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

Friday, August 31, 2007

Larry Craig is toast, GOP officials say

After having given up his committee assignments, Craig is apparently considering leaving the Senate altogether despite his insistence that he has done no wrong:
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig is considering resigning, possibly as early as this weekend, Republican officials said Friday after days of public and private pressure stemming from his June arrest in an undercover vice operation in an airport men's room.

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter already appears to have settled on a successor - Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, according to several Republicans familiar with internal deliberations. And neither President Bush, the national party nor any of Craig's GOP colleagues has publicly expressed support for the 62-year-old, three-term senator.
McCain, McConnell, and other prominent Republicans have urged Craig to leave, and few in the right wing have expressed support for the troubled senator, who now claims he should not have plead guilty after having been arrested for lewd conduct. The story has been a total sensation in the traditional media.

It's been one GOP scandal after another these last few years - no wonder so many on the right wing seem to be unhappy and bitter lately.

Larry LaRocco, an outstanding Democrat and a leader who has embraced the netroots community, is running for Craig's seat in 2008.

Meanwhile, over in Virginia, Republican Senator John Warner has announced he won't seek reelection next year, giving Democrats another open seat to pursue.

UPDATE: Craig will officially resign tomorrow. Good riddance.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A holiday break during the next few days

Quite a few of us at NPI are taking vacations or getting much needed rest over the Labor Day weekend, so expect light posting ahead from only a few of us.

We hope you'll take a moment this weekend to remember the rights won by working men and women throughout American history - rights that have contributed to a broader prosperity throughout our nation - and that your holiday is safe, fun, and memorable.

DNC member Karen Marchioro dies at 73

Karen Marchioro, past chair of the Washington State Democrats, an influential and respected leader who served more recently as one of Washington's representatives to the Democratic National Committee, has died of cancer. She was 73.

The Seattle Times has a story up with reaction from past chairs, governors, and other leaders in the Democratic Party.

We extend our deepest condolences to all of Karen's family at this difficult time for them. We too are dismayed by her death - but we will remember her contributions to the party and cherish her memory.

Chairman Dwight Pelz released a statement this morning, saying:
All of us involved in Democratic politics in Washington State are deeply saddened by the passing of one of our dearest friends, Karen Marchioro. The Washington State Democratic Party would not exist as it does today were it not for Karen’s 30 plus years of service.

Her wisdom, cool demeanor and loyalty have been integral parts to both our state party, as well as our lives. Karen was a dear friend and she will be greatly missed.
Perhaps Karen’s many achievements during her life are best summarized by King County Democratic Chair Susan Sheary, who once said of Karen, "Before Washington State had Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell and Christine Gregoire, Washington State had Karen Marchioro."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Secretary of State releases turnout analysis of primary election

Sam Reed's office has just released an turnout analysis for the state primary. The report highlights the role of ballot issues and voting styles.

Here's State Elections Director Nick Handy:
Typically, voter turnout is driven by races and measures that appear on the ballot. If you look at an election year with a President or Governor on the ballot, more than 80% of voters respond. But odd-year primaries typically produce the lowest turnouts in the elections cycle.
Here's how Reed's prediction matched up against actual voter turnout:
The Office of the Secretary of State estimates that roughly 28% of voters eligible to participate in Washington ’s August Primary cast ballots. The Office of the Secretary of State predicted a turnout of approximately 34% prior to the Primary Election.
And here are statistics from county comparisons. This data is very interesting because it shows a sharp contrast between municipalities.
Without question, issues motivated Washingtonians to vote in August.

Lincoln County reports the highest estimated turnout at roughly 70%. On primary ballots in Lincoln County were two contested mayoral races in the cities of Odessa and Elmira.

Franklin County reports the lowest estimated turnout at nearly 22%. In Franklin County, many voters only had one issue on the ballot.
As Handy observes:
Clearly, voters participated in greater numbers in counties with headline-gabbling races. All elections, especially those that impact our communities and our homes most directly are important. But the reality is voters usually respond to high-profile issues and races.
More numbers from the report:
While Chelan County reports a projected turnout of 50%, neighboring Douglas County ’s turnout is likely to reach 25%. Chelan County voters decided a high-profile school construction levy, while fewer key issues appeared on the Douglas County ballot.

Mason County has an estimated turnout of 44%, where voters were deciding a high-profile fire district levy and a contested mayoral race in the city of Shelton.

In neighboring Thurston County, the projected turnout estimate is only 26%, with fewer high interest races or issues on the ballot.
Reed's office notes that none of the preliminary returns are final until counties certify their election results on September 5, 2007. Five counties did not hold primary elections at all, and about 80% of registered voters statewide live in precincts that had something on their primary ballot last Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Darcy Burner thanks you for your help

Darcy Burner's campaign has released a video message to the netroots community, thanking us for raising over $100,000 for her campaign to defeat Dave Reichert and give the 8th District the leadership and representation it deserves.

You can watch the video clip at YouTube.

All of us at NPI would like to thank the many writers in the national netroots community who urged readers to help the Burn Bush campaign: Markos Moulitsas and Joan McCarter of Daily Kos, Matt Stoller and Chris Bowers of Open Left, Jane Hamsher and the team at Firedoglake, Howie Klein of Down With Tyranny, Duncan Black (a.k.a. Atrios) John Aravosis of AmericaBlog, and all others who participated.

Having your support means so much to us. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

We also want to congratulate our friends in the local netroots community for working so hard to make this response possible: Daniel Kirkdorffer of On the Road to 2008, Steve Zemke of MajorityRules, Jimmy of McCranium, Michael at blatherWatch, Dave Neiwert and Sara (Mrs. Robinson) at Orcinus, Darryl at Hominid Views, Shaun at Upper Left, David at HorsesAss, and Lynn of Evergreen Politics, now with Darcy Burner's campaign.

Well done, everyone.

Amazing trends in Port races

Just when we thought Alec Fisken's rise in the primary election returns couldn't possibly get any higher, it did. After King County Elections tabulated just 3,834 mail ballots today, Alec's percentage of the vote stood at an even 47% - yet a new threshold for the progressive, reform minded commissioner.

On primary election night, Alec's share of the vote hovered between 40% and 41%. Remarkably, it has climbed about seven percentage points since then, indicating that Fisken's move to shift his campaign into high gear earlier this month paid off handsomely. He should keep reaching out to voters.

This is the year we can take back the Port of Seattle and elect a progressive majority to the Commission. With your help, we'll return Alec to continue his public service and send him and Lloyd Hara a new commissioner to work with: Gael Tarleton, who now stands at 33.52% after new tallies were posted this afternoon.

It's been delightful watching both of them climb with each round of ballots counted.

A thoughtful take on Baird

For a thoughtful take on Brian Baird's town hall meeting in Vancouver last night, check out the account by Randy Stapilus at Ridenbaugh Press. A few tidbits, to encourage you to read the whole thing:
The audience atmosphere was a little Pentacostal: Cries of “impeach Bush” or “end the war” and similar calls punctuated questions, answers and everything else. In the two hours we were there, not one questioner - out of perhaps 20 - expressed anything other than disgust and outrage at Baird’s new take on Iraq. To judge from audience reaction, a portion of the crowd of perhaps 400 to 500 (those that were inside - the room was filled solid and others couldn’t get in) supported him, but that portion was surely less than 10%.

Shouted one person, midway through: “You think you’re going to be re-elected?”

Baird: “It doesn’t matter to me.” Maybe, in the face of all that, it didn’t.
And:
You can make the case that there’s nothing very dramatic about this as a matter of practical policy. There’s little question that an American withdrawal, even if ordered right away, would take months to execute, since so many people and supplies are located there. (However, while Baird was flatly convinced that American troop withdrawal would lead to disaster, there are lines of thought that the troops’ presence there now is encouraging more insurgency.) As Baird (and many others) points out, American troop levels will be drawn down next spring by 50,000 or so regardless what the policy is: This country simply won’t have the troops available to maintain current troop levels. So an American troop scaledown likely will occur then anyway, and likely not be before then anyway, regardless what Congress does. (And many of us suspect that any congressional action on Iraq contrary to the administration’s policy would be simply ignored by the president regardless.)

So the differences on Iraq between Baird and his friends at Vancouver may be a little narrower than either think, as a practical matter. That may not matter.
In the end, Baird is only one member of Congress, although this episode has shown how quickly right-wing media can still elevate someone to national prominence when it suits their propaganda purpose.

We can argue until the cows come home, if not the troops, about whether Baird truly understands how much political cover his actions have lent to the administration regarding Iraq. My guess is that Baird would acknowledge that but argue he has to call things like he sees them. As do we all.

The McKay brothers react to Gonzales resignation

David Bowermaster at The Seattle Times has this reaction piece regarding the resignation of Alberto Gonzales. It features comments from both Mike McKay and John McKay. Area readers will recall John McKay was the US attorney for Western Washington who was canned by the Gonzales Justice Department.
My initial reaction was, 'It's about time,' " Mike McKay said after Gonzales announced he would leave his post Sept. 17.

"If you simply accept as fact what [Gonzales] has said, that he was not in the loop in connection with the firing of the U.S. attorneys," McKay said, "that is a dereliction of duty and he should have resigned as soon as that became known."

The controversy centered on whether the firings were tied to political motivations instead of performance.

John McKay echoed his brother's sentiments and said Gonzales' departure should make life easier for his former crime-fighting colleagues.
At the end of the article, statements attributed to Mike McKay indicate he still hopes to find out exactly why his brother was fired. I think we all hope that, because you can't have a criminal justice system that is used for partisan political purposes.

No Bureaucrat Left Behind

Conservatives like to pretend they're for less government, when their true stance (other than wide) is government that punishes groups and institutions they oppose. Like say, public education.

The following correction from The Columbian says more about No Child Left Behind than it does the hapless journalists trying to make sense of it.
Corrections

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

School improvement: A story on Page A1 Saturday incorrectly said the Clark County schools that did not meet the standard set by the federal No Child Left Behind law received Title I money. Those schools did not receive Title I funds and therefore are not subject to the consequences set by the federal education law. Also, the percentage of students meeting the state standard increases every three years, not every two years as was stated. Further, Cascade Middle School in the Evergreen school district met the standard; the school was confused with another school in a state database released Friday.
Heckuva job, Bushies. I'm sure teachers, parents and students will thoroughly enjoy being labeled failures, whether accurately or not, and the Byzantine rules and regulations will allow conservatives to moan about "top heavy, wasteful spending" in school districts for years to come.

Oh yes, they just want to improve education. Sometimes you have to destroy the village you know.

Next thing you know the Bush Education Department will bring in FEMA trailers and hold classes in them, and then claim the formaldehyde fumes count as a vegetable.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Baird faces angry citizens

Early media reports are starting to come in about Brian Baird's town hall in Vancouver tonight, his first appearance before constituents since coming out against setting firm dates for troop withdrawals. As Think Progress noted in a round-up today, traditional and conservative media have lavished attention on Baird while giving such members as Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who has reached far far different conclusions than Baird, comparatively scant attention.

The Oregonian has preliminary "breaking news" summary of tonight's Baird meeting.
Hundreds at a raucous and hostile town hall tonight let U.S. Rep. Brian Baird know that they disapprove of his support for the troop surge in Iraq. Many suggested the Vancouver Democrat is not representing the will of his district.

The audience often interrupted Baird as he tried to calmly explain his decision to support a beefed-up presence of U.S. troops in the war-torn country. He said the United States has a moral obligation to help Iraq rebuild itself.
Over at Slog, Josh Feit phoned in a quick report.
He (Baird) was hammered by Jon Soltz, the young, good looking, charismatic chairman and co-founder of political action committee VoteVets.org. Soltz is also an Iraq war veteran, having served in 2003. Speaking calmly and to raucous applause, he said Baird (who recently returned from a visit to Iraq) was fooled “by a dog and pony show” and is unfortunately providing cover for President Bush.

Afterwards, Soltz told me that his goal is to bring Baird back into the Democratic fold.
KGW-TV had the town hall as the third story on the 10 PM broadcast that airs on a sister station. That footage featured Soltz prominently. The teaser for the 11 pm broadcast also features the town hall.

The Oregonian article estimated the audience at about 550 people.

MORE -- The P-I has this AP article. A snippet:
In May, Baird supported a bill that would have required troop levels to start falling by Oct. 1. But his perspective changed after a visit to Iraq in early August.

He now opposes a withdrawal timeline - and said he thinks that most of the country agrees with him.

"I have to believe that there is a quiet majority of people out there who think the war has been a terrible mistake, but they sure don't want to see us lose," he told The Columbian editorial board earlier Monday.

Burn Bush fundraising goal surpassed

Adding up the direct contributions through DarcyBurner.com and the funds raised through ActBlue, Darcy Burner's campaign counter shows $100,000 plus in donations as of 4 PM. Though the dollar goal has been met, the goal of 3,000 contributors hasn't. Even if you only have ten bucks to give, your donation counts tremendously. Please join us in reaching our donor goal.

Darcy Burner virtual town hall begins

Joan McCarter has kicked off Darcy Burner's groundbreaking online forum focusing on ending the Iraq occupation. You can watch the forum, which is being streamed live, at Darcy's website. I'm blogging from the panel, which is maybe ten feet away from me, at the Bellevue Westin, but because the connection is slow I will only be updating this post sporadically if at all.

UPDATE: The P-I has a really good story about the Bush visit, with a recap of the netroots community's involvement and an interview with Darcy.

UPDATE II: Darcy announced, as she closed the forum, that she has asked General Eaton to chair a task force to develop a exit strategy for leaving Iraq, and that he agreed. This is what the citizens of the 8th District can expect from Darcy Burner: real leadership, not adherence to the right wing agenda and the horribly misguided policies of the Bush administration.

BREAKING: Idaho's Larry Craig was arrested in June for "lewd conduct"

This just hit the Net:
A Washington, D.C., newspaper reported on its Web site today that Idaho Sen. Larry Craig was arrested in June for lewd conduct in the restroom of a Minnesota airport. Roll Call reported that Craig was arrested by a plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men’s public restroom.

According to an arrest report obtained by Roll Call, Craig pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8.
The Idaho Statesman has more. This is bad news for Craig and may persuade him not to seek reelection next year for U.S. Senate.

Craig already has one highly qualified Democratic opponent, Larry LaRocco.

UPDATE: CNN reported this afternoon that Mitt Romney's presidential campaign told the network that Larry Craig has resigned from the team and will no longer be serving in any official capacity for them.

Join Darcy's virtual Town Hall today

Darcy Burner's campaign has released two final video messages for today's event, the details for which are as follows:
To coincide with President Bush's high dollar fundraiser for Republican Congressman Dave Reichert, a supporter of the Iraq surge, the Darcy Burner "Send a Message" virtual town hall on Iraq will be live-streamed on Monday afternoon (Aug. 27) at 3 pm PST. Democrat Darcy Burner, a candidate for congress in Washington State's 8th Congressional District, will be joined by the following participants:

Moderator Joan McCarter -- Writing under the pseudonym "mcjoan" at DailyKos, where she is also a fellow, Joan is one of the best known and respected voices in the blogosphere. She writes regularly about the Iraq War, campaign strategy and other issues, and recently co-moderated the YearlyKos presidential candidates’ debate in Chicago. She is currently working on a book about the politics of the American West.

Jon Soltz -- the co-founder and chairman of VoteVets.org, Jon is a veteran of the Iraq War, where he served as a captain with the 1st Armored Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His considered one of the country's most authoritative voices on veterans and military issues and is a regular contributor to the MSNBC program "Countdown" with Keith Olbermann. He also blogs on military and veterans issues at the Huffington Post.

Navy Capt. Larry Seaquist (ret.) -- a former US naval officer, Captain Seaquist commanded a number of warships including the battleship USS IOWA during his distinguished 32-year career. He also served as a senior security strategist in the Pentagon including an appointment as the Director of Policy Research in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. During the period leading up to the Gulf War he was Acting Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning. He currently serves in the Washington State legislature and writes regularly for major newspapers and defense journals.

Lorin Walker -- serves as vice-president of VetPac, a political action committee dedicated to electing candidates who preserve the values for which veterans have served, fought and died. She is the daughter of Captain Bruce C. Walker USAF, MIA 1972. A resident of Washington State, she is active in veterans affairs and Democratic politics and works at Microsoft.

Professor Clark Lombardi -- teaches comparative law at the University of Washington and is an expert on Islamic legal systems. He recently returned from a trip to Iraq, and speaks knowledgably about the difficulties the United States faces in Iraq in creating effective civil institutions that are critical to the functioning of a stable and effective democracy.

Major General Paul D. Eaton (ret.), who went ot Iraq in 2003 to lead the effort to recreate the Iraqi military from scratch and who since his retirement has stepped forward to speak plainly about the Bush administration's incompetence in conducting the Iraq War and callousness in treating its active duty forces and veterans, is unable to attend in person but has submitted a video statement for the "Send a Message" virtual town hall. The same is true of former Ambassador to Iraq Joe Wilson, a netroots hero who was one of the first voices to speak out in exposing the administration's efforts to falsely hype the Iraqi regime's efforts to acquire nuclear materials in the run-up to the war.
We're up to $93,707 in the Burn Bush fundraising drive, which is a pretty impressive figure. Still, we're not at a hundred grand yet. Help us get there by giving Darcy your most generous donation today.

Darcy is someone who stands shoulder to shoulder with all of us and believes deeply in the traditional American values shared by her fellow citizens in the 8th District and those of us in the progressive movement.

By demonstrating that she's worthy of your investment, you help send a message about the strength and the advent of people powered politics.

Baird top story in Oregonian

Sometimes the lede in a newspaper article captures the flavor of an event in a few short words. Take this one from this morning's front page, above the fold story in The Oregonian. From Oregon Live:
Rep. Brian Baird's star is rising rapidly in the Republican Party.

Unfortunately for Baird, he's a Democrat.
Yep, that about sums it up.

It's a somewhat lengthy article, so readers can certainly click through if they wish. But here's a little nugget:
Republicans are attempting to use Baird's comments as evidence of a countertrend.

In a news release Tuesday, Boehner's office declared that "as rank-and-file Democrats return from Iraq, more and more of them are acknowledging the clear success of the troop surge in defeating al-Qaida in Iraq and improving security for Iraqi citizens." But Baird was the only Democrat named in the release as changing his position.

Ed Cote, a member of the Democratic National Committee who lives in Vancouver, said he's not concerned about Baird being used as a poster boy for the war.

"I think he's a loner on this," Cote said. "This does not represent the thinking of House Democrats."
Baird is definitely out on a limb on this one, that's for sure. And while many folks here in the 3rd District continue to scratch their collective heads, I don't have any reason to think Baird is being duplicitous, and that he really does think his view is correct. And that's fine, as far as it goes.

But I do think there is a subterranean misunderstanding at work here on the part of Baird when it comes to public reaction. Here's somthing he is quoted as saying in the article:
"It took a bit of political courage to oppose the war when it was 75 percent popular," Baird says. "If I was willing to do that then, I hope people would say, 'He must have good reason to do this now, and he must have thought pretty carefully about it.' "

Spending 13 days in the region in the past four months "gives you some insights that folks may not have just from reading newspapers*," he says.
*I have changed one word in the above quote to make a point. The word "newspapers" should read "blogs," which is what Baird actually said.

People have always had various reactions to the stances politicians take. If this was 1991, the typical outlet for your average citizen was to vent to some friends and maybe write a letter to the editor. Assuming the letter got published, you had a few hundred words to get your point across.

What has happened is the internet tubes have created a forum for all those views, good, bad, smart, stupid and everything in between, to be hurled into cyberspace.

So I'm not so certain it helps Baird, other than perhaps with certain politicians from Connecticut, to single out blogs.

Blogs are people, as Atrios most likely would say.

NYT: Gonzales to resign

Another high ranking administration official will resign, according to The New York Times. This time it's Alberto "Abu" Gonzales, the much-maligned Attorney General who politicized the Justice Department in an unprecedented manner:
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. A senior administration official said he would announce the decision later this morning in Washington.

Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.

Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the resignation had not yet been made public.
The first thing that comes to mind is the possibility of a recess appointment, as this Daily Kos diary discusses. We'll have to see what the odds are that such a thing could come to pass.

George W. Bush is scheduled to be in Bellevue today in an attempt to shore up the finances of incumbent Republican Rep. Dave Reichert, WA-08.

Not sure how close the traditional media will be able to get, but I'm sure they'll try to ask Bush about all this.

The second thing that comes to mind is good riddance to bad rubbish. Alberto Gonzales had no businesses holding any kind of power, let alone the reigns of the most powerful law enforcement ministry in the world.

We badly need to restore our Constitution, and getting these people out of the government, however slowly, is a first step.

Stopping the politics of personal cruelty

As those who know me and those who have read this blog closely for years are well aware, I have little patience or tolerance for the personal bullying and intimidation of activists and elected leaders - people who are constantly in the public sphere because they are concerned about the direction and the future of their community, their state, and their country.

Throughout my years in politics, most of the people I have met or crossed rhetorical swords with (in conversation or in writing) have been respectful and kind.

While I feel fortunate that this has been the case, the experiences I've had with the tiny minority of people who practice what I'll call the politics of personal cruelty have been truly unfortunate.

One of the most extreme practitioners of the politics of personal cruelty here in Puget Sound unfortunately has in front of him a large cyber-megaphone which he has no qualms about using for malicious purposes.

That individual is Stefan Sharkansky, the proprietor of the blog Sound Politics, which we unusually jokingly refer to here as unSoundPolitics.

(unSoundPolitics, which features entries by a number of other Republican and right wing writers, became somewhat well known during the 2004 election contest as it stood behind Dino Rossi's legal challenge and loudly trumpeted accusations of fraud and negligence at King County Elections).

Those who Stefan considers to be his opponents are treated exceptionally viciously by Stefan in his postings. I'm not talking about disagreement on policy, or light jesting, or name calling, or even profanity.

I'm talking about raw nastiness, writing that's peppered with disgusting conjecture that is intended to destroy, humiliate, and defame.

Stefan attacks anyone who is in the way of the right wing agenda. For example, he has compared Ron Sims to African dictator Robert Mugabe, impugned Darcy Burner's integrity, assailed Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Joel Connelly, and denigrated yours truly - me and my family.

Frequently Stefan's answer to a post that challenges something he wrote is to attack the person who wrote it.

In those cases he doesn't bother with the merits of an argument, he just vindictively goes after the person who contradicted him and tries to undermine their credibility in any way he can, often using information he finds through public records, which he is very good at obtaining and sifting through.

I find his behavior reprehensible, which is why last year after he attacked me, I challenged him to stop doing so - but predictably, he did not.

This weekend, fellow blogger and friend Michael Hood detailed the story of Stefan's vengeful pursuit of a waitress who had described her experience waiting on his family to a blogger who posted the account online. It quickly drew Stefan's ire.
They [the Sharkanskys] did opp research, searched public records, got everything they could on her, like the trouble her kid got into; some profane old online rantings about boyfriends and husbands past, and posted everything on Sound Politics. They also found out she worked a 2nd job temping at Amazon.

At first, it was just a lark to her, griping online about a not uncommon server's plaint. So when the Sharks circled, she got her back up- who the hell are they to question my right to speak the truth?

A Shark[ansky] relative went to the restaurant, raised hell, and she was fired.
I don't find the story surprising, and I doubt that any of the details are exaggerated. Indeed, it fits with everything that I know about Stefan from his public writing and encounters with individuals I know. It's par for the course.

While I don't believe that criticizing someone's actions in public is unethical, I also don't think it's a good practice for those who work in the hospitality industry, or the larger service economy, to make a habit of relating experiences with customers, including public figures, on a personal blog, to some other blogger, or through any mass media.

Everyone has bad days, where frustration runs rampant and bad luck seems endless. Whenever reasonable and warranted, give people the benefit of the doubt, and assume that their mood is temporary.

Someone who has repeatedly been ill tempered and rude in public may have earned a dose of criticism, but it doesn't mean it has to be administered.

As far as blogging is concerned, there is no excuse for not having an ethical standard, which is why Online Integrity is part of our policy.
  • Private persons are entitled to respect for their privacy regardless of their activities online. This includes respect for the non-public nature of their personal contact information, the inviolability of their homes, and the safety of their families. No information which might lead others to invade these spaces should be posted. The separateness of private persons’ professional lives should also be respected as much as is reasonable.
  • Public figures are entitled to respect for the non-public nature of their personal, non-professional contact information, and their privacy with regard to their homes and families. No information which might lead others to invade these spaces should be posted.
  • Persons seeking anonymity or pseudonymity online should have their wishes in this regard respected as much as is reasonable. Exceptions include cases of criminal, misleading, or intentionally disruptive behavior.
  • Violations of these principles should be met with a lack of positive publicity and traffic.
[...]

A number of bloggers who at the time said they wouldn't be signatories to the original project went out of their way to explain that they believe in the idea behind the principles and make an effort to respect the private lives of others. We at NPI have incorporated the principles into our mandatory guidelines which all contributors must follow.

To encourage a more respectful discourse, we also prohibit profanity.

Our adherence to and belief in the principles is the reason why months ago we stopped linking to (un)SoundPolitics, and why we will continue not to link there until Stefan changes his ways.
I am sure that at some point, Stefan will read this post, and so, as someone who Stefan has tried (and failed miserably) to intimidate and demean, let me address this last bit of it directly to him.

Stefan, I am sick and tired of your bullying and mean-spiritedness. I'm discouraged that you don't seem to understand that using a medium of mass communication to verbally assault the innocent and the powerless is morally repugnant.

I am repulsed by your eagerness to post information that leads your readers, some of whom are just as vindictive as you, to invade the privacy of people you dislike, typically those who are in the way of your political agenda.

I am indignant that you can dish out criticism so freely but can't take it yourself. Stefan, I am weary of your huge double standard. Your hypocrisy reeks.

Grow up and start treating people more respectfully.

Be kind and you will be the recipient of kindness. In other words, treat people as you wish to be treated. That's the golden rule. You will find that your opinion carries more weight and you will be taken much more seriously when you stop practicing the politics of personal cruelty.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Baird slammed in robo-call

Early this evening my message machine recorded a robo-call regarding Brian Baird's views on Iraq, encouraging people to attend his town hall meeting in Vancouver tomorrow night. To be clear, I live in Baird's district, WA-03.

The caller ID simply read all zeros with "out of area." Since the call did not identify who is sponsoring the calls, I have no idea who is behind them.

I've transcribed the call. Obviously paragraph breaks are mine, intended for readability.
I'm an Iraq vet, and like many of you, I am a long time supporter of your Congressman, Brian Baird. One of the reasons I have supported him in the past has been his opposition to the war in Iraq, but I was completely disappointed in Congressman Baird when he returned from a tightly scripted trip to Iraq and announced that he has decided to oppose Democratic proposals to begin the withdrawal of our troops from that religious civil war.

The so called surge has been a complete failure. The surge was supposed to provide more security to make space for political reconciliation, but this has been the bloodiest summer in Iraq since the beginning of the war, and there is no political reconciliation in sight.

Frankly, someone with as much education as Congressman Baird should be ashamed at allowing himself to fall for the spin from the White House PR machine. If you're as angry as I am at Congressman Baird, attend his town meeting in Vancouver on Monday night at 7 p.m. at Fort Vancouver High School, 5700 E. 18th St. Let him know we expect him to stand by the commitment he made during the last election to end the war in Iraq.
Several things come to mind. I'm in favor of banning political robo-calls, and I certainly hate anonymous calls, which this one is. That being said, a friend tells me she got a Baird office robo-call about the town hall, so at least in this instance, it's a somewhat level playing field. Your guess is as good as mine about who would pay for robo-calls into the district over a town hall. Maybe if I move I will figure it all out, on the QT. Pass the decoder rings and the popcorn.

As for the substance of the call, it hit a little below the belt with the dig at Baird over his education, but overall I'm hard pressed to find more fault than that. Baird has not relented in pursuing his new-found revelation in the traditional and right-wing media, so it's not exactly shocking folks would move to strike back.

And you thought August was a slow month.

The non-hippie point of view on Baird

If you're following the Brian Baird meltdown, I thought I would link to a couple of non-inflammatory, well reasoned objections to his stance.

Yes, many people disagree with what Baird is doing, and have managed to state their objections without resorting to personal attacks, despite what the right wing noise machine might claim.

So if you're interested in a more sophisticated analysis than "their guy said this so it must be true," then I recommend the following two posts.

At Obsidian Wings, publius's post "Think First, Speak Second" makes five very important points about the Iraq debate, one of which is "the debate is not stay or leave, the debate is stay or start leaving." Worth a click.

At Effin' Unsound, check out thehim's post "Falling for the Spin? It addresses, in detailed fashion, Baird's recent guest editorial in The Seattle Times. This post has gotten a fair amount of play, deservedly so, for its well-researched and cogent points. Very much worth one's time.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go fix the yurt. Brother Diamond Mind damaged it while contemplating a better world.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Another decade in Iraq?

The Washington Post has a piece about an Illinois Democrat's experience on a recent trip to Iraq. Rep. Jan Schakowsky offers a glimpse into what it was like.
A co-founder of the House Out of Iraq Caucus, Schakowsky saw only fleeting glimpses of Iraqis' day-to-day life during her one-day trip. The few times she ventured out of the Green Zone, she was in a helicopter or a speeding convoy, soldiers hanging out of the windows with machine guns, obscuring the view. She heard about dire power and water shortages, yet saw nothing firsthand.

But the military presentations left her stunned. Schakowsky said she jotted down Petraeus's words in a small white notebook she had brought along to record her impressions. Her neat, looping handwriting filled page after page, and she flipped through to find the Petraeus section. " 'We will be in Iraq in some way for nine to 10 years,' " Schakowsky read carefully. She had added her own translation: "Keep the train running for a few months, and then stretch it out. Just enough progress to justify more time."

"I felt that was a stretch and really part of a PR strategy -- just like the PR strategy that initially led up to the war in the first place," Schakowsky said. Petraeus, she said, "acknowledged that if the policymakers decide that we need to withdraw, that, you know, that's what he would have to do. But he felt that in order to win, we'd have to be there nine or 10 years."
So obviously not everyone comes away from Iraq learning the same lessons. Which is to be expected, I suppose.

You-know-who came up in the article as well:
But it wasn't just Republicans who came away impressed after visiting Iraq. Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) announced that he will no longer support a timetable for withdrawal, warning of a "potentially catastrophic effect" on the region.

Schakowsky acknowledged that the military's presentation may have been effective. "If you took the briefings at their face value, without context, without bringing anything to it -- clearly they were trying to present that positive spin, and that's what [other lawmakers] took away from it."
Ouch.

Everyone please note that Schakowsky is not a blogger, but rather a member of Congress. It is Schakowsky who is raising concerns about the PR aspect and the possibility of another decade in Iraq.

Obviously, we think it's an important point or we wouldn't link to it, but as there seems to be a hint of hippie hatred swirling around the entire debate, let's be clear about things. People far more important than us have serious concerns about how this is being sold to the American people.

To the extent blogs matter, they can only help amplify bits of information that might not be featured as prominently in traditional media. While The Washington Post is hardly an unknown newspaper, it does not follow that everyone in WA-03 will necessarily see the Schakowsky article in their local newspaper tomorrow, and it offers a point of view that is quite at odds with that Baird is offering his district. So those who wish may go read the entire Post article and consider it on its merits.

Seeing as anyone with any kind of political sense can detect the coming administration PR offensive, it's perfectly legitimate to point out the differing views of various members of Congress, journalists, pundits and fellow bloggers.

Real progress

Think Progress notices a curious quote from Brian Baird about his trip to Iraq. From The New York Times:
“That’s real progress,” Mr. Baird said, though he confessed he did not tell his wife about the region’s nickname, the triangle of death, and said the whole scene was a little surreal. “You have your flak jacket on, and your Kevlar helmet and you’re surrounded by guys with automatic weapons as you’re standing there, talking to the mayor. And you realize there’s a dusty old car next to you and you’re saying, ‘God, I hope that doesn’t blow up.’ ”
Oh boy. Not really sure what the Democrats in WA-03 did to deserve all this, but if someone knows how to take Baird's shovel away and hide it, he needs to stop digging. First rule and all that.

Just some friendly advice from a blogger who has voted for Baird every election since he first ran in 1996, even if I've never set foot in Iraq. Last time I checked American citizens were allowed to have opinions even if they are unable to travel to war zones personally. Kevlar is expensive, you know.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The eyes of a netroots nation are on WA-08 and Darcy Burner

With George W. Bush due in Bellevue less than a hundred hours from this evening, the eyes of a netroots nation are focused on Washington's 8th District and Darcy Burner as the local and national communities unite to Burn Bush.

Markos and Joan have put the campaign front and center all day. MyDD, Atrios, Firedoglake, OpenLeft have all chimed in. Nick Beaudrot has posted at Ezra Klein. We've blogged in support of Darcy here. So have David at HorsesAss, Dan at On The Road to 2008, Darryl at Hominid Views, and Jimmy at McCranium.

$38,298 has already been raised in the campaign, with a total goal of $100,000 to offset the amount of money that Bush will raise at Reichert's side this coming Monday. Already we're more than one third of the way towards our goal, but now is no time for the momentum to slow.

Please donate - and donate as generously as you can - today.

Vote with your dollars and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing your money will help elect a progressive champion to the United States House of Representatives. A courageous leader who will stand up to Republican attacks. A fighter who won't cave to right wing pressure and isn't afraid of her values.

Demonstrate your commitment to a progressive Democratic majority by giving Darcy whatever contribution you can afford to give today.

Their guy said this

Looks like we could wind up with 435 separate opinions on what to do in Iraq. Republican Pete Hoekstra of Michigan thinks democracy cannot work there:
Speaking during a taping of Michigan Public Television’s “Off the Record,” Hoekstra said in a Muslim country dominated by rival tribal factions, western-style democracy is not workable.

“You’ve got a culture where democracy is not part of, ‘Let’s go there,’ ” Hoekstra said. ”It was a stretch.”

He said he met with Sunni tribal chiefs who hold politically sway in Iraq, and concluded, ‘They are not looking for a county commission to tell them what to do.”

But Hoekstra said he opposes setting a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. He said Congress and President George W. Bush must decide on a unified course of action that will stabilize Iraq, based on new intelligence reports and a much-anticipated September status report by the U.S. top commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus.

To reach that consensus, Hoekstra said Bush should drop the notion of a democratic Iraq.
It's time that Congress stepped up to the plate. And it should take responsibility. Plus it should stand on its own two feet. If they don't, we should withdraw 5,000 troops from Capitol Hill by Columbus Day.

Face it, we're screwed. Nobody knows what they're doing. Even staying on message is impossible now, because nobody in either party knows what the message is supposed to be.

Another round of votes are in, and the good trends keep getting better

King County Elections has issued its final report for this week after tabulating 31,309 ballots today, all of them absentee. 192,840 mail in ballots have been tabulated to date. And once again, the numbers are good news for progressives.

Bill Sherman is now at 64% of the vote in the Democratic contest for prosecutor, having improved several points since election night. Brad Larssen's write in candidacy, while nowhere close to victory, continues to pick up steam, jumping to 24% today. That's actually pretty impressive for a write in.

Over in the 8th County Council District, Michael Goodspaceguy Nelson has only managed 7.8% of the vote - and his name was on the ballot, unlike Brad's. But perhaps Nelson's truly awful performance speaks to Councilmember Dow Constantine's popularity. Still, voters saw Goodspaceguy Nelson's name, whereas nobody in the 6th found Brad's name on their ballot.

The real story today, though, is the incredible durability of the trends in the Port races. Both Alec Fisken and Gael Tarleton crossed new thresholds today - Fisken is now at 46% and Gael is now at 33% - one point higher than yesterday for each candidate. Their opponents remain at 28% (Bob Edwards) and 29% (Bill Bryant), respectively.

Out of touch Chris Shays caught on tape

My Left Nutmeg has some video clips showing Republican Chris Shays of Connecticut complaining about the evil horrible bloggers. 'Cause they have a video camera 'n stuff. Talk about out of touch. In an ironic twist, Shays looks like an idiot complaining that the video cameras are out to get him. You can't make this stuff up.

If the name "Chris Shays" sounds familiar, it could be because he's Brian Baird's traveling partner to Iraq. As people continue to scratch their heads over Baird's actions, they might consider that he's been hanging out with Chris Shays. Just a thought. I've always wondered what the heck the deal was anyhow.

I wonder if the Shays staff understands how ridiculous their boss looks repeatedly going "you're not the press, you're not the press." Yeah, duh. We're citizens. Deal. The days of managing the news to the exclusion of the citizenry are over.

Time to burn Bush: A video Town Hall invitation from the netroots

Yesterday our Executive Director noted that Darcy Burner's campaign plans to hold a virtual Town Hall forum on Iraq during George W. Bush's visit here to raise big bucks for Dave Reichert this Monday. Today, the campaign released its second video statement - an invitation to the Town Hall from notable local and national bloggers within the netroots community to readers and citizens.

Featured are Markos Moulitsas and Joan McCarter of DailyKos, Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake, Matt Stoller of OpenLeft, David Goldstein of HorsesAss, Mollie Martin of Liberal Girl Next Door, and Andrew Villeneuve - our Executive Director.

Listen to what they have to say by watching the video clip.

Submit your questions for the Town Hall at Darcy's website, and help counter the huge influx of checks to Reichert's campaign by donating through ActBlue.

That was one crazy week in the 3rd District

Josh Feit at Slog catches this Brian Baird guest editorial in The Seattle Times regarding Iraq. Feit says at the end of his post, after quoting Baird's concerns about Iran possibly expanding its influence and the ghastly specter of fundamentalist terrorists gaining even more sway:
I don’t know what to do about Iraq. I editorialized against the war … repeatedly, and I think it’s the biggest foreign policy blunder in American history. However, I think Baird’s concerns have to be addressed before the U.S. leaves.
I guess I know how Feit feels. I would add that with the right wing drumbeat sounding to attack Iran, to do so would seemingly add greater instability to the region and increase the mullah's hold on power in Iran. So if we want to talk about Iran, then perhaps Baird should also mention how short-sighted the neo-cons are being about policy.

It's good that people are trying to consider all the angles. Baird now finds himself in a difficult political position with town hall meetings scheduled in his district next week. You'd think turnout will be fairly large, given the circumstances.

The crazy thing is that Baird's policy statements are, as Feit points out, very worth considering, even if we disagree with all or part of what he posits. But the right wing noise machine has made Baird their poster child over the last week, and combined with Hillary Clinton surrendering defense policy to the GOP it's enough to give any progressive heartburn.

The best thing Baird can do at this point is make his policy statements outside the noise machine. He didn't win any points for going on Lars Larson or Tucker Carlson, and he needs to be careful from this point on. Another well-publicized appearance with folks who are nothing more than Republican lap dogs could do him lasting political damage.

More scary than funny

I rarely post regarding letters to the editor. They're often horrendously repetitive and not worth the bother.

But given that it's one week since Brian Baird caused a tremendous uproar with this comments about Iraq, this letter is too good to skip.
Brian Baird, our Democratic congressman, is my hero. He voted, four years ago, against the resolution to authorize George Bush to invade Iraq. Not many legislators had that foresight.

He's also a funny guy. His fellow Democrats voted him the best comedy act in the House. Man, you should see his Rumsfeld impersonation; his Dick Cheney impression is a riot; and he'll kill you with his George Bush act.

Actually, I find it more frightening lately, than amusing. It is an act, isn't it, Congressman?

John Ginder
Camas
We're all waiting to find that out, Mr. Ginder. The ball is pretty much in Baird's court at this point.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Out by Groundhog Day

At the risk of engaging in the "it's true because a member of the opposition party said so" game, it's worth noting that a prominent Republican senator is taking a stance that seems, at least on a surface level, at odds with recent pronouncements by Brian Baird. From The Washington Post:
Sen. John W. Warner, one of the most influential Republican voices in Congress on national security, called on President Bush yesterday to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in time for Christmas as a new intelligence report concluded that political leaders in Baghdad are "unable to govern effectively."

Warner's declaration -- after the Virginia senator's recent four-day trip to the Middle East -- roiled the political environment ahead of a much-anticipated progress report to be delivered Sept. 11 by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. Although Warner had already broken with Bush's strategy, this was the first time he endorsed pulling troops out by a specific date.
So I guess it's all even again in Congress. I'm sure the right wing radio hosts will be scrambling to hear Sen. Warner's views.

In all seriousness, whether we pull out 5,000 troops by Groundhog Day or whatever is not the big enchilada. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but it seems like we are on the verge of some irreversible decisions about our role in the Middle East, and as such Congress needs to act decisively in September.

Whether things are "improving" in Iraq kind of depends on where one sits. If you're an Iraqi civilian, times are still tough. From The New York Times:
The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has soared since the American troop increase began in February, according to data from two humanitarian groups, accelerating the partition of the country into sectarian enclaves.

Despite some evidence that the troop buildup has improved security in certain areas, sectarian violence continues and American-led operations have brought new fighting, driving fearful Iraqis from their homes at much higher rates than before the tens of thousands of additional troops arrived, the studies show.
This isn't simply a moral question. This kind of chaos can't be helpful in terms of creating an Iraqi society that is stable, to say the least. Frankly, I kind of wonder what all the noise is about anyhow. Baird says next spring and Warner says Christmas. So Groundhog Day it is.

Does it ever dawn on policy makers that our presence in Iraq simply complicates things so badly that it will never calm down? You can't impose a functioning democracy on a country through military means. Democracies function because the people buy into the social contract. We can try to create some conditions that will help in that regard, but we've had four years plus. Too many egregious mistakes have been made to think we can do a ton of good there.

This month is starting to remind me of the old Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. The leadership of our country seems badly out of touch regarding Iraq and how ordinary Americans perceive the situation. But in a very broad sense, Sen. Warner is right: we need to start the process of disengagement. We should listen to professional military and diplomatic personnel about how to do that, but we have to make that key decision first.

It may take far longer than many of us want, but that's something we'll just have accept. It's not like we're being stop-lossed into blogging or something.

UPDATE, OR DIGBY HAS A POINT -- Digby sees the whole thing as kabuki. And as always, she has a point:
The administration is mounting a multi-pronged public relations campaign to show "the surge" is working to shore up any wobbly congressmen. The NIE today reinforces the idea of surging progress. But that isn't the whole story. The NIE also says the political situation is a mess, which it is. Today we find out that Bush's lobbyist allies are now working to depose Maliki and install their favorit puppet Ilyad Allawi. And John "tectonic shift" Warner, (who said that he would not vote with the Democratic withdrawal proposals) also said in his little speech that Prime Minister Maliki is not doing a heckuva job and we need to pressure him to knock some Iraqi heads together (or "somebody" finds someone who will.) And he even admits that is the reason he's calling for withdrawing a few thousand troops. Conventional wisdom seems to be gelling that the problem is Maliki.

Except, of course, it isn't.
EVEN MORE, OR PETER PACE HAS SOME OPINIONS NOW -- The Los Angeles Times reports that outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs Peter Pace will call for very substantial troop reductions to occur in 2008. His rationale, according to the article, is that keeping so many troops in Iraq will strain our military to the breaking point.

Darcy Burner to hold virtual Town Hall on Iraq during Bush fundraiser for Reichert

Darcy Burner's campaign today announced plans to hold an innovative virtual Town Hall forum on Iraq to send a message to the District of Columbia that it is time to end the occupation in Iraq, a quagmire with seemingly no end in sight, that the administration and Dave Reichert continue to stubbornly support.

The forum will be streamed live over the web and will be moderated by Daily Kos contributor and editor Joan McCarter (mcjoan). It will include clips from courageous Americans who are standing up to demand an end to the occupation, such as Joe Wilson (follow the link to see a video clip).

In upcoming days the Darcy's campaign plans to release additional statements "from other brave men and women in positions of leadership who understand the damage this war is having on our military, our nation, and on the Iraqi people."

Citizens are invited to submit questions, either in writing or through YouTube, between now and next Monday, at Darcy Burner's newly refurbished website.

Alec Fisken climbs again

In the latest round of results tabulated today, Port Commissioner Alec Fisken has crossed the 45% threshold, up several percentage points from the initial round of ballots tallied early Tuesday night.

Alec's rise is wonderful news, the best trend of the entire primary election. The wider his lead over Republican Bill Bryant (a McGavick, Bush, Reichert, Vance, Tebelius, Rossi donor) the better. It's good to see that voters understand who the true champions of Port reform are: Gael Tarleton and Alec Fisken.

Now and then

Now.

(From CNN.)
A powerhouse Republican lobbying firm with close ties to the White House has begun a public campaign to undermine the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, CNN has confirmed.

This comes as President Bush is publicly taking great pains to reiterate his support for the embattled Iraqi leader, whose government has come under sharp criticism and scrutiny from Washington lawmakers and officials and Thursday's National Intelligence Estimate.

A senior Bush administration official told CNN the White House is aware of the lobbying campaign by Barbour Griffith & Rogers because the firm is "blasting e-mails all over town" criticizing al-Maliki and promoting the firm's client, former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, as an alternative to the current Iraqi leader.
Then.

(From a 2003 article by John Prados at the George Washington University National Security Archives.)
The ultimate effect of United States participation in the overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem was to commit Washington to Saigon even more deeply. Having had a hand in the coup America had more responsibility for the South Vietnamese governments that followed Diem. That these military juntas were ineffectual in prosecuting the Vietnam war then required successively greater levels of involvement from the American side. The weakness of the Saigon government thus became a factor in U.S. escalations of the Vietnam war, leading to the major ground war that the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson opened in 1965.

Hey China, you talkin' to me?

The authoritarian capitalists in Beijing are resorting to threats in reaction to U.S. consumer concerns about their products. From McClatchy:
Stung by a spate of safety recalls of its products, China hinted Thursday that it might take retaliatory action against U.S. products exported to China.

Earlier this week, China rejected a batch of U.S.-made pacemakers and asserted that U.S. soybean farmers sent shipments tainted with pesticide and weeds.

On Thursday, the State Council, China's Cabinet, released a statement saying China's government would return or destroy all improperly imported meat, fruit and recycled waste by the end of the year and would improve the monitoring of other imports.

Gao Hucheng, a vice minister of commerce, pointedly reminded a news conference that China is poised to overtake Japan as the United States' third-largest export market. A Commerce Ministry handout, though, cited "discordant notes" in bilateral trade ties, citing media coverage of safety issues as among the problems.

Gao accused American news organizations of grossly exaggerating problems with China's exports. "The Chinese government thinks certain media . . . sensationalize the quality problems of Chinese products," Gao said. "Deliberate sensationalism and overstatement will not be accepted by China."
The McClatchy article goes on to quote a representative of the U.S. soybean industry calling the accusations "nonsense," which is probably a polite way of putting it.

The development is troubling in the sense that our trade policies usually put a priority on the interests of agri-business conglomerates rather than consumers, but clearly the American people are quite concerned about the safety of Chinese imports.

We don't need to be lectured to by a non-democratic regime with a lousy human rights and environmental record anyhow. China needs to pull itself, somehow, into this century and realize that American consumers will only take so much before they simply stop buying their products. I know I stopped eating shrimp for the most part when I found out how much of it is farmed in China. Unless it is clearly labeled "wild," I won't touch the stuff.

I've often thought it would be simpler for people to just go straight from Wal-Mart to the central transfer station anyhow. It would cut out the hassle of cutting through all that consumer-resistant packaging, and most of the stuff is going to wind up in the landfill anyway.

If we were righties, we would build big piles of Chinese crud and burn it in front of the traditional media. But we're not, so we'll argue for greater consumer protections and hope that Congress somehow gets its act together on that front this fall.

Wake me when F.U. ends

Think Progress summarizes today's National Intelligence Estimate concerning Iraq.
Today, the Bush administration released an update to the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), entitled, “Prospects for Iraq’s Stability: Some Security Progress but Political Reconciliation Elusive.” The NIE — which offers the coordinated judgments of the Intelligence Community — observed some “measurable but uneven improvements” in Iraq’s security situation, but cautioned that there remains a lack of political progress in Iraq and a failure of the escalation to successfully provide sufficient security for Iraqis.
I'm not certain that the NIE will impact the domestic debate over Iraq much. Somehow, George Bush can make completely absurd comparisons between Iraq and the Vietnam War and get away with it politically. We pay a heavy price in this country for having a population that doesn't seem to know or care much about historical facts. The utterly false mythology the right has built up over the years about that war is breathtaking in its stupidity and ignorance.

Arguing about whether the surge in Iraq is working is pointless. Our military is pretty darn good at what it does, and the men and women doing the work are to be respected. But it's hard not to see that the problems in Iraq are like squeezing a balloon -- you may get a handle in one spot, but something else just pops out somewhere else.

The true lesson of the Vietnam conflict is that nation building imposed from the outside won't work. The amount of hubris required to maintain that it will is staggering. But I'm sure many ordinary Iraqis will appreciate all the air conditioned bases serving pork sandwiches, not to mention the new embassy that is actually bigger than Kuwait. (I'm not saying that the new U.S. embassy in Iraq is bigger than the one in Kuwait, it's actually bigger than the country of Kuwait. You can look it up, really.)

Strikingly missing in the debate over what this congressman or that senator thinks is one simple idea: maybe our presence in Iraq is a key part of the problem. It's more complicated than that, of course, but it's a discussion we need to have.

While we all hope that conditions in Iraq can be improved for ordinary Iraqis, the idea that solutions will flow from the insane beast known as U.S. politics is ludicrous. Look what is happening: the occupant of the White House is "learning lessons" from a war he avoided, the right wing noise machine has suddenly discovered a relatively obscure Congressman from SW Washington because he provided them with easy talking points, presidential candidates in both parties make this or that declaration to satisfy their constituencies, and meanwhile the quagmire just gets deeper and deeper.

This is nuts. I think it's safe to say the Iraqis really can't take too much more of this kind of help.

And as I've written before, the key decision we have to make is that we are going to leave Iraq, somehow, someday. The smart folks at the Pentagon and State Department can determine how best to do it, and when, and in what fashion, and how many troops to keep deployed in the region. But we've had no realistic strategy from day one Iraq, and we still don't, just an endless series of reports and false deadlines always leading to more Friedman Units. (F.U.'s.)

September was never a meaningful assessment deadline any more than all the others. The American people are being given a choice between endless F.U.'s and endless F.U.'s.

Things will look up in the spring, though.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Very Happy Birthday: The Northwest Progressive Institute turns four

Exactly four years ago, the Northwest Progressive Institute - born out of the belief that a progressive answer was needed to conservative infrastructure - was first launched into the public sphere as a mere web page on August 22nd, 2003.

Today, as we look back on 48 months of growth and change, it's hard to believe that what was once was just a hope and a fuzzy idea is now a growing organization cultivated by a group of people who are passionate about revolutionizing grassroots politics and restoring strength to the progressive movement in America.

And though we've had much to celebrate over the last few years - consecutive victories over Tim Eyman, the return of a Democratic majority in Congress, progress on important priorities that reflect our values - the road hasn't been easy.

We've weathered plenty of criticism, some of it aimed directly at me and my family, from people who don't like our involvement in the political arena, people who resent or despise our work... and never miss an opportunity to sneer and jeer at us. Much of this, although not all of it, comes from the right wing.

Some people have accused us of pretending to be something we're not, mocking NPI's very name. How can the Northwest Progressive Institute be an institute...if it doesn't have a grand office building, or a big payroll, or a long list of accomplished fellows who have been active in civics for decades?

I have always said, and we have always freely admitted, that NPI is an unconventional organization. Most think tanks or idea factories start out with at least some level of substantial resources. The Northwest Progressive Institute has more humble origins: when it began, it was basically some graphics and text on a web page. Just hypertext markup language.

But it didn't stay that way for long.

Our name from the very beginning has reflected what we aspire to be, but we believe it also reflects what we are and have been for most of our history.

What does "institute" mean? A permanent organizational body created for a certain purpose. Or, a society or organization for carrying on a particular work. Or, an organization founded to promote a cause.

Those definitions are from Wikipedia, Random House, and American Heritage. They're all pretty similar, and they all describe what NPI is.

NPI does not just exist as a domain name in cyberspace (as some have dismissively claimed), it is actually a legal entity; we incorporated in March of 2005. In the future, we intend to establish a permanent physical presence (more simply, an office!) where our paid staff will be based.

But even when we have more resources, we don't expect that our critics will be affording us much respect. Nothing we can do or get will make us credible in their eyes...because we are seen as a threat to their agenda. If we're not a threat to them, if we're not making an impact... then why are we worth the criticism?

The attacks and invective comments have never stopped us in the past, and we're not about to let it start discouraging us now.

It's somewhat astonishing to think that four years ago, this blog didn't exist, Pacific Northwest Portal had not been conceived, and Permanent Defense was only a year and a half old. Four years ago, Howard Dean's campaign for the presidency was almost in full swing, with the Sleepless Summer Tour drawing crowds.

Four years ago, the Center for American Progress was just rising out of the ground, and authors like Al Franken, Michael Moore, Molly Ivins, and Jim Hightower were chronicling the failures of the right wing agenda, or the harmfulness of right wing media, or the politics of fear practiced by the Bush administration.

Four years ago the netroots community was still in its infancy. Blogs such as Daily Kos, MyDD, or Atrios weren't well known, and many weren't even online then. The idea of a Netroots Nation or YearlyKos Convention had not even been contemplated.

The netroots is a rising force in American politics, its influence only grudgingly admitted by a few in the right wing media. But it's a sign of the times that FOX Noise now devotes substantial time to disparaging the community, with tirades against Daily Kos leading off the O'Reilly Factor on multiple occasions.

In the last four years we have concentrated on realizing our goals, putting together a map for where we want to go, and launching small projects that have been spur of the moment ideas (Pacific NW Portal comes to mind) only growing in scope later.

NPI may be turning four, but it's still young, and there is much ahead. Our fifth year promises to be exciting and very different from the last forty eight months. We're anxious to chart new waters and explore untrodden territory.

We hope you'll join us on that journey.

Relive YearlyKos 2007 with a keepsake you can wear all year long

As part of our plans for celebrating and commemorating the second and final YearlyKos Convention (which returns under a new name, Netroots Nation, next year) we commissioned the design and production of a unique convention t-shirt featuring the Washington Progressive Blogroll (or netroots community).

Though we sold quite a few of these shirts in Chicago, a limited quantity remain, and we're now offering them to readers and fellow bloggers. These shirts are made of United States fabric (assembled in Latin America) - sturdy cotton, to be more precise - and are light blue in color.

The front features outlines of the states of Washington and Illinois with white stars denoting Chicago and the hometowns of Washington delegates going to YearlyKos.

The back features the Chicago skyline and the names and web addresses of all the active, major Washington State progressive blogs. Both the front and the back feature the text "YearlyKos 2007" as well.

YearlyKos 2007 Convention T-Shirt FrontYearlyKos 2007 Convention T-Shirt Back

Click on the above thumbnails to see graphics for the front and back, and click below on the thumbnails to see photos of the design on the actual shirt.

YearlyKos 2007 Convention T-Shirt FrontYearlyKos 2007 Convention T-Shirt Back

These shirts are exceptionally durable and won't fade or degrade even after multiple washes. I have one from last year's batch (the first year of the tradition, started by our good friend switzerblog) and it still looks as good as new, even though it's been through the washing machine and the dryer many times. These shirts are a great collector's item because of their limited quantity. We're selling them for $25 each (with packaging and postage, $30).

We currently have a few available in all sizes - small, medium, large, or extra large. If you would like one, please send an email to feedback (at) nwprogressive (dot) org and I myself will reserve one for you. Let us know your name, phone number, your postal address, and which size you want in your message.

We want to ensure that as many people as possible who want one get one, so we will only be selling one per person - at least at the outset.

Once we receive your check or money order, which you can send to:

Northwest Progressive Institute
Post Office Box 264
Redmond, WA 98073
(write "T-shirt" on the memo line or enclose a note)

...we'll mail the shirt we've set aside for you. Alternatively, you can pick one up in person if you prefer - you can let us know your preference in your message.

We're not going to bother with credit card processing given the limited quantity of these shirts. Get yours now...and you'll have something great to wear on the plane or train to Netroots Nation in 2008.

Drawing primary conclusions from last night's late numbers

After last night’s second report during the 10 PM hour, I wrote a post summarizing the major results of the night, but unfortunately, Blogger ate that post as I hit the publish button just after 1 AM, and to my dismay, it seems it wasn’t auto-saved, so there’s no way to bring it back. So here’s what I meant to say late last night.

The August 21st primary was a good night for Democrats and progressives across the Puget Sound region. Turnout could have been higher, but it’s an off year election and the first time the primary has not been held in September in a long while. There were a lot of victories, amid a few losses.

First, the local propositions, whether they were the King County parks levies or municipal levies such as Redmond’s twin proposals to put more revenue into public services, fared well. Some fire district levies were even passing with over 70% approval. Contrary to what the right wing says, we the people like to have a government that is properly funded and responsive to our needs. We only hurt ourselves with tax cuts.

Second, Bill Sherman will be the Democratic Party’s nominee for prosecutor. He’ll face Republican Dan Satterberg in the general election this November. His support stayed solid all night at around 61% and he picked up more votes than his future GOP opponent even with competition in the Democratic primary. Bill is ready to work hard to win again, and we’re fully behind him.

Third, the Port Commission races look surprisingly good. Both progressive champions, Gael Tarleton and Alec Fisken, lead all of their opponents in their respective races. (Gael is running for Position #2, Alec for Position #5).

Gael will face entrenched incumbent and Republican Bob Edwards in November. Alec will face a well funded challenger in Republican Bill Bryant, who dropped below 30% of the vote as the night wore on while Alec steadily increased to 43.5% of the vote for Position #5. Gael held steady all night at 31%, while Bob Edwards trailed with about 27% of the vote for Position #2.

Fourth, in perhaps the biggest disappointment of the night for us, Holly Plackett’s bid to become mayor of Redmond is over. At the beginning the race was closer, but the late numbers broke heavily for Jim Robinson, and he climbed at the expense of both Holly and John Marchione, the other candidate.

Marchione’s lead diminished only slightly, while Holly dropped several percentage points. Barring a huge flood of mail in ballots for Holly, it’ll be Jim Robinson vs. John Marchione for Mayor of Redmond this November. Again, we’re disappointed, but you can’t win everything, and we’re proud of Holly’s civic involvement and concern for our community.

Fifth, we know that Bruce Harrell and Venus Velazquez will square off against each other in a couple months for Seattle City Council Position #3 (the open seat). Both far outpaced their opponents and will undoubtedly have vigorous campaigns, which we look forward to watching.

Sixth, congratulations are in order to…Richard Pope, who enjoyed the advantage of being the only name on the ballot for the Democratic nomination in the 6th County Council District. Brad Larssen’s write in candidacy wasn’t successful, and that’s too bad, but in the late numbers, he did climb four points from 16% to 20% which was very encouraging to see. Even though he won’t overtake Pope, we’re happy that he put so much effort into his campaign.

Write ins are incredibly difficult to win. Interestingly, if you combine Pope and Larssen’s total votes, it’s not too far off from Jane Hague’s total.

Unfortunately for Richard, the electorate will probably break for the incumbent this fall (which won’t be a partisan primary) but we’re curious to see what kind of campaign he’ll put together.

Seventh, we know that progressive champion Brian Sullivan will be the Democratic nominee for County Council Position #2. Brian won a huge victory, claiming almost 60% of the vote, in the primary. We’re delighted and we are hopeful that both he and fellow Democrat Mike Cooper will win this November. If they do, they will ensure a progressive majority on the Snohomish County Council for years to come.

We’re also pleased that John Lovick is in the lead for Snohomish County Sheriff.

Finally, if you want more results and information, check out Pacific Northwest Portal, which is still featuring primary elections coverage on the front page.

They hate us for our Freedom

From KGW:
Special security teams were dispatched for a crackdown on travelers at Portland International Airport.

Newschannel 8 learned Tuesday Homeland Security has deployed federal agents and local police known as “VIPR” teams to PDX.

The “Visual Intermodal Protection and Response” teams have been deployed nearly 84 times in the past year.

The agency dispatches the teams around the country, especially during peak travel days and special events -- but officials said there was no specific threat.
"VIPR," get it? Hiss! I bet the guys who thought that up really got off on it.

Why are we "cracking down on travelers?" What exactly have "travelers" done wrong, other than put up with cruddy service and endless delays?

Shouldn't we "crack down on terrorists?"

I guess it's easier to hassle the mom with two kids in strollers than actually go get Osama bin Laden.

You remember that guy, don't you? Beard, cave, Pakistan. That guy.

If I breathe in much more Freedom this week I'm going to freaking choke.

Smell the Freedom

David Postman catches a Washington Post article about the White House "how to deal with protesters" manual:

From The Washington Post:
Among other things, any event must be open only to those with tickets tightly controlled by organizers. Those entering must be screened in case they are hiding secret signs. Any anti-Bush demonstrators who manage to get in anyway should be shouted down by "rally squads" stationed in strategic locations. And if that does not work, they should be thrown out.
Your tax dollars at work. Wouldn't want The Decider to be exposed to any opinions contrary to his already decided um, mind. So to speak.

The Aroma of Freedom is quite fragrant this week. Just remember not to step in it or you'll ruin your shoes.

Freedom's Mouthpiece

Via Think Progress comes some detail on the GOP fear-based propaganda effort to support the occupation of Iraq.
Beginning today, Freedom’s Watch, a new right-wing front group for the White House, “will unveil a month-long, $15 million television, radio and grass-roots campaign” to pressure Congress to continue supporting President Bush’s disastrous Iraq strategy. The group, which is “funded by high-profile Republicans who were aides and supporters of President Bush,” is headed by a familiar face from the Bush war effort: former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

The privately-funded ad campaign will run in 20 states, featuring Iraq war vets and families of fallen soldiers arguing that the war should continue. The four ads produced so far by Fleischer’s Freedom’s Watch group contain little more than fear-mongering about an Iraq pullout. “They attacked us and they will again. They won’t stop in Iraq,” one ad says. “It will mean more attacks in America,” says another. Yet another ad warns, “We’ve already had one 9/11, we don’t need another.”
And who else is behind this effort? A veritable rogue's gallery of right-wing loyalists. From The Politico:
The board consists of (Bradley A.) Blakeman; Fleischer; Mel Sembler, a Florida Republican who was Bush’s ambassador to Italy; William P. Weidner, president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp.; and Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

The donors include Sembler; Anthony Gioia, a Buffalo businessman who was Bush’s ambassador to Malta; Kevin Moley, who was Bush’s ambassador to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva; Howard Leach, a former Republican National Committee finance chairman who was Bush’s ambassador to France; Dr. John Templeton of Pennsylvania, chairman and president of the John Templeton Foundation; Ed Snider, chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, the huge Philadelphia sports and entertainment firm; Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and ranked by Forbes magazine as the third wealthiest American; and Richard Fox, who is chairman of the Jewish Policy Center and was Pennsylvania State Chairman of the Reagan/Bush campaign in 1980.
Middle East specialists to a man, no doubt, although foreign service postings to Paris, Rome and Geneva by three of them probably qualify if they had some pita pockets. I'm not quite sure what Pennsylvania has to do with the Middle East, nor Comcast nor the Sands casino empire. But it's nice to know that enjoying television or gaming helps support Republican propaganda efforts.

So this is the context in which the alleged debate over the alleged Petraeus report will take place:

Allies of the White House fund scary music ads. Some Democrats get scared. The foreign policy establishment, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and some sergeants with real courage paint a very different picture of what is really happening in Iraq. The worst bombing of the occupation takes place, and while violence in Iraq is down in some areas there is legitimate doubt about how meaningful those statistics really are, as the political situation is still incredibly unstable. The Iraqi prime minister tells us to step off, and has a nice cup of tea in Tehran.

Meanwhile, in wingnut noise-machine-land, the righties soil themselves over being "right."

Lord help us all, but most of all, help the soldiers and the Iraqi civilians. Having one's fate determined by a Swift Boat group is cruel indeed.

Bush to Bellevue, if it exists

George W. Bush is coming to the state to bail out Dave Reichert next week.
An e-mailed invitation says the event includes a VIP reception costing $10,000 and a general reception costing $1,000.

Reichert's office declined to provide further information, referring callers to the White House, which also declined to provide further details. A spokesman for the Washington State Republican Party also declined to comment.

Democrats said the Republicans' reluctance to speak indicated embarrassment at hosting the president, whose approval rating in the state is dismal.
Later, a White House spokesmodel seemed to cast doubt about the very existence of Bellevue, noting that "operational security" requires that suburban locations be considered "theoretical" until after events are completed.

That way, the spokesmodel explained, security staff can swiftly trundle the large chests containing fat cat gold bullion to waiting SUV's for their trips to undisclosed locations. Then he went "psyche!" and admitted it was just because they are embarrassed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Little change in second round of results

King County Elections updated its tallies just after 10 PM, demonstrating its intent to stick to its schedule for periodic updates of returns. Not much has changed with the addition of what is supposed to be about 20% of votes cast at the polls.

However, Alec Fisken climbed over the 42% threshold, and Bill Bryant slipped below the 30% mark - which is a very encouraging trend.

The county says it tabulated "all absentee and mail ballots ready for tabulation, 120,664 total, and will resume processing mail ballots tomorrow. The rate of mail ballots to date is approximately 86 percent of the absentee ballots received for the same time period in the September 2005 primary."

Our man in Baghdad

McClatchy, 2007:
Crocker's comments are in line with what seems to be growing disaffection with Maliki's government as the Sept. 15 deadline for a congressionally required assessment of Iraq progress nears. On Monday, the chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., called for the Iraqi parliament to replace Maliki.

Last week, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen Raymond Odierno, also told reporters that the government didn't have a "blank check" when asked how long the U.S. would wait for Maliki to reach out to Sunni groups working with the military.

On Tuesday, President Bush in Canada offered little support for Maliki. "If the government doesn't ... respond to the demands of the people, they will replace the government," he said. "That's up to the Iraqis to make that decision, not American politicians."

Meanwhile, Maliki made his first official visit to Syria, which the U.S. has long criticized for allowing foreign fighters to enter Iraq. Last week, Maliki visited Iran, where he was seen laughing and smiling with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Pentagon Papers, 1971:
The McNamara-Taylor mission, like the Krulak-Mendenhall mission before and the Honolulu Conference in November after the coup, points up the great difficulty encountered by high level fact-finding missions and conferences in getting at the "facts" of a complex policy problem like Vietnam in a short time. It is hard to believe that hasty visits by harried high level officials with overloaded itineraries really add much in the way of additional data or lucid insight. And because they become a focal point of worldwide press coverage, they often raise public expectations or anxieties that may only create additional problems for the President. There were many such high level conferences over Vietnam.

---snip---

While this policy was being applied in October, Lodge shunned all contact with the regime that did not come at Diem's initiative. He wanted it clearly understood that they must come to him prepared to adopt our advice before he would recommend to Washington a change in U.S. policy. Lodge performed with great skill, but inevitably frictions developed within the Mission as different viewpoints and proposals came forward. In particular, Lodge's disagreements and disputes with General Harkins during October when the coup plot was maturing and later were to be of considerable embarrassment to Washington when they leaked to the press. Lodge had carefully cultivated the press, and when the stories of friction appeared, it was invariably Harkins or Richardson or someone else who was the villian.

No sooner had the McNamara-Taylor mission returned to Washington and reported its recommendations than the generals reopened contact with the Mission indicating that once again they were preparing to strike against the regime. Washington's immediate reaction on October 5 was to reiterate the decision of the NSC on the McNamara-Taylor report, i.e., no U.S. encouragement of a coup. Lodge was instructed, however, to maintain contact with the generals and to monitor their plans as they emerged. These periodic contacts continued and by October 25, Lodge had come to believe that Diem was unlikely to respond to our pressure and that we should therefore not thwart the coup forces. Harkins disagreed, believing that we still had not given Diem a real chance to rid himself of Nhu and that we should present him with such an ultimatum and test his response before going ahead with a coup. He, furthermore, had reservations about the strength of the coup forces when compared with those likely to remain loyal to the regime. All this left Washington anxious and doubtful. Lodge was cautioned to seek fuller information on the coup plot, including a line-up of forces and the proposed plan of action. The U.S. could not base its policy on support for a coup attempt that did not offer a strong prospect of success. Lodge was counseled to consider ways of delaying or preventing the coup if he doubted its prospects for success. By this juncture, however, Lodge felt committed and, furthermore, felt the matter was no longer in our hands. The generals were taking the action on their own initiative and we could only prevent it now by denouncing them to Diem. While this debate was still going on, the generals struck.

Redmond's levies pass

The City of Redmond's two levies (for parks and public safety) are easily passing tonight, months after a previous levy failed in a special election.

All three mayoral candidates - who are also councilmembers - (Holly Plackett, Jim Robinson, and John Marchione) had endorsed the levies.

Clark voters rejecting port measure, Sullivan leading Snohomish primary

Here are updates from a few contests of note around the state for the primary election 2007. Information obtained from county auditor/election divisions in the appropriate counties.

In Clark County, Proposition 1, a Port of Vancouver property tax increase to fund property purchases and port expansion, is going down to a massive defeat, 71.59% to 21.41%.

In Snohomish County, Brian Sullivan is leading the Democratic primary race for county council position two over Jean Berkey by roughly 59% to 40%.

In Clallam County, the primary for superior court judge is being led by Brooke Taylor, who has garnered 52.75% of the vote at this hour. Brent Basden is in second place with 22.73%, Curtis G. Johnson is third with 13.34% and Craig L. Miller is fourth with 11.18%.

For updates or other races, please see the Secretary of State's auditors and elections page to select the county you are interested in.

MORE-- Since the Spokane Auditor's web site is being cranky, we'll go with this report from KXLY regarding the Spokane mayor's race.
If the current results hold, Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession will be challenged by city councilperson Mary Verner for the city's top job in November.

The top two vote-getters on Tuesday will go on to face off in the general election in November. The votes counted on Tuesday won’t become official for 15 days.

With over 98 percent of the vote counted, Hession had 33.6 percent of the vote. Verner was close behind in second with 32.4 percent. City councilman Al French was running third with 29 percent of the vote.
The Spokesman-Review also has a brief story.

First look at the King County returns

King County Elections seems to be on the top of their game tonight, with the first returns being posted at about the announced time of 8:15 PM.

So we have plenty of numbers to pour over.

In the race for King County prosecutor, Bill Sherman has a huge lead over Keith Scully, 61% to 37%. Bill (who received our endorsement) appears headed for victory; our congratulations to him on a well run primary campaign.

In the Port Commission races, Gael Tarleton is making a powerful showing, besting incumbent Bob Edwards 31% to 28%. That is a very impressive showing for a first time candidate. Gael's other rivals are far behind, and it appears that it will be Tarleton vs. Edwards in the general election.

Alec Fisken is also doing well. He has a healthy 41% of the vote - we'd like it to be higher, but it's not bad considering there are four candidates in the race. Fisken's well funded challenger Bill Bryant has 31% of the vote.

The Redmond mayoral contest is a disappointment so far, with Holly Plackett trailing her two rivals and risking potential elimination.

Venus Velazquez is leading the pack in the race for Seattle City Council Position #3 with 40%. Bruce Harrell has second place with 26%.

Both parks levies are well above the simple majority threshold. Proposition 1 nearly has a supermajority of 60%, which is a good sign.

Brad Larssen's write in candidacy isn't doing well in this first batch of all mail ballots. Richard Pope has racked up 84% of the vote so far. Brad only has 15%. Hopefully his numbers will improve. A write in candidacy is almost always a long shot. We're grateful to Brad for trying, but this situation can't happen again.

Pacific Northwest Portal has numbers up on the front page as well as a breaking news ticker with major headlines. Check that out if you'e hungry for more results.

Make your voice heard - some options for dropping off your absentee ballots

King County Elections has sent out a final appeal for citizens to cast their votes:
“If you are a poll voter, it is not too late to make your voice heard,” said Huff. “My tour of Seattle polls this morning indicated a mild turnout among poll voters thus far. I hope voters will take advantage of the remaining poll site hours.”

More than 3,200 poll workers will keep 407 polls open until 8 p.m. Voters who cast their ballot by mail must have their ballots postmarked today. Most United States Postal Service locations close between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., but two stations in Tukwila and Seattle have extended mail collection times.

Riverton Post Office in Tukwila is open until midnight, located at 15250 32nd Avenue South, Tukwila, WA 98188-9998.

Terminal Station in Seattle is open until 7:30 p.m., located at 2420 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98134-9998.
There's no good excuse for not voting.

Republican Jane Hague faces DUI charge

It's truly unfortunate that we did not recruit a powerful challenger to Republican Jane Hague (who represents the 6th County Council District) in light of the district's strong support of Democrats last year... and now this:
Metropolitan King County Councilmember Jane Hague faces a Redmond court appearance Aug. 29 on a driving-under-the-influence charge, according to court records.

Neither Hague nor her attorney, William Kirk, could be reached for comment about the July 16 charge.

Hague, who lives in Bellevue and has been a councilmember since 1994, pleaded not guilty to the charge July 30, requested a jury trial and notified the court of an affirmative defense, court filings indicate.
If you live in the 6th District, be sure to write in Brad Larssen today on your primary ballot, under the section for Democratic partisan races.

Remember to vote in today's primary election

Please go to the polls and vote - do your civic duty!

If you vote by mail, get your ballot to the post office. It must be postmarked today or it will not count! If you're a poll voter, you have until 8 PM in King County to weigh in. (And don't forget your identification if you're a poll voter).

Pacific Northwest Portal and the Official Blog will feature live elections coverage in partnership tonight. Coverage begins after the polls have closed.

As stilwell mentioned earlier, this is the first year that the primary has been held in August. Secretary of State Sam Reed explains the reason for the switch:
"This first August primary is a milestone for democracy because it protects our right to vote. With more time between primaries and November general elections, ballots can more easily reach military and overseas citizens across the world.

Because voting by mail is so widespread and because it increases turnout, I am hopeful more citizens will participate than normal, especially in those areas with hot races on the ballot."
NPI's endorsements for the primary election are as follows:

Democratic Ballot (King County)
For King County Prosecutor: Bill Sherman
For King County Council, 6th District: Brad Larssen (write-in)
For King County Council, 8th District: Dow Constantine

Port of Seattle
For Position #2 on the Port Commission: Gael Tarleton
For Position #5 on the Port Commission: Alec Fisken

Nonpartisan Races (King County)
Redmond Mayor: Holly Plackett
Mercer Island City Council, Position #3: Maureen Judge
Sammamish City Council, Position #4: Nancy Whitten
Seattle City Council, Position #1: Jean Godden
Seattle City Council, Position #3: Bruce Harell
Seattle City Council, Position #9: Sally Clark
Auburn City Council, Position #7: Marjorie Lynn Norman
Burien City Council, Position #4: Stephen Lamphear
Duvall City Council, Position #6: Anne Laughlin
Federal Way City Council, Position #7: Hope Elder
Issaquah City Council, Position #4: Joshua Schaer
Medina City Council, Position #2: Shawn Whitney
Milton City Council, Position #4: Darlyne Sirack
Newcastle City Council, Position #4: Sonny Putter
Shoreline City Council, Position #4: Doris McConnell
Tukwila City Council, Position #2: De Sean Quinn
Woodinville City Council, Position #2: Randy Ransom
Woodinville City Council, Position #6: Liz Aspen
Seattle School Board, Position #2: Sherry Carr
Seattle School Board, Position #6: Steve Sundquist

If you live in Snohomish County District #2, be sure to vote for Brian Sullivan for County Council. Brian is an outstanding progressive champion and a hard worker.

NPI also recommends voting "yes" on King County propositions (both local and countywide), all of which were submitted to voter pamphlets with no opposition statement, save for one fire district levy. Some propositions require a supermajority and minimum turnout to pass (this is known as the 60/40 rule).

Some election stats:
  • Secretary Reed predicts 34 percent of registered voters receiving ballots to participate, up a couple of percentage points from previous, odd-year elections.
  • There are roughly 3.3 million voters registered in the state of Washington ; more than 18,000 are military.
  • For the first time, the Office of Secretary of State has produced primary vote reminders citizens can send family and friends via email and the popular website, MySpace.
Once again, we'll be posting results and analysis here after the first numbers start rolling in this evening. See you tonight during our live coverage.

From the Dept. of Nonsensical Notes

Oy oy oy:
Officials evacuated the Federal Building near the Clark County Courthouse on Monday morning after someone left a suitcase containing a nonsensical note in a flower bed.

---snip---

The note "wasn't threatening and made no sense," Pritchard said, adding that the case was turned over to local FBI agents because the building is a federal­ office.
It was probably the people from the ferries.

Primary in Washington today

So it's the first ever primary in August here in Washington state. Granted, in a lot of jurisdictions it's not exactly hot and heavy. But here's a handy link to the Secretary of State's list of auditor and election departments, if you need to find out where to drop your ballot or other information.

In Clark County, humans will be staffing the main drop-off location downtown after the drop bin was attacked by an Islamofascist automobile driver:
Police say a driver thought he saw a cat in the road, swerved and crashed into the drive-up ballot box at 14th and Esther streets ­Sunday about 7:20 p.m.

That box is ruined and now out of commission, said Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey.

"We don't think any ballots were lost, and only one ballot was outside of the box itself, and it was on the concrete pad that the box is mounted to," Kimsey said.

Kimsey said a new box on the sidewalk at the site will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, which is election day.
That darn cat. Not to fear, our democracy will prevail...

RIAA faces class action lawsuit for maliciously suing thousands of Americans

The Recording Industry Association of America, which has become infamous for suing its own customers over the last few years, is now itself facing possible class action litigation for malicious prosecution - in other words, falsely accusing individuals of downloading music from peer to peer (P2P) networks, and filing suit to collect damages.

Back in June, after winning her initial case against the RIAA, Oregon mother Tanya Anderson launched a second suit against the RIAA - because taking a hard line with bullies is the only way to stop their unacceptable behavior:
Former RIAA target Tanya Andersen has sued several major record labels, the parent company of RIAA investigative arm MediaSentry, and the RIAA's Settlement Support Center for malicious prosecution, a development first reported by P2P litigation attorney Ray Beckerman of Vandenberg & Feliu. Earlier this month, Andersen and the RIAA agreed to dismiss the case against her with prejudice, making her the prevailing party and eligible for attorneys fees.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the District of Oregon late last week and accuses the RIAA of a number of misdeeds, including invasion of privacy, libel and slander, and deceptive business practices.

Andersen is a disabled single mother residing in Oregon. In 2005, she was sued by the RIAA for file-sharing, accused of sharing a library of gangsta rap over Kazaa. She denied the allegations and filed a counterclaim alleging fraud, racketeering, and deceptive business practices by the record labels.
Last Wednesday, Andersen's attorney filed court documents seeking to elevate the case to class action, allowing other wronged Americans to share in any relief:
In a request for class action status which, if and when successful, will ultimately include every one of the 30,000 or so RIAA victims, Andersen and her lawyer, Lory Lybeck (right), are looking to recover compensation for the, “significant damages caused by the Defendants” as well as punitive damages, statutory penalties, litigation fees and expenses and equitable relief.

Her amended complaint is impressive. She’s citing negligence, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, federal and state RICO, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, trespass, invasion of privacy, libel and slander, deceptive business practices, misuse of copyright law, and civil conspiracy.
It's about time somebody took these greedy corporate cons on in court. The RIAA has gotten away with its despicable tactics of legal intimidation for far too long. Tanya Andersen is a hero for taking on the behemoth and refusing to quit. We at NPI are deeply grateful for her willingness to head back into the courtroom. The entire region ought to be proud of her.

Monday, August 20, 2007

From the Dept. of Vague

This little blurb caught my eye:
The Seattle Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Washington Joint Analytical Center are asking for the public’s help identifying two individuals who have been seen aboard Washington state ferries on several occasions.

According to authorities, the two men have exhibited unusual behavior while aboard the ferries.

Numerous passengers have reported the strange behavior.
Naturally, we all want our borders and ferries to be safe. And alert law enforcement officials and even concerned citizens can help.

But could we at least be a little more specific? What was the nature of the "unusual behavior?" Were they having cocktails before noon, or were they standing there with a manual containing diagrams of high explosives, or what?

There was a lady at Target yesterday who was acting truly weird. She kept telling the clerk which department her items came from, as in "grocery, grocery, cosmetics, sporting goods, apparel..." She would have been a great elevator operator back in the day.

Define "unusual." Please.

State Labor Council reviews legislative wins

The Tacoma News Tribune covered the three-day Washington State Labor Council 2007 meeting with a review of labor's wins and losses, but nary a word in the Seattle Times or P-I. A search of their websites this weekend reveals nothing in the business sections about the union convention.

Seems that they couldn't be bothered to go to SeaTac to cover this important meeting. Why are we not surprised that there is no "labor" beat in Business?

Unions will press ‘Wal-Mart bill'
Washington labor leaders, enjoying big influence in this Democratic-controlled state, vowed Thursday to keep waging war on Wal-Mart as well as work to pass the huge Puget Sound-area roads and rails measure on this fall’s ballot.
I believe that labor would do well to drop the "Wal-Mart" bill, or Fair Share Health Care bill, which courts have declared to be in violation of federal ERISA law, and "go with the flow" of the Democratic majority towards "health care for everyone." I'm sure that Speaker Frank Chopp shares Rick Bender's vision of how we will get to "health care for everyone."

Labor should get on board and claim a place at the table.

What is the true measure of "the surge?"

This has been floating around the Satan-o-sphere for a bit, but I wanted to make sure to link to it. Foreign Policy has an interesting statistic up in its "Terrorism Index" about the surge, and the short version is that a lot of foreign policy experts don't think it's going so well.
The outcome of the war in Iraq may now rest in large part on the success or failure of the so-called surge. Beginning in February, the White House sent an additional 28,000 U.S. troops to Baghdad in an effort to quell the violence there. Securing the capital with overwhelming force is a key component of the anti-insurgency plan developed by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq and the military’s foremost expert on counterinsurgency tactics. It took until June for all the U.S. forces to be put in place, and the number of American troops in Iraq is now at its highest level since 2005. But is Petraeus’s plan working?

The index’s experts don’t think so. More than half say the surge is having a negative impact on U.S. national security, up 22 percentage points from just six months ago. This sentiment was shared across party lines, with 64 percent of conservative experts saying the surge is having either a negative impact or no impact at all. When the experts were asked to grade the government’s handling of the Iraq war, the news was even worse. They gave the overall effort in Iraq an average point score of just 2.9 on a 10-point scale. The government’s public diplomacy record was the only policy that scored lower.
Doubtless daily newspapers are not in the habit of picking up items from Foreign Policy on a regular basis, but this really needs to be considered when say, members of Congress come home from Iraq and stuff. That's not questioning any members' sincerity, it's attempting to see what more broad based academic views might yield as well.

And sadly, the situation in Iraq may not actually be all that good. Still.

And now a word about the insurance industry

The Olympian takes a look at insurance money flowing into the state to impact Ref. 67.
New data on file with the state Public Disclosure Commission shows that the insurer-backed Consumers Against Higher Insurance Rates committee has raised $4.78 million for its no-on-Ref. 67 effort. The same group had collected signatures forcing the Legislature’s action onto the Nov. 6 ballot.

Of the donations, more than two-thirds, or roughly $3.4 million, comes from out of state, led by the $1.6 million given by Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., according to an Olympian analysis of data filed with the PDC.
Who could have seen this coming? It's not like our ballot process has been completely hijacked by charlatans and corporations or anything.

I've got one word for anyone stupid enough to believe the insurance industry and their spokesmodels:

Katrina.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sacred and magical budget story in August

I'm so glad to learn about the budget process in the middle of August. From The Seattle Times:
Sen. Tim Sheldon, a conservative Democrat from Potlatch, Mason County, says that when Democrats held a narrow majority in the Senate, he was able to leverage his vote to get about $100 million in transportation and capital budget projects for his district.

His 35th District was the second-largest recipient of earmarked capital budget money since 2005.

Dunshee said he's tried to rein in the earmark process. He created the form that House lawmakers use to ask for a project, figuring that fewer projects would end up in the budget if more information was provided about them.

It didn't work.
This just in: politics has a game-like quality. People from your district want stuff. Part of your job is to try and get it. Now, there is no doubt that one person's trash in another person's vital economic redevelopment bill, but come on. That's the way legislatures work.

And truth be told, it's not ordinary folks putting pressure (for the most part) on members of Congress or the Legislature, it's organized interested groups with lots of money. That may be acceptable to people, or maybe not, but it's just so funny that this article tries to paint Democrats as somehow ethically deficient. Most of the stuff they pass comes straight from the "bidness" guys and gals.

Better yet is this quote from Frank Chopp:
Chopp said he helps legislators from both parties get projects, and most Republicans end up supporting the construction budget.

He said he wasn't sure why Democrats get so much more money than Republicans.

"Maybe they are twice as responsive to their constituents," he said. "Have you ever thought of that?"
Now that's funny, if not sacred and magical.

Remember, newsrooms do not have agendas. Even in August.

Easy credit rip-offs, good times

The Olympian runs an interesting article from The Bellingham Herald which recounts how Chris Gregoire, in her days as AG, went after Household International over subprime lending abuse. While she achieved a settlement, that didn't stop the industry as a whole.
After the Household International episode and several similar cases gave clear evidence of the risks, many are wondering why subprime lending excesses were allowed to go on unchecked until the mortgage system went into a tailspin.

Kathleen Keest, a former Iowa assistant attorney general involved in the Household International case, said today's financial mess could have been avoided if regulators and major financial institutions had heeded the lessons of that case.

"It's not that it wasn't foreseen, because it was foreseen," Keest said. "In this era of 'the market is god,' people just didn't want to listen."

Joseph Mason, associate professor of finance at Drexel University, has done extensive research into the financial underpinnings of the subprime mortgage industry. As he sees it, the potential for disaster in the subprime lending arena should have been obvious before, during and after the Household International affair. "Household was among a number of aggressive players," Mason said. "It was not unique in its business model. By not cracking down after seeing this kind of behavior, regulators allowed it to grow and become standard industry practice."
The article goes on to discuss how risk was transferred from lenders to anonymous investors, and so the reasoning goes, the lenders just kept on collecting fees while making very risky loans.

For years now there has been plenty of criticism of American consumers over their horrible credit habits. And certainly it's fairly nuts to live beyond one's means, although to be fair many citizens are pushed over the financial edge by a health care or other crisis. There's a profound difference between running up the credit card on luxury lifestyles and running up the credit card out of sheer desperation to stay afloat.

The financial services industry is not without blame, either. Extending absurdly high lines of credit and making mortgage loans to borrowers who clearly will not be able to pay them back is irresponsible and damaging to the economy, as we're seeing now. While the economy isn't going to collapse over this scandal by any means, it is so thoroughly unnecessary that in the future we hope federal regulators will, you know, regulate the lending market.

But that will require an administration that actually believes in governing. This administration started with the electricity crisis, which featured the complete rip-off of West Coast consumers, and now we get the subprime scandal. I hope Grandma Millie, the apocryphal consumer two Enron traders had a good chuckle over, didn't purchase an ARM from Countrywide, too.

It's fine to foster competition and market forces, but it's silly to be absolutist about it. Sometimes markets need greater regulation to keep them functioning as markets rather than Ponzi schemes or monopolies. The only legitimate way to do that in a representative democracy is to have it done under the auspices of a government elected of, by and for the people.

So if the subprime scandal doesn't finally put an end to the political legitimacy of the "drown it in the bathtub" types, I don't know what will. The free market absolutists are a tiny minority compared to the population of the U.S., and it's been repeatedly shown that key markets in this country are vulnerable to manipulation and corruption. I don't know why we stand for it.

Democrats on This Week

If you're looking forward to some Sunday breakfast and perhaps a little Democratic presidential debate action, This Week is hosting one this morning on ABC.

According to a Word document This Week's web site offers, it airs at 8:00 AM in Spokane on KXLY, at 8:30 AM in Seattle on KOMO, and at 3:30 PM in Portland on KATU.

So your breakfast is going to be mighty cold in Portland-Vancouver.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Beware the dog and pony show

To follow up about Brian Baird's statements concerning Iraq, via Think Progress comes a Washington Post column by Jonathan Finer, who covered Iraq for that newspaper for a little over a year in 2005 and 2006. From The Washington Post:
A dizzying number of dignitaries have passed through Baghdad for high-level briefings. The Hill newspaper reported this month that 76 U.S. senators have traveled to Iraq during the war, 38 in the past 12 months. Most never left the Green Zone or other well-protected enclaves. Few, if any, changed the views they held before arriving.
In fairness to Baird, he did leave the Green Zone and he has changed his public stance. I'm still not clear on exactly how "letting the surge work" might differ from "setting a date certain." It's possible they could wind up being about the same thing, at least in terms of the time frame. And we all know when the real change starts: Jan. of 2009.

That being said, a lot of progressives will likely wonder about "the dog and pony show" that members of Congress receive when in Iraq.

While Baird spent nine days in the Middle East, the trip to Iraq was comprised of two days and one night, according to this article in The Columbian. As Finer points out in his column, members who take the personal risk to travel there should be praised for the effort, but let's face it: two days is a pretty short amount of time, and presumably the U.S. military has a great deal to say about where members go.

Finer also has this in his column:
It goes without saying that everyone can, and in this country should, have an opinion about the war, no matter how much time the person has spent in Iraq, if any. But having left a year ago, I've stopped pretending to those who ask that I have a keen sense of what it's like on the ground today. Similarly, those who pass quickly through the war zone should stop ascribing their epiphanies to what are largely ceremonial visits.
To be clear, nowhere does Finer mention Baird, and he takes heavy aim at right-wing idiots like Laura Ingraham. He also lets some Democrats have it for largely the same reason, namely that passing through Iraq doesn't really mean much.

But I think the caution for Baird is about the same, for whatever it's worth. I don't doubt his sincerity, and I don't doubt he gathered as much information as he could. But there's been too much manipulation and deception around this occupation to put much faith in what the administration says.

Another thing worth noting is that this administration was never going to take steps to end the occupation anyhow, and with a tiny margin for error in the Senate, it's going to be up to a future president and a future Congress to deal with this disaster. We can stamp our feet, hold our breathe and refuse to eat our peanut butter sandwich, but that's not going to help. What will help is making sure Democrats have bigger majorities with as many progressives in office as possible.

It's unfortunate that one blogger made some error-ridden comments about Baird yesterday. While I enjoy a good rant, the writer clearly knows nothing about SW Wahington, the Third District or even the fact that Baird is not a member of the Blue Dogs. (Baird is a member of the New Democrat Coalition.)

Yes, there will be continued disappointments along the way to ending this disaster. Not that I ever truly learned this lesson myself, but when you take your marbles and go home most people quickly forget you ever existed. So as we saw last year in the Cantwell race, going overboard doesn't really accomplish much, it just gives the political opposition things to point out in an effort to harm our movement.

It's horrible to consider the fate of our hard working military personnel in terms of the political game, but there is a game-type aspect to democracy, and it's the only game we have. The tough thing about what Baird said is that I don't think he's playing that game. The safest thing for him would have been to come home and made some pronouncements about getting out of Iraq sooner or later and leave it at that.

So even if I disagree with him on this score, because I think we are about three years past the possibility of a good outcome in Iraq, I have to respect his courage.

If the latest and greatest military strategy actually leads to meaningful reductions in violence in Iraq, rather than exaggerated and temporary declines, then we can all be thankful, although nobody will be as thankful as our troops and ordinary Iraqi citizens.

But I'm going to need a very large glass of milk in the meantime.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Members of the local press have been leaving their fingerprints on Wikipedia, too

Numerous websites, traditional media outlets, and blogs have been buzzing recently about the new WikiScanner tool that lets you look up "anonymous wikipedia edits from interesting organizations". So to try it out (just for fun) I started plugging in the names of local media outlets. I started with the Seattle Times.

The results showed that there was one Seattle Times IP address with 96 associated edits. I selected it and saw a number of interesting changes to various articles, including this one made July 26th, 2005 to the Seattle, Washington article. This paragraph here:
Seattle's leading newspapers are the daily ''[[Seattle Times]]'' and ''[[Seattle Post-Intelligencer]]''; they share their advertising and business departments under a [[Joint Operating Agreement]], which ([[as of 2004]]) the ''Times'' is seeking to terminate.
...was changed to this (changes in bold):
Seattle's leading newspapers are the daily ''[[Seattle Times]]'' and ''[[Seattle Post-Intelligencer]]''; they share their advertising and business departments under a [[Joint Operating Agreement]], which ([[as of 2004]]) the ''Times'' is seeking to terminate or renegotiate.
Interesting. So somebody from the Times wanted to send the message - even back in 2005 - that its ownership (the Blethen Family) was willing to continue the JOA albeit after some restructuring.

Another edit that stood out at first was made to the article on Darcy Burner, but it was only a minor one, changing the name of a reporter associated with an article. It was made on February 23rd, 2007.

This reference:
*[http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/... Political novice takes on GOP's Reichert] Ashley Bach ''[[Seattle Times]]'', May 16, 2006
was changed to this:
*[http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/... Political novice takes on GOP's Reichert] Jonathan Martin ''[[Seattle Times]]'', May 16, 2006
This was inserted into the Bellevue, Washington article, on January 3rd, 2006:
*[[Bill Gates actually lives in Medina, WA, a separate, incorporated city next door to Bellevue. He does not live in Bellevue]]
There are several edits to the "Seattle Times" article itself that are shown as coming from this address. Two are minor - one corrects a date and the other the name of an individual - but a third is not. On June 19th, 2007, this section was completely removed from the "Seattle Times" Wikipedia article:
===Letters to the Editor===
The paper rarely publishes letters that criticize the Times' own editorials or the editorials written by individuals, as is most other major newspapers. This is in contrast to the stated policy: "The Seattle Times always tries to give preference to the paper's critics in choosing letters to be published. Opinions that differ from those presented elsewhere on the editorial and opinion pages are also given priority."
Hm...wonder why that got deleted? Perhaps the paragraph could be judged to be inappropriate for the article, but was it appropriate for someone who works at the Seattle Times to have deleted it?

(Given the number of edits made over time, I assume the individual responsible works at the Times, and was not simply modifying Wikipedia using its network).

The folks who run the Seattle Times shouldn't feel too bad: they've got company! A search on Fisher Broadcasting turned up three edits from the company's Yakima office. One was a change in a technical term (VHF to UHF) to the KIMA TV article, but the other two were related...and more interesting.

First was this addition to the Yakima, Washington article, made October 24th, 2005, to the "external links" section of the article:
*[http://www.kimatv.com, the area's television news leader]
Seconds later, it was revised again, to read:
*[http://www.kimatv.com/ KIMA-TV, the area's television news leader]
I had a good chuckle when I saw that. Every TV station likes to think of itself as the area's "news leader" by one measurement or another.

A couple folks from Seattle's Fisher office have apparently edited articles as well. Here's a change made to the end of one the paragraphs in the KOMO AM article (Fisher owns both KOMO Television and Radio):
To shore up the surrounding broadcast schedule, KOMO dropped its talk shows and became an [[All-news radio|all-news]] station with reports from an enlarged radio news staff and material from KOMO-TV newscasts. Some notable anchors include Seattle-legend Bill Yeend, Manda Factor, Eric Slocum (who formerly anchored KOMO TV's weekend newscasts), and Lisa Brooks. Also, new radio superstar Kristin Hanes. Plus dont forget the very talented Sue Romero.
The two sentences are actually different edits, made one month apart (the first was August 12th, 2006, and the second was September 13th, 2006).

Another series of edits were made to the article on KGRG, Green River College's community radio station, including this one on May 18th, 2007. This:
In September 2006, KENU flipped from its Electronica format '''Pulse 1330''' to [[College Alternative Gold]] as '''KGRG1''' playing tracks that were formerally played on legendary sister station KGRG in the 80s and early 90's. Station management felt the EDM format had peaked in listenership and GRCC student involvement. General Manager, Tom Krause, was against the change but not changing the format would result in the class being dissolved. Tom Krause waited outside as [[Charlie Harger]] deleted the Pulse 1330 playlist and set the station to stunting, airing a seemingly endless repeat of [[Nirvana]]'s ''Smells Like Teen Spirit''. KGRG1 launched the new format with [[The Ramones]]. The pairing of "The Alternative Past" 1330 AM KGRG1 and "Today's Rock" 89.9 FM [[KGRG (FM)|KGRG]] provides a unique window into 30 years, and counting, of college underground alternative rock, though the Classic Alternative format would have worked better as a specialty show on KGRG-FM.http://www.greenriver.edu/TheCurrent/TheCurrent101306.pdf
was changed to this:
In September 2006, KENU flipped from its Electronica format '''Pulse 1330''' to [[College Alternative Gold]] as '''KGRG1''' playing tracks that were formerally played on legendary sister station KGRG in the 80s and early 90's. Station management felt the EDM format had peaked in listenership and GRCC student involvement. KGRG1 launched the new format with [[The Ramones]]. The pairing of "The Alternative Past" 1330 AM KGRG1 and "Today's Rock" 89.9 FM [[KGRG (FM)|KGRG]] provides a unique window into 30 years, and counting, of college underground alternative rock.
and this paragraph was removed completely:
Many people are hoping for a return of the dance format. Meanwhile, as a tribute to Pulse 1330, the format was resurrected as an internet radio station operated by [[Surge Radio]], [[WDOS-FM]], and several former fans of Pulse 1330.
That's only the tip of the Fisher iceberg.

Erica C. Barnett had a post on SLOG yesterday about WikiScanner, entitled "Fun With Wikipedia, City Hall Edition."

Funny she didn't think of mentioning any of the fifty five edits associated with IP addresses on The Stranger's network, including over a dozen on the Charles Mudede article (Charles writes for The Stranger, and frequently posts on SLOG). There are also edits to the articles about Dan Savage and The Stranger.

I should mention I spent a good fifteen to twenty minutes searching for potential edits made by people using the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's network, but found no matches. If you search and find a match for the P-I, leave a comment in the thread.

All the edits I've mentioned in this post appear to be edits from individuals at work using networks belonging to their employers - media outlets all. Even so, out of respect for our online integrity policy, I haven't included any IP addresses in this post, or attempted to speculate on the identities of the individuals. If you want to go look at the edits for yourself, you can run your own searches.

The sacred, magical Klan of librulness

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Seattle Times reporters to our Klan. From Media Matters:
Summary: On the August 16 O'Reilly Factor, Fox News contributor Bernard Goldberg asserted that "news executives ... don't seem to care very much about intellectual diversity of opinion." "[T]hat's why journalists can boo ... cheer ... bash Christians, and they're not afraid of what will happen." He concluded: "[T]his isn't that much different from how the Ku Klux Klan operates." O'Reilly responded: "I think it's even beyond that, Bernie." As Media Matters has documented, O'Reilly has repeatedly compared Daily Kos to the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

---snip---

O'Reilly's examples of "liberal bias" included MSNBC's Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough's August 16 assertion that, on his first day at MSNBC, members of the news staff booed during the 2003 State of the Union address. On his August 16 show, Scarborough was discussing the disclosure by The Seattle Times that several staff members had cheered in a meeting after Karl Rove's announcement that he will be leaving as the White House deputy chief of staff on August 31.

As Media Matters has noted, an Indiana University study found that "O'Reilly called a person or a group a derogatory name once every 6.8 seconds, on average, or nearly nine times every minute during the ['Talking Points Memo'] editorials that open his program each night."
The futility of news organizations trying to appease the wingnuts should be obvious. Anything other than 100% pro-Republican and pro-Bush propaganda has been defined as "liberal bias" by the right. The wingnut method of argumentation is based on logical fallacies, so there's really no point in taking them seriously.

Journalists can still be professional, get the facts straight and acknowledge this basic fact of American politics. If it leads to the occasional whoop in a newsroom, I guess I don't see the problem. It gets old being called traitors, Nazis and such. After decades of this I'm surprised more reporters don't whoop it up a little.

IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM GEORGE SOROS -- All reporters should set their decoder rings to "27." We have a secret message for them: The eagle is soaring. I repeat: the eagle is soaring. And don't forget to drink your Ovaltine.

Resume liberal biasing at this time.

Baird changing position somewhat on Iraq

If you like politicians who refuse to engage in group-think, who work hard and try to get the best information they can, you kind of have to hear them out even if they are telling you something you don't want to hear. From The Columbian:
Days after returning from his second trip to Iraq, U.S. Rep. Brian Baird is rethinking his position on the timing of U.S. troop withdrawals from the war-ravaged country.

Three times this year, the Vancouver Democrat has supported legislation calling for troop withdrawals to begin by a set date. In May, he supported beginning the pullout as early as Oct. 1.

Now he believes that setting a date to withdraw at this moment could drive Iraq into the arms of Iran and cut short real progress by Iraqis who are at last taking on al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

"I have come to believe that calls for premature withdrawal may make it more difficult for Iraqis to solve their problems," Baird said in an interview. "If you have some guarantee of support, you have working space to reach out and involve the other side. If you think we are going to withdraw and chaos and civil war might ensue, then the decision is different.

"It's no longer 'Let's reach out,' but 'Let's prepare for the coming war.' That's a very different mind-set."
The article also says Baird is now against partitioning Iraq due to to what people there have told him. He also cites concerns about Iranian influence as a justification for not leaving "prematurely," which as we all know is a rather vague time frame. I always wonder how many F.U.'s (Friedman Units) it is.

If you read the full article, you could come to the conclusion that Baird was heavily influenced by his Republican traveling partners and the U.S. military. But Baird has been to the region several times that I know of, so I don't think he's some babe in the woods. He may not be considered a foreign policy heavyweight, but I recall that during the Balkans conflict he knew the details and was pretty familiar with the history of post-war Europe, so I like to think he has applied the same diligence when it comes to Iraq.

That being said, I think it's fair for progressives to question a strategy with such vague goals. The irony is that we'll wind up backing the Sunnis. You know, Saddam's folks.

I don't think I've ever truly envisioned a "quick" departure from Iraq anyhow. The quibble I have with Baird over this is that it lends cover to the administration, which clearly has no interest in ever leaving Iraq. That may be a horrible, cynical political calculation on my part, but it's a horrible, cynical political system that got us into this mess in the first place. But I can respect Baird for attempting to digest the facts as best he is able, given constraints on the ground and such.

What we still haven't done in the United States is actually decide that we need to start finding ways to actually leave Iraq. It could take a year, but each time it gets pushed back another F.U. we're taking hundreds more casualties. The worst bombing of the entire war just happened the other day, if anyone actually notices the poor Iraqi civilians any more.

It's worth noting that Baird still brings extra credibility to the table, at least in my view, because he voted against the initial invasion of Iraq. I would urge my fellow progressives to at least consider what he is saying. We may not agree with all of it, but Baird has no obvious political motivation to say these things, as no challenger of any note has emerged for 2008.

So while we may find Baird's comments kind of frustrating in the context of domestic U.S. politics, the important thing is that we act in our national interest. Some of us may have differing views on how that works, but that's democracy.

A sacred, magical smear

Lee over at HA catches a bit of baloney from The Hill.com regarding something Patty Murray said. From the third item down at The Hill.com:
It was one of those perfect anecdotes, so one could understand why Senate leadership Democrats couldn’t resist it.

One day after a crowded bridge collapsed in Minnesota, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Conference Secretary Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and the rest of the team lamented the lack of infrastructure investments that the Bush administration had made over the last six years.

“I have learned of a bridge where school buses have to stop and let all of the children out and pick them up on the other side because of weight restrictions,” Murray declared.

Really? Any doubts were assuaged by a repeat of the story within minutes by Reid.

“The children have to walk across the bridge!” he declared in outrage.

So where’s this limited-purpose bridge? Reid’s office said to ask Murray. Murray said to call her office. Spokesman Mike Spahn looked into it. A couple of weeks later, where is that bridge?

Well, Spahn doesn’t know. He said an unnamed member told Murray the story minutes before she addressed reporters, but she didn’t hear where it was.

Ah, well, everybody loves a good story.
But as Lee notes, in the comment thread to this post at Postman on Politics, Toby Nixon provides a link to 2002 testimony of the president elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers that mentions such a bridge in Alabama.
In one example from Alabama, a school bus bringing students to one Washington County school had to stop at a structurally deficient bridge, let all the kids get off and walk across so the empty -- and therefore lighter -- bus could safely cross the bridge. The children then climbed back on the bus and continued their trip. Naturally, this ritual was repeated on the way home. To avoid this, that bus now drives 15 miles out of the way.
So, I'm wonderin', what is the proper emotion to feel when the traditional media just makes stuff up? (And to be clear, this appears to have originated with The Hill, not Postman.)

But we all know that this little load of baloney will now become wingnut "fact" and will probably start popping up in fundraising letters and talking points. It wouldn't be the first time the righties glommed onto a slanted news story to put a cheap hit on Murray. We'll be hearing about this non-gaffe from the wingnuts well into 2010.

Frankly, this doesn't smell like an honest mistake by The Hill. If you read it closely, it looks like the alleged reporter got ticked at being ignored and is exacting a measure of revenge. I can't prove it, but then again the reporter couldn't prove that Reid and Murray were wrong, and that didn't stop The Hill.

The bit where Reid insists the story is true seems particularly slanted. Was Reid "outraged," or perhaps frustrated that some reporter with an axe to grind was clearly out to play "gotcha?"

For the record, I can't "prove" that the bridge existed for sure. There could be more to the story. It might even be interesting for all I know. But instead we get more puerile Beltway gossip masquerading as political journalism.

I'm relying on the fact the document appears to be on a senate server and assuming the expert testimony is accurate. But I'm guessing since the senators were so adamant about it they must have believed it, too. I can't say for certain why The Hill reporter decided to do what she did, but it does appear to be an inaccurate item. Maybe the magic wasn't working that day.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Opposition to wind power is unfounded

Seattle P-I reporter Lisa Stiffler has a great article this morning about NIMBYist opposition to wind power projects past, present, and future:
When Roberta Hoctor let the government erect a 60-foot experimental wind turbine on her ranch above the Columbia River Gorge almost 30 years ago, her neighbors thought she was nuts.

Your TV reception will go fuzzy, they warned her.

Your radio will be on the blink.

You've got to keep your cattle away from the tower and whirling blade.

"I said to these people, 'Have you seen these work?' " said Hoctor, 72. "You should see how these things work before you start saying these things."
The typical whining ranges from the mildly absurd to outright foolishness:
Opposition over turbines has surfaced for projects scattered around the nation -- a trend that could intensify as remote sites quickly are snatched up.

Residents and landowners say the machines -- which are more than half as tall as Seattle's Space Needle -- are ugly, trashing unspoiled views and reducing property values. They're concerned about the flickering shadows caused by the spinning blades and the blinking strobe light on each tower.
You know what's really ugly, what actually does trash views, reduce property values, inflame the climate crisis, and contaminate our air and water? Coal fired power plants. That's what we need to be opposed to.

Noise is not a factor, as this quote from a representative of Puget Sound Energy, standing below the turbines on the Wild Horse site illustrates:
"That's kind of a surprise to some folks -- that you can have a normal conversation," utility spokesman Brian Lenz said as the blades spun overhead.
Flickering shadows and blinking strobe lights - please.

As for ugliness, it's true that aesthetic pollution is in the eye of the beholder...but many people find wind turbines to be majestic and attractive. They are perhaps the most graceful structures we humans can put up on a landscape. I certainly wouldn't mind living next door to a wind farm, and I suspect most Americans wouldn't either. Of course, I can understand that people often feel resistant to change when it impacts their neighborhood, whether that be rural, suburban, or urban.

But we need to change. We are dependent on energy sources that are not sustainable. Wind farms represent an investment in clean, renewable energy and are critical to our future. Several have already been built in Washington, and more have been proposed. Unfortunately, a contingent of Not in My Backyarders have been holding up construction of a new project in Kittitas County:
In the Kittitas Valley between Cle Elum and Ellensburg, developers have tried for five years to get approval for a wind farm.

Kittitas County commissioners sided with a group of residents opposed to the 65-turbine project, ruling last year that the proposed wind farm was incompatible with local zoning rules. The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council recently reversed that decision, recommending approval of the wind farm, which is being proposed by Portuguese-owned Horizon Wind Energy.

After being asked by Gov. Chris Gregoire to take a second look at the project, the council last week recommended it again, but with revisions that could put the turbines farther away from some homes.

Gregoire has two months to either approve or reject the proposal.
We strongly urge Governor Gregoire to approve this proposal. Accommodations have already been made to appease the impacted residents. It is time to allow the turbines to go up and send the message that Washington will continue to be a leader in the deployment of green power.

Wall Street deep in the tranches

My crystal ball is unavailable because it was backed by a mezzanine level tranch, but you gotta wonder when the chorus of free market absolutists demanding free government money will commence in earnest. Consider this tidbit from Roubini Global Economics Monitor, via Eschaton:
Here are two examples of how uncertainty and opacity has vastly increased in financial markets.

First, you take a bunch of shaky and risky subprime mortgages and repackage them into residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS); then you repackage these RMBS in different (equity, mezzanine, senior) tranches of cash CDOs that receive a misleading investment grade rating by the credit rating agencies; then you create synthetic CDOs out of the same underlying RMBS; then you create CDOs of CDOs (or squared CDOs) out of these CDOs; and then you create CDOs of CDOs of CDOs (or cubed CDOs) out of the same murky securities; then you stuff some of these RMBS and CDO tranches into SIV (structured investment vehicles) or into ABCP (Asset Backed Commercial Paper) or into money market funds. Then no wonder that eventually people panic and run - as they did yesterday – on an apparently “safe” money market fund such as Sentinel. That “toxic waste” of unpriceable and uncertain junk and zombie corpses is now emerging in the most unlikely places in the financial markets.


Second example: today any wealthy individual can take $1 million and go to a prime broker and leverage this amount three times; then the resulting $4 million ($1 equity and $3 debt) can be invested in a fund of funds that will in turn leverage these $4 millions three or four times and invest them in a hedge fund; then the hedge fund will take these funds and leverage them three or four times and buy some very junior tranche of a CDO that is itself levered nine or ten times. At the end of this credit chain, the initial $1 million of equity becomes a $100 million investment out of which $99 million is debt (leverage) and only $1 million is equity. So we got an overall leverage ratio of 100 to 1. Then, even a small 1% fall in the price of the final investment (CDO) wipes out the initial capital and creates a chain of margin calls that unravel this debt house of cards. This unraveling of a Minskian Ponzi credit scheme is exactly what is happening right now in financial markets.
I thought we learned about this in 1929. I mean really, what the heck do they teach at business schools? How to screw people over? Yeah, right, dumb question.

It's not that markets shouldn't be regulated and even backed at times by government money, it's that the elites who rule this country like to pretend that their wealth comes from their own merits and that people less well off have comparatively fewer merits. This is not only antithetical to the concept of democracy, but it is destructive in the long term to everyone's well being, at least in economic terms. A rising tide may lift all boats, but it's gotten to the point that only those with yachts get a berth at the dock. Everyone else is left to bob in the waves and hope they can find shelter when needed. Panic on Wall Street isn't so funny when everyone's retirement money is at risk.

So it's aggravating as heck when popular efforts to provide ordinary citizens with better services in health care and education, for example, are called "socialism" when the financial world gets bailed out about once every ten years or so. (See Savings and Loan crisis, The, circa. late 1980's, and Long Term Capital Management, circa late 1990's.)

It's in everyone's interest to make sure the markets continue to function, but it's also in everyone's interest to have a healthy and well-educated population.

The two are only mutually exclusive because political and financial elites in this country want it that way. Everyone knows the greatest economic expansion in history coincided with the GI Bill and the unionization of the work force after World War II. People had skills and money, and broadly speaking this is a good thing. I think Keynes established that about 1932 or so.

But the free market absolutists still believe The High Holy Writ of the Cocktail Napkin, conveniently ignoring the massive inputs from deficit spending over the years. If you're reminded of an old joke about "trickling down," you're not alone. If my leverage ratio was 100-1 I'd probably have some trickling going on, too.

UPDATE 11:55 AM PDT -- Here comes the Fed. From The Boston Globe:
The market seemed unfazed as the New York Fed -- which carries out the central bank's market operation -- announced an overnight repurchase agreement worth $12 billion. This was on top of a 14-day "repo" worth $5 billion announced before the market opened.

Central banks around the world have been supplying billions of funds to banks in the past week to make cash available for lending and keep interest rates from rising amid signs that credit was drying up. The Fed uses a repo to buy securities from dealers, who then deposit the money into commercial banks.

But, it has done little to offset fears about steeper losses for financial institutions squeezed by weeks of volatility that showed no signs of abating. Analysts contend many institutional investors want the Fed to be even more decisive.
I hear a distant whisper on the cool August breeze...it seems to be whispering "bailout, bailout." I'm sure lower interest rates would cause credit card companies to pass those savings on to consumers.

Always low standards

Just in time for the current Chinese recall madness comes a new report from Wal-Mart about what a great job it is doing monitoring overseas factories.
From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
Inspections at factories supplying products to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. turned up fewer serious labor violations in 2006 than in 2005, the company said in a report released Wednesday.

Wal-Mart Watch, one of the company’s chief critics, charged that the report glosses over serious flaws in the supply chain of the world’s largest retailer.

Most of the factories inspected were in foreign countries.

According to the report, Wal-Mart or contract auditors found serious violations, such as failure to pay overtime, in 40. 3 percent of the 8, 873 factories inspected. That figure is down from 52. 3 percent in last year’s report.
Wow, that means only about 3,500 factories are abusing people. Mighty impressive, Wal-Mart. If you read the full article you'll see that "medium risk violations," which are described as a failure to document pay slips and such, are way up. So I guess we don't really know how many "serious" violations there actually are, seeing as the documentation is rather spotty.

None of this is particularly surprising. The chief concerns raised during the globalization/NAFTA frenzy of the Clinton years were environmental and safety standards, and worker's rights. The free market absolutists essentially refused to factor those costs into their analysis, so of course it made economic "sense" for Wal-Mart to pressure manufacturers to move to China.

Now both the U.S. and China find themselves facing a potentially serious consumer revolt. Consumers have become accustomed to cruddy products, but they probably won't become accustomed to dangerous products.

The other thing I've never understood is how Wal-Mart can claim to be operating with fiduciary responsibility when it so clearly alienates huge swaths of the market with its labor practices and its peculiar evangelical-conservative corporate culture. It seems to me they are being derelict in their responsibility to stockholders when so many Americans won't even set foot in their stores. If they purpose of a public corporation is to make money, wouldn't they make more money if they stopped being so irresponsible?

(A nod of the all new material Made in China USA flag cap to Wal-Mart Watch.)

The sacred and magical blogosphere

The progressive blogosphere is a sacred and magical place. I'm not going to sit here and let people react with human emotion to anything. Hypothetically and magically speaking, if our chosen candidate couldn't even answer a simple question from one of us, we would still endorse him if his hair was nice in order to prove our lack of bias.

We may be patriotic Americans who can plainly see the damage that has been done to the Constitution, but if we ever let the truth show on our face we will get reprimanded in public. That is the sacred and magical way, and it's how we get to do illegal wars and waterboarding and other neat stuff. Now let's get busy and get that estate tax repealed.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Massive 7.9 magnitude quake hits Peru coast

The South American nation is recovering after a major trembler:
A magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck off the coast of central Peru on Wednesday evening, killing 15 people and leaving 70 hurt, President Alan Garcia said on national television.

Peru's Panamericana TV put the death toll at 17. It showed footage of traffic lights in the capital, Lima, swaying with the quake.

After everything stopped shaking, medics were seen tending to a woman.

The video also showed chunks of plaster that had fallen from buildings.

Some Lima residents were sobbing after the temblor, while others appeared to be praying.
Our thoughts tonight are with the people of Peru as they assess the damage from this disaster and start putting their communities back together.

Tonight's news is a reminder that earthquakes can strike without warning. We're long overdue in getting rid of hazards like the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which needs to be closed and demolished as soon as possible. Safety comes first. Let's take down our unsafe structures before they come crashing down on us in an earthquake.

PDC talks about regulating internet activity

The Olympian notices that the PDC kind of wondered aloud about regulating internet politics.
The state Public Disclosure Commission dipped its toes in the debate over regulating political activity on the internet today, but it’s unclear how far it might go, if at all.

A panel of Northwest political bloggers and political finance experts cautioned the citizen-led commission to go carefully and let the role of the internet in politics unfold.

“I think the test you should do in terms of regulation is whether payment is involved … If there is no payment involved, there should be no regulation,” said Bob Stern, president of the nonpartisan, California-based Center for Governmental Studies.
Since, according to the short article, the PDC isn't exactly moving at lightning speed on this and would most likely seek input from the Legislature, there's no need to get too excited, but we can kick it around anyhow.

It is worth noting that what we need in all campaign finance regulation is transparency. While I have nothing against the hard working folks at the PDC, as it stands now, wealthy right wing contributors from out of state can funnel money into state campaigns, and the true source of the funds is often not traceable. We saw this during the battle over I-933. Addressing loopholes with current regulations ought to be priority number one.

Nobody at NPI (which is a nonprofit organization, not a political committee) currently gets paid. If this changes in the future, there will be a policy of transparency and disclosure. But you can easily imagine the right wing playing games, setting up astroturf operations, including blogs.

I'm hard pressed to imagine how regulating unpaid bloggers, especially those who set up their own private blogs, would be constitutional.

And if it happened, I would probably just set up my own personal blog before I would submit to any kind of PDC regulation. Some small time guy blogging about stuff, albeit obsessively, is not the same as hundreds of thousands of corporate dollars pouring in to advance the right wing agenda.

The bad aspects of modern campaigning involve deception. Misleading robo-calls, false information fliers and unsubstantiated claims in commercials may all enjoy First Amendment protection, but making the funders of such claims known to the public might help deter some of it. In theory, anyway.

The Legislature couldn't even move on banning political robo-calls last session, an action which most folks would happily applaud. If you ask me, that's far more important than regulating blogs. (And for the record, I don't see how anyone can claim a First Amendment right to ring my phone. I pay for it. Just because it's cheap and easy for consultants to use doesn't make it acceptable.)

There's an obvious problem with regulating blogs anyhow. How on earth is the PDC going to decide what blogs are purely political, which ones fall under a press exemption, and which ones are only partly political? It's impossible to categorize. For instance, would Postman on Politics be exempt from regulation because it is associated with a newspaper?

What happens when a non-political blog makes comments about legislation or campaigns? Bottom line, this isn't workable. I'll be surprised if this goes anywhere.

What will Tim Eyman's haul be this year?

Since Eyman's brought the subject up himself, it seems an appropriate question to ask. From his email to the media today:
RE: Don't worry, Christian Sinderman will get paid in full

When the July 31st financial report for the NO ON I-960 campaign showed that the state teachers' union (WEA) owed Christian Sinderman $5000 for his anti-960 political consulting work, I think all of us were really concerned. After all, he's a talented, earnest, hardworking professional and it simply wouldn't be fair for him to work for free.

That's why we were so relieved when we saw the special interest money spigot start to gush on August 6th. $125,000 in a single day. $50,000 from SEIU 775 and $75,000 from SEIU Washington State Council. Christian deserves a bonus.
Nice sarcasm, Tim. You would know all about being a paid political professional... because you are one. Now, we think there's nothing wrong with being compensated for political work, but when you lie about taking money from your own supporters and when you critcize others for collecting a paycheck from a "special interest" when you are too...well, that's just downright dishonest.

Hypocrisy at its finest.

Last year - even with zero successful initiatives - Eyman raked in $86,743 for his salary. The year before, he amassed $104,000.

Much of both those totals came from his wealthy financier, one man special interest Woodinville multimillionaire Michael Dunmire (who lately likes to accompany Tim around as he makes public appearances.)

And those figures do not include the money his partners, the Fagans of Spokane, got in either 2005 or 2006. (If they split it equally, then they each got about half as much as Eyman did).

So, any guesses as to how much Eyman will get this year? What will his haul be? One thing's for sure: it won't be tied to success, considering Eyman's many failures.

To save America, we need another Oklahoma City

Media Matters reports on despicable comments made by Fox Noise personality John Gibson.
During the August 14 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann named Fox News' John Gibson the "winner" of his nightly "Worst Person in the World" segment for, as Media Matters for America documented, mocking comedian and Daily Show host Jon Stewart's expression of grief in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Olbermann stated that Gibson "played a tape of comedian Jon Stewart's heartfelt anguish from September 20th, 2001, as a New Yorker who lived near the Trade Center, and Gibson and his producer mocked it. He called it Jon Stewart sobbing. That idiot sidekick called Stewart a, quote, 'phony.' " Olbermann added: "Secondly, Gibby: Jon Stewart's expression of pain after 9-11 and yours, Gibby, and mine -- that was the unity. And no matter what kind of administration propagandist I think you are and how I'll mock you for it, I would never doubt the sincerity of your pain. You've got a lot of damn nerve doubting the sincerity of anybody else's."

Gibson mocked Stewart during a discussion of Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky's August 9 column, headlined "To save America, we need another 9/11."
Oy, that thing again.

Can you imagine what would happen if this blog produced a post saying it would be good if we had another Oklahoma City bombing in order to unify America against right wing extremism? You'd probably get run over by the reporters in their satellite trucks coming to demand you apologize.

And to mock someone's anguish, as Gibson did, is just cold. But in consequence-free wingnut world, they can prattle on endlessly, living out their simplistic revenge fantasies like adolescents. They certainly have the right to do that, but at this point in our nation's history we really need to do better. Government by temper tantrum has worked out so well.

Streetcars in Vancouver's future?

The Columbian has an article about Vancouver starting to look into the idea of streetcars. It's all very preliminary, but since transportation moves me so much I thought it worthy of note.
City Manager Pat McDonnell said the city needs to consider what type of transit could be used to promote movement within Vancouver and Clark County.

"This is just getting the council some education and bringing them some understanding of how one system works over there," he said about the Sept. 17 council excursion. "Whether we can emulate it, I don't know."

City officials want to answer that question. McDonnell said the city has asked Gramor Development to include streetcars or some other form of transit in its plans for redeveloping the former Boise Cascade industrial site on the Columbia River near downtown.
When one considers these ideas are flowing as both the Columbia River Crossing project and the RTC's High Capacity Transit System Study move along, these are exciting times for those who hope we can at least begin to find better ways to get around than burning expensive imported gasoline.

In one sense, Clark County has a silver lining in all this, in that there really is not much transit infrastructure in place yet. There are basically some park and ride lots, and while they are well done, there is the chance that proper planning could serve future generations quite well.

Whether streetcars pencil out will be an interesting issue. Since it's pretty much a given that a new bridge across the Columbia would have to incorporate transit in the form of light rail or "bus rapid transit," the issue then becomes how to move people within Vancouver and the unincorporated areas within the Urban Growth Boundary. It'll be fascinating (to dorks like me anyhow) to learn whether streetcars offer any advantages over traditional buses other than their romantic appeal.

If it turns out streetcars have mostly aesthetic rather than practical appeal, then having them downtown only might be logical. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Enough pretense on Iraq

From Think Progress comes this amazing pronouncement from the Army chief of staff concerning how long we could be in Iraq.
At an event this afternoon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Gen. George Casey — the former top commander in Iraq and now the Army chief of staff — declared that Iraq will be a remarkable country “in a decade or so” if we maintain the U.S. occupation.

A questioner asked, “What are the prospects in Iraq and how will this war end?” Casey responded:

"Right now, there’s so much residual mistrust left over from the time under Saddam Hussein that they’re not quite ready to go forward. But they have an educated population, they have oil wells, they have water, they have some of the most fertile land I’ve ever seen. In a decade or so, this will be a remarkable country, if we stick with it."
Of course, the question is exactly who is going to "stick with it?"

If you have a son or daughter who is say, ten years old right now, they could be in on this. Think about it. (Well, unless your last name is Romney, in which case you can go ahead and jaunt down to the local RV store and plan that purchase ahead of time. They don't like us to talk about class in this country, because a certain class of people "serve their country" by touring Iowa for daddy.)

Talk about a military and foreign policy establishment that is seriously adrift. If anyone thinks another decade in Iraq is militarily, let alone politically, feasible, they are seriously deluded. The Iraq occupation has been a humanitarian, financial, military and diplomatic debacle from the beginning. Yet our media and political elites continue to cast about for ways to make it go on forever.

It boggles the mind to think of the damage being done to our long term interests. People don't want to be occupied by foreign military powers. This should not puzzle anyone. From India to Algeria to Vietnam and countless other examples, eventually the occupying power is bled dry, bankrupted or defeated militarily. (And to be clear to our conservative friends, this is not the same as arguing military force is never justified. It's a recognition of historical fact.)

You can get by with occupation and meddling for a while, or even quite a long time. U.S. involvement in Vietnam basically spanned the years 1945-1975. And when the communist government led by Ho Chi Minh finally took over, there was no domino effect. Our entire policy was based on the fear of something happening that couldn't happen.

Conservatives have taken Cold War thinking and applied it to the inappropriately named "war on terror." Somehow, Iraq has become West Berlin in this way of thinking, which is not only bizarre but downright stupid.

Hello! They're terrorists. They're not coming across the plains of Eastern Europe with massive tank formations, they're going to come at us with whatever low-tech and cheap means of death they can find. And they probably don't care what country they are in or who rules Iraq. If they get driven from Iraq they will go back to Pakistan, or fly to London, Rome, Tokyo, New York or any other large city. In short, they are guerrilla fighters of the post-modern age. So it's beyond idiotic to even mention terrorism as a justification to stay in Iraq, since A) they will just adapt and move and B) our best defense is intelligence combined with limited, specific military action, not occupation of countries. Generally speaking, occupying countries hamstrings us so badly in terms of logistics and diplomatic initiative that it's quite harmful.

There can be exceptions. I would argue that the early efforts against the Taliban in Afghanistan were thoroughly justified, brilliantly executed and could have presaged a broader U.S. effort in that region to both combat Islamic fundamentalism and bring people towards democracy. I distinctly remember at the time press accounts and perhaps television shows reviewing the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, and thinking what a huge effort would be required in Afghanistan. We would have to dedicate virtually our entire available foreign aid and State Department resources to rebuilding Afghanistan, but it would show the Muslim world that when attacked, we would win but still assist the regular people in regaining control of their country, as we always had.

Instead, we invaded and occupied Iraq. It was arguably the most colossal military blunder in United States history, right up there with the War of 1812, which featured the burning of the White House.

And for what? So a particular ideological spectrum in the United States, composed chiefly at the top levels of third-rate minds and first-rate crooks, could "prove" its theorems in practice while securing a temporary political advantage. (And all political advantages are temporary. Ask Karl.)

The people of Iraq have been rewarded with chaos, destruction and death, our hard working and dedicated military personnel have been rewarded with death, maiming and endless "stop-loss" orders, and the American people have been rewarded with the most deceitful administration in a generation.

Enough is enough. There's a mindset that the 2008 election is almost here, as the candidates are at full throttle, but it's still over a year away. I'm not certain our country can stand much more of this madness.

It's time the politicians and especially the media stop the pretense altogether. Our national interest lies in getting out of Iraq. You can argue the details all you want; there are highly paid professionals at the Pentagon who can work it all out. Withdraw to Kuwait, build bases there, bribe the Saudis some more, whatever.

Just stop it with the pretense. We're not going to be in Iraq for another ten years, and to talk along those lines is insulting.

UPDATE 12:08 AM PDT Aug. 15: How terrible. From the BBC:
At least 175 people have been killed in a series of suicide bomb attacks in northern Iraq, Iraq's military says.

The blasts apparently targeted a Kurdish religious minority, the Yazidi sect, near Mosul. At least four blasts hit areas which house the community.

A Mosul police source told the BBC that there had been "large loss of life".
It never ends. You'd think the neo-con whack jobs would be hanging their heads in shame, but to them none of this is real. As long as they score a point on Fox Noise and avoid going to Iraq themselves, they've done their part.

Maybe we should require political predator registration of Republicans who supported this twisted endeavor. Strap a GPS to their ankles and any time they head towards a television studio, they get a sudden shock. Most of them would probably like it anyhow.

Say hello to lead paint Barbie!

Q: What's the problem with Chinese import recalls?

A: A few hours later you want another one.

So it's another day, another recall of Chinese products, and this time it's more toys. From NPR:
Toy maker Mattel Inc. on Tuesday issued a recall for 9 million toys made in China because they contain magnets that can be dislodged and swallowed, or they may contain lead paint.

The recall includes 7.3 million play sets, including Polly Pocket dolls and Batman action figures, and 253,000 Sarge brand cars that have lead paint. The 2½-inch, 1-inch high car looks like a military jeep.

Nancy Nord, acting chairman of the U.S. consumer Product Safety Commission, said no injuries have been reported with any of the products involved in the recall.

"The scope of these recalls is intentionally large to prevent any injuries from occurring," she said at a mid-morning news conference.
NPR provided this link to the Mattel web site about the recall. Good luck figuring out which of your kids' toys might contain lead paint. I know I saved boxes and receipts from four years ago.

And thank you, Congress, and most of all, thank you Bush administration for your complete inability to do anything meaningful to protect consumers from the menace of Chinese imports. I hope you're all having nice vacations. I'll be going through the toy chest and explaining to my daughter why Polly Pocket is going in the trash.

But most of all, thank you to the board and major stockholders of Wal-Mart, which forced so much manufacturing to China. Looks like the wonderful global economy has a few glaring holes, like working conditions and product safety. As long as your stock price doesn't take too much of a hit, I suppose you don't care. I'm sure you can afford to buy expensive toys made in the EU, can't you?

Provincial to the last drop in Clark County

We're determined here in Clark County to remain absurdly insular and provincial, even when it comes to something as simple as a cold one. From The Columbian:
A new beer garden at the 2007 Clark County Fair led to no arrests, but that hasn't shaken some elected officials' determination to shut off the taps in 2008.

"I'm still against it," said county Commissioner Marc Boldt, who said he'd visited the garden last week without partaking of its beverages. "I think it's potentially dangerous, and more than that, I think it sends the wrong message."

Sheriff Garry Lucas agreed, saying the lack of incidents at the fair - this was the first in years to see zero arrests - was beside the point.

"My opposition is philosophical, not operational," Lucas said Monday. "I don't think you have to drink beer to have a good time with your family."

Even if the garden were to stay around for five years without trouble, Lucas said he'd still oppose it in the sixth year.
You know what also sends a bad message? Someone in sweat pants wolfing down three Onion-Aire burgers and an elephant ear while smearing buttered corn all over their face. My cardiologist would have a heart attack.

Oh, and by the way, the article conveniently fails to mention that both Lucas and Boldt are Republicans. You don't think the right wing churches who swarm the fair with booths and literature might have had their panties in a bunch, do you?

The thing that bugs me about Boldt and Lucas's stance is that there were zero reported problems. None. According to the article, a small number of people were turned away for already being hammered, which is not exactly unusual in the food and beverage service world. So even though having beer and wine in a controlled setting would move the fair into the 20th Century, they're against it because they're against it.

Once again, the busybodies in the right wing churches and their allies in the GOP think they can tell everyone else what to do, at least in public. But you can bet that privately many of them like a cold one after mowing the lawn or fishing as much as anyone else. If someone wants a glass of wine after tromping around the fair all day, what is the big deal?

Of course, this is the same sheriff's department that got trapped in the Gorge hunting Islamic pot plants and had to be rescued. (I'm really hoping that makes "This Week on Drugs" over at Slog, by the way.)

What's also kind of striking is how this small controversy pits social conservatives and their allies against the "bidness folks." Turns out booze sells pretty well, and the fair board is always looking at the bottom line (don't want to raise taxes to support the fair, you know.)
The fair board's president, meanwhile, said he hopes to keep the garden next year, and advertise it more heavily with signs inside the fair.

"We see huge potential for improvement or increase in the revenue," board president Scott Horenstein said.

The fair sold $50,000 worth of alcohol, fair manager Tom Musser said. The guards at the gate scanned 5,428 IDs from 33 different states.
I'll have to admit, I never actually located the beer garden. I saw a sign with an arrow, but they must have made the actual location fairly unobtrusive. I personally felt the rides were a bigger threat to public safety than beer. (Note to self: the hang glider ride is not for you. You are no longer a spring calf.)

There was a guy in the poultry barn that kept crowing with the roosters, but he could have been on a sugar high from the Dairy Women's booth. Darn you, wholesome milkshakes!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Educating voters about Initiative 960

In a few weeks, the state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral argument in Futurewise v. Reed, the legal challenge filed last May to block Tim Eyman's I-960 from the ballot. While it's encouraging that the Court has taken the case on appeal, there's no guarantee it will rule to strike I-960 out.

If the Court does decide to axe the initiative, it will have to rule quickly. As Rich Roesler of the Spokesman Review points out:
-The hearing's set for Sept. 6,

-The final possible day for the state to certify the candidates and ballot measure for November is Sept. 12,

-But "the practical reality," according to Katie Blinn, with the Secretary of State's office, "is that county auditors will be formatting their general election ballots even before" Sept. 5. They want to get the ballots printed as early as possible to get them to military and overseas voters.

In similar situations in the past, the court has issued a quick, abbreviated ruling -- no opinions, just a yes/no decision, usually issued by the chief justice -- with the usual opinion, concurrences and dissents following weeks later.
The Court will be considering whether I-960 is within the scope of the initiative process. We have contended that it is not because it covertly attempts to amend the state Constitution - which can't be done by initiative in Washington.

But if the Supreme Court does not agree, or if it somehow manages to sidestep the issue, voters would end up considering I-960 even though it shouldn't be before the people. The scope issue, which is at the heart of the lawsuit, is distinctly seperate from the issue of whether the initiative is constitutional or not. The scope issue is all about what is within the parameters of the initiative process.

An initiative that declared the abolishment of the U.S. Constitution, for example, would be out of order. Similarly, I-960 is "out of order" because it tries to amend what is already in our state's Constitution, which is not within the legislative power reserved by the people of Washington to themselves.

It's both unconstitutional and outside the scope, but the Court will only be considering the scope issue under the standard it established in the Coppernoll case back in 2005, when the Court fully decided the subject matter of Initiative 330 before the election.

It's critical that we tell the electorate about the consequences of Initiative 960 so the public knows what is at stake. There's no reason to wait.

The P-I's Strange Bedfellows blog, which at times has unfortunately seemed addicted to polls, has summarized the results of a recent Elway poll on I-960:
Seven out of 10 of those surveyed said they support the idea of requiring a two-thirds majority of the Legisalture [sic] or a public vote to raise any state taxes.

Pollster Stuart Elway said 50 percent of Democrats were inclined to vote for I-960, as were 76 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Independents. The poll of 405 registered voters in Washington state was taken earlier this month and has a margin of error of 5 percent.
Those of you who've read NPI for a long time are familiar with our skepticism of polls. While trends - collections of polls gathered over time - can be useful, single polls generally are not.

A single poll is a snapshot in time and a survey of one sample (in this case, 405 registered voters out of several million). The accuracy of the results is dependent on how the questions are phrased. The summary above does not mention whether Elway read respondents the ballot title or came up with a unique description describing what the initiative was about. What language was used, and what frames were invoked, makes an important difference.

What voters need to know is that I-960 assaults the very fabric of our republic by forcing our Legislature to operate under un-American rules. Eyman's recycled proposal turns our cherished tradition of "majority rule with minority rights" on its head by requiring two thirds supermajority approval for any increase in revenue.

If I-960 were law today, a minority of lawmakers (34 out of 98 in the House, 17 out of 49 in the Senate) would have the final say over major budgeting decisions. This is not democracy, it’s the beginning of oligarchy.

If we become dissatisfied with our leaders' job performance, we can select new ones in the next election. That is representative democracy. And it requires that government decisions be based on majority rule. The entire electorate accepts the choices made by the majority in a free election.

Laws enacted by the Legislature represent the will of the majority of lawmakers. Because we, the people, elect those lawmakers, we accept the laws.

Emmett over at Washblog has expressed concern about fundraising for I-960. It's unfortunately not unusual for the established players to take their time in gearing up for an autumn campaign against a ballot measure. Indeed, I founded Permanent Defense in 2002 because of my frustration with the lack of a dedicated, year round opposition to Eyman's initiative factory.

The campaign against I-912 took a long time to get going in 2005, but we won, despite significant obstacles in our path.

That took a huge amount of voter outreach.

We got lucky last year with I-917, which failed to make the ballot at the beginning of September 2006, ensuring a welcome Eyman-free November.

But we can't rest on our laurels and hope the Supreme Court gets rid of this tottering wreck of an initiative. Permanent Defense's website has information for voters who want to learn more about I-960 and its potential consequences.

We will be adding more resources to Permanent Defense's site over the next few weeks and preparing for a fall campaign along with the rest of the coalition.

Rove era had already passed

So we all awaken to the news that Karl Rove is resigning at the end of the month. Perhaps it's just a cloudy Monday morning in August, but somehow the news doesn't really mean much to me.

It seems curiously far away and already past, like news arriving by sailing ship in the 18th Century. The war is over! And has been for months!

End of an era, blah blah blah. It had already passed.

Republicans sometimes like to delight in the fact that "nobody every laid a glove" on Rove, and legally speaking, I suppose this is true, at least right now. And it's very true that our biggest political predators in this country are rarely held truly accountable. (Exhibit A: Richard Nixon. Exhibit B: Henry Kissinger.)

It's likely we'll wake up some morning six months or ten months from now to the news that Fox Noise is airing the new "Daytime with Scooter and Karl" show, complete with weather girls Ann and Michelle.

Throw in a book deal just in time for the 2008 election, and the wingnut welfare system will take care of Karl. That you can count on.

While Rove was hardly the political genius his admirers thought him to be, as thuggery requires neither brains nor nuance, he did become a symbol of the attitude the GOP carries into elections, and as far as I can tell, still will.

Namely, that anything goes. There's a bunch of boilerplate about democracy and the free market and such, but these people think it is their inherent right to hold power, by virtue of their Republicanism, their alleged conservatism and their well, whiteness. As all three of these things continue to become, more or less, liabilities rather than assets, the implosion seems more evident by the day.

The bad attitude is still apparent the length and breadth of the GOP and its allied funhouse institutions, be it the Discovery Institute, the state GOP, the Dino Rossi non-campaign or the right wing evangelical churches.

The reason this bad attitude is so destructive is not just that it is insulting, which it is, but because it has such a corrosive impact on our society and democracy. The only way they can justify their voter suppression efforts, for example, is to claim that the other side does it.

As anyone can tell you, this is not a new Republican method. When enough people bail out on democracy, they win, because they are a minority in this country.

What Rove did was teach thousands of younger Republicans to consider the political opposition as enemies. While this practice gets dolled up in news accounts with terms like "pugnacious political operative," the bottom line truth is that he helped make it okay to hate me. And you. And you. And you.

If you are different from them or disagree with them, the message was clear: you can be considered enemies, not just opponents.

Without Rove, it's unlikely there would have been fake sex offender postcards mailed out in this state last year. Without Rove, the ginned-up Republican falsehoods surrounding the 2004 gubernatorial election might not have been so severe, and cooler heads could have ensured a more harmonious and civilized recount.

Sadly, there seems to be a permanent contingent in the Washington Republican Party that has internalized Rovian tactics so thoroughly that a change in behavior seems unlikely. (Well, I guess this is sad for the GOP, not us, as the voters continue to recoil from the foolhardy nonsense today's "conservatives" continue to spout.)

There will be future Karl Roves, and whether he someday has a "Lee Atwater moment" and realizes the sickness he helped perpetuate in our country, along with needless amounts of death and destruction in Iraq, remains to be seen.

It would be wonderful if Rove would apologize long before he arrives at his deathbed, but I'm not holding my breath.

In the end, Karl Rove taught us a valuable lesson. Never again can we stand by and let these authoritarian cultists gain power virtually unopposed. Their lack of respect for the actual meanings contained in the Constitution and Bill of Rights is apparent to the most casual observer.

The unitary executive theory, secret prisons, and most obviously of all, the new FISA law, all point to a monarchist mentality.

If the media won't stand up to them, we will. If the Democratic Party won't stand up to them, we will. If we have to use angry language, raise lots of money, or support primary challengers, we will.

We've come a long way, but not nearly far enough, and 2008 is shaping up as a once in a lifetime chance to set this country back on a path to restore integrity, the rule of law, and adherence to our Constitution.

So thanks, Karl. Have a nice "retirement."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

NPI releases formal primary endorsements for Port of Seattle races

We're already on the record in support of both of these candidates, but today we're pleased to announce formal endorsements for Alec Fisken and Gael Tarleton, who are running to ensure reform at the Port of Seattle. Our statements for each candidate (the rationale, or explanation, for our stand) can be found at this page, along with a list of other notable endorsements.

Gael and Alec are true champions for progressive, Democratic values. We have an opportunity to elect a progressive majority to the Seattle Port Commission this year and we need both Gael and Alec to win for that to happen. Your help is needed if they're going to cross the finish line first.

Please volunteer for both Alec and Gael today - and don't forget to vote for them on your primary ballot if you're a King County resident.

UPDATE: Feel free to put this button on your own blog or website. We've added it our sidebar, if you look to the right.

Vote for Alec Fisken and Gael Tarleton

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Markos on Meet the Press tomorrow

Our Orange Overlord Markos will be on Meet the Press tomorrow, along with DLC-crat Harold Ford, Jr.. (There are others, of course. What, your clicking finger broken? Don't come waggling at me when you get carpal tunnel.)

KING-TV in Seattle has it listed for 6 AM.

KGW-TV in Portland does not appear to have it scheduled at all. But you might be able to pick up a knife that slices over-ripe tomatoes or some other cool "paid programming" product.

Question: Why did the Flowbee people stop advertising? And does it do anything besides 1970's style haircuts? Will it do a crew cut? Does it hurt?

Anyhow, you might as well watch television in the morning, it's not like you're going anywhere, at least in Seattle.

Talk amongst yourselves.

UPDATE 8:50 AM PDT Sunday -- KGW in Portland just ran a teaser for MTP that makes me think it will, in fact, air in Portland at 9 AM.

Right wing media endorses death wish

We noted on Thursday a particularly sick column by a Philadelphia newspaper columnist who hoped we would be attacked by terrorists again. But as Think Progress shows, the conservative traditional media glommed right on to the twisted idea.
A host of right-wing media outlets provided Bykofsky a national platform yesterday that largely served to give credence to the columnist’s ghoulish suggestion.

Drudge gave the article a top row, center column link(.)

---snip---

Radio host Mike Gallagher, who claims to have “over 3.75 million weekly listeners” across the country, hosted Bykofsky (on the very same day that he scored an interview with Rudy Giuliani)(.)

---snip---

Bykofsky’s biggest booster, however, was Fox News. Yesterday morning’s Fox and Friends did a segment on his column. Later in the afternoon, Bykofsky appeared on The Big Story, where host John Gibson agreed with and validated Bykofsky’s thesis. “I think it’s going to take a lot of dead people to wake America up,” said Gibson.
We really have to understand this mindset. There are people walking amongst us who wish we would be attacked again to show that their political view is validated. I really don't know how to describe this philosophy other than as some kind of misanthropic disease. Honest. I know it's an old canard to accuse one's political opponents of being "nuts," ala Michael Savage, but if someone truly wishes for a repeat of 9-11 they need to seek counseling. That is not a normal thing to be thinking, and it's evidence of how low the conservative traditional media have fallen.

As Atrios suggests, this is not only a twisted political pathology, it's also not true.
The conservative cult's mass death wish is obviously based on a faulty premise, that if there's a terrorist attack they and Dear Leader will somehow be vindicated. Of course the reverse is true. When it comes to "the war on terra," George Bush and the conservative movement have pretty much gotten everything they've wanted. Democrats and dirty fucking hippie bloggers, despite complaints, haven't managed to stop the Bush administration from doing what they think is important.

So if a massive terrorist attack happened, it wouldn't be a vindication of what they've been doing, it would be proof that they failed to do what George Bush claims is his most important job.
So I ask the question again, even if in futility: what kind of editor and what kinds of producers think it's appropriate to wish for the violent deaths of thousands of Americans? Somewhere there are guys in suits who put this stuff out there, then go home to their families after poisoning the body politic a little more each day. How they look themselves in the mirror is beyond me.

No credible threat a big story

So it made a little news splash last night, and it's hard to tell if it's "ooga-booga" stuff or something more serious, but news accounts report a vague threat of a radiological attack by al-Qaeda, possibly in New York City.
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne called the measures "strictly precautionary." He said an Israeli Web site reported that online posts were made following a video released Sunday featuring an American member of al-Qaida threatening foreign diplomats and embassies across the Islamic world.

"We are closely monitoring the situation," said Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke. "There continues to be no credible information telling us that there's a threat to the homeland at this time."

The FBI also said there was no credible threat.
The Israeli web site is DEBKAfile, which ran an "exclusive" that said in part:
DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources and monitors say there is no way of gauging for sure how serious these threats are, how real, or whether they are part of a war of nerves to give the Gaddahn tape extra mileage. But it is important to note that the exchange of messages took place over al Qaeda’s internal Internet sites and that they contained the threat of radioactive terror and specific American cities for the first time after a long silence on these subjects.

In addition, a growing number of clips has been disseminated of late over al Qaeda sites instructing the faithful how to design remote-controlled gliders, pack them with explosives and launch them against predetermined targets.
Debka seems to be a fairly serious entity, so I'm not trying to claim they aren't trustworthy, but this is all so vague that nobody can really determine much of anything. We've known for a long time that al-Qaeda or other radical Islamic terrorists want to do us great harm.

It's fine to operate out of an abundance of caution, but it's worth noting that even if Debka is totally above board, they seem to have strong ties to Israeli government and intelligence officials, who may have their own agendas.

Unfortunately, no ordinary citizen can really judge specific threats like this. Frankly, it still seems certain that terrorists will try to attack us, but I'm still at a loss to understand how unlimited executive power helps us stop that. Under the old FISA law, the administration had plenty of leeway to wiretap people they suspect are terrorists, including filing such requests after the fact. It just seems odd that we get a news report about some vague threat, without any really new information, so soon after the new FISA law was passed.

There's also the ironic fact that if al-Qaeda gets these kinds of headlines for posting what amounts, at this point, to trash talk on the web, they don't even have to attack us to have scored a hit.

So in the final analysis, we could also use something else as an indicator of the likelihood of an attack. Like sharks, which are getting closer.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cleaning up the air at the Port of Seattle

Note from the Executive Director: On behalf of all of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute, I am pleased to welcome Port Commissioner Alec Fisken to the Official Blog. We are delighted that he is sharing his perspective with our readers in this special guest post.

“Cancer deaths from port air emissions” has been a front page story in California newspapers for the past year, and the debate has stalled port growth at Los Angeles and Long Beach, and led to some well-meaning, but ineffective, solutions.

We have the opportunity in Puget Sound to skip that debate and reduce the impact of air emissions while we grow the volume of trade through our ports.

Over the past few decades our air has gotten cleaner as factories, cars, trucks, and power plants have reduced their emissions of gases that cause air pollution.

Ships that carry goods in international trade have not been subject to the same federal and local regulation, and now gases from those ships have become a bigger share of air pollution. As port activity grows, the ships, trucks, locomotives and terminal equipment are responsible for a significant share of air quality problems.

Big ships are the worst, largely because of the fuel (“bunker fuel”) that they burn, but the recently-completed study of air emissions in the Puget Sound shows that ferries and other local vessels also play a big role, as do the trucks, trains cranes and other terminal equipment associated with maritime commerce.

In California, port air emissions have created a crisis, with port communities blocking any growth if it will add to emissions. It’s a subject of serious concern in Vancouver, British Columbia, and also for many of the larger ports on the east coast. It is reasonable to ask whether voters will support port growth if it means increasing pollution in the surrounding region.

At the same time, technological solutions to reduce ship emissions have been developed. Vessel operators have successfully tested different fuels, scrubbers, and other technologies that reduce noxious emissions by large amounts. Truckers in the Northwest, and elsewhere on the coast, are successfully testing technologies that reduce diesel particulate from the truck operations that are essential to container terminals. So this is a problem that can be solved.

The place to look for a solution is the ports. Because ships travel from one port to another, we need a solution that is uniform.

And because emissions reduction technology is evolving rapidly, we need to specify the emissions reduction required – not the technology used to achieve it. We need to say what the emissions target is, not how you have to achieve it.

Voters have a right to expect that ports will solve this problem.

U.S. ports are not subject to anti-trust rules – they can work out common standards with the customers they serve. State legislatures are all too likely to impose solutions like that recently enacted in Southern California, where new requirements may well be eliminated in court.

The legislature is not the right place to solve the problem. It’s tough for legislators to take the time to balance the technical issues and the environmental priorities of other regions to produce useful regulation that will apply to all ships calling at North American ports.

An even worse approach is to accept higher ship emission levels in the Northwest in exchange for a small commercial advantage over California ports. This region won’t accept second-class status in air pollution regulations - and it shouldn’t.

Ports are uniquely suited to tackle this issue. They can make solutions uniform, and develop standards in a way that will bring industry to the table with the best available technology. The Port of Seattle can lead that effort, help reduce port-related emissions throughout North America, and grow and prosper while it improves its environmental impact on the region.

Commissioner Alec Fisken is running for reelection to the Seattle Port Commission (Position #5). He is currently finishing his first term as Commissioner.

Uh-oh shark attack

And it's in South Carolina, of all places:
We have new information about one of the two shark attack victims at the Isle of Palms. A 9-year- old boy and a 30-year-old man are recovering in the hospital.

The boy’s father, Phillip Crawford, says his nine-year-old Chase is a little trooper. He is now at the Medical University of South Carolina recovering from a shark bite to his foot and lower leg.

Chase already has had one surgery and will need one other one but his dad says his foot will be just fine.
Okay, now I'm worried. Note to Congressional interns: no disappearing.

Someone tell me there's no brush to clear in Kennebunkport.

Watching the gray men

The free market operates in a perfect, logical manner, until well, it doesn't and someone has to bail the crooks out:
"The Federal reserve is providing liquidity to facilitate the orderly functioning of financial markets," the Fed said in a statement.

It added: "The Federal reserve will provide reserves as necessary through open market operations to promote trading in the federal funds market at rates close to the Federal Open Market Committee's target rate of 5-1/4 percent." - The U.S. Federal Reserve on Friday said that it added $19 billion of temporary reserves to the banking system through 3-day repurchase agreements, compared with adding $7.5 billion through 3-day repurchase agreements last Friday.
Which is better than a complete financial meltdown anyhow. Always nice to see the free market absolutists stamping their feet for someone to help them.

It's darkly amusing to watch a financial cable station on days like today. Earlier some bobble head was talking about "locked up assets," which in plain English meant that nobody wanted to buy the cruddy securities based on mortgages containing unknown, but likely paltry, amounts of equity. Surprise! Wall Street built a house of cards, and now we all pay. Again.

Here's how Dr. Black at the Eschaton Finishing School for Economic Policy Studies put it:
Nothing wrong with putting money into the system to lower the federal funds rate, but this is bailing out investors in a certain kind of specific and troubled asset.

awesome
Indeed.

See, governments putting money into helping ordinary people with education and health care is SOCIALIST COMMUNISTIC-ISLAMO FASCISM. But government (or in this case the quasi-government entity known as the Federal Reserve, our version of a central bank) bailing out hedge funds is "providing liquidity."

The failure of ordinary Americans to preserve personal liquidity is moral and deserved. The failure of an entire industry to preserve liquidity is just the cost of doing business. The fact that industry historically tends to support the GOP is simply a coincidence.

As long as we're all straight on where we rank in the scheme of things. What say we don't pay our mortgages next month, and see what happens?

Yeah, I know, we'd all be out in the street faster than you can say "Where have you gone, Uncle Alan?" A Wall Street turns its lonely eyes to you...

MORE-- SF Gate has an interesting article headlined "Everything you never wanted to know about Mortgage Backed Securities." A tidbit:
For instance, to resell pools of subprime loans, investment companies separate them into distinct investment products called Collateralized Debt Obligation Tranches, which each take on different levels of risk.

The "equity" tranch takes on the highest level of risk and pays the highest interest. If any of the homes in a pool of loans is foreclosed upon, this tranch absorbs the losses first.

The "mezzanine" tranch absorbs all the losses after the equity tranch has gone under and pays a slightly lower interest rate.

Finally, the third tranch absorbs only losses from default after the equity and mezzanine tranches -- thus offering a cushion against the risk of default. This least-risky tranch pays a lower interest rate but it's designed to earn a triple-A investment grade rating from credit-rating agencies such as Standard and Poor's and Moody's, making it far easier to sell.

But even with this cushion against risk, this third tranch didn't turn out to be such a safe investment.
Good lord. I don't know if it's strictly accurate to call it a Ponzi scheme, but it sure walks like a duck.

It sounds like a fun job, making stuff up and calling it investments. Personally I've always preferred the alternate French spelling traunche. So much more class.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Hippie hatred über alles

Via Eschaton comes a Philadelphia Daily News column that expresses a sentiment you knew existed, but tried to ignore. Maybe we should thank this kook for putting it in writing. From Philly.com:
ONE MONTH from The Anniversary, I'm thinking another 9/11 would help America.

What kind of a sick bastard would write such a thing?

A bastard so sick of how splintered we are politically - thanks mainly to our ineptitude in Iraq - that we have forgotten who the enemy is.

It is not Bush and it is not Hillary and it is not Daily Kos or Bill O'Reilly or Giuliani or Barack. It is global terrorists who use Islam to justify their hideous sins, including blowing up women and children.

Iraq has fractured the U.S. into jigsaw pieces of competing interests that encourage our enemies. We are deeply divided and division is weakness.
It's odd, but that's not what I've been thinking at all. Not sure how an editor would allow such a thing in print, but then hoping your own country is attacked may not be something the editor has had to consider before. Since, you know, it's such a sick thing and all.

What I'm thinking is that the threat from terrorists is so severe that Congress and the President had to flush the Bill of Rights down the toilet (a lot of chatter, you know) and then immediately go on vacation. Believe me, if there is a rash of shark attacks I am going to get mighty nervous.

Guess the chatter wasn't so severe, though, that Congress and the President couldn't relax and enjoy themselves.

I'm also thinking it's creepy and wrong to wish that thousands of your fellow citizens will be killed in a horrible violent attack, but then I'm old-fashioned that way.

Obviously hippie-hatred knows no limits. It's more important to them to hate us than to admit they are wrong.

Houston, we have a problem.

NPI releases primary endorsements for Democratic ballot in King County

NPI is pleased today to release our first primary endorsements - for contested races on the Democratic ballot in King County. Our recommendations are as follows:

For King County Prosecutor: Bill Sherman
For King County Council, 6th District: Brad Larssen (write-in)
For King County Council, 8th District: Dow Constantine

This page has our statements (the rationale for each stand) as well as a list of other notable endorsements the candidate has received.

South Carolina starts primary civil war

When it comes to presidential primaries and caucuses, they're changing the dates again. And is it really a surprise that the state responsible for the two biggest disasters in American history, those being the Civil War and George W. Bush, is responsible?
South Carolina Republicans today moved their 2008 presidential primary to Jan. 19, triggering a chain reaction among Iowa, New Hampshire and other early voting states that could push the first balloting into December 2007.

South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson made the announcement with officials from New Hampshire, whom he called allies in protecting the traditional early states' voting order.

"We are here to stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends in New Hampshire to reaffirm the important role that both of our states play in presidential politics," Dawson said.

South Carolina had scheduled its Republican primary for Feb. 2, but at a news conference with New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, Dawson said the change to Jan. 19 was needed to protect South Carolina's first-primary-in-the-South tradition.

Given the change, Gardner will be forced by state law to move the New Hampshire primary to at least Jan. 12. Iowa then probably would move up its traditional leadoff caucuses, perhaps to as early as mid-December.
Really, it's so obvious that I hate to say it, but the perfect date for South Carolina Republicans would be (rimshot ready, drummer:)

Oct. 31! (crash, snare, kaboom.)

I say we move all of them to Labor Day and get it over with. A year-long general election campaign would be just peachy. Imagine how many Swift Boat Liars commercials could be produced in a year!

Sub-prime crisis hits market

With the stock market taking some big hits due to the sub-prime crisis (down 387.18 today on my desktop ticker,) those "Old Europe" people sure are conservative about lending. From Business Week:
For years, European bankers have endured slights from U.S. rivals about their stodgy lending habits. Imagine: They still demand a 20% downpayment—or more—for a home loan. Adjustable-rate mortgages are a novelty. And instead of packaging loans into fancy derivatives and selling them to hedge funds, the Europeans keep them on their own books. How quaint.

Now those Old World bankers are looking mighty smart, at least when it comes to their domestic markets. True, a growing number of Europe's global banks are suffering losses from investing in U.S. debt. On Aug. 9, French giant BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) announced it was temporarily suspending three investment funds that are together worth more than $2 billion because a shortage of liquidity and lack of visibility made it impossible to fairly value the funds' assets. The move rattled stock markets, drove up short-term money-market rates, and helped provoke an unprecedented $130 billion liquidity-boosting action by the European Central Bank (see BusinessWeek.com, 8/9/07, "Subprime: The Ugly American Hits Europe").
I guess I don't know why our financial sector always winds up behaving in such irresponsible and illegal ways (can you say "Savings and Loan crisis?") Could it be that our financial sector is run by irresponsible and corrupt people who often manage to convince the Republican Party to avoid meaningful regulation of their activities? (Can you say "Enron?")

Actual conservatives would want the market to operate in transparent and efficient ways. Dubious lending standards driving down everyone's share value is flat out stupid and unnecessary. But I'm sure some of the bright bulbs who developed cruddy "innovative loan products," to mock the euphemism for making home loans to unqualified borrowers, enjoyed their brief success and material wealth. How nice for them, as thousands of American families look at losing their homes.

Meanwhile, do we need more reminders about how foolish it would be to put Social Security money into the stock market? The people who proposed that are not conservatives. They're radical reactionaries who wanted to steal our money.

It used to be a lot of Americans could kind of chuckle as Wall Street crashed and burned, but now with 401(k) plans and all the rest, the radical reactionaries are a real threat to a lot of folks' retirement plans. Like we needed more reasons to hurt the GOP as badly as possible at the polls next year.

BREAKING: State Supreme Court agrees to hear I-960 legal challenge

The Washington State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the legal challenge filed by Futurewise and SEIU 775 last May alleging that Initiative 960 is outside the scope of the initiative process, NPI has learned.

The case is being appealed from King County Superior Court where Judge Catherine Shaffer refused to grant the plaintiffs' request.

I explained what the "scope" issue is about when I spoke before the Association of Washington Business back in June:
As you might expect, an idea that’s this undemocratic doesn’t conform to the supreme law of our land – the state Constitution. Because I-960 attempts to amend the Constitution - which cannot be done through initiative in our state - it is outside the scope of the initiative process.

The courts have held that such a measure can be set aside prior to an election. Consequently, a lawsuit was filed several weeks ago to block I-960 from the ballot regardless of whether the necessary signatures are collected. This suit is currently pending in King County Superior Court.

Before going any further, I want to clarify that normally issues of constitutionality are decided after a initiative takes effect, not before. But in this case, the initiative is not simply unconstitutional, it is a deliberate attempt to amend the Constitution. Deceptively, it’s legislative in nature, not a properly drafted constitutional amendment. It’s like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, to use that old metaphor.

This “scope” issue is distinctly separate. It’s this difference that makes a successful legal challenge possible prior to certification. I-960 may never appear before voters.
This is fantastic, surprising news and we hope the Court sets a precedent that curbs abuse of our state's cherished tradition of direct democracy by striking down I-960. Oral argument has been scheduled for September 6th at 1:30 PM.

We plan to be there bringing you live coverage.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Burner nails Reichert and FISA Democrats

Darcy Burner has a new web ad that calls out not only Dave Reichert but "FISA Democrats" on their usurpation of the Constitution. David Goldstein quoted some text from the web ad:
“When Republicans like Dave Reichert give George Bush everything he wants, that’s bad enough. But too many people in my own party aren’t listening either. The warrantless wiretapping bill won’t make us safer, but it will strip us of the rights so many of our families have fought to preserve, including mine.”
Anyone who has been paying attention the last seven years knows that progressives have always faced not only an uphill battle against Republicans, but against certain types of lame-brained and authoritarian Democrats as well. So it's great that Burner is telling it like it is.

There's still a long way to go to change the Democratic Party. But we don't really have much choice. The Constitution is our birthright. It doesn't matter what party you belong to, if you usurp the Constitution you will be opposed.

The lighter side: Comedy Central does Yearly Kos

The Great Orange Satan Blog has Yearly Kos clips up from those Comedy Central fellows. So wander on over and have a big laugh, truly funny stuff.

Confidential to Mr. Colbert: How did you know we're all virgins?

Huge Romney gaffe on sons' lack of service

Ouch, this is going to hurt Mitt Romney quite badly. Seems his sons are dedicated members of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders:
"The good news is that we have a volunteer Army and that's the way we're going to keep it," Romney told some 200 people gathered in an abbey near the Mississippi River that had been converted into a hotel. "My sons are all adults and they've made decisions about their careers and they've chosen not to serve in the military and active duty and I respect their decision in that regard."

He added: "One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."

Romney's five sons range in age from 37 to 26 and have worked as real estate developers, sports marketers and advertising executives. They are now actively campaigning for their father and have a "Five Brothers" blog on Romney's campaign Web site.
Good to know me and the Romney brothers are all fighting the terrorists on the blogs before they attack us.

I usually shy away from the "chickenhawk" stuff, as it's a pretty cold comment, but goodness what an offensive thing for Romney to say. If he can't handle a reporter in Iowa, how's he going to handle al-Qaeda?

People who support Mitt Romney with large sums of money should really just hang their heads in shame now. How pathetic. The Mittster got out of Vietnam and now his sons are too good to serve as well.

But remember, there is no such thing as "class" in America. Well, not if you're part of the ultra-wealthy corporate class anyhow. You get to "serve your country" by helping Daddy try to become President.

(Tip of the baseball cap to TPMCafe.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hank Aaron was a great ballplayer

The Sporting News archives have a nice 1999 interview with Hank Aaron, in case you're interested. You know, just because.
Aaron: When I was in a ballpark, I felt there was nothing that could bother me. I felt safe. I felt like I was surrounded by angels and I had God's hand on my shoulder. I didn't feel like anything could bother me. When I hit that home run, I had no reason to think that those kids were out there to do bodily harm. First of all, (if they tried anything) they would have been a dime short and a nickel late. It was over with. I thought they were out there to have some fun.
Aaron endured all sorts of threats and hate mail during his run. There may be some other sports new tonight, but I'm not linking to it. Maybe they'll invent a special asterisk symbol for steroids someday.

Would Reichert run for governor?

Just noticed this fine article by Brad Shannon yesterday in The Olympian about the Dino Rossi non-campaign. Plenty to mull over, but I'll chooses this tidbit:
Some speculation is that if Rossi says no, 8th District U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert could drop his re-election campaign and go for governor. But state party chairman Luke Esser said there is no chance of that — and Rossi is the one horse in the barn.

“There is no doubt it would be a scramble, which kind of motivates me and everyone at the state party to do everything we can to get the party in shape and get Dino to say yes,” Esser said Friday.
That would be a hoot, if Reichert ran state-wide.

This is why Darcy Burner did all Democrats such a service in 2006. Despite all the bluster, the Reichert people have to know they are in for another hot race. There is, in fact, precedent for a Republican member of Congress deciding to run state-wide the cycle after a razor-thin victory.

It happened in 1998, when Linda Smith, then the GOP WA-03 congresswoman, decided she would take on Patty Murray instead of facing Brian Baird again.

Murray is still in the Senate, Baird is still in Congress, and Smith is long out of politics. So at first blush, I say "Run, Dave, run (for governor!)"

Everywhere we can oppose Republican enablers, we should. The fifty state strategy means Democratic voters can be mobilized in districts where they would otherwise have no hope of voting out Republican incumbents.

There's also this bit of spin from a Republican spokesmodel:
Josh Kahn, spokesman for the state GOP, insisted there is a public mood shifting against government. And that helps Republicans who are suddenly in the minority in both Washingtons.

He said that mood caused national Democrats to tout the good job they think Congress is now doing on passing a minimum wage boost, voting to expand health care coverage to lower-income children, and challenging President Bush on Iraq.

“There is a mood for change out there that is not influenced by the strength of the economy,” Kahn insisted. “The Democrats are definitely seeing polling numbers right now, and if they were good numbers you would be hearing about them.”
Yeah, um, okay, Josh, whatever you say.

Of course Republicans in the state want an anti-government mood. Trouble is, everyone knows how badly the GOP has messed up at the federal level, and the Republican "brand" is severely tarnished.

If Republicans had been responsible at the state level over the years, and not insisted on trying to destroy state and local government, people might believe them. But they weren't, and a lot of Washingtonians have caught on to the scam.

The problem with being against government as a reason for being in politics is that eventually it becomes a psychotic form of self-hate for conservatives. Someone has to um, fix the bridges, you know.

If I'm hiring someone to work on my car I don't necessarily want to hire a mechanic who hates auto repair.

C-Tran could bear heavy load in bridge project

The Columbian reports on the possibility that C-Tran would run a transit system on a new I-5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver. Here's the article:
A high-capacity transit system expected to be part of a new Interstate 5 bridge would likely require C-Tran to ask voters to raise the sales tax.

How much money would be needed to operate and maintain the system is one of the many unknowns of the Columbia River Crossing project, along with the mode of transit - light rail or bus rapid transit - and what route the line would take through west Vancouver.

Nevertheless, a majority of Vancouver City Council members expressed their preference Monday for an option that calls for C-Tran to own and maintain the system.
There are still a lot of unknowns, as the article makes clear. And unknown costs are a potentially damaging thing, politically speaking.

There are tons of transportation wonks in the world who know a lot more than I do, but one key concept that always strikes me is that a transit system has to be somewhat comprehensive in order to be useful to large numbers of people. The service has to be frequent enough that people don't have to worry so much about getting back.

So in the case of Clark County, what this likely means is feeder bus routes serving a light rail or, less likely, a bus rapid transit system. (The main drawback of bus rapid transit being that, sooner or later, it winds up back on the existing roadway/freeway network, in the same traffic as everyone else.)

People have to perceive a benefit to even consider approving taxes to pay for stuff, be it schools, roads, libraries or transit service. The consensus among local leaders seems to be that the feds will require a clearly workable transit component in order to fund the bridge project.

So in a way, the entire I-5 bridge project rests on the ability of C-Tran (and thus the county and the cities) concocting an easily understood, practical system of feeder routes and winning approval at the ballot box.

And that means making it clear to people in relatively close-in but not downtown areas what their benefit will be. In the infamous 1995 light rail debacle, I certainly recall anecdotal comments that people felt they wouldn't be served at all by light rail, and the measure got creamed.

The down side is always expense, and I'm sure planners and officials are not looking to add to the expense, but you really have to make using public transportation easier for everyone through the use of bus shelters and cut-out lanes at stops to keep automobile traffic flowing. It's absurd to ask moms with small kids to stand in January rainstorms and it's absurd to bring busy arterial traffic to a halt with buses blocking travel lanes every two blocks.

Nobody said public policy was easy. That's why Vancouver City Council members' wages work out to three or four cents per hour, the greedy buggers.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Burner interview up at Postman's

David Postman has an interview with Darcy Burner up at Postman on Politics. Worth a read if you get the chance. For example, Postman writes in a transition paragraph:
Talking about being motivated to run for her son's sake rather than just to boot out Reichert and take a poke at the president is one way Burner will personalize her race. She also has very personal anecdotes at the ready that she hopes shows that the major issues of the day are not abstractions.
You don't have to be a political consultant to realize Burner was defined last time with the "just a Bush-hater" label. It's not true, but breaking out of those things can be difficult. Such is the game.

My other absolutely unsolicited and free comment about the Burner campaign is that they really have to hit back hard when the GOP and the Reichert campaign try again to paint her as unqualified. Because the idea that a woman of her achievement and ideas is somehow not qualified to be in Congress is, well, not only sexist on its face but insulting to all regular citizens. The repeated disparagement of her work career at Microsoft and, even worse, her motherhood, is asinine. Again, part of the game I guess.

So rather than "Darcy Burner 2.0," as Postman jokes in his post, maybe it should be "Professional Mom in Tennis Shoes 2.0."

Or something. I'll leave that part to the consultants, but it seems pretty clear in truth that she's running as Darcy Burner. More than good enough for this organization, I'm sure.

Now we're the angry white guys

This is funny. Kagro X, front-paging at The Great Orange Satan Blog, mocks the wingnuts:
Meanwhile, how hilarious is it that they think they're actually scoring points by smirking over stories that say the Yearly Kos gathering was mostly middle-aged white men?

Yes, I know they think they're mocking our commitment to diversity. Thank God they haven't got the presence of mind to realize that the real story is that middle-aged white men apparently now constitute the core of the "moonbat left."

Check your math, Karl.
So the way I see it, the "angry middle-aged white guys" from 1994 are now, to a large extent, old angry white guys. That's why Bill O'Reilly's median demographic is 96. So it's kind of an open question how well that sort of politics is going to play in the future. Depends.

It's just you, Alberto and Karl

Of course, concerns about FISA are overblown because this administration would never actually abuse its power (cough cough cough.)

From Firedoglake:
So you can be involved in totally innocent calls or e-mails with a friend or your cousin in London, and the government can spy on your communications without a warrant, without your knowledge and without the knolwedge or approval of the FISA court. You can’t get access to what they learned or what they did with that information. All you’ll know is that you or your friend/cousin/kid/colleague can’t get on a plane. Or someone disappears. Oh, and as a result of the 6th Circuit Court overturning a District Court’s ruling that the original TSP was unconstitutional, you don’t have standing to challenge this wholesale evisceration of the 4th Amendment. No court review; just Alberto and Rove.

Bear in mind that every time you open up the comments section of Firedoglake, you are in communication with other readers in other countries. Facebook is now a venue for spying. Or maybe your kids are traveling in Europe and want to call or e-mail home. Or you order something from a Danish firm. Would you trust Alberto Gonzales to decide whether spying on you was reasonable, knowing he never had to be accountable to anyone? Do you trust Karl Rove to deal with the information they gather?
FISA, indeed, sucks.

My crystal ball has been wiretapped, so I'm not going to use it, but this presents something of a serious challenge for Pelosi and Reid. Someone better get that impeachment machine going, at least on Gonzales.

Funny thing about my rights (and yours.) They belong to us, and they aren't eliminated because George W. Bush or Alberto Gonzales or some idiot Blue Sheep Democrat thinks they are eliminated. Our rights were endowed to us by our Creator, and are unalienable.

Or so I read somewhere. Those crazy Islamo-Founding-Fathers anyhow.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Darcy on FISA

Via Eschaton, Darcy Burner has something to say about the FISA travesty.

As Howard Cosell used to say, that's telling it like it is. No use mincing words, the Democrats who voted for it (and all but two Republicans) have voted to usurp the Bill of Rights.

Funny thing about the Constitution: it still exists, even when Blue Dogs and Republicans stamp their grubby, corrupt feet all over it. There are plenty of us who remember the Constitution, and what it stands for. People who swear oaths to defend it and then do things like the FISA bill have no business being entrusted with anything.

Ironically, of course, when they trample the Constitution, the terrorists win. So good on Burner for stating the plain truth.

Live from Chicago: Relive the YearlyKos Presidential Leadership Forum

If you missed yesterday's groundbreaking Presidential Leadership Forum in Chicago with Dodd, Obama, Clinton, Richardson, Gravel, Edwards, and Kucinich, you can relive the event thanks to the hard work of PoliticsTV.

It's also on YouTube itself, divided up by section:

Intro | Part I | Part II | Part III

We're at the Bloggers' Brunch, the final part of the YearlyKos Convention, and we're listening to a panel with representatives of some of the most visited blogs.

Competitive birthing

NPR had a story this morning that is at turns poignant, outrageous and creepy. It concerns how birth rates have shot up among the ultra-wealthy, with the fourth baby being used as something of a status symbol.
Some say the trend is driven by a generation of over-achieving career women who have quit work and transferred all of their competitive energy to baby making.

They call it "competitive birthing."
What really struck me was how one woman who was interviewed agreed that having lots of babies helped justify her decision to be a stay at home parent, because she "wasn't working."

Think about that a minute. She presumably already had three kids she took care of full time, and she still needed to justify her existence. Guess that Ivy League education didn't include any women's studies after all. How sad. I don't care if you're "only" taking care of one child, it's work, even if our society traditionally treats caregivers badly and gives little economic value to the effort.

The other obvious part of the story was how this trend seems to be limited to a narrow slice, as NPR put it, of the population who can afford large houses in places like Connecticut. In other words, income inequality has unexpected consequences.

How many children to have is a very personal decision, of course, and many factors affect that decision. Sometimes it's not a decision that humans get to make, as not everyone gets to plan exactly how things work out. Some couples struggle to conceive, some women have miscarriages, and so on. So the idea of having babies as a status symbol certainly seems rather whacked out to me.

There are tons of positive reasons to have kids, but "trophy child" doesn't sound like a recipe for a positive outcome. At least the super-rich can afford analysts.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Live from Chicago: The Last YearlyKos

We just finished up the closing keynote session this evening, during which YearlyKos Executive Director Gina Cooper that tomorrow would mark the end of the second and last YearlyKos Convention. It's the end of an era for this movement.

But before our right wing readers cheer or snicker at this news - I have a second announcement to convey. YearlyKos may be going away, but this event will not. It will continue as The Netroots Nation Convention.

Hopefully this will mean the end of the traditional press articles that have incorrectly credited Markos with conceiving this remarkable, unique political gathering which, as Gina put it, has "outgrown one URL."

Markos will probably post his keynote speech tonight, so rather than summarize what he said, I'll post a copy of his prepared remarks after he makes them public.

UPDATE: Here it is. You already got a snippet from stilwell.
We are a community.

We celebrate our successes. Like the two marriages that have emerged from the Daily Kos community.

My wife, who has has the two most documented pregnancies in history with Ari, and this year with Eli.

And you’ve shared your happy moments as well with your pictures. Of your babies. And your cats.

We also grieve together.

This year we lost valued community members Station Wagon and Jay C.

Jim Capozzola of the Rittenhouse Review was an early pioneer of this medium, a friend and mentor to many bloggers in these first lonely days.

Steve Gilliard was one of the first Daily Kos contributing editors, proprietor of the News Blog. A friend, an ally, sometimes a critic, and a voice I miss desperately every single day.

Now tradition dictates that at times like these we observe a moment of silence.

But we’re activists. We don’t do silence.

So wherever they may be, let’s thank them, loudly, to let them know we will always be fighting the fight that they dedicated their lives to, and that we will carry on.

---
I’m given a great deal of credit for our movement’s success.
But let’s be brutally honest –
what I’ve done is... build a website.

Let me say that again –
my chief accomplishment the past five years has been
building a website.

I simply provided a safe haven for progressives to meet ...
and then a beautiful thing happened.

Without my planning or prodding, You started organizing.

You started talking to each other and deciding, on your own,
to take charge of your politics.

You began a conversation about the direction of our country.

Scorned and ridiculed (when not downright ignored)
You continued to speak to each other.

Today, your views – once framed by the powers that be as naive and out of touch – are now shared by a majority of Americans.

Your early conversations have become the national conversation.

But it wasn’t just talking...

You decided that it was no longer enough to watch a 30-second political ad, or simply to hit the polls on Election Day.

You realized that our nation wasn’t going to fix itself,
We couldn’t depend on our Democratic Party to save us.

The media was AWOL.

We shared a common disgust at the irrelevance of our once proud party and its allied organizations.

But what could we do?

We were nobodies.

And you had to be somebody to change the world, didn’t you?

I was a nobody.

I grew up in El Salvador, but my family fled the country to avoid its vicious civil war.

I was a mess of a teenager.
I was short and looked far too young for my age.
I barely spoke English.
I was a nerd.

And if that wasn’t bad enough...

I was a Republican.

I joined the United States Army in 1989.
I served my nation, during the gulf war, and in return,
my nation provided me with a college education,
with self-confidence,
and with a sense of duty to my fellow man.

Those who wore combat boots looked out for each other.
We took responsibility for each other.

This is how I wanted to live my life.
And as such, I could no longer be a Republican.

So there I was... a newly minted Democrat,
But, an inconsequential one.

I got a solid education at a public university just 80 miles west of here, Northern Illinois University.
I attended law school in Boston.
Ended up in California with a new wife,
working a good but unremarkable job.

People like me could spend hours talking about politics,
but it mattered little in the greater scheme of things.

Then technology changed everything.

Whether it was blogs, or podcasting,
or social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook,
or MoveOn,
or YouTube,
people quickly adopted myriad communication technologies emerging from the web and turned them to political purposes.

Millions did so.

And while individually we were still nobodies,
together, we became ... somebody.

A very important somebody.

And that makes some people very uncomfortable.

Like David Broder.
Joe Klein
Robert Novak

Bill O’Reilly

Echoing what so many of his colleagues think, Bill Kristol on Fox News was outraged that anyone would take us seriously. He called me a, " left-wing blogger who was not respectable three or four years ago.”

And he was right. In their world, I wasn’t “respectable”.
None of us were.

As our good friend Atrios likes to say,
We weren’t “very serious people.”

You see, we weren’t stupid and gullible enough to fall for the administration’s lies on Iraq.

Those “respectable” people couldn’t stop praising Bush for being “bold,” and “resolute”.

They fueled what has now become the biggest foreign policy debacle in American history.

They told us to capitulate to Republicans on Iraq in 2002 and 2004.

Democrats listened... and lost.

They said us crazy bloggers were pushing the party to the left, and that our increasing influence would doom Democrats to electoral defeat in 2006 and beyond.

David Brooks in The NY Times wrote in 2005 that thanks to bloggers – those rabid flying venomous sheep - Democrats would be sure to carry just Berkeley for decades to come.

Many Democrats nodded along in agreement.

Did we listen? No.

In 2006, those respectable people said Democrats couldn’t win unless they continued cheerleading that war.

Did we listen? (No)
We weren’t that stupid.

The respectable people said that electing Howard Dean chair of the Democratic Party would doom us to perpetual minority status.

Did we listen? (No)

They said that we had to privatize social security.

Did we listen? (No)

They told us we should fear “San Francisco Liberal” Nancy Pelosi.

Did we listen? (No)

They said there was nothing nefarious about the outing of Valerie Plame.

Did we listen? (No)

They said targeting Joe Lieberman would cost us the Senate.

Did we listen? (No)

No we didn’t listen. Of course not.

And then
in 2006,
we won.

Blogger Oliver Willis recently put it perfectly:
“I used to believe that a lot of these people were just talking over my head, their discourse too lofty for a regular guy like myself. But that isn't true.
They're just stupid.”

Still Brooks continues to be wrong. After the election he said Democrats “will have to show they have not been taken over by their bloggers or their economic nationalists, who will alienate them from the suburban office park moms.”

“Suburban office park moms”? Who writes this stuff?

Are we going to listen?

Of course we’re not going to listen.

We learned to tune out the likes of David Broder and Joe Klein years ago. But what’s amazing is that we’re no longer alone.

While we were once lonely voices on the outside, people on the inside have discovered that we’re not so scary after all,
that they don’t need to fear us.

We’ll get our hands dirty. We’ll deliver results.
And they’ve learned that, quite frankly,
We tend to have a habit of actually being right about things.

Still, there’s a lot more to this movement than being right.
The hallmark of this movement is the leaders it generates.

It’s a movement that continuously refreshes itself, taking advantage of its democratizing infrastructure to give anyone with the right idea and passion a chance to change the world.

It’s a world in which the gatekeepers in the traditional media,
political and activist establishments can be easily bypassed.

It doesn’t matter whether the elite think we are respectable or not. They have no right to judge us.

It is those leaders – YOU -- who are changing your country.

Me? I’m just a guy who built a website.

You – the thousands of YOU -- have taken hold of Daily Kos
and so many great sites like it to become your own leaders.

YOU are running for office.

YOU are walking precincts.

YOU are making campaign phone calls, talking to neighbors, families, co-workers –

YOU are bringing passion back to true progressivism.

YOU are building the institutions of our new progressive movement – MoveOn, Democracy for America, ActBlue, TPM Media, SoapBlox ...

The culture of entrepreneurship you’ve created will provide the foundation for our future progressive majority.

Just a year ago, we were a freakish curiosity.

I stood before you at the first YearlyKos conference and declared that we “had arrived”.

People snickered and mocked me.
Those reporters at the back of the room.
They were laughing at me.
They were laughing at us.

But then Ned Lamont kicked Joe Lieberman out of the Democratic Party.

And how about people-powered Jon Tester and Jim Webb?

We helped recruit them into the race, helped them win tough primary races, and pushed them over the finish line.

It was fitting that their early morning razor-thin victories – those victories that the netroots fueled -- gave Democrats control of the Senate.

In the House, dozens of candidates with strong netroots support won their races, others came shockingly close.

In Massachussetts, the people-powered movement helped elect the state’s first African American governor, Deval Patrick.

And suddenly, we were no longer a curiosity,
We are effective.

We delivered victories that were born of our passionate political conversations.

And now?

We are a full-fledged partner in the progressive coalition.

We have gathered here in my hometown, Chicago,
to celebrate not just with ourselves,
but with our allies in the labor movement,
our friends in the issue groups, and our party leadership.

Last night we were treated to the next generation of people-powered candidates. And weren’t they incredible?

Earlier today, we had a conversation with the next president of the United States of America.

Like any movement, we are maturing.
We threw stones, got people’s attention, and
perhaps a bit surprisingly, they listened.

That early hostility – based on substantive differences –
is now giving way to new respect and trust.

None of us in this new coalition –
the netroots activists, the issue groups, the party officials – None of us can win on our own.

And we don’t need to.

We have each other.

And yet, seeing all that we’ve accomplished,
I still can’t believe that this all started with a bunch of frustrated progressives hacking away at computer keyboards.

I’m often asked if I knew what I was doing when I first started Daily Kos.

Of course not.
I’m not that smart.

This was never my intent.
It wasn’t some brilliant master plan.

I had no idea that our country was full of natural leaders,
all looking for a way to get involved.

I simply built a website.

It was you who built the netroots.

And together all of us will build a true progressive America.

Thank you.
Well done, Markos. Heartfelt and truly appreciated.

Link to keynote comments by Markos

So at the risk of stealing Andrew's thunder, I thought I would post a link to Markos's keynote comments. For example:
It doesn’t matter whether the elite think we are respectable or not. They have no right to judge us.

It is those leaders – YOU -- who are changing your country.

Me? I’m just a guy who built a website.

You – the thousands of YOU -- have taken hold of Daily Kos
and so many great sites like it to become your own leaders.

YOU are running for office.

YOU are walking precincts.

YOU are making campaign phone calls, talking to neighbors, families, co-workers –

YOU are bringing passion back to true progressivism.
I wish this guy would back off some, I'm tired of him telling us what to do.

Riffing

So Jimmy riffs on Goldy who riffs on Chris Cilliza about how we're doing. Namely, very well. From The Fix:
Renowned Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg had some advice for the progressive bloggers gathered here for the second annual YearlyKos convention: Think big.

As in, big gains for Democrats in both the House and the Senate in 2008. "Do not think conservatively," said Greenberg during a panel discussion on the impact of Iraq on polling and the coming election. "The idea of a 50-seat-plus majority is real."
As a somewhat random observation, I would posit that Darcy Burner is incredibly special because she, in essence, took one for the team in 2006. Her campaign drew massive amounts of resources away from other races and helped ensure the Democratic victory in 2006.

While Eric Earling worked in Washington, D.C., I worked in Washington state on political campaigns, mostly as a volunteer. And I can tell you first-hand there are very few candidates at any level who care about much beyond their own fortunes. So they can diss Darcy all they want, by election day 2008 the Reichert campaign could be in very deep trouble.

As for Rodney Tom, well, I don't honestly know. Probably a nice guy. Not exactly sure why some folks want to support him, but it is a democracy. Make a case and I'll listen. Obviously NPI has supported Burner and is still supporting her.

Hillary and lobbyists the emerging story

So the emerging traditional media narrative from the Yearly Kos presidential forum is that Hillary defended lobbyists. It's an interesting and probably smart move on her part. Not exactly "Sista Souljah" but she was both nice and mean to the Dirty Hippie Bloggers:
CHICAGO - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton refused Saturday to forsake campaign donations from lobbyists, turning aside challenges from her two main rivals with a rare defense of the special interest industry.

"A lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans, they actually do," Clinton said, drawing boos and hisses from liberal bloggers at the second Yearly Kos convention.

Despite their own infatuations with special interest money, former Sen. John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama put Clinton on the spot during a debate that featured seven of the eight major Democratic presidential candidates. They fielded questions from a crowd of 1,500 bloggers, most of them liberal. The gathering marked another advancement for the rising new wing of the Democratic Party, the so-called netroots.
What's hard to get at in the discussion of "special interests" is any sense of the relative power held by different industries and lobbying groups. The argument always seems to break down on that point.

Big Pharma is a lot more powerful than some two person shop advocating for human rights, for example.

While it's true that there is some responsiveness in the system, it's also true that we still live in a media environment that whip-saws the public around based on the latest big story/outrage/GOP talking point.

To exaggerate and distort for effect, in summer 2001 the Kill the Sharks Lobby had scored a great PR coup. Today, all tragedy duly noted, the Build Better Bridges Association is doing well. Tomorrow, who knows. The Republican Party is sadly expert at glomming on to tragedy.

This is no way to make public policy. In any case, all the candidates endorsed in principle the idea of public financing of campaigns, with Clinton correctly noting it would take a Constitutional amendment.

Frankly, I'm still leery of a Clinton nomination, but she's done well lately. I didn't see anyone on that stage (admittedly via choppy video link) that can beat her. Just offering my impression. We have some very fine candidates, but Clinton is still the one to beat, IMHO.

Mad Lib for Eric

OK, I'm waiting for video to be uploaded from Chicago, and frankly it's getting a wee bit boring. So for fun (and we're all friends here in the blogosphere, Republicans and Democrats, you know) here are some Mad-Libs for Eric Earling of unSoundPolitics This way he can just program them into his 'puter and dispense with actual um, work.

Mad-Libs for Eric Earling

[Name of progressive blogger] is [someone I respect, someone whose opinions I sometimes agree with, someone who I like to sandbag, someone who ignores me,} but [name of other progressive blogger] is [stupid, inexperienced, librul, likes Darcy Burner] and I can't [make a good case but I'll try anyhow, stand it so I'll be insulting.]

Did I mention I used to [work in Washington, D.C., work in Washington, D.C., work in Washington, D.C., work in Washington, D.C.?] When I [worked in Washington, D.C., worked in Washington, D.C., worked in Washington, D.C., worked in Washington, D.C.] I observed that [I was working in Washington, D.C., working in Washington, D.C., working in the nation's Capitol.] I have never heard of [an argument from authority, a logical fallacy, John Maynard Keynes.]

I like to vacation sometimes in [Washington, D.C., the nation's Capitol, Alexandria, Va.] The netroots is [the nutroots, nutty, crazy, whacky, nutty, full of the people I dissed in high school and now none of them talk to me any more, especially that one girl I miss her.]

Just kidding around, Eric. Have a nice weekend.

Live from Chicago: Forum reaction

The traditional media had our leadership forum well covered. Here's a sampling of what the press are writing about the event. First, a nod to the New York Times - here's a short excerpt from The Caucus:
That concluded perhaps the most spirited and vigorous encounter of the Democratic candidates yet.

[...]

We caught up with Joan McCarter, a contributing editor to
DailyKos and one of the moderators of the panel. She was thrilled with the way it went, saying the candidates seemed to feed off the energy in the room.

She said the moderators were aiming for a more sophisticated debate than what transpired on YouTube last month, in which candidates were asked questions via video submitted by the public.

“We wanted to reflect that we have a highly involved, high-information audience, and we wanted to reflect their concerns,” she said.

The exchange on lobbyists and whether the candidates would accept their money, she said, “was one of the most honest moments we’ve had.”
The AP's Ron Fournier analyzes the impact of the netroots community:
The Kos convention is a sign of the times.

Gone are the days when candidates and political parties could talk to passive voters through mass media, largely controlling what messages were distributed, how the messages went out and who heard them. The Internet has helped create millions of media outlets and given anyone the power to express an opinion or disseminate information in a global forum, and connect with others who have similar interests.
And The Fix chimes in on the high and low points for each contender:
Seven of the eight Democratic candidates for president just spent 90 rollicking minutes answering questions and -- occasionally -- jabbing each other in the marquee event of this year's YearlyKos gathering.

The crowd, which packed into a ballroom at the McCormick Convention Center, was vocally involved throughout the forum. Wild cheering dominated but a few candidates were greeted with stony silence or even booing and hissing.
I'll try and post more reaction later tonight.

Live from Chicago: The YearlyKos Presidential Leadership Forum

I'm sitting in the grand ballroom listening to YearlyKos Executive Director Gina Cooper introduce the moderators for our groundbreaking Presidential Leadership Forum this afternoon (Matt Bai and our very own Joan McCarter!). I will update this post throughout the event, and I invite you to turn on your television to C-SPAN/CNN or watch online via UStream and follow along with us.

Here we go!

UPDATE I: The first questions have been directed at Governor Richardson and Senator Dodd, concerning Bush's appointments to the Supreme Court (Roberts and Alito) asking whether the candidates would vote in favor of another right wing Bush appointee to the high court. (Both candidates said they felt deceived by Roberts and Alito and vowed to have high standards for their own nominees).

UPDATE II: Senator Clinton has just been asked about the healthcare battle in the 1990s (she feels she has learned valuable lessons there) and Senator Obama was asked about the difficulty of investing in healthcare, education, and other progressive priorities without going further into debt.

Obama believes that investment and fiscal responsibility are both simultaneously possible, as does Edwards, who followed up the question and thanked the netroots community for being a force for change. Richardson stressed his experience at balancing state budgets and criticized Edwards and Obama for putting too many promises on the table.

UPDATE III: First question from the audience is about media consolidation and Murdoch's News Corp/Dow Jones deal, directed to Senator Dodd. It is very cool to see Jeffrey Feldman go out into the audience and hand the mic to actual members of our community who then ask the questions. Dodd responded by saying he had written the Justice Department with his concerns about the deal and outlined his opposition to big media. Senator Clinton followed by emphasizing the importance of media competition but did not go into details.

UPDATE IV: Kucinich just talked about his belief in a universal, not for profit health care system. Edwards followed and discussed what he will do in his first few days of office, drawing rousing applause and cheers by declaring that America belongs to its people and government should be open. He denounced Washington lobbyists and their audience, drawing huge applause.

Gravel got one question before the end of the domestic policy of the debate (about his support for a regressive national sales tax). and gave a rather bizarre answer. He declared that it would never pass Congress so it was irrelevant and then went on to criticize the other candidates, America's electoral system, and the entire democratic political process in the United States.

UPDATE V: The candidates are now talking about Iraq. Senator Clinton went first and gave the answer you'd expect - yes, we need to withdraw, yes, I have a three point plan to do it, I will start that process if elected. Kucinich followed and insisted Congress can use the budget to force a pullout - and if the Bush administration puts up a big fight, impeach Cheney (and then Bush).

Richardson jumped in and said he had a one point plan - get out - and stated his belief he could do it in six months. Gravel insisted that Senate Democrats could back the Republicans into a corner by holding constant cloture votes on Iraq legislation to force the GOP senators to buckle.

Senator Obama has just been asked about anti-Americanism abroad. He reiterated his opposition to the Iraq debacle and spoke of the need to pursue those who perpetrated September 11th rather than invading other countries that did not attack us.

Senator Edwards just denounced the "war on terror" frame. Senator Clinton followed by stating her belief that the real feeling abroad is anti-Bush sentiment, not anti-American sentiment.

UPDATE VI: Senator Obama was asked about our relationship with China. He believes it is important that we get out of the current situation where China is our banker and we are in their debt. Working with China, Obama said, will require an administration committed to diplomacy.

Senator Dodd spoke next about putting strength back into goodwill programs that are desperately needed - such as the Peace Corps.

Governor Richardson and Senator Edwards answered a question about dealing with Pakistan. Diplomacy and negotiation is important, but America must not be afraid to act, they said.

UPDATE VII: We're on to the philosophy and values portion of the debate. The candidates were first - asked about hiring a campaign blogger (all said they would, except Gravel who declared he would do it himself. Edwards said Elizabeth Edwards would be his choice) and visiting all fifty states in their campaign (Gravel, Kucinich, Edwards, Obama said yes, Clinton said maybe, but she supports Dean's fifty state strategy and engaging American citizens in a conversation).

Richardson also likes Dean's work, particularly his efforts to strengthen state parties, and said same day registration and verifiable paper trails were needed.

Edwards reiterated his and Barack Obama's stance on campaign finance. Clinton disagreed with Edwards' "no money from Washington lobbyists" position, drawing boos and hisses. Senator Dodd called for public financing of elections and received a standing ovation, all the candidates said they were for it.

Obama then sharply challenged Clinton and made a point of his disagreement with her policy of accepting lobbyist money. He was loudly cheered.

(Clinton stated later she would introduce a constitutional amendment to implement public financing for elections).

The candidates were asked about reforming the executive branch. Obama will stop the revolving door of White House appointees writing policy that benefits future private sector employers. Richardson will reform Homeland Security and put FEMA directly under the president.

Clinton would also shake up the department and reform it. Dodd will issue executive orders on the first day to reverse regressive Bush policies.

Richardson has the final word. He will respect the Constitution and work with a Vice President who is a member of the executive branch.

And that's it! Forum over! Great job by Joan, Matt, and Jeffrey. Wow, what a different experience. It was lively, it was fun, and it was definitely not staged.

Convention Multimedia Choices - See Photos and Video

Live from Not at Yearly Kos: Streaming video will have to do

So our Executive Director, Mr. Villeneuve, said those of us holding down the fort back here in the northwest could watch some of the Yearly Kos convention after the carpets at NPI Tower were cleaned.

So it took me to 3 am, but yeah, I just returned the Rug Doctor.

Since today is the big presidential candidate day at the convention, I checked C-SPAN's schedule and can find no mention of Yearly Kos. To be fair, I will note that the House is unexpectedly in session, so that could have something to do with it. I suppose it's likely a lot of the convention will be shown on tape delay. If I'm not mistaken, C-SPAN managed to show Anne Coulter hurling epithets live at the CPAC Conference. Funny how this always comes out, huh?

Well, there's always streaming video, which you'll notice can be quickly obtained by clicking on the big "Ustream" button at the end of one of Mr. Villeneuve's posts. For example, see here.

Personal to Mr. Villeneuve: the dry cleaners was closed this morning. Sorry, you'll have to pick up the Italian suit that Mr. Soros gave you when you return.

I notice they've added a couple of niceties to the streaming video feed, like some jazz music between "shows" and a countdown clock. According to the graphics on it right now, coming up soon should be Hillary Clinton.

UPDATE 10:16 AM PDT: (Streaming video will not do, after all.) I swear, the feed was working fine during the "Rebuilding New Orleans" forum about a half an hour ago. Perhaps demand has overloaded the hamsters, but about the time Hillary Clinton was supposed to appear the feed went "off-air." A shame, but maybe it will clear up.

UPDATE 2 10:29 AM PDT: (Go figure) Hillary appears by going to the main Ustream.tv page.

UPDATE 3 10:58 AM PDT: Now the main Ustream.tv page has switched to some talk radio host somewhere. So hopefully the Yearly Kos feed will hold up for the presidential forum, which is supposed to start in a few minutes. Whew! We should just buy some cable networks, really.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Was there a FISA deal?

Via TPMMuckraker comes this nugget about George W. Bush's posturing on the FISA bill. Problem is, Bush still has quite the accuracy problem when it comes to public statements. Earlier today Bush appeared at FBI headquarters to posture and claim that Democrats haven't produced an acceptable bill.
There's only one problem with Bush's statement: it isn't true.

A key Democrat in the negotiations, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), says that a deal had in fact been reached with McConnell, who has been busy lobbying Congress on a FISA update all week. "We had an agreement with DNI McConnell," Hoyer spokeswoman Stacey Bernards tells TPMmuckraker, "and then the White House quashed the agreement."

A bill that House Democrats put forward today does not require the National Security Agency to seek warrants for surveillance of persons inside the United States -- only that the Attorney General will issue "guidelines" as to how collecting the communications of U.S. persons should operate.
Sigh. The George W. Bush administration: bitter, deceitful and untrustworthy to the very end.

I'm sure members of Congress wish to depart for recess, but most Americans aren't going to shed a lot of tears for them if they don't. Why Bush is behaving this way is unclear to me. Maybe like every other Republican in the country he's being boorish because it's finally dawned on him just how unpopular the GOP has become.

I'm watching C-SPAN right now and Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio has created bedlam in the body by attempting to introduce a resolution condemning John Murtha for something or other. It's crazy.

Live from Chicago: More on the DNC's new election protection program

Here's an excerpt from a press release sent out by the national Democratic Party outlining the new election protection program that Governor Dean spoke of last night:
As the 42nd anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act approaches, the Democratic National Committee today announced its unprecedented 50-state election protection effort to prepare for the 2008 election.

When signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson said that the "right to vote is the basic right without which all others are meaningless. It gives people, people as individuals, control over their own destinies."

But nearly 42 years after the signing of this legislation, the right to vote is still under assault.

Through its 50 State Strategy, Voting Rights Institute and National Lawyers Council, the DNC is conducting an in-depth nationwide survey to collect critical data on voting practices and procedures at the local level.

The goal of the project is to map the often confusing and complex sets of administrative practices and decisions governing election administration in every state. Working with local election boards, the DNC is examining the election mechanics in each state, flagging potential problems and election administration issues that threaten to deprive citizens of their right to register, vote and have their vote counted.

Once these issues are identified, the DNC will work to resolve potential problems well in advance of the 2008 election.

Election laws, while written on the federal and state level, are often subject to interpretation at the local level.

This decentralized process results in varied administration and supervision of the elections themselves, which can be potentially problematic considering that in 2008, there will be at least 13,000 elections run by localities.

No organization has ever undertaken a project of this magnitude. This project is made possible through the DNC's 50 State Strategy, which has had staff on the ground in every state for almost two years.

With very specific questions, the survey covers topics such as voter registration, centralized voter databases, voting systems and absentee voting, provisional balloting, polling place procedures and Election Day preparation.

This survey is just one part of a comprehensive program on the part of the DNC to ensure that every American's right to vote and have that vote counted is protected. Data collected from the survey will be analyzed to determine the needs of each election locality and next steps for strengthening the election process in that locality.

In addition to this project, the DNC will continue its efforts to resolve the identified issues throughout next year, continue to organize its network of lawyers in the states through the DNC's Voting Rights Institute/National Lawyers Council and will run the most extensive voter protection program throughout the country for the 2008 general election.
The national party has already come a long way after just two years of leadership under Chairman Dean. Our message to him is simple: Keep up the great work.

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Live from Chicago: Clinton mixup resolved, Hillary to participate in breakout

Everyone can be happy now:
Our campaign made clear over a week ago that Hillary would be participating in the forum but would not be able to make the breakout session. Ann Lewis, a senior advisor to the campaign and the director of women's outreach, was due to conduct the breakout. However, after seeing the mix-up, and knowing that the organizers have worked very hard to pull together a great event, Hillary asked her staff to rearrange her schedule and we have been working with the organizers since early this morning to work out the details.

Hillary will now join the breakout session for a good portion of the time. Ann Lewis and other senior staffers will conduct the remainder of the session.
A little patience and empathy goes a long way.

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Always a Chinese recall

Fresh on the heels of a massive toy recall over lead paint concerns comes another safety recall of products made in China. From the P-I:
The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Raleigh bicycle company of Kent are recalling some bikes because the forks can break. Three injuries have been reported. The recall involves 1,200 of the 2007 Raleigh Cadent bicycles with Carbonage carbon forks.

The state attorney general's office says more than 1,600 defective Chinese-made tires were sold in Union Gap and Spokane. The SUV, truck and van tires were sold under the brand names Compass, Westlake and YKS.

The tires were imported and distributed nationwide by New Jersey-based Foreign Tire Sales. They have been recalled because threads may fall apart.
This is becoming ridiculous. Not only did we engage in a race to the economic bottom thanks to price pressure applied by unethical corporations like Wal-Mart that forced manufacturing to China, our health and safety is continually threatened thanks to the authoritarian capitalist regime there.

But man, if you don't shop at Wal-Mart to buy your cheap Chinese plastic crud, you're nuts! If the stuff is going to poison or maim you, you might as well save a buck. That way you'll have more money to pay for the health care you'll need because you don't have insurance.

Live from Chicago: Press coverage of YearlyKos

Devilstower has a front page post at DailyKos outlining some of the stories in the traditional media about YearlyKos. If you're interested in what traditional media are saying about the convention, be sure to follow the link.

Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly, who is here in Chicago with us, mentions me in his column this morning:
CHICAGO -- With just a hint of I-told-you-so, Redmond blogger-activist Andrew Villeneuve e-mailed me the news last month: "Hillary Clinton to attend YearlyKos."

The candidate, whose husband once courted centrist Democrats, was agreeing to display her wares to the anti-war, insurgent "Net roots" of the Democratic Party. Five other presidential hopefuls will also be on hand here for this weekend's convention. Not one of them made the just-ended convention of the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist outfit that Bill Clinton used as a path to power.

The Internet has become a major force in American politics.
It's a fine piece of writing from Joel - I urge you to read the whole thing, and then read it again. I have been telling friends and political observers for months that I thought Hillary Clinton could not afford to pass up our YearlyKos Convention. And sure enough, she didn't.

There has been some confusion here about Hillary's non-participation in the presidential forum breakouts. Hillary is definitely participating in the general part of the forum with all the other confirmed candidates. But she is sending an adviser to lead her breakout session tomorrow. Why we're not exactly sure, but apparently the senator's schedule is tight.

This announcement was made late last night by convention organizers and received a very negative reaction. YearlyKos Executive Director Gina Cooper has insisted it is a misunderstanding and that Senator Clinton did not jilt the community by deciding to bail out of a breakout as the last moment. Gina said in a diary last night that Senator Clinton's campaign was "never under the impression that Senator Clinton would be attending" the breakout.

I asked Gina about the whole business when I saw her this morning, and all she would say is that it is developing. I gather they're trying to sort out the various exchanges that have occurred between the YearlyKos team and Senator Clinton's campaign staff. Given the number of people involved, I can understand how a mistake was made. I think a little more empathy and patience from attendees would be really beneficial. Let's not overreact.

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Roads & Transit an imperative investment in public infrastructure

I might as well do a little blogging while I enjoy some breakfast, so here is the first of a few news items I want to point out. This is not a convention post.

The P-I has a story this morning about how the Minneapolis bridge disaster may help the Roads & Transit package this fall by reminding voters about how fragile our infrastructure is. Senator Ed Murray was quoted as saying he believes the disaster story will help "100 percent".

One hundred percent? This is a curious statement given that polling from different firms has consistently shown high support for the package for months now.

I personally find Murray's attitude a little strange. He seems to be almost cheerful about the tragedy's potential to help convince voters to support RTID and Sound Transit 2, which includes a major expansion of light rail. (Incidentally, Murray has not been a big supporter of the package. He has in the last few months questioned the feasibility of East Link, the projects in RTID, and the financing.)

Minneapolis is undoubtedly a reminder about the importance of public investment, just as Hurricane Katrina was in 2005. Highways and bridges, once built, don't last forever. The bridge collapse has resulted in a flurry of newspaper articles in major American cities discussing the vulnerability of local bridges. I've seen such articles in the Chicago and New York press, besides Seattle's.

We ran a series on the blog in 2005 - Disaster Picture of the Week - which documented visually the consequences of tax cutting and not replacing outdated infrastructure. The series showed what has happened to other cities after they were hit by earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other disasters. That series helped contribute to the defeat of Initiative 912 in November 2005.

This tragedy did not have to happen. The danger was known:
Minnesota officials were warned as early as 1990 that the bridge that collapsed into the Mississippi River in Minneapolis was "structurally deficient," yet they relied on a strategy of patchwork fixes and stepped-up inspections.
Safety doesn't come cheaply. Quality infrastructure costs money. If we the taxpayers don't want to drive on dangerous bridges then we must pay to replace them. The right wing prefers to ignore this inconvenient truth:
Governor Pawlenty named Hero of the Taxpayer for May
16 MAY 2005 - Americans for Tax Reform News Release

In a frenetic session this year, the Minnesota Legislature is considering the largest tax increases in Minnesota’s history. The Senate just passed by party line vote a whooping [sic] $1.3 billion tax increase package. While the House budget did not include tax increases, the House in a separate bill voted to pass a gas tax increase which would boost the state’s gas tax from the current 20 cents per gallon to 30 cents by 2008.

Governor Pawlenty has stated publicly that he would use his veto power if the tax increases reach his desk. “Governor Pawlenty deserves a big pat on the back from the taxpayers of Minnesota,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “In opposing these taxes, the Governor has his constituents’ best interests in mind. He understands that grabbing more money from businesses, home owners, and motorists, would stagnate economic growth and cost jobs.”
Guess what, Grover? Not replacing that bridge cost lives. Human lives! People were injured, property was damaged, American citizens were killed. We saw this in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans under water - your vision of government drowning in a bathtub literally fulfilled.

Dangerous roadways should not be kept open for people to drive on. We have long urged Governor Gregoire and WSDOT to begin a shutdown of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and demolish the structure to prevent the possibility of a waterfront calamity. It's good that we have revenue in place to start funding a replacement. But the viaduct has to go. We have an opportunity with RTID to approve more funding for the SR 520 floating bridge replacement this fall. That's another vulnerable structure that needs to go.

These are not easy investments to make. It is true that dollars are often scarce at the state level. While that's no excuse, it is ridiculous that we are wasting billions in Iraq - a quagmire that the right wing continues to unapologetically support, at the same time that bridges are collapsing back here at home because needs have been unmet. Needs that the right wing does not want to take care of.

They oppose collecting the required revenue.

When you get your ballot this November, you have a choice. You can support a long range plan that will improve our transportation system and bring us rapid transit, or you can support doing nothing. Think about the impact your no vote could have in the future, and you can see the choice is an easy one. Vote yes.

Live from Chicago: General Clark introduced

General Wesley Clark is our featured keynote speaker this morning, and he is delivering a solemn address on the importance and necessity of getting out of Iraq, improving our nation's healthcare system, and replacing George W. Bush with a progressive leader. Clark noted that American interests or concerns in the Middle East cannot be ignored in the creation of a withdrawal strategy.

He drew loud applause when he praised American troops for faithfully serving their county and doing their best to carry out a failed policy that George W. Bush and Republicans like Dave Reichert stubbornly cling to.

"It's time to engage. The Bush administration says we don't have enough leverage. We're the most powerful nation in the world...Let's give our troops the kind of diplomatic support they need."

Warning against a potential military conflict with Iran, Clark said:

"I'm not saying Iran is a serious problem...but remember the rule: the use of force is only, only, only as a last, last resort."

Clark then became more forceful later in his speech as he shouted:

I want you to say, MR. PRESIDENT, STOP HIDING BEHIND DAVE PETRAEUS. Come out and defend your own strategy!"

(Naturally, this comment was met with a standing ovation).

"Our country needs innovation...Our roads need repair [referencing the tragedy in Minneapolis earlier this week]. And there's a long list of things we need to do for our country and the world that we can't do until we get out of Iraq...I'm looking to you...this community...help put the intelligence in U.S. foreign policy. Help put the intelligence in this debate."

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Live from Chicago: Dean's keynote address

Governor Howard Dean, Chairman of the DNC, is now delivering his keynote address to convention attendees. Dean just announced a new DNC program to prepare a handbook for Democratic candidates on problems with local election systems so that the party can be prepared to deal with broken machines, voter suppression, and other problems.

Dean talked about Democratic legislative successes, denounced the Republican obstructionists who are thwarting the will of the American people on Iraq, and praised the netroots community for its efforts to strengthen the Democratic Party from within. Dean emphasized outreach to young people, and spoke optimistically about the future of America. "I know that forty years from now, they'll never elect somebody like [George Bush]", Dean said. "This is not a one day or a one election struggle," Dean said to thunderous applause.

"Look at the Republicans. Look who they have running for president. Doesn't it look like something out of the 1950s?"

It was a powerful speech, drawing nearly ten standing ovations with attendees waving "Howard Empowered" signs. If I find a transcript of the speech, I will post it. I think it was probably Howard's best, ever. It rocked, and that's an understatement.

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Live from Chicago: Opening acts

Progressive radio host Sam Seder is serving as the master of ceremonies tonight, providing along with Laughing Liberally much needed dose of humor for convention attendees. We're now listening to YearlyKos Executive Director Gina Cooper, who received a standing ovation and was clearly humbled as she walked to the podium to talk about her work on the convention, which has now spanned over two years. Gina is understandably proud of how wonderfully this huge event has come together, and we couldn't be more thankful for her incredibly valuable efforts.

Live from Chicago: Senator Durbin addresses attendees by video

We're currently listening to Senator Dick Durbin's video address in the grand ballroom here at the Hyatt McCormick Place. Durbin is praising the netroots' role in electing Jon Tester and Jim Webb, thanking bloggers for helping defend Ambassador Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, and inviting the community to participate in dialogue about issues such as municipal broadband.

Durbin couldn't attend in person because he is working in Washington, D.C. and is embarking on a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq tomorrow.

Live from Chicago: National Review acknowledges the power of the netroots

A certain local right wing blog, which some of our readers are familiar with, has long been in the habit of sneering, mocking, and deriding the growing local netroots community from time to time. The next time they think about calling us a group of nuts, they should keep Byron York's words in mind:
The turnout in Chicago shows that the Kossacks and colleagues from other activist websites have taken their place as the newest wing of the establishment in Democratic-party politics.

They’re not exactly the new bosses; it’s not as if the unions and interest groups have disappeared, but it is true that the netroots now rank alongside them. A candidate who wants to win can no longer ignore the netroots, even if he or she would like to. Politicians like Reid and Pelosi, who not too long ago paid little attention to blogs and new activist groups, now cultivate the netroots at every opportunity.
For once, we'd have to agree with York's analysis. Right wing bloggers may despise the success that our community has enjoyed, but the argument that we're insignificant or somehow not credible is phony.

Live from Chicago: Commissioner Copps speaks about media consolidation

I'm currently listening to FCC Commissioner Michael Copps talk about media consolidation, broadband access, net neutrality, and related issues of critical importance at a YearlyKos panel discussion led by FreePress. The Commissioner was warmly welcomed by those YearlyKos attendees in the room (which is packed full). Here is the text of his remarks:
Thank you, Free Press, for organizing another great citizens' action forum here in Chicago. I've watched Free Press grow during the years I've been at the FCC, and I don't know of any group that has fought harder or made so great an impact in so short a time. I'm proud of them and I am proud to be here.

I'm proud… but I'm worried, too. I'm worried that America is playing Russian roulette with broadband and the Internet and also with our more traditional media-television, radio and newspapers. In harnessing the potential of broadband and getting it out to all our citizens, America has been reduced to little more than a Third World country.

In TV and radio, we've corporatized the public interest and turned over control of what is supposed to be a democratic media to an ever-smaller number of powerful business titans. Newspapers, meanwhile, run around like Chicken Little, shouting "the sky is falling" and the only way to turn things around is more of the media consolidation that got them-and us-into so much trouble in the first place. I am deeply concerned about the direction we're heading and I am here to ask your help to bring our media home to democracy.

The broadband and media threats are joined at the hip. If you care about a free and open Internet, you should also care about free and open discussion in the traditional media, particularly over the public airwaves. In both cases, the danger is that a small number of corporate gatekeepers are limiting the public's access to information. Ultimately, our democracy is not based on technology.

It is based on information. And while the Internet may be the best information distribution mechanism yet devised by man, the reality remains that most people still get most of their news and information from television. And in a democracy, that's important. Just like Willie Sutton robbed banks "because that's where the money is," we need to be concerned about traditional media because - at least for now - "that's where the people are."

The upcoming Kos event is, of course, primarily about the Internet as a tool for grassroots organizing and creating political change. And I'd like to spend the first part of our short time together talking about broadband and the Internet and the threats they face from those who think there's nothing wrong with the 'net that a little less freedom can't solve.
I've also come here to talk about the traditional media and the similar obstacles it faces. But the real reason I am here is to ask your help in a national crusade to get our country back on course. It's a fight we must make and a fight we can still win.

Let's start with broadband and the Internet. A few years ago, I gave a speech that asked: Is the Internet as we know it dying? Some folks thought it was something of an unusual question to be asking at the time, but look at what's happened since then. In 2005, the Commission decided to reclassify broadband transmission facilities as Title I "information services" rather than Title II "telecommunications services." To the uninitiated this sounds like semantics.

But it had real consequences. That's because the nondiscrimination obligations and the consumer protections that attach to telecommunications traffic and were vital to keeping the Internet open in the dial-up era no longer apply to broadband services.

The FCC in effect says to the people: "See all these wonderful new services and technologies? Well, we're going to make sure that when these tools of twenty-first century communications come to you, they will be bereft of the protections and safeguards and public interest oversight that people fought and won for plain old telephone service in the twentieth century." Some of my colleagues call that progress and they sing hallelujahs to "a light regulatory touch." I call it risky business for America's future and an abdication of public interest oversight.

When the Commission set off on this course, I asked my colleagues to at least adopt an Internet Policy Statement. It wasn't revolutionary-in fact, it was pretty basic.
We managed to get it accepted and, as a result, the Commission now has a public document that summarizes the basic rights of Internet end-users. This Internet Policy Statement states that consumers are entitled to: (1) access content; (2) run applications and services; (3) connect devices to the network; and (4) enjoy competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.

The Policy Statement sends a cautionary signal to network owners who may want to set up tollbooths or restrict lanes by limiting what you can do with your broadband connection. So far, so good. Act I ended on almost a hopeful note. And it was good news two days ago when the Commission voted to apply two of these principles-the rights to connect devices and to run applications-to at least a portion of the 700 MHz spectrum that will be auctioned later this year.

But settling for half-really far less than half-of an open Internet is not where we need to be. The majority turned down wholesale open access-a huge loss. And we still have not confronted the issue of whether a few broadband behemoths will be ceded gatekeeper control over the public's access to the full bounty of the Internet. We have a choice to make.
Down one road lies a FCC committed to honor and preserve the fundamental openness that made the Internet so great-a place of freedom and choice where anyone with a good idea and a little tech-savvy can create an idea or business with global impact.

On this road the FCC would adopt policies to ensure that the Internet remains a dynamic place for creating economic and educational opportunity, a fierce economic engine for innovation and entrepreneurship, and a tool for the sustenance and growth of democracy across the land.

Down the other road lies a FCC that, while it celebrates the Internet, sits idly by as broadband providers amass the power and technical ability to dictate where you can go and what you can do on the Internet. This FCC would see no public interest harms when providers set up gated communities and toll booths on the Internet, altering the openness that has characterized this medium and endangering the principle of non-discrimination. Make no mistake-the practical effect of what is being proposed by some network operators is to invert the democratic genius of the Internet. And these folks have friends in high places.

If we had a competitive broadband market, the government's role could be very different. In a truly competitive market, by all means the government could step aside and let a thousand flowers bloom. I have no doubt that open platforms would win out in a fair fight. But consumers face a powerful telco-cable duopoly. Actually, the duopoly is usually the best-case scenario because so many consumers remain hostage to a single broadband provider. And nearly 10% have no broadband provider at all.

The concentrated providers increasingly have the ability-and many think the business incentive-to build networks with traffic management policies that could restrict how we use the Internet. I remember enough of the American history I used to teach to know that if someone has both the technical capacity and the commercial incentive to control something, they're going to try. That doesn't make them bad people-but it can lead to some really bad results.

To me, broadband is the great network and infrastructure challenge of our time. If you course back through the annals of our nation's past, you'll find that just about every formative era has had its own major network challenge.

Even as the first settlers moved inland, they realized they had to be able to get their produce and products to market, so we found ways-the people and their government working together-to build the infrastructure to make that happen.

America built roads and turnpikes and harbors and canals and soon regional railroads. Then we industrialized and became a great continental power with a crying need to lay a railway grid across the land, and there came the saga of the Transcontinental railroads. Closer to our own era, in the Eisenhower years, the need was to tie city to suburb to nation so we developed the national Interstate Highway network. Even in basic telecom, we found ways to get phone service out to almost all our people.

In all of these great infrastructure build-outs, there was a critical role for government, business and local community organizations to work together toward a great national objective. It's the American Story. It's how we grew as a country. It's the only way we'll continue to grow.

Fast forward to 2007 and contemplate how we're doing in meeting this generation's great network challenge-building the roads and highways and pipes of the broadband era to all our people.

Well, unfortunately, America's record on broadband is so poor that every citizen should be totally outraged. The OECD recently ranked the United States 15th in broadband penetration, down from 12th in 2006. Some are trying to find fault with this study now-although isn't it curious that these same folks found no fault with OECD methodology when it ranked the United States Number 4 in 2001? I wonder why.

And Free Press recently did a wonderful study tearing to absolute shreds the arguments of those naysayers who do, I think, protest too much. Even if you don't like one study, there are other recent ones that have us at 11th, 12th, or 24th. The ITU puts us right behind Estonia and tied with Slovenia.

By any measure, our citizens are getting too little broadband at too high a price. Asian and Europeans consumers get home connections of 25 to 100 megabits per second. Meanwhile, you have an FCC that still calls 200 kilobits "broadband." 200 kilobits? How 1997! I bet that our counterparts in Korea and Japan have a chuckle over that one!

And we still measure broadband penetration by a zip code model that says if there is one subscriber in a zip code getting broadband, ergo, everyone can be counted as getting it.
Coming out of the airport, I saw somebody getting into a brand new Mercedes - I guess that means everyone in Chicago has a brand new Mercedes. The long and short of it is that consumers in the U.S. end up paying many multiples for connections that are one-twentieth the speed.

Maybe we should study what our friends abroad are doing. We don't have to mimic their policies. I recognize that we have different cultures and different population densities. But if the argument is that we're behind only because all the countries beating us live in high-rise apartments, I don't buy it. Norway, Sweden, Finland, our Canadian neighbors-they're all beating us in broadband and they have lower population densities than we do.

Maybe it's because they did some other things differently. Who knows-maybe each one decided to have a national broadband strategy for so important a national challenge? So, yes, I think there just might be some lessons to be learned from others. The sad fact is that your country and mine is the only industrial power on the face of the earth that doesn't have a national broadband strategy.

Now let's connect the dots I mentioned earlier. Let's talk about media and what's happening there. An important change in media over the past decade-rivaling even the new technologies and platforms that are rushing toward us-has been the alarming increase in media consolidation. Media consolidation is not some future threat-it is present reality. Fewer big media companies own more properties. They own television, radio, newspapers and cable-cable systems and cable channels. They own the production. They own the distribution. They're putting the screws to creativity itself.

Right now, the FCC is again examining its media ownership rules. Four years ago, the Commission tried to eliminate important rules that were designed to foster media diversity, localism and competition. The FCC plunged ahead, over the objections of Commissioner Adelstein and me - and passed stunning rules to allow one big media company to own, in a single community, up to three TV stations, eight radio stations, the cable system, the only daily newspaper, even the Internet service provider. A lot of people across America didn't like that very much.

Three million of them wrote the FCC to protest. When I came to the Commission I didn't think 3 million Americans even knew the FCC existed! Congress reacted and then the courts sent our misguided handiwork back to us with instructions to try again and get it right this time.

So we - you - prevented the new rules from taking effect and staved off a further round of consolidation. That was good. It showed that citizen action can still work, even today. But now we're back at square one with the Commission having opened a new proceeding that could usher in bad proposals one more time. We need to defeat any bad new proposals and go on from there to revisit the bad old rules still on the books that got us into this mess in
the first place.

But back to my point: remember I said this was related to the broadband and Internet issues. So it is. Consider the debate over network neutrality-or, better, over Internet Freedom - and you'll quickly realize it is a high voltage rail of the media consolidation debate.

For a while, a lot of folks thought the Internet was the antidote to media consolidation. The truth is that the Internet itself is heading down the same road as media. The more concentrated that the ownership of distribution grows - whether it's broadcast or broadband - the more we put ourselves at risk. The network consolidators in media and broadband are both fusing content and conduit. By controlling both, they can keep competing voices out-with far-reaching consequences for the economy, for culture and entertainment, for the credibility of the news and for the vitality of the civic dialogue that supports our democracy.

So even if you rarely watch TV or read a newspaper, even if you wouldn't shed a tear if "old media" disappeared tomorrow, I hope you'll see that these phenomena are blood-related.
Upfront I said I came to ask for your help. We need a full-court press now. You're the first folks I've told this to, but in the last couple of days, I'm beginning to smell something fishy at the FCC. A media ownership process that was proceeding altogether leisurely - with hearings every couple of months and expert studies being compiled in the groves of academe - seems all of a sudden headed for a faster track.

We all know there are major mergers pending, but I'm beginning to wonder if there might just be an intention to come with major new media ownership rules sooner rather than later-that's "sooner" as before we get too far into an election year when such rules might not be the best way to win the hearts, minds and votes of the American people.

Just a thought….but media ownership studies were put out this week with a really short time-frame for comments. Ditto for a proceeding on diversity that has to be completed before the FCC votes on media rules changes. My advice is: Be prepared.

Those who care about the vision I've been outlining today should not sit passively by while the huge potential of both new technologies and older platforms is frittered away. The country needs you-it needs the Netroots community, and everyone else you can bring along, to jump into the fray and fight like your future depends upon it-because it does.

The way you win - the only way - is to take this story not just to Capitol Hill, but all across America; bring home to as many people as you can what is at stake and enlist allies across the land. Talk about it. Write about it. Blog about it. If you can sing, sing about it. Your story will be music to democracy's ears. You and I have it in our power, if we work like never before, to make media freedom and information freedom and innovation freedom live for another day and generation. And if we fight this battle well, in the end we can celebrate media of, by and for the American people. Media democracy. Let me ask you: Doesn't that sound good to you?
Yesterday Copps strongly criticized the Dow Jones/News Corp. deal, releasing a statement calling for FCC involvement:
"It's interesting to hear the 'experts' claim the transaction faces no regulatory hurdles. Not so fast! This deal means more media consolidation and fewer independent voices, and it specifically impacts the local market in New York City."
Copps is correct that the FCC has an obligation to consider the public interest and not turn a blind eye to transactions like this - instead of the ho-hum, see no evil, hear no evil, observe no evil approach the commission currently uses as he put it.

Live from Chicago: YearlyKos 2007 kicks off

After almost 24 hours in Chicago, I've mostly adjusted to central time and have had a blast reacquainting myself with people that I haven't seen since YearlyKos 2006 or another event that is now only a distant memory.

YearlyKos 2007 feels very much feels like the sequel to last year's convention. We are in a massive, roomy venue, we are a bigger group than last year with around 1,400 from our community in attendance, and there are some 250 credentialed media here as well. Everywhere you look in the hotel are people walking around with orange lanyards. It is just wonderful to be able to see this many representatives from the netroots community together in one place. As you'd expect, a number of us are toting laptops and typing or working while we take part in events.

I came in yesterday on a nonstop flight from SeaTac, after dealing with the airport security there, which was slow, overloaded, and frustrating all around. After landing at Midway I took the Orange Line "L" train into the Loop (downtown Chicago) and made it to my hotel rather easily. To all you Sound Transit Link haters out there, let me reassure you that your criticisms of rail are phony and off base. Chicago, along with many other American cities, is proof that rail works and works well. The system is old but it is very efficient. You can hail a cab easily here, but during peak hours, the cabs are stuck in the traffic along with everybody else who is driving.

The rail system interfaces with the buses to provide a seamless public transportation network. We took the bus to the Hyatt this morning and got there after a short fifteen minute ride without transferring.

The transit authority here allows you to buy transit Visitors' Passes that allow unlimited trips - for example, a seven day pass will cost $20 and it gets you onto any train or bus in greater Chicago. Sound Transit should look into a solid visitors' pass system similar to this to promote tourist use of Link when it opens (and, Express or Metro buses as well).

The convention is jam packed with activities, including panels, roundtables, workshops, trainings, and keynotes. Today is the first day of official events, and while it doesn't feel overwhelming now, I believe that will change.

We have over half a dozen presidential candidates coming to speak to us on Saturday, the zenith of what promises to be one of the year's most memorable political gatherings. General Wesley Clark will deliver the keynote tomorrow morning and DNC Chairman Howard Dean will address us tonight (Dick Durbin is scheduled too, but he may not make it because of the congressional work schedule - we'll see). I will likely be liveblogging these keynotes - coverage begins at 6 AM tomorrow and 5 PM tonight for each of those, respectively.

This morning I've been listening to panels about creating a culture of grassroots giving and strategies for helping progressive bloggers earn a living. I'll be co-moderating a regional caucus for the Pacific Northwest this afternoon and checking out some of the other workshops that are going on as well.

An American problem

Back here at NPI Tower World Headquarters in the Beautiful Pacific Northwest, I'll be stepping aside a great deal so Andrew and Rick can cover the Yearly Kos Convention (see post below.)

But I do want to offer an opinion about bridge safety and infrastructure neglect. It's an American problem, not a Republican or Democratic problem.
According to the Center for International and Strategic Studies, more than a quarter of the country's bridges are structurally unstable. A federal report in 2005 said Minnesota's Interstate 35W bridge was structurally deficient and may need to be repaired.

That 27 percent "does not necessarily mean that any is near imminent failure," said Casey Dinges, the managing director of external affairs for the American Society of Civil Engineers, on "Good Morning America" today.

"Once a bridge has been designated to have problems, we keep a close eye on it," Dinges said.
While extreme anti-tax climates fostered by Republicans don't help, it's not like our party has been exemplary over the years. Let's face it, these issues fade quickly after a crisis. Everyone knows the Viaduct could fall down in an earthquake, but every day thousands of drivers are allowed to use it.

I'll always admit to throwing elbows, but in this case I think progressives need to avoid turning the Minnesota bridge disaster into some kind of partisan talking point. Honest people can have honest disagreements about the best way to invest scarce public resources, but the problems with public infrastructure date back a very, very long time.

Welcome to Live Coverage of YearlyKos 2007!

After several weeks away from the blog, I'm happily returning today to provide comprehensive coverage and updates from Chicago, Illinois, where I'm representing the Northwest Progressive Institute at the YearlyKos Convention.

In addition to offering ongoing liveblogging here, we've set up our YouTube channel and Flickr photostream to feature images and video from the convention, and reconfigured Pacific Northwest Portal's main page to show YearlyKos related news and commentary.

Chicago is Central Time, so for those of you reading from back home in the Pacific Northwest, some events will be covered at unusual times. For example, Wesley Clark's morning keynote tomorrow will be happening at 6 AM Pacific. Likewise, the late evening events here will be early evening in Washington and Oregon.

I'll be publishing a post soon about my first reactions to the convention and my experience in Chicago. You can also expect video clips courtesy of our Events Coordinator (Rick), who's here with me, and photos as well.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Awful bridge collapse in Minnesota

Via the P-I comes an AP story about a horrifying bridge collapse in Minnesota.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The entire span of an interstate bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River during evening rush hour Wednesday, sending vehicles, tons of concrete and twisted metal crashing into the water.

The Interstate 35W bridge, which stretches between Minneapolis and St. Paul, was in the midst of being repaired when it broke into several huge sections.
The bridge was apparently undergoing work when the collapse happened. It's not clear at this time how many fatalities there are, although CNN has reported on-air that there are three confirmed deaths.

The television images being shown on the cable networks are fearsome. The bridge is reportedly some 2,000 feet in length and was full of rush hour traffic. It appears from what is being shown that some vehicles fell into the river.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the brave first responders and ordinary citizens who have responded to this disaster. We wish our friends in Minneapolis the best at this difficult hour.

UPDATE 7:32 PM PDT: An update to the AP story, this time via The Seattle Times, gives a fatality count of at least six.
An interstate bridge suddenly broke into huge sections and collapsed into the Mississippi River during bumper-to-bumper traffic Wednesday, killing at least six people and sending vehicles, tons of concrete and twisted metal crashing into the water.
Cable news outlets have been reporting on the heroic efforts of firefighters, police officers and ordinary citizens. One especially compelling account told how a passer by helped pull children from a school bus that was on the bridge when it collapsed.

Still an annoying frat boy

Editor and Publisher has a short item about George W. Bush insulting a BBC reporter recently.
Later on, Bush poked fun at the bare-pate of Robinson, joking, “You’d better cover up your bald head, it’s getting hot out.”

The respected British reporter shot back, “I didn’t know you cared.”

Bush responded with a cool, “I don’t.” The Mirror reports that Bush then “snorted disdainfully” and “walked away to laughter.”
Makes you all proud inside, doesn't it? If I had an all-powerful time machine, "W" makes it big in the oil business back in the 1970's.

Reichert unsure on health care for kids

Looks like partial conservative Dave Reichert is having a hard time choosing between his party and health care for children. From Medill News Service at The Seattle Times web site:
If he supports the Democrat-backed bill, the Auburn Republican risks angering his party leaders whose help — and money — he needs for next year's congressional election.

If he votes against it, he could be painted as a foe of children's health care by Democratic challengers in a district that has become more Democratic over the years.

---snip---

The expansion of the health-care program would be paid for in part with higher federal tobacco taxes.

The program at issue, State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), currently covers about 6 million children nationwide. It expires after September if Congress takes no action.

The House bill drafted by Democrats would renew SCHIP for five more years and increase spending to $75 billion, covering an estimated 5 million additional children.

That would be $50 billion more than the Congressional Budget Office estimates would be needed to maintain the current funding level.
Of course, Reichert isn't saying what he will do, which is about par for the course for him. (Is he still "investigating" global warming, BTW?)

Yes, it's such a tough call. Your party or health care for kids.

I wonder which one Reichert will choose?

UPDATE--8:23 PM PDT: Goldy catches the vote this evening. Reichert chose his party.

Big media gets bigger as Dow Jones succumbs to Rupert Murdoch

This is really, really, really bad news:
Rupert Murdoch has sealed a deal to buy Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co. for $5 billion, ending a century of family ownership and adding a crown jewel to his global media empire, News Corp.

The companies said in the wee hours of Wednesday morning that they signed a definitive merger agreement after the deal won sufficient support to pass from a deeply divided Bancroft family, which has controlled the storied newspaper publisher for generations.
If there is any way of stopping this deal from going through, any possibility of keeping Dow Jones from being gobbled up by the News Corp. monster, that course of action must be pursued.

Here is Media Matters' statement, made by Senior Fellow Eric Boehlert:
"Rupert Murdoch's purchase of Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal represents a sad day for American journalism. For decades, the Journal's news pages have often symbolized the rewards of serious reporting -- with this purchase, I'm afraid those days may be over."

"Murdoch has a long and sordid history of discarding the accepted norms of honest journalism in order to advance his own political and corporate agenda.

"Of particular concern is Murdoch's plan to use the Journal to help launch the Fox Business Network, which will be overseen by Fox News boss and former Republican strategist Roger Ailes."
And here is the reaction from media scholar and Free Press President Robert W. McChesney:
"This takeover is bad news for anyone who cares about quality journalism and a healthy democracy. Giving any single company — let alone one controlled by Rupert Murdoch — this much media power is unconscionable.

"Media consolidation has replaced investigative journalism with infotainment, foreign affairs reporting with fluff, and local coverage with cookie-cutter content. Contrary to industry spin, emerging Internet outlets fail to offset consolidation's effect on journalism. Now Murdoch will control a broadcast network, a cable news channel and a national newspaper — three of the small handful of outlets that set our national news agenda.

"Rupert Murdoch — who has never hesitated to use his pulpit to advance his own ideological and business interests — won't change his ways. But we can change the policies that allow companies like News Corp. to dominate our media.

"We can only hope the culmination of this deal is the wake-up call Washington needs to start rolling back media consolidation. The first step is to pass new 'cross-ownership' laws that would prevent the owner of a national television network from owning a national daily newspaper.

"Murdoch's empire wouldn't exist if he hadn't been aided and abetted by Washington policymakers in Congress and at the FCC. Only by restoring public input in the policy-making process can we create the kind of diverse, accessible and independent media that journalism — and our democracy — so desperately needs."
Learn more about the effort to stop big media at this FreePress site.