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

Monday, April 30, 2007

NPI releases thirteenth podcast

We've released our thirteenth podcast - the third in a special series of Priorities podcasts focusing on important issues in the statehouse and beyond.

This episode, a conversation with Gael Tarleton, continues our coverage of the Port of Seattle. Gael is running against incumbent Bob Edwards for Port Commissioner on a platform of change - accountability, transparency, and a clear direction. In the interview, she talks about her background, critiques the Port's problems, and explains her vision for its future.

Gael is a rising progressive star. She's incredibly knowledgeable, experienced, and talented. She has worked at the Pentagon, in the private sector, and currently at the University of Washington.

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.

Transit oriented development in Portland

Since Portland built their downtown streetcar, over two billion dollars' worth of walkable development has come to the area it serves. I visited the city this weekend (using, of course, Amtrak Cascades) and took photographs of the industrial-to-residential conversions, parks, and overall new pedestrian use that good urban planning brought to Portland's Pearl District. Here's a taste of what we'll likely see in Seattle in the next couple of decades - spurred by our South Lake Union streetcar and Sound Transit's Link system:



Congratulations, Rep. Mom

It's okay to be a mom in Congress:
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers became the first member of Congress in more than a decade to give birth when her son was born a month early, her office said Monday.

Cole McMorris Rodgers was born at 3:14 a.m. on Sunday at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, according to the office of the Republican from Washington.

The boy was due on May 29, her office said. He weighed 5 pounds, 9 ounces and is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to address minor complications, her office said in a press release.

The former Cathy McMorris, 37, married Brian Rodgers last year. This is her first child.
Naturally, while we tend to disagree with McMorris on policy positions, we are heartened that nobody in her party seems to be attacking her decision to have a child and be a member of Congress.

Because that would be wrong. Moms count too.

We're certain that in 2008 the same courtesy will be extended to any Democrat running for Congress who also happens to be a mom.

We're sure incivility is quite dead, and that nobody would ever make crude, sexist slurs about a mom who runs for Congress.

Ban Chinese protein additives now

Goldy had another outstanding post yesterday concerning melamine from China in the food supply. Go check it out if you get the chance.

Imports of these protein additives from China need to be stopped at once. If that disrupts the food supply somewhat, so be it. We can live without frozen pizza and a lot of other overly processed foods for a while.

While many people in the US are worrying about how they could be a hero and pack heat in case a lunatic with a gun ever enters their basement to threaten the Cheetos stash, or that al-Qaeda in Iraq will follow them to the Ozarks, every single day we are importing a potential poison to feed to our pets and children.

And of course, the one time we could actually use some cable-news induced media hysteria to move this topic to the fore, the cable channels are all logical and dispassionate about it. When they mention it. What we need is for melamine to attack some surfers or grope a white woman in a nightclub.

Civility is so sexy

People always need a good laugh on Monday morning, so here's one from C-SPAN 2:
Forum
Civility and American Politics, Part 2
University of Pennsylvania
American Enterprise Institute
Brookings Institution
Washington, District of Columbia (United States)
ID: 197868 - 2 - 04/30/2007 - 1:15 - No Sale


Boehner, John A. U.S. Representative, R-OH
Gutmann, Amy President, University of Pennsylvania
Lieberman, Joseph U.S. Senator, I, Connecticut

House Minority Leader Boehner and Senator Lieberman talked about options for restoring civility to American politics. They responded to questions from members of the audience.

This panel, "Fundamental Questions on Civility and American Politics," of the Civility and American Politics program was held in the Hart Senate Office Building, Room 902.
Because the dirty hippies won't be nice about death, destruction, corruption and lies, official Washington must have these forums. Anyone who disagrees with Holy Joe and John is being uncivil, and must have their motives examined.

But to quote St. Rudy, if you vote for terrorists Democrats will win. Or something.

Next on C-SPAN, we took our camera to the alleged D.C. madam's bordello for a look at the coin operated beds, which also double as vote counting machines. The Speaker will lock the voting machines, the Speaker is locking the vote counting machines....oh baby oh baby give me some more civility, right there baby! Joe! John! Oh! I - LOVE -- civility! Yeaaaaaaa!

MORE--Think Progress has some fun quotes:
Lieberman:

Critics of Bush’s Iraq war strategy are engaging “in a kind of harassment.” [4/12/07]

Ned Lamont’s primary win “will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England.” [8/10/06]

Boehner:

[The war critics’ plan] provides a road map for terrorists. … It is a danger to both our troops engaged in combat and to the long-term security interests of American families. [3/22/07]

Unfortunately, the Democrats latest plan is an old twist on an old adage: failure at any cost. … Democrats are using the critical troop funding bill to micromanage the war on terror — undermining our generals on the ground and slowly choking off resources for our troops. [3/8/07]

People who oppose escalation are taking the “bait” of “al Qaeda and terrorist sympathizers” by using Iraq to “divide us here at home.” [2/13/07]
Give it to me, baby (uh uh uh uh.) Pretty fly, Joe.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

These guys ought to take the WASL

The Seattle P-I has an Associated Press article about the Washington Assessment of Student Learning this morning in which several "standards" proponents are quoted as being critical of legislation that allows alternatives and delays use of the math and science portions of test as a graduation requirement until 2013.

Representative Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City: "It took us 14 years to get to this point and then it blew up at the end...It was a cut-and-paste job over political fear."

Marc Frazier, Vice President of the Washington Roundtable (a business group): "The question is: Do we have state standards or not?

Steve Maggi of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation: "said he was happy with the Legislature's plan to take another look at math standards, but he doesn't think lawmakers should 'raise the white flag' over graduation exams."

Here's my rhetorical question: Have any of these guys ever taken the WASL themselves? (The answer: of course not). I don't think they really understand how the WASL affects teachers, students, and course curriculum.

Unlike most Washingtonians, I have taken the WASL. And not just once, but several times - in fourth, seventh, and tenth grades. I also seem to recall that our eighth grade class took the science portion in eighth grade (it didn't count, but we were participating in a pilot rollout of that section).

I myself didn't find the WASL to be very difficult - I easily passed all the tests, and I remember that my 10th grade writing score was perfect. I received congratulatory letters from Governor Locke. But my experience has been the exception, not the rule. The WASL was stressful and nerve wracking for many of my peers.

Even those of us who did well didn't enjoy it. It felt like a distraction - and it was. We're talking about hours upon hours of staring at gray paper booklets and marking them up with pencils, then sitting quietly and waiting for everyone else to finish. And if on a test day you were sick and couldn't come to school, you'd likely end up missing class to make it up later.

School administrators across the state have reallocated resources to help students prepare for the WASL, and valuable programs - arts, humanities, music, career preparedness - have suffered. Some elementary schools have cut back recess.

I remember spending entire class periods in my tenth grade honors courses in the months before, just talking about the WASL and the phase in of the district's own standards assessments (such as the Culminating Project). We had all kinds of questions and our teachers tried to answer them as best they could.

So on many days, we'd come into class, and instead of actually strengthening our reading comprehension skills or sharpening our mathematics faculty, we were learning about the WASL.

I firmly believe that legislators and the WASL's proponents (chiefly business leaders) should take the tenth grade test themselves so they know what it's like. They should be brought into an actual classroom in an actual high school and be given each portion to complete, day after day. They need to get a taste for the WASL and the testing environment.

It would certainly be interesting to see how many of them could manage to earn a passing score on every single section.

I personally don't believe the WASL is a very good assessment of a student's readiness for his or her future life and career - and NPI believes it should not be a graduation requirement because one test is a poor method of judging a child's entire academic history. (We also oppose its use to make decisions about grade retention or program options).

The WASL was originally implemented under the guise of reform, but it has created a significant number of new problems. It hasn't helped that the Legislature has been underfunding education in recent bienniums (although progress was certainly made in the 2007 session). The state needs to develop a better system for measuring what students have learned. Relying on a high stakes test is a mistake.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Tim Eyman's Initiative 960 is the latest incarnation of a right wing money triangle

We're just past the halfway point in the 2007 initiative season, which runs from almost the beginning of the new year to Independence Day in early July. And as usual, Tim Eyman and his cohorts are working to qualify yet another right wing initiative to the ballot. (More on why they're still in business in a bit).

After tax cuts and legalization of discrimination fizzled last year, Tim has chosen to revive his failed 2003 initiative with a few additional twists.

Initiative 960, Tim's 2007 vehicle, undermines the very concept of representative democracy by requiring two thirds supermajority votes in each house of the Legislature to raise taxes or fees.

Republicans have been losing seats in the statehouse over the last few cycles, and since they're having a difficult time getting elected, Tim hopes to empower them to control budgeting decisions with this initiative.

(It's kind of funny how that "respect the will of the voters" thing works).

What I-960 does is allow a minority to veto important fiscal decisions and block the state from raising needed revenue to pay for public services the people want. It turns the whole idea of a republic upside down.

Just imagine living in a small town with one hundred residents which operates under democratic principles. One day, someone proposes changing the rules to require that at least 66 of the 100 residents be in agreement before any additional funds for the town treasury could be collected.

Under that scenario, even if 65 residents out of the hundred wanted to give the town government more money, they could be told "no" by a minority.

That's not democracy. But that's Initiative 960 in a nutshell.

There is an excellent possibility that I-960 won't pass constitutional muster, but there's no reason to wait and hope that a court will invalidate it if it passes. I-960 is an unwelcome idea that we don't need.

Responding to a public outcry, the Legislature just weeks ago approved a constitutional amendment which removes the unfair supermajority requirement for school levies. That amendment ironically required a supermajority to pass out of the statehouse. It's now going before the voters.

Eyman wants to make every decision to raise revenue just as difficult. He seems to have nothing but contempt for elected leaders and the legislative process. He isn't getting his way, so he's trying to change the rules.

But I-960 hasn't attracted much support. Without huge cash infusions from Eyman's chief backer, Woodinville multimillionaire Michael Dunmire, the I-960 campaign would have run aground and collapsed already.

An analysis of Eyman's public disclosure reports shows Dunmire has directly provided about 71% of the funds to I-960 so far. The following chart illustrates where all of this year's financial donations are coming from.

Initiative 960 Contributions Through March 2007

But this 71% figure is actually misleading, because Eyman has transferred money from previous campaigns to his I-960 effort as in-kind donations.

At least one of those transfers includes significant chunks of Dunmire money as well. The pale blue slice above represents a transfer from Eyman's SaveOur30Tabs committee at the beginning of the year to Voters Want More Choices, the vehicle for I-960. (The red slice is a transfer from Help Us Help Taxpayers).

The actual percentage totaling Dunmire's donations, if you add in this indirect financial support, is somewhere in the mid-eighties - possibly about 85%.

Three donors have contributed a total of $3,250 to the campaign. One of them, John Lashley, doesn't even live in Washington State. The others are the Northwest Healthcare Alliance, a traditional Eyman supporter, and Thomas Schulstad.

Only 11% (about $37,500 in total) of the contributions to I-960 are amounts less than $1,000. (And, as some of those contributions are from repeat donors, the number of actual contributors is even smaller).

These lopsided figures clearly demonstrate that without Dunmire, Eyman's nothing. A whopping 89% of all his incoming funds through March 2007 are either transfers from his other accounts or huge checks from his sugar daddy. Of course, almost none of Eyman's previous campaigns have been grassroots either.

Now, here's a chart showing Eyman's expenditures. As with the previous visual, the numbers here do not reflect April 2007 data because it isn't available yet.

Initiative 960 Expenditures Through March 2007

There's also a dominant feature in the expenditures. The biggest by far is the $267,000 Eyman has turned over to Citizen Solutions of Lacey, WA, run by his friend Roy Ruffino, to pay for signature gathering.

Eyman has been dispensing money to Ruffino every few weeks since early January (when the first payment was made). He has also spent money on printing, including almost $16,500 for what appears to be advertising in Fishing & Hunting News.

(Other printing expenses have been for petitions and repeated mailings to supporters. Printing vendors include L&I Printing and Puget Sound Envelope. Data Resources was compensated for mailing costs).

Eyman and the Fagans have also reimbursed themselves for nearly $5,000, including over $3,000 for travel expenses (what for, we're not sure - it seems like an awful lot of money for a few trips to Olympia, for instance).

Eyman also compensated the firm of Groen Stephens & Klinge LLP for legal assistance. (Groen, you might recall, ran for State Supreme Court last year against Chief Justice Gerry Alexander with support from the BIAW).

Looking at this data, we can clearly see a right wing money triangle - with Michael Dunmire at one vertex, Tim Eyman at the second, and Roy Ruffino at the third. The triangle works very simply: during a campaign Dunmire writes big checks to Eyman, who turns around and dispenses most of the money to Ruffino's Citizen Solutions, which then pays petitioners to collect signatures for Tim's initiatives.

After the drive is completed, Dunmire then writes another hefty check or two to Eyman's compensation fund. The money is then split between Eyman and the Fagans, who each pocket tens of thousands of dollars as salary.

That is why Eyman's initiative factory is still in business despite so many failures. Every year, Eyman pulls a stale right wing scheme off the shelf (for example, tax cuts or spending limits), dusts it off, and runs with it. I-960 is just the latest incarnation of this right wing money triangle.

As of the last filings, Eyman's committee has only $13,832 cash on hand. Almost all of the contributions collected so far (a total of over $352,000) have gone out the door as expenditures. As long as Michael Dunmire is willing to write another check or two, Eyman should be able to buy his way onto the ballot this year.

But if for some reason Dumire were to cut off support (which we think is unlikely), I-960 would likely flounder and then die.

You can help us track Eyman's petition drive by reporting any right wing signature gathering activity you observe to Permanent Defense. We will also continue to closely monitor the reports filed by Eyman & Co. with the PDC, and when the April numbers are available, we'll bring you another update.

WSDOT chief to resign

Christine Gregoire's office has just announced that Department of Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald informed the Governor he will be resigning in late July. He says he "plans to live in Seattle and pursue new opportunities in the environmental and transportation fields" but did not elaborate further.

MacDonald has led WSDOT - which primarily oversees highway construction, roads maintenance, and operates the ferry system - for six years.

The Governor thanked MacDonald for his leadership and extended her best wishes.
"Secretary MacDonald has led WSDOT with energy and enthusiasm. The many successful projects and positive results from WSDOT during his time as secretary speak to his ability as a leader and his commitment to service. I am grateful for his service and wish him luck on the next chapter in his life."
The Governor has not yet chosen a successor, but she will likely make an announcement this summer as MacDonald prepares to leave.

Pipe dreams

The P-I's Joel Connelly gives state Republicans a lot of free advice. For example:
A final suggestion: It's time for state Republicans to move away from property-rights extremism, and back toward the party's historical, sensible commitment to conservation.

Look around: Theodore Roosevelt created the first Olympic National Monument. Dan Evans championed the North Cascades National Park and Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Rep. Joel Pritchard led the fight in Congress against environmentally harmful pork-barrel projects. Rep. Sid Morrison put it on the line for the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. Sen. Slade Gorton secured dollars for the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway.
Connelly's columns is a plea for reason from the state GOP. Connelly offers some criticism of Democrats in Olympia, which I suppose is fair enough - nobody is perfect - but Rome wasn't built in a day, and projects like 520 can't be funded overnight.

It seems rather unlikely that - the BIAW, the key right wing player on the issue of land use - is going to suddenly become reasonable, at least under its present leadership. Their modus operandi is to make scurrilous attacks until they get called on it by the press, regroup and then attack some more. There is no discernible evidence that they would be interested in a new Dan Evans.

There's always some chance that Mainstream Republicans will make strides, but again it seems unlikely. The GOP found success in the black helicopter, anti-government 1990's, and it doesn't seem to recognize that times change. Sure, they applied some "moderate" veneer on Dino Rossi in 2004, and tried the same thing with Mike McGavick in 2006, but 2006 showed that voters weren't buying it.

The Republican base seems to be a mixture of theocracy-seeking evangelicals, alleged libertarian types, and anti-tax greed heads, the sort who just complain about taxes nonstop and see no value in public services or the commons.

The Republican Party isn't about to reform itself. More likely, it's in danger of becoming a permanent minority both here and nationally, as its contradictory parts clash and fail to come up with any practical proposals.

Social Security? Hand it over to Wall Street. Health care? Hand it over to Big Pharma. Roads? Build new lanes with the little money left after tax cuts. Schools? Give us vouchers for private education. Public money for theocratic teachings!

How about the environment? Food safety? Have some pork for dinner tonight if you'd like to risk experiencing firsthand the Republican approach to governance. The market should have protected you, and if it didn't, you're a moron for having dinner.

The ideology that has gripped the GOP for the last thirty years or so is that government is bad... and we must break it, no matter the consequences. We used to think they wanted to repeal the New Deal, but it became obvious they had it in for common sense and science as well. Can you say "Kansas Board of Education?" How's that intelligent design movement working out for you in Kansas?

The right wing worldview today could be characterized as an ideology of destruction, as far too many actual human beings have found out in the last seven years.

And then they call us the party of death and shout that we are on the side of terrorists. (If America elect Democrats, America will be attacked!) Then they get bent out of shape if we dare to express our opinions about their poor ideas.

Republicanism, in its current form, is infantilism transferred to politics, as evidenced by their view of an infallible leader, their lack of respect for those who are different and the petty vindictiveness that is a hallmark of the GOP.

And it's not just Rove. Washington state Republicans have an ignominious tradition of spewing bile; from Linda Smith to Ellen Craswell to Chris Vance and Tom McCabe, there is an underlying belief that it's okay to consider the political opposition as one would a wartime enemy, and it far predates 2001.

The destructiveness may be what many people find so objectionable about the current Republican Party. You can have an argument about whether a certain tax is too high or too low, but the Republican Party insisted on making the broad argument that government is illegitimate (except, of course, those portions of government that support industries that support the GOP. I'm talking to you, defense procurement system.) Trillions of dollars wasted on SDI is okay with them; some poor kid getting nutrition through food stamps, eh, not so much. The market will take care of him.

Republicans have invested so much psychic energy in their myths that they have put themselves in a straitjacket. If you're someone who truly believes the media is liberal, that government is out to steal your money and on top of that government can never do anything well, you probably don't have much of value to contribute to public discourse.

Corruption is a hallmark of empowered Republicans. They complain about "waste, fraud, and abuse" but when they are empowered, they make a mess. Which leaves Republicans with nothing much to offer and an awful lot of ex-leaders to bail out of jail.

It's always been fascinating to me how Democrats are expected to perform flawlessly, which I suppose is a measure of understanding that the Democratic Party more closely hews to the needs of the populace and is expected to stand up for regular folks.

I certainly engage in that thinking at times myself. But when Republicans are on their worst behavior, there's something of a sense in the body politic that resembles the question, "What did you expect, they're Republicans?" Odd how that works.

It's an old quote, but sometimes one needs to revisit the old P.J. O'Rourke quip:
The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it.
I'll take taller and richer, even if it is a pipe dream.

"Braindrizzle"

Michelle Malkin is still insane. Can't even get the symbolic symbols right. Too funny.

Mission accomplished

I didn't know Georege Tenet liked basketbtall.
A copy of the book was purchased at retail price in advance of publication by a reporter for The New York Times. Tenet described with sarcasm watching an episode of "Meet the Press" last September in which Cheney twice referred to Tenet's "slam dunk" remark as the basis for the decision to go to war.

"I remember watching and thinking, 'As if you needed me to say 'slam dunk' to convince you to go to war with Iraq,' " Tenet writes.
No kidding.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

State Supreme Court clarifies scope of campaign finance law's "media exemption"

Washington State's highest judicial body unanimously ruled this morning that on air campaigning for Initiative 912 in mid-2005 by Fisher Broadcasting's John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur was covered by the media exemption in the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA), overruling a Thurston County Superior Court opinion issued twenty two months ago.

The decision means the broadcasts in question (from Wilbur's morning show and Carlson's now defunct afternoon show in 2005) are not considered contributions under the FCPA. Future broadcasts will assuredly not be subject to limits or reporting requirements unless the law is rewritten.

In 2005, we argued that Wilbur and Carlson (who are no strangers to political activism) had clearly stepped out the realm of simply "discussing issues and recommending action" (editorial commentary) in spearheading a signature drive to qualify an initiative to the ballot, using the public airwaves.

As the Court put it:
Wilbur and Carlson strongly criticized the legislature's enactment of the fuel tax and devoted a substantial portion of their radio broadcasts to supporting the I-912 campaign.

In particular, they encouraged listeners to contribute funds to No New Gas Tax [NNGT], to visit NNGT's web site and offices to obtain petitions, and to circulate and gather signatures on the petitions in order to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
Normally, that kind of communication would be considered a campaign contribution, which has a broad definition in the FCPA:
(i) A loan, gift, deposit, subscription, forgiveness of indebtedness, donation, advance, pledge, payment, transfer of funds between political committees, or anything of value, including personal and professional services for less than full consideration;

(iii) The financing by a person of the dissemination, distribution, or republication, in whole or in part, of broadcast, written, graphic, or other form of political advertising or electioneering communication prepared by a candidate, a political committee, or its authorized agent;
The same statute that spells out the meaning of contribution also outlines a number of exemptions, including the media exemption - the issue in this case.

It's defined as follows:
A news item, feature, commentary, or editorial in a regularly scheduled news medium that is of primary interest to the general public, that is in a news medium controlled by a person whose business is that news medium, and that is not controlled by a candidate or a political committee.
According to the Court, what Carlson and Wilbur did on air is basically irrelevant, because qualification for the media exemption is not based on content, speaker's motivations, intent, sources of information, or connection with a campaign.

It's based on ownership.
The prosecutors argue, and the trial court agreed, that Wilbur's and Carlson's broadcasts supporting the initiative, fall outside the media exemption because the broadcasts constitute "political advertising" rather than "commentary."

[...]

By incorporating the media exemption into the definition of "contribution," the voters plainly intended to protect publications that would otherwise constitute a "contribution" subject to regulation.

In order to give effect to the voters' intent, it is necessary to determine whether the media exemption applies before considering whether the communication at issue otherwise falls within the definition of "contribution."

Thus, the initial inquiry is whether the news medium is controlled by a candidate or political committee and whether it was functioning as a regular news medium with respect to the conduct in question.
The broadcasts qualify for the exemption because the medium (KVI) is owned by Fisher Broadcasting, which controls dozens of television and radio stations in the region. Air time that falls under the media exemption cannot be considered a reportable contribution, the Court said, despite previous Public Disclosure Commission orders and advisories to the contrary.
We reject the PDC's interpretation as contrary to the statutory media exemption. There is no express advocacy or solicitation limitation to the media exemption. Although the term "commentary" is not defined, we believe that it plainly encompasses advocacy for or against an issue, candidate or campaign, whether that involves the solicitation of votes, money, or "other support."
What this ruling means is that individuals who work for news conglomerates or other media organizations may enjoy the protection of the exemption even if they're involved in campaign activity.

Our interest is in seeing that the Fair Campaign Practices Act and other related laws be enforced fairly and equally. While we did read the law differently in 2005, we're appreciative that the Supreme Court has clarified the issue.

Under the proper interpretation of the law, the broadcasts weren't subject to reporting requirements. We stand corrected - and we welcome this ruling.

However, we'll also point out that supporters of Carlson and Wilbur have previously misconstrued what the case is about - and they are doing so again today by claiming they've won a free speech victory. But the issue in the case wasn't the First Amendment, it was interpretation of campaign finance law. The Court itself noted:
Because we hold that the radio broadcasts at issue are not a "contribution" we do not address whether the disclosure requirements of the FCPA are unconstitutional as applied to No New Gas Tax.

Whether, and to what extent, a media exemption is constitutionally required is beyond the scope of this opinion.
There may certainly be a future discussion about whether the media exemption (and perhaps the Fair Campaign Practices Act in general) needs to be fine-tuned or adjusted through legislation.

This is a difficult issue. It's a balancing act between protecting constitutionally guaranteed freedoms (i.e. speech, press, assembly) and preventing corrupt practices, including abusive electioneering.

The Court addressed the possibility of reform in a footnote, stating:
At oral argument, the prosecutors argued that without the limiting construction imposed by the PDC, media corporations could become "king makers," providing their favored candidates and ballot measure advocates with unlimited access to the airwaves. But this is an argument more appropriately directed to the legislature.

The media exemption represents a policy choice to accord full protection to the first amendment rights of the press even at the expense of countervailing societal interests that may be served by campaign finance regulations. We note that nothing in our decision today forecloses the legislature, or the people via the initiative process, from limiting the statutory media exemption.
The Court's decision included useful analysis examining the applicability of the media exemption, including references to federal case law such as Federal Elections Commission v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Inc.. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that a corporation, group, or union which publishes an "in house publication" is not automatically entitled to the media exemption.

An interesting question not mentioned in the state Court's opinion is whether blogs and online media fall under the press exemption. The FCPA and related federal laws were written before the days of the Internet and widespread citizen journalism. Blogs that are continuously updated would seem to fit the definition of a "regularly scheduled news medium that is of primary interest to the general public".

But the real sticking point, again, is ownership. Blogs or websites owned by candidates and political parties would not fall under the press exemption. But what about online media belonging to citizen activists or groups?

If John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur - who are partisan Republican operatives, not objective journalists - can campaign from a radio station and enjoy the benefits of the media exemption under the law as it exists, then so can every other commentator, including those who publish online.

If we're going to have a media exemption, then it can't just be for traditional media (newspapers, television stations, and radio outlets). It must also apply to individuals and entities operating online media. That actually could help safeguard against the possibility of media corporations playing king maker.

A huge aspect of the Northwest Progressive Institutes's work is communicating directly with the public through the Internet. We offer commentary, editorials, features, and occasionally even breaking news which is definitely of interest. We also campaign for or against ballot measures and candidates, and we lobby to influence the outcome of legislation.

Because our business is using the medium of the Internet to transmit information, we ought to qualify under the media exemption as it has been written and interpreted, as should others. Still, the exemption could be strengthened by adding language that explicitly protects independent bloggers and pioneers of new media.

A number of bloggers have already sought broad legal protection by incorporating to protect themselves - and that trend is likely to continue. (NPI has been registered as a nonprofit corporation since early 2005).

The role of bloggers and online media today is well described by the United States Supreme Court in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce: informing and educating the public, offering criticism, and providing a forum for discussion and debate. The highest court in the land used those words to characterize the traditional media, but that's also what we do, and what the blogosphere (including the regional netroots community) does, on a daily basis.

Today's State Supreme Court decision certainly doesn't resolve all the issues or answer all the questions arising from interpretation of campaign finance and disclosure laws. But it does provide valuable guidance to Public Disclosure Commission staff, policymakers, and lower courts throughout Washington.

What does the new interpretation of the media exemption mean for the future?

As Andrew has already noted in a rather lengthy post, the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously ruled today that KVI talk show hosts Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson, who organized and took a leading role in the I-912 campaign, do not have to report any broadcasts as contributions under the public disclosure law.
"The uncontroverted facts establish that the radio station involved here is a regular media entity that is not controlled by a candidate or political committee," (Justice Barbara) Madsen wrote. "The radio station was exercising one of its core media functions in broadcasting Wilbur's and Carlson's talk shows."
That's a rather narrow way to define what KVI does. What, do they have to hang a sign out front that says "K-GOP Radio?"

Because objectivity isn't written into the exemption, and because we do no longer have a Fairness Doctrine, the media exemption covers outlets that promote one political point of view and exclude others.

With the exception of Air America and hosts like Stephanie Miller (Democracy Radio) or Ed Schultz (Jones Radio) the medium is almost completely dominated by conservatives, including a number of of far-right extremists.

A few righties are crowing about "a victory for free speech," but of course, nobody wanted KVI to be silenced - just be honest and follow the law - which as the lower court interpreted it, meant reporting time spent on campaign activity as a contribution. Michael Hood at BlatherWatch put it well:
Our issue was never the talk hosts' right to advocate- it was the unfair advantage they had using the airwaves for non-stop on-air organizing, and logistical planning which clearly seemed to violate election rules.

Way more than mere political discussion or preaching a point of view, it was the nutty-gritty specifics of petition distribution, meet-ups, drops, and other logistical planning; formulation of signature-gathering strategies and tactics with campaign workers and volunteers in real time on the air.

It was hours, days, and weeks of expensive airtime available at no charge to Kirby, John anmd the anti-roads campaign. The opposition could never afford a fraction of the continuous daily political infomercials gifted the campaign by these talk shows. (It was an arguable distinction, one perhaps only of paperwork, but Carlson and Wilbur WERE the campaign, not just citizen/entertainers exercising their blessed 1st amendment rights).
At issue is the power that corporations (like Fisher Broadcasting, which owns KVI) are allowed to exercise using the commons - in this case frequencies licensed to them from the public airwaves.

Their employees used that public resource in a one-sided, relentless campaign to promote one portion of the political spectrum in taking action against another portion of the political spectrum.

Asking for a valuation of the airtime used by Wilbur and Carlson to promote Initiative 912 is hardly an assault on free speech.

Luckily, KVI and its hosts Wilbur and Carlson (basically conservative political campaign organizers with microphones) didn't succeed with Initiative 912, which demonstrates that opponents (including this organization) were able to overcome an early disadvantage in getting an important message out to voters (namely, that tax cuts have consequences!)

It's interesting to ponder - what would conservative reaction be, as Hood alludes in a slightly different context in his post at Blatherwatch, if David Goldstein started using his show as a tool for qualifying progressive ballot measures? He could spend all of his air time soliciting donations, planning meetings, and organizing for victory. He'd never have to report anything. He's covered under the media exemption!

Today's decision severely undercuts the authority of the Public Disclosure Commission, the watchdog that's slowly turning into a paper tiger, which is still reviewing the ruling. Many Republicans have long held an attitude of contempt towards the PDC and disclosure regulations anyhow (ahem, Tim Eyman), as evidenced by the huge sums of untraceable money funneled into Washington by Howie Rich in support of Initiative 933 last year.

The ramifications of this decision are important. Radio hosts are allowed to organize campaigns, so columnists must be too. It's not a stretch to imagine a columnist using space to encourage donations, list meeting times and engage in all the other activity usually associated with political campaigns, and then claim it was "news" or even "journalism", thus avoiding the requirement to report paid advertising.

Last year we saw newspaper publishers abandon any pretense of neutrality in support of a repeal of the estate tax. Why would they now risk making formal donations, when the path to unregulated, unlimited political campaign organizing masked as journalism is so clear?

The Court sidestepped questions about free speech and transparency in elections, but neither issue is going to go away. Citizens have a right to know who is trying to influence their vote.

Those who enjoy freedom of the press have traditionally been those who own a press, and while the Internet is changing that, it's a sad day when the broader public interest in disclosure is trumped in favor of exempting corporate media and allowing overt political campaigning (which is exactly what Carlson and Wilbur did).

The solution to ending right wing dominance and corruption of the traditional media may be to overhaul rules and regulations about media ownership.

The bright side to this decision, which Andrew discusses in his post on the ruling, is that online media and bloggers may end up being protected too.

The United States Constitution does not begin with the words "We the radio hosts". It does say "We the people" - and the Internet is surely the medium of the people if there ever was one.

Republicans for withdrawal of the troops?

Sure...if there's a Democrat in the White House:
Background for the game: More than 13 years ago, one sitting U.S. Senator went to the Senate floor and pleading with President Clinton to bring the troops home from a distant country. This senator made a passionate plea and even cajoled President Clinton by calling the mission “nation building.”

Bonus points awarded: After you guess the Senator and the country mentioned correctly, bonus points will be awarded to the player who can explain how Senator X could be so impassioned and so convinced that our troops needed to come home in 1993, while the same Senator bashes those who advocate bringing our troops home responsibly from Iraq today.
Can you name the Senator who said this in 1993? (Here's a major hint: he's now seeking the GOP nomination for president).
“Mr. President, our mission in ________ is over. It is time to come home. Our mission in ________ was to feed a million starving _______ who needed to be fed. It was not an open-ended commitment. It was not a commission of nation building, not warlord hunting, or any of the other extraneous activities which we seem to have been engaged in.”

“If the President of the United States cannot say, "Here is what we are fighting for in ________, that more Americans may perish in service to the goals, and here is why it is worth that price," then, Mr. President, we have no right -- no right -- to ask Americans to risk their lives in any further misadventures in ________.”
See the answer in these two video clips. Props to Americans Against Escalation in Iraq for putting together the research, and the Democratic Party for the videos.

Lessons to learn from "Buying the War"

In response to last night's Bill Moyers' epsisode "Buying the War, CBS's Mark Knoller says Moyers "got it wrong" concerning the questioning that occured at a March, 2003 press conference shortly before the invasion of Iraq. In one instance Knoller defends a fellow CBS reporter:
My colleague Bill Plante challenged Mr. Bush to present hard evidence to back up his claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.
I guess maybe Knoller couldn't know Atrios would post the questions asked from a White House transcript of that press conference. For example:
Bill Plante.

Q Mr. President, to a lot of people, it seems that war is probably inevitable, because many people doubt -- most people, I would guess -- that Saddam Hussein will ever do what we are demanding that he do, which is disarm. And if war is inevitable, there are a lot of people in this country -- as much as half, by polling standards -- who agree that he should be disarmed, who listen to you say that you have the evidence, but who feel they haven't seen it, and who still wonder why blood has to be shed if he hasn't attacked us.
I'm not exactly sure I would call that a "challenge." There's a question in there somewhere, I suppose, but notice how it is almost expressing a fealty to the administration in its very formulation? There may be poor, misguided people out there (the dirty hippies!) so we better tell them what is what.

If you watched the Moyers episode, his actual point was that press conferences were scripted and the press just played along, raising their hands like actors in a play when they knew there was an approved list of who would be called upon. It was a pathetic performance, probably the lowest point for American journalism since 1898.

It's important to understand Moyers' conclusion: nothing much has changed. The reporters and pundits who were horribly, horribly wrong by and large do not recognize that fact. The worst offenders, like Judy Miller, wouldn't even talk to Moyers. The Beltway pundits and reporters, as a "Gang of 500," live in a different America and frankly the worst offenders have no business still being on the air or printed after making such egregious errors in judgement and fact. It's called professionalism. Regular people get canned when they screw up badly; Beltway pundits seem to get book deals.

The bright spot was the performance of Knight-Ridder reporters who went around official sources and talked to the intelligence officers and others who were actually doing the work on weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaeda. Moyers suggests that it's not a coincidence that being "outside the Beltway bubble" actually helped Knight-Ridder, although it's small consolation seeing that the reporters who got the story right didn't exactly get much play in the run-up to war. (One might note that McClatchy, which has done great work on Purge-gate, purchased Knight-Ridder and is also the minority owner of The Seattle Times.)

Is there a lesson for regional and local outlets? Probably the same lesson that all Americans should learn: be suspicious of what comes out of AP, New York Times and Washington Post wire services, and contrast it with foreign and other domestic services. Many, many newspapers and local television stations passed on the wrong information to the American public, and they need to understand how that happened and work to avoid doing it again. Lives literally depend on it, and being local outlets does not absolve them from responsibility for the content they carry.

It is now obvious to anyone who cares to look that propaganda and misinformation were used in a blatant manner against the American public, and that far too often media outlets were either dupes or willing participants. It might be asking a lot to request a local newspaper or television station be aware of faulty information in wire service reports, but they will do the public a great service if they pay greater attention to possible errors and propaganda. And really, when it comes to the run-up to the Iraq invasion, anyone who was paying attention at all had to have serious questions about the veracity of administration claims.

If you missed "Buying the War," you can view it on-line at PBS.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Senator Cantwell: Alberto Gonzales Must Go

Senator Maria Cantwell, who in 2005 voted against the confirmation of Alberto "I Can't Recall" Gonazales, is sick of the stonewalling and the nonsense.
"I am convinced that Gonzales has not carried out his duties as attorney general with a blind eye and a balanced hand," Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, said in a statement. "He has served as the president's lawyer, not our nation's. Because of this, Alberto Gonzales must resign, and the president must accept his resignation immediately."
Gonzales is so weak that even a few Republicans are calling for his ouster (and, of course, taking an opportunity to distance themselves from the unpopular Bush administration). Gonzales is being hit daily with an unrelenting torrent of political flak and has become a huge liability for the White House.

Senator Cantwell has been suspicious of Gonazales since even before Dubya nominated him to succeed John "Sing Along" Ashcroft as Attorney General.
"I raised concerns about Gonzales when he was first nominated to this position, and nothing I have seen since then has convinced me that my fears were unjustified," she said.

"From supporting warrantless wiretapping, making decisions about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, or firing U.S. attorneys, time and again Gonzales has shown he is more committed to the pursuit of a political agenda than the rule of law."

Cantwell added: "In reviewing both Gonzales' record as our attorney general and in reviewing his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have found evidence that he has routinely served political and ideological objectives, rather than the best interests of the nation."
Unfortunately, that's typical of Bush cronies - their allegiance is to party (GOP) and boss (Bush, Cheney, & Rove) over country. In fact, it's the kind of behavior that's expected of them. Loyalty is prized first and foremost.

And sometimes, loyalty means falling on your sword.

When illegal, unprofessional, or unethical actions are exposed, Bush cronies are supposed to take one for the team. The sharing of information with Congress and the American people is discouraged. This leads to embarrassing media spectacles, (remember "I can't comment on an ongoing investigation"?), public outrage, and sometimes resignations (i.e. Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld).

Gonzales is already a huge problem for Bush. He's toast. The only question that remains about his departure is when - not if.

House says start bringing the troops home

The people are tired of the failed occupation of Iraq and the people's House is acting on their behalf:
A sharply divided House brushed aside a veto threat Wednesday and passed legislation that would order President Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq by Oct. 1.

The 218-208 vote came as the top U.S. commander in Iraq told lawmakers the country remained gripped by violence but was showing some signs of improvement.

Passage puts the bill on track to clear Congress by week's end and arrive on the president's desk in coming days as the first binding congressional challenge to Bush's handling of the conflict now in its fifth year.

"Our troops are mired in a civil war with no clear enemy and no clear strategy for success," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

Republicans promised to stand squarely behind the president in rejecting what they called a "surrender date" handed to the enemy.
As the saying goes, elections have consequences. The GOP mouthpieces can keep repeating the same old thing, but it's not 2003 any more.

This is a Republican failure, and unless the powers in that party recognize that failure, they will continue to lose credibility and power.

Memo to Ken Schram: Please stop buying into myths about vehicle fees

For someone who says he's "no fan of Tim Eyman", Ken Schram has apparently been reading too many of the initiative salesman’s emails.

In a column about what he called "life'’s oddities" (which ran in the Reporter Newspapers last Saturday), Ken complained about the Legislature's move to allow cities and counties to levy a $20 a year vehicle fee to pay for road projects.

He wrote: "Not once; not twice, but three times voters have said they wanted $30 tabs." That's not true.

Ken is entitled to his own opinion; he isn’t entitled to his own facts.

Tim Eyman has only qualified two statewide initiatives to slash car tabs: I-695 in 1999, and I-776 in 2002. While each passed statewide (with many citizens unaware of the consequences) both failed in King County, among other jurisdictions.

A third Eyman initiative aimed at repealing fees, Initiative 917, did not qualify for the ballot last year despite support from multimillionaire Michael Dunmire.

The Tri-City Herald emphasized an important point in a recent editorial - that vehicle fees have never actually been $30 because of small service and filing expenses which add $3.75 to the total cost of renewing a car or truck's registration. The weight assessment added as part of the 2005 Transportation Package has added between $10 and $20.

And recent data indicates that the electorate doesn't mind paying reasonable vehicle fees. A poll of 800 registered voters, conducted this month, suggests that voters up and down the Sound are willing to increase the car license tab as part of a $16.5 billion Roads & Transit package. Over 60% of the respondents said they would support such an increase.

These facts undermine the whole premise of Ken's rant about the new law. What's wrong with allowing municipalities to use car tabs as a way to pay for infrastructure improvements? Nothing.

Public services cost money. Besides transportation, our taxes also fund police and fire protection, schools and libraries for learning, and parks and pools for recreation. We can’t have these things if we refuse to pay for them.

As for the Legislature and officials at the municipal level who may soon have the power to increase vehicle fees - if we don't like the decisions our elected leaders make, we can vote them out. That's what representative democracy is all about.

Here comes the Congressional oversight

The Bush administration can run, but it can't hide:
In rapid succession, congressional committees today ramped up their investigations of the Bush administration by approving a subpoena for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and granting immunity to a former key aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

[...]

The House oversight committee also issued subpoenas for the Republican National Committee for testimony and documents about White House e-mails on RNC accounts that have apparently gone missing, in violation of the law.
Were the previous Republican rubber stamp Congress still in power, we wouldn't be seeing any of this. Now that Democrats have control of both chambers, there can be accountability and a check on executive power.

As for Gonzales, he's been politely told to refresh his memory by next week by Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter:
We believe the Committee and our investigation would benefit from you searching and refreshing your recollection and your supplementing your testimony by next Friday to provide the answers to the questions you could not recall last Thursday.
Read the whole letter here. All we have to add is: it's about time.

This just in

Michelle Malkin is insane.

But you knew that.

"Buying the War" tonight on PBS

Bill Moyers examines the run-up to war and the media's role in "Buying the War," tonight at 9 pm on PBS. You can easily double check air times in your area or look for repeats of the program if you wish.

FDA finally crawls into action

As Goldy notes in his own inimitable way, the FDA has crawled into action concering possible contamination of human food with the chemical melamine. From Sun-Sentinel.com:
The government will begin a sweeping search of the country's food supply for the industrial chemical linked to the pet food scare, federal health officials announced yesterday.

By the end of the week, inspectors will start testing for melamine in corn meal, rice bran and other protein products commonly used in bread, cereal and pasta eaten by humans.

The expanded investigation comes as testing found the chemical in animals close to the human food supply - hogs at farms in California, North Carolina and South Carolina. Chickens in Missouri might have eaten it too.

Food and Drug Administration officials emphasized that there is no evidence so far that melamine has entered the human food chain, but they said they were ramping up monitoring as a precaution.
This has been a dismal performance by the FDA. Frankly, I don't understand why we would even be allowing food imports from China to continue at this point. Other countries immediately banned US beef during the BSE scare a few years ago, and that certainly didn't involve the possible intentional contamination of food.

Well, I probably do understand why we won't stop Chinese food imports. They have us over a financial barrel, that's why.

Heckuva job, Georgie.

Giuliani insults everyone's intelligence

So Rudy Giuliani made some asinine comments in which he trots out the old Bushie canard about how if Americans don't vote for Republicans, terrible things will happen. (Don't forget, Giuliani is a "moderate.")

Let's follow the logic the Bushie GOP uses. Something bad happened when a Republican was in the White House, and it was Bill Clinton's fault. Bad things are still happening and there is still a Republican in the White House, and it's Harry Reid's fault. And if Barak Obama or John Edwards are in the White House and something bad happens, Giuliani would have stopped it, even though the event is in the future and may or may not happen.

Seriously, our country can't afford much more of this kind of intellectual dishonesty. The Bushies have darn near wrecked the Army, they certainly made a hash out of Iraq, which cost us the fruits of a brilliant initial effort in Afghanistan, our allies are suspicious of us, corporate contractors have robbed us blind, yet Democrats are the threat to national security?

Okay then.

Maybe Giuliani secretly would prefer to return to the motivational speaking circuit, where he can hang out with his pal Zig Ziglar and fire up the middle management suck-ups forced to attend these life changing seminars.

This is a serious time in our history. Someone who would trot out these ridiculous attempted smears is unfit to serve in the White House. Giuliani is not interested in a stronger, united America, but has instead decided to use the Bushie tactics of division and insult. So who is actually rewarding the terrorists, Rudy?

It shows just how badly off the GOP is when one of their leading contenders has to start Swift Boating a year and a half before the election. Pathetic.

New information in Vancouver arson

Some readers may recall an arson fire last December in east Vancouver that involved the spray-painting of racial epithets. The public never did find out all that much about it, and it never was clear if it was an actual hate crime or if someone might have been attempting to conceal the real motive.

The public still doesn't know an awful lot, but since federal agents have arrested the brother of the restaurant owner it seems likely that something other than a random hate attack happened.
Federal agents took Ibrahim Jouzin, 30, into custody in Portland on Tuesday on a count of arson and for aiding and abetting arson, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle announced. He’s scheduled to appear in federal court in Portland Wednesday afternoon.

Jouzin, an Israeli, is the brother of Jimi Jouzine, whose restaurant, the Galilee Cafe in Fisher’s Landing, was destroyed by fire in the early hours of Dec. 5. After sprinklers doused the blaze, firefighters found the letters “KKK” painted throughout the kitchen and two murals in the dining room also defaced, one saying “Die Arab scum” and the other “Go to hell.” Two men were arrested nearby shortly after the fire broke out.
The article goes on to say that relationship between the brother and the two men arrested immediately after the fire broke out is not clear from court records.

It's been a strange case from the beginning.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Burner one of top three DFA All Stars

(Moved up - Andrew)

Darcy Burner is one of the top three Democracy for America All Stars and thus remains in the running to receive the first DFA endorsement this cycle.
This month, Democracy for America is hosting an online vote to determine which Congressional candidate will receive the first endorsement of the 2008 cycle. These candidates ran in 2006 and lost in close races. They're now determined to win a rematch, so we need to support these candidates early to build towards an even larger Democratic majority in 2008.
Please head on over and support Darcy. She's currently in the lead - and with your help, we can keep her there!

Performance artist Daisey speaks to vandal

Brendan Kiley at Slog catches another post from performance artist Mike Daisey, whose work was vandalized by people claiming to be a Christian group. Turns out they were actually from a public high school in Norco, CA., according to Daisey.

He called them and wound up talking to the guy who poured water all over his notes, and it' well worth reading, but near the end a passage Daisey writes is very moving:
And then I forgive him. He is very quiet--he is obviously shocked. And I tell him, "I want you to remember that a liberal athiest has forgiven you today. I don't want you to ever forget that, as long as you live, do not forget what happened here. I don't have God behind me, but I speak for myself, and I forgive you for myself, and for you. Never forget this."
It may seem a small episode during this difficult time in our history, but by trying to speak to the people who felt they could simply destroy his work, Daisey took a stand, and he handled the episode with aplomb and curiosity. Good for him.

Always spying on you

Via Huffington Post comes a Business Week article which suggests Wal-Mart is creating its own intelligence apparatus:
Wal-Mart posted ads in March on its own web site and sites for security professionals, including the bulletin of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, for "global threat analysts" with a background in government or military intelligence work.

The jobs were listed with the Analytical Research Center, part of Wal-Mart's Global Security division, which is headed by former senior CIA and FBI senior officer Kenneth Senser. The analytical unit was created over the past year and half, according to published comments by its head, Army Special Operations veteran David Harrison.
And get a load of this:
Harrison told a meeting of security professionals last year that Wal-Mart was learning to defend itself by using the vast information it routinely collects about its employees, shoppers and suppliers.

The only public comment to date on the work of the Analystical Research Center, the speech was reported on by the trade magazine Government Security News. Wal-Mart did not dispute the report when contacted by The Associated Press this week.
How delightful, a modern-day group of Pinkertons working for Wal-Mart. So be sure to save a few bucks and turn your personal information over to Wal-Mart, you'll be glad to know those cheap prices will be used to fund a private CIA, as a representative of Wake Up Wal-Mart described the effort.

Gloomy Gus of the 17th LD GOP

The Columbian has an article about the Legislative session in which the reporter must have asked each member of the Clark County delegation to list their top successes and disappointment. For example, here is what Democratic Sen. Craig Pridemore (D-49th District--Vancouver:)
Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver

Successes: Sponsored a successful climate change bill that sets limits on carbon emissions from power plants. Led preparation of the Senate's 2007-09 state operating budget and negotiations over the $33.4 billion conference committee budget that passed both chambers Sunday.

Disappointment: The willingness of the House to collaborate with Senate on key policy bills, which Pridemore called "abysmal ."
While the House-Senate relationship is going to be a hot topic in the interim, there's something else in the article worth noting.

Here's what was published for Rep. Jim Dunn, R-17th District (eastern Vancouver and Clark County:)
Rep. Jim Dunn, R-Vancouver

Successes: None listed.

Disappointments: Growth of the state budget over the past 10 years.
Oy. The guy can't even come up with something positive on his own behalf. The people wanted, and got, basic things like education and criminal justice funded to a better degree. Why does Dunn even bother to go to Oympia each session?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Halberstam killed in auto accident

This is truly awful news.
David Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who chronicled the Washington press corps, the Vietnam War generation and baseball, was killed in a car crash early Monday, a coroner said. He was 73.

Halberstam, a New Yorker, was a passenger in a car that was broadsided by another vehicle near in Menlo Park, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said.
Halberstam was a giant of American journalism and American history. From The Best and the Brightest to The Fifties, to name just a couple of his outstanding works, Halberstam helped us understand our world and our country.

His wisdom, insight and humor will be terribly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and many, many friends and admirers.

Politicians and generals

As the Peninsula Campaign enters its 145th year, President George W. Bush said he doesn't intend to encourage the direct descendant of Gen. George McClellan, who is still in charge of the Army of the Potomac, to make a change in policy, saying politicians in Washington shouldn't tell generals what to do.

Confederate forces abondoned the fight in 1907 and the area is now largely home to Cracker Barrel restaurants and filling stations, but Bush told reporters today that the campaign is improving conditions. Gasoline prices in that part of Virginia are below the national average, and pecan logs are in plentiful supply.

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman says Bush could have another six months to show progress, at which point, "The American people will demand to know why we've been funding an Army in Southeast Virginia for nearly 150 years."

The Associated Press reports that presidential candidate John Edwards got another haircut, this time at FastCuts, but he left a big tip and his house is really, really big.

Blogworthy, April 23, 2007 (Legislative round-up edition)

As Andrew notes below, the Legislature has adjourned, so here are links to some articles from various outlets about the session and the issues addressed.

No gun control, no way, no how. Apparently even a modest measure like closing the gun-show loophole will not happen in the foreseeable future in Washington state.

A line-item veto by any other name. The AP reports (via The Olympian) that Gov. Chris Gregoire may sign all or only part of the bill that delays WASL requirements until 2013.

The Evergreen state leads the way. A harmful fire retardant may be banned in other states, thanks in part to Washington's action to ban it. (From the AP via The Seattle Times.)

When I'm 64. Brad Shannon at The Olympian sums up the domestic partnerships legislation and its likely impact. Interestingly, unmarried seniors over the age of 62 can also now enjoy such things as helping partners with end-of-life issues.

That's what I want. The Columbian lists the projects in Clark County that will be funded by the budget, including over $27 million for Clark College construction and over $24 million for WSU-Vancouver construction. So while Clark County Republican legislators complain about the budget, the young people of Clark County can look forward to the economic security that an education can provide.

It's simple, really. Austin Jenkins at Crosscut predicts the next test for Democrats is getting voters to pass the simple majority for school funding measures. (It's at the end of his fine round-up article.) The constitutional amendment will be on the ballot this fall.

Our House. In case you missed it, you might want to check out David Postman's Saturday post concering frustrations Senate Democrats have with Democrats in the House.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Legislature adjourns; 2007 session now over

Lawmakers are now heading home after four months working in the statehouse:
Washington lawmakers adjourned their "Families First" session Sunday night after producing an ambitious $33.4 billion state budget that dips into the state's surplus to spend heavily on education, health care and the environment.

Gavels fell at 9:41 p.m. to end the 105-day session.

Democrats, who have the governor's mansion and lopsided majorities in both houses after last fall's landslide election, touted their achievements as bold and progressive.

"This legislative session was marked by strategic and responsible changes that Washington families can count on," Gov. Chris Gregoire said. "Washingtonians asked us to set a new agenda by investing in and reforming education, addressing our health-care crisis and helping to create family-wage jobs. We are delivering."
There were a number of disappointments, most notably the Homeowners' Bill of Rights, a proposal to protect Maury Island, and a bill recognizing the First Amendment rights of student journalists - as well as legislation to reform the initiative process and shine sunlight on tax exemptions.

We're also unhappy that teachers and school employees were robbed of nearly $100 million in promised retirement benefits and cost of living adjustments. The Legislature should keep the promises it makes.

Despite those letdowns, the session was a resounding success. Democrats led the way in moving Washington forward through a series of landmark accomplishments. NPI congratulates lawmakers on passing a budget that largely reflects Washington's values and responds to the needs of the Evergreen State.

There's a lot to be proud of and a lot to celebrate.

John L O'Brien, Rest in Peace

Perhaps the most famous legislator in Washington state history (who the the House office building is named for) has died, his family announced this morning in a telephone call to the clerk of the state House of Representatives.

Today is the final day of the 2007 legislative session.

Members of the House, both Democrats and Republicans, are currently honoring O'Brien through a series of points of personal privilege, sharing stories and memories. Among those who spoke were Representatives Sharon Santos, Helen Sommers, and Jay Rodne.

The Governor released this statement:
Governor Chris Gregoire today said she was saddened to learn of the death of former House Speaker John L. O'Brien.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to Speaker O’Brien’s family. Speaker O’Brien skillfully led the House of Representatives through challenging times and was respected by those who served with him. His service in the legislature spanned seven decades making him the longest serving member in Washington history. He is an Olympia icon and his dedication serves as an inspiration to me and to all Washingtonians."
O'Brien served for at over half a century, under nine different governors, before leaving the Legislature. He was Speaker, Speaker Pro Tem, Majority Leader, and Minority Leader. He was also widely respected and revered as a parliamentarian.

O'Brien was 95. He is survived by his wife and children.

Performance artist Daisey disrupted by alleged Christians

Monologist Mike Daisey has posted video and a written post detailing how members of a "Christian group," as he describes them, disrupted his one-man show in Boston last week and poured water on written notes he uses in the performance. (Note--Daisey does use the "f" work, so if that offends you or your boss, don't watch the video.)

You really have to see it to believe it. Daisey is obviously stunned beyond belief, but manages to challenge the cowards to stay and talk about why they did it. Naturally they didn't.

Seattle fans may recall this Seattlest interview with Daisey prior to a scheduled February, 2007 performance.

Props to The News Blog, which offered this question:
However, I can't help but wonder what the result would be if 80 performance artists all attended a Church service, and got up in the middle of Mass and destroyed the alter as a sort of performance art.
I'll tell you what would happen: it would be live on all the cable networks for a week.

I've searched in vain using Goggle news for anyone claiming responsibility for this act. These people just exhibited some serious "warning signs," and authorities would be foolish to "ignore them." 'Cause I don't know any sane people who would think it's right to go to the theater and throw water on someone's work, not say anything and then walk out. That is severely anti-social behavior.

Perhaps the most chilling aspect is this comparison Daisey makes:
I sat behind the table, looking up in his face with shock. My job onstage is to be as open as possible, to weave the show without a script as it comes, and this leaves me very emotionally available--and vulnerable, if an audience chooses to abuse that trust. I doubt I will ever forget the look in his face as he defaced the only original of the handwritten show outline--it was a look of hatred, and disgust, and utter and consuming pride.

It is a face I have seen in Riefenstahl's work, and in my dreams, but never on another human face, never an arm's length from me--never directed at me, hating me, hating my words and the story that I've chosen to tell. That face is not Christian, by any definition Christ would be proud to call his own--its naked righteousness and contempt have nothing to do with the godhead, and everything to do with pathetic human pride at its very worst.
Sad. This the face of theocracy.

Sine or die?

The Seattle Times presents a round-up of major legislative action this session, including this somewhat amusing snippet:
With Democrats holding a 62-36 advantage in the House and a 32-17 edge in the Senate — the largest majorities in decades — there was little the Republicans could do other than make noise.

"Just sit and watch it go by," said House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis.
Poor baby, I feel so bad for him. It's been about 15 months since the GOP's Speaker's Roundtable sent out those infamous fake sex offender postcards attacking Democrats. How'd that work out for you, Richard?

With the admission that it's very difficult to include everything one wishes in stories, it's a little odd that the Homeowner's BIll of Rights being blocked by House leadership wasn't mentioned in The Times piece. It certainly generated a lot of ink and pixels at the time; for example see Slog's first post about it.

David Postman, also of The Seattle Times, has been blogging from Olympia this weekend. In this post yesterday evening about attempts to hammer out an agreement on funding the family leave bill, it appears that last minute frustrations might be running a little high.
(Sen. Darlene) Fairley and Senate Caucus Chairwoman Harriet Spanel said Chopp is overly concerned about Democrats doing something that could cost a member re-election. They wondered what would happen if all 98 House seats were filled with Democrats.

"Would that be enough for him to not be afraid of losing a member," Fairley said. "We've constantly been drug hither and yon by Frank Chopp."
It seems safe to say that discussion about Chopp's leadership will continue in the off season. How much of this is session-generated tension and how much is legitimate criticism is hard to know from afar.

Postman had an interesting post last week about Chopp and his critics, which led to a very civil response posted by Josh Feit at Slog. Worth checking out if you didn't catch them last week.

At the end of the day folks will most likely come to the conclusion that since Democrats delivered on so many needed things, especially education, overall things are in pretty good shape.

In a way, the tensions between Democrats in the Legislature broadly mirror those in the national party. We're not very far removed in time from the days of DLC dominance, and that tired thinking still tends to surface and is expressed in phrases like "centrist" and "moderate." The conventional thinking is that if we "overreach" then the GOP will attack us and voters will punish us. And as late as 2004 that might have been true.

Things have changed now. Tri-angulation is dead. On the national stage, Jim Webb and Jon Tester, newly elected US Senators from Virginia and Montana, respectively, have shown that trying to pigeonhole progressives doesn't work. The old right-left model, with a center defined by a point between extremes, is no longer relevant. What matters is values.

The GOP has failed because its actions didn't match what it claimed were its core values. It claimed to be the party of individual rights, but it moved towards a police state. It claimed to be about fiscal responsbility and it spent like a drunken trust fund baby on a reality show. It claimed to be the party of small business and it relentlessly advanced the interests of the supr-rich and large corporations at the expense of our health, our environment and the economic future of most Americans.

Honest people can have honest disagreements about the details of policy. But when one is making those policy decisions, the goal must always be to place the interests of ordinary citizens first and stand up for what you believe in. Easier said than done, of course, but when you're looking at a piece of legislation that seeks to protect consumers and you're getting inundated with heat generated by the corporate lobby, that could be a clue. As the old song goes, the first thing we did right was the moment we started to fight.

We should also keep in mind that progressives are pragmatic, which to be fair to Chopp is something he clearly values. So these family discussions, so to speak, should be considered in the context in which they occur: they are discussions about the future of our party, much like a family would have. The difference these days is that more people can join the discussion, and that's a good thing, even if the rhetoric gets a little heated at times. Chopp may need to work on that hanging curve, but I wouldn't trade him.

MORE--- Brad Shannon at The Olympian mentions the Homeowner's Bill of Rights near the end of a round-up type article dated yesterday:
In a bid to steer a more centrist path this time, Democrats abandoned their most controversial measures. Those included a homeowners bill of rights that builders opposed, as well as new restrictions proposed by Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, for gun-show weapons sales.

“I think, public policy-wise, we pursued a very moderate course,” Williams said.

The third-year lawmaker credited Speaker Frank Chopp of Seattle with steering Democrats away from controversy, even though it led to the killing of the homeowner warranty bill, which Williams championed. He said that as the Democratic caucus has grown to a 62-36 majority, it has come to represent more diverse interests that have to be balanced.
To be clear, I'm not trying to pick on any reporters in this case, because there is always the challenge of writing stories in a clear, concise manner, but it's worth adding that the bill was only controversial because an entrenched business lobby, the BIAW, said so. Ordinary homeowners were basically without a voice on the matter. And arguing that citizens not represented by entrenched lobbies should somehow out-lobby the professional lobbyists would be absurd.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Gregoire Signs Domestic Partnership Bill

Finally, after years of battling with self-righteous, impotent conservatives (I'm talking about you, Tim Eyman), Governor Christine Gregoire has signed the Domestic Partnership measure into law. As reported in the Seattle Times:
The new law creates a domestic partnership registry with the state, and will provide enhanced rights for same-sex couples, including hospital visitation rights, the ability to authorize autopsies and organ donations and inheritance rights when there is no will.

"Today is a beginning, not an end," said Sen. Ed Murray, a Seattle Democrat who sponsored the measure and who is one of five openly gay lawmakers in the state Legislature. "It offers the hope that one day, all lesbian and gay families will be treated truly equal under the law."
Although the news of this measure becoming law is a great story, the best part of the article is the following reaction by conservatives:
Opponents said domestic partnerships are "a step toward gay marriage."

"It sets things in motion," said Cheryl Haskins, executive director of Allies for Marriage & Children.
As if equality under the law were a bad thing! It's a shame that there's a pro-discrimination lobby still in existence.

No end to right wing corruption in sight

I'm tired of writing about this. There is nothing else that needs to be said:
Representative Rick Renzi of Arizona stepped down suddenly Friday from the House Intelligence Committee, saying he was doing so because he was under federal investigation dealing with a series of financial transactions.

Mr. Renzi is the second Republican congressman in the last two days to relinquish an important committee post because of a federal inquiry, a development suggesting a quickening pace of some federal corruption investigations of members of Congress.

Representative John T. Doolittle of California gave up his seat Thursday on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Mr. Doolittle has been linked in three inquiries to accusations that committee members accepted bribes or campaign contributions in exchange for earmarking federal money to certain projects.
Progressives are not under the impression that all Republicans are corrupt - but enough is enough. It's the phenomenon from the Stanford Prison Study in a different form - a whole class of power hungry, greedy Republican politicians who have betrayed their constituents and their own values.

There seems to be no end in sight.

Why we need reasonable regulation from FDA

With the fumbling by the FDA on the pet food recall and attendant concerns about human food growing, let's pause to consider what the GOP's attempts to damage the government have wrought.

Conservatives tend to view government agencies with suspicion, and sometimes there is good reason. Governments must be constantly watched by a vigilant press and public, a lesson driven painfully home in the US since 2001 and the installation of the Bush administration.

But sometimes it's worth taking a look back. There are historical reasons why the FDA is supposed to protect us. Just as every traffic signal is a de facto marker of where accidents have occured, so too are the agencies and laws that are supposed to protect the public. That's not to say that agencies and programs should remain frozen in time (I'm talking to you, farm subsidies,) but ferocious advocates of utterly unfettered markets do the public a disservice when they ignore history.

The 1937 poisoining of hundreds of patients who were given an elixir of sulfa that contained a poison is a case in point.
Use spread rapidly. Output of sulfa drugs in the United States in 1937—the first year of real commercial production—totaled about 350,000 pounds; by 1940, it had more than doubled. By 1942, it topped an estimated 10 million pounds.

But widespread demand brought tragedy. Deciding that many people would prefer a liquid form of the drug rather than the usual pill or injection, in 1937, S. E. Massengill Co., a small drug formulator in Bristol, TN, mixed up an “Elixir of Sulfanilamide”. For unclear reasons, the solvent used was diethylene glycol. Massengill made no tests on its elixir before shipping it from its plant. Diethylene glycol is very toxic. First news of deaths was from Tulsa, OK; reports quickly followed from throughout the South and Midwest. In all, 108 people died, largely from kidney and liver failure. One final death, by suicide, was the ill-informed chemist who had formulated the elixir.

Under the U.S. food and drug law then in place, the government seized Massengill’s deadly mixture only because it was misbranded; “elixir” implied that the solvent in the bottle was ethyl alcohol. Drug dispensers were required by law to label their products accurately but not to test them for safety. The company was fined $16,800 for its false label.

The lethal concoction did encourage, however, enactment of a much-strengthened food and drug law that was then pending in Congress. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938, which overhauled the law of 1906, stipulated that manufacturers must test any new drug for safety and report the results to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Another infamous case, from the 1920's, involved Dr. Brinkley and the goat testicle implants, which I blogged about in December. There you had someone using a radio station that could reach the entire country to promote quack virility operations.

It's true that government regulation can become excessive. However much air travel is a pain today, there's no question that it is much more affordable than it was before de-regulation in the 1970's. But most travellers would probably not want the government to discard safety standards in hopes the free market will magically take care of things.

The same holds true with other things we take for granted, like food and medicine. The doctrine of caveat emptor is not a reasonable one in such cases. Ordinary citizens can hardly be expected to know if their food is contaminated, or if the FDA approved a drug despite serious questions about its safety.

We have a perfect example of what a completely unregulated free market looks like: the illegal drug trade. You don't need a doctorate in economics to understand that in competition, somone will always cheat if the economic benefit is great enough. Even honest businesses can face pressure to cut corners if their competitors are doing so. And as the pet food recalls show, in an international market there is in fact more need for regulation to protect consumers.

Someone has to be the referee, and in a democratic society that someone is the people, acting through the government they elect. By bringing an extreme ideology to bear against the people, the Bush administration has now rendered the population subject to potential food and medical related catastrophes that are entirely preventable. Heckuva job, Georgie.

It's not just Republican corruption that is the problem. The cozy relationships industries have with lawmakers is a huge problem, and can cross the aisle as well. But the broad difference between Democrats and Republicans is that the GOP wants the government to be broken, ala Grover Norquist and his infamous "drown it in the bathtub" comment. It's what they stand for, and as we will see for the next decade or so as we try to repair the damage, it's what they do.

So the next time you hear a conservative railing against government regulation, ask yourself what would happen if that regulation went away. And enjoy your meal.

MORE-- With props to Daily Kos diarist SusanHu, we now see that a criminal probe has been opened to look into the food scare:
The Food and Drug Administration has opened a criminal investigation in the widening pet food contamination scandal, officials said yesterday, as it was confirmed that tainted pork might have made its way onto human dinner plates in California.

More than 100 hogs that ate contaminated food at a custom slaughterhouse in California's Central Valley were sold to private individuals and to an unnamed licensed facility in Northern California during the past 2 1/2 weeks. The hogs consumed feed that contained rice protein tainted with melamine, the industrial chemical that has sickened and killed dogs and cats around the world.
While it appears that particular instance of contaminated pig feed may not impact a huge geographical area, it is certainly a concerning development.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Limbaugh claims shooter was "liberal"

Ah, the Limbaugh, utterly without class. From Media Matters:
On the April 19 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, host Rush Limbaugh declared that the perpetrator of the April 16 Virginia Tech shootings "had to be a liberal," adding: "You start railing against the rich, and all this other -- this guy's a liberal. He was turned into a liberal somewhere along the line. So it's a liberal that committed this act." Limbaugh then complained, in a possible reference to Media Matters for America, that "Now the drive-bys will read on a website that I'm attacking liberalism by comparing this guy to them. That's exactly what they do every day, ladies and gentlemen. I'm just pointing out a fact. I am making no extrapolation." Limbaugh regularly describes mainstream media sources as "the drive-by media."
The fact that Limbaugh knows blogs and others will point out his excesses kind of proves he knows that he is wrong. He's not an idiot; he knows what he is doing, which makes it all the more heinous. And most distubringly, radio station program managers must know by now what Limbaugh says, and they put it on the air anyway because they can make money doing it. These individuals are personally complicit in spreading hate in return for a dollar.

(Yes, let's hear all those defenses, station managers and corporate bean counters -- it's our job, you don't understand radio, it's what people are thinking, blah blah blah. No, station managers and corporate bean counters, these are the public airwaves and you are personally complicit in polluting them with filth. You are not acting in the public interest, and since you obviously can't restore your own house it is likely that someday the Congress will have to do it for you. And spare me the "First Amendment" defense, you don't have a First Amendment right to use public property to make money.)

It's an absurd thing to ascribe a political point of view to a senseless act of violence committed by someone who was obviously deranged. One could just as easily claim Cho was a conservative because he had a problem with women, and that wouldn't make any more sense than what Limbaugh said.

There's a huge outcry right now against NBC for distributing Cho's multi-media diatribe. And NBC certainly deserves some criticism for at least appearing to hold an exclusive story that was the direct result of mass murder. They could have turned the material over to the FBI and waited until the FBI released the material to all media, but there you had Brian Williams one night promoting the material for the next morning on the "Today" program. No wonder people are "mad as hell and not going to take it any more."

That being said, without a further examination of how the media operates in this country, we will get nowhere. Sure, it's a competitive business, but the competition resulted long ago in a race to the bottom. While NBC did the right thing in taking Don Imus off its air, it only took a decade.

Are we at a moment of great change in the US corporate media, at long last? Perhaps, but ordinary citizens need to express their disgust to elected officials and keep the pressure on. We can't have a real democracy with a broken media.

McKay offers comments on Gonzales testimony

John Mckay, the fired US attorney for Western Washington, hasn't said much about the firings for a few weeks. Which is understandable, in that he had his say before Congress and in the press. No need to go stampeding the microphones.

He did offer a few comments in reaction to the testimony of Alberto Gonzales yesterday. From the P-I:
McKay watched Thursday's televised hearing with dismay.

"I think it's a sad day for the Department of Justice," said McKay, who previously represented the Western District of Washington. "The attorney general missed an opportunity to testify with honor."

Asked to elaborate, McKay declined, saying, "The senators savaged him enough. I certainly don't want to talk about his absurd allegations. He's obviously so disconnected he has no idea what my performance was like and what my judgment was like, and I'll just leave it at that."
As David Postman noted earlier this week, McKay is scheduled to be a featured speaker next month before the Mainstream Republicans of Washington, much to the consternation of some conservative Republicans.

What about bid rigging allegation at Port of Vancouver?

Amidst questions about a possible sweetheart deal for a retired Port of Seattle executive, the P-I reports that a wider discussion is brewing:
The most recent flap at the Port of Seattle spread from the waterfront through local political organizations and into Olympia, where lawmakers and port representatives on Thursday discussed options for making port governments more accountable.

The discussion follows a scandal this week over a memo signed by Port of Seattle Commissioner Pat Davis to extend retired port chief Mic Dinsmore's $339,841 salary by up to one year past his retirement date in March.

---snip---

State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz, emphasizing that he was speaking as a political observer and not as party leader, said the Dinsmore salary flap "could be a watershed in port politics, where the commissioners are realizing they've just got to pay more attention to how the public perceives the port.

"And it was very refreshing to see (Tay) Yoshitani immediately say, 'No, we're not going to do this,' " Pelz added, referring to the new port chief executive's blocking of Dinsmore's attempt to be paid the post-retirement salary extension. "There could be a new dawn at the port, and that's good."
The Port of Seattle story reminds me of a late March report involving allegations of bid-rigging at the Port of Vancouver. From the March 30, 2007 Columbian:
A former Port of Vancouver employee filed a lawsuit Thursday in Clark County Superior Court that alleges she was fired after raising concerns about possible bid rigging on port contracts.

Rebecca Eisiminger was terminated as a contracts officer Jan. 10 for a negative attitude and unprofessional communication style despite receiving exceptional performance reviews, the lawsuit said. Eisiminger's departure from the port came three months after she alerted officials to possible violations of state regulations that included her supervisor manipulating payments to avoid port commissioner oversight, allowing a real estate consultant to participate in port bid-related decisions that involved potential clients, letting a railroad employee possibly influence contract decisions, and being pressured to accept a proposal after the deadline passed.
The Port of Vancouver has vigorously denied those claims and says it intends to defend itself fully in court.

I don't claim to know anything at all about the internal workings of port districts. It is fair to say that they tend to fly far below the radar, and many citizens tend to be surprised that they even live in a port district, as was the case when the Port of Vancouver raised taxes this year to purchase land. That led to something of a public outcry and a promised referendum drive by some political novices.

So while it's not clear what reforms might be needed, and port officials deserve the same presumption of innocence that anyone else would receive, it's good that attention is being brought to these special districts. State lawmakers may need to review all port districts, to the extent feasible, over the rest of 2007.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Maury Island debate isn't over yet

Legislation to stop mining expansion on Maury Island couldn't make it out of the House earlier last week, but the debate is far from over:
A bill that prohibited expansion of a Maury Island sand and gravel mine passed in the Senate but died in the House. Senate leaders resurrected it in the form of a budget amendment, but House leaders have rejected that move and the entire budget process has ground to a halt.

Sen. Erik Poulsen, D-West Seattle, said it defies logic to begin the restoration plan and create the Puget Sound Partnership -- the agency that will lead it -- while allowing a gravel mining company to expand its operations in an area home to eelgrass, salmon and seabirds. He is behind the push to revive legislation that would prohibit the expansion.
Some House Democrats are upset that the Senate has made the Maury Island provision a sticking point. Said Majority Lynn Kessler: "It's just a terrible precedent to set, putting failed bills into our budget document."

The bill did pass the state Senate, so it's not exactly a failure. It didn't make it out of the House, but then again, it never came to a vote. The Puget Sound Partnership effort to clean up our inland waters is valuable legislation, but to pass it while leaving Maury Island unprotected doesn't make much sense. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer opined a few weeks ago:
The odds of anyone looking back 100 years from now and saying, "It's a crying shame we never expanded that sand and gravel mine," are slim.

We can't say the same thing for further harming more of our region's natural beauty and the vital habitat it affords our plants and wildlife.
House Democratic leaders should do what they can to build support for the Maury Island provision in the caucus. We've got a Democratic supermajority. Acting to protect valuable ecosystems shouldn't be difficult.

Shortsighted, abstinence-only approach to sex education just isn't working

The brilliance of conservatives was recently highlighted by a new report which demonstrates that the right wing approach to sex education hasn't succeeded:
It's been a central plank of George Bush's social policy: to stop teenagers having sex. More than $1bn of federal money has been spent on promoting abstinence since 1998 - posters printed, television adverts broadcast and entire education programmes devised for hundreds of thousands of girls and boys.

The trouble is, new research suggests that it hasn't worked. At all.

A survey of more than 2,000 teenagers carried out by a research company on behalf of Congress found that the half of the sample given abstinence-only education displayed exactly the same predilection for sex as those who had received conventional sex education in which contraception was discussed.
The Bush policy has been to ignore a comprehensive approach to sex education in favor of preaching abstinence only.

The administration discourages discussion about contraception, condoms, or best practices for safe sex through its failed policy.

So, while students have continued to have sex despite their "education", they have not been provided with methods to do it safely. And the lack of information means more teen pregnancies and more sexually transmitted infections.

Legislation has been proposed in Congress to address this failed policy. The Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act would fund medically accurate, age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education for America's youth. More information about the bill is available from the Advocates for Youth.

More problems with Chinese food additives

It's been a busy week, but we'd be remiss if we didn't point readers to Goldy's work on Chinese protein additives. Frightening stuff.
What we have here is a pattern, and there is absolutely no reason to assume that it is limited to the pet food and animal feed markets. Wheat gluten, corn gluten and rice protein concentrate are all used to supplement the protein content of both animal and human food, and all three have now been found to be contaminated with melamine. Three different Chinese manufactures have now apparently been implicated.
We live in a media culture where television viewers are often given the headlines and then an endless assortment of health and lifestyle news. Goldy seems to be breaking news daily, for which he should be congratulated.

Hey, here's an idea: some of those health and lifestyle reporters could start by reading HA. Goldy's doing a great job, but sadly there are still a few people in the world who don't get their news from blogs. Maybe they would like to know all about wheat gluten, rice protein and corn gluten from China.

A "disaster" for Gonzales

From Think Progress comes word that uber-conservative Tom Coburn of Oklahoma called for Gonzales to resign during the hearing:
COBURN: Mr. Attorney General, it’s my considered opinion that the exact same standards should be applied to you in how this was handled. It was handled incompetently, the communication was atrocious. It was inconsistent. It’s generous to say that there was misstatements, that’s a generous statement. And I believe you ought to suffer the consequences that these others have suffered, and I believe the best way to put this behind us is your resignation.
Ouch.

And from Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall writes that even NRO can see how bad it is for Gonzales.
NRO's Byron York: "It has been a disastrous morning for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales..."

It's really true. Quite apart from the substance of what we've learned since mid-January and Gonzales' past false statements, Gonzales has been surprisingly unable even to keep his made-up stories straight. As near as I can tell, only two Republican members of the committee have been even remotely sympathetic to his testimony. At least two Republican senators called him a liar. One gently -- Graham, and another not so gently, Specter.
It's been said a lot of different times and a lot of different ways, but when people who believe that government is unimportant and that it should be hobbled achieve power, having things become a shambles is hardly a surprising result. From the Pentagon to FEMA to the FDA to the Justice Department, this administration has proved it is dangerously incompetent.

Of course, Gonzales is just a cog, as Marshall points out.

Red Rover, Red Rover, send Karl on over...

Iraq violence even worse

Meanwhile, in Iraq:
At least 173 people died in Baghdad on Wednesday in a series of major explosions, making the day the capital's deadliest since the onset nine weeks ago of a much-touted U.S.-Iraqi security plan.

The violence capped a dreadful seven days that began with a stunning suicide attack in the Iraqi parliament building in the heavily fortified Green Zone. At least 363 people have died in Baghdad in the past week.

---snip---

But one official at the Pentagon sighed at news of the bombings: "We don't have enough troops. It would take another 100,000" to properly protect Baghdad. Another planner said: "We are just trying the same things over and over again." Neither would agree to speak on the record, citing the sensitivity of the topic.
While the cable networks fret endlessly about how to foresee what mentally ill people will do in the future, they ignore what is obvious in Iraq. You don't need to see into the future to ascertain what a failed policy looks like, it's already here and the bloodshed seems to never end.

The Bush administration has made it clear. The carnage in Iraq, and the deaths of our troops and Iraqis, goes on until Bush leaves office, at which point he can go build his library and claim that he did his best. People are dying for a legacy.

Master of War

This should pretty much finish McCain's chances. Seems he's fond of the old surf music classic "Bomb Iran." (click through for video)

From AMERICAblog:
Not very presidential. And how about the guy in the testosterone-filled audience who asks when we're going to attack Iran, dag gummit. Uh, here's a thought, oh brave man sitting in the audience rather than in Iraq - let's finish up Bush's other two wars before we start a third war with no Army, no weapons, and no plan for victory. We do not honor our troops by continually using them as cannon fodder to assuage our hormones.
However, I still continue to be puzzled why any young people in our society would think violence is a good first option. I don't know where they would get such an idea.

Not so fast on WASL

It's WASL time again, not just for students but for legislators and the governor:
The chair of the Senate Education Committee is in a standoff with Gov. Chris Gregoire over the possibility of delaying the reading and writing sections of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning as a high school graduation requirement.

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, says she has the support of a majority of her Senate colleagues to delay all three sections of the WASL.
McAuliffe asks in the article why they should delay one portion but not the others. She has a point. Leaving aside legitimate concerns about discrimination against minority and low-income populations, what about the basic issue of fairness to all students? Some kids are better at math, some are better at reading. They're individuals, not political props for No Child Left Behind.

In theory, as with many things, testing could be a valuable tool. It's hard to put it into practice in a way that doesn't create substantial drawbacks, like teaching to the test and creating unintended inequities. I'm hard pressed to justify using two weeks of education time for a test that has so many problems. WASL has become an out of control monster, and as I've noted before, a huge ticking time bomb for state politicians. You start keeping Little Johny and Little Suzy from getting high school diplomas because of some stupid standardized test, you're going to have big, big trouble on your hands.

To those who blithely claim that abandoning WASL requirements is "abandoning students," please stop being so simplistic. There is no panacea. Student performance is influenced by a host of factors, including but not limited to socio-economic factors, the quality of parental support and the quality of school districts, teachers and staff. We'd be better off to pursue high quality education as a matter of economic neccesity and intellectual curiosity rather than wasting so much time, money and effort on WASL.

One aspect of public education that troubles me is how authoritarian it seems today. I don't know, maybe it always was that way, but there are too many rules and too many things that seem designed to crush the spirit of young people rather than nurture them. And please don't misunderstand me; students need to follow basic rules about showing up on time, respecting others and doing their work. But when your kid (with a 3.75, BTW) misses one class period all year for an unexpected doctor's visit and you start getting threatening robo-calls, the system has clearly tipped too far in one direction.

WASL seems like a continuation of this authoritarianism. Exactly what lesson are we teaching young people with this stuff? Let the teachers do their jobs for crying out loud, it's a difficult enough job as it is.

The WASL needs to go away someday. It likely won't happen any time soon, but it's clear that it has too many problems.

Gonzales hearing under way

The Gonzales hearing is under way and can be streamed at C-SPAN 3. At least in Portland, the NPR affiliate, KOPB radio, is airing the audio.

As always, Talking Points Memo is all over it, and TPM also notes a McClatchy story concerning the GOP attempt to prove "voter fraud."
Since President Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft, a former Republican senator from Missouri, launched a "Ballot Access and Voter Integrity Initiative" in 2001, Justice Department political appointees have exhorted U.S. attorneys to prosecute voter fraud cases, and the department's Civil Rights Division has sought to roll back policies to protect minority voting rights.


On virtually every significant decision affecting election balloting since 2001, the division's Voting Rights Section has come down on the side of Republicans, notably in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Washington and other states where recent elections have been decided by narrow margins.
I was just listening to the audio feed on NPR, and Gonzales was facing brisk questioning from Herb Kohl of Wisconsin. Careful observers will recall that there are a lot of questions concerning a "voter fraud" conviction that was overturned and the conduct of the US attorney there, Steven M. Biskupic.

Which 500 Washington women could die?

So will one of these women be your wife, your daughter, your friend or even you?
Of the 24,108 induced abortions that occurred in Washington state in 2005, the most recent year statistics are available, 2,309, or 9.6 percent, were dilation and extraction procedures, according to the state Department of Health.

But department spokesman Jeff Smith said the agency has no data indicating how many of those D&E abortions were of the type specifically outlawed under the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

However, this ban applies to about 2 percent of the abortions performed in the United States each year, said Dr. Sarah Prager, an obstetrician/gynecologist and director of the Resident Family Plan Training Program at the University of Washington.

If that same percentage applies in Washington state, it would affect directly about 500 women a year.

Prager said there are circumstances where the banned procedure is the safest one for the woman, such as when she has infections, bleeding or heart problems.
While the theocratic right gloats over the Supreme Court's unjust and callous decision, what they are really celebrating is the potential pain and possible death of 500 women. Yes, theocrats, what about the babies? Shouldn't children have live mothers, not dead or crippled mothers? It's as if the entire "it's okay to let women die" movement never thought the whole thing through, preferring to live in a fantasy world where everything always goes just right.

Well, that's not how it works in the real world. Complications can and do arise, and at that moment no woman or her family should be subjected to government as doctor. What's not talked about very much is that families with financial resources will find a way to take care of their loved one, even if it means travelling outside the country. Those with fewer resources, as always in this society, will bear the consequences of cruel public policy.

If we played ball like the righties, the Legislature would immediately make it mandatory to have a one hour "consult" for all medications being used for erectile dysfunction, as men need to be informed that there are now situations in which a woman they impregnate will not be provided safe medical care. A marriage license would also be required, as well as proof of employment and a household financial statement.

They should also require a notarized letter from the spouse indicating that she is aware that her husband is getting this medication. Of course, all of this could be waived in a private consultation if the male patient is not, um, intending to have sex with a woman. So your typical middle-aged GOP married guy can either jump through all the hoops or um, tell the pharmacist he's not going to have sex with a woman, and we'll just leave it at that.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Vote for Darcy

Democracy for America is holding an on-line vote for its "Grasroots All-Star," who will be the first congressional candidate to receive an endorsement from them this cycle.

While all the candidates are worthy, if you have a chance perhaps you'd like to head on over and vote for Darcy?

FBI raids GOP congressman's home

Roll Call reports this development:
The FBI has raided the Northern Virginia home of Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), according to Congressional sources. No details are publicly available yet about the circumstances of the raid, but Doolittle and his wife, Julie, have been under federal investigation for their ties to the scandal surrounding imprisoned former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Hank Shaw, a reporter from The Record of San Joaquin County, California, also posted the news to his blog earlier today:
Doolittle, R-Roseville, has all kinds of ties to the felonious ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The expectation has always been that Doolittle might get himself indicted for those connections, much like Ohio's Bob Ney. Could the other shoe be dropping as we speak?
The Hill also more details in this report. Doolittle was only narrowly reelected last November after a tough challenge from Charlie Brown. If his reputation was damaged before, it's really going to take a hit now. There may be more bad news to come for Doolittle.

Blitzer: The Swedish media is obsessed with VT killings

Wolf Blitzer just now on CNN, interviewing two Swedish exchange students at Virginia Tech who shot video during the massacre:
The Swedish media is obsessed with this story.
I'll type slowly so you can let that sink in for a minute. Okay, ready?

Blitzer went on to ask the students about the "huge problem" (or something along those lines) in Sweden with random shootings, and was met with a look of puzzlement. After Blitzer mentioned the shooting of "the former prime minister," the students explained they thought he meant in schools.

I suppose Blitzer must have been referring to the killing of Olof Palme in 1986. I can't recall nor find on the internets any more recent shooting of a Swedish prime minister.

This concludes my ten minute daily foray into the world of cable news this week.

Now I need a juice box and a nap.

The lighter side -- The Postman Dodge

Reporter Chris McGann of the P-I has some video fun with David Postman of The Seattle Times.

Government promoted and enforced pregnancy

So what happens when you combine a Supreme Court decision that puts formerly confidential and personal decisions in the hands of the government with "abstinence-only" sex non-education?

Government-promoted and enforced pregnancy.

There's no other way to read it. The Bush administration is against effective sex education and against allowing women to make decisions without their heavy-handed laws. It's not exactly mandatory pregnancy, but it's close.

How is this morally any different than the government enforced abortions the religious right wails about in China? All governments need to stay out of private moral and medical decisions, and the government has no business encouraging or forcing women to have offspring, but that's what we have now.

News flash for religious extremists in the US: there always were abortions, even before Roe v. Wade. Lots and lots of women died from them. There used to be special wards in hospitals to care for women who were the victims of botched abortions. So while the religious right may think abortion is wrong, they still argue for going back to a system that kills women.

People who claim to be "pro-life" but consistently try to block accurate sex education and contraception are the worst sort of hypocrites. If you're against abortion, don't have one, and stop trying to mess with pharmacies while you're at it. You don't think Plan B is okay, don't take it. But honestly, butt the heck out already, nobody asked you in the first place.

Let's make this very clear: other people, be they five Supreme Court justices or the alleged clergy of the American Taliban, have no busines trying to tell women what risks they should take during pregnancy. The right likes to claim it's all about "convenience," but what they overlook are the very real complications that can arise. If a family is faced with an awful decision like that, the last thing they need is the Bush administration involved. Ask Michael Schiavo what that's like.

The anti-abortion movement isn't about abortion, it's about the subjugation of women, and always has been. "Traditional values" just means women can be treated as baby machines against their will, even if their health is in danger. The key thing to remember is not whether abortion or Plan B is moral, that is a theological question. What matters is who gets to make that determination. In a free society, we don't dictate religious decisions to people.

Mark my words: James Dobson and the rest of them will never, ever, ever have a say in my family's medical decisions. The very idea that these arrogant people think they can impose their warped view of Christianity on the United States is completely unacceptable.

Congress needs to repeal this asinine law at once. Let Bush try to veto it and let the American people see which party wants to control their private lives from Washington, D.C.

If you didn't think it matters who is elected next year, that illusion should be shattered by today's ruling.

UPDATE 10:24 AM PDT Senator Patty Murray has already released a statement condemning today's ruling:
"Today the Supreme Court told women across America that our health doesn't matter. Women and families will pay the price for this misguided ruling, which takes healthcare decisions out of the hands of doctors and patients and limits the ability of health care professionals to protect women's health.

"The Supreme Court and six federal courts have previously struck down similar laws that failed to include an exception for a woman's health. Today's abrupt reversal could sentence women to a lifetime of expensive medical care at a time when rising costs make access difficult even in the best of circumstances."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

U.S. House passes Willd Sky bill

At long last, the House of Representatives has said yes to Wild Sky:
The House on Tuesday approved a bill to create a Wild Sky Wilderness northeast of Seattle, the first new wilderness area in Washington state in more than 20 years.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., would designate 167 square miles in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest north of Sultan, Wash., as wilderness, the government's highest level of protection.

The voice vote sends the bill to the Senate, which has approved the Wild Sky proposal three times in recent years.
Senator Patty Murray is confident Wild Sky can pass the U.S. Senate (again) and White House officials have indicated George W. Bush will sign the bill if it passes. This is a significant milestone and everyone who has worked on Wild Sky should be pleased with today's victory.

Blogworthy, April 16th, 2007 (including reaction to the 2006 David Neiwert Awards)

We're starting a new occasional feature on the Official Blog called "Blogworthy" which is similar to our existing "In Brief" series, but somewhat different. "Blogworthy" will touch on news and developments that we couldn't get around to writing about previously, as well as items we have accidentally overlooked (it's easy to do, there's a lot happening each and every day).

The inspiration for the name, incidentally, comes from our very own Media & Communications Director, Jon DeVore (you may know him as stilwell).

So without further ado, here is the first edition of Blogworthy.

Washington State doesn't have a U.S. Senate race in 2008, but each of its neighbors does. In Oregon, there's a movement underway to draft Representative Peter DeFazio to run against Republican Gordon Smith, spearheaded by the dynamic duo behind Loaded Orygun. If you want to see a a change of leadership in Oregon's congressional delegation, join the effort to draft DeFazio and stop Gordon Smith. Please sign the petition by leaving a comment and pledge a few bucks to the cause on ActBlue.

Meanwhile, in Idaho, former U.S. Representative Larry LaRocco has stepped forward to challenge Republican Senator Larry Craig. Just weeks ago he told the Idaho Statesman, "It's no longer rumor...I'm gonna get into this race." LaRocco is embracing the netroots community and involving bloggers in his campaign, which is excellent. We'd love to see Larry Grant run for office as well. It's time to bring Idaho some progressive, Democratic representation.

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was in Seattle last Friday to talk about renewable energy with federal, state, and municipal officials from the Evergreen State at a press briefing held in Seattle Biodiesel's waterfront building along 1st Avenue South. I attended the event and was pleased to hear the Speaker credit Washington leaders for their hard work (especially Representative Jay Inslee). However, we still have a long way to go on the path to the goal of renewable energy independence. This is just the beginning.

The Washington State Department of Transportation recently posted to YouTube two simulations of what could happen to the State Route 520 bridge in the event of an earthquake or powerful windstorm. The videos certainly emphasize that the bridge has outgrown its useful life and needs to be replaced.

We fought Initiative 912 in 2005 on a campaign of "Safety First" - and safety is still of paramount concern. While there isn't enough money in place to pay for the replacement project, Governor Gregoire has hinted the state may tap the pool set aside for the Alaskan Way Viaduct and implement the surface/transit option along the central waterfront.

Finally, here's a recap of reaction from the regional blogosphere to the 2006 David Neiwert Awards, presented here and on Orcinus:
If you know of any posts about the Neiwert Awards that we somehow missed, please leave a comment and let us know.

AP moves hatchet piece against Edwards

AP reporter Joan Lowry pens this obnoxious, biased story:
Looking pretty is costing John Edwards' presidential campaign a lot of pennies. The Democrat's campaign committee picked up the tab for two haircuts at $400 each by celebrity stylist Joseph Torrenueva of Beverly Hills, Calif., according to a financial report filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Looking pretty? Looking pretty? What journalism school did Lowry attend, Don Rickles University?

Lowry brings up an Edwards visit to a "boutique" but buries the actual facts further down--that Edwards was referred there for television make-up because he was in New Hampshire. Wow, he got television make-up, like every other presidential candidate.

Check out how objective Lopwry is about another haircut place, this one in Iowa:
According to Designworks' Web site, the salon and spa features a wide variety of beauty and health services, including massages, facials, body polishes, self tanners, and rosemary mint and Caribbean therapy body wraps.
Obviously Lowry is a liar because any fool knows that rosemary mint body wraps went out in 2005. Why, I never.

I assume this means we will be getting detailed information about Mitt Romney's dresses and Sam Brownback's perfume.

As if it isn't obvious that this is a replay of the "Clinton held up LAX traffic to get a haircut" lie, Lowry even alludes to it at the end of her story, slyly mentioning that "late night comedians poked fun." Yeah, no kidding, because it didn't happen the way the press said it did.

This is nothing more than a hit piece; the RNC could have written it. Clinton rules, people, Clinton rules.

Guns versus Sudafed

Virginia's gun laws:
Among the state's rules for gun purchase and ownership:

* There is a one-handgun-per-month limit on sales, but no state license or permit is required to buy a handgun.

* There are no state limits on assault weapons and magazines. An AK47 is as easy to buy as a hunting rifle.

* No background check is required for gun purchases at gun shows, swap meets, or through newspaper or Internet ads. A check is required at federally licensed gun stores.

* There's no state requirement that gun owners register their firearms, making it harder for police to track gun traffickers and guns used in crimes.

* State law forbids city or county governments from enacting their own tougher gun laws.
Virginia's Sudafed law:
A. The sale of any product containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or any of their salts, isomers, or salts of isomers, alone or in a mixture, shall be restricted when provided or sold by a retail distributor or pharmacy as follows:

1. Retail sales shall be limited to no more than 3.6 grams total of either ephedrine or pseudoephedrine daily per individual customer.

2. Retail personnel shall be instructed in special procedures to be used in the sale of drug products containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.

3. Effective September 30, 2006, when any substance containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine is provided or sold:

a. The product shall only be displayed for sale behind a store counter that is not accessible to consumers, or in a locked case that requires assistance by a store employee for customer access;

b. Any person purchasing, receiving, or otherwise acquiring any such substance shall, prior to taking possession, present photo identification issued by a government or an educational institution;

c. The seller shall maintain a written or electronic log with the purchaser's name and address, product name, quantity sold, and the date and time of the transaction;

d. The purchaser shall enter into the log his name and address, the time and date of the sale, and sign the record;

e. The purchaser shall sign the record acknowledging an understanding of the applicable sales limit and that entering false statements or misrepresentations in the log may subject the purchaser to criminal penalties under § 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code; and

f. The sale of a single package to an individual shall not require entry in the log provided it is an isolated sale and the package contains not more than 60 milligrams of pseudoephedrine.
Look, there are no easy answers. Meth production has shifted, by some acounts, more to Mexico and other countries, and any time you regulate something people want, be it liquor, drugs or weapons, there is bound to be a black market.

That being said, there didn't seem to be much outcry when Sudafed became a total inconvenience to purchase, and it seems to have reduced "mom and pop" meth cooking labs set up in houses and barns. Okay, some of us gripe about the Sudafed laws but that's about it. I haven't done anything crazy like write a letter to my Congressman about it.

So instead of an absolutist, "we have to do this one thing" approach, we need some common sense. Real sportsmen might gradually come to the conclusion that some inconvenience might be worth the benefit to society, as long as their rights are respected. I don't have a problem with hunters or target shooters who follow the law, but responsible hunters and target shooters are not the problem.

We have to keep mentally ill people from getting guns, or at least try. You can't regulate whether someone has mental health issues. What are you going to do, send the cops after everyone who is anti-social?

The conservative "answer" emanating from many quarters of the right blogosphere, that everyone should pack heat, is infantile and not viable. People already shoot each other over absurdly petty matters. Turning America into a giant Dodge City is not going to happen.

I don't think anything meaningful will get done on any aspect. Security? Even if we had the resources to put armed guards everywhere, would we want to live that way? Mental health? That's been a problem for decades now. Gun laws? Perhaps, but they might not work as well as intended, and then there is the politics of it all.

Still, we spend billions of dollars on a drug war to no effect in this country, so we can at least try to have an honest discussion. If drug use is bad, gun violence is bad, and if allergy patients have to be inconvenienced, it doesn't seem that extreme to broach the subject of some small inconveniences for responsible gun owners. The NRA types will scream "gun control," but we really need to re-frame this issue as basic, responsible regulation. About like allergy pills are subjected to.

Drinking Liberally reaches 200 chapters

One of the progressive movement's most innovative social organizations has reached a huge milestone:
With the arrival of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, the Drinking Liberally map has hit 200 chapters. And with your help, we're ready to go so much further.

While beer companies should rejoice that more Americans are promoting democracy one pint at a time, it's the progressive movement that has cause to celebrate: with every new social club, we're building a community that energizes and expands Liberal America.

Drinking Liberally has never been about the "drinking" -- it's about creating a welcoming environment in which newcomers can engage, activists can connect, and everyone can make progressive politics part of their every day lives. And that's taken different shapes around the country.
The founders of Drinking Liberally are taking the next step and putting together a "Living Liberally" Launch Party, this Saturday, April 21st, in New York City, where it all began. While that event is several thousand miles away, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho have quite a few chapters between them meeting regularly. If you haven't been to Drinking Liberally yet, drop by and find out what you're missing.

WA-08 makes DCCC list

Greg Sargent at TPMCafe reports on national Democrats' targeting in House races:
Okay, this is interesting. A couple days ago I spoke with a few House Dem strategists who are surveying the 2008 electoral landscape. They are reasonably certain that they'll have substantially more success than in the past making inroads into GOP suburban districts across the country.
Sargent posts a DCCC list of the top ten vulnerable GOP districts, and WA-08 (Dave Reichert) is number ten.

Then Sargent compares the DCCC list to a Karl Rove-generated list of "priority defense" uncovered during the attorneys scandal, and finds that there are eight districts in common. (WA-08 not among them. Make of it what you will.)

Sargent interviewed the DCCC's political director, Jon Vogel. Here's a snippet.
Vogel promises an intensive effort in suburban districts leading up to the 2008 elections, noting that the DCCC is already scouting for candidates to run against GOP Rep. Gerlach in Pennsylvania's sixth district.

But will such efforts allow Dem strategists to reproduce 2006's success next year? Asked if candidates who survived close calls in 2006 had in some sense inoculated themselves against a challenge in 2008, Vogel disputed the idea. He argued that it sometimes takes repeated challenges to take out an incumbent and said that the fact that Dems now control Congress allows them to shape the legislative agenda in ways that put pressure on vulnerable Republicans by forcing them into unpopular positions.
Hmmm. So the games that the GOP played, allowing Reichert to take seemingly independent votes while he really backed the administration on the war and everything else of consequence, can no longer be played? And now we get to shape the game? How very fun.

Please don't be upset, conservatives, it's just hard ball. It's how the game is played, you know, 'cause that's what you guys said all the freaking time. Elections have consequences, after all.

I expect Darcy Burner to be an even better candidate this time, so Reichert could be in even more trouble come next year if public support for the administration collapses even further. What do you think Reichert's chances are if support for Bush drops below 25%?

My crystal ball is at the cleaner's, but I like Burner's chances. She's now a seasoned campaigner, and while there will doubtless be some adjustments in the campaign (as there would in any second try,) it's pretty clear that Reichert is in for another serious challlenge.

The coffee pot has ears

Via Think Progress comes a Dana Milbank account of a rather clumsy attempt to control the press recently by the State Department. From Milbank's "Washington Sketch" column at The Washington Post:
Those wondering why the Bush administration has failed to spread democracy across the globe might find a clue in yesterday's meeting of the State Department's "Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion."

About a third of the way through the meeting, and not long after Undersecretary Paula Dobriansky boasted to the television cameras that "our entire session today is open to the public" and attended by the press, State Department officials ordered reporters to leave.

"This is the way they wanted it to happen, and this is the way it's going to be," explained department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos. "They seem to have wanted you all out."

The spokesman declined to say who "they" were. "You got a problem?" Gallegos challenged. "Write a letter."
If you read all of Milbank's column, it recounts a scene that would be comedic if it weren't so pathetic. You can almost imagine Colonel Klink trying to butter up the major, it's that bad...

"Yes, Madame Secretary Condi, we are making sure to implement the programs in a most efficient manner. (HO-GAN!)"

Massacre will change nothing

As the Virginia Tech community mourns, and the country mourns with them, it's worth noting what always happens after these gun massacres.

Some fantasize that if they were only there and were packing heat, they could have stopped it. Some fantasize that gun laws would have helped. Some believe that it's somehow the fault of pop culture, and some will believe that better attention to "warning signs" like mental health issues might have helped. Before we have all the facts it's hard to know whether, for instance, Virginia Tech officials could have had a better response system.

As with many issues, there may be kernels of potential truth in lots of ideas. If everyone carried guns to engineering class every single day, the shooter might have been stopped, unless the murderer became aware of the fact that everyone took guns to class and decided to strike at a gym instead.

Maybe a waiting period would have helped, although someone with enough forethought to chain doors might have easily planned the murders weeks ahead of time. Maybe making more mental health services available would have helped, and maybe public officials can do a better job with security.

In the end, the second saddest thing (after the lives destroyed and altered forever) is what will happen because of this massacre. It's the same thing that happens every time.

Nothing.

UPDATE 6:55 AM PDT-- Authorities identified the gunman at a press conference a short time ago.
Cho Hui Seung, a 23-year-old resident alien of the United States, a South Korean national and a Virginia Tech senior has been identified as the gunman in the shootings that left 33 people dead on the Virginia Tech campus Monday, as first reported by ABC News.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Legislature won't vote on Sonics bill

They're not getting a handout out of this session, thankfully:
After a meeting with the governor and House and Senate leaders Monday evening, it was apparent that the Sonics' proposal did not have enough support to pass.

"We are not going to vote on anything this session," House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam.

The glitz and gleam of a new $500 million stadium in Renton, the promise of an economic windfall and threats of leaving the region if taxpayers didn't pony up for the new Oklahoma City-based owner were not enough to force a deal.
The Sonics' new ownership group is comprised of a number of wealthy businessmen who undoubtedly have the capital and the connections to finance the construction of a new stadium in Renton (if they really wanted to) without any public assistance. It's heartening that their plea for corporate welfare has failed.

Elected leaders and presidential hopefuls respond to Virginia Tech tragedy

The following are a sampling of statements from elected leaders responding to the tragedy at Virginia Tech earlier today.

Senator Harry Reid, D-Nevada, Senate Majority Leader:
"The thoughts and prayers of all Americans are with the Virginia Tech family today. As we learn more about this horrific tragedy - the deadliest shooting in our nation's history - it breaks our hearts and shakes us to our very cores. We pray for those who were lost and for the speedy recovery of the wounded. And we pray that America can find the strength to overcome our grief and outrage as we face this tragedy together."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:
"Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I rise to acknowledge that today our country has been struck by a terrible, terrible tragedy. The death toll at Virginia Tech now is over 30. This is the worst campus shooting in the history of our country. As the Virginia Tech community struggles with the mourning and questioning that is certain to follow, the continued prayers from this Congress are with the students, their families, the faculty, and the staff at Virginia Tech.

Leader Boehner joins me in extending our condolences to all concerned, and we ask for a moment of silence to be observed in this body. Would we all please rise to observe the moment of silence?"
Democratic presidential candidates were also quick to respond, and most of the leading Republican contenders (as of this writing) have followed suit by replacing their splash pages with a short message of sympathy.

From John and Elizabeth Edwards:
We are simply heartbroken by the deaths and injuries suffered at Virginia Tech. We know what an unspeakable, life-changing moment this is for these families and how, in this moment, it is hard to feel anything but overwhelming grief, much less the love and support around you.

But the love and support is there. We pray that these families, these students, and the entire Virginia Tech community know that they are being embraced by a nation. There is a Methodist hymn that gave us solace in such a moment as this, and we repeat its final verse here, in hopes it will help these families, as it helped us:
In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing, in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
Our dearest wish is that this day could start again, with the promise of these young people alive. Knowing that cannot be, our prayer is for God’s grace and whatever measure of peace can be reached on this terrible day.
From Senator Barack Obama:
"Today, we are a grieving and shocked nation. Violence has once again taken too many young people from this world. In Blacksburg, they were daughters, They were sons. They were our nation's new leaders. We mourn them. We will miss them, and we pray for their families and the injured fighting for their lives."
From Senator Hillary Clinton:
"I am shocked and saddened by the horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech. My prayers are with the victims and their families, as well as the students, faculty, and community devastated by these gruesome killings. As a parent, I am filled with sorrow for the mothers and fathers and loved ones struggling with the sudden, unbearable news of a lost son or daughter, friend or family member. This tragedy is still unfolding and I hope as a nation we can come together and keep in our thoughts all those affected as we learn more about the events which took place this morning."
A transcript of Bush's speech and the White House statement is available here.

P-I, Times settlement is a victory for all

Several years ago, back in 2003 and before the Northwest Progressive Institute was created, its predecessor, Permanent Defense (which is today a division of NPI) joined the Committee for a Two Newspaper Town because we were concerned about the prospect of losing one of Seattle's two major daily newspapers.

Today, the long legal battle between the two came to an end as Hearst and the Seattle Times Company settled their dispute. Some money will exchange hands, some promises will be made official in writing, and the JOA will remain in force through at least the year 2016. Both the P-I and the Times will stay in operation.

The Department of Justice will have to review an amended Joint Operating Agreement, but that's expected to be a mere formality.

All of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute are pleased with today's announcement. and encouraged by the settlement and the newfound goodwill that has accompanied it. Competing newsrooms and editorial diversity are a great thing. I have written before that unlike other groups or blogs, we don't want newspapers to collapse and disappear.

As Senator Patty Murray said today:
"Like all Puget Sound residents, I rely on our local newspapers to keep me informed about everything from regional stories to worldwide events. And I believe that a vibrant and independent press is critical to the functioning of a progressive and informed society.

"The outcome of this dispute has always been about much more than the financial future of two companies. It has been about public access to a robust newspaper industry with the ability to fulfill the news and information needs of an eager and opinionated public.

"Today's announcement is a win-win for our newspaper industry and the readers of our region. Both the Seattle Times and Hearst are to be commended for their dedication to a process that today has resulted in industry stability for many years to come."
We believe that print as a medium still has tremendous value.

That's why, at my house, both the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer are delivered daily (except for Sunday when they're combined). My family subscribes because we want to support local journalism but also because we simply enjoy opening up and reading a broadsheet.

A newspaper is portable. It doesn't require a screen to read. You can easily fold it up and take it with you. It can be spread out on the kitchen table over breakfast. Reading online is a different experience. You can't read online away from a desk without a laptop and an Internet connection or, alternatively, a mobile device.

We believe that print has a future, and today's settlement between the Times Co. and Hearst ensures that Seattle's two dailies will have time to "adjust the old business model to the new realities" as Times owner Frank Blethen put it.

It's a victory for all.

Pat Robertson's university scrubs information

Via Think Progress we see The Carpetbagger Report notices a little scrubbing by Pat Robertson's Regent University. Seems they're not so proud anymore of the graduates that have been installed in civil service positions, now that the traditional media has notice:
According to Google cache, as recently as April 12, Regent’s “facts” page included seven bullets noting graduates in various political positions, with the seventh noting, in all bold letters, “150 graduates serving in the Bush Administration.” As of yesterday, the same page is identical, except the seventh bullet has been deleted. Regent stopped bragging about staffing the administration almost immediately after someone from the secular media noticed.
Real universities aren't afraid for people to know where their graduates are working. That's just pathetic. The religious right's parallel universe of "institutions" always had a certain funhouse quality, probably because so many of them are simply churches (which are, after all, often respected institutions themselves) dressed up as other things.

The far religious right also does law schools, think tanks, marriage counseling, "sex addiction" counseling services, "pregnancy counseling," etc. But deep down they are all churches, so if they would just be honest and call them churches they would at least have truthfulness on their side. Then people can decide for themselves if they want "pregnancy counseling" from clergy or medical professionals, or both. Just sayin'.

P-I, Times settle dispute

It looks like both the P-I and The Seattle Times will continue to exist, as the parties involved in the dispute over the JOA have come to terms:
The Seattle Times Co. will pay Hearst $49 million for Hearst's pledge to settle all JOA litigation. Hearst will also give up its right under the JOA to get 32 percent of Seattle Times profit until 2083, should the Times move to close the P-I after 2016. (Under the JOA, the Times can move to shut the P-I within 18 months after the Times demonstrates it has had three consecutives money losing years.)

In effect, the agreement moves both papers back to where they were four years ago, when the Times began its efforts to close the P-I and end the JOA — only now Hearst will receive $24 million from the Times.
Funny how "binding arbitration" tends to clear up people's thinking.

Carnage at Virginia campus

The cable news networks, including CNN, are reporting that the shootings at Virginia Tech are far more horrible than first reported:
The Virginia Tech Police Chief said at least 20 people were killed in twin shootings on the Blacksburg campus Monday morning.

"Some victims were shot in a classroom," Chief Wendell Flinchum said, adding that the gunman was dead.

President Charles Steger called the shootings "a tragedy of monumental proportions."

A hospital spokeswoman told The Associated Press that 17 Virginia Tech students were being treated for gunshot wounds and other injuries. Sharon Honaker at the Carilion New River Valley Medical Center told CNN that four patients had been transported there, one in critical condition.

One person was killed and others were wounded at multiple locations inside a dormitory about 7:15 a.m., Flinchum said. Two hours later, another shooting at Norris Hall, an engineering building, resulted in multiple casualties, the university reported.
Terrible. There are hardly words to describe these sorts of massacres, which are far too common in our society.

UPDATE, 10:50 AM: Various media outlets, including Roanoke.com, are reporting at least 22 dead:
At least 22 people were shot and killed this morning at Virginia Tech in an incident that the school's president, Charles Steger, called a "tragedy of monumental proportions."

"The university is shocked and indeed horrified," he said.

The shootings, which started shortly after 7:30 a.m., occurred in at least two places, Norris and West Ambler-Johnston halls. The gunman, who police believe acted alone at this point, is dead, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said.

Authorities are in the process of notifying next-of-kin of the victims, he said.

Twenty of the victims were shot in Norris Hall, a classroom building, Flinchum said. One was shot early this morning in West Ambler-Johnston, a residence hall. A second person was shot in West Ambler-Johnston but survived.

Authorities are not releasing the name of the suspect or saying whether he killed himself or was killed by authorities.
UPDATE II, 11:05 AM A Virginia television station reports on the wounded:
At Montgomery Regional Hospital 17 patients - 4 patients critical and in surgery
At New River Valley Medical Center 5 patients - 4 stable, 1 critical
At Carilion Roanoke Memorial - 3 patients, all critical
At Lewis Gale Hospital - 5 patients, including one faculty member.
UPDATE III, 11:17 AM: ABC News puts the death toll at 29.
At least 29 people are dead in what may be the biggest mass shooting in American history — and the death toll may rise.

At least 17 injured students were admitted to local hospitals.

Police at Virginia Tech, in Blaksburg, Va., said that the shootings happened at a dormitory and a classroom on opposite sides of the university campus.

Law enforcement sources tell ABC News the shooting may have been set off by an off-campus incident. Details were unclear.
FINAL UPDATE FOR THIS POST, 12:07 PM: MSNBC says the death toll is at least 31. (The headline says 31 and other outlets are also reporting that number, while the MSNBC lede here says at least 30. It could be as high as 33.)
A gunman opened fire in a dorm and classroom at a college in Virginia on Monday, killing at least 30 people in the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history. The gunman also was killed, and more than a dozen other people were injured.

“Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions,” said Charles Steger, president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, in southwest Virginia. “The university is shocked and indeed horrified.”

The shootings spread panic and confusion at the college, which is popularly known as Virginia Tech. Witnesses reporting students jumping out the windows of a classroom building to escape the gunfire.

Authorities said the gunman was dead after he shot nearly 50 people at two locations on campus. Twenty-one were confirmed dead, NBC News reported. At least 28 others were injured, at least four of whom were in critical condition, NBC affiliate WSLS-TV in nearby Roanoke reported, quoting local hospital officials.
Traditional media outlets are reporting that this is the worst shooting rampage anywhere in US history. It's certainly a very sad day for our country. Let's keep the Virginia Tech families and students in our thoughts and prayers.

The '90's are over

Over at Crosscut, Austin Jenkins sizes up the performance of Democrats in the Legislature as the sessions nears its end. It's a decent round-up anlaysis piece, if rather conventional (which to be fair reflects the thinking of leadership:)
Dunshee says Chopp and other Democratic leaders are ever mindful of what happened in the early 1990s. That's when Democrats rose to power and enacted a sweeping agenda that included tax hikes. Voters responded by sending Democrats into oblivion in the 1994 election. (It didn't help that 1994 was a Republican year nationally.) Dunshee calls that bloodletting the "'94 Debacle." He says vulnerable Democrats back then were forced to take "god-awful" votes on the floor.

Not this time around. Divisive issues like gun control and whether Washington should have an income tax are topics-non-grata. Case in point: Look at what happened to Rep. Jim McIntyre, D-Seattle, a vocal supporter of an income tax. Before the session, McIntyre was stripped of his chairmanship of the House Finance Committee. A caucus spokesman maintains that was part of a larger committee reorganization.
Well, yeah. But who in their right mind thinks 2008 is going to even remotely resemble 1994? If anything it could turn into a complete disaster for the GOP, not us.

It's fine to be smart, but there is no magical "centrist" population. Why are we still playing this silly game where the "middle," as defined by the media or political spin masters, is an equal point between extremes? That's how the whole zeitgeist got shifted so far to the right in the first place. It's a sucker's game, 'cause the BIAW, EFFWA and the GOP are going to attack our candidates no matter what, often with outright lies. That's what they do.

Triangulation, as the Clintons called it, is dead as a political strategy. That's not an argument for extremism, it's an argument for pursuing legislation that will be in the best interest of the ordinary citizens of Washington state. Like, for example, modest consumer protections that would help people who buy defective houses. Leaky plumbing doesn't have a political identity.

None of this is to disparage the very good legislation that is coming out of the session, particularly when it comes to education and health care. It's a comment on how we look at politics. Sometimes, you need to think outside the bun.

Hypo-critters

I've uncovered some gratuitously violent song lyrics that really are directly equivalent to what that radio guy said, 'cause I can't tell the difference between a song and a cable news station.
I hear that train a-commin', it's rollin' around the bend
And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when
I'm stuck in Folsom prison and time keeps draggin' on
But that train keeps a-rollin' on down to San Antone
When I was just a baby, my mama told me, son
Always be a good boy, don't ever play with guns
But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowin', I hang my head and cry
He shot someone just to watch him die. In cold blood, so to speak. Pretty violent if you ask me. And since nobody ever brings this up, clearly they are hypocritical librul hypocritters.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Quicksand

Columbian editorial page editor John Laird examines why the humor of Mel Brooks worked and that one guy in the news lately fell, um flat:
And that brings us to the other subtle difference between Imus and Brooks that ultimately becomes a huge disparity: the intended targets. Imus crudely stereotyped members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Like a child pounding a hammer into a fully inflated tire, he saw his impulsive attempt at humor ricochet into his own head.

Brooks, though, used racism, sexism and vulgarities to embarrass targets that deserved to be ridiculed. Among those were his own colleagues, movie producers who had falsely glamorized the American West and deserved to be parodied. Other targets were racists. Brooks knew that mocking injustice can be a path toward removing it. The TV character Archie Bunker served the same purpose in “All in the Family.”
It's a decent editorial column, and I'm glad to see that Laird basically gets it. So I hit YouTube for a refresher, and found that Brooks provided more insight into American race relations in the first six minutes of "Blazing Saddles" than perhaps we experienced in the last week. Check it out:*

"We can't afford horses..."

*Not safe for work, unless your boss is cool. Also, if the segment seems to you more like a training video than a comedic comment on the American condition, you are at the wrong blog.

GOP's Dino Rossi bitter, scornful, and out of touch with reality in revealing interview

A few days ago, a right wing website published a very interesting interview with Dino Rossi, the unsuccessful 2004 GOP gubernatorial candidate who has repeatedly said he won't make public a decision about running again until later this year.

It's already been partly deconstructed by Carl at EFFin' Unsound and Darryl at HorsesAss, but I'm going to add or emphasize a few things.

First, for someone who admirers describe as charismatic, and who ran a campaign based around a "Forward Washington" theme, Rossi sounds incredibly bitter and stuck in the past. Remember earlier in the decade when Republicans were all saying it was time to move on in the aftermath of the disputed 2000 presidential election? It seems they can't take their own advice.

Rossi also came off as scornfully partisan, criticizing the the Governor and the Democratic majorities in the Legislature with hollow attacks - at one point, sneering, "they [the Democrats] control everything, and they can't even agree with themselves! It looks like they can't even organize a beer bash in a brewery." (Hm, apparently Dino has never heard of Drinking Liberally).

Instead of using the interview as an opportunity to talk about his own vision for Washington, Rossi tried to toss rhetorical bombs at elected Democrats.

Evidently Dino has spent a lot of time sulking and not paying attention to current events, because he made numerous factual errors in the interview. The following are only a few selected examples of mistakes, with corrections.

What Rossi Said: "...We ran eight points ahead of the President, ten points ahead of Nethercutt. We won 34 out of 39 counties, all the non-Seattle, King County ones, Snohomish County..."

The Facts: While the counties statistic is officially meaningless, let's note that Rossi actually only won 31 out of 39 counties. Even if he had won 34, that would still have left four counties out of five which are not named "King" and do not include the City of Seattle. Christine Gregoire won Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Pacific, San Juan, Thurston, and Whatcom counties in addition to King.

What Rossi Said: "...we were certified the governor-elect--first Republican governor-elect in 24 years, twice, actually...[laughs] Apparently, as a Republican, you have to win three times."

The Facts: Rossi never "won" the gubernatorial race. He was ahead after the first two counts, including a machine recount; Christine Gregoire was ahead after the third and final count - a hand recount. In the end, Gregoire had more votes than Rossi, so she was declared the winner and sworn in as Governor. For an ex-legislator, Dino Rossi doesn't seem to understand how state law or our elections process works. He ought to brush up on his RCW and WAC.

What Rossi Said: "...I mean, for instance, one person who was elected to the State Senate, Erick [sic] Oemig, out in the 45th district, which is a Republican district and he's a Democrat, first thing he did was go down to Olympia, Washington, the state's capital, and try to impeach George Bush with legislation and rallies and all sorts of things. I don't think the people of the 45th district actually sent him down there to do that."

The Facts: First, Senator Eric Oemig does not end his first name with a "k", though that error could have been the fault of the interviewer (Liz Mair). Second, the 45th is not a Republican district - and I personally ought to know, because I happen to live in it. A district is no longer Republican when it votes mostly for Democrats, as its residents inarguably did in the last election.

The 45th is now represented exclusively by Democrats in the state Legislature (Representatives Roger Goodman and Larry Springer, Senator Oemig) and in 2006 it also helped reelect Maria Cantwell and defeat two significant right wing initiatives. It is a Democratic district (sorry, Dino).

Third, the resolution introduced by Senator Oemig did not explicitly call for the impeachment of George W. Bush. Finally, as Carl pointed out at EFFin Unsound, the resolution wasn't the first bill introduced by Senator Oemig. It is dishonest to argue that removing George W. Bush is all Senator Oemig cares about. His priorities are our priorities - starting with education, transportation, and healthcare.

What Rossi Said: "...and basically, the matchup was, and the newspapers kind of acknowledged this during the campaign, that you had either center-right or center-left. And unfortunately, she [Gregoire] forgot the center part."

The Facts: There are different understandings for what the word "center" means when used in a political context. To NPI, the "center" simply means a large group of voters who are biconceptuals - people open to progressive and conservative worldviews. There is no real "center" of public opinion and there is also no such thing as a political moderate. They're myths. There is no ideology connecting the different issue positions from polls - products of number crunching. It's like trying to find an "average family" with 2.3 kids.

That aside, Governor Gregoire's agenda clearly is supported by most Washingtonians. For example, she ensured the passage of the 2005 Transportation package, which voters sanctioned at the polls by rejecting I-912.

She revived the state estate tax, which voters also sanctioned at the polls by rejecting I-920. And she has brokered a number of difficult compromises between sparring political factions. Voters also sent her expanded Democratic legislative majorities in the 2006 midterms in addition to repudiating the right wing agenda.

Even conservative newspaper editorial boards have praised her. The Columbian last year opined that "the ongoing parade of bill-signing ceremonies by Gov. Chris Gregoire is largely a tribute to bipartisan, responsible lawmaking" ("In Our View: The Good, the Ugly", March 22nd, 2006).

Rossi's pitiful attacks on Governor Gregoire were mostly concerned with her fiscal record, with Rossi and his interviewer pulling out the dishonest "tax and spend liberal" mantra. Rossi's remarks could also be construed as hypocrisy - as the Washington State Democrats have noted:
In 2003 alone he voted for bills that raised sales tax on vehicles, created a $200 per-month bed tax on state nursing homes, raised tuition across the state and increased trucking and commercial fees.
One last bit from Rossi:
Liz Mair: OK, final question. How do you rate our chances of getting rid of Patty Murray in 2010?

Dino Rossi: You know, it would be such a long shot--a long shot to pick, not a long shot to beat her. It could be an '06, but negative for the Democrats, and if that were the case...It depends on the quality of the candidate, it depends on the climate. I think if a Democrat were elected President in '08, I think she could be in trouble.
This nonsense just reinforces how out of touch with reality Dino Rossi is. Patty Murray is one of the most popular elected officials in the Evergreen State. She works hard on behalf of her constituents.

She's a genuine, caring, courageous progressive. Rossi's claim that it would "not be a long shot to beat her" is ludicrous. Washington is a Democratic state and Patty Murray is one of its most beloved Democrats.

Republicans insisted months before the 2006 midterms that Cantwell was vulnerable; she trounced McGavick in a landslide.

Likewise, Murray had no problem beating George Nethercutt in 2004, the same year Rossi unsuccessfully ran for Governor.

Rossi has kept a fairly low profile since his lawsuit to overturn the gubernatorial election failed, so his willingness to grant "GOPProgress" an interview is somewhat puzzling. His mind seems to be elsewhere - like focused on baseball. (A couple days after this interview was published, Rossi announced he was buying a percentage of the Seattle Mariners Single A affiliate Everett AquaSox. )

Associated Press reporter David Ammons wrote about Rossi this weekend, and quoted WSU political scientist Lance LeLoup, who offered some cogent analysis:
"I think the good feeling of '04 has a half-life and that every year that goes by, he loses another half. He will have to start from scratch practically if he runs again, except for his most staunch Republican folks. Four years is an eternity in politics."
Rossi can be assured of having the Republican nomination, but he would have to campaign against a strong Democratic Governor with a solid record.

And he would have a very difficult time concealing his right wing ideology and agenda in a rematch with Christine Gregoire.

If this interview is what we can expect to hear in a 2008 campaign, Rossi ought to spare himself and his party the embarrassment and decide against running.

Ifill tells Russert and Brooks a thing or two

On Meet the Press, Gwen Ifill points some stuff out to Tim Russert and David Brooks. Via Think Progress:
This morning on NBC’s Meet the Press, PBS anchor Gwen Ifill directly called out host Tim Russert and fellow guest David Brooks for failing to speak out against Don Imus’ offensive remarks.

“There has been radio silence from a lot of people who have done this program who could have spoken up and said, I find this offensive or I didn’t know,” Ifill said. “These people didn’t speak up.” She then turned Russert and Brooks, frequest guests on Imus’s show. “Tim, we didn’t hear from you. David, we didn’t hear from you.”

Ifill added, “A lot of people did know and a lot of people were listening and they just decided it was okay. They decided this culture of meanness was fine — until they got caught. My concern about Mr. Imus and a lot of people and a lot of the debate in this society is not that people are sorry that they say these things, they are sorry that someone catches them.”
Sometimes, you don't know when or how change is going to come. But the media landscape is now changed. As many have pointed out, it's not a First Amendment issue. Anyone can go say hateful or crazy stuff on the internet or the streetcorner.

That doesn't obligate large corporations to promote and sponsor such speech. If it's "all about the color green," then the public has every right to vote with its pocketbook and make its views known to the folks who want their hard-earned money.

And pure "entertainment" shows, such as "Desperate Housewives," along with music groups, are distinctly different from shows where the biggest names in politics and government are interviewed on a regular basis. You can argue whether Imus was more Howard Stern or Charlie Rose, and he was some of each, but in the end comparing Imus to rappers is absurd. When MSNBC gives a rapper three hours each weekday morning, then we can talk.

If discussions about deplorable lyrics happens, that's fine, as long as all genres are considered, and it's not used to make excuses for Imus.

Columbian ditches Malkin

Among some other syndicated column changes, at long last The Columbian is ditching Michelle Malkin. While there's really no explanation about any of the changes, running Malkin was an act of contempt for community values.
Friday: Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, who is published by more than 350 newspapers, will appear in The Columbian on Fridays, replacing columnist Michelle Malkin. Parker writes for The Orlando Sentinel and The Washington Post Writers Group. She graduated from Florida State University and is writer in residence at the Buckley School of Public Speaking in Camden, S.C. Parker won the 1993 H. L. Mencken Writing Award and appears frequently on "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC.
I recognize the name Kathleen Parker but I'll have to look into her track record. Nobody could be more hateful than Malkin, could they?

All The Columbian needs to do now is place someone moderately progressive on the editorial board so half the community has something of a say, and they'll be right back to what they historically were: a pro-business small town newspaper that leans towards sane Republicans.

I'm tempted to reward the ditching of Malkin by subscribing again, and might, but the issue of freezing progressives out of any say at all on the editorial board still needs to be addressed. It's nice that there are some smart, reality based folks on the editorial board, but none of them are particularly progressive. As the community grows, the paper should recognize that fact and hire at least one progressive editorialist.

In other changes, Suan Estrich will replace the late Molly Ivins, and Garrison Keillor will replace Rick Horowitz.

UPDATE 8:58 PM-- A friend points out the print edition of The Columbian ran Parker's column on Friday instead of Malkin's, with a brief note from editorial page editor John Laird explaining that they rejected Malkin's column due to "numerous instances of gratuitous vulgarity pertaining to rap music." Apparently gratuitous insults of Japanese-Americans (and many others) weren't enough to get Malkin banned, but scary rap lyrics were. Enough irony to require hip waders all around.

Also, a commenter points out that Estrich can hardly "replace" Ivins. Indeed.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rove attacks Pelosi, Democrats in Seattle

David Postman provides a late evening account of Karl Rove's visit to the King County Republicans' Lincoln Dinner.
There were few details of what the final years of the Bush presidency could bring. Rove did attack Congressional Democrats for what he said was profligate spending and taxation.

"These Democrats are making a big mistake," he said. "They're forgetting the fact that there is a Republican president a mile and a half away at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who who is going to say no to their spending and taxes."

Rove's harshest words came in his attack on the Democrats' plans for Iraq. He ridiculed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her trip to Syria, said her party is "mandating failure" in Iraq.

"You know, the troops do not need General Pelosi trying to run the war from Capital Hill," he said.
Leaving aside the quip about Pelosi, it's obvious that Rove has nothing left in the tank. He accuses Democrats of unwise spending? Earth to Karl: that play doesn't work any more.

Yeah, right. The deficit is on their heads, not ours. The American people know that.

Rutgers Players Accept Imus Apology

“We, the Rutgers University Scarlet Knight basketball team accept — accept — Mr. Imus’s apology, and we are in the process of forgiving,” said the team’s head coach, C. Vivian Stringer ...
Let's add Imus to the list of forgiven racists. He, along with Mel Gibson, Michael Richards and others, are part of a growing trend of white males who stumble over racial epithets. At least Imus asked forgiveness from the players themselves, rather than asking forgiveness from Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton (well, he did that too).

But his actions are inexcusable. Not because he made a tasteless "joke", but because the media platform he enjoys should not be a source of bigotry.

Although the media made a big deal about the three words Imus uttered (I doubt the Rutger's players, being educated women, would have even known what he said without the work of watchdog organizations such as Media Matters), the real issue is the culture of ignorance that these radio shows create.

It's not a secret that Imus had a controversial past. He didn't deserve the microphones and cameras that CBS and MSNBC placed in front of him.

Ho-ho's in many genres of music

In its never ending quest to make irrelevant comparisons, now the media has decided the best thing to do Post-Imus is not to look into the multitude of right-wing hate talkers, but rap singers:
As some of hip-hop's biggest stars gather in Detroit today, the fury over Don Imus' recent radio comments has drawn attention to the misogynistic lyrics common in hip-hop music and culture.
At issue is why it's considered OK for one group to say specific words and taboo for another, and whether there's an issue of hypocrisy at play.
Hypocrisy? Why stop at rap artists? What about the snack food world?
Over the years, the tubular snack has enjoyed its share of laughs. In connection with the 1999 introduction of Nutty Ho Hos, which added chopped peanuts to the original roll, a search was launched for the country's nuttiest celebrity laugh - or ho ho. (We know what you're thinking, but not everyone laughs with a ha ha. Just ask Santa.) When the votes were tallied, Americans decided that comedian Eddie Murphy's laugh took the proverbial cake, followed by the kooky cackles of Phyllis Diller, Roseanne Barr and Pee Wee Herman.
Nutty Ho Hos? Clearly the hypocrites are those who have enabled people to enjoy tubular chocolate snack cakes.

Imus is to rap/hip-hop as Katie Couric is to acid rock. No relation, other than the connection incredibly simple-minded people make. Lookie! They both said the same word! This proves Imus was hosed!

Okay, if the music industry is the topic, then the traditional media needs to explore themes in all genres. There's plenty of objectification and degredation of women to examine, and often the artists doing the objectifying are themselves women.

It's not exactly news that the rap/hip-hop world long ago became a cesspool, along with many other forms of popular music, but it doesn't have jack to do with Imus.

I need a snack cake.

MORE: Old dudes may remember this from Iron Maiden:
Charlotte the harlot show me your legs,
Charlotte the harlot take me to bed.
Charlotte the harlot let me see blood,
Charlotte the harlot let me see love.
Treating women like garbage was an old rock tradition. It was wrong, and still is, but the phony outrage over rap lyrics brought about by the Imus debacle is ridiculous. Go back and read the lyrics to "Brown Sugar" by the Rolling Stones. Since when is the music industry and the news business the same thing? Obviously, they have some things in common, like "it's all about the color green," but very few people would equate MTV News with MSNBC.

Rove won't answer question about emails

Josh Marshall notices and excerpts an article from The Los Angeles Times (subscription required) concerning the continuing saga of the missing Rove emails. This is what Marshall quotes the LA Times article as saying:
Karl Rove and other White House employees were cautioned in employee manuals, memos and briefings to carefully save any e-mails that might discuss official matters even if those messages came from private e-mail accounts, the White House disclosed Friday.

Despite these cautions, e-mails from Rove and others discussing official business may have been deleted and are now missing.

White House officials spent much of Friday reiterating that the missing e-mails were the result of an innocent mistake. About 50 aides in the executive office of the Bush administration have used e-mail accounts provided by the Republican National Committee to keep campaign-related communication separate from their official White House business.
Rove was in Tigard, Oregon last night to appear before Washington County Republicans. He wouldn't even answer a question from a reporter about the issue:
Rove, who came under fire this week for deleted e-mails in an investigation of the firing of eight federal prosecutors, only hinted at troubles inside the Bush administration. He didn't acknowledge a question from a reporter about the e-mails as he left the room.
It's kind of like Bob Haldeman is speaking before the King County Republicans tonight, isn't it? Rove just wants to bash Democrats with the same old tired schtick, when he's the one that has a whole lot of 'splaining to do.

UPDATE 10:44 AM PDT-- The AP moves a story with the following lede:
The fight over documents has gone to red alert.

The White House acknowledges it cannot find four years' worth of e-mails from chief political strategist Karl Rove. The admission has thrust the Democrats' nemesis back into the center of attention and poses a fresh political challenge for President Bush.
Further down the article we get the "Bill Clinton impeachment" defense from a GOP flack:
Republican strategist Rich Galen says Democrats could make the same mistakes that Republicans made under House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., in going after President Clinton after winning control of the House.

"That's what got us in big trouble in 1998 (midterm elections, when Republicans lost seats) and ultimately cost Newt his job as speaker. We so solely focused on going after Bill Clinton that people said, in essence, `We hired you to solve stuff — and not to spend all day, every day, trying to figure out how to make Bill Clinton's life miserable,'" said Galen, who worked for Gingrich when he was speaker.
They never stop spinning, do they? Yes, the Blue Dress impeachment is exactly like the politicization of the entire executive branch, especially the Justice Department.

Be sure not to overreach, Democrats. Ooga-booga!

It's also kind of funny how the AP reporter tends to portray this as yet another attempt to "get Rove." That's just silly. Rove may crash and burn, but he's already a failure by any objective measure. His boy polling at 30% pretty much says it all. So yeah, Republicans, be sure to listen carefully to Rove tonight and follow his advice. Remember, he's a political genius.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Maury Island Aquatic Reserve bill fails

The Washington State House today failed to pass SSB 6011, which would have created the Maury Island aquatic reserve. The Chairman of the Select Committee on Puget Sound Chair, Rep. Dave Upthegrove, released this statement.
"The Speaker of the House and local legislators were heroic in their efforts to pass the bill. In the end, however, the Republicans used every trick in the book to successfully block passage of the legislation. I'm disappointed we fell short, but it was not for lack of effort. Regardless of the outcome of the legislation, Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland should not lease our public aquatic lands for industrial barging activities in a Puget Sound aquatic reserve."
We're once again reminded that the GOP has little interest in environmental preservation and protection. Very, very disappointing.

NPR links Rove to firing plan

NPR is reporting that Karl Rove was behind the plan to fire all US attorneys for (gasp!) political reasons. From All Things Considered:
NPR now has new information about that plan. According to someone who's had conversations with White House officials, the plan to fire all 93 U.S. attorneys originated with political adviser Karl Rove. It was seen as a way to get political cover for firing the small number of U.S. attorneys the White House actually wanted to get rid of. Documents show the plan was eventually dismissed as impractical.

The Justice Department documents released today include a spreadsheet ranking all 93 prosecutors. The chart ranks them on whether they have Hill experience, campaign experience, and — in the last column — whether they're members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group.
The Bush administration cares about nothing except politics. To them, the justice system is just another way to attack their enemies.

Props to Daily Kos diarist smintheus.

All your Soros belong to us

I have a confession. George Soros pays everyone. Every single progressive blog is awash in Soros money. Every Democratic candidate, every elected official, every non-Fox Noise reporter, and the school lunch staff are all being paid off.

Another confession: I'm not actually in the Pacific Northwest, I was just assigned the region at a secret George Soros meeting here on the French Riviera. After I get done blogging I get in my speedboat and hang out with models.

While models are often accused of being less than brainy, the ones here are fairly smart. Just today one of them told me that Matt Drudge just makes stuff up. N'est-ce pas?

Legislature fixes I-134 - at long last

It's a good day for unions.
The Washington Legislature passed a bill Friday to allow labor unions to spend nonmembers' bargaining fees on political causes without first getting their permission, over the objections of opponents who said it was a clear attempt to circumvent a pending ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The measure, approved by the House last month, passed the Senate 29-20 and now heads to Gov. Chris Gregoire. Two Democrats voted against the measure: Sens. Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam and Tim Sheldon of Potlatch.
It's about time, because Initiative 134 was baloney in the first place. Everyone talks about the rights of a few malcontents as if that's the real issue. The actual issue is that the Evergreen Freedom Foundation has been trying to destroy WEA for a very long time for political reasons.

Imagine if BIAW had to get written, affirmative permission from every member to do any politics with "retro" funds, because that is the logical end to the conservative argument. If interest groups have to get permission, then it should apply to all interest groups, not just ones that righties don't like. Unions aren't always perfect, of course, and sometimes they go too far, but the idea that it's okay to make up a bunch of needlessly complex rules to mess with groups that represent workers needs to end.

The right only wants to de-fund groups that contribute mainly to Democrats. They pretend it's about "free speech rights," when it's really about their greed and lust for power. If a few teachers don't want to belong to WEA, they don't have to. But enough of this bogus attempt to kill WEA with red tape.

Senate committee approves Sonics handout

This is beyond ridiculous.
A tax package for the Seattle Sonics' new arena finally passed out of the gate Friday with an oral vote from the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
So when do we get our pony?

The legislation barely squeezed out of committee with 11 votes. Fortunately, not every state Senator is willing to authorize a handout for a handful of billionaire sports owners. Good to see at least one Democrat pointed out this foolishness.
"This is so insane," said Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina. "I cannot see how we in the Legislature can subsidize Ray Allen for $16 million a year when we cannot pay a starting wage starting wage for a teacher of $34,000…we talk about state of the art facilities but when it comes to education, we have 2,000 portables in this state. We have schools where you can't drink the water."
Speaker Frank Chopp has said he has no interest in the bill and is unlikely to move it in the House. That could ensure it doesn't even make it out of the state Senate. Let's hope so, because at a time when we have so many needs to take care of (thanks to years of dithering and neglect), this is the last thing we should be spending public money on.

Heckuva job, Wolfie

There are no honest neo-cons, just con men.
World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz publicly apologized on Thursday for the "mistake" of personally orchestrating a high-paying job and guaranteed promotions for a bank employee with whom he is romantically involved, as new details of his role in the arrangement emerged and staff members angrily demanded his resignation.

The bank's board said in a statement released Friday morning that it was examining "all relevant governance implications" of Wolfowitz's involvement in a $50,000 a year raise and career advancement plan established for his longtime companion, Shaha Riza.
These people aren't fit to run a five and dime, and they sit there and try to lecture us on the free market. The damage having been profound and lasting at the Pentagon, now Wolfie is trying to destroy the World Bank.

The only thing free about neo-con markets are the things they steal.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Puget Sound voters are ready for a regional Roads & Transit package

The introductory segment of our just-released podcast highlights data collected earlier this month that shows the Roads & Transit package has strong public support. For those of you who'd rather read, here's a transcribed preview:
Recent polling just released this week by EMC Research and Moore Information indicates the people of Central Puget Sound are ready to vote in favor of increased revenue for transportation improvements. 63% of those polled are supportive after hearing what the revenue increases will cost the average household and what the major components of the package are.

One of the most popular components in the package, according to this poll and other data gathered by Sound Transit, is the expansion of the Link light rail system, which 75% of respondents across the region support. When broken down by subarea, residents of the Eastside are the most enthusiastic, with an astounding 80% expressing support for light rail.

Also very popular are plans to expand express bus service and add more park and rides.

Respondents also gave Sound Transit high marks – 63% have a favorable opinion of the agency, while 20% have an unfavorable opinion. King County Metro received similar numbers.

Interestingly, respondents were not as pleased with the State Department of Transportation, the agency that primarily builds highways, maintains roads, and operates the ferry system. WSDOT received a 50% favorable opinion and a 30% unfavorable opinion in the poll.

76% percent of those polled say they believe the 2007 Roads & Transit package will help fight congestion in Puget Sound, with close to half saying it would “help a great deal”.

Only 18% said they did not think would not help much.
This information, while not a surprise to us, is helpful in that it ably counters all the dire predictions and gloomy forecasts we've been hearing constantly from some state politicians, area commentators, and pundits.

For example:
On top of the existing backlog, elected officials soon will ask private interests to underwrite a ballot campaign this fall for a crushingly cost-ineffective Sound Transit regional light rail system as well as new local roads. They'll be kidding, right?
Or this:
The no-no Alaskan Way Viaduct advisory verdict by Seattle voters was a Nisqually Quake-like warm-up for a bigger tremor at which we may soon find ourselves in the epicenter.

The "Big One" will very likely come this fall, when voters in four central Puget Sound counties are asked to fork up $15 billion or so for highways and Sound Transit light rail projects.

"We are headed for a train wreck in November," said John Stanton, co-founder of Western Wireless.
Wrong - according to this information, we're headed for a smooth ride in November. It certainly won't be a sure thing, but the chances of success are pretty good. It's an excellent opportunity. While we've never been enamored with individual polls, this poll is consistent with scientific research that has been conducted in the past and demonstrates a distinct trend.

We have repeatedly observed that the region is ready for light rail and eager to invest in transit solutions. This $16.5 billion package represents tremendous progress - it's a huge step forward. As Sound Transit Chairman John Ladenburg emphasized to me earlier today in our conversation, it's a twenty year plan. That's something we haven't had in the past.

And thanks to years of experience, Sound Transit staff can offer realistic projections to the public. One of the ways the agency turned itself around a few years ago was by adopting a policy of under promising and over delivering - which has helped ensure pleasant surprises instead of unfortunate disappointments.

Voters are ready for the regional Roads & Transit package, and we are too. The municipal leaders guiding Sound Transit and RTID ought to be commended for keeping their eyes on the prize in the face of skepticism and outright hostility from the state's political and media establishment.

NPI releases twelfth podcast

We've released our twelfth podcast - the second in a special series of Priorities podcasts focusing on important issues in the statehouse and beyond.

This episode is all about transportation and features an interview with Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, who chairs the board of Sound Transit on topics ranging from the Roads & Transit package to governance legislation.

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.

Corzine in wreck on way to meet Imus and Rutgers team

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine was injured in a car accident on the way to meet with the Rutgers women's basketball team and Don Imus. A most horrible turn of events. The blog Blue Jersey gives some rather upsetting updates late this evening:
[Update by Rosi 11:04]: WABC-TV says Corzine is in critical but stable condition, with the already-reported leg injury plus chest injuries involving multiple rib fractures. He was in the front seat of his vehicle and has been known to ride without seat belt, they also report.

[Update by Rosi 11:45]: Broken sternum. Broken collarbone. Slight fracture of lower vertabrae, 6 broken ribs - on both sides. Head laceration, but no brain or spinal cord injury. Still in surgery at least one more hour.
Let's give our thoughts and prayers to Jon Corzine and his friends and family. Goodness. The accounts on Blue Jersey suggest that a hit-and-run driver may have been involved.

UPDATE, 10:10 PM PDT: Here's the latest AP article via Guardian Unlimited:
Corzine, 60, suffered numerous broken bones but his injuries were not considered life-threatening, officials said. He was in critical condition at Cooper University Hospital in Camden.

Dr. Steven Ross, head of trauma for the hospital, said that Corzine was expected to be in surgery until early Friday morning, and would then be moved to the trauma intensive care unit. Corzine had a broken sternum, a broken collarbone, a slight fracture of his lower vertebrae, a broken left leg and six broken ribs on each side, Ross said. He also had a laceration on his head, Ross said.
That AP article does seem to suggest that a hit and run driver may have been responsible for the accident.

Voters willing to pay a motor vehicle excise tax to improve roads & transit

Once again, the Associated Press gives Tim Eyman a friendly blurb. Hard to tell whether this is the beginning of an unfinished article or just a rushed brief. Via the Seattle P-I's website:
Eyman says car tab taxes going up again
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MUKILTEO, Wash. -- Initiative activist Tim Eyman says the Legislature's decision to allow cities and counties to raise the car tab tax is an insult to taxpayers.

The measure would allow a 20-dollar-a-year fee to pay for local road projects, without a vote of the people.

Eyman says it violates the decisions of voters and the Legislature to keep car tabs at 30 dollars.
(That's it. There isn't any more, this isn't an excerpt).

Of course Eyman would say that, but it's certainly not an insult to taxpayers. The Legislature is acting on input gathered from the people of Washington State, who are tired of sitting in gridlock and desperate for transportation solutions.

There are only so many sources for the revenue that is needed to pay for the projects people want. The authorization of a reasonably sized local motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) is a sesnsible move.

Crafting public policy based on narrowly approved right wing initiatives from yesteryear (2002's I-776) is entirely unwise.

In fact, recent polling released this week from EMC Research (to inform Puget Sound decision makers about public response to the proposed Roads & Transit package) indicates voters are willing to pay an MVET.

A poll of 800 registered voters in Sound Transit's taxing district, conducted earlier this month (the 1st through the 4th) with a 3.5% margin of error, found that over 60% would support "a package that would increase the sales tax of one percent, and the car license tab by eight tenths of one percent to fund a total of sixteen point five billion dollars in road, highway, and mass transit improvements in Pierce, King and Snohomish Counties."

The poll, which can be projected to the entire voting population of the RTA (Sound Transit district) confirms that voters are enthusiastic about the concept and scope of the proposed Roads & Transit package and willing to pay for it.

Support still outweighed opposition even after respondents were read the cost to the "typical household" without hearing a description of the proposed projects. And then with such an understanding, support for the package was high at 63%.

(More on the poll in this post).

Tim Eyman and his cohorts do not speak for the majority of voters and taxpayers in Washington State. What the Legislature and municipal agencies such as Sound Transit are doing is what the people expect.

The direction that Washingtonians want political leaders to take has been and is being clearly expressed. Just look at election returns from the last two years, polling data, and public input.

A Permanent Defense special report published in September 2004 found that overwhelming approval was the norm across the Evergreen State for municipal propositions that asked voters to increase taxes for better public services - like fire, police, and emergency medical protection, or libraries and parks.

There's a reason Republicans suffered such brutal losses in last year's midterms at the local level. Voters don't want to hear tired anti-tax rhetoric, whining, and temper tantrums from right wing ideologues. They want to see progress. Democrats are willing to take action - so voters have empowered them.

That's what democracy is all about.

All Tim Eyman does is complain, attack, grouse. He's made a career out of it. He's a reactionary who doesn't appreciate the value of public services and doesn't understand basic accounting. He's also a failure - his most recent flop was his inability to qualify Initiative 917 (it would have gutted funding from the 2005 Transportation Package).

If he's so opposed to a motor vehicle excise tax, then what realistic alternatives for revenue does he propose?

If he can't or won't answer (likely the case), then he has no credible position and shouldn't be taken seriously.

It's imperative we invest in public infrastructure that will ensure broad prosperity, transportation choices, and a cleaner environment. We have to stop listening to the minority adamantly opposed to making any investment and move forward. Our future depends on it.

Where the Imus stuff started

TMZ.com takes a look at Imus contemporary Howard Stern's most disgusting comments. Coming in at number four are Stern's comments about the Columbine massacre.

So for all the conservatives who wish to talk about free speech, here's some for them. They should be sure to post in comments exactly which companies they think should support this kind of talk with dollars, realizing that Stern started this genre and it led to the likes of Rush Lumpenbaugh and Michael Savage. Fun stuff.
April 21, 1999, the day after the Columbine High School massacre; commenting on the mass murders, Stern said on his show, 'There were some really good-looking girls running with their hands over their heads. Did those kids try to have sex with any of those good-looking girls? They didn't even do that? At least if you're going to kill yourself and kill the kids, why wouldn't you have some sex? If I was going to kill some people, I'd take them out with sex.' Stern's comments led to widespread public outrage, and the Colorado State Legislature issued an official censure against Stern.
Hey, yeah, clubby locker room media sickos, that's really freaking funny. I would find that so funny if my daughter were at that school.

The media is diseased, and it has been for a very long time. They don't represent American values any longer.

We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it any more.

Hutcherson still doesn't show videotape

Eli Sanders of The Stranger follows up on the whole Ken Hutcherson-special envoy thing, trying to determine why Hutcherson hasn't produced the videotape he promised proving that the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives did indeed appoint him as a "special envoy."
Because Hutcherson himself set up the viewing of this alleged video as the proof that his version of events is true, I’ve been trying for weeks to get a look at the tape. I’m not the only one.

Hutcherson has been a hard man to get in touch with. However, I finally managed to reach him on his cell phone yesterday.

When we spoke, Hutcherson reversed course and said he had the video, but would not be showing it to me.

“Oh yeah, I have it,” he told me. But, he added: “My relationship with the White House is much more important than my relationship with you.”

Hutcherson said he believes that if he produces the video, it will be used to embarrass the White House.

“I’m not going to give you information so you can go and attack the White House,” he told me. “Either way you win.”
Well, at least that proves that Hutcherson is not completely nuts, as he appears to have grasped the basic fundamentals of his situation.

A bad day for bigots all around.

Simple majority on way to voters

At long last, the people of Washington will get to vote on whether a simple majority is good enough for school bond and levy measures.
Washington voters will get the final say on a state constitutional amendment to allow simple majority approval of local property tax levies for public schools.

The state Senate passed the measure on a 33-16 vote today, just squeaking past the two-thirds vote needed.

--snip--

"The fact of the matter is, you're making it really easy to raise people's taxes," said Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver.
The party of greed speaks again. Many of the Clark County supporters of Benton and his evil twin in the 18th District, Joe Zarelli, send their kids to public schools but don't want to pay their fair share. Why Benton and Zarelli stand up for freeloaders is beyond me.

A simple majority is good enough for almost every other election. You don't want to support schools and you want a free ride, don't hide behind the state Constitution. Make your case against schools and see if the majority agree with you, if you have the guts.

Good-bye Imus

CBS Radio has fired Don Imus. This is a stunning victory for American values. You don't call our daughters vile names, nobody with any sense on either side thinks that is appropriate.

I'm sure certain members of the national media club will, at times, continue to defend Imus, but the gauntlet has been laid down. We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it any more.

My kingdom for a Mariner's game

So I was smart enough to set the DVR to record yesterday's Mariner's game, which featured an outstanding performance by Felix Hernandez. Fun stuff for April. Yes, Daisuke Matsuzaka stands to be a fantastic pitcher, but on that night in Fenway, the young Mariner's pitcher simply shut down the Red Sox.

But I wasn't smart enough to know that I had offended the media oligarchy by deciding to record the game on ESPN. Trouble is, Fox Sports Network was showing the game on a delayed basis, so my DVR recording consisted of the words "Welcome to Fenway Park" followed by - nothing. A call to a nice Comcast worker seemed to confirm that "local stations" are allowed to black out "national stations." Never mind that Rupert Murdoch is from Australia, which is west of Portland but not all that local.

Undeterred, I gamely set the DVR to record today's game using the free preview of MLB Extra Innings. Smartly, I checked in on it. Nothing doing, just a screen listing games.

Still smiling, I decided that I might as well just turn the ballgame on the AM radio and go about my business. But there was no ballgame.

Rain delay.

Prepare for further smears of Pelosi

I'd been ignoring, for the most part, the transparent attacks on Nancy Pelosi, but since she'll be in the state tomorrow, let's allow Greg Sargent of TPMCafe to walk us through what we can expect from Washington state surrogates for the national GOP. (Obviously, he wrote his post in a general context about the GOP talking points, but it's current and illustrative.)
There are three key things about it worth noting. First, check out how neatly its message on the bogus Pelosi-to-Syria story dovetails with the way in which some of the big news orgs covered the story. Two now-infamous editorials about the trip -- one in The Washington Post and the other in USA Today -- are prominently featured by the RNC here. You'd think that might prompt a bit of embarrassment on the part of the two papers' edit boards -- they played along so closely with the GOP spin on this story that their work is now integral to the RNC's case against Pelosi.

Second, note the heavy reliance on other, similar smears and outright falsehoods: The memo accuses Pelosi and the Dems of "delaying emergency war funds," which has nothing to do with what happened in the real world, which is that the Dems have passed a troop funding bill in both Houses of Congress. It also contains the obligatory reference to Pelosi's alleged desire to take a trip to Iran -- with no mention of course of the fact that Pelosi's spokespeople have been on record for nearly 24 hours now saying unequivocally that she isn't taking a trip to Iran.

Finally, and perhaps most important, note the virtual absence of criticism of any of the House Dems' actual legislative agenda. The only references to anything of substance are the misrepresentation of the troop funding bill and a reference to the House Dems' tax policies. No reference whatsoever to anything done during the first 100 days. In other words, the GOP has virtually nothing at all to hit the House Dems with aside from the thoroughly phony "controversies" that have been ginned up by a compliant media all too willing to amplify the GOP's crudest talking points.
You know some of the same baloney will surface tomorrow. It's really pretty sad how badly the Republicans have sunk. They always used misinformation rather effectively, but now that dubious skill seems to have eluded them as well. As a last resort, they could always try the truth. (Okay, and I could win eleventy billion dollars and fly to Mars....)

Duke lacrosse case versus Imus case

An Editor and Publisher article examines some of the bad actors in the Duke lacrosse case, in which remaining charges have been dropped.
-- THE MEDIA. The case had lots of hot-button issues -- sex, race, class, sports, an elite university. When it broke, a swarm of reporters and television trucks rushed to Durham and made the city the dateline for a string of sweeping stories about class, race and culture. The players and accuser were viewed less as individuals than as avatars of competing political and cultural agendas.

But the case itself proved far more complicated, and few of the stories grasped that Durham was a more complicated place, too.

There were racial divisions to be sure, but also a civic tradition that kept people there talking -- instead of shouting or fighting -- throughout.

---snip---

-- DISTRICT ATTORNEY MIKE NIFONG: Before the case, Nifong was a respected lawyer little known outside Durham. Now, he's on the verge of being disbarred, facing ethics charges from the North Carolina State Bar that accuse him of withholding evidence, lying to a court and making inflammatory comments about the players. Cooper sharply criticized Nifong on Wednesday, indirectly referring to him as a "rogue prosecutor."
As long as attention is on media behavior due to the Imus implosion, the Duke case illustrates why the Fourth Estate needs to perform its watchdog role. Instead of the breathless panting exhibited by the likes of Nancy Grace, what if all those resources had been used to actually check out what the prosecutor was doing?

Doubtless some on the right will try to use the Duke case as a counter-example to the Imus affair, using predictable "see the white kids got hosed so Imus was hosed" kind of logic. While the lacrosse players were indeed treated unjustly, and that is an outrage, the heart of the problem appears to be that a "rogue prosecutor" was pandering for votes. Meanwhile, large segments of the national media turned the story into a prurient extravaganza. The cable television coverage was, in a word, disgusting.

There's a lot of self-examination that needs to be done in this country by the traditional media. After Blue Dress, after sharks, after missing white women, after Duke, after the state funeral of Anna Nicole, and after Imus, at long last, will they come to their senses? Or will they make all the right noises and then, this summer, we'll find that jellyfish stings are an "epidemic?"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Redmond to Sound Transit: We want Link!

Yesterday, I attended a multi-hour Sound Transit workshop held at Redmond City Hall to gather community input on the forthcoming East Link project, a new light rail line the agency is planning to build which will connect Seattle with Bellevue, Mercer Island, and Redmond via Interstate 90.

The Redmond workshop was the last in a series of several Sound Transit has held - each focusing on a different segment of the proposed East Link line. Ours focused on the last segment (E) which begins at Redmond's Overlake Transit Center (in the heart of the Microsoft campus) and ends in downtown Redmond.

While Sound Transit officials are confident they can reach at least the Overlake neighborhood in the initial phase of construction, they're not sure it will be possible to extend it out to Redmond at the same time. But they're not ruling it out. Construction could occur if funding and cost savings become a reality.

It's a smart move not to over promise. We'd certainly rather be pleasantly surprised in the future than feel cheated if the stars didn't align.

Nevertheless, Sound Transit is gathering info about the Overlake to Redmond segment now, in the event it can be built simultaneously or quickly after the rest of East Link. That was the purpose of holding the workshop.

It began with a detailed presentation about light rail, an overview of the East Link project, and introductions. Then participants split into breakout groups to study and comment on the proposal before coming together again for a final session to share findings and themes.

The agency presented three alternatives (or variations) of Segment E for workshop participants to consider.

All the alternatives begin by following the same route along the east side of SR 520 as it approaches the city's main commercial district - until the West Lake Sammamish Parkway exit. There each splits off from the others on aerial track.

East Link Redmond Alternatives
Above: The Final Segment E Alternatives to be Evaluated in the Detailed Environmental Impact Statement, Due in 2009

Alternative E1 crosses over the highway and follows West Lake Sammamish Parkway as it turns into 154th Avenue going north, then crosses over the road and the adjacent Sammamish River to land on the Burlington Northern Sante Fe right of way (which is an abandoned railway King County is attempting to acquire).

It follows the BNSF line (at grade) for a little over a mile before terminating in southeast Redmond with two stations: one at Redmond Town Center and the other along Redmond Way just before it becomes Redmond Fall City Road.

Alternative E4 is similar to E1 with one major difference - it cuts across 520 and the Sammamish River more quickly by following Leary Way north. Construction of the E4 alternative would disturb a greenbelt separating the river from Redmond Town Center and would likely not fit aesthetically into the environment. It would have the same stations as E1 (described above).

Alternative E2, however, is much different. It follows SR 520 past the Parkway exit, and only passes over the eastbound offramp of the highway as it heads across the Sammamish River into the northern edge of Marymoor Park. It descends until it's at grade about a fourth of the way into the park perimeter.

E2's first station is in southeast Redmond, just outside Marymoor, conveniently near the Velodrome and on property that the agency is eying for a new park and ride as well as a Link maintenance facility. E2 then loops around (like a trail switchback) crossing SR 520 just south of Redmond Way, where it descends to ground level as it joins the BNSF right of way.

Like E4 and E1, E2 has a station at Redmond Town Center as it passes through downtown on the old BNSF railway. Once past Leary Way, E2 veers north and ends with a final station at the Redmond Park and Ride, located along 83rd Street NE.

E2 is preferred by the city, and as it turns out, apparently the city's residents as well. I learned at the conclusion of the workshop that nearly all my fellow participants agreed the E2 alternative was by far the top choice. It has the most stations (3), it's the best fit for the needs of the greater Redmond community, and it does not impact as many sensitive areas.

The overarching theme of the workshop, however, was a simple yet prevalent message from residents to Sound Transit: get light rail out to us, and do it as quickly as you can. The sentiment was very clear - it was mentioned in almost every breakout group report.

As I wrote at the beginning of the month:
The region, especially the Eastside (where NPI is headquartered), is hungry for light rail, and the Phase II package looks mighty appetizing.
The public is willing to invest in a rail system that's green, flexible, runs on versatile technology, and is proven to be effective. Because these electric trains will operate in their own right of way, they can't get stuck in traffic (unlike buses) and are therefore able to provide fast, smooth, and reliable service - which is hugely important for commuters.

East Link isn't an attractive project for those who only want new freeway lanes, but it's time elected leaders stopped worrying about or listening to the few demanding (and vocal) obstructionists who insist we subsidize more pavement.

The Eastside is ready to pay for light rail, tolerate construction of the line, and very eager to ride. Given the demand for Link, it's no surprise the workshop was well attended. The turnout was also diverse - there were representatives from business (Microsoft, the Chamber of Commerce), commuters tired of fighting traffic, retired and disabled citizens, stay at home mothers, and so on.

The workshop was well staffed and well organized. A variety of tasty refreshments were provided, along with take-home info packets and brochures. Placards were set up in the City Hall lobby with large maps, diagrams, and visual explanations of the project and the technology for participants to look over.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend, and on behalf of NPI, I commend Sound Transit for its vigorous public outreach.

Seeking detailed input from the public is money and time well spent.

We hope the Board understands and appreciates how much we out here in Redmond are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Link, and we hope Segment E can be built as part of the initial project phase rather than as an extension.

We just can't wait to ride the wave.

Pelosi to visit Seattle

At Strange Bedfellows, Joel Connelly reports that Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be visiting Seattle on Friday.
Pelosi will visit the headquarters of Seattle Biodiesel, where she'll meet with executives of nine firms, as well as Gov. Chris Gregoire and four members of the Washington congressional delegation.
While the administration dithers, Democrats are looking to the future when it comes to alternative fuels and dealing with climate change. Doubtless the local wingnuts will base their comments on the weather that day, so let's hope it's 75 and perfect, that'll confuse 'em.

Imus gets the boot from MSNBC

MSNBC will no longer carry Don Imus.
MSNBC has canceled its "Imus in the Morning" simulcast, the network announced Wednesday.

The decision comes after remarks deemed racist and sexist that radio talk-show host Don Imus made last week about the Rutgers University women's basketball team prompted a number of advertisers to drop the program.

--snip---

Imus' flagship station in New York, WFAN-AM, which is owned by CBS Radio, has also announced a two-week suspension but has so far not fired Imus.

After the MSNBC announcement, CBS Radio spokeswoman Karen Mateo issued a statement saying that during the suspension, "CBS Radio will continue to speak with all concerned parties and monitor the situation closely."

Earlier Wednesday, a member of CBS Corp.'s board of directors said Imus should be fired.

"As an African-American, I believe that Imus has crossed the line, a very bright line that divides our country," said Bruce Gordon, a CBS director and former president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
One of the most revealing aspects of this sorry affair has been the number of journalists who have defended Imus. The country is not well served by a chummy, protect-our-own national press corps.

Clearly MSNBC gets it, even if CBS Radio is still groping towards taking meaningful action. This isn't about "political correctness," it's about basic American values like respect and decency. As many have pointed out, including members of the Rutgers basketball team, how would you like it if that was your daughter being called such a name?

Fox Noise is on the ropes and Don Imus is off cable. Being a profit center is no longer an excuse. The media conglomerates better raise their standards of conduct, or they will continue to face the wrath of a citizenry that has, quite simply, had enough. There has been enough lying, bigotry and hatred dished out in the last fifteen years to last a lifetime. Look at where it has brought us.

While the First Amendment protects free speech, it does not require businesses to sponsor speech that is loathsome to core American ideals. Perhaps the traditional media will start examining, in depth, some of the other radio "personalities" that infest the public airwaves.

This is a different issue than the "civility in politics" fluff that went around after the last election. Republicans call their style of politics "hardball," so Democrats have to play just as tough and sometimes tougher. The political parties and politicians will probably always duke it out to some degree or another. When someone goes too far, like Dan Roach, they usually get called on it.

That doesn't mean that media outlets are entitled to become cesspools because they can make some money at it, at least not if they want to continue enjoying huge profits from ad revenue.

People are mad as hell and they're not going to take it any more.

House Democrats shouldn't legitimize Tim Eyman's free lunch philosophy

It's the stuff of Ripley's "Believe It or Not." Too bizarre to credit, yet too often repeated to ignore: the House Democrats were actually considering the idea of moving Tim Eyman's agenda for him. With two weeks to go in the legislative session, it's possible - although thanks to a grassroots mobilization no longer likely - that they may still take action.

It's hard to fathom. But a sizable number of House Democrats, including an oversampling of those in swing districts, sponsored a bill to codify Tim Eyman's Initiative 747 into law. And the scoop in the halls in Olympia is that even Speaker Frank Chopp was weighing the merits of passing the bill.

I-747 generally capped the annual growth of the regular state and local property levies at 1%. It seems like pretty dry stuff, until you consider that it takes roughly 2% just to keep pace with inflation.

Which means that Eyman's initiative is slowly starving the vital services that property taxes fund: police, fire, and emergency medical protection, public schools, libraries, parks and recreation, hospitals and more.

Aren't Democrats known for supporting infrastructure needed for the common good?

According to a recent analysis done by the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, the poorest fifth of Washington households pay 6% of their earnings in property taxes, the middle fifth pays 4.7% and the wealthiest fifth pay 2.8%.

Aren't Democrats supposed to care about working and middle class families and increasing equity? So what gives?

There is no doubt that a lot of the Democrats who now comprise a majority in the House got an earful while doorbelling during election season about property taxes, including some legislators who may face a challenger for their seat next time around.

It makes sense to go on record as "doing something" about property taxes. But the question foremost in our minds is, how does voting to maintain the status quo address those concerns? Eyman's I-747 has been in place for five years, and remains in effect pending a State Supreme Court ruling later this year.

Clearly it hasn't addressed voters' concerns.

Any change to the tax system should be judged by whether it makes the system fairer, more stable, more adequate (in terms of revenue to invest) and more transparent as well as accountable.

I-747 flunks across the board.

As the legislative session draws to a close, let's hope whatever misguided analysis led some Democrats to even consider - however briefly - carrying Tim Eyman's water for him will be put to rest.

There are creative alternatives that would make the property tax system more equitable and still generate enough revenue for vital locally-funded services. You'll be hearing more about those over the next few weeks and months.

The lighter side - candidate Girl Scout cookies

Mr_Blog's Left Turn uncovers the shocking truth behind GOP Girl Scout cookies.
The Girls Scouts of America have introduced a new series of Presidential Horserace cookies, but not all Republican candidates are pleased, charging that the names of some cookies reflect favoritism.

---snip---

"We're quite happy, under the circumstances, with 'Mint Romneys,'" said Joe Crowthers, spokesperson for the campaign of Gov. Mitt Romney. 'Mint Romneys' have a large gooey center surrounded by a semi-transparent shell.

However, Romney's is the only Republican campaign with anything remotely good to say about the new cookies, with other GOP organizations critical of 'Giuliani Lemon Sourpusses,' 'Nutty Tancredos,' 'Duncan Donut Holes,' and 'Cheezy Tommies' (former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson), names which they say carry unflattering double meanings. "Compare 'Brownback Mountains' with 'Mint Romneys,' and you have to conclude a pro-Romney agenda is at work," said Tina Williams of the Sen. Sam Brownback campaign.

The candidate most vocal about his displeasure with the Girl Scouts is Sen. John McCain, who says 'Warhead Walnut Kookies' are targeted at him.
"A gooey center surrounded by a semi-transparent shell." Sounds exactly like Romney. The whole thing begs the question: if GOP candidates were candies, who would be crunchy frog?

Shorter Columbian on voter registration

Potential voter fraud, although virtually non-existent, combined with slightly higher administrative burdens trumps the goal of increasing voter participation by allowing registration up through election day.

We favored vote by mail because it's popular, but we're not so sure how popular it will be if certain other kinds of people also vote. There are limits to how much democracy we can take. And please note our red herring in bringing up the 2004 gubernatorial election, which although a statistical improbability allows us to make scary noises in support of our reactionary position.

If you're less well off and you move frequently, you can just drag your behind down to the county building and park in one of the always available, quarter-eating public parking spots in between your day and night jobs. Otherwise you don't deserve to vote.

You can't make a federal case out of it

The P-I continues its tradition of fine muckraking stories, this time revealing how the FBI basically can't help you if you are a victim of white collar crime, identity theft or have your civil rights violated.
Thousands of white-collar criminals across the country are no longer being prosecuted in federal court -- and, in many cases, not at all -- leaving a trail of frustrated victims and potentially billions of dollars in fraud and theft losses.

It is the untold story of the Bush administration's massive restructuring of the FBI after the terrorism attacks of 9/11.
This one is most definitely worth a full read if you want to understand more about how badly the Bush administration has screwed things up in the Justice Department.

TPMmuckraker called the story its "must read" of the day.

Well done, reporters Paul Shukovsky, Tracy Johnson and Daniel Lathrop of the P-I.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In Brief - April 10th, 2007

Here's today's quick news digest, with grilled cheese and clam chowder:
Finally, with props to Talking Points Memo, comes a New York Times article detailing how a federal commission appears to have downplayed expert opinion suggesting that voter fraud is scarce. As Josh Marshall so aptly puts it:
You have to put all these pieces together to see the whole picture. The Republican party is heavily invested in hyping and inventing claims of voter fraud which they then use to stymie legitimate voter registration drives and institute 'ballot integrity' efforts which have the actual goal of limiting voting by racial minorities and under-income voters.

The truth can hurt but that's the unvarnished truth. And the backdrop to the US Attorney Purge was a concerted effort to enlist US Attorneys to put the power of the state criminal prosecution apparatus behind this partisan gambit.
The whole thing rested on creating a false equivalence, that "Democrats do it too." Which was always baloney.

Anyone who has ever been to a Democratic Party meeting knows we couldn't organize the theft of a salt shaker without three hours of debate.

Imus loses advertisers

From Media Bistro:
"The Don Imus controversy may not end with his suspension," Keith Olbermann reported tonight. It's starting to hurt financially. Quoting Olbermann: "Staples -- the big office supply chain -- telling our sister network CNBC that 'recent comments on the show' have caused it to discontinue its advertising on Imus In The Morning.

And, an hour later, the co-president of Bigelow Tea announced her company, whose advertising contract with Imus's show had just expired, had 'suspended our current advertising' and may not resume it.

Within the last hour, the nation's biggest marketer, Proctor & Gamble, has suspended its advertising committments for the television simulcast.

And the media buying agency Carat-USA says some of its clients have asked for their commercials to be pulled from the Imus program, though it would not identify them."

Olbermann said management has suggested that he "withhold any formal comment" about the situation "until Mr. Imus meets with the Rutgers players, to gauge their reaction..."
This is what it's going to take.

Guiliani clueless about cost of food

It's just what the country needs: another out of touch Republican who probably hasn't had to do any mundane tasks like go grocery shopping for a very long time. It seems Rudy Giuliani has no clue about how much food costs. From Newsday:
But when asked about more mundane matters - like the price of some basic staples - Giuliani had trouble.

"A gallon of milk is probably about a $1.50, a loaf of bread about a $1.25, $1.30," he said.

A check of the Web site for D'Agostino supermarket on Manhattan's Upper East Side showed a gallon of milk priced at $4.19 and a loaf of white bread at $2.99 to $3.39. In Montgomery, Ala., a gallon of milk goes for about $3.39 and bread is about $2.
I bet there are millions of American moms and dads who can tell you exactly what they paid for milk and bread. With fuel prices rising, family budgets could be stretched.

Maybe Zig Ziglar knows how much stuff costs. From Democrats.org in February:
According to the Washington Post today, Giuliani's campaign has left open the possibility that he will continue to accept fees for speaking engagements booked in the next six months. Get Motivated Seminars has already promoted speaking events for Giuliani in Delaware, Houston and other states where he usually gets paid $100,000 per speech. [Washington Post, 2/15/07]
A hundred grand is a lot of um, bread to whip a bunch of mid-level middle management suck-ups into a frenzy of greed. But then, the "G" in GOP never did stand for "Grand" anyhow, at least not in our lifetimes. It's a coalition of cults of authority; the only decision a Republican in 2007 has to make is which cult to join.

My money is on the Greed Cult regaining dominance. The Schiavo Savers Cult isn't good for business.

The WASL continues to tick

Looking over the school calendar, I noticed that it's almost WASL time again, that glorious time of year when parents start getting stern letters and robo-calls about how important it is and remember to give your kid breakfast (thanks for insulting me, school district robot.) If we get any more authoritarian in this society, next thing you know I'll have to sign dinner slips detailing what I served the night before. A sure ticket to a "C" for my kids, based on my cooking.

David Postman has a post about unhappiness with the Legislature over the WASL, and it's something worth thinking about.
The Seattle teacher's union says its members have "considerable anger" about the proposed state budget and plans to delay implementing standardized math — but not writing — tests as high school graduation requirements. A letter from union leaders to Seattle lawmakers sent April 6 says the city's lawmakers need to live up to their liberal reputation.
At issue, as Postman covers, is the sense that by delaying math requirements for graduation but not reading requirements, the Legislature would be acting in a racist fashion.

While I'm certain that's not anyone's intent, the Seattle union members do have a point.

WASL is a big problem. It's expensive, there are legitimate worries about "teaching to the test," and there is a danger that some students will be treated unfairly and denied a diploma. Plus you're stressing kids out to justify political posturing, which is fairly asinine.

Teachers have a difficult job as it is, and while it's conservative mantra to blame everything on the WEA, that's a facile approach. If we're going to have standardized testing, then it should be for the purposes of helping the kids, not punishing students, schools or districts. Frankly, WASL has become a monster, and I wouldn't be sad to see it go. That's not going to happen any time soon, but in the meantime WASL continues to be the biggest ticking time bomb in state politics. You don't mess with people's kids and not pay a price.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Micromanage this

It's a dangerous thing when a member of Congress tries to micro-manage foreign policy. When someone decides that they know better than the Commander in Chief, America is weakened, especially when the subject is the Middle East.

The danger for the country is compounded when the member of Congress meets with people some might consider enemies, even more so when that member of Congress does not have all the facts straight.

Some have even suggested that a member of Congress who visits a country in the Middle East is a traitor, and while we don't agree with that statement, it's clear that John McCain needs to stop meddling in things he doesn't understand.

Rutgers players owe Imus nothing

The New York Times has an article about the Imus spectacle, and this is kind of an interesting idea to consider:
It is unclear whether members of the Rutgers team will agree to meet with Mr. Imus. The Rutgers athletic director, Robert E. Mulcahy III, said in a statement yesterday, “I have relayed the message of Don Imus and his offer to apologize in person to the students and asked them to let me know how they wished to respond if at all.”
The students, obviously, can do as they wish. If some or all of them want to meet with Imus, that's their right.

But it's all pretty sad. These women made it to the highest game in their sport, falling to Tennesee in the national championship. That makes them public figures, but one can safely assume none of them imagined they would find themselves involved against their wishes in this imbroglio.

Years from now, these women will not only recall their stellar season but the offensive remarks made by Imus. That's pretty cold.

The basketball players didn't ask for this; they were singled out because of their race and gender because Imus thought it would be funny to do so. If this supposedly respectable heavywieght radio personality can be that insensitive and stupid, what does that say about the American media?

This goes way beyond Imus. The bean counters in media corporations better start realizing that the continual bad behavior of some of their reporters, editorial writers and personalities is starting to threaten the bottom line. To borrow the oft-repeated phrase from the chillingly prescient movie Network, people are now mad as hell and they're not going to take it any more.

The usual canards are being trotted out already: Imus is sorry, this is "political correctness," it was an "attempt at humor." Blah blah blah. I don't care if Imus is sorry, he should have thought of that about fifteen years ago. If it's politically correct to object to hateful racial insults, sign me up. Humor is subjective, but there's a reason Howard Stern has been consigned to satellite.

And yes, conservatives, please bore us with lame attempts at defending Imus on First Amendment grounds. Of course he has First Amendment rights. We all do, but the media corporations long ago decided that easy money through shock is preferrable to being responsible corporate citizens. Imus himself is emblamatic of the larger problem with the media conglomerates, in that he got away with being both a shock jock and a "serious journalist." Good reporting can be entertaining, but the emphasis on dollars and the entertainment aspect of news has severely damaged our country. We can't have a truly functional democracy with a lousy Fourth Estate.

The Rutgers players and coaches, and their families, have kind of a difficult decision to make. They'd be well within their rights to refuse to meet with Imus, because they don't owe him the time of day.

Electronic voter registration on the way?

It's a big step closer, as of today:
Secretary of State Sam Reed's proposal to allow voters to register to vote on-line passed the Washington State Legislature today.

"This is quite a milestone in Washington state elections," said Reed. “We can look forward to even greater access to the election process."

A person who has a Washington State driver's license or State ID card is eligible to register or transfer a registration electronically on the Secretary of State’s website.

Electronic voter registration is very safe because in order to register online citizens must have stood before a state employee, present proper documentation, and have their pictures taken to receive an ID card or driver’s license.

The public already conducts business on-line and expects such convenience and efficiency from government.
Now that it's made it through both chambers, the legislation is on its way to Governor Gregoire's desk. It's unlikely she won't sign it, so Washingtonians who will soon come of age or are otherwise not registered can look forward to joining the voter rolls online in the near future.

Hillary, Barack deep six Fox debate

The planned FOX/CBC debate is slowly falling apart as candidates and the Democratic Party itself have declared they will not sanction or participate in it.

Not long ago, John Edwards announced he would skip the Fox/CBC event, and the DNC subsequently confirmed it would not be one of six debates sanctioned by the party. Now Hillary and Barack have followed suit:
Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama have decided not to participate in the Democratic debate that the Congressional Black Caucus institute and Fox News [Noise] channel had planned for September in Detroit.

[..]

Bill Burton, spokesman for Senator Obama, said CNN seemed a more “appropriate venue.”

Phil Singer, spokesman for Senator Clinton, said: “We’re going to participate in the D.N.C.-sanctioned debates only. We’ve previously committed to participating in the South Carolina and Tavis Smiley debates.”
This move was a no-brainer. John Edwards has certainly benefited from taking the lead in refusing to participate in presidential debates that legitimize shameless right wing propaganda outlets.

Imus suspended by corporate parents

Don Imus is being suspended for two weeks for his vile, racist comments.
While CBS made its announcement without comment, MSNBC said Imus' regret at making the inappropriate comment and his stated dedication to changing the show's discourse made it believe this was the appropriate response.
It's a good thing he didn't bare his breast during the Super Bowl, he could have gotten into real trouble.
Federal regulators will stick by their decision to slap CBS with a $550,000 fine for the Janet Jackson flash at the 2004 Super Bowl.

They also plan new sanctions against Fox, NBC and CBS TV stations or affiliates for violating decency standards, according to people familiar with the matter.
I guess decency is in the eye of the beholder.

Budget close, Roach sent to motel

The Legislature is moving along on budget issues, and the GOP is giving Dan Roach a timeout and taking away the Play Station, after his ridiculous outburst on the House floor last week. From The Olympian:
House and Senate negotiators were trading budget counterproposals Friday, narrowing their differences in major areas of disagreement around K-12 education and especially how to treat math and science education. Gov. Chris Gregoire had proposed twice as much spending on math and science, teacher training and related efforts as the House and three times what the Senate did.

But Sen. Craig Pridemore, the Vancouver Democrat who is the Senate’s No. 1 budget writer, said the Senate and House are moving closer to the governor’s requests, as well as toward each other. In the House, the top budget writer, Rep. Helen Sommers, D-Seattle, said much the same.

“We are right now very, very close on K-12,” Pridemore said Friday before the Senate adjourned for the Easter weekend. “I think the governor will be very pleased.’’

“We do try to move closer to the governor in a number of areas, and they do, too,” Sommers confirmed.
And:
Debolt said he asked the House presiding officer to set aside any bills from Roach.

“It’s a good day to chill out,” DeBolt said.

“Easter being the season of hope and renewal, we’ll take a break and come back with hope and renewal” today, DeBolt said in a sit-down with reporters, adding Roach had apologized to Kessler.
It is hard to imagine where Roach got the idea that anything goes. Well, at least he didn't mail a fax sex offender postcard.

Obama to Late Show

Fresh off last week's stunning fundraising numbers, Barack Obama is scheduled to appear tonight on Late Show with David Letterman.

It's still sometimes difficult to believe the campaigns are already geared up so much. But it will be nice to see Obama on Letterman.

MORE: Via Think Progress comes word that Obama will not participate in the Fox Noise debate hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus. This is great. Democrats at all levels are learning that you can't enable the opposition. They're going to attack us anyway, so joining forces with them is just dumb.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Connelly on the D.C. media bubble

Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly writes about how the Beltway punditcrats have sold Barack Obama short, in a way, and you really have to love this:
My sense is that the "punditocracy" in Washington, D.C., read each other, interview each other and quote each other too much for the country's good.

We saw, in the Scooter Libby trial, the gossipy chumminess of top Bush administration officials and what Canada's former U.S. ambassador Allan Gotlieb used to call "high press."

The approach, highly effective, deployed by veteran D.C. hands in the Bush administration was revealed for all to see: Treat these people like they are important insiders, and they'll be in the palm of your hand.
And that is the heart of the issue, when it comes to examining the national press as an institution. They live in their own world. Their cocktail wienies are served on a bed of romaine with a side of gossip - while working families' beanie weenies come in a can and are served as dinner on soccer night.

And people complain about Hollywood. The Beltway media establishment is worse than Hollywood in many ways - for instance, box office disasters don't tend to start ill advised wars that get courageous Americans and innocent Iraqis killed.

Darcy Burner the first candidate to be added to Eschaton '08 Challengers

Atrios published a short post to his blog today (entitled Keep Slogging) urging readers to donate to Darcy Burner's 2008 campaign for Congress:
And, when our leaders let us down, as they do, all we can do is try to elect more and better Democrats.

So, consider giving Darcy Burner a few bucks.
Darcy is the first and only candidate to be added so far to Atrios' 2008 Challengers page on ActBlue - a nod to the outstanding campaign she ran in 2006 and an acknowledgment of her willingness to listen to the netroots, grassroots, and citizens not only within but also around the 8th Congressional District.

Don Imus under fire for racist comments

Don Imus is under scrutiny for racist comments he made last week, even if he says he's sorry. From The New York Times:
Given that Mr. Imus spent part of last week describing the student athletes at Rutgers as “nappy-headed hos,” you might think he’d have trouble booking anyone, let alone A-list establishment names.

But Mr. Imus, who has been given a pass for this sort of comment in the past, also generously provides airtime to those parts of the news media and political apparatus that would generally be expected to bring him to account.

Mr. Imus’s comment about the Rutgers team last week was not just, as they say, over the line — you can’t even see the line from where he landed. It was not a gaffe, a slip of the tongue, a joke in poor taste.

(Nor was the on-air comment to Mr. Imus by the show’s longtime producer, Bernard McGuirk, calling the women’s final the “Jigaboos vs. the Wannabees,” in a bad attempt to borrow a phrase from a Spike Lee movie.) Mr. Imus’s slur was the kind of unalloyed racial insult that might not have passed muster on a low-watt AM station in the Jim Crow South.
We live in a corporate media saturated society that seems to prize double standards. Make fun of NASCAR and look out. (And by the way, last time I checked NASCAR is both a corporation and a sport rather than a group of citizens, even if it is most popular in certain regions and classes.)

Call black athletes by the most demeaning, racist names imaginable, and the corporate PR machine goes into over-drive, not because anyone watching the books is actually sorry, but because they have to protect a profit center named Don Imus.

MSNBC, which is also home to Keith Olbermann, is under no First Amendment obligation to continue to air Imus, any more than they are under a Constitutional obligation to give UFO theorists a three hour show.

(Imus's radio show is cable-cast as well.)

Our media environment is diseased, polluted by all sorts of crackpots, racists, cranks and thugs who "just say what they think" or "try to be funny." It's called judgment, and Imus doesn't have any and never did. Anyone who ever suffered through one of his shows has known that for a long time. It's time for him to go.

UPDATE-- The president of the New Jersey NAACP has called for Imus to resign and Imus is scheduled to be on Al Sharpton's radio show tomorrow.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover!

To all our Christian readers, may you have a very blessed, holy, and peaceful Easter Sunday. And to all our Jewish readers, may have you have a happy, solemn, and joyous Passover. It's a beautiful, sunny day in the Pacific Northwest (well, in Redmond, anyway) - great weather for a celebration and a feast.

Here's to the season of spring.

Al Gore owes me some eggs

During global warming last week, my lawn grew a lot. Now global warming went away, and beecause it was so warm I didn't mow my lawn, which is now cold and damp. Curse you Al Gore! It's your fault my lawn is shaggy and wet on Easter and now we have to hide plastic eggs around the house. (Trust me, if you use real ones, pay careful attention to where you put them. That smell turned out NOT to be my tennis shoes after all, loving family.)

I wonder why global warming always goes away on the weekend? The Mariners haven't played because global warming really went away in Cleveland. And this brings me to a theory about how global warming goes away all the time.

Last week was opening day, of course. All those hot dogs have to be brought to stadiums around the country in refrigerated trucks, and when they opened the trucks to unload, global warming went away. Then everyone will want hot chocolate, and that will bring back global warming next week.

This "Republican Science Facts" moment brought to you by a $350,000 grant from the Apple Pie Foundation. Apple pie: if you disagree with us, you hate apple pie.

UPDATE: On a more serious note, The Seattle Times has several articles today about climate change, including the story of how proposed legislation in Olympia is pitting big business electricity users against utilities and one about the spread of a life-threatening fungus in the Northwest. Egads.

Transcript of Hutcherson on CNN

At Slog the other day, Eli Sanders posted another "Note from the Payer Warrior," the email missives from anti-gay preacher Ken Hutcherson, this time about Hutcherson's appearance on CNN.

Sanders has been doing a fine job keeping tabs on Hutcherson - especially his recent trip to Latvia to make common cause with bigots there.

Here's a partial transcript of what Hutcherson tried to sell on CNN. The segment aired April 5th, 2007, according to CNN.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: This debate is clearly one which divides families, causes many people pain. Joining us to talk about it more, is Ken Hutcherson in Seattle. He's the founder and senior pastor and one of the most vocal leaders in the fight against same-sex marriage. And in Dallas, the Reverend Joe Hudson the senior pastor at Cathedral of Hope, which has a predominantly gay and lesbian congregation. I appreciate the both of you being with us.

Reverend Hudson, can a church cure a person's homosexuality in your opinion?

REVEREND JOE HUDSON, PASTOR CATHEDRAL OF HOPE: Well, I wouldn't believe that homosexuality needed to be cured. So, I wouldn't necessarily feel it the responsibility of a church to cure homosexuality

COOPER: When you hear the idea of a cure, what do you think?

HUDSON: Well, I go back to my understanding of faith. It says that human sexuality is a gift of God. And that that human sexuality is something that can be used for good or for bad. But that it is essentially a gift of God and should be honored and treated with great respect. And so, I include the full spectrum of homosexuality in that.

COOPER: Pastor Hutcherson, even those people in Gary's report who say they are cured of homosexuality, admit they have feelings of attraction to people of the same sex. They're essentially just living their lives suppressing those feelings. Is that what God wants?

KEN HUTCHERSON, PASTOR ANTIOCH BIBLE CHURCH: Well, I think anything that the Bible calls sin, Anderson, when a person is cured of alcoholism, does that mean that they are completely set free from ever wanting a drink? No. They are not. Or someone that has a problem with tremendous amounts of lust. If they are cured of that, that doesn't mean those feelings aren't there. Just because the feelings are there, don't make it right or wrong. What makes it right or wrong is what the bible has to say.

COOPER: And you believe it is possible to be cured? Of homosexuality?

HUTCHERSON: Absolutely. I think it's possible to be cured of any sin that the Bible calls. Because that's what the Holy Spirit does. That's what repentance does. And that's why we think that homosexuality is a choice. And that it is a sin. And they need to repent that sin and God gives them the strength to walk in a life that pleases him. COOPER: Reverend Hudson, do you believe the Bible says homosexuality is sin?

HUDSON: I believe there are passages in scripture that point to that. But I understand scripture and the bible in a very different way than I think that Reverend Hutcherson does. I look at scripture as a sacred text. The Bible as a sacred and sacramental text. But I also look at it as a text that points to a history and a culture and a very different kind of people that lived then, as do we now.

COOPER: What do you think Reverend Hutcherson? Do you -- there are those who say Jesus never talked about homosexuality. If you read the Bible, there's nothing he ever said about it. If it was so important, why wouldn't he have championed it? Or talked about it?

HUTCHERSON: Well, Jesus never talked about a lot of things that came directly from his mouth. But I think that Reverend Hudson would also agree that we believe in the whole New Testament and Old Testament was inspired by God. And it was inspired by the Holy Spirit who led men along to write those books, those 66 books in the bible. The 27 in the New Testament, is the ones that lays out the whole truth of God. Not just what Jesus says. And she would have to agree that the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin. You know, it says that men left the natural desire of a woman and went after a man. And a woman left the natural desire of a man and went after a woman. If the Bible says they left the natural that means the bible says it homosexuality is unnatural. And that's where I stand.

COOPER: Reverend Hudson, the gays and lesbians in your congregation, I imagine some of them have been in other congregations and felt that they were no longer welcome and found a place at your house of worship. What have they been through? For many, this is an academic discussion. It's an academic debate. For people in your congregation this, is very real. And this has real pain and real costs. What are the stories that your congregation tells you?

HUDSON: Well, we hear from people every day, and every week, from people not only in the Dallas-Ft.Worth Metroplex, but people all over the world, who have been rejected by their churches. Who have left the church of Jesus Christ, who want to be in a relationship with God. Who want to have a healthy, strong relationship with a God who loves them. And yet, have been turned away from church after church. And have come to our congregation and been affirmed. Have come close to God. Have through the reading and the study of scripture, come close to god. Have transformed their lives into lives of service and servant hood. Making a difference in the lives of others. And living very Christian, disciplined lives.

COOPER: Reverend Hutcherson, do you believe that someone who is gay, happy about it, living a life and has a partner, do you believe they're going to hell?

HUTCHERSON: I think if they have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, that's the key to get into heaven. Not whether or not you are a homosexual or not a homosexual. Whether you're white or whether you're black. The Bible says if haven't accepted Jesus Christ you are a condemned. He is the only way. That is where I stand, bro and I don't even think twice about it.

COOPER: Pastor Hutcherson I appreciate it and Pastor Hudson as well. Thank you very much.

HUDSON: Thank you for having me.
You can say a lot of things about that, but this is why we can't have a theocracy. The issue isn't what Hutcherson and his church followers want to believe in their Constitutionally protected church; the issue is how the civil government treats all citizens equally under the law. It's not hard to understand, but Hutcherson either doesn't want to understand it or has so little regard for the First Amendment that he thinks it's okay to blur the line between church and state.

As for all the "curing gay people" business, it's offensive as can be, but I suppose if folks want to believe oddball stuff they will. They'd probably be offended if someone suggested there is a cure for fundamentalism, but that's another discussion.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Breaking: Giuliani's Ego Over-Inflates, Pops

In the latest of a series of self-congratulatory speeches, Rudy Giuliani once again milks a horrible tragedy for his own personal gain.

From the New York Times:
"What they say in Washington is not going to affect the fact that there are terrorists around the world that are planning to come here and kill us," he said in Iowa, in the most spirited part of his newly honed stump speech.

Pointing his finger and bouncing up and down on his toes, he declared, "It is something I understand better than anyone else running for president."
Ironically, he said the same thing about marriage, extra-martial affairs, and capitalizing on other people's emotions.
Until this week, Mr. Giuliani’s views on Iraq were not well known. But on this trip he made clear, though never mentioning President Bush by name, that he firmly supported the administration’s current strategy, including Mr. Bush’s decision to send more than 20,000 additional combat troops there.
Hm... A "stay the course" strategy. That's so crazy it just might work!
He then casually lumped Iran with Al Qaeda. "Their movement has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us," he said.

Mr. Giuliani was asked in an interview to clarify that, inasmuch as Iran had no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Further, most of its people are Shiites, whereas Al Qaeda is an organization of Sunnis.

"They have a similar objective," he replied, "in their anger at the modern world."

In other words, he said, they hate America.
Oh Mr. Giuliani, your grasp on foreign policy is almost magical. You know what else would be a good idea? We can start referring to the Chinese as "those communist Asians" and the British as "Those queen loving Redcoats" as well. In fact, why don't we group every single ethnicity and country into racist stereotypes.

At least Giuliani does something well: He helps reaffirm the reason we don't elect Mayors for president.

Although, if he does win, I was treasurer of my honor society in college - I think that means I'm qualified to be head of the state department, right?

Friday, April 06, 2007

A lack of decorum

Props go to Seattle Times reporter and blogger David Postman for being the first to report the petulance of mama's boy Republican Washington House Rep Dan. Roach, with a fine rhetorical title on his blog.

Roach brought shame to the Legislature by attacking House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler and her husband, a noted Seattle attorney.

The AP account of the story is now circulating in regional newspapers (e.g. here & here) and was a lead story on KING 5 news at 11 pm.

Postman's blog stands out for following up and learning the really craven nature of Roach's attack, including the lack of sincerity in his apology.

The sheer audacity of Roach to attack a family was beyond the pale. Roach, son of Sen. Pam Roach, comes from a family that would be much more vulnerable to personal attacks -- e.g. here & here & here & here & here.

You can find plenty more in the public arena with a few simple archive searches. Those in Olympia know quite a bit more about Pam & Dan (and their families and friends). Little of it is flattering.

Kessler, on the other hand, is a hard-worker, respected leader and very civil to her colleagues, whether opposition or friend. She's also serves a district that elects Republicans and works from a very pragmatic view to accomplish sound policy decisions in Olympia.

To those who know the personalities of the Legislature, it's all the more shocking that she was the target for a personal attack -- even by someone as ineffectual and poorly regarded as Rep. Roach.

Rep. Roach attempts to excuse his actions because he said his voice was not being heard in Olympia. Well, that makes the solution simple. He needs to step aside and let someone with the policy chops and personal maturity finish his term.

Go home to Lake Tapps and you can practice sound effects - as is your wont - making the sound of bong hits with your brother or discuss woman-on-woman wrestling with your mom- as is hers.

Respect your constituents, the legislative process and the diminishing number of Republicans who believe in civil discourse and resign your seat. You have made yourself an embarassment to the institution in which you very ineffectively serve.

Drop the olive oil and raise your hands

Yet another sure sign the drug war has gone too far.
A Pullman landlord notified police about a grow lamp in a closet, and police got a search warrant for a drug raid.

Eight officers with guns drawn surprised three roommates in the apartment last weekend and discovered they were growing tomatoes.
In related news, the DEA is considering new restrictions on basil due to an increase in home-made "pasta labs."

Gourmet cooks will be required to provide photo ID and sign a log - only then will they be able to purchase a maximum of 1 ounce of fresh basil per month.

Violators face penalties that include a one month diet of canned macaroni and cheese...and that's just the beginning.

Experts worry restrictions could lead to an increase in imported, high-potency marinara from Italy. Recent reports indicate that organized gangs of "foodies" may be smuggling sauces on cruise ships, filling shampoo bottles and other containers with the illicit food items. In Manhattan, authentic pistou can reportedly fetch upwards of $300 per serving, known in foodie parlance as a "dish."

Gonzales aide resigns

If it's Friday, it must be time for a news dump.

Or in this case, a Good Friday person dump.
A top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales abruptly quit Friday, almost two weeks after telling Congress she would not testify about her role in the firings of federal prosecutors.

There was no immediate reason given, but Monica M. Goodling's refusal to face Congress had intensified a controversy that threatens Gonzales' job.

She resigned in a three-sentence letter to Gonzales, calling her five-year stint at Justice an honor and telling him, "May God bless you richly as you continue your service to America."

Asserting her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Goodling had rejected demands for a private interview with a House committee investigating the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.
So I'm not a lawyer, but it should be interesting now that Goodling is not employed by Justice. If she still won't testify on grounds she might incriminate herself, that raises a whole host of possibilities.

Red Rover, Red Rover, come in Red Rover.

Edwards says no to Fox debate-again

John Edwards will not participate in a Fox-televised presidential debate sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus. From TPM Election Central:
John Edwards -- who was first out of the box to pull out of the Fox-sponsored Nevada debate, earning accolades from the netroots and Dem activists -- has done it again.

His campaign has just called the Congressional Black Caucus and informed them that Edwards will not be part of the proposed Sept. 23 debate with Fox.
Edwards clearly gets this.

There shouldn't be any debates involving Fox Noise. They can have a pool feed if they want, but none of their employees should get to grandstand and distort things. It's not about answering questions from real reporters, it's about not being an active participant in your own abuse. This isn't complicated.

Romney shoots self in foot on gun issue

Mitt Romney is still trying to explain his hunting experience. From CNN:
NDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is taking a second shot at describing his hunting experience.

The former Massachusetts governor has called himself a lifelong hunter, yet his campaign acknowledged that he has been on just two hunting trips -- one when he was 15 and the other just last year.

Campaigning in Indianapolis on Thursday, Romney said he has hunted small game since his youth.

"I'm not a big-game hunter. I've made that very clear," he said. "I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will. I began when I was 15 or so and I have hunted those kinds of varmints since then. More than two times."
It's all so silly, of course, kind of a last vestige of the days when the NRA actually mattered in American politics. But like so many right-wing institutions, they had to go too far.

Romney was trying to appeal to the GOP base, which is understandable, but there is nothing people hate more than a phoney. Romney probably enjoyed hunting mid-cap companies with undervalued assets a lot more than "small varmints."

People have different hobbies. Some people "scrapbook." Some people hunt. Some people play odd variations of tennis with funny, squishy balls instead of real tennis balls. None of this has any practical meaning as to how well someone might do as an elected official.

The NRA and the GOP had success in the past labelling Democrats as hostile to the hunting culture, which never was true.

If you believe in republicanism (note the small "r,") you understand that the needs of an intense urban environmnent like New York City might be very different from rural Montana. That's one of the great things about the federal system, if it's allowed to function properly.

There have always been Democrats who respected the right of sportsmen and women to enjoy their pursuit. Former Rep. Jolene Unsoeld, who represented Washington's 3rd Congressional District in the late 1980's and early 1990's comes to mind. It may play well inside the GOP to talk about this stuff, but most people have moved on.

There are those in the Democratic Party who favor gun control, often in the context of urban violence. Sensible, moderate proposals like closing gun show loopholes make sense. But in terms of the gun debate doing the GOP any good, Romney was too clever by half on this score.

And I'm dying to know: is a jackalope big game or a small varmint, and would it be best with hickory, apple or maybe just grilled straight-up? And what would the Easter Bunny think if I shot one and ate it?

Geraldo and Bill; heads exploding everywhere

The News Blog, which is being admirably maintained by guest posters during the extended illness of host Steve Gilliard, features a video clip of Geraldo Rivera and "Worst Person in the World Every Day" Billo getting into it over immigration and drunk driving, which apparently must be one of Billo's putrid little talking points these days.

This is what it has come to on Fox Noise: two disgraced, non-credible men engaging in faux-violent confrontation over a ginned-up issue, for ratings.

It's a pathetic spectacle, if highly predictable. Fox Noise and its workers (who are not journalists in any sense of the word) decided a long time ago that if they could get paid to be an arm of the worst administration in American history, they would take the money. Those kind of people aren't to be trusted with the keys to the washroom, let alone with any sort of watchdog or journalism function.

And as I always point out, Geraldo and Billo and the other scum at Fox Noise have a First Amendment right to be paid political prostitutes. Everyone else has a First Amendment right to point out that they are paid political prostitutes.

Just don't tell me they are journalists, because they're not.

Any media source that references Fox Noise needs to take the same care it would when quoting The National Enquirer. The journalistic standards are the same - very low to nonexistent.

Local stations seem to get a pass on their Fox branding because they are often owned by other media companies, but you kind of wonder how long they can take being associated with Fox. I'd be embarassed as heck to be driving around in a news van with that word on it, even if I did work for Meredith or someone. There's only so much pounding a brand can take.

Question: how many presidential candidates of either party would agree to a debate hosted by The National Enquirer? Just sayin'.

The Dan Roach Crazy Train arrives in Olympia

Rep. Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, made a fool of himself and a mockery of the House yesterday when he threw decorum to the wind over an insurance bill. From the AP via The Olympian:
House Republicans lambasted trial lawyers during raucous debate Thursday but when one lawmaker singled out the Democratic House majority leader's husband for scorn, the place erupted in shouts.

An eventual apology was angrily rejected.

The presiding officer, who tried in vain to keep the peace, called it the worst breach of decorum he'd ever seen in the Legislature.

The dustup involved two of the most powerful lobbies in Olympia - trial lawyers, who often support Democrats, and the insurance industry, which often backs Republicans.

The debate was over the proposed Insurance Fair Conduct Act, which would prohibit the practice of delaying or denying a claim without proper cause. It would allow the policyholder to collect triple damages if the insurance company unreasonably denied a claim or violated unfair practice rules.
It figures the GOP would start experiencing "head explosion syndrome" on behalf of insurance companies. One day Republicans (with the help of Speaker Frank Chopp, to be fair) can object to a bill designed to protect homeowners because it would supposedly raise insurance prices, and a few days later they can go nuts on behalf of the insurance industry.

David Postman, too, recounts some of the action at Postman on Politics: It seems Rep. Dan Roach, son of state Senator Pam Roach, R-Wingerville, went off about a Democraic leader's husband. From Postman on Politics:
Roach was arguing against an insurance bill this morning and claiming that the only people behind it were trial attorneys. He said he asked for evidence of the insurance problems the attorneys say would be fixed by the bill, Senate Bill 5726, but never saw any.

Roach said the chairman of the committee joked to him that the bill was being "railroaded."

"I know, Mr. Speaker, this is not for the consumer. It hurts consumers. ... It is a sad day because this is something that has been run through the system."

House Speaker Pro Tem John Lovick gaveled Roach down and warned him to follow House rules that do not allow impugning fellow members.

Roach continued:

"Look out guys, the train is coming through. The Keith Kessler train is coming through and you better get out of the way."

Then Roach made a blowing-the-whistle motion with his arm, pumping it up and down, and made the sound effects, too: "Whoo, whoo!"
(Roach's reference to Keith Kessler was a swipe at Democratic Majority Leader Lynn Kesler, D-Hoquiam, whose husband is an attorney. Roach's outburst seems to be a clear violation of House rules about attacking the family of other members.)

Goodness. Someone needs a juice box and a nap.

It would be convenient to blame such an ignominious outburst on temper and a poor upbringing, as Dan Roach is the son of the equally foul-tempered state Senator Pam Roach, R-Wingerville, but according to Postman, Dan Roach said his eruption was deliberate:
It was not, though, something done in the heat of the moment. Roach told me:

"It was premeditated on my part. I actually wrote some remarks during the amendment part of the debate. I did plan on putting that out there."

He said he did it because he has grown frustrated with how little impact Republicans have had in the House this year.
A planned temper tantrum, how charming.

It's no secret that Republicans have it in for lawyers. Well, they have it in for some lawyers, namely those who represent consumers against powerful corporations. It's an object lesson for Roach, should he be capable of learning any lessons, about believing your own baloney. The national and state GOP has so villified "trial lawyers" that they somehow seem to think it is acceptable to attack one in a personal manner from the floor of the House.

I've long wondered why Democrats in Olympia always seem to forgive (or at least not punish) Republicans for their transgressions.

Part of it is likely expediency, as grinning for the cameras and mouthing platitudes has long been a part of politics. Part of it is that good public policy can come from listening to and working with the other side.

But it has to be a two-way street, and it never is with the GOP. If they don't get their way, be it in a close election or in the Legislature, their first instinct is to accuse their opponents of the most nefarious of motives and actions.

It is, in a word, childish.

I don't know what the House should do about Rep. Dan Roach. Clearly he needs to be disciplined under House rules and have the Playstation 3 taken away.

Normally one would go tell his mother about his bad behavior, but well, that seems pointless in this instance. Beyond that, we have a massive majority and maybe we should all thank Rep. Roach for reminding Democrats in Olympia who the true opposition is and the lengths they will go to.

When Democrats side with the common citizen against entrenched interests, we win, and the opposition is left with nothing but foolish histrionics. As for Roach, as OlyScoop says - we think it's time for him to resign.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Supreme Court to EPA: You're In Charge of Environmental Protection

From the Executive Director: We're pleased this evening to welcome a new contributor, Micah, to the Official Blog. His first post is as follows - we're delighted to have him as part of our team.

Putting an end to years of confounding decisions from Bush appointees to ignore science, the Supreme Court has finally ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency is, in fact, in charge of the safeguarding the environment (imagine that!) From The Guardian:
This week's ruling by the US supreme court essentially mandating that the Environmental Protection Agency regulate greenhouse gas emissions will, I think, one day be seen as a turning point in American politics.

For the past six years, the Bush administration has essentially run public policy on faith. Scientific studies indicate educating students about safe sex does more to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids than programmes that preach abstinence? Fuggedaboudit. It doesn't gel with prevailing religious fervor.

Science suggests evolution is far less than just one among many equally valid theories? No way - that's not what the Bible says. The overwhelming preponderance of evidence indicates that global warming is real and is directly tied to human activity? Aggressively pretend the evidence doesn't exist, and hope that faith in its nonexistence trumps all the evidence to the contrary.
The Supreme Court ruling doesn't ensure that the EPA will definitely regulate greenhouse gases, but it does acknowledge that global warming is a problem, as well as lay the onus of emissions regulation on the EPA.

It's no wonder the "President" resents the concept of checks and balances. Next thing you know, they'll be forcing the administration to actually protect endangered species or stop torture. Wild, crazy liberal ideas.

DNC to sanction presidential debates

Hopefully YearlyKos will be home to one of the sanctioned debates:
The Democratic National Committee announced today that it will sanction six Democratic debates, one per month, starting in July 2007. Additional details regarding cities, dates, logistics, etc. wil be released at a later date.

“Debates provide an important opportunity for voters to hear directly from our outstanding Democratic candidates about their vision for America,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. “I'm pleased the DNC can help play a role in facilitating such an important dialogue with our candidates."

"Given our strong, dynamic and diverse field of Democratic candidates and the great enthusiasm voters already have expressed, we can expect a lively, thoughtful discussion of the issues."
The Fox Noise/CBC event, however, will not be sanctioned (which is a good thing). Some people have yet to learn from the Nevada fiasco.

Fired New Mexico attorney talking to special counsel

David Iglesias says he's cooperating with federal investigators about his firing. From the AP viaThe Washington Post:
A deputy in the Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal government whistleblowers, first contacted Iglesias in early March as part of an inquiry into whether his firing may have violated a law that protects military reservists from discrimination.

The special counsel's staff also is examining possible violations of laws designed to protect whistleblowers and prohibit political activity by government employees, Iglesias said in an interview this week.
According to the article, issues involved include Iglesias' status as a Navy reservist and possible violations of "whistleblower" statutes. In short, you can't fire people for doing their duty if they are in the military and you can't be all political and fire people who are exposing wrongdoing.

No wonder the wrong-o-sphere is so obsessed with Nancy Pelosi and her visit to Syria. Laws may have been broken in the firing of US attorneys, and this is just the beginning. You kind of wonder what other fired US attorneys might be considered "whistleblowers." Seems to me John McKay had argued forcefully about an intelligence sharing program. Don't know whether that would fit the legal requirements, but I'm just a blogger.

Announcing the 2006 David Neiwert Awards

This morning, the Northwest Progressive Institute is pleased to present the 2006 David Neiwert Awards to honor the achievements and accomplishments of the Pacific Northwest's most active progressive bloggers. This is the second year of the awards, which we hope to continue to make an annual and celebrated tradition.

They are named for David Neiwert, a freelance journalist and the founder of one of the Northwest's most respected blogs, Orcinus, which has been on the Web since the beginning of 2003 and is syndicated on Pacific NW Portal.

Honorees are nominated and selected by the staff of the Northwest Progressive Institute with assistance and input from the Awards' namesake.

Besides writing Orcinus, Mr. Neiwert has reported for MSNBC.com and has also penned several outstanding books, including Strawberry Days, Death on the Fourth of July, and In God's Country.

NPI thanks Mr. Neiwert for graciously agreeing to allow us to name this awards tradition in his honor, and we offer our congratulations and heartfelt thanks to the 2006 recipients. View the awards presentation by following this link.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sonics owners still campaigning for money

It's not your money, super-rich sports owners.
The Seattle Sonics probably have enough support in the Senate to advance legislation for a $300 million arena subsidy -- but opposition in the House may thwart a vote in either chamber.
So now the Sonics' owners can slink back to O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A without our money, where they can eat opossum and wear cut-off shorts and, oh, just read Monday's post about NASCAR. Change the word "mesquite" to "shot clock" and it makes more sense.

Alternatively, you can read this racing fan thread concerning Monday's post about NASCAR. I was just kidding, guys. You know, like Ann Coulter, I'm all about the entertainment.

Seriously, I love NASCAR. I think Biffle will probably take the Masters, if his short game stays solid and the greens get some moisture. Heck, if Tiger Woods was carrying a bag like in the old days, NASCAR wouldn't be needed, would it?

45th LD Democrats endorse Darcy Burner

The 45th District Democrats, which represent the party grassroots in NPI's home legislative district, overwhelmingly voted for an early endorsement of Darcy Burner in the 8th Congressional race at tonight's general meeting.

Darcy resides in the 45th and announced her intention to run for Congress last month. It isn't yet clear if she will have any serious competition for the Democratic nomination. Less than a year and a half now remains until the 2008 primary.

In Brief - April 4th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest, slow roasted to perfection and served with mango salsa on a bed of crisp, green lettuce:
Finally, Markos is amazed at the alternate reality inhabited by wingers, in this case Orin Hatch and Rush Lumpenbaugh, who just make stuff up about fired US attorney Carol Lam. They aren't even trying any more.

Bush installs Fox as ambassador

The Resident of the White House has abused executive power again:
Bush named Republican fundraiser Sam Fox as U.S. ambassador to Belgium on Wednesday, using a maneuver that allowed him to bypass Congress, where Democrats had derailed Fox's nomination.

The appointment, made while lawmakers were out of town on spring break, prompted angry rebukes from Democrats, who said Bush's action may even be illegal.

Democrats had denounced Fox for his donation to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 presidential campaign. The group's TV ads, which claimed that Sen. John Kerry exaggerated his military record in Vietnam, were viewed as a major factor in the Massachusetts Democrat's election loss.
This is unacceptable, but par for the course. It's what we've come to expect from this power hungry, arrogant administration. Fortunately, Chris Dodd is doing something about it:
It is outrageous that the President has sought to stealthily appoint Sam Fox to the position of ambassador to Belgium when the President formally requested that the Fox nomination be withdrawn from the Senate because it was facing certain defeat in the Foreign Relations Committee last week.

I seriously question the legality of the President's use of the recess appointment authority in this instance. I intend to seek an opinion on the legality of this appointment from the General Accountability Office and invite other Senators to join with me in that request.
The only way to deal with this backstabbing administration is to mount a continuous fight to force them to honor the Constitution. Bush and his cronies simply don't respect the government the Founding Fathers set up. Congressional Democrats must ensure oversight and accountability.

Keith Richards "just joking"

Okay, you have to be selective about "news of the weird," as this is a political blog. But this is either the greatest April fool's joke ever, if belated, or, well, it's not. You can guess for yourself.
Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards was joking when he said that he once snorted his father's ashes mixed with cocaine, his spokesperson said today (April 4). His comments appeared in an interview with music magazine NME, which hit newsstands in Britain earlier in the day.

"He has said he was joking," a spokesperson for the 63-year-old rocker said. There was no further comment about why Richards made the statement.
I know, it's only a rock 'n roll guitarist, but I like it. He may not look too good but he's still feelin' real well. Someone should remember to put roses on his grave.

Now I better walk away from news of the weird before they make me run.....

Nobody calls it The 'Couv

Crosscut has this story about Vancouver, inspired by a recent Willamette Week story all about "The 'Couv." From WW:
What if the region's success at controlling growth while still maintaining one of the nation's more robust economies is because of...Vancouver? Or more specifically, because Vancouver has fewer land-use laws and limits on growth? Has Vancouver become a convenient place to handle Portland's overflow, for those who wanted to live, work and play in the area, but who also wanted a bigger yard, lower taxes and a house on a cul-de-sac? All this so Portland could build its light rail, trams and condo towers.

In other words, has Vancouver become our safety valve? Consider this: While Portland has grown respectably and gradually since the booming 1990s, Vancouver has exploded. Clark County's population nearly doubled from 238,000 in 1990 to more than 400,000 today.
It was nice of them to point that out, but they still somehow managed to work Wesley Allan Dodd, the depraved serial child murderer from the 1980's, into the feature. Even the TV stations don't do that any more.

But it's nice to know we have Burgervilles here, I wasn't aware of that.

And nobody in Clark County calls it "The 'Couv." If someone says that, you know they are from somewhere else, probably Portland, and they are most likely a jerk. Thanks for sending such a crack team of reporters on such a dangerous mission north of the river, WW. Who woulda thunk that if you get wasted and "table hop" at Shari's, they will get mad? Obviously Clark County is uptight, man.

While pointing out our deficiencies in a kind, loving manner, WW kind of skipped one: our lack of real media sources. Sure, there's The Columbian and its crack investigative team of zero, but we are completely dominated by regular Portland television.

Why, an alternative weekly could do wondrous work uncovering the good old boy networks and shady deals that happen up here. Who was that anonymous $5 million donor to the library right before a public vote? Why did Riverwest get special legislation and why is it potentitally in the path of the new bridge? What ever happened with that supposed hate crime arson at an East Vancouver restaurant late last year? Why is Clark County set to expand the UGB's at the same time it is against the staff proposal for a new bridge? How much money does the BIAW contribute to local politicians? Who are the big lobbyists in Olympia that hail from Clark County?

It's a muckraker's paradise here.

So we look forward to WW's discovery of Clark County, and we especially look forward to the journalism that WW will bring. It's hard work, perhaps even more difficult than sinking the putt on the anthill hole at Golf-O-Rama, but that's what real news outlets do: dig deep and cover the tough stories. Now if you'll excuse me I've learned that there is something called "a fort" around here somewhere and that it has "fireworks" on the "4th of July." Should be good for 2,500 words and some pancakes.

POSTSCRIPT-- WW mentions Warren G. Harding but not Tony Harding. Maybe that's because she's from Oregon?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bring homeowner protections to a vote

While Googling around a bit to follow up on the dust-up involving the "Homeowners' Bill of Rights," the BIAW and Frank Chopp, I stumbled upon this wonderful little story that is fairly illustrative of the kinds of tactics used by the BIAW. So just to jog your memory (because this was all of five months or so ago), consider this:
I heard the radio ad smearing state Senate candidate Chris Marr yesterday morning on 99.9 FM and thought there was something fishy about it. Now, according to the S-R's Jim Camden, the ad's been pulled for its false claims, while the revised version now on the air is merely misleading:

"A radio commercial from It's Time for a Change, another independent group, had to be rewritten after it claimed three-fourths of state Senate candidate Chris Marr's campaign money comes from Western Washington or out of state and that GOP incumbent Brad Benson is a Spokane native. It was pulled from at least one radio station Friday when the Marr campaign showed KXLY-AM staff that more than half of his money comes from inside Spokane County, and that Benson, like Marr, is a California native.

"The new ad says 'nearly 50 percent' of Marr's campaign funding comes from Western Washington or out of state. A check of the Public Disclosure Commission reports shows that even more of Benson's money – about 58 percent – comes from Western Washington or out of state."

That's right - they're attacking Marr for getting more than half his support from within the county, while incumbent Brad Benson got nearly 6 out of 10 dollars from outsiders. Talk about twisted logic.
"Time for a Change" was nothing more than a front group for BIAW, of course.

Look, the Democratic Party can be a "big tent" party. But some things aren't in the tent. The BIAW is not only outside the tent, it repeatedly tries to burn the tent down. There are many examples: the recount, the Supreme Court races, the scummy kickbacks used to fund the lies (that are made possible by abuse of the "retro" program), the attacks on John McKay, etc.

Chopp is taking a substantial risk by killing the Homeowners' Bill of Rights. The netroots will give Democrats a lot of leeway, but the one thing an elected Democrat can't do is "pull a Lieberman."

In other words, you can't actively assist the opposition that is trying to destroy us. The BIAW is run by people who are willing to do virtually anything to destroy the Democratic Party. They have repeatedly demonstrated that fact.

So it's rather odd that one of the leaders in this state's Democratic Party would think it appropriate to nix a consumer protection bill.

There's been bizarre chatter that Democrats must not "overreach," which started nearly the day after the election and seems to mean mostly that if Democrats stand up for regular folks, they are dirty hippies.

We can compromise without sacrificing our values. As Lakoff has observed:
The authentic pragmatist realizes you can't get everything you think is right, but you can get much or most of it through negotiation. The authentic pragmatist sticks to his or her values and works to satisfy them maximally. The inauthentic pragmatist, on the other hand, is willing to depart from his or her true values for the sake of political gain.
Frank Chopp has consistently conveyed that he's a politician who believes in standing up for the people. He's a Democrat, he represents a district that's very progressive, he says those are his values. But he would not allow thoughtful, common sense legislation with broad support to move forward in the state House. He killed it without offering a good reason why.

When you willingly give up your authenticity and your moral vision, you surrender up your values and you surrender trust.

It's disturbing that entrenched interests are allowed to dictate the terms of the debate in this state so thoroughly.

Another facet to discussions involving the BIAW is that everyone, including me, at times feels compelled to concede something like "well, there are some good, honest developers, too." And there are.

But when was the last time Tom McCabe felt forced to point out the existence of hard working union members? Does Evergreen Freedom Foundation leader Bob Williams have anything nice to say about the Washington Education Association?

The mindset is seemingly unchanged, as if Democrats hold a slim majority or it's still a tie. Our political discourse has not yet recovered from the damage that has occurred in recent decades (especially the 1990s), as by default business voices are considered legitimate and authoritative, and worker and consumer voices far less so, no matter the merits of each case.

Much as it would be enjoyable to talk only of the justice that BIAW so richly deserves, that is actually a secondary issue. The real issue is that a modest consumer protection bill won't be voted upon by the state House because a Democratic speaker has decided to kill it, for whatever reasons.

Chopp stands to lose, and the caucus suffers along with him. As does the reputation of the state Democratic Party.

It might be too late for all I know, but Chopp should try to find a way to let the bill, or a modified version, see the light of day and let the legislative process play out. There are real homeowners out there who deserve better protection, and they aren't in on the horse trading in Olympia.

I yammer on endlessly about everything, but on this score I have been perfectly consistent: the Democratic Party must put the interests of ordinary people first. Business leaders deserve a seat at the table, not veto power.

PBDE ban passes state Senate

Good news from Olympia today:
The Washington State Legislature has passed the nation's first ban on all forms of the toxic flame retardants known as PBDEs. The Senate passed ESHB 1024, sponsored by Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina), by a 41 to 8 margin at noon today. Senator Debbie Regala (D-Tacoma) sponsored the companion bill in the Senate.

"Washington state is leading the way for improving the health and safety of our children," said Hunter, who has sponsored the legislation for three years. "We've come up with a common-sense strategy for preserving fire safety while getting rid of chemicals like PBDEs that build up in our environment, in our bodies, and even in mothers' breast milk."
ESHB 1024 is the first one of the four Priorities for a Healthy Washington to reach Governor Christine Gregoire, who is expected to sign it. Laurie Valeriano, Policy Director for the Washington Toxics Coalition, said of today's victory:
"With the passage of this legislation, Washington is a safer place to raise children. Scientific facts and disease prevention won out today over chemical industry scare tactics and hype."
Thanks to all our readers who lobbied to pass this bill. Your efforts paid off.

Tensions continue over "Homeowners' Rights" bill

Josh Feit of The Stranger points out a Seattle Times article detailing the dispute between House Speaker Frank Chopp and Sen. Brian Weinstein over SB 5550, commonly known as the "Homeowner's Bill of Rights." And um, wow.
In an interview with The Seattle Times on Monday, he (Weinstein) pointed out that Tom McCabe, head of the BIAW, often speaks fondly of Chopp and once even suggested the speaker would make a good governor. And Weinstein noted that, according to a lobbying disclosure form filed by McCabe, the two had dinner earlier this year.

"If you start connecting the dots, you see he [Chopp] has some kind of understanding that he isn't going to hurt them this year," Weinstein said.

Weinstein said he tried to get the homebuilders to negotiate with him on the warranty bill, but they refused. Now, he says, he understands why.

"They knew they had an ace in the hole," Weinstein said. "They knew Frank was going to kill it."
McCabe disputes some of that in the full article, but however you want to slice it, this make Chopp look pretty bad.

Here's the thing: just like at the national level, we can have a big tent. Things have to be worked out in the real world. We get that.

But killing off consumer protection legislation, and a rather modest bill at that, at the behest of perhaps the most singularly vicious pro-Republican special interest in the state is not exactly what people were voting for last November. The legislation deserves a chance to be examined and voted upon in the House. If changes need to be made, so be it, but just killing it off for the year is pretty low.

If the bill is so terrible, why did it pass the state Senate with such a lopsided margin? There's a real need to protect consumers from some of the shoddy construction practices in this state.

Super (Rich) Mitt

Mitt the Super Rich candidate has lots of money from other Super Rich people.
Romney worked assiduously to enhance his political stature with strong fundraising, scheduling over 20 events during the 31 days of March. Along the way, he tapped extensive contacts from his work as a venture capitalist, past chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association and longtime involvement in the Mormon church.
Of the three, the venture capitalist part is probably key. Basically the monied class has realized that it actually does matter who is president, as huge deficits and illogical wars tend to be bad for the economy. When it comes to social issues, the stock market doesn't care about Plan B unless it isn't selling well.

Make no mistake about it, a Romney nomination would mark the logical outcome of money in politics. He's definitely the candidate of the corporate and super-rich class, which means he could stand to do fairly well. One intriguing campaign dilemna he faces is the probable lack of support from the evangelical base of the GOP (a lot of those folks see the Mormon Church as a cult, which is a whole 'nother discussion.)

If Romney decides to present himself as a "moderate," which means in the American political lexicon anything to the left of Rush Lumpenbaugh, he could continue to pick up steam.

For the record, what concerns me about Romney is not his religion but his status as the leader of the Super Rich Republican Party. There's nothing inherently wrong with being super rich, and many Americans seem to think it could happen to them, but there is something wrong with tax policies that continue to give huge breaks to the super-rich and corporations while 50 million people don't have health insurance.

We'll probably never see 90 percent marginal tax rates again, but I can't remember what I did with my Bush Bribe a few years ago. It probably paid to fix or replace something around the house.

It's time for the executive class to pull its weight in this country. One less trip per year to Aspen won't kill them.

Monday, April 02, 2007

NASCAR slinks back to Florida without our money

NASCAR goes creeping back to Florida, where they can eat opossum and put washing machines on their porch while whistling at their young daughters in cut-off jeans, free from the burden of Washington state taxpayer money.* From the AP, via The Olympian:
Sponsors of a proposed $368 million NASCAR racetrack near Bremerton, abandoned their efforts Monday after encountering stiff opposition from local officials and resistance at the state Legislature.

Great Western Sports, a subsidiary of International Speedway Corp., announced the decision to drop the plan for the motorsports venue in Kitsap County, across Puget Sound from the Seattle metropolitan area.
It was a dumb plan in the first place, and parading guys in leather around Olympia might look good for a moment, but it didn't overcome the dumbness.

*This is a sarcastic reference to the attempts to portray anti-NASCAR sentiment as class-based. It's not class-based, it's culture based. So I guess the asterisk doesn't serve much purpose, huh?

NASCAR is a Southern sport. The South blows, with its extreme Christianist religion, racism and anti-intellectualism. It was not progressives who decided NASCAR needed to be a political and cultural symbol, it was Republicans and NASCAR, which are pretty much the same thing.

The GOP is now a Southern party, the home of NASCAR, and they are now a permanent minority. Yes, there are good folks in the South. They should move here, or if they can't move here they should tell the crackers to stick it. I know there is a Southern newspaper columnist out there who would like to quote this as evidence of something or other, so please (in advance) pull your head out and write a column about the wounded veterans or something useful.

NASCAR is boring, and so is the South. I make better barbeque anyhow, you don't use so much vinegar, morons.**

**Well, you can if you want. Sometimes the vinegar with hot pepper flakes is okay.+

+Or, you can use lots of tomato sauce, vinegar and molasses and brown sugar. Your call. But we'll be watching Ichiro, not Gordon Bobby Lee Robert Stonewall Beauregard Davis in the number 13 car.

It's called Appomattox Courthouse, look into it. You wanna wave the Stars 'N Bars, I got a Bloody Shirt for you.

UPDATE: Mesquite is the wood of Satan. This is a proven fact, because it burns so hot.

UPDATE TWO: Gasohol seems like a waste on two fronts, right? Less ethanol and less feed for steers, that just ain't right.

UPDATE THREE: You could put Tiger Woods in a race car and he would win because he's Tiger Woods. Just sayin'.

HB 1051 moves forward in state Senate

Representative Dave Upthegrove's high school completion bill, which NPI strongly supports, has been signed out of committee, reports Senator Eric Oemig, who represents NPI's home district and is on the Senate Ways & Means Committee. The bill passed the House back in January and finally moved out of the Senate Committee on Early Learning & K-12 Education at the end of last week.

Our thanks to Senator Oemig and fellow Ways & Means committee members for keeping Representative Upthegrove's bill on track.

In Brief - April 2nd, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest with no wheat gluten:
Finally, a Fox Noise poll asks burning questions like "should the Democrats allow MoveOn to take it over?" That's some real sharp social science going on there. Also in that poll, "Do you agree or disagree with hoisting babies on pitchforks?" It's like they don't even try any more.

And it seems the Mariners are well ahead of the Oakland Athletics in their first official game of the season, 4 to 0, thanks to a three run Richie Sexson home run.

Tragic shooting at the UW

Another sad story unfolds:
A woman shot to death on the University of Washington campus Monday morning had lived in mortal fear for weeks about a man who was stalking her, her friends and co-workers said.

Her attacker killed himself after killing the woman, police said. The woman, whom friends and court records identified as Rebecca Griego, had recently taken out a court order against her ex-boyfriend who would ultimately shoot her to death.
It's really a shame when these things happen.

Proponents of governance bill have another agenda - and it's being exposed

Several weeks ago, I wrote an extensive post dissecting a bill that would fundamentally change the structure of transportation governance in Puget Sound. That post started a much needed discussion about the ramifications of passing Senate Bill 5803 and related proposals for creating a super commission of transportation czars that would have broad decision making powers.

In that post, I touched on the motivations of some of the proponents, observing that a number of them seem to want a governance shakeup in order to disrupt Sound Transit's current momentum, popularity, and light rail program:
Stanton's plan is a clever ploy for destroying the wall that currently separates revenues allocated for transit and highways - so that at some point in the future, there will be a larger pool of funds to tap to lay more cement in the suburbs.

[...]

All you need to do to see the proof of rail opponents' involvement in the governance debate is look at their websites. Rail opponents have consistently lost political battle after political battle because the public wants light rail.
The report from the Regional Transportation Commission co-chaired by John Stanton and Norm Rice may be somewhat new (the recommendations were presented at the beginning of 2007), but the idea of a governance shakeup that carves up or de-powers Sound Transit is certainly not.

Joel Connelly's recent column on SB 5803 clearly suggests that he and John Stanton see the new commission as an opportunity to slow down or nix Link:
Above all, proposed transit systems would have to be justified as the best way for getting people from place to place.

Backers of light rail would have to give proof of benefits to match its sky-high cost. They'd have to show suitability to the Eastside. A Ron Sims vision speech won't cut it.

The commission could consider fast, predictable bus service as an alternative. It could ask salient, politically incorrect questions: What about diverting transit dollars to the vitally necessary upgrade of state Route 520?
All emphasis is mine. Catch the (negative) allusions to Link?

The column could have simply been about the merits and drawbacks of the RTC recommendations (with perhaps subtle references to the current situation). But it was instead a rant that zeroed in on Sound Transit. Note especially the critical use of the words "above all" in the first paragraph I excerpted.

It's that old theme of stopping a runaway train rail opponents have used for years. "We need X to hold Sound Transit accountable" (substitute X for a governance shakeup, Olympia-imposed restrictions, forced public votes on major board decisions, or some other scheme to keep the agency hopelessly stuck in process).

Joel refers to ST and RTID as the "architects of this fall's likely train wreck" and John Stanton is quoted at the beginning of the column as saying the outcome of the package will be "a train wreck". It isn't even finalized yet.

(Of course, we heard the same doom-and-gloom tone from area commentators before voters rejected I-912. NPI did more than offer ominous or cryptic remarks about the future - we worked extraordinarily hard to defeat Initiatives 912 and 917 and keep the 2005 Transportation Package intact as a result. And we won.)

SB 5803 is glowingly glorified as a miraculous reform that will back light rail into a corner or against a wall - its designers put on the defensive, its promoters' enthusiasm tempered, its funding diverted to lay asphalt and concrete, and its plans stuck indefinitely on a back burner.

We know that rail opponents have been behind the concept for years, hoping it would help kill or cripple Central Link. Their goal now is to prevent expansion of the system...in any direction. They've admitted as much.

And unfortunately, they're getting help in their renewed efforts to thwart Sound Transit 2 from unlikely allies - key Democrats who claim to be pro-transit.

The week before last, SB 5803's prime sponsor, Ed Murray, sent a letter to House and Senate leaders calling for legislation that forcibly dismantles the Sound Transit 2 package and puts the East Link light rail expansion on hold.

Murray's justification for such an action, according to his letter, is that there are still "questions" about extending Link across Interstate 90. So Murray, who last month told NPI that our region can't afford any more delays on transportation, is now saying East Link needs more study.

Murray wants to disrupt Sound Transit's work, through SB 5803 as well as directly stopping the agency from moving forward with East Link - all the while claiming that he's the most pro-transit legislator in the state.

(In other words, he is declaring that we have to accelerate implementation of transit solutions, but is simultaneously proposing amending state law to significantly restrict what Sound Transit can do. And Sound Transit is the entity that's actually delivering improvements to the region.)

Murray just can't leave well enough alone. If you look closely at his words and actions - from the distant past, recent history, or the present - and compare them, you can't help but see inconsistency...and an endless desire to meddle.

Last year, he gave his blessing to an under the radar bill that tied ST and RTID together. It passed at the very end of the session and took many observers by surprise. That controversial legislation prevented Sound Transit from going to the ballot in 2006 and furthermore made success of the formerly seperate roads and transit packages contingent upon each other.

Now Murray says the Sound Transit/RTID marriage was a terrible mistake, and he regrets supporting it. (Surprise, surprise). Of course, his transportation governance bill calls for even tighter integration - the super commission created by SB 5803 would absorb RTID and take apart Sound Transit with a wrecking ball.

Years ago Murray also played a key role in getting legislation passed that allowed for the creation of the Seattle Popular Monorail Authority (and he was even the prime sponsor of the bill in the House), only to later condemn the monorail project after the plan and the agency started falling apart.

Then there's this bizarre exchange which a monorail supporter, Mitch Gitman, reported on the Friends of Monorail mailing list early last year (February 2006). Emphasis below is mine:
Today was 'Transportation Lobby Day' in Olympia, and I got a chance to ask Murray to his face about that "non-monorail transit" stipulation in 2871. He explained that it was necessary for the bill to pass because there was such animosity against monorail in the state legislature. Who knows if he isn't just passing the buck when he says that?

He also said he has never been a monorail supporter because Seattle is a city concerned with views and monorail columns get in the way.
According to Gitman, in that conversation, Murray also apparently said something along the lines of "I'm trying to create a train wreck in central Puget Sound on purpose." (Oh look, the "train wreck" theme again).

In 2005, Murray appeared to be alternatively pessimistic and optimistic about the chances of Initiative 912 succeeding at the polls. Here's pessimistic Murray from the summer of 2005 (mid August, after I-912 had qualified for the ballot):
The Stranger: What do you think about the way that the No on I-912 campaign is shaping up?

Murray: It's not clear to me that it is shaping up.
And that was it. No elaboration - or at least the Stranger didn't print any. Now here's optimistic Murray from several weeks before that:
Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said I-912 can be beat. "I don't take it for granted that it's going to pass," he said. "I think if a campaign is run that's county by county that shows people at the local level the roads that they're getting, it has a chance" of being defeated.
And that's exactly the kind of campaign that was run, by Keep Washington Rolling, by NPI's Washington Defense, by the entire NO on I-912 coalition. So why was Murray dejected on Election Night before the returns were in, but after the coalition had essentially finished the campaign riding a huge swell of momentum? The P-I actually described him as pessimistic.

(And, in fact, it wasn't quite over: at the time Murray was being gloomy, I was dropping in on a final NO on I-912 demonstration in Medina with Rep. Ross Hunter next to the SR 520 onramp, orange "Safety First" sign in hand).

After the results were in, Murray was quoted as saying that the I-912 defeat showed that if lawmakers "do the courageous thing, voters will support you."

Never anything to worry about, eh?

But perhaps the best example of inconsistency is Murray's support for reshaping Seattle's school district board. From the Seattle Times, last year:
State Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, said Wednesday's board meeting only bolstered his argument that Seattle's board should have two appointed members to temper its political volatility. Murray, who hopes to win a state Senate seat next month, is drafting a bill for the Legislature to consider in its next session.
That's right. Murray wants to stop electing some school board members to reduce political volatility. But his SB 5803 would set up a new super commission of transportation czars, most of whom would be directly elected from new sprawling districts that span county boundaries.

Sounds like a recipe for political volatility.

Then there's this bit from the Seattle Weekly where Murray pointedly argues against the concept of having boards with directly elected members:
"I don't think the School Board as currently constructed gets the level of visibility and scrutiny it needs," Murray says. "If you walk up and down the street and asked people who their School Board members are, they wouldn't know."
(Emphasis mine). That's been one of our arguments all along...and that's one of the reasons why Sound Transit is governed by a federated board to begin with! We already elect municipal officials to make decisions. We already have effective local government. We don't need to confuse voters with a transportation mega-commission on top of everything we've already got.

Seattle's public schools are run by a directly elected board which makes decisions (and is independent from the city), but the district is dealing with a number of problems, so Ed Murray wants to rewire board governance.

Local control simply doesn't work if Olympia is constantly messing around with governance, process, and planning. But the state Legislature and the Governor are actually being pushed to interfere by those who oppose Sound Transit and the agency's light rail project.

Rail opponents have lost in court, they've lost in the U.S. Congress, and they've lost the battle for public opinion. But they aren't giving up. There's little they can do to stop Central Link now. The line will open in 2009. But they can put a halt to expansion of the system - forestalling progress for years. And every year of dithering costs some $800 million.

The discussion over governance isn't over, but already Ed Murray is making public his desire to deep freeze East Link. Apparently when he threatened to figuratively get off the train if Sound Transit didn't include the First Hill station he wanted on the University Link extension (and hang the cost), he meant it.

And on Friday, SB 5803 proponent Senator Cheryl Pflug (the Republican who represents the 5th District), held a press conference in the state capital announcing legislation that would strip Sound Transit of any money it gets this fall for its East Link light rail project.

The funds would instead be reallocated towards road construction, including a six lane tunnel under Seattle's central waterfront (apparently Pflug didn't pay attention to that special election earlier this month - Emerald City voters said very clearly they don't want a tunnel).

Pflug's shortsighted "Vision 21" proposal for more road capacity has already been touted over at unSoundPolitics and on the radio by conservative Dori Monson (who hosts a weekday afternoon show on 710 KIRO).

It's a brazen admission from ST opponents. They want to steal potential dollars voters haven't even given to the agency yet and use it for pavement. It's an outrage and it's totally unacceptable.

Eastside citizens and city councils must take notice. East Link - the crown jewel of Sound Transit's Phase II proposal and the consensus high capacity transit choice of Redmond, Bellevue, Issaquah, and Kirkland - is under assault in Olympia. But we can prevail and save our extension if we let our voices be heard.

It would be a grave mistake to jeopardize all the hard and thoughtful work that has gone into the current regional package. Ben Schiendelman succinctly nailed down this point in his guest op-ed from last Tuesday's Seattle Times:
The planning work that has taken place over the past several years, putting together the best projects that serve the most people, is sound. Seattle residents commuting to jobs on the Eastside (like me) and those going the other direction will be well-served. The tens of thousands of students and faculty, patients and doctors at the University of Washington and the UW Medical Center will be well-served. People commuting from Fife, Federal Way and Des Moines, or Northgate, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood, into Seattle — our largest employment hub — will be well-served.

The Sound Transit board has negotiated a package that benefits everyone in the region. It is what we need. Any new regional agency would reach the same conclusions.
Pflug and fellow Republicans (including many who supported I-912) are still clinging to the idea that we can build our way out of congestion - in a nutshell: More lanes, more highways. Wider is better. Pavement good!

No matter how much we expand capacity, congestion will always get worse. That's because trying to build your way out is like trying to lose weight by loosening your belt. It just doesn't work. It makes absolutely no sense.

That doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't fund road maintenance, safety improvements, and other needed upgrades.

But if we really want to attack congestion, then the answer is to invest in mass transit systems that allow for mobility choices.

Opponents may complain about social engineering, but public policy is supposed to influence behavior. (We have these things called laws for a reason). We've been subsidizing automobile use for decades - and that's social engineering.

Sound Transit, again, is the entity that has proposed a bold, realistic, and innovative plan for moving forward. With Central Link due to open in 2009, extending the light rail system to serve more communities is only logical.

The region, especially the Eastside (where NPI is headquartered), is hungry for light rail, and the Phase II package looks mighty appetizing.

Link is at the heart of Phase II, but there are other components in the proposal - including significant upgrades to Sounder and ST Express bus service.

People will use transit if it is convenient, accessible, and attractive. Link can be all of those things if it's a truly regional system. And Phase II is the blueprint for taking light rail to that level.

Sound Transit continues to improve and refine Phase II - just last Thursday, the board approved a modification to the proposed line that makes Tacoma Dome the southern terminus of a Pierce County Link extension instead of a station in Fife.

The board was able to approve that connection because the agency has been fiscally cautious. Voters can trust that Sound Transit is on a solid financial footing and is budgeting so it can deliver on the promises it makes today.

The chief armchair quarterbacks who have crafted this governance shakeup want to rewrite the rules of the game while the game is in progress. That's bad officiating. Worse, their interest in rewriting the rules is not about improving the sport, it's about affecting the outcome of the game itself.

Instead of hindering the process that's underway, the state must do what it can to help. That means playing a supporting role - listening instead of interrupting. We know many wise elected leaders in Olympia understand this because we've had conversations with them.

There's no reason we can't have a discussion about the merits and drawbacks of governance changes later. But this November represents a very critical, rare opportunity to move forward. The people of Puget Sound are ready for a roads and transit package that attacks congestion and provides commuting choices for the future. Instead of politics as usual, let's give progress a chance for a change.

Crosscut goes live on the Web

A new online news venture has launched to provide news of the great nearby:
The simplest definition of Crosscut: an online daily newspaper for the Pacific Northwest. Online only — and very open to the new ways of organizing information inherent in the remarkable power of the Web. Local only — local owners, local writers, local topics.

[...]

We felt we could remagnetize local news by extending the scope to the full region, the "nation" of Cascadia, population 10 million, and also by inviting to the table new sources for news — blogs, citizen journalists, think tanks, advocacy research, specialists with deep knowledge in their area. Broader, richer, more diverse in viewpoints.
That's a mission we certainly applaud. Crosscut is a welcome addition to the local media landscape. It sounds and looks very promising.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

SB 5803: A Trojan Horse

While many people are truly frustrated with transportation planning in the Puget Sound region, the problem isn't in Puget Sound. It's in Olympia. It's been said there are "too many cooks in the kitchen" when it comes to transportation.

Well, most of them are in Olympia.

Most of the elected officials in the state capital just can't make up their minds from one year to the next. Last year, Representative Ed Murray helped shut down the vote on Sound Transit Phase II for more transit and light rail after the agency had spent 2 years gathering public input and making plans for the next 10 years.

This plan would have gone to the voters last November in 2006. Today, we could have been on our way toward construction.

Last November, Senator Murray got a promotion. Now he wants to prevent Sound Transit from continuing with the East Link project across I-90 to Bellevue and Redmond. The vendetta against Sound Transit is really getting annoying. The Eastside wants light rail - the people of the 43rd legislative district want light rail.

If the push for regional governance reform was ever truly an honest desire for governance reform, it isn't any more.

It seems to be nothing more than an effort to either kill off Sound Transit as an agency or at least the light rail extension across I-90.

This is really about the right wing philosophy of killing off transit. The Republicans want more roads. More roads so more cars can sit parked on them during rush hour. An increasing number of voters are beginning to understand that we can't build our way out of congestion. So why do we continue to try?

Maybe next year someone other than a billionaire can be placed in charge of studying the issue of governance.

Maybe someone with a background in transportation, for instance. No one will take this concept seriously until Olympia does.

A walk in the park

John McCain takes his stroll in Baghdad. From Think Progress:
Sen. John McCain strolled briefly through an open-air market in Baghdad today in an effort to prove that Americans are “not getting the full picture” of what’s going on in Iraq.

NBC’s Nightly News provided further details about McCain’s one-hour guided tour. He was accompanied by “100 American soldiers, with three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships overhead.” Still photographs provided by the military to NBC News seemed to show McCain wearing a bulletproof vest during his visit.
No word if McCain brought pencils.

One other change we forgot to announce

Last Thursday, I mentioned that I was going to be leaving the blog very soon to focus on other endeavors and projects for NPI (and besides, I could use a rest). My break starts in a few days, but I forgot to announce one other important change in that post: we're changing the name of this blog.

A few whiny readers have never liked "Official Blog" so today, we're changing it to "Authorized Blog". Hopefully, they'll be satisfied with the change. If not, hey, only twelve months until April 1st comes again!

(P.S. - in other news, Pacific NW Portal has had a name change too).

GOP gives Petraeus another FU

My goodness. From Think Progress:
This morning on the Chris Matthews Show, NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell revealed that Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, met “very recently” with the Senate Republican caucus to discuss their strategy on Iraq legislation.

“Petraeus went to the Republican caucus and told them, I will have real progress to you by August,” Mitchell said. The Republicans claim they told him that after August, they will end their support for the war. “They have told him at a caucus meeting as very, very recently, that if there isn’t progress by August — and real progress means not a day of violence and a day of sanity — that they will pull the plug.”
If that isn't enough, there's more:
Stunningly, Mitchell said that “moderate Republican” senators had told her that they didn’t believe the escalation would work but voted for it anyway. “They really are not in favor of the surge. They don’t believe it’s going to work. But they basically said the president has until August, until Labor Day. After that, if it doesn’t work, they’re running.”
Naturally, it is advisable to take anything Andrea Mitchell says with a box of Kosher salt. Nonetheless, these are pretty startling revelations if they turn out to be true.

Maybe the general would like to come chat with the majority party too? What gives the minority the right to dish out another Friedman Unit anyhow?