohort Tim Trickey, and allegedly carried petitions previously for the "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" spending cap, term limits, Sizemore's insurance/credit initiative, and an eminent domain ban.

(Sizemore, for those readers not familiar with Oregon politics, is the Beaver State's version of Tim Eyman, and an inspiration for Eyman).

Moser, or Phillips, has notoriously run afoul of the law many times, as the Portland Mercury observed last summer:
[He] carries numerous convictions, including theft, carrying a concealed weapon, and possession of a controlled substance

Most notably, however, Moser was convicted by the Multnomah County court on May 29, 2002, for forgery, and given 6 months in prison plus 18 months probation. Later that year, on October 23, he was convicted of felony identity theft and given 26 months probation. His name is also on file with the secretary of state’s office as a signature gatherer for initiative petitions. (His listed date of birth matches the one on the criminal record.)
Great. Convicted felons running the businesses that profit off of collecting citizens' signatures for ballot measures. What's next? To borrow Carla's analogy, it's like a child molester setting up a daycare.

Reform is desperately needed here and across the country because the process has been abused and exploited. The Oregon State Legislature is apparently looking into making it illegal for forgers and ID thieves to circulate petitions for five years after a conviction, among other ideas (some of which are also being considered by the Washington State Legislature).

Given the documented cases of forgery in Oregon and other states, it's likely that fraudulent activity is occurring somewhere in Washington, and as Secretary of State Sam Reed would say, it's harming the spirit of the initiative process. The state Legislature must act to improve transparency and minimize the incentive for fraud - no matter how loudly Tim Eyman & Co. may complain.

Puget Sound sex coffee threatens Clark County

The Columbian's Elizabeth Hovde engages in some hand-wringing over sexy coffee places in the Puget Sound region. She has an old friend who sells sexy coffee, but it's ok because they don't do schoolgirl outfits or something, but what's really hilarious is this bit:
It's hard to know what limits are in place at The Sweet Spot Cafe in Shoreline. Its Web site shows what I would consider pornographic images of baristas hosting a car wash.
Well, after some thorough analysis, since The Columbian didn't provide a link, here are my conclusions: (WARNING-LINK IS NOT WORK-SAFE IF YOU WORK AT THE COLUMBIAN!)

Stupid? Yes. Dangerous around hot, steamy espresso machines? Perhaps. Pornographic? Hardly. By Hovde's definition Carl's Jr. should be put out of business.

It's not the first time The Columbian has run this sort of piece. Several years ago, right before Christmas 2004, there was an outraged guest editorial from a lady who had her panties in a bunch about Victoria's Secret, which led to the infamous "War on Lingerie." The sexy mannequins ultimately donned pajamas, and a few years later the "War on Lingerie" had become the "War on Fort Vancouver Regional Library District." The sexy internet terminals have donned mandatory filters, best I recall. So good luck with all those term papers about breast cancer.

Before we shrug off Hovde's column as simple wingnut prudery, let's remember that this is how they operate. Eventually your freedoms come under assault in the name of morality, as defined by people who seem to think they have some unique insight into the concept. These are the same people who don't want kids to be taught medical information about STD's and such.

If only the horrors of war inspired them as much as scantily clad mannequins and baristas, they might have some credibility on the topic of morality.

POSTCRIPT A few years back The Columbian let an editor go for supposedly accessing pornography on work computers. So if Hovde accessed "The Sweet Spot's" home page from a Columbian computer, I guess she better clean out her desk.

David Reinhard, lying stenographer

The Oregonian's right-wing stenographer David Reinhard pens a pathetic column where he assails John Edwards and the bloggers but doesn't mention all the offensive things Bill Donohue says. To put things simply, David Reinhard is essentially lying in his column by presenting a completely false account of the situation involving the Edwards bloggers.

I usually ignore Reinhard, because he's a poor writer and seldom has an original thought, but in this case it is such a clear example of how the noise machine operates that it's worthy of note. First someone on the right cooks up phony outrage, and with the help of gullible reporters gets it into the regular media. Here we are about a week later, and paid stooges like Reinhard are discussing it in the context of the alleged double standard against conservatives.

The smear job is the real story, of course. In a sane and rational media environment we would be treated to extensive profiles of Donohue and all the crazy things he has said and done over the years.

It all feeds directly into the pathetic and laughable sense of victimhood on the right. Bill Donohue is a racist and an anti-Semite, but what we get in the regular media is that he is a "Catholic spokesman" who simply objects to bias against Catholics. Right.

It's ridiculous, and newspapers should know better. Opinion pages should have strong opinions, but when they become a haven for liars like Reinhard newpapers are not providing "a variety of views," they are actively participating in a political act, in this case a smear job. Why this is so hard to understand puzzles me. The Great Wall of Editorial-dom is not a license to be active particpants in Republican Rat Love.

Until the media cleans up its act, it really shouldn't surprise editors and owners that many Americans are going to view them with suspicion and frankly, enmity.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

State legislators call for an investigation of the Bush administration

Senator Eric Oemig, who represents NPI's home legislative district (the 45th) officially introduced a resolution today which mentions some of the atrocities committed under the orders of Dubya & Co. and concludes by asking the state's congressional delegation and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to "determine whether there is sufficient evidence to charge President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney with the above offenses".

Senate Joint Memorial 8016, which has a number of co-sponsors, has been misconstrued by both right wing bloggers and some left wing activists as an outright call for impeachment...which it is not.

The resolution is basically a symbolic request for an investigation. Note the use of the words "determine whether there is sufficient evidence" as quoted in the first paragraph of this post. The resolution does not claim that the proof already exists.

Senator Oemig has unfortunately not communicated his position very clearly since his plans for introducing this resolution were leaked - allowing others to frame his intent as a demand for impeachment now.

As far as impeachment itself is concerned....[U.S.] House Democrats, including Representatives Jim McDermott and Jay Inslee, have clearly signaled they're not interested in pursuing impeachment at the expense of ending the war in Iraq and improving the lives of working families through desperately needed legislation.

The Democratic Party is not and should not portray itself as an anti-Bush party. Were we to make removal of Bush and Cheney our foremost goal (impeachment/conviction) we would lose the ability to do something about ending the war in Iraq, our legislative agenda would effectively disappear, and we would give the Republican Noise Machine a slew of fodder to use through the 2008 elections against us.

Impeachment of Bush and Cheney may seem righteous, but it is not a practical or even wise course of action. Activists in favor have come up with powerful and emotional arguments for doing so, but their focus is too narrow. By all means, let's investigate...but not get got up in the politics of vengeance or retribution. That is not what progressivism and liberalism are about.

From the very beginning, this administration has been the antithesis of true American values. (Remember how Bush and Cheney got into office in the first place?) Unfairness is one word that could be used to summarize the last six years of government under these two men and their right wing agenda. Repression, suffering, and affliction are others.

Getting rid of the corrupt right wing liars who currently control the executive branch will not magically reverse all the harm that has been done.

That's our true goal, what we want and what the American people want: to end the war in Iraq, stop the free ride for corporate America, tackle the challenge of global warming before it is too late, rescue working families who are struggling under unfair conditions, ensure that every child has access to quality health care....and so on.

Democrats and progressives won decisively last November in landslide after landslide because America is tired of the regress and ready for progress.

History is not going to judge Bush and Cheney uncritically if they leave office without having been impeached (and convicted). This administration is already poised to leave the worst legacy of any in American history behind when it dissolves in early 2009 to make way for a new President.

We appreciate that Senator Oemig and his colleagues want to see more action from Congress, and we agree investigations are warranted. We caution fellow activists, however, against getting blindly caught up with a fervent desire to see Bush and Cheney punished. True justice is repairing as much of the damage they've caused as we possibly can - and addressing the causes, rather than the symptoms, of the problems that have troubled our nation.

Key Democrats oppose free ride for Sonics

It's good to know that not all of our elected leaders are cheerleaders eager to hand the Sonics' wealthy ownership group bucketfuls full of taxpayers' hard earned dollars for the construction of a new arena.

House Speaker Frank Chopp, whose forceful and mistakenly placed support of a new viaduct has annoyed us, is thankfully flexing his political muscle in the proper direction on this issue. As Chopp put it, "I just know that our caucus members have much higher priorities, for schools and health care."

Chopp gave the Associated Press a detailed breakdown of his reasons for opposing the gift of a massive public subsidy to Sonics ownership earlier today:
  • The regional economy is already booming without the new facility.
  • The plan was tardy in arriving and only two weeks remain before a key committee deadline.
  • The Sonics already have a place to play, KeyArena in Seattle.
  • In his view, the club spends wildly for player salaries. "They ought to get their own financial house in order when their payroll is over $50 million for, what is it, 10 players? I think that's a little ridiculous...if they did [get their house in order], they wouldn't have to ask for public help."
  • He said he can't stomach diverting money from school kids "for something where the court side seats cost a thousand bucks? Give me a break!"
  • The Sonics have rejected a public vote on a plan, unlike the Seattle Seahawks (whose owner did make his case to the public).
  • The threat of the Sonics leaving so they can make more money elsewhere? "That's not my concern."
Additionally, King County's five Democratic council members - a plurality of the council - have sent a letter to the Governor and Senator Margarita Prentice saying they would not approve the use of taxes to finance an arena in King County without a public vote and authorization from the electorate.

We commend all five of the county's Democratic council members for sending this message. Again, the Sonics ownership includes four billionaires. If they want a new sports arena, they can pay for one themselves without any public assistance.

King of the wild Blackberry

Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo. thinks escalation is a John Wayne movie or something. Well, a John Wayne movie where they have high technology:
AKIN: Could you picture Davy Crockett at the Alamo looking at his Blackberry getting a message from Congress? “Davy Crockett, we support you. The only thing is we are not going to send any troops.” I’m sure that would really be impressive to Davy Crockett.
In a breathtaking discovery, NPI has uncovered Crockett's actual text messages from the Battle of the Alamo:
F2F w/SA OMG SND more troops AEAP PLS SSINF IG2R Zzzzzzz
Chilling.

Maybe the Alamo was a bad choice, history-wise, for the GOP, since um, Crockett and all the other defenders most likely died. It burns.

Spell Barack Obama's initials

Via Slog comes a clip of Fox Noise Channel's pathetic attempt to compete with the Daily Show. It's kind of like Mad Libs meets the 10th grade talent show, or maybe that really, really lame time period on SNL in the early '80's that had people nobody ever heard of again.

Conservatives aren't funny, at least not in a deliberate way. When they show how racist, juvenile and intellectually stunted they are, it can result in hilarity, in a "is this real or am I getting the flu?" kind of way.

You'd think with as much money as Rupert Murdoch has they could at least pay a studio audience to laugh instead of using a laugh track. A laugh track! Like on cruddy old sitcoms that weren't funny. How stupid do they think we are? Oh, yeah, it's not aimed at us, it's for conservatives.

Never mind.

UPDATE-- This conservative blogger adds to the hilarity:
Material so weak, in fact, that one suspects the writers are all liberals deliberately sabotaging the show, or so horribly out of touch with conservative opinion as to have no real idea what a conservative might find funny, or -- likeliest of all -- convinced conservatives are abject morons who will not get a joke unless it's seltzer-down-the-pants woca-woca-woca sledgehammer obvious.

Note to the 1/2 Hour News Hour's writers: We're conservative, not retarded. There is, I assure you, a distinction, though a subtle one.
Ouch, my side is starting to hurt.

Making stuff up

If conservative columnists get to make up fake quotes from Abraham Lincoln and publish them in The Washington Times, it is incumbent upon media outlets that still consider themselves "respectable," whatever that means, to point out the fabrication and hold The Washington Times in contempt. This, of course, leaves aside the fact that said columnist is engaging in violent revenge fantasies against sitting Democratic Senators, which is a whole other issue.

Or we could attack the dirty hippie bloggers.

The right is losing what little of its collective mind it has left, but much like a small child finally denied the 10th candy bar in a row, the temper tantrum to come is going to be awful to behold. It won't accomplish anything, but people with poor impulse control to begin with are certain to lash out at anyone or anything they don't like. There's nothing that can be done to stop the conservative tantrum, but there's no reason that media outlets have to call it anything but what it is.

You knew that "civility" was just a head fake, didn't you?

Don't have opinions

An urgent warning to bloggers: don't have any opinions about religious extremists.
Clearly, the right is able to attack us with impunity. Japanesse internment justifying Michelle Malkin goes on the air to bash Marcotte and McEwan, while the people who read Malkin's blog send death and rape threats to them. And even the media reports on the matter make the Michelle Malkin's of the world look like the sane hero in this situation, while Marcotte and McEwan are evil. And then a bunch of Democrats, including a few commenters at MyDD, will give Malkin, O'Reilly and Donohue cover for this by saying that Marcotte and McEwan were out of line. Rinse and repeat.
The false sense of victimhood in certain quarters of Wingnuttia, especially the neighborhood occupied by the homophobic Christianist right, is laughable. Because it's always ridiculous when those who seek to set normative behavior by persecuting people do so in the name of being persecuted.

I'm trying to think of 20th Century examples of societies where powerful militarists used bogus claims of persecution to further their evil plans, but I'm coming up blank this morning.*

*Actually I can think of an example, but I still secretly hope to blog for the Hillary Clinton campaign. I am going to very cleverly use code words so that my base will know what I am talking about. I'll put the code words in italics so that you can recognize them easily. Ready for code word number one? Good, be ready to write this down: Madolf Bittler

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What a new viaduct would look like

Architects from Seattle's most prominent firms held a news conference yesterday to illustrate just what a new viaduct would look like, according to the state's specifications. The new structure, which is massive, would create an even bigger wall between downtown and the viaduct, architects said.

Walter Schacht, who is the president of the Seattle chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said at yesterday's event that there is "overwhelming consensus in the design community" against a new elevated highway.

Here is a rendering that shows the size, scale, and scope of a new viaduct:

The New Alaskan Way Monstrosity

Note the use of the word "new". This is not a "rebuild", because it is significantly different from the existing structure. The above illustration shows the existing viaduct superimposed in red.

Don't want this colossal thing cutting off the city from its waterfront like an ugly fortress wall? Then vote no on Proposition 2 - and a new viaduct.

Kansas 1, Discovery Institute 0, Final

The Kansas Board of Education has thrown out the bogus "intelligent design" standards in favor of scientific standards.
Harry McDonald, a retired science teacher from Olathe and a member of Kansas Citizens for Science, applauded the board for quickly revisiting the science standards.

“The time for deliberation has passed,” he said. “It is time to act.”
McDonald taught high school biology in Stanley, Ks., about five miles from Stilwell, Ks. Education does matter. Way to go, Mr. McDonald, and BTW I'm still sorry about that unfortunate incident with the Bunsen burner.

Congratulations to the citizens of Kansas for rejecting a bald political attempt to ruin their schools in the name of religion.

Governor ready to endorse a new viaduct?

The tunnel has already been declared dead once. Here come the obituaries again:
Sources say Gov. Christine Gregoire is preparing to endorse a larger new elevated viaduct regardless of what Seattle voters choose in a March 13 vote.

[...]

The news comes on the heels of an announcement by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) that the mayor's four-lane "surface/hybrid" tunnel is unacceptable from a financial and safety viewpoint.

WSDOT's rushed analysis of the tunnel, released earlier today, found that the four-lane tunnel (with shoulders that could be converted to travel lanes at rush hour) would result in "unacceptable sight distances" and "does not meet the state's safety standards." Additionally, the four-lane tunnel would not "maintain vehicle capacity needs in 2030," WSDOT's overriding concern.
Reading this P-I article, it seems that safety is not nearly as important as maintaining capacity. That's the Department of Transportation's roads mindset on display for you. The horror of less pavement!

Frank Chopp, Judy Clibborn, and other influential lawmakers have already thrown their full weight behind the construction of a bigger, noisier, uglier viaduct (a regrettable decision that is extraordinarily unwise.) The Governor will be making a huge mistake if she follows suit. She pledged to listen to the people of Seattle - making an endorsement now would send the message her words were nothing more than an empty promise.

State leaders and bureaucrats are asking for a big, nasty storm of litigation if they attempt to force a new viaduct on the city of Seattle. Those who feel strongly that a new elevated highway is a disastrous mistake are not going to sit by idly and watch the state put one on the waterfront.

UPDATE: Indeed, here comes Gregoire saying the tunnel option is dead. She already said this before. Around and around in circles we go:
"I appreciate the value of the Seattle waterfront and recognize that the project design must be mindful of the principles of the community. Today we need to move forward with the one option that meets safety standards and is fiscally responsible: the elevated structure."

- Governor Christine Gregoire
Those two sentences don't belong in the same paragraph. It is impossible to have an attractive, people friendly waterfront when it is dominated by an ugly concrete monstrosity built to serve the automobile. Does the Governor need a civic planning lesson? It is imperative that we stop building urban infrastructure around cars! Insisting that highway capacity be preserved at all costs is irresponsible and does not demonstrate sound thinking.

Even if the Governor is not open to a surface/transit option, Speaker Chopp and other leads have indicated a willingness to seriously consider the idea. Given that so many other projects are needed and given the significant opposition to the tunnel, the surface/transit option may be the only feasible and realistic choice left.

A new viaduct is out of the question.

Live in King County? Please vote today!

Today is a special election day in King County, and unlike last week's, there aren't any propositions at stake as there often are in a special election. No, this election is for the King County Conservation District.

What's unusual about it is that you have go out of your way in order to vote. There are no absentee ballots and there are so few polling places open you can count them using your fingers.

Nevertheless, it is important...the district controls a nearly $6 million annual budget and helps county residents manage their natural resources.

Given that this agency is all about conservation, it only makes sense to have actual conservationists running it. Today we have an opportunity to replace a developer friendly incumbent (Matt Livengood) with a real conservationist (Max Prinsen). Position 1 is up for grabs and your vote is critical. Typically less than a thousand people vote in each of these elections...every single vote matters immensely.

Max Prinsen is a past Chair of the Conservation Board, the current President of SHADOW (Save Habitat and Diversity of Wetlands), and a member of the Cedar River Council. He is endorsed by the Washington Conservation Voters and NPI. We strongly urge our King County readers to cast a vote in this special election for Max Prinsen. You can make a serious difference by voting.

Polling locations are open from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Tuesday February 13, 2007 (today) at these locations:
  • Renton City Hall. 1055 South Grady Way, Renton, WA
  • Snoqualmie Valley Community Center. 4610 Stephens Ave, Carnation, WA
  • Kent City Hall. 220 - 4th Ave South, Kent WA
  • Enumclaw Fairgrounds Administrative Office. 45224 - 284th Ave SE, Enumclaw, WA
  • Kirkland City Hall. 123 Fifth Ave, Kirkland, WA
  • Shoreline City Hall. 17544 Midvale Ave N, Shoreline, WA
  • Garfield Community Center, 2323 East Cherry St, Seattle, WA
King Conservation District board positions, by the way, are unpaid. Board members are responsible for overseeing the district's operations, staff, financial administration, and for guiding the direction of programs and policies.

Republican rat love

Kagro X has an important message for all Democratic candidates and activists, in a post entitled "Getting separated from the herd:"
Think the Edwards campaign's blog troubles ended with Amanda Marcotte's resignation? Think the Edwards campaign's blog troubles end with Edwards?

Think again.

As predicted, right wing activists have detected in the sheepish silence of the other Democratic presidential campaigns an opportunity to separate yet more top contenders from the herd, and turn Democrats against Democrats.

First on the block: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Congratulations, geniuses. And best of luck to you.
There's a term for what Republicans do that dates back to the Nixon administration, a term that I'm probably not allowed to use here. But it involves rats and um, affection. Sometimes it's more politely referred to as "dirty tricks."

And basically the entire Republican Party, from the national level on down, is organized to deliver rat love to Democrats. If you are an activist in your community, you may even know how your local rat lovers operate and how downright twisted they can be. We certainly recall the infamous fake sex offender postcard here in Washington, which is just one glaring example.

It's pretty clear that the Swiftboating will only increase through November, 2008, as an unpopular president and an unpopular war continue to drag down the GOP's chances.

There's only one logical thing to do when the baseless smear attacks start: ignore them and hope they just go away. It worked quite well for John Kerry, who is doing a bang-up job in the White House these days.

An agreement with North Korea?

Some major international news this morning:
The United States and four other nations reached a tentative agreement to provide North Korea with roughly $400 million in fuel oil and aid, in return for the North’s starting to disable its nuclear facilities and allowing nuclear inspectors back into the country, according to American officials who have reviewed the proposed text.

While the accord sets a 60-day deadline for North Korea to accomplish those first steps toward disarmament, it leaves until an undefined moment in the future — and to another negotiation — the actual removal of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and the fuel that it has manufactured to produce them.
A sign of progress? Let's see what really happens.

Monday, February 12, 2007

One Edwards blogger resigns

Regarding Amanda Marcotte, one of the two Edwards bloggers who came under attack by alleged Catholic leader Bill Donohue: Last week she was staying but now has announced she's leaving. From Pandagon:
I was hired by the Edwards campaign for the skills and talents I bring to the table, and my willingness to work hard for what’s right. Unfortunately, Bill Donohue and his calvacade of right wing shills don’t respect that a mere woman like me could be hired for my skills, and pretended that John Edwards had to be held accountable for some of my personal, non-mainstream views on religious influence on politics (I’m anti-theocracy, for those who were keeping track). Bill Donohue—anti-Semite, right wing lackey whose entire job is to create non-controversies in order to derail liberal politics—has been running a scorched earth campaign to get me fired for my personal beliefs and my writings on this blog.

In fact, he’s made no bones about the fact that his intent is to “silence” me, as if he—a perfect stranger—should have a right to curtail my freedom of speech. Why? Because I’m a woman? Because I’m pro-choice? Because I’m not religious? All of the above, it seems.

Regardless, it was creating a situation where I felt that every time I coughed, I was risking the Edwards campaign. No matter what you think about the campaign, I signed on to be a supporter and a tireless employee for them, and if I can’t do the job I was hired to do because Bill Donohue doesn’t have anything better to do with his time than harass me, then I won’t do it. I resigned my position today and they accepted.
While it's a shame that Marcotte was slimed not only by alleged Catholic leader Donohue but that portions of the media blithely played along, in the end this might be best.

Like it or not, the instant one starts taking a paycheck from a campaign the rules change, at least for now. As many have noted, political blog readers are the most motivated and highly interested readers out there. They understand that terms like "Christo-fascist" are a sardonic retort to the idiotic right wing term "Islamofascists." Taken out of context and tossed around by a reporter from a national media outlet, "Christo-fascist" does seem offensive.

We have a peculiar and sometimes uncertain relationship with the party and its candidates. Generally, Democratic officials and activists are supportive of blogs and from what I understand sometimes love it that we can say things they can't. But like anything, it can be a double-edged sword. You can't possibly write tens of thousands of words over the course of years without saying something edgy or outrageous, unless you are the most boring blogger in history.

Marcotte is a talented, witty writer in a field that needs far more female writers. Edward's loss is our gain as readers. And as Marcotte points out in her post, the netroots stood up big time to Donohue. He's on notice, and this isn't over, not by a long shot. Anything that a Democrat can legally do to sink Donohue should be done. The so-called Catholic League needs to be exposed for the extremist, partisan group that it is.

(Props to Eric C. Barnett, who noticed the item first and said plainly, "This sucks.")

EFFWA's double standard

From Adam Wilson's blog at The Olympian comes word that the Evergreen Freedom Foundation is up to its old, anti-union dirty tricks - this time trying to abuse the Freedom of Information Act request process:
The Foundation, a conservative, privately financed think tank, made a public records request for “a copy of all bargaining notes made by negotiators and bargaining team members regarding the 2007-2009 collective bargaining agreements.”

Those agreements, reached in August, cover almost 50,000 state workers through such unions as the Service Employees International Union Local 775, and the Washington Federation of State Employees.

There are plenty of nuances to what can and can’t be said about employer-employee relationships, negotiations, and the like, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise the unions object to having notes scribbled during talks released to the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.

The unions have filed a complaint in court to stop the release, which the foundation has posted on its Web site.
Nice. The EFFWA doesn't have to reveal all its sources of money, since it's a "private" foundation, but they argue for transparency from unions.

And since it would be horribly undwieldy to ever try to unravel EFFWA's funding sources in a newspaper aricle, they just get tagged with something innoucuous sounding like "conservative and private." (Not to pick on Adam Wilson either; all journalists face this challenge.)

Hey, since journalism standards and discussions are all the rage these days, here's one to try on for size: what say media outlets refuse to quote or otherwise promote the actions of people who won't reveal all their sources of money?

Send FCC Chairman Martin a valentine

The following is a vital action alert from FreePress, the organizers of the SaveTheInternet coalition (which NPI belongs to):
Valentine's Day is Wednesday, and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has spurned the public's love in favor of the largest media companies. It's time we won back his heart. So we created this 40-second Valentine's Day video for Chairman Martin. Watch the video, sign the card to Martin, and tell your friends to do the same:

Send a Valentine to Chairman Martin

Last year, Martin was caught in bed with corporate lobbyists (see an actual photo by following the above link). We need to woo him back to the people he's really supposed to serve.

2007 is a pivotal year for the chairman. He will be making several decisions that will have a direct impact on the future of television, radio and the Internet. Before he gets back in bed with corporate lobbyists, Martin needs to hear from you. Sign the card and ask Chairman Martin to:
  • Stop Big Media from swallowing up even more local outlets.
  • Prevent big phone companies from destroying Net Neutrality.
  • Help foster more diverse voices and points of view.
Take action today to demand a media system that puts our interests before those of the corporate media lobby. On this Valentine's Day, let's make sure the public can't be ignored.
The video is absolutely hilarious - watch it right now.

"News War" series starts on PBS tomorrow night

The venerable and often still outstanding PBS documentary series Frontline kicks off a four-part series about the US media called "News War" tomorrow night.

From the AP via The Seattle Times:
"News War" is a "Frontline" probe into the modern Fourth Estate, embattled from many directions. And, by chance, it coincides with the imminent conclusion to a Washington free-for-all that has ensnared the news media: the perjury trial of former vice-presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. He is charged with lying to investigators about his conversations with journalists such as Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who spent 85 days in jail to avoid revealing such conversations.
The first episode, which covers topics such as the media's relationship with the Bush administration, anonymous sourcing and Plamegate, airs Tuesday evening at 10 pm on KCTS in Seattle and 9 pm on KOPB in Portland.

The Frontline page also features a fairly handy "check local listings" pop-up link.

Hopefully Anna Nicole's state funeral will be over in time so that people can watch Frontline.

Break on through

I've been meaning to link to the new blog called The Other Side-Online. The blog bills itself as a "Journal on Central Washington Politics" and features a gigantic donkey peering over the Cascades, presumably at those of us on the west side. From a post entitled "Free Speech is Fine, Just Don't Do It in Public:"
I guess times have changed. Bush’s approval rating is at 32% and the Dixie Chicks WON FIVE GRAMMYS LAST NIGHT!
The title refers to a quote from the Chicks' movie "Shut Up and Sing."

So welcome, new blog from Central Washington. It's great to see that our movement is growing everywhere.

The "Jewish Taliban"

Here's reason number eleventy billion and twelve why religious extremists must be opposed in all societies.
Writer Naomi Ragen and other women of Jerusalem go to court against Jewish fundamentalists who they say have harassed, taunted and even physically assaulted women on public buses. In ultraorthodox neighborhoods, some men try to force women to sit in the back of buses and make them abstain from wearing immodest clothing. Eric Westervelt reports.
The NPR site says a transcript will be up later today or tomorrow. It's a pretty shocking piece. Hardly what one would expect from "the only Democracy in the Middle East." But it kind of clears up why the right in the US was so quick to condemn Jimmy Carter. Israel has severe problems with human rights.

The enemy isn't just "terror," the enemy is blind, unthinking, irrational fundamentalism that seeks to abuse and subjugate women, whether the practitioners claim to be Muslim, Christian or Jewish.

One bright spot in the NPR piece: the writer, Ragan, is described as orginally from New York and a feminist. So just to engage in some "good" stereotyping, they picked on the wrong woman. Good on her.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Camp Wellstone coming back to Seattle

Camp Wellstone, the signature training program put on by Wellstone Action, is coming back to Seattle this March - and registration is now open. Here's a brief summary of what the training is about:
Camp Wellstone is a training program that teaches progressives how to win on issues and elect good candidates. We use a distinctive approach to politics, based on Paul Wellstone's success at integrating grassroots organizing, electoral organizing, progressive public policy and ethical leadership.

The training is highly interactive, combining exercises, lectures, and simulations over the course of 2.5 days. Camp runs Friday from 2:30pm-9:00pm, Saturday from 9:00am-6:00pm, and Sunday from 9:00am-3:00pm. We keep you busy the whole time! The exact location of each camp will be announced in the coming weeks.

Camp Wellstone is divided into three tracks:
  • Candidate track. This is for people who have made the decision to run for office.
  • Campaign track. This track focuses on how to be an effective staff or volunteer member of a winning progressive campaign.
  • Citizen activist track. For people interested in citizen lobbying, issue advocacy, and community organizing, this track provides skills in how to win on issues.
The cost is $100 or just $50 for students, low-income, or unemployed participants.
NPI strongly recommends this training for any progressive who hasn't yet experienced it. It is perhaps the most invigorating, inspiring, and innovative training for left wing activists that exists. You'll come away from the camp empowered and excited to work for change.

Calm down on light rail for Clark County

The Columbian issues a staff editorial that can only be read as a rejoinder to those in Clark County who see light rail as some kind of commie plot. After detailing some of the recent notable developments regarding light rail, including the Jan. 23 speech by Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard in which he endorsed it wholeheartedly, the editors go in for the kill:
Last week brought yet another "Ouch!" moment for light-rail opponents, and this time it came from the nation's capital. Even worse, it came from the conservative president whom many of them support. President Bush's new budget request includes almost $175 million for light rail and bus projects in Oregon and Washington state. Portland would receive $80 million under the plan.
That's gotta hurt.

The Interstate Bridge isn't a Republican nor a Democrat, it's a bridge. Calm people will explore the complex issues associated with the idea of replacing it with an eye to the future and an open mind.

And really, some calm has to be a starting point for any rational discussion of how to get people across the river and back. You don't like light rail? Fine. State some rational reasons to oppose it instead of starting web sites that ascribe bad motives to those charged with studying the idea. People are tired of bogus accusations generated in right-wing propaganda mills. For instance, opponents like to charge that light rail is "100-year old technology." By that logic so are jetliners and SUV's.

Light rail isn't perfect. It's enormously expensive and Portland's MAX travel times need some big improvements, especially on the "yellow" line that would also serve Clark County. Bus rapid transit deserves to be studied as well and probably will be studied as things stand now. Light rail is almost certainly not suitable for outlying areas, so a better bus system might be needed. Yes, it would all cost money. Refinements to the cost will hopefully be forthcoming soon so we can better understand how to balance need versus cost.

There are those in Clark County who think the current spans should remain, and there are those who think an "arterial" bridge option should stay in the hunt. We welcome a vigorous, honest discussion, and hope that small bands of extremists do not come to influence the debate much at all.

The Larry the Cable Guy doctrine

So is the intelligence saying Iran is bringing weaponry into Iraq like, real intelligence or is it more of the "Feith-based" "alternative" kind?

This is what happens when you lie. People tend not to believe what you say. It seems pretty basic, but this administration doesn't ever seem to learn much of anything.

Of course, it's a fairly important issue for the brave women and men who have volunteered to serve in our armed forces. If Iran has been bringing in IED's, then that means Iran is helping kill our troops. But since our ground forces are stretched so thin, about the only thing the Cheney administration could do is launch air strikes against Iran.

If "Shock 'N Awe II: Real Men Go To Tehran" doesn't work, and those sorts of air attacks never really do, then we will have a vastly more unstable Middle East on our hands. We will have attacked yet another country even as our military strength has been degraded by the Freedom Toast War.

While it's understandable that we sometimes compare things to the Vietnam era, this is more like the Larry the Cable Guy era. There's not even a pretense of reality any more, just a grunt, a "Git 'er done" and off we go. The Wal-Mart and NASCAR crowd needs to be entertained every so often, lest they start to catch on they are the ones being hosed as much as anyone.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Democrats should not enable dumb Rovian, right wing games

Atrios on religion:
I tend to try to have a "don't be (a donkey's rump) needlessly" attitude when it comes to dealing with religious beliefs that no one is trying to impose on me, but there's no requirement for people to share that attitude. Beliefs cloaked in religion shouldn't be granted automatic immunity from scrutiny, and nor should the sometimes powerful institutions run by people, not angels or saints, around which the various religions are organized.

While genuine bigotry exists against people of various faiths which is the equivalent to the kind of bigotry which exists against gays or African-Americans (involving unfair symbols or stereotyping rooted in historic oppression, assigning unshared beliefs to an entire group, etc...), mocking or having contempt for actual religious beliefs isn't by any reasonable definition "bigotry."

It's simply heated disagreement, and as with disagreements about politics, or sports, or whatever, sometimes people who disagree with each other use mockery and insults in their discourse. Religious people may think that their beliefs about religion are on a different level than these things, but, you know, I don't really agree with that.
Certain religious forces in this country have decided, essentially, that the Republican Party must be supported by their followers whatever the cost, whether that cost is born by hapless individuals like Michael Schiavo or entire countries like Iraq.

The phony outrage about discussions of religion's influence on politics in this country must be exposed for what it is: a calculated decision to hold Democrats to one standard while ignoring the truly insane positions of the Robertsons, Falwells, Dobsons and Donohues.

We tolerate all sorts of religious belief in this country. You can believe virtually anything and worship as you please, as long as you follow the law. (And in some cases we even turn something of a blind eye to violations of the law, as in the case of the remnants of polygamy.)

What's sadly hilarious is that certain elements of American Christianity insist on portraying themselves as somehow being persecuted.

At the same time they insist that "bringing personal values to politics" is not only allowed but vital, which it is, they denigrate and dismiss the values of those who have genuinely different beliefs, especially atheists and other non-Christians. So what it boils down to, in some respects, is "our values are the correct values and we don't care what your values are."

Which is pretty much how we got to this point in American history, in a nutshell. The Republicans can't win without the far right religious extremists, but they can't govern with them because to enact their program would be a theocracy and the resulting massive backlash will destroy the GOP's chances for a generation. That backlash is already well under way.

Bill Donohue talking about being offended by progressive bloggers is just rich. A lot of us were offended in 1980, when Reagan teamed up with Falwell and his so-called "Moral Majority." We were similarly offended watching George H.W. Bush quickly abandon his pro-choice position to secure a place on the national ticket. And now, in 2007, Willard "Mitt" Romney is doing the same thing.

What's more offensive, writers examining the big issues of the day or GOP candidates changing their views on these supposedly core values to appease a voting bloc?

There are plenty of real things to be offended about today. Lies, hypocrisy and the cyncial manipulation of the media and the American public come to mind.

And while it's good that Edwards didn't ultimately fire the two bloggers, in the end Democratic campaigns need to understand that there are thousands of us out here who don't really care to play the stupid games Republicans try to play, and since we aren't being paid by anyone we don't have to play.

It's why I generally don't link to or discuss right-wing blogs. Not only are they not our audience or supporters, they just want to play dumb Rovian games. To engage them is to give them a power they would not otherwises possess.

This doesn't work as well right now for Democratic presidential candidates, because the national media loves the dumb Rovian games, but eventually that will change, if other Democrats don't enable them. Any candidate who enables the media to play these stupid games should be shunned by the netroots.

The rules are changing quickly, and the first rule is: don't ever buy into conservative memes. If a Democrat does that we should all be willing to have their back, whether they tend to hew a little more moderate or progressive or whatever.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Vote no on the rebuild

Building another viaduct (a bigger, noisier, uglier one) would be a huge mistake - and this short video outlines some of the reasons why. It's time for Seattle to reclaim its waterfront, and that isn't going to happen if we replace the existing elevated structure with yet another one.

A newspaper columnist walks into a bar...

One of the lost arts in newspaperin' is what used to be called "paragraphing," a column composed of short, pithy comments. It was exemplified by Bill Vaughn, whose "Starbeams" column ran for many years in The Kansas City Star. Here's a sample from a 1962 Time magazine profile of Vaughn:
"I am not an extreme rightist," Walter Tippy shouted at a late-evening political discussion. "But I am extremely right."
Meet internet denizen Mike Berger, who calls his paragraphs "Newsbreaks:"
After discovering that many of their stadiums do not come up to code, Italian soccer officials have announced that several upcoming games will be played in front of no spectators. That's too bad...Still, it's nice to see after years of trying to convince us to play their type of football, they've given in and started to play our type of soccer.
The genre may owe as much to Saturday Night Live as it does Bill Vaughn, but that's one of the great things about the internet tubes: creativity and experimentation can be rewarded.

Have a safe and wonderful tomorrow.

Where have you gone, Anna Nicole?

Via AMERICAblog comes a video montage from Think Progress.

She didn't advance civil rights, nor did she defuse a nuclear Armageddon, but I'm sure we will all remember where we were the day the national media slobbered all over itself regarding the potentially lurid death of a troubled celebrity.

A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Tucker Carlson, racist

Dear the Right Wing Smear Machine:

Please continue to inform us what forms of religion you deem acceptable, and be sure to lie about it to boot.

All this "smear about religion" stuff could be another good reason why the Founding Fathers put the First Amendment at the top. If Tucker Carlson finds black churches too black it means Tucker Carlson is a racist pig, not that Barak Obama should pay any heed to the racist pig Tucker Carlson.

My chances of blogging for a presidential campaign continue to diminish this week.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Permanent Defense Celebrates Five Years

Following Pacific Northwest Portal's two year birthday celebration a few days ago, we are pleased and excited this week to celebrate the anniversary of one of NPI's most important divisions. To us it hardly seems possible, but Permanent Defense is turning five years old.

Launched in February of 2002, Permanent Defense is one of the region's oldest political websites, and predates the existence of much of the progressive blogosphere - locally as well as nationally.

Half a decade is like an era in the history of the Internet and the political organizing revolution the medium has helped to create. Though Permanent Defense now a major part of an organization, it began as simply as a bit of HTML.

I was inspired to create PD the day after the revelation that Tim Eyman took money from his supporters for his own personal use and then lied about it. Here are some memorable quotes from back then (all from Eyman himself):
"I was in lie mode...I became riddled with guilt. It was the biggest lie of my life and it was over the stupidest thing in the world. The biggest thing I'm guiltiest of is an enormous ego. Hubris."

"This entire charade was set up so I could maintain a moral superiority over our opposition, so I could say our opponents make money from politics and I don't."

"It was addictive. I was getting deeper and deeper and deeper into this charade. I thought I found a way to make money off our initiatives without our opponents knowing it, or knowing it for sure. I was too clever by half. I just got deeper and deeper into this lie."

Eyman described himself as an "emotional basket case" who had made "an ass out of myself in front of six million people." (Spokesman Review)

"The Seattle P-I hit me in the face with a brick."

Eyman said he it was his ego that led him to tell what he called "ugly and stinky and disgusting" lies about his finances. (Seattle Times)
What a bonanza for the local TV news that was. Eyman's revelation was not actually what motivated me to create PD, though. As I explained last year:
As someone who was sick of seeing Eyman's arrogance in the newspaper and watching his initiatives pass year after year, the admission of deception was deeply satisfying. Finally, the faux populist had been exposed.

The next day I was discussing the news with two good frends of mine. I was fairly shocked to discover that both were in support of Eyman and his initiative to destroy Sound Transit's light rail project (I-776). "We may not like the fact that Eyman took money from his donors for personal profit, but we support what he's doing," they said.

I was infuriated. How could any of my friends possibly support Tim Eyman, an admitted liar?

I [felt] I had to respond - but how? At the time I had absolutely no political connections, and I didn't know what I might do. Then I realized there was one thing I could do: set up a website in opposition to Eyman's initiatives.
And that's how it all began.

Sixty months later, our list of victories and successes is long and our spirits are high. Permanent Defense has matured from a few simple web pages into an important division of an unconventional, innovative, and advanced think tank. Our work, however, remains unfinished, and Permanent Defense will continue to fulfill its mission of protecting the communities of Washington State well into the future.

The Grange really, really needs to move on

They're so obsessed with reinstating the blanket primary in some form or another that they want to do away with political parties altogether:
The state Grange, still hoping to scuttle Washington's unpopular "pick-a-party" primary election system, is promoting a plan to make all of the state's political offices non-partisan, including governor and seats in the Legislature.
Why they're wasting their time fighting a losing battle is hard to figure out - they've been told, advised, and urged to let go of this, but they can't. What they are proposing now is completely unacceptable. Editorial writers in the traditional media have previously called the Grange's threat to try making all races nonpartisan "a cure that's worse than the disease".

The open primary is here to stay. The Grange should just get used to it.

Bill Donohue has run this play before

There's a reason so-called "Catholic League" head William Donohue tried to have the Edwards bloggers fired. When you run off-tackle and you keep picking up yardage, you do it until the other team stops the off-tackle play.

The Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson, who the Democratic Party hired in 2004 to coordinate outreach, was fired after Donohue went on a media tirade. From The Carpetbagger Report on Aug. 5, 2004:
Earlier this year, Peterson and 31 other religious leaders, from across the theological spectrum, filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court about the “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance case. The clergy strongly supported the principle of church-state separation and said America’s faith communities were plenty strong without government “help.” As far as Peterson and her colleagues were concerned, there was no reason for the state to divide the country by including religious language in the Pledge.

In other words, Peterson committed an unpardonable crime: she agreed, on principle, with the atheist who filed the lawsuit in the first place. Because Peterson argued that the government should be neutral with regards to religion, she quickly became a lightening rod for controversy.

Indeed, conservatives went completely berserk. William Donohue, head of the far-right Catholic League, said Peterson’s role with the DNC suggested the Dems were “out of their minds” and compared her position to hiring “a gay basher to reach out to homosexuals.” The religious right and conservative media immediately followed suit.
Donohue also had Mara Vanderslice, the Kerry campaign outreach person, muzzled. From the (Lakeland, Florida) Ledger:
She was baptized by full immersion in Rock Creek in Washington, D.C., while working with Sojourners, an evangelical anti-poverty group. She entered politics by working with a group advocating debt relief for the developing world, once participating in a rally organized by a coalition that included the AIDS activist group ACT UP.

During the 2004 campaign, that tenuous relationship provided the grist for William Donohue, an outspoken conservative Catholic, to denounce her as "an ultra-leftist who consorts with anti-Catholic bigots," calling ACT UP "anti-Catholic."
This guy thinks he can define what acceptable religious beliefs are, and anyone who disagrees with him is an "anti-Catholic bigot." It's ridiculous. The only thing more ridiculous than Bill Donohue are Democrats who do anything other than tell him to stuff it.

Donohue doesn't speak for American Catholics any more than Jerry Falwell speaks for American Protestants. Sure, they both represent a deranged subset of those groups, but there's only one lesson to learn. Stand up and fight back, and don't let them have any say at all in our party.

The days of worring about not offending anyone should be long gone. Those who would be offended aren't going to vote for us anyhow. It takes a while, but by exposing the lies and demanding fair media coverage, these kinds of nasty right wing operatives become far less effective. Stack the line and play some smash mouth. People respect it when you stand up for what you believe in.

Alleged Catholic leader compares Edwards to David Duke

Daily Kos diarist "topdog08" catches this lovely quote by so-called "Catholic League" president Bill Donohue on the Fox Noise Channel web site:
By not firing Andrea Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, Donohue said, Edwards is promoting anti-Catholicism. He said the 2008 Democratic contender's actions should be viewed in the same way it would be seen if Edwards had not fired a staffer who had used the 'n'-word.

"He's nothing more than David Duke with a blow-dried haircut," Donohue said of Edwards.

Despite saying the postings "personally offended me," Edwards decided not to fire Marcotte, who writes for the Pandagon blog, and McEwan, who runs the Shakespeare's Sister blog, for comments they made on those sites.
Donohue also referred to potato chips as "saltily salty" and stated that anyone who thinks potato chips are not salty is an anti-Catholic bigot.

I guess Monty Python won't be blogging for Hillary Clinton after all.

Wingnut heads exploding everywhere, it's like the 4th of July.

MoveOn targets Gordon Smith with ads

MoveOn is targeting Oregon's Gordon Smith over the war in Iraq.
Move-On is spending relatively little money on the ad, $150,000 nationwide. Even so, the ad is another sign that Smith is on a short list of Republican Senators seen as vulnerable in the next election, especially on the issue of Iraq. Smith has criticized President Bush's plans to send 21,000 more American troops to Iraq.

But MoveOn's Eli Pariser blames Smith and other Republicans for voting to close debate on a resolution opposing the troop increase.
It's just terrible when "extreme partisan organizations," as a Smith staffer referred to MoveOn, get involved in politics. I wonder how MoveOn got its start, anyhow?

Oh, now I remember. The Devil in the Blue Dress, that was it. 'Tis a pity that poor Republican senators have to endure television ads, when they could use more time to talk out of both sides of their mouths about the Freedom Toast War. Look over there! A blogger said something sarcastic!

Edwards bloggers to stay

This morning we learn the fate of the Edwards bloggers. From MyDD:
Chapel Hill, North Carolina - The statements of Senator John Edwards, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen in reference to their work as independent bloggers before joining the Edwards campaign are below.

Senator John Edwards:
"The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwe n's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in."

Amanda Marcotte:
"My writings on my personal blog, Pandagon on the issue of religion are generally satirical in nature and always intended strictly as a criticism of public policies and politics. My intention is never to offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs, and I am sorry if anyone was personally offended by writings meant only as criticisms of public politics. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression are central rights, and the sum of my personal writings is a testament to this fact."

Melissa McEwen:
"Shakespeare's Sister is my personal blog, and I certainly don't expect Senator Edwards to agree with everything I've posted. We do, however, share many views - including an unwavering support of religious freedom and a deep respect for diverse beliefs. It has never been my intention to disparage people's individual faith, and I'm sorry if my words were taken in that way."
Remind me never to take a job blogging for candidates. As things stand today, I'm not so sure any progressive bloggers should take jobs with candidates. They're immediately muzzled and subjected to the absurd standards of "decency" as defined by the AP and others.

It's almost like the end of the song "Alice's Restuarant," where Arlo can't join the Army after being a litterbug.

As Chris Bowers notes, it's good that Edwards didn't cave, but this has been a pretty shameful display by the national media.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Initiative process reform moves forward

Two of the four Senate bills I testified in favor of on behalf of NPI were given a do pass recommendation in executive session of the Senate Government Operations & Elections Committee earlier this week.

SB 5182 (requiring signature gatherers to sign initiative and referendum petitions) and SB 5392 (increasing the filing fee) appear to be headed out of committee and into the next stage in the legislative process.

On the House side, Representative Sherry Appleton's bill to ban paying petitioners by the hour (HB 1087) is scheduled for executive session on February 13th. Its chances of receiving a "do pass" recommendation seem likely.

Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly, one of our favorite regional commentators, has a thoughtful column this morning about initiative process reform. Describing the recent history of direct democracy in this state, Connelly notes that it's "been taken over by the hired guns and powerful lobbies it was designed to thwart". He also observes the rise of Tim Eyman's initiative factory - and its recent lack of success:
Eyman initially lied about taking money, but used a succession of initiative drives to make a handsome income. A wizard of the sound bite, he was able to manipulate major media -- especially The Associated Press -- into serving as his sounding board.

But the anti-tax crusader stimulated a growing reaction.

The state's most popular liberal blog site (horsesass.org) and best grassroots research outfit (the Northwest Progressive Institute) have risen from citizen activist ranks to counter Eyman.
Let me pause here to say that all of us at NPI deeply appreciate the accolade. We work hard, we try to be thorough - and it's nice to be recognized. And while we've come a long way from our very humble beginnings, we're really just getting started.

While Joel doesn't support all of the proposed bills, (he does support increasing the filing fee and banning paying by the signature) he was kind enough to listen to our perspective on the issue, and allow us ink as well as pixels:
A second proposal, SB 5182, would require that a signature-gatherer sign a declaration and provide an address -- on the back of every page containing initiative signatures.

"Anyone who puts themselves out in the political sphere potentially risks harassment," said Andrew Villeneuve, executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute and a backer of the proposal. "People who run for office have to file ... and put up with a lot of flak, a lot of criticism, a lot of attention," he added. "If we're going to let petitioners off the hook, why not candidates as well?"

My take is different: What if I volunteer to circulate a petition in a place where the cause is unpopular? Say, it's a gun control initiative in Okanogan County, or repeal of gay civil rights legislation on Seattle's Capitol Hill.
What I meant by my comments above, of course, is that while harassment is certainly deplorable, it's sadly not unusual. Why do we put candidates through so much? Because we want them to be honest and accountable. It's an issue of openness. The initiative process is being abused - more transparency is needed.

But change is not going to happen on its own. The interests that benefit from the status quo are opposed to reform - so oversight and regulation are needed. Disclosure laws haven't just happened over the years; they've been instituted to address corruption.

Senate Government Operations & Elections Chair Darlene Fairley noted at last week's hearing that legislators' home addresses can easily be found through unSoundPolitics' database of registered voters. Similar information is available in the Public Disclosure Commission's databases.

The Internet has made it rather easy to look up information about a person, whether it be an address, background information, or public records.

Should we get rid of public disclosure laws because contributing to a campaign means your name and address goes into a publicly available database? Money is free speech, after all (according to the United States Supreme Court) and free speech is arguably the most important First Amendment right of them all.

Tim Eyman and his wealthy financial backer Michael Dunmire of Woodinville want to have it both ways. They show up in Olympia to rail against (what they label as) attacks on the people's right of initiative before legislators. At the same time, they call for and demand more accountability of elected officials.

In fact, the first Eyman initiative Dunmire financed - Initiative 900 in 2005, a measure which gave way too much power to the state auditor's office to conduct performance audits - was sold on that theme. So government needs to be more transparent, but the same principle does not apply to the cottage industry that has sprung up around the initiative process. Nice double standard.

Dunmire announced today that he's donating several hundred thousand dollars to Eyman's campaign in response to the proposed bills to reform the initiative process. In an email to Eyman's supporters, Dunmire wrote:
I had told Tim as recently as December that because of other business and charitable commitments that I wasn't going to be able to financially support it [Eyman's 2007 initiative] (despite Tim's repeated requests).

But something changed my mind. For two weeks, I've joined other citizens in Olympia at three legislative hearings on various anti-initiative bills. And I am truly offended by what I've seen and heard.
And you really expect us to buy that? That you had absolutely no intention of contributing to Eyman's "Minority Rules" initiative before next July? Interesting how this is the first we've heard of that decision.

As recently the month before last, you also contributed a sizable chunk of change to Eyman's personal compensation fund - rewarding him for failure in 2006.

If you've been making other important charitable commitments lately, why did you dump so much money ($100,000, donated on December 13th, 2006) into the personal bank account of a man who wasted what you donated to him last year for Initiative 917 (a total sum of $432,700)?

Eyman has been using this tack for years - the "backlash" theme. The Legislature does something he does not like - in this case, act to strengthen the integrity of the initiative process - and he responds with his "they've kicked the hornet's nest" schtick. That is getting so old.

In 2003, when the Legislature increased the gas tax, Eyman promised repeal. A repeal effort never materialized. He then promised revenge in the form of his initiative to destroy funding for local public services (I-864) but that flopped as well.

Then Eyman said the Legislature would pay for passing the 2005 Transportation Package and gleefully predicted the passage of I-912. It failed. And then just last year he said his attempt to repeal the other half of the package - Initiative 917 - would be wildly popular. It wasn't, and didn't make the ballot. Also last year, he said the public was clamoring to vote on the amended anti-discrimination law. But he didn't even get the minimum number of signatures required for a referendum bid.

Time and again, Eyman has tried to scare the Legislature and his promised vengeance has all come to nothing. Lawmakers in Olympia must act in the public's best interest and not be afraid of his blustering and threats.

We had no reason to believe Eyman's initiative factory was going to grind to a halt this year. So what if Michael Dunmire is putting money into I-954? We expected him to. Eyman's track record certainly doesn't suggest he'll be successful this year, even if he does make the ballot.

Improving direct democracy isn't about weakening Eyman. The proposed reforms are hardly going to hamper Eyman's continued operation. Tim, of course, claims otherwise. He told supporters today that because of the proposed reforms, "this year's initiative may very well be the last one we ever do".

If that were really true, it would be a blessing, but it's an extremely unlikely outcome. Eyman has actually put himself out of business over the years with his complete disregard for honesty and citizens with a different point of view. And the electorate is sick of right wing initiatives. I-920 and I-933 were defeated in landslide victories last November.

Eyman seems more interested in making money than doing anything else. All he did for the second half of 2006 was shake his electronic tin cup. He made a tidy profit...for accomplishing nothing.

We commend the Legislature for moving forward to strengthen the integrity of the initiative process. It's about time action was taken to curb the abuse.

U.S. Attorney McKay was forced out

Reporter Paul Shukovsky has a must-read article in tomorrow's Seattle P-I:
John McKay, the former U.S. attorney for Western Washington, confirmed Wednesday that he was ordered to resign last month and "given no explanation" for a move that critics immediately denounced as politically motivated.

[...]

But one current and one former Justice Department official told the Seattle P-I that McKay and six other U.S. attorneys around the nation were fired by the Bush administration in the last year to make room for up-and-coming Republicans.
Emphasis is mine. Despite all of Bush's talk of bipartisanship, and being a "uniter, not a divider" his administration is by far the most politicized ever. The executive branch, for example, is filled with people who are unqualified to lead and make sound policy decisions. Many are imported from the private sector.

They were picked for their loyalty to Bush and the Republican Party but they aren't capable of making wise, fair, or sensible decisions.

Meanwhile, hardworking individuals like John McKay, who don't do a sloppy, horrible job like some of Bush's other appointees, get forced out because Republican strategists want to manipulate the Justice Department for political gain.

Ultimately, it's about taking over the courts:
[A] Justice Department source said Bush and the Republican Party "wanted to build their bench" by replacing the top prosecutors with younger conservatives to build their résumés and credibility for future positions, including federal judgeships.
Senator Patty Murray is absolutely right when she says Congress and the American people have no tolerance for the politicization of the U.S. Attorney's Office. The higher ups at the Justice Department made a huge mistake. They and Alberto Gonzales are the ones who need to be replaced.

One Frank Chopp, two reporters*

David Postman:
House Speaker Frank Chopp told reporters this afternoon that he doesn't support the full-scale move to regulate the initiative business. He says he's worried about fraud, but said he isn't sure the bills aimed at solving that problem would really work.
Josh Feit:
Chopp said he strongly believed in the public’s right to petition the government (citing his own history running progressive initiatives). He said, however, fraud occurs, and his caucus was right to want to “stop that fraud.” He kind of contradicted himself, though, by using Eyman’s recent failure to get on the ballot because of ineligible signatures as an example of the problem.

Um… if the secretary of state caught Eyman’s false signatures, then the system’s working, no?
*The Feature Presentation "One Frank Chopp, Two Reporters" is presented as a public service, and does not necessarily mean much of anything. The program repeats weekdays at 4 pm and some Saturdays. Check your local listings.

Slanted attack against Edwards bloggers

Those horrible liberal bloggers must never be allowed to infect our dainty, rational public discourse. From Media Matters:
The New York Times and Associated Press have both reported criticism by Catholic League president Bill Donohue of two bloggers hired by John Edwards' presidential campaign; Donohue contends that the bloggers are "anti-Catholic, vulgar, trash-talking bigots."

But neither the Times article, by reporter John M. Broder, nor the AP article, by writer Nedra Pickler, included any mention of Donohue's own history of vulgar, trash-talking bigotry -- or of Donohue's decision to dismiss anti-Catholic bigotry on the part of a key anti-Kerry operative in 2004.
You'd think by now it would be widely understood that the liberal/progressive blogosphere did not create itself one day in a vacuum. It took thirty years of right wing lies and character assassination, combined with the maturing of a certain kind of internet technology, for it to happen.

It would have been much more civilized if we had the resources to own cable television propaganda outlets and Swift Boat groups, but since all we had were the internet tubes we made do. Like it or not, the AP and The New York Times are going to have to come to grips with a few swear words. Plus they can bite me.

UPDATE TEN SECONDS LATER--I see I have ruined any chance I had of being paid handsomely by a presidential campaign with my intemperate use of the term "bite me." Woe is me.

UPDATE 1:25 PM PST According to MyDD, reports that the two Edwards bloggers have been let go by the campaign are premature. But Chris Bowers is issuing a pretty direct challenge to the Edwards camp:
The Edwards camp faces a series simple choices right now:

Are you with the people who work their (behinds) for you, or are you with right-wing extremists who hate you?

Are you willing to point out the double standards and hypocrisy behind this story, or will you cave to even the mildest pressure from the Republican Noise Machine?

Do you have any loyalty to the netroots, or was it all just sweet talk, where loyalty actually only flows uphill and (poop) actually only flows downhill?
And people wonder why left-wing bloggers swear a lot. The national press picked up a deliberate hatchet job from a known right wing smear-meister and ran with it, no questions asked. Nice.

At least it's clear that nothing much has changed with the Kewl Kidz. We're going to have to fight hard all the way through November of 2008. Every small gain will be earned despite the national press corpse.

UPDATE 6:25 PM PST Kagro X at Daily Kos sees this attack as a sign of things to come:
But to the extent that the netroots seek to demand a show of loyalty by Edwards, that same demand must be made of every Democratic campaign. Today, the target is Edwards. Tomorrow, should this vendetta prove successful, the target could be anyone.

Keep in mind that those targeting Edwards simply don't abide by the same standards when it comes to defining what's reasonable discourse and what's not. Perhaps more to the point, they are perfectly willing to say that whatever they're pointing to is beyond the pale whether most Americans would agree or not, if they think it could possibly result in the firing of a Democratic campaign staffer, and by extension, damage to that campaign. So it's just as likely that tomorrow's target will be Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama, or Tom Vilsack, or Chris Dodd, or any of the other candidates. That the attack may have to hinge on something that most people would see as perfectly reasonable won't much matter, so long as the professional outrage machine is turned up loud enough.
As the netroots has emerged as a force, it's not surprising that conservatives will try to discredit it. Folks who don't understand it will be particularly susceptible to bogus charges. So it's doubly important that Democratic candidates, elected officials and activists don't make the mistake of accidentally abetting right wing smears. In the midst of war and the continuation of infamous falsehoods and propaganda, the idea that progressive bloggers who are mostly unkown to the wider public are somehow to blame for anything is patently ridiculous, a few nasty comments here and there notwithstanding.

UPDATE YET ANOTHER TEN SECONDS LATER-- Eschaton has this quote from Donohue:
Catholic League president Bill Donohue said lesbians were "something I'd expect to see in an asylum, frankly" when he spoke to Justice Sunday, a gathering of far-right evangelical Christian activists.
Lovely. Do we think maybe the guy who claims to speak for Catholics could at least be subjected to the same media scrutiny as a couple of bloggers? Or would that be uncivil?

Planning body endorses Columbia River Crossing plan for I-5 bridge

The Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council has narrowly endorsed the staff recommendation by the Columbia River Crossing for a new I-5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver. The staff recommendation gives three options which are actually more like one option: a Federally required "no-build" option, or a new "mid-level" highway bridge with either light rail or so-called "bus rapid transit."

From The Oregonian:
The majority of the Regional Transportation Council board -- an advisory committee of Clark County elected officials and staff -- eventually stuck to the three finalist options. However, a core led by the three-member Clark County Board of Commissioners attempted to redirect the billion-dollar discussion.

---snip---

Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart said a fourth option should be considered.

"We have an opportunity to truly lead, to look beyond the existing paradigm, to look beyond a continuation of exactly what we've been doing," Stuart said. He contended that traffic volumes would quickly clog a bigger new Interstate Bridge.
At the risk being too simplistic, there are two main schools of thought developing regarding the new bridge, at least among elected officials. On one side you have the county commissioners, along with one official from an outlying city, raising various concerns and asking for more time. (The Oregonian article notes that a Battle Ground city councilman sided with the county commissioners.)

In the other camp you have the city of Vancouver, allied with the Port of Vancouver, saying that 10 years of study is plenty and let's get on with it. Not to mention that there are rumors that people also live on the other side of the river, who presumably have their own disparate opinions.

What's interesting, politically, is that a generally pro-growth Clark County government potentially has a temporary common interest with "anti-big bridge" folks in Portland, in that the common plea boils down to "more options."

It's doubly interesting given that Clark County almost immediately threw out its 2004 long-range growth plan and is in the midst of revising it to allow for tens of thousands more residents than the 2004 plan called for.

One of the long-standing laments in Clark County is that it has always functioned as a "safety-valve" for Portland, relieving growth pressure that otherwise might become unbearable for our friends south of the river. Perhaps that is no longer really going to work very well, given the limitations of land and transportation capacity in Clark County.

You can read more about the bridge project in my Jan. 30 post "Inside the CRC."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

King County Special Election Results

Results are coming in for several school levies and other propositions on the ballot within jurisdictions in King County. Propositions 1 and 2 are currently over the 60% supermajority requirement in Seattle.

In east King County, Riverview School District's levy is also above 60%. Snoqualmie Valley School District's proposition doesn't have a supermajority but it does have a simple majority. Most of the fire district levies are passing easily with huge margins.

The City of Renton's annexation proposition, meanwhile, is failing.

Wal-Mart facing class action discrimination suit

Looks like Wal-Mart had a bad day in court. From The New York Times:
Wal-Mart’s efforts to block the nation’s largest sex discrimination lawsuit suffered a big setback yesterday when a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that the case should proceed as a class action.

In a 2-to-1 ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected Wal-Mart’s argument that the lawsuit, which involves at least 1.5 million current and former women employees, was too unwieldy to handle in a single case.

Legal specialists said the ruling would increase pressure on Wal-Mart Stores to settle the case, in which the retailer is accused of discrimination in pay and promotions. Wal-Mart executives said they would appeal, voicing confidence that the decision would be overturned.
It's worth noting that Wal-Mart intends to ask the panel to reconsider its ruling, according to the article, and may ask the entire 9th Circuit panel to review the case.

Still, it's a notable victory and a sign that Wal-Mart may eventually be forced to clean up its act - since it won't do so on its own.

Stopped making sense

What Digby says:
It took a while, but Dinesh D'Souza finally came out and agreed with this thesis in his book The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11:

The cultural left in this country is responsible for causing 9/11 ... the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the non-profit sector and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world.
In conservative fantasy land, the desire to blame liberals and progressives (dirty bleeping hippies in blog shorthand) is so strong that one of their leading "authorities" can't even construct a premise that makes any sense.

We kind of knew the righties would start melting down when it became clear to them that they are fat and ugly and nobody likes them, so to speak, but the contortions required these days to even try to understand them isn't usually worth the bother. Somehow insane religious fundamentalists in other countries are the fault of those of us who oppose insane religious fundamentalists in this country. Or something.

To show the emptiness of D'Souza's rhetoric, let's go to that old trick called "change a few word around and see how it reads:"
The cultural right in this country is responsible for causing 9/11 ... the cultural right and its allies in Congress, the media, Washington, the non-profit sector and the evangelical churches are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world.
Makes about as much sense.

Where that leaves us at this point in history is unclear. We can hope that as the majority of Americans continue to reject the ideas of the far right, we can get on with important things. There are, in fact, people who want to harm us, so it would be helpful if our executive branch would abandon its stubborn insistence on escalation in Iraq and start dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan, for starters.

The First Amendment protects the speech of nutballs like D'Souza, Coulter and Malkin, but it doesn't place an obligation on large corporate media oligarchies to spread that speech. It's called editorial judgement.

Port of Vancouver raises taxes

The Port of Vancouver is raising taxes without a vote by the public.
Port of Vancouver commissioners approved a resolution Monday night calling for a property tax increase to buy a former aluminum smelting plant.

The three commissioners said they were not comfortable with a tax increase to buy 218 acres owned by Alcoa Inc. and Evergreen Aluminum. But they said Port staff convinced them that it was the best financing option available and that the land deal was too good to pass up.

A consultant told Port officials that industrial development on the property could create 4,700 jobs with an annual $225 million payroll.
Cleaning up decrepit smelters is not a bad idea, nor is economic development.

The salient point is that there is a wingnut drumbeat developing in Clark County that if light rail ever crosses The Columbia without a public vote, it will prove that we are enduring tyranny. This despite the fact that the Columbia River Crossing task force hasn't even voted yet. (The vote is Feb. 27, and while to my understanding it is advisory, it is likely to be an important barometer of what will move forward.)

So let the record show that sometimes governments are empowered to raise taxes and build things without a public vote. I'm not saying whether that's good or bad in this instance, I'm saying that sometimes we all pay for things we might not totally agree with. Barring a referendum, our family will likely contribute hundreds of dollars to economic development in Clark County over the next six years. I'm not thrilled about it, but I'm not calling the Port commissioners communists, either.

I'd imagine that half or more of the residents affected by this new tax will be quite surprised to learn they even live in a port district, let alone know that ports possess special taxing powers denied to schools and libraries.

The irony in regards to CRC is that the port's development plans stand to have something of an impact on the I-5 corridor, especially the so-called "Bridge Influence Area." So as one entity, the CRC, attempts to find solutions to congestion, another (the port) finds it an opportune time to expand.

Which is kind of how things work sometimes, but remember, light rail is the root of all evil in the world. Our Founding Fathers rode buses.

Thanks, Discovery Institute

The P-I covers the showing of a film critical of intelligent design and the Discovery Institute.
But Discovery Institute officials do not admire (biologist Randy) Olson or his new film, "Flock of Dodos" -- a sort of Michael Moore-style documentary that features interviews with supporters of intelligent design and evolution, scientific explanations, cartoon dodo birds and Olson's mother, Muffy "Moose" Olson, whose Kansas neighbor is an intelligent design spokesman.

"There are several things that are just egregiously wrong to the point of being a hoax," John West, associate director for the institute's Center for Science and Culture, said of Olson's film. "He must think his audience is a flock of dodos."

Nevertheless, Olson's film is coming to the Pacific Science Center in Seattle on Monday -- Charles Darwin's birthday -- while the Discovery Institute marks the same occasion with a lecture and discussion on "Darwin Day and the Deification of Charles Darwin."
It must be a pretty entertaining film if the Discovery Institute is that concerned about it.

In this case the reporter makes reference to Michael Moore, in an attempt to portray the style of the film. But as we know, it's always been amazing how the righties find mentioning Moore to be the end of an argument. The righties have this vast propaganda machine and then they get upset when the tables are turned on them.

One of Olson's main points seems to be that scientists aren't so good at communication. There's some truth to that, but it's also true that real scientists aren't hired by front groups that get to use non-profit money to pursue a political agenda.

Let's face it, the Discovery Institute has jumped the shark. They failed miserably in Kansas, despite spending large sums of money on "public education" right before the Kansas Board of Education elections.

Having grown up in Kansas, I would suggest that Discovery made a huge strategic error by coming into that state in such a ham-handed manner. People back there don't like being told what to think, especially by residents of either coast. And they really, really hate being exposed to international ridicule, which is something the Discovery Institute helped make possible.

So the Discovery Institute actually played a big role, albeit accidental, in the resurgence of the Kansas Democratic Party. The insane Kansas AG Phill Kline had his head handed to him in November amidst numerous GOP defections, and people are mentioning Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius as national ticket material.

Maybe Discovery should take its message to more "red" states. At the rate the failed conservative movement is going, Utah is going to be in play by early 2008.

Don't forget to vote today

Today is a special election day in Seattle and for residents of some eastern King County school districts. Several ballot measures are at stake:
Seattle SD: Proposition 1 is a $490 million, six-year bond measure to renovate school buildings and other facilities. Proposition 2 is a three-year, $397 million renewal of the district's operations levy.

Riverview SD: a $56.6 million bond issue that would remodel all six of the district's schools.

Snoqualmie Valley SD: a $209.2 million bond measure, about half of which would pay for construction of the district's second high school.
NPI urges you to support our public schools.

The polls will be open from 7 AM in the morning till 8 PM tonight. Don't forget to drop off your ballot at the post office or a polling site if you vote by mail.

Bill to bathe Sonics in taxpayer money a huge insult to the people of Washington

When it comes to outrageous handouts for billionaire sports owners, there's nobody more eager to pony up than Margarita Prentice:
Legislation that would provide $300 million in taxpayer money for a new Seattle Sonics basketball stadium is ready to go, said Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Renton.

"It will [sic] authorizes King County to approve an arena project," she said.

The proposal calls for redirecting the public contribution from the early retirement of bonds for projects such as Safeco Field, the Kingdome and Qwest Field.
Prentice stupidly expects that other lawmakers will follow her lead. She told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Other lawmakers have "enjoyed letting me stick my neck out, which I have done from time to time, but there will be support for it," she said.
We'd like Margarita to explain why she expects "other lawmakers" to join her adamant, fervent concern for the financial health of special interests. She's like an extension of the Sonics' front office!
Prentice said she expects the final site selection to be announced before the hearing.
Uh-huh. Prentice's favoritism towards the Sonics is an embarrassment to the entire Democratic caucus. With so many other priorities in need of attention, this is the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee's top concern!

Her bill is nothing less than a colossal cop-out to the sports industry...and more specifically, NBA team ownership. We strongly, strongly urge the Legislature to reject this foolishness. It's time to end the subsidies, the giveaways, the tax exemptions. It's time to end ridiculous corporate welfare.

If Clay Bennett wants a new stadium, he and his co-owners can pay for it themselves. At their own expense. They've got plenty of money.

They don't need public assistance. They just pretend they do. But when you have supporters in the Legislature like Margarita Prentice who are willing to give you cash by the bucketful...every penny you ask for... why would you even consider financing an arena by yourself?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Good viaduct journalism

I need to say something about David Postman and Andrew Garber's article about the Viaduct tussle. From an outsider's perspective, it seems like a very well done article. I came away from it feeling like the reporters had tried hard to avoid ascribing bad motives to people in favor of trying to explain what the very real forces are that have led to the stalemate. (Or whatever you want to call it).

We bloggers do tend to pound away at the press, so when a thorough and well-researched article appears, we should acknowledge that fact.

I haven't written many pieces like that, and while comparing my past efforts to Postman and Garber is about like comparing my golf game to Tiger Woods', these longer pieces take a lot of time and effort.

So the article gets my ultimate compliment: no excerpts and the exhortation to go read it if you haven't already.

I suppose some of the political figures involved may not like the focus on them, but observers always try to figure out what the key players are thinking.

There's more at Postman on Politics, this time with news that the city of Seattle may be excluded from the analysis of "tunnel lite."

Since I don't live in the Puget Sound region, I have steadfastly refrained from offering an opinion on the various options. So I'll stick to a "sigh" and the observation that there are other transportation projects needed around the state, so hopefully the upcoming vote on the viaduct will settle something. We love you Seattle, but please figure this out.

BIAW opposes homeowner protections

In case you missed it, here's a link to the P-I story about Sen. Brian Weinstein's "Homeowners' Bill of Rights" legislation.

The BIAW doesn't like it - we strongly support it.
"These bills are at the top of our agenda right now -- we want them dead," said Erin Shannon, spokeswoman for the Building Industry Association of Washington.
The article suggests that the bill faces tough sledding even among Democrats, which is kind of baffling. SB 5550 would require, according to the P-I:
For two years, the home is free from defects in materials and workmanship.

For three years, the home is free from defects in electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling and ventilating systems.

For five years, the home is free from defects resulting from water penetration.

For 10 years, the home is free from structural defects.
It would be horrible if shoddy builders were held accountable, wouldn't it?

Democrats would be wise to stick to populist roots. Of course there are huge problems out there. We live in a neighborhood that is relatively new, and the horror stories abound. One neighbor had improperly installed windows that let water leak in and damage the floor. Another neighbor has endured not one but two catastrophic plumbing disasters, the latest from a shut off valve that simply burst one night.

Virtually every home around here has had some kind of problem, albeit not all were that severe. We've gotten away with "only" a failed shower drain that forced the plumber to cut a hole in the kitchen ceiling.

I knew someone once who used to call this sort of thing "homeowner abuse." Is it really too much to insist that consumers get basic protections? (No, it isn't).

Quality contracters who do a good job have nothing to worry about. A trade group that was honest and ethcial would support reform. But we're talking about the BIAW. Why scrupulous builders in this state don't do something about the trade group that is ruining their reputation is beyond me.

Libby grand jury testimony to be released

The judge in the Scooter Libby trial has ordered that audio recordings of Libby's grand jury testimony will be released. From the AP via Yahoo News:
In a victory for the news media, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said he had little choice but to make them public under the law as applied in the federal court system in Washington, D.C, even though he has concerns about releasing the recordings while the case is under way.
Let's just hope there aren't any 18 minute gaps or anything.

It's not the crime, it's the blue dress cover up. Paging Kenneth Starr, phone call at the white courtesy phone.

But let's remember that nobody can be impeached in this administration, because it would be bad for the country. Because the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton over well, something. So we can't go through that again, because we just did that to the last guy.

See? It's really not hard to understand once you throw real-world logic out and replace it with noise machine/Beltway press corps logic.

So expect the end result to be lots of stories about how terrible it would be if people had health care.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Editorial boards' arguments against initiative process reform make no sense

A few weeks ago, I commented on the local traditional media's continuing saintly treatment of Tim Eyman, observing:
Evergreen State media outlets, with the possible exception of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, have shown no indication they're going to end their sponsorship of Tim Eyman's free ride anytime soon.
And indeed, the free ride has continued. Several Washington newspapers have editorialized against reforming the initiative process using Eyman's arguments, urging the Legislature not to pass bills to ban paying petitioners by the hour, modify the outdated filing fee, require petitioners to identify themselves paid or volunteer, or require petitioners to provide a written affirmation that they collected the signatures on each petition they circulated.

The Seattle Times was first to chime in earlier this week:
The ostensible reason is that piece-rate payment increases the incentive to submit false signatures. But it is not an issue. The system filters out false signatures.
How can the Times claim that fraud "is not an issue" when there have been well documented cases of signature forgery and cheating in other states? Because we haven't bothered to do any investigation, we can just assume "the system filters out false signatures"?

What system? What is the Times talking about? Surely they don't mean we should trust the for profit companies that bring in out of state workers to pester citizens for their signature?

The editorial hilariously goes on to quote Michael Arno of California, an out of state consultant who rakes in big bucks from his political businesses. Arno is a shadowy figure whose subcontractors have been accused of voter registration fraud in 2004 in Florida - while Arno worked on behalf of the Republican National Committee to register voters on Florida campuses.

Arno petitioners were also accused in 2005 of collecting signatures on petition relating to legislation affecting alcoholic beverages and then asking signers to sign a "backup" petition, which turned out to be an anti-gay marriage petition that Arno had been hired to get on the Massachusetts ballot.

An Oregon blogger notes that Arno's California operations are quite lucrative:
In California alone, they'd pocketed a cool $3.78 million dollars as one of the two subcontractors for Arnold Schwarzenegger's "back door the legislature" ballot initiatives, run by a shadowy group of Schwarzenegger cronies and operatives calling itself Citizens to Save California.
There's way more on Arno I could mention here, but the bottom line is, he and his business stand to benefit if this cottage industry remains unregulated.

Of course Arno is going to claim that paying by the hour drives up the cost of qualifying ballot measures. That's a strategy that's being employed by the right wing across the country. (Tim Eyman and his pals from Citizen Solutions are saying the same thing). Whoever wrote this editorial had no problem taking Arno's comments at face value without bothering to check them for accuracy.

Times owner Frank Blethen was himself involved in a right wing initiative campaign last year (I-920, repealing the estate tax) and the paper's position is certainly no surprise. But the poor justification of it is.

People like Arno and Eyman don't hesitate to just make stuff up. They display an ignorance of the facts and they distort or manipulate figures to make their point.

I'll give you an example. At last week's hearing, Tim Eyman was called to testify on SB 5181, which would require signature gatherers to wear identification. Eyman's testimony consisted of him shouting that the legislation was blatantly unconstitutional and illegal, and already explicitly rejected by the United States Supreme Court. (He was referring to a related Colorado law that the Court ruled on in recent years).

When I testified (I followed Eyman) I quoted from the Court's Buckley decision and noted it only struck down the requirement that petitioners wear name tags. The Court did not say that requiring petitioners to identify themselves as paid or volunteer was unconstitutional at all. Since SB 5181 does not require name tags, it doesn't run afoul of the Court's decision.

After the hearing was over the committee staff thanked me for my testimony. They were annoyed that Eyman completely distorted the case and made them look as if they hadn't researched the constitutionality of the proposal (staff usually brief lawmakers on such details before a public hearing). And indeed, court opinions can be very complicated and not clear cut at all.

This morning, The Olympian published an equally shoddy editorial which, one by one, rejected most of the reforms (except the one to increase the filing fee). Like the Times, the Olympian relied on "facts" from an individual who lacks credibility:
Initiative guru Tim Eyman said people paid to collect signatures always sign the back of the petition. This bill would affect the grassroots volunteers who collect signatures. Only about half of them flip the initiative over and sign the declaration. The bill, if passed, would nullify thousands of otherwise valid signatures, and that's why SB 5182 should be rejected by the Legislature.
That's what initiative "guru" Tim Eyman says, so it must be true - how ridiculous. Not only does The Olympian editorial board buy Eyman's nonsense - but it also glorifies him as a guru.

We've said this many times, but it keeps falling on deaf ears: Tim Eyman is NOT a guru...or a king...or a champion. Look up the dictionary definitions of each of those words. They do not accurately describe what Eyman is. None of them do.

And as for requiring signatures to affirm they collected the signatures on the petition...it's a sensible rule that other states already have. Maine requires its petitioners to appear before a notary and fill out an affidavit certifying they personally witnessed the inscription of each signature on the petition.

Maine also requires its petitioners to be registered voters and residents from within the state...a reform we would be wise to adopt here.

Relying on Eyman as a factual source just once was bad enough, but the writer of this editorial appallingly did it twice:
According to Eyman, a similar law in Oregon tripled the cost to qualify an initiative for the ballot. He said the average cost climbed from $149,000 to $437,000.
Yes, that's what he said. A memo to The Olympian: Please justify to us and more importantly your subscribers why you place so much trust in what Tim Eyman says - given that he has repeatedly lied to the public, the press, and even his own supporters.

And once again, we're back to the pathetic argument about the cost of a paid signature drive - something I dealt with in my testimony in support of House Bill 1087 and its companion Senate bill:
Opponents will claim HB 1087 would drive up the cost of qualifying an initiative or referendum for the ballot. That they are so concerned about the financial impact it might have on their campaign coffers is a clear signal that they are not representatives of some populist manifestation or grassroots cause.

A proposal that truly has popular support should be able to get enough signatures through a drive conducted mostly or completely by volunteers.

Volunteer drives are rare these days because most groups wanting to qualify an initiative or referendum find it much easier to raise money to pay for a signature drive than do the hard work to organize and mobilize volunteers - especially if they have access to a large back account and especially if their proposal is self serving.

These astroturfers want this cottage industry to remain unregulated. The free speech argument is a convenient cover they use to prop up or bolster their contentions. The cost of a signature drive is not a determinant which should factor into the Legislature’s deliberation over initiative process reform.
Finally, we have a question for The Olympian: what's really mean spirited? Requiring petitioners to identify themselves as volunteer or paid - something many people undoubtedly wonder but are afraid to ask - or illegally copying citizens' signatures onto other petitions (and similar dirty tricks)?

The initiative process has been corrupted and co-opted by special interests who are now manipulating it for their own benefit at the expense of the common good. It's time for the Legislature to end the abuse and reform it whether local right wing initiative peddlers and editorial writers like it or not.

Baker's back with anti-immigrant initiative

Mercer Island resident Bob Baker, a former "Minuteman" project volunteer, has refiled his failed 2006 proposal to deny public benefits to undocumented immigrants. The initiative, which does not yet have a ballot title or a number, is apparently unchanged from last year.

It was filed with the Secretary of State last Tuesday.

Baker and his band of right wing zealots (which happens to include Martin Ringhofer of Soap Lake, the ideologue behind an unsuccessful attempt to start a recall campaign to remove Secretary of State Sam Reed in 2005) were not able to raise much money last year. Their biggest contributions came from one Stanley Blunt of Abderdeen, who donated just over $2,000 total in May of 2006.

Baker's initiative certainly lacks momentum and appears to have next to no support, thankfully. Unless Baker can find a sugar daddy like Michael Dunmire to bankroll his proposal, he's unlikely to make it to the ballot in 2007.

The other right wing initiatives filed so far this year include Tim Eyman's "Minority Rules" initiative (designed to allow Republicans to control Olympia during the 2008 legislative session) and Ken Hutcherson's effort to roll back Washington's recently expanded civil rights law, which recently received a number (I-963).

It would be a blessing not to have any right initiatives on the ballot this year, but odds are we'll have at least one to contend with and maybe more.

GOP can't solve its problems with new chair

This David Ammons article is pretty amusing if you resort to some snipping in order to highlight a couple of paragraphs that are far apart in the story:
Campaign pros and GOP legislative leaders say Esser and the fresh new look at the state party are a shot in the arm for a party that hasn't had much good news in a long time. He can help "de-link" state candidates from the national scene that was so damaging last year, said Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt.

---snip---

Esser will assign the new party communications director, yet unnamed, to Olympia for the duration of the legislative session. He hopes to amplify the caucuses' increasingly astringent commentaries on one-party control by the Democrats.
Very fresh, indeed. Venom with a smile is so much better. How one "de-links" from Nixonian-Rovian politics while practicing it is also something of a mystery. But don't forget, progressives, if you object to it you don't understand the game, and if you throw it back in their face you are being "uncivil."

Goldy reported yesterday that there is an unusual push-poll in the field right now, and it certainly walks and quacks like a Republican push poll. (NPI has also received information about this poll). I certainly haven't noticed anything in the traditional media about it. I suppose the GOP is free to issue a denial.

With press accounts starting to openly speculate that Gov. Chris Gregoire faces severe political challenges over the Viaduct issue, now is the perfect time for Republican operatives to start throwing sand in the gears, not just in Olympia but in other parts of the state.

With Dino Rossi being the presumptive front runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2008, you don't have to be a political genius to see what the GOP is up to. They will be snide, obstructionist and present complex issues to the public in a distorted, simplified manner. As they always do.

Yes, it's a partisan game. While it's smart politics to go through the ritual chants about "bi-partisanship," anyone who thinks the fundamentally bellicose nature of the Republican Party has changed is fooling themselves.

So it's pretty difficult to see what will change under Luke Esser. It's still the GOP. That's a problem that can't be overcome by electing a new chair. It can, however, be solved at the ballot box by the rest of us, as we saw in November.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Simple "Q"

Since tomorrow is Super Sunday, also known as the Stupor Bowl or Commercial Bowl, it's time to pass along an ancient family recipe for dry rub.

Most people probably know that dry rub is what you um, rub on your meat before you slow cook it. If you have a charcoal grill, like a Weber cooker, indirect heat is the only way to go for this. If you have a gas grill... well, son, we have a word for that - but this is a family blog.

I remember Grandpa Stilwell teaching me this dry rub recipe when I was about seven, deep in the piney woods of Kansas. He would carefully build a hickory fire, check the still and then settle in to regale us with stories of Revenuers, gangsters and loose women. (Actually I read it in a book, and there aren't any piney woods in Kansas. There may be loose women but I never met any.) So without further ado, here is the mix recipe:
  • 1 part paprika
  • 1 part Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 part coarse ground black pepper
Rub the mixture on ribs, chicken or pork shoulder and cook indirectly using a moderate amount of hickory chips. If that dry rub is too simple for you, add some things you like. Celery seed is good. Cumin is wonderful. But sometimes simple is best. Here's a simple sauce you can make. Notice I'm using the precise terminology of barbecue, in this case the word "some."
  • Some regular yellow mustard
  • Some white vinegar
  • Some brown sugar (turbinado is my favorite)
  • Some molasses
  • Some paprika
  • Some Kosher or sea salt
  • Some coarse ground black pepper
Mix in a bowl and stick in the fridge while you rub your meat. And remember, never cross-contaminate your sauce. If you want some for table, reserve it ahead of time. If you forget, heat it up rather than risk it. Always sauce near the end of cooking, unless you like things really blackened. How about some brats? (The sausage, not the kids.) Chicago is in the game, after all. Try this:
  1. Buy some brats
  2. Buy some dark beer
  3. Get a big enameled or stainless steel pain you can use on the grill
  4. Put the beer in the pan
  5. Put the brats in the pan
  6. Throw in some chopped onions and garlic
  7. Par-boil the brats and then "grill them off" when someone wants one
  8. Serve on an outdoor bun with the mustard of your choice
  9. If there are people from Chicago coming, put a salad on top of it
This method reduces the grease and flare-ups you might otherwise encounter.

Have a nice game.

The headline says it all

Democrats in the State Legislature, supported by Secretary of State Sam Reed, are seeking to restore voting rights to all non-incarcerated felons in a bill proposed by Representative Jeannie Darneille of the 27th LD (Tacoma/Pierce County).

Naturally, our local right wing friends are upset about this. Sadly, as you might expect, the post attacking the proposal on unSoundPolitics is titled:
The party of robbers, rapists and killers
A memo to Stefan Sharkansky & Company: Republicans, led by Richard DeBolt of Chehalis, tried to resort to vindictive labeling and dirty tricks last year with what are known now as the infamous sex offender postcards.

The attacks basically painted Democrats as being in bed with criminals - explicitly drawing the conclusion that Democratic legislators wanted to protect violent sex predators instead of innocent children.

The campaign, run by Republican hacks at the "Speaker's Roundtable" just over a year ago, was promptly refuted and discredited. (The House even voted to make it illegal). Months later, in the 2006 midterm elections, Democrats chalked up huge gains. We significantly expanded our majorities in both chambers - at GOP expense. Republicans got slammed big time. The bottom line: DeBolt's dirty tricks, even though they were expected to have an effect, did not work. Instead they backfired.

Voters and opinionmakers across the state were naturally outraged when the Republican leadership's sleazy tactics were exposed.

Even some members of the Republican caucus were upset, and went out of their way to apologize to Democrats.

Implying that Democrats are the party of "robbers, rapists and killers" is a guaranteed way of instantly sacrificing your credibility.

What Representative Darneille is proposing really isn't all that controversial, as Samuel Merill noted in his testimony:
Samuel Merrill, of Olympia, representing the Friends Committee for Washington Public Policy, said the vote shouldn't be conditioned on payment of debts or used as leverage to force ex-convicts to settle their accounts. Oregon, California and Idaho allow ex-cons to vote, as do most free nations, he said.
Katie Blinn, Deputy Elections Director for the Secretary of State, is referenced in the article as observing that it's hard to see a clear, bright line that would trigger restoration of voting rights. It's a complicated problem.

Our Constitution guarantees us many civil liberties, including freedom of speech and due process. We believe in a presumption of innocence rather than guilt - that's why prosecutors are required to prove in court that a defendant is guilty. We should err on the side of liberty instead of disenfranchisement. That's the idea and the spirit behind Darneille's bill.

There's nothing wrong with a debate about the merits of this bill and the underlying idea - we are a democracy, after all - but we would hope Stefan and his fellow bloggers would just dispense with the nasty, unfair inferences. Unfortunately, history tells us our expectations should be to the contrary.

So you'll use Democratic from now on?

George W. Bush:
"At the State of the Union, I saw kind of a strange expression when I referred to something as the Democrat Party," Mr. Bush said. "Now look, my diction isn’t all that good. I have been accused of occasionally mangling the English language, so I appreciate you inviting the head of the Republic party."
Occasionally? That's putting it rather mildly. Your apology is accepted, Mr. Resident (oops, I mean, President) so long as you and your cohorts refrain from botching the name of our party in the future.

Former host Mike Webb convicted

Justice has been served at last:
Judge Spector said the evidence clearly showed that Webb "blatantly and with arrogance" defrauded the insurance company.

(After his completed trial in September was declared a mistrial, after a melee in front of the courthouse that landed Webb handcuffed in a police car to a Harborview rubber room).

This time, both parties agreed to a "stipulated trial, with the facts of the case presented in the original trial, and heard by Judge Spector and considered without a jury or re-calling witnesses.

The prosecutor and the defense attorney, Mark Larranaga each made a statement and brief rebuttals; the judge made her judgment shortly thereafter.

Her verdict: guilty as charged. "Only one person made things difficult for Mr. Webb," she said, "and that it was Mr. Webb."

She found Webb's credibility, "totally lacking," and went through a laundry list- a "continuum of falsification," of bank records and lies told investigators by "no other than Mr. Webb."

Webb, 51, finally humbled, stood at the bench before the court with his attorney, as his mental health and his future was discussed. After the mistrial, he'd been ordered into 30 days of mental health inpatient treatment.
How Mike Webb possibly deluded himself into thinking he was innocent is hard to contemplate. But he had his day in court and now he's a convicted felon.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Time to crack down on predatory lending

In recent years, citizens across the Evergreen State have witnessed a proliferation of payday lending outlets such as MoneyTree in neighborhood after neighborhood. These chains are reaping enormous profits at the expense of working families who are tricked by the lure of instant money.

Payday lending (which is also referred to as cash advance) is essentially the practice of using a post-dated check or checking account information as collateral for a short-term loan. To qualify, borrowers need only some form of identification (like a driver's license), a checking account, and an income from a job (or government benefits - like Social Security or disability payments).

According to the Center for Responsible Lending, payday lenders cost American families $4.2 billion every year in predatory fees.

It's appalling, but the minimum charge for these loans, fifteen dollars per $100, equates to a 390% annual percentage rate, or APR - that's multiplied by 26 paydays! Incredibly, only 2.5% of payday lending chains' customers stop at just one loan. Most customers average 5 to 10 loans - up to a 1,800% APR.

Predatory lending is the practice of preying on customers who lack good credit. Taking advantage of their financial situation, predatory lenders lure their customers into a vicious cycle whereby the customer has to keep taking out loans while the chain profits and makes money off of their misfortune. (The State Department of Financial Institutions, recognizing the danger, has acted to warn consumers of getting caught up in such a cycle).

Payday lenders won't hesitate to loan to people getting Social Security disability checks of a few hundred dollars a month - not enough to live on, much less give away $15 per $100. That's because there's no underwriting, no evaluation of the person's ability to repay the loan. The Statewide Poverty Action Network has a report on how one consumer was unlucky enough to become pulled into the cycle.

Unfortunately, Sen. Margarita Prentice of 11th LD (and the heavyweight Chair of the Ways and Means Committee), strongly supports this business. Why? Because, she says, people with poor credit need access to small (and instant) loans.

That's a weak argument. If payday lending is such a critical industry, we want to know what low and middle income families did before this business sprang up in the 1990s. What do families in the eleven states where payday loans are illegal do?

Prentice's support couldn't have anything to do with the fact that MoneyTree is headquartered in her district, or that its owners and employees have donated heavily to her campaigns for public office, or that they have sponsored fundraisers for her, or that MoneyTree's lobbyist chaired her campaign - could it?

Oh wait...Senator Prentice doesn't just support this awful business, she actually wrote the legislation that made the industry possible in this state back in 1995. By refusing to help fix the problem she played a huge part in creating, Prentice is sending a clear message - she doesn't really believe in progressive values.

House Bill 1020, sponsored by Representative Sherry Appleton, would cap the interest rate at 36%. Congress passed a 36% cap last October for all military and dependents that takes effect in October 2007.

(Payday lenders are often clustered around military bases and neighborhoods with a significant number of minority residents. The Washington State Budget & Policy Center has a map of payday lenders in Washington State worth checking out here - it's part of their High Interest, Lost Opportunity report).

If our Legislature doesn't act, we will have a two-tier system in our state, a cap for the military and usurious rates for the rest of us.

Readers, please call or email your legislators to express support for this bill. (Be sure to put the bill number and "payday loans" in the subject line). Because of Sen. Prentice's opposition, legislation will need significant attention in the Senate to avoid a quiet and unfortunate death.

In the House, the obstacle is House Insurance, Financial Services and Consumer Protection Committee Chairman Steve Kirby, who has effectively killed Appleton's bill by not allowing it to have a public hearing. Kirby has introduced his own proposal, which essentially maintains the status quo while appearing to look like reform.

What is he afraid of? Why won't he allow HB 1020 to have a hearing? Steve Kirby has not yet supplied an answer to that question that makes any sense. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kirby received contributions of $1,200 each from MoneyTree's top two executives for his last reelection campaign.

Please contact Representative Kirby's office and protest his decision to prevent Sherry Appleton's bill from having a public hearing:
432 John L. O'Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600

Phone: 360-786-7996
Constituent Email Form (use this if you live in the 29th LD)
The all-purpose Legislative Hotline number is 1-800-562-6000.

Use it to find your legislator, talk to your legislator, get their email address, or get an update on the bill's status.

More information on House Bill 1020 and the effort to crack down on unethical lending is available from the Communities Against Payday Predators coalition.

Joe and the cup

Comedian Cathy Sorbo, writing in the P-I, has this funny bit about "sexy baristas:"
My husband spends a great deal of his workday on the road and has driven through a couple of those coffee stands. Although he claims he would never go out of his way just to indulge in the more scenic servers, he says the stands have most definitely kept him out of Starbucks and Tully's.

He also noted that the only thing that would make the experience better were if these drive-thru's had Wi-Fi access so he could quickly "login," whatever that is supposed to mean.
Maybe he needs a laptop dance. (Don't forget to tip your servers, and have a great weekend.)

Chasing speeders with a tricycle

The FEC says it will do something about "527" organizations such as MoveOn.org and Swift Boats. From The Washington Post:
The Federal Election Commission said yesterday that it will police "527" groups, political organizations that largely operated outside the new campaign finance limits during the 2004 presidential election, by looking at how the groups word their appeals for contributions, how they describe themselves, and how they spend their money.

If the groups make clear that they are advocating for or against a specific candidate, the FEC would regulate them.

"We're providing clear guidance," said FEC Chairman Robert D. Lenhard. "This makes it clear that the existing rules will be enforced."

The FEC filed the 44-page explanation of its approach in U.S. District Court yesterday in response to a lawsuit challenging the agency's effectiveness in regulating the independent groups.
And only three years after the 2004 election, no less! Talk about quick.That sure is comforting to all the dead people in Iraq and New Orleans.

I'm beginning to see agencies like the FEC and PDC as increasingly marginal. They can police all they want, and by the time the complaints are filed and reviewed, the election is over and then some. Fox Noise Channel and other conduits for Big Stinky* transmit the lies instantly. It's like trying to stop speeders by reading to the cars from the sidewalk, then chasing them with a tricycle. Three years later.

Public financing, anyone?

*Big Stinky is my pet name for rightist stink tanks. You're welcome.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bill Gates has encountered a problem

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart earlier this week for a much publicized interview which demonstrated the software company's co-founder was in good spirits and good humor.

Gates has been at the forefront of a Microsoft media blitz surrounding the debut of the company's new Vista operating system and Office 2007 suite, which are now available for consumers to buy. (The links will take you to product overviews).

The interview went well until the very end, when Gates got up, shook Stewart's hand, and suddenly left, much to everyone's surprise. (You can see the video here). Naturally the Daily Show team didn't let that incident rest; the next day, they provided an explanation:

Bill Gates has encountered a problem

Apparently, the interview crashed.

If you can't read the text in the graphic, here it is:
Bill Gates has encountered a problem and needs to leave. We are sorry for the inconvenience.

If you were in the middle of something, the information you were working on might be lost.

Please tell Microsoft about this problem.

We have created an error report that you can send to help us improve Bill Gates. We will trust this report as confidential and anonymous.

To see what error data this report contains, click here.

Debug | Send error report to wife | Don't send
Brings back memories of the Weapons of Mass Destruction 404 page.

Hopefully the folks over in Redmond's Overlake neighborhood are taking it in stride. Those who can laugh at themselves can be confident they're in good shape for just about whatever life (or the marketplace!) may throw at them.

Round and round

I don't get this:
Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, a popular Democrat who has made economic development his central issue, says he will champion a $368 million NASCAR racetrack, probably on the Kitsap Peninsula west of Seattle.

The price tag has risen $23 million since last year, but the developers have also agreed to pick up a larger share of the total cost and to absorb any cost overruns.
At first blush, it's hard to imagine exactly what in the Sam Hill Owen is thinking. If you want to watch cars not going anywhere (not to mention political processes) there's plenty of that available already for free. As the article notes, the Legislature isn't exactly falling all over the place to do this.

And does anyone seriously believe all the claims about economic benefits?

Weird.

Look out kid, it's something you did

Josh Feit dings newly elected state GOP chair Luke Esser over the failure of Republican legislators to support a student "free press" bill. Esser's boss and potential GOP savior, AG Rob McKenna, is in support of the bill, says Feit.
So Luke, get right on that will you please. Write up the GOP speaking points that contradict freedom loving Rob McKenna. Get busy coordinating with that mainstream caucus of yours.

I guess, it won’t be too hard, though. Your GOP caucus does have an ally: Those staunch defenders of the free press over at the Seattle Times provided a draft for you today — publishing an editorial against the free press bill.

First Amendment footnote: The student free-press bill is simply an attempt to return to the Tinker Standard that was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969 — a decision that was scaled back by the more conservative Hazelwood decision in 1988.
Feit points out a Seattle Times staff editorial against the bill. We might add that Elizabeth Hovde of The Columbian is also against it.

It's pretty funny, actually, to read professional editorial writers huffing and puffing about how in the real world there are bosses and editors. Twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift...

Bringing down the New Imperial Presidency

Democrats in Congress are starting to look at the Bush administration's dubious use of signing statements, according to McClatchy's Washington bureau:
"One has the distinct feeling that this is really a policy debate," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the committee's ranking Republican. "If critics of signing statements agreed with the president on policy, we simply would not be here today."

Some legal experts disagree, saying that Bush's assertion of this arguable executive authority undercuts Congress and enhances the power of the president beyond the limits set by the Constitution.

"The potential for misuse in the issuance of presidential signing statements has reached the point where it poses a real threat to our system of checks and balances and the rule of law," said Karen J. Mathis, president of the American Bar Association. The ABA approved a resolution last August condemning the way Bush uses signing statements and their frequency.
When Democrats talked during the election about reviving the Congress to perform its Constitutional role, this is a good example.

You simply cannot allow the president to take duly passed laws and re-define them as he sees fit. Republicans can put whatever fancy language they want on it; "unitary executive" basically means "monarch."

The American people will not accept unlimited executive authority.

Doubtless the administration and its supporters will try to spin this as some kind of huge national security issue, but nobody is arguing that a president cannot respond to immediate threats. Really, we've been here before with the so-called Imperial Presidency of Richard Nixon. Same song, same twisted Nixonian movement. In many cases the same people.

Ultimately, we have to drive a stake through the heart of Nixonism once and for all in this country. To be clear, there will always be some small percentage of people who are perfectly willing to throw the Bill of Rights out the window, but hopefully that position will become politically untenable.

The simplistic idea that "if you're not hiding anything you don't have anything to worry about" shouldn't (and doesn't) cut it. Anyone with even a basic knowledge of the Bill of Rights knows it doesn't exist to protect the majority, it exists to provide protection against abuse of government power.

There are signs that some Republicans are starting to stand against the New Imperial Presidency. We applaud that development and hope more individuals and groups, whether inside the GOP or not, will join in questioning and exposing the blatant misuse of signing statements by this administration.