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Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking Back at 2007: Goodbye

May you live in interesting times.

- English translation of a Chinese proverb

So ends 2007, a year that was characterized by many frustrating outrages and disappointments, like: Congress' many capitulations to Dubya (including the FISA cave-in and its failure to implement a timetable for ending the occupation of Iraq), Scooter Libby's pardon, Kevin Martin's railroaded media ownership changes, the shameful reinstatement of Initiative 747 (and Christine Gregoire's abdication of leadership), Proposition 1's drubbing at the polls, Bill Sherman's loss to Dan Satterberg, or the narrow passage of Initiative 960.

That's not to say nothing good happened...for instance, Congress did raise the minimum wage, and Washington families won big in the 2007 legislative session thanks to Democrats. Still, 2007 left a lot to be desired.

It's time to say goodbye to all of that and hello to a year of promise.

Here's to a brighter horizon and a time of change that brings new rays of sunshine to America after many dark and bleak years.

Here's to stronger spines and wiser leadership from Governor Gregoire, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Democratic lawmakers, whether in Olympia or D.C.

Here's to more and better Democrats...and a second blue wave next November, rivaling the historic 2006 elections.

Here's to the growth of the netroots community and the continued development of infrastructure that strengthens the progressive movement - including jobs for the many activists who are working in politics almost full time.

Here's to 2008. See you in the New Year.

In Brief - December 31st, 2007

There's less than twenty four hours left until the New Year arrives - and Darcy Burner is working the phones all day today to raise money for her 2008 rematch with Dave Reichert. Why? Because early money is key to the success of a strong, aggressive campaign. Darcy's goal is to raise $25,000 in the final seventy two hours before the new year arrives. If you have change to spare, please donate.

AFTERNOON UPDATE: Darcy's told us that she is just $10,000 short of having an astonishing $600,000 cash on hand. Help her reach this big milestone!

EVENING UPDATE: With less than six hours to go, Darcy is almost there...only $3,000 left to raise. Please chip in!

Now, here is today's quick news digest, New Year's Eve edition:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Alcohol-related tragedies have inspired the funeral director of the LaGrande, Oregon, Loveland Funeral Chapel to offer free rides on New Year's Eve (and not in a hearse, either!). Have a safe holiday, everyone.
  • A minimum wage increase on Tuesday keeps Washington State first in the nation with the highest minimum wage. The Times has a report on the benefit of the increase to restaurant workers as well as the mixed feelings of their employers, some of whom never cease to complain about the costs of running a business. We released a white paper almost a year ago concluding that raising the minimum wage benefits our economy.
  • A recent op-ed by an Oregon senator advocating adoption of a sales tax in the Beaver State sparked a discussion of Oregon's tax system and a sharp rebuttal at Blue Oregon by the OCPP's Chuck Sheketoff.
Across the Nation
  • Paul Krugman exhorts progressives to "forget about Bush and the [nonexistent] middle ground" and "to forcefully make the case that progressive goals are right and conservatives are wrong".
  • Atlanta was saved from setting a rainfall record low this year thanks to ten recent days of rain. Unfortunately, the Southeast is still in an "exceptional drought", the worst category. Our drippy Northwest skies look more appealing in comparison.
  • Although violence in Iraq has subsided dramatically in the last few months, 2007 was the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Future stability is uncertain as many challenges remain for the new year.
Around the World
  • North Korea has failed to comply with its 2007 disarmament deal with the U.S. In exchange for large amounts of aid, it had agreed to disable its nuclear facilities and produce a written declaration of its nuclear activities.
  • France is suspending diplomatic ties with Syria in an attempt to lessen Syria's influence on Lebanese politics. Syria opposes the installation of a consensus president in Lebanon.
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to urge Hamas today to agree to early elections and to engage in dialogue with his Fatah faction. Hamas is open to talks but resistant to demands to release its control over the Gaza Strip.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

America needs courage from Democrats, not more faux "bipartisanship"

The Washington Post's David Broder, perhaps the most prominent figure within the all-knowing Beltway pundit corps, has a much reprinted story this morning (it's on the front page of the Sunday Seattle Times & Post-Intelligencer, for instance) about a group of former elected officials gathering together for a meeting.

The agenda?

"[F]orming a 'government of national unity' to end the gridlock in Washington" - which might ultimately mean backing someone like Michael Bloomberg for president, if the group isn't satisfied by a commitment towards greater unity from the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.

So why does America need this? Here's David Boren, via Broder:
Boren said the meeting is being announced in advance of Thursday's Iowa caucuses "because we don't want anyone to think this was a response to any particular candidate or candidates." He said the nation needs a "government of national unity" to overcome its partisan divisions in a time of national challenge he likened to that faced by Great Britain during World War II.

"Electing a president based solely on the platform or promises of one party is not adequate for this time," Boren said. "Until you end the polarization and have bipartisanship, nothing else matters, because one party simply will block the other from acting."
Has Boren been paying any attention to what's been happening on Capitol Hill these days? Because "bipartisanship" has been prevailing! It's called George W. Bush gets his way while Democrats feebly (and sadly) cave on issue after issue.

What more "bipartisanship" do Boren & Co. want?

Digby explains how silly this all is:
Except the one party is called the Republican Party. When was the last time the Democrats blocked anything?

Isn't it funny that these people were nowhere to be found when George W. Bush seized office under the most dubious terms in history, having been appointed by a partisan supreme court majority and losing the popular vote?

If there was ever a time for a bunch of dried up, irrelevant windbags to demand a bipartisan government you'd think it would have been then, wouldn't you? (How about after 9/11, when Republicans were running ads saying Dems were in cahoots with Saddam and bin Laden?) But it isn't all that surprising.

They always assert themselves when the Democrats become a majority; it's their duty to save the country from the DFH's who are far more dangerous than Dick Cheney could ever be.
A democracy can't function properly without difference of opinion. America's government was explicitly designed not to be unified. We have a national government divided into three branches, with checks and balances created to ensure that each keeps the others from becoming too powerful.

America furthermore has a vertical separation of powers - federalism - which prevents abuse by dividing governing powers between the national government and the states. The very nature of democracy (allowing for deliberation and debate) makes decision making slow. Still, our nation has managed to function, through much conflict and strife, for several hundred years.

Winston Churchill once famously observed that "democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." His remark has rung true ever since.

Could we do with less viciousness on Capitol Hill and in our political dialogue? Sure. If the right wing instigators of the "culture war" would agree to lay down their rhetorical swords and advocate their views more calmly, I think we'd have far less name calling and petty bickering.

There will always be people who will want to shout. But most progressives (and biconceptuals, for that matter) don't want to be battling with the right wing in a "culture war". Most Americans prefer civil discourse.

The instigators' goal in propagating a "culture war" is to create animosity and division by attacking the left, influencing biconceptuals (or independents) to believe it is really progressives who are responsible for dragging America into a moral sewer and turning up the heat in our national political conversation. Their ploy may be clever, but it is dishonest and repulsive.

The "culture war" isn't the whole of it, though. The people who run the Republican Party aren't interested in sitting down at the table to work together and govern. Their political strategy is to win at any cost, at Digby observes:
The only problem is that they keep forgetting to tell the Republicans, who view politics as a blood sport. They aren't interested in compromise and haven't been since old Bob Michel shuffled off to shuffleboard-land.

They play for keeps, which it seems to me, is perfectly obvious after all we've seen over the past 15 years or so. They don't let little things like electoral defeats keep them down. They always work it, no matter what, and in the process they twist the Democratic Party into pretzels.

The bipartisan busybodies just don't notice (or care) that as a movement which doesn't believe in government, the conservatives are just as successful in the minority, obstructing any progressive advance the Democrats want to make.

They feel no need to "get things done." Aside from starting wars, building an ever larger police state apparatus and pillaging the treasury on behalf of themselves and their rich friends when they're in power, they don't believe government should "get things done." So, what do Republicans have to gain by cooperating with Democrats?
As long as conservatives stubbornly refuse to halt their efforts to polarize our nation, progressives will have to fight, and fight adeptly, to advance the common good. We could certainly do without the phony culture war and the obstructionism of the Republicans in Congress, but America has been through far worse in the past. Besides, partisanship isn't the evil that it's often made out to be:
Weak parties make the life of a Washington power broker more interesting. Basically, there's more power brokering to do. There are more horses to trade. There's more dealing to wheel. Politics becomes a fascinating game of three dimensional chess.

Polarization [for Beltway pundits] is boring. Two parties lay out their programs, people vote, and depending on the election outcomes and the veto points in the system, legislation results. But polarization is simpler for voters. It connects actions to results. And it brings about higher levels of participation as a result.
We're a very large country, with a diverse population, diverse traditions, and diverse political, religious, and social views.

Disagreement is part of the American way and has always been. Our beloved Constitution faced a heated debate and strong opposition before it was ratified. The Framers had to fight to win over the legislatures in many of the ex-colonies. We even had a civil war because of sharp quarrels about slavery and federalism.

And we've always had partisanship. Ever since the days of the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans, in the late 1700s.

This isn't to say that cooperation is a bad thing. Partisans can work together and still be partisan. That's true bipartisanship. But it isn't real unless each side actually embraces the idea. And the Republican Party doesn't. Until they do, meaningful bipartisanship is just wishful thinking.

Republicans currently have no incentive to stop what they've been doing. But if elected Democrats showed more backbone, well, they could probably force their GOP counterparts to eventually sit down at the table. That's not going to happen, of course, until Democrats have the upper hand.

Winning the White House in 2008 and expanding our majorities in Congress is just the beginning. An electoral victory will not guarantee progress by itself. We need to continually build support for our ideas, and prevent Republicans from neutering them when they take the form of legislation in Congress.

The challenge for the progressive movement, and the Democratic Party, is to climb over the many fortified obstacles created by the right wing, and help biconceptuals realize that liberal values are the foundation of our democracy.

Not simply that the Bush administration's right wing agenda, including the invasion and occupation of Iraq, has been a failure; people already get that.

This is about something deeper: the liberal values that most of us share as citizens of a responsible, caring nation. Like freedom, protection, or opportunity.

Values that serve as the inspiration for policy directions which have historically improved the lives of the American people... and can do so again now.

In Brief - December 30th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Minneapolis has overtaken Seattle as the most literate city in the US. The title is awarded to a lucky city by examining "bookselling, newspaper readership, and local magazine publishing generally as well as Internet usage, library use and education."
  • The Port of Seattle has scheduled a public hearing for January 8 to discuss the state auditor's "damning performance audit of the port's construction management." Legislative hearings will follow in Olympia the next day.
  • The Oregonian presents an interesting analysis of both the potential and the challenges of the electric car by looking at EcoMotion, "Oregon's first all-green auto dealer."
Across the United States
  • The CIA's decisions regarding the existence and destruction of video tapes that recorded interrogations of prisoners were driven by political calculations.
  • The ground war in Iowa among the three leading Democratic candidates is in its final stages looking toward Thursday's caucuses.
  • The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a December 2004 judgment that found a contributor to an Islamic charity (and the charity itself) liable for an American's death in Israel at the hands of Hamas-supported terrorists. The court held that the victim's family failed to clearly show that the funds contributed had actually been funneled to Hamas.

Around the World

  • Benazir Bhutto's son, Bilawal, and husband, Asif Ali Zardari, will lead the People's Party in Pakistan and will contest upcoming elections.
  • Kenya's President, Mwai Kibaki, has won a hard-fought election, but an opposition leader has declared widespread electoral fraud and has "called for a full reassessment of the results."
  • At the end of a four day trip to China, Japan's Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda, has called for increased cooperation between the two countries, though there was not a resolution to a dispute between the two countries regarding maritime gas fields.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Looking Back at 2007: NPI Milestones

What a year it has been.

The first installment in our retrospective series looking back at the last twelve months is an overview of the year's most significant achievements, accomplishments, and noteworthy events. So as we look forward to more growth in 2008, here's a look back at important events and achievements in 2007.

January 4th, 2007: NPI releases its first ever white paper, Raising the Minimum Wage, authored by Brock Haussamen, an expert who studies and tracks the issue.

January 13th, 2007: NPI introduces the Legislative Action Project, an effort to track and analyze issues in Olympia in partnership with the King County Democrats' Legislative Action Committee. The project features three Priorities podcasts and several in depth entries about topics such as simple majority for public schools, universal healthcare, and environmental protection during the session.

January 26th, 2007: NPI's Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve testifies in support of HB 1087 (reforming the initiative process) before the House Committee on State Government and Tribal Affairs, and later discusses the bill on The David Goldstein Show the following Sunday.

January 31st, 2007: Pacific Northwest Portal turns two years old.

February 8th, 2007: Permanent Defense, founded to fight Tim Eyman and oppose right wing initiatives, celebrates its five year anniversary and many 2006 victories.

February 9th-10th, 2007: NPI organizes the second annual NWroots Conference in Olympia for the regional netroots community.

February 15th, 2007: NPI launches a blog series urging voters to reject Measure 2 (the viaduct rebuild option) in Seattle's March special election.

March 9th, 2007: NPI publishes the first part of a comprehensive analysis of the 2008 8th Congressional District race. Later that day, Darcy Burner files paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission to challenge Dave Reichert a second time.

March 12th, 2007: NPI sounds the alarm about a disastrously flawed bill, SSB 5803, that would have reshaped transportation governance in Puget Sound. The post inspires a more prominent conversation about the bill, which is voted out of the state Senate the same day but ultimately doesn't make it out of the House.

March 29th, 2007: NPI commemorates three years of posting with the three year anniversary of the Official Blog.

April 5th, 2007: NPI announces the second annual David Neiwert Awards to honor the achievements and accomplishments of the Pacific Northwest's most active progressive bloggers for the previous year (2006).

April 27th, 2007: NPI and Permanent Defense begin publishing the first of several monthly reports tracking Tim Eyman's Initiative 960 and breaking down public disclosure reports from Eyman's political action committee.

April 30th, 2007: NPI releases its thirteenth podcast, an interview with Seattle Port Commission candidate Gael Tarleton, who later goes on to beat incumbent (and Republican) Commissioner Bob Edwards.

May 17th, 2007: NPI breaks the news that Futurewise and SEIU Local 775 are filing a lawsuit seeking to block Initiative 960 from going to the ballot.

May 31st, 2007: A major update to Permanent Defense's website, Version 7 (codenamed Whidbey) is launched. It includes a restyled design and new content, mostly information about Tim Eyman's Initiative 960.

June 4th, 2007: NPI's executive director liveblogs Al Gore's appearance at Town Hall Seattle to talk about his book, The Assault on Reason.

July 20th, 2007: NPI's Outreach & Advocacy Director hosts a friendly debate between the two Democratic candidates for King County prosecutor (Bill Sherman and Keith Scully). Each answers questions submitted by NPI readers.

August 1st-4th, 2007: NPI provides live coverage of the 2007 YearlyKos Convention in Chicago, Illinois, including the Presidential Leadership Forum featuring all of the Democratic candidates except for Joe Biden.

August 21st, 2007: NPI provides live coverage of Washington's 2007 primary election, the first in many years not to be held in late September.

August 22nd, 2007: The Northwest Progressive Institute turns four.

August 23rd-26th 2007: NPI participates in the Burn Bush effort to raise money for Darcy Burner in response to Dave Reichert's fundraiser headlined by Dubya. The four day effort, orchestrated by the local and national netroots community, is a huge success, bringing in over $123,000, and contributes towards Rodney Tom's decision to leave the 8th Congressional District race.

October 4th, 2007: NPI launches the 2007 Election Podcast Series, a multimedia project intended to serve as a November ballot resource for activists and voters. The first installment profiles Bellevue City Council challenger Keri Andrews.

October 31, 2007: NPI debuts its Unconstitutional, Unfair, Unsound series looking at the ramifications of Initiative 960 and why it's bad law.

November 6th, 2007: NPI provides live coverage of the 2007 general election, a mostly unfortunate night with a few bright spots for progressives. NPI's morning after analysis (Complacency the main culprit behind a disappointing election night) is featured on the websites of the Washington State Labor Council and Spokane Spokesman-Review, among others.

November 8th, 2007: The state Supreme Court strikes down Tim Eyman's Initiative 747 as unconstitutional.

November 9th, 2007: NPI provides live coverage of the FCC's final hearing on proposed changes to media ownership rules at Town Hall Seattle. Over a thousand people from around the Pacific Northwest show up to voice their opposition to increased consolidation and deregulation.

November 29th, 2007: NPI's Executive Director, representing the organization in Olympia along with Outreach Director Rick Hegdahl, testifies in opposition to reinstatement of Initiative before House and Senate committees during a special session. The Legislature, prompted by Governor Gregoire, puts it back on the books anyway in one of the saddest days in state history.

December 23rd, 2007: NPI's Executive Director is featured on the front page of the Sunday Seattle Times & Post-Intelligencer in a story about presidential candidate matchmaking quizzes.

U.S. Green Building Council: Gore home one of nation's most environmentally friendly

The Al Gore personal energy consumption furor manufactured by conservatives was beyond absurd to begin with, but Al and his family have managed to make it look even more ridiculous with recent home improvements:
The former vice president has installed solar panels, a rainwater-collection system and geothermal heating. He also replaced all incandescent lights with compact fluorescent or light-emitting diode bulbs - even on his Christmas tree.

"Short of tearing it down and starting anew, I don't know how it could have been rated any higher," said Kim Shinn of the U.S. Green Building Council, which gave the house its second-highest rating for sustainable design.

Gore's improvements cut the home's summer electrical consumption by 11 percent compared with a year ago, according to utility records reviewed by The Associated Press. Most Nashville homes used 20 percent to 30 percent more electricity during the same period because of a record heat wave.

Shinn said Gore's renovations are impressive because his home, which is more than 80 years old, had to meet the same rigorous standards as new construction.
Gore's home is in fact one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly in the nation, considering how few homes are certified gold or platinum:
The Green Building Council's certification program has four levels, with platinum being the highest followed by gold. Gore's home was one of 14 to earn gold status and the only Tennessee home to earn any certification.
Our thanks to the Associated Press for helping to set the record straight. Cleaning up the toxic garbage dumped into the political dialogue by the Republican Noise Machine is a tough job, but the mess shouldn't be this big. The attack on Gore, for instance, never should have received the attention it did. It was just another concoction of distortions from desperate conservatives.

Journalists who work for traditional media outlets need to recognize nonsense from the right wing echo chamber when they see it, and contain that pollution by not giving it a broader audience.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Toby Nixon won't run for Legislature in 2008

Republican Toby Nixon, who represented the 45th District in the state House from 2002 until 2007 (and unsuccessfully ran for Senate against Eric Oemig in 2006) has just announced he won't be a candidate next year. He had been sought after as a top recruit, one capable of running a strong campaign.

His decision is yet another blow to the GOP's 2008 legislative prospects. It means that Republicans will have to keep looking for someone to challenge freshman Representative Roger Goodman.

(The 45th's other representative, Larry Springer, is in his second term, having defeated two well funded Republicans in consecutive cycles).

Here is the text of Toby's release:
I appreciate the many inquiries and expressions of support I have received over the past few weeks from many friends in the community and around the state.

After much careful consideration and consultation with my family and advisors, I have decided to not seek election to the state House of Representatives or any another office in 2008.

I have made a number of commitments that I must fulfill, including expanded responsibilities at Microsoft, seeing the amendment to the King County Charter creating an elected director of elections through to adoption, my service as president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government and my involvement in several other non-profit organizations, as well as, even more importantly, needing to focus attention on my responsibilities to my family and church.

These require more attention than would be possible if I were also running a campaign of my own this year.

I am keeping my options open with regard to other opportunities after 2008, but in the meantime I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to bring about needed changes through the many other ways available to us as citizens.
Nixon may be hoping to run for King County elections director, an (unnecessary) elected position that his Initiative 25 would establish (contingent upon voter approval in November 2008).

Even if he has no such aspirations, it seems that he wants to keep his options open for the future, and not risk losing again by contesting a Democratic incumbent in a difficult race for the state House. That's understandable, especially since the political climate doesn't look very good for Republicans next year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

In Brief - December 27th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • We're starting to learn more about the horrific killings of a family in Carnation, Washington, on Christmas Eve. Police now believe the slayings resulted from an intra-family dispute over money. King County sheriff's deputies have arrested two suspects - the daughter and boyfriend of Judy and Wayne Anderson, who along with their son, daughter in law, and two grandchildren were found dead yesterday morning.
  • In a preview of next year's elections, Seattle Times reporter Andrew Garber takes a look this morning at the state GOP's gloomy legislative prospects for 2008. As Garber documents, the House Republican caucus has been plagued by scandal, defection and retirements, while Democrats are more organized than ever, and enjoy support from independents.

Across the United States

  • An increasing number of bloggers are figuring out how to monetize the Web, according to an article by the Associated Press, which concludes that "with the right mix of compelling content and exposure, a blog can draw a dedicated following, making advertising a low-hanging fruit."
  • This week's issue of Newsweek features a piece written by Evan Thomas lamenting partisanship and the "closing of the American mind". The main thesis of the article is that partisanship is irritating biconceptuals (or independents) and thus responsible for declining voter turnout. But the premise flies in the face of the facts. As Markos observes, partisanship - and a more partisan media - has actually increased voter turnout.
  • Some of Ron Paul's supporters, unwilling to believe their hero has a bad side, are scrambling to come up with excuses to explain away Paul's racism.
  • Recent voter identification laws designed by Republicans in several U.S. states to suppress the vote will be evaluated by the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming months. PERRspectives has more on the GOP's strategy of "divide, suppress and conquer".
Around the World

The major story from abroad today is the tragic death of former Pakistani prime minister and People's Party leader Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in an attack at a political rally by gunfire and a suicide bombing. At least 21 others were also slain at the Liaquat National Bagh in Rawalpindi. The BBC has more:
President Pervez Musharraf has urged people to remain calm but angry protests have gripped some cities, with at least 11 deaths reported.

Security forces have been placed on a state of "red alert" nationwide.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack. Analysts believe Islamist militants to be the most likely group behind it.

Ms Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), had served as prime minister from 1988-1990 and 1993-1996, and had been campaigning ahead of elections due on 8 January.
While this is a devastating development and a blow for democracy in Pakistan, it does not necessarily mean the region's future is grim.

Now that the Bush administration's scheme to stabilize Pakistan has been shattered, a new plan is needed, and it should be put together at the United Nations. Given that Pakistan is a nuclear power, ensuring its government is in the hands of responsible leaders ought to be of paramount concern to the entire world.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Readers, if you're celebrating the holiday, please accept our wishes for a very merry Christmas. We hope that your day is filled with reflection, feasting, and the company of family, friends, or both. Tis the season to be joyful!

Thanks for being a part of the people powered netroots community. Peace,

The Northwest Progressive Institute Team

Monday, December 24, 2007

Light posting ahead

All of NPI's staff are taking some time off to enjoy the holidays, so expect very light posting over the next forty eight hours.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

NPI Radio Alert

I'll be on the David Goldstein Show in about an hour to help Goldy broadcast as much on demand liberal propaganda as we can put together. Topics we'll probably touch on: local transit and transportation governance, presidential matchmaking quizzes (for which I was featured in the Seattle Times earlier today) and Christmas as a prized object in the right wing's "culture war".

Please tune in...or better yet, call in, and voice your opinion live on the air.

On the front page of the Sunday Times & P-I...

What do you know...today is finally my day to be on the front page of the state's largest newspaper - the combined Sunday Seattle Times & Post Intelligencer:

Snapshot of Seattle Times story on matchmaking quizzes

The story, by reporter Ralph Thomas, is about presidential matchmaking quizzes, which - as he writes - "claim to identify the candidate who best fits your own beliefs." I was asked to be a volunteer, and though the quizzes were just issues-based (and didn't take into account my values or my actual feelings), I had a lot of fun participating. My thanks to Ralph for the opportunity.

I guess the whole Seattle metropolitan area now knows that I am undecided between Barack Obama and John Edwards. (Readers, if you support either Edwards or Obama, feel free to make your pitch to me in the comments!)

My Quiz Results Versus My Actual Favorites

Here's a background on all the volunteers, myself included:
The Seattle Times enlisted four people from across Washington's political spectrum to put three games to the test. Their results were all over the map.

Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington and an outspoken conservative, said his favorite candidate right now is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. But none of the games listed Huckabee as the best choice for McCabe.

Alex Hays, head of the Mainstream Republicans of Washington, is a big supporter of Republican Sen. John McCain. While one game matched him with McCain, another said he aligned with three Democratic senators — Joe Biden, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

"Good God," Hays exclaimed when a third game suggested Ron Paul, the former Libertarian nominee who is now running as a Republican. "Now that's a kick in the head."

Logue got similar results: all conservative Republicans on one game, all liberal Democrats on another.

Only Andrew Villeneuve, a liberal blogger and founder of a think tank called [the] Northwest Progressive Institute, found any consistency among the games. All three said his closest match is Kucinich, a congressman from Ohio and a Quixote-esque candidate for president. Villeneuve said he agrees with Kucinich on a lot of issues, but is torn between two other Democrats, Obama and John Edwards.
I wasn't surprised that Kucinich repeatedly showed up as the top result, given that the quizzes only consider issue positions. My views are squarely populist and progressive. Nobody in the Democratic field is better at plainly stating and defending most of those views than Dennis. He says what he believes.

But a candidate's positions on the issues are not my sole criteria for picking a candidate. In fact, they're not all that important, not to me or most Americans. As I observe in the Times article:
Villeneuve said the match games do not factor in a candidate's emotional appeal.

"Most Americans don't pull out a scorecard and run the math on a host of issues when it's time to vote," he said. "People vote who can they identify with, who they feel they can trust."
More simply, authenticity matters. Dennis Kucinich is great at amplifying the strong stance of Americans fed up with the failed right wing agenda (which is most of us). But that doesn't make him qualified to lead this country. In my eyes, his odd behavior certainly doesn't make a positive impression. I don't sense that Dennis necessarily shares all of my values, either.

After months of following the presidential race - watching debates on television, listening to the YearlyKos forum live in Chicago, and attending events featuring individual candidates here in Seattle, I know who my final choices are. It's either John Edwards or Barack Obama.

Each brings different strengths and makes a compelling case, though both are strong communicators and refreshingly closer to the people than Hillary Clinton. But only one can be my primary selection. I've got about a month and a half to decide before the precinct caucuses arrive - and I welcome your help.

Friday, December 21, 2007

In Brief - December 21st, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • If you're driving this holiday weekend, please be careful. Here are some things to watch out for, courtesy of the Seattle Times.
  • The Bellingham Georgia Pacific toilet tissue mill, the last building in the complex, closed today for good. Its demolition is set for late next year. About 200 people will be without jobs. And the jobs they will end up with, should they find them, will be for less than they're making now. I wouldn't talk to these folks about how fabulous the economy's doing.
  • Oregon's counties are seeing first hand what happens when you choke off a reliable, reasonable source of revenue for the common wealth. Like getting government payouts? Well, our Grover Norquist-influenced federal governmental model (“...get [government] down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”) says, “no more logging industry replacement money for you.” Okay, well, we'll rely on our property — oops, we voted to limit our property taxes. Thom Hartmann has a word for this: Screwed. But let's hope a creative solution is in the offing.
Across the Nation
  • Tom Tancredo, who probably blew his campaign budget trying to frighten people into voting for him, finally left the Republican presidential race yesterday after his efforts, well, “Tanc'ed.” Now he's throwing his tattered support behind Mitt Romney, another paragon of credibility.
  • In a continuing backward trot from reason, the EPA's Stephen Johnson put California in its place by preventing them from tightening emissions standards, possibly becoming a nationwide model on how to squeeze more efficiency and less pollution out of automobile manufacturers. We just can't have “a confusing patchwork of state rules,” Stephens said. He's more confident of the Bush Energy Plan, which apparently pays better dividends to cronies and oil companies when the graft isn't spread all over the place without regard to loyalty or ideology. Jeez, what was California thinking—it would be anarchy, I tell you.
  • A judge will hear both sides of the CIA torture video destruction fiasco today. Just think: somebody will have to justify this. Further thought: read comments after online articles about waterboarding. You will find no other defense than “the end justifies the means.” Rather humbling, in an evolutionary sense: Stack humans up against other species, and it's not a pretty picture, is it? We can, and we must, be better than this.
Around the World
  • The killing continues in Pakistan. Why the Bush administration says nothing about countries like Pakistan having nukes but throws a fit over Iran is a bit incongruent. But I've never accused The Decider of having a lucid thought.
  • Coverage of the Iraq occupation seems to be tapering off — seen any headlines lately that don't involve car bombs and more of our fallen brothers and sisters in Iraq? Me, neither. But hey, the escalation is working (we're told), now that everybody there has been properly murdered or exiled. But for Iraqi kids, this wonderful news of our democratic triumph in their country is a tad empty.
  • And for those on the right who think killing and bombing and occupation is an excellent strategy for combating terrorism, Saudi Arabia has news for you: A more thoughtful approach seems to be working.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The ghost of transportation governance schemes past is returning

Earlier this year, during the 2007 legislative session, I wrote extensively about an inane plan concocted in Olympia to consolidate roads and transit planning into the hands of a powerful "regional" super commission that would have control over routes, fares, projects, ballot proposals, and other critical aspects of the local transportation system in central Puget Sound counties.

This governance scheme, which passed the Senate in the form of SB 5803 but failed to make it out of the House, is now back from the dead. And it has found a new patroness in Governor Christine Gregoire, as Tacoma News Tribune editor David Seago relates in a post on late Tuesday:
During her visit with the TNT [Tacoma News Tribune] editorial board today, Gov. Chris Gregoire declared, "It's time we had a heavy-duty conversation about governance" in the wake of Proposition 1's drubbing at the polls.

The governor said she was prepared to introduce her own RTG legislation for the 2008 session, but she agreed to let state Sens. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, and Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, take the lead in crafting a proposal.

Gregoire reminded us that a blue-ribbon panel led by former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice and businessman John Stanton in 2006 had recommended putting regional road and transit authority in the hands of one body consisting mostly of directly elected members.

RTG means no more Sound Transit, no more Regional Transportation Improvement District - bodies comprised of elected city and county officials from Pierce, King and Snohomish counties.

And the notion of "sub-area equity," Gregoire said emphatically, has got to go. That gave us a little shudder, because the principle that the money raised in each county should be spent each county is pretty much Holy Writ in Pierce and Snohomish counties.
A conversation about governance? That got started long ago, and is still going on...between a society of pundits, lawmakers, editorial writers, and others who see a shakeup as an opportunity to squelch development of high capacity rapid transit (which they despise). One of the area's fiercest anti-rail zealots admitted as much Tuesday in a piece on Crosscut:
It would not stop light rail construction in place, but it would limit construction to a line running from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to either Convention Place, Husky Stadium, or Northgate.

Future funding would be focused more greatly on express bus, bus rapid transit, and normal bus service; dedicated transit lanes; HOV lanes; tolling; and selective repair and expansion of long neglected local roads and lifeline highways. Citywide trolleys (touted by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels) definitely would not be part of the scheme.
Yes, Ted Van Dyk hates light rail so much that he is already relishing the mere thought of the Link endeavor being shut down and forgotten about courtesy of a newly knighted troupe of transportation czars - even though the Legislature hasn't mandated the implementation of a governance scheme and isn't even in session.

If Van Dyk really thinks a shakeup is inevitable, he is mistaken. In fact, it appears that one of the legislators that Governor Gregoire is counting on to craft a proposal - the primary sponsor of SB 5803! - has no intention of doing so. From a comment left at the Seattle Transit Blog by Senator Ed Murray:
I have no current plans to work on a regional proposal. No one has shown much interest.

I support ST [Sound Transit] going to the ballot this fall should they make that decision and will oppose any efforts in the legislature to prevent them.

My interest in regional issues remains one of planning. We fail to look at the best way to move people and focus on road corridors vs light rail corridors. That is not how you get to an integrated transportation system.

I am not responsible for the uniting [of] RTID and ST. I spent five years, including this year attempting to kill RTID legislatively. The RTID board and their legislative supporters will tell you they considered me their biggest problem in Olympia.

Actually I can provide you with the tapes of the hearings that clearly show my record on this brain dead republican idea.

It was ST board members, including ST's board chair who insisted they be join and stay joined. I did agree with the Gov to put them together in hopes that we would come up with a better RTID, I was wrong (as I have said for the past year).
So, no one has shown much interest, eh? Perhaps that's because the small clique that wants this governance shakeup is, well, small.

We're heartened by Ed's comments, and appreciative of his support for Sound Transit returning to the ballot next November.

Chartering and empowering a new band of well paid politicians from sprawling cross country districts to control transportation decision making is not an idea that will solve our infrastructure problems.

It won't make anyone's commute greener, safer, or more reliable. It won't replace the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge or eliminate dangerous chokepoints. It won't build new park and rides or ease gridlock.

All a governance shakeup does is create a host of new problems and delay our ability to move forward. In a word, it's unnecessary. Polling from EMC Research and Moore Information shows that public confidence in Sound Transit is higher than it is in the state Department of Transportation, which is headquartered in Olympia and answers directly to the governor.

Critics of Sound Transit see a governance shakeup as an opportunity to abolish or render toothless an effective public agency working to plan, design, and construct a rail backbone for Puget Sound - an idea they abhor.

Stopping light rail is their agenda, and they don't mind if that means a temporary lack of progress in delivering transit solutions and road fixes for clogged corridors. In their view, hang the cost. Taxpayers don't benefit from awarding tremendous power to a new authority with no track record, but ST's critics do.

With Sound Transit reduced to a paper entity, additions to the Link system can be scrapped and buried beneath a pile of road projects.

And forget new streetcar lines too: as Ted candidly says in his own words, the only transit worth funding is buses.

Some advocates of governance, like Representative Deb Eddy, will deny that their aim is to prevent the construction of a rail network for Puget Sound.

And while they may mean well, they are playing right into the hands of anti-rail fanatics like Van Dyk and business tycoons like John Stanton, who is currently pouring money into a right wing initiative to make King County's elected offices nonpartisan (thereby allowing Republicans a chance to gain more power in the state's most Democratic county).

Stanton, along with Norm Rice, chaired the group that recommended a governance shakeup to the Legislature at the beginning of the 2007 session.

Their suggestions eventually took shape as SB 5803, which passed the Senate with only nominal opposition, less than a few hours after I published my initial analysis deconstructing the bill.

The commission of transportation czars that SB 5803 tried to engineer had a number of built in features intended to ensure a funeral for rail:
The new entity that SSB 5803 sets up will be run by a board of 12 politicians each compensated by an annual salary that runs into six figures. Four of them would be selected by the executives of Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, and King Counties (Kitsap has a commission chair, not an executive) - and the rest would be elected from eight new sprawling districts.

These new districts would be much larger than county council districts. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for candidates with grassroots campaigns to compete. But the elections would be a bonanza for big business, which would have an opportunity to try and sell handpicked loyalists to voters.

The positions would all be nonpartisan, allowing right wing ideologues to stealthily mask what they actually stand for in the hopes of getting on the commission. And once on, they wouldn't have to worry about listening to constituents - the terms are six years, except for at the very beginning, when three commissioners would serve two year terms and another three would serve four year terms.

And with unanimous consent of the commission required for forwarding any future plans on to voters, one or two right wing, anti-transit members could refuse to sign on to any proposal not to their liking.

SSB 5803 allows people like John Stanton to use their fortune to manipulate the makeup of this new commission by funding candidates who believe in a "roads only" approach. (The commission also seems nicely designed to provide comfortable jobs for Puget Sound area lawmakers leaving the Legislature).
It would also have had jurisdiction over both roads and transit, with the freedom to decide how much money to allocate to which "mobility projects" - and no requirement for any amount to be spent on the development of rapid transit.

We understand the argument that we need greater coordination between the many governments that build or operate our transportation systems. Increasing cooperation and integration isn't a bad idea.

But carving up existing agencies and sacrificing home rule in favor of centralizing authority for transportation in the hands of a newly empowered club of politicians is a poor way to achieve a worthy goal.

We believe that Sound Transit should bring a refined version of its Phase 2 package before the people in 2008. We will oppose any legislation that attempts to bar Sound Transit from doing so. Olympia has already meddled with Sound Transit before - prohibiting the agency from going to the ballot in 2006 and forcibly hitching it to the Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID).

The marriage may have had the support of some officials involved with both ST and RTID, but it was fixed up hastily on Olympia at the end of the 2006 session without much public input, to the consternation of many on the agency's board.

Despite the defeat of Proposition 1, voters still trust Sound Transit, which just announced it will be receiving new round of federal funding for Central Link:
Thanks to the work of Sen. Patty Murray and the other members of the region’s congressional delegation, the Central Puget Sound region is set to receive $88.2 million to help finish one major light rail project and launch another that will carry even more riders.

The funding is part of the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill approved by Congress last night and is now on its way to the President’s desk. Of particular note, the bill includes $19.6 million in early funding for extending light rail from downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington. Sound Transit is working to start building the University Link project next year with a $750 million grant the agency is seeking from the Federal Transit Administration.
Olympia should refrain from interfering with or obstructing Sound Transit's progress. The last thing we need is a governance scheme.

Lawmakers should allow the agency to determine its own direction based on feedback from riders and taxpayers.

And if Sound Transit asks for the ability to tap different revenue sources based on that feedback, lawmakers should grant the request.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

With Dubya's support, GOP dominated FCC votes to relax media ownership rules

This is a sad day for democracy and media diversity:
The Federal Communications Commission, overturning a 32-year-old ban, voted Tuesday to allow broadcasters in the nation's 20 largest media markets to also own a newspaper.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin was joined by his two Republican colleagues in favor of the proposal, while the commission's two Democrats voted against it.

Martin pushed the vote through despite intense pressure from House and Senate members on Capitol Hill to delay it.

The chairman, however, has the support of the White House, which has pledged to turn back any congressional action that seeks to undo the vote.
Though Dubya given his assurance that he will veto any legislation to roll back Martin's railroad, there's a chance that there may be enough votes in Congress to thwart a veto. A number of Republican senators are opposed to the relaxation of the rules. The total number of signatories to Senator Cantwell's letter yesterday alone added up to a fourth of the Senate.

The other possibility is legal action, which was what stopped the previous relaxation of the rules (in 2003, when Michael Powell was FCC Chairman).

The FCC's two Democrats spoke out strongly against the vote, blasting Martin and his fellow GOP commissioners Robert McDowell and Deborah Taylor Tate for ignoring the American people's fierce opposition to the changes:
Michael J. Copps, a Democratic commissioner who has led a nationwide effort against relaxing the media ownership rules, said the rule was nothing more than a big Christmas present to the largest conglomerates.

“In the final analysis,” Mr. Copps said, “the real winners today are businesses that are in many cases quite healthy, and the real losers are going to be all of us who depend on the news media to learn what’s happening in our communities and to keep an eye on local government.”

“Despite all the talk you may hear today about the threat to newspapers from the Internet and new technologies, today’s order actually deals with something quite old-fashioned,” Mr. Copps said. “Powerful companies are using political muscle to sneak through rule changes that let them profit at the expense of the public interest.”
We call on Congress, especially Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, to act immediately to reverse the FCC's betrayal of the public interest today.

UPDATE: Senator Maria Cantwell is not happy with the FCC:
There is nothing modest about the Commission's new media ownership rules, despite how they try to spin it.

In particular, the loopholes for granting waivers for cross ownership of newspapers and broadcast outlets will open the gates to increased media consolidation in media markets of all sizes. Even before day one of this process we knew where the Chairman stood - helping big media get even bigger. While I am disappointed by the vote, I don't see today's action as being the final word.
We're thankful for Senator Cantwell's work on media diversity, but puzzled by Senator Patty Murray's silence on this important matter. Surprisingly, her name was missing from the signatories of yesterday's letter, which also included two other Northwest senators: Oregon's Ron Wyden and Idaho's Larry Craig.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cantwell promises swift response in Senate if FCC relaxes media ownership rules

In a strongly worded letter sent today to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin, Senator Maria Cantwell and a bipartisan group of her colleagues warned that any action to relax media ownership rules and open the floodgates to consolidation would be met with a swift response in Congress.

Cantwell didn't mince words in her announcement:
Congress is certainly not afraid to take action against the FCC...Time and again we’ve told the FCC that if it moves forward without adequate feedback from the public, there will be consequences. There are consequences to ignoring the American public’s right to participate fully in the rule making process. In the Senate, we’re going to make sure that if we have to pass legislation stopping the FCC, we will.
Martin's proposal, introduced less than a hundred hours after the FCC's final hearing in Seattle on the matter, includes a rollback of the rule that prevents corporate cross ownership of newspapers and television stations in the same market.

That's exactly what 99.9% of those testifying at Town Hall during the public comment period over a month ago spoke harshly against. (Only one person, local right wing talk show host David Boze, spoke in favor).

This letter, however, gives us great hope that Martin's railroad will be shut down by Congress if he decides to move ahead on December 18th. The full text of it, including the signatories, is as follows:
December 17, 2007

Dear Chairman Martin:

We believe your determined push to relax media ownership rules by forcing a vote on December 18th short circuits the public comment period that would normally accompany a major rule change of this type. It is customary to provide a reasonable period for comment when proposing rule changes in order to allow the American people an opportunity to review, understand and comment.

When you proposed a new rule on the effects of communications towers on migratory birds, you allowed for a 90 day comment period. How could you decide to allow 90 days for a migratory bird rule and then shortchange the public on the media ownership rule? You claim that you have given the public adequate opportunity by holding hearings across the country on media ownership issues and allowing a 120 day comment period. But no one attending those hearings or submitting comments could have been prepared to assess a proposed rule that didn’t exist.

You announced the rule in a press release on November 13, 2007 with a comment period of just 28 days ending on December 11, 2007. You announced you would take final action on the rule just one week later on December 18, 2007.

That simply is not justifiable. We know you are aware that the Senate Commerce Committee has unanimously passed a piece of legislation asking you to defer action on December 18th. We believe you have shortchanged the comment process and because you have not completed a full review of localism prior to forcing a vote on a rule change dealing with media ownership limits.

With this in mind we are writing to notify you that if you proceed to take final action on this rule on December 18th without having given a reasonable opportunity for comment on the actual rules and study the related issues, we will immediately introduce and move legislation that will revoke and nullify the December 18th rule.

We are notifying you and others of this proposed action in order to make certain you understand the consequences of ignoring the need for and the right of the American people to play a constructive role in attempts by a federal agency to change rules that have a substantial impact on the American people.

The actions you plan to take on December 18th will short circuit the American public’s involvement in these decisions. We request and expect that you will postpone the action scheduled for December 18, 2007.


Sincerely,

Sens. Maria Cantwell, Ted Stevens, Byron Dorgan, Daniel Inouye, Trent Lott, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Ron Wyden, Olympia Snowe, Kent Conrad, Claire McCaskill, Mark Pryor, Blanche Lincoln, Robert Casey, Dianne Feinstein, Jack Reed, Bernard Sanders, Russ Feingold, Bill Nelson, Joe Biden, Jon Tester, Chris Dodd, Larry Craig, Barbara Boxer, Robert Menendez
We applaud Senator Cantwell and each of her colleagues who signed on to the letter - whether Republican or Democrat - for standing up to Kevin Martin's media consolidation freight train.

It's unlikely he'll pay any attention to this admonishment, but it's good to know the Senate is already poised to reverse the harm.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In Brief - December 16th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Washington's Task Force for Homeowner Security, a 17-member group appointed by Governor Gregoire in September, has offered a series of recommendations to "prevent consumers from losing their homes to risky loans they can't afford." Gregoire will announce on Monday which of the recommendations she plans to endorse.
  • Yet another tunnel proposal is offered by some of our intelligently-designed friends over at the Discovery Institute (Seattle's hometown "think tank" mainly devoted to challenging evolution) as an option to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Unlike Mayor Nickels' earlier tunnel proposal rejected by voters, this tunnel would be dug deeper and would extend from SoDo to north of downtown Seattle. Though "[c]osts are unknown," a group of "international tunneling executives" just happen to think this is a grand idea.
  • Oregonians have listed health care and education as their most pressing concerns for the governor and state legislature. 17% of Republicans felt that "illegal immigration" was the top issue, while only 5% of Democrats felt similarly. Republican Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli must be part of that 17%, as he promises to "mount a 'full court press' to ensure that only legal residents can get driver's licenses."
Across the Nation
  • Whether editorial board endorsements have the same weight as they used to is debatable, but most candidates still actively seek them. The Des Moines Register announced endorsements of Hillary Clinton and John McCain for the upcoming Iowa caucuses. Meanwhile, the editorial board of the Boston Globe endorsed Barack Obama and McCain.
  • In a "dramatic reversal" at a climate conference being held in Bali, the US has agreed with 186 other countries to negotiate over the next two years a follow-up accord to the Kyoto Protocol. The reversal occurred after international delegates loudly booed and hissed the head of the US delegation when she repeated the obstructionist stance of the Bush administration. Andrew had more on this yesterday.
  • Democratic U.S. Representative Julia Carson, from Indiana's 7th congressional district, passed away on Saturday. She had been battling lung cancer and had spent the last several weeks at her home in Indianapolis. We at NPI extend our sympathies to her friends, family, and colleagues.
Around the World
  • President Pervez Musharraf just ended the six-week old state of emergency in Pakistan, but only "after passing a flurry of constitutional amendments and decrees to ensure that his recent actions would not be challenged by any court." Typical actions of a Bush ally...
  • British troops will very soon transfer authority over Basra province in Iraq to Iraqi troops, four and a half years after the initial invasion.
  • Bolivia's President, Evo Morales, presented a new draft constitution to the country, declaring that the nation's "people will never again be marginalized." However, three of the wealthier lowland regions, home to most of Bolivia's natural gas reserves, declared autonomy because they view the constitution as illegally drawn up during an opposition boycott of parliament.
Have something to add? Please leave a comment.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

American delegation finally shows flexibility in Bali as climate crisis talks wrap up

For far too long the United States has embarrassed itself in being stubborn and unwilling to assume the mantle of environmental stewardship and leadership that it should. But the times, they are a changing.

Hopefully this breaking news is a simply a sign of what is to come:
The world's countries wrapped up two weeks of intense and at times emotional talks here on Saturday with a two-year timetable for reviving an ailing, aging climate treaty.

After negotiations went through the night on a compromise between the United States and Europe, an agreement appeared close at hand. But some developing countries remained dissatisfied with some aspects of the deal, including the help they would receive from rich countries.

American delegates then said they could not accept the compromise, leading to a series of verbal attacks on the country. But in a dramatic turnabout less than an hour later, the Americans reversed themselves, accepting the changes sought by the developing countries.
The New York Times notes that even with the resistance of the Bush administration here at home, steps are being taken to address the crisis locally:
Climate legislation is gaining momentum in the Democratic-controlled Congress and presidential candidates from both parties are generally more engaged on the subject.

In April, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration's contention that carbon dioxide was not a pollutant and ordered it to re-examine the case for regulating carbon dioxide from vehicles ordered it to review its environmental policies. Dozens of states are moving ahead with caps on greenhouse gases.
In his speech at Bali, Al Gore spoke optimistically about a change in federal policy towards the climate crisis following the November 2008 elections next year. Gore urged delegates to be mindful of the future when crafting an agreement:
You can feel anger and frustration and direct it at the United States of America, or you can make a second choice. You can decide to move forward and do all of the difficult work that needs to be done and save an open, large, blank space in your document, and put a footnote by it, and when you look at the footnote, write the description of the footnote: This document is incomplete, but we are going to move forward anyway, on the hope, and I'm going to describe for you why I think you can also have the realistic expectation, that that blank will be filled in.

This is the beginning of a process that is designed to culminate in Copenhagen two years from now. Over the next two years the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now. You must anticipate that.
Interesting how the American delegation - and some of the other delegations at Bali - have become more flexible towards the end of the conference. Whether it's the increasing international pressure, which has strengthened just as the Earth's fever has, or just a more open attitude, the newfound flexibility is welcome news.

For those who didn't catch Al Gore's speech in Bali (which echoes many of the themes in other talks he's given) the full transcript is as follows.

We, the human species, face a planetary emergency. That phrase still sounds shrill to some ears but it is deadly accurate as a description of the situation that we now confront, and as Dr. Pachauri and his three thousand colleagues in the IPCC have freshly reminded us, the accumulation of greenhouse gases continues to trap more and more heat from the sun in our atmosphere, threatening the stable climate balance that has been an unappreciated by crucial assumption for the development of human civilization.

Just this week new evidence has been presented. I remember years ago listening to the scientists who specialise in the study of ice and snow express concern that some time towards the end of the 21st century we might even face the possibility of losing the entire north polar ice cap. I remember only three years ago when they revised their estimates to say it could happen halfway through the 21st century, by 2050.

I remember at the beginning of this year when I was shocked to hear them say along with others that it could happen in as little as 34 years and now, this week, they tell us it could completely disappear in as little as five to seven years.

One of the victims of the horrors of the Third Reich in Europe during World War II wrote a famous passage about the beginnings of the killings, and he said, "First I came for the Jews, and I was not a Jew, so I said nothing. Then, they came for the Gypsies, and I was not a Gypsy, so I said nothing," and he listed several other groups, and with each one he said nothing. Then, he said, they came for me.

For those who believed that this climate crisis was going to affect their grandchildren, and still said nothing, and were shaken a bit to hear that it would affect their children, and still said and did nothing, it is affecting us in the present generation, and it is up to us in this generation to solve this crisis.

A sense of urgency that is appropriate for this challenge is itself a challenge to our own moral imagination. It is up to us in this generation to see clearly and vividly exactly what is going on. Twenty of the 21 hottest years ever measured in atmospheric record have come in the last 25 years Ð the hottest of all in 2005, this year on track to be the second hottest of all. This is not natural variation. It is far beyond the bounds of natural variation and the scientists have told us so over and over again with increasing alarm.

But because our new relationship to the earth is unprecedented we have been slow to act. And because CO2 is invisible, it is easy for us to put the climate crisis out of sight and out of mind until we see the consequences beginning to unfold.

Despite a growing number of honourable exceptions, too many of the world's leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill used in 1938 when he described those who were ignoring the threat posed by Adolf Hitler. He said, and I quote: "They go on in strange paradox, decided only be undecided, resolved only to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent."

I am not an official of the United States and I am not bound by the diplomatic niceties. So I am going to speak an inconvenient truth. My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali. We all know that, but my country is not the only one that can take steps to ensure that we move forward from Bali with progress and with hope.

Those of you who applauded when I spoke openly about the diplomatic truth here have a choice to make. You can do one of two things here. You can feel anger and frustration and direct it at the United States of America, or you can make a second choice. You can decide to move forward and do all of the difficult work that needs to be done and save an open, large, blank space in your document, and put a footnote by it, and when you look at the footnote, write the description of the footnote: This document is incomplete, but we are going to move forward anyway, on the hope, and I'm going to describe for you why I think you can also have the realistic expectation, that that blank will be filled in.

This is the beginning of a process that is designed to culminate in Copenhagen two years from now. Over the next two years the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now. You must anticipate that.

Targets must be part of the treaty that is adopted in Cophenhagen, and the treaty, by the way, should not only be adopted in 2009. I urge you, in this mandate, to move the target for full implementation of this treaty to a point two years sooner than contemplated. Let's have it take effect in 2010 and not 2012. We can't afford to wait another five years to replace the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol.

So, we must leave here with a strong mandate. This is not the time for business as usual. Somehow we have to summon, and each of you must summon a sense of urgency here in Bali...

...I don't know how to tell you how you can find the grace to navigate around this enormous obstacle, this elephant in the room that I've just been undiplomatic enough to name, but I'm asking you to do it...

Just in the last few days, on the eve of this meeting, I have received more than 350,000 emails from Americans asking me to say to you: "We're going to change in the United States of America."

During this upcoming two-year period there will be a national election in the United States. One year and 40 days from today there will be a new inauguration in the United States.

I must tell you candidly that I cannot promise that the person who is elected will have the position I expect they will have. But I can tell you that I believe it is quite likely.

If you decide to continue the progress that has already been made here on all of the items other than the targets and timetables for mandatory reductions; on the hope (and with the expectation) that, before this process is concluded in Copenhagen, you will be able to fill in that blank (with the help of a different position from the United States) then you can make great progress here.

For starters, that means a plan that fully funds an ambitious adaptation fund, to build an adaptive capacity in the most vulnerable countries to confront the climate crisis. It means creating truly innovative means for technology transfer, to allow for mobilising technology and capital throughout the world.

We need a deforestation prevention plan. Deforestation accounts for 20 percent of global carbon emissions - the equivalent to the total emissions of the US or China. It is difficult to forge such an agreement here.

Believe me if I could snap my fingers and change the position of the United States of America, and change the position of some other countries, and make it instantly much easier to move forward with targets and timetables, I would do so in an instant. But if we look realistically at the situation that confronts us, then wisdom would call for moving forward in spite of that obstacle.

I can tell you that there is a growing realisation all over the world - including in my country - beyond these actions that have already been taken that I've described to you. Mothers and fathers, grandparents, community leaders, business leaders, all around the world, are beginning to look much more clearly at what is involved here.

...These are not a political problems. They are moral imperatives, but our capacity to strip away the disguise, and see them for what they really are, and then find the basis to act together, to successfully address them, is what is missing.

The greatest opportunity inherent in this climate crisis is not only to quickly deploy the new technologies that will facilitate sustainable development, and create the new jobs and to lift standards of living. The greatest opportunity is that in rising to meet the climate crisis, we in our generation will find the moral authority and capacity for long term vision to get our act together in this world and to take on these other crises, not political problems, and solve them.

We are one people on one planet. We have one future, one destiny We must pursue it together, and we can.

The great Spanish poet from Sevilla, Antonio Machado, wrote, "Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk." There is no path from Bali to Copenhagen unless you make it. It's impossible given the positions of the powerful countries, including my own, and the instructions from which they are not going to depart, but you can make new path. You can make a path that goes around that blank spot, and you can go forward.

There are two paths you can choose. They lead to two different futures. Not too long from now, when our children assess what you did here in Bali, what we and our generation did here in this world, as they look backward at 2007, they will ask one of two questions. I don't which one they will ask. I know which one I prefer that they ask, but trust me, they will ask one of these two questions.

They'll look back, and either they will ask "What were you thinking? Didn't you hear the IPCC four times unanimously warning the world to act? Didn't you see the glaciers melting? Didn't you see the North Polar ice cap disappearing? Didn't you see the deserts growing, and the droughts deepening, and the crops drying up? Didn't you see the sea level rising? Didn't you see the floods? Didn't you pay attention to what was going on? Didn't you care? What were you thinking?"

Or they will ask a second question, one that I'd much prefer them to ask. I want them to look back on this time, and ask: "How did you find the moral courage to successfully address a crisis that so many said was impossible to address? How were you able to start the process that unleashed the moral imagination of humankind to see ourselves as a single, global civilization?" And when they ask that question, I want you to tell them that you saw it as a privilege to be alive at a moment when a relatively small group of people could control the destiny of all generations to come.

Instead of shaking our heads at the difficulty of this task, and saying "Woe is us. This is impossible. How can we do this? We're so mad at the ones that are making it impossible," we ought to feel a sense of joy that we have work that is worth doing that is so important to the future of all humankind. We ought to feel a sense of exhilaration that we are the people alive at a moment in history when we can make all the difference.

That's who you are. You have everything that you need. We have everything we need, save political will, but political will is a renewable resource.

Friday, December 14, 2007

In Brief - December 14th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Fred Jarrett doesn't want to be a Republican anymore. We can understand that. He's about to leave the Republican caucus for the Democrats after several years as a GOP legislator. Welcome to a new way of life, Mr. Jarrett. Or an old one, if you're used to reason and compassion. As for suburban Republicans, the Seattle Times headline says it all: "Once mighty GOP takes another Eastside hit".
  • Governor Gregoire would like to see our ancient ferries replaced with three new ones. The Legislature will take up her supplemental budget request this winter. Meanwhile, the state is leasing a ferry from Pierce County to help out with the Keystone-Port Townsend run.
  • Jeff Merkley, a Democratic candidate for US Senate in Oregon, sees the new energy bill as feeble (several important provisions were gutted by Republicans), but a step in the proper direction.
Across the Nation
  • “Contempt” is an appropriate (if weak) word when thinking about the actions of Karl Rove and Josh Bolten. These guys have escaped accountability for way too long. But yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee finally voted for contempt charges against these two dangerous sociopaths for not showing up when subpoenaed in the Alberto Gonzales fiasco. Stay tuned.
  • When you knowingly let a guy who won't define waterboarding as torture run the Justice department, what are the odds of him actually allowing investigations of waterboarding? Michael Mukasey delivers as expected.
  • This doesn't make sense: Alan Keyes gets to join the Republican debates in Iowa, but Denis Kucinich is locked out of the Democratic debate? Go figure. After 27 debates (and I use the term loosely), I suppose Keyes has higher entertainment value. I don't know. Maybe the Des Moines (IA) Register can explain that one, but I doubt it.
Around the World
  • Here's some comfort for Dick Cheney and anybody else with fake worries about nuclear weapons in the Middle East and environs: Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's Decider, has decided the President—not the Prime Minister—should be in charge of the country's nukes. See? He took off the General's uniform, and everything's fine.
  • When Chinese parents openly seek toys made in other countries, it's probably time for those of us in America to pay attention to something other than price when we're shopping for our kids. (A reminder that Darcy Burner's campaign is offering free toy testing at many Eastside locations tomorrow).
  • We've captured a billion “second in command” al Qaeda operatives, according to the White House, which has repeatedly touted successes in the effort to round up terrorists. So why is this guy and his boss still kicking out audio tapes and videos?
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Jersey outlaws the death penalty

The Northwest Progressive Institute commends the state of New Jersey for adopting noble, historic legislation to kill the death penalty:
New Jersey on Thursday took a major step to becoming the first state in four decades to ban executions as the state Assembly voted to abolish the death penalty in favor of life without parole.

The bill, which Gov. Jon Corzine said he would sign within a week, would spare the eight men on the state's sparsely populated death row; their death sentences will be changed.
We are very proud of our progressive brothers and sisters in New Jersey for taking the courageous step of outlawing executions. New Jersey will soon become the fourteenth state where the death penalty is illegal.

This is a great victory for human rights. We are thrilled by the news.

As Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts put it:
If someone commits a heinous crime, we need to excise them from society like a cancer, and I believe we can do that without the death penalty.
The Associated Press has an excellent article examining the consequences of abolishing the death penalty for good. An excerpt:
States with many death-penalty cases would save millions of dollars now spent on legal costs in long-running appeals. Additional savings would result in some states which now spend far more per inmate for Death Row facilities than other maximum-security inmates.

Abroad, notably in Europe and Canada, America's image would improve in countries that abolished capital punishment decades ago and now wonder why America remains one of only a handful of prosperous democracies that continue with executions.
Other states where executions are banned include Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

We urge the Legislatures in states that have not banned the death penalty (including Washington, Oregon, and Idaho) to follow New Jersey's lead and entirely forbid this inhumane and cruel form of ultimate punishment.

Baseball, the Magna Carta, and the Cuban Missile Crisis

A bunch of Major League Baseball players have been named as steroid users, in today's long-awaited report from former Senator George Mitchell. Baseball has a drug problem, the news anchors report, along with various baseball officials. Very slow, deep voices, very ominous tones. You know — as if it's news. As if it's a shock.

Baseball has had a drug problem for decades, like most professional sports. Jim Bouton (a former Seattle Pilot, by the way) caused a bit of a flap when he wrote “Ball Four” in the '70s because it exposed the seamier side of the game, and that was in the years before the free agent and obscenely large contracts.

Critics said the book sullied the game and tainted “America's favorite pastime.” Fans continued to be fans. They figured the players weren't exactly choirboys, anyway. No biggie. The drug of choice back then was amphetamines.

Today it's anabolic steroids. Tomorrow? Something else. This will likely not change as long as there are enormous quantities of money in the game. It will just go underground. Where it was thirty or more years ago.

Meanwhile, Ross Perot has the Magna Carta up for auction, we're still torturing people in the name of freedom and democracy (but hiding the evidence), and Dana Perino hadn't heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis until somebody brought it up on NPR's “Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me” (a game show) a few days ago and reminded her about it at a press conference.

And there's talk that the staunch, principled stance of congressional Democrats of not giving another cent to the Commander Guy is about to dissolve into acquiescence yet again.

And Scooter Libby has withdrawn his conviction appeal because he knows he won't have a snowball's chance in hell of squeaking out of serving time after a new trial. None of this gets as much attention as Barry Bonds' home run record or Roger Clemens getting steroids injected in his butt repeatedly. Astounding.

At least one British columnist has a grip on the Magna Carta irony. Again, we have to rely on others to see ourselves somewhat objectively as citizens of the world.

The press secretary to the President of the United States didn't know anything about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

This was not only an American event, but a pivotal moment in human history that could have resulted, for all practical purposes, in our own extinction.

This (and don't forget Monica Goodling and Bradley Schlozman, the kids of "GonzoGate" fame) screams “incompetence,” which doesn't alarm anyone in particular. And from our traditional media: silence.

At least Reuters picked up a flicker of good news today and actually reported it. Congress voted along party lines to outlaw waterboarding. It's a start. But I'd really like to see a return to journalism in America. It would be refreshing to see at least one public profession that can't be bought.

But take heart. “American Gladiators” is returning.

Weinstein to leave state Senate, Jarrett will run to succeed him as a Democrat

Senator Brian Weinstein, of the 41st Legislative District, announced today that he won't seek a second term in 2008:
I am honored to have been chosen to serve the people of my distinct and I can honestly say that serving in the Senate was one of the most significant events of my life. I accomplished some of my goals, though clearly not all, but it was never my intention to become a career politician. I look forward to resuming the full time practice of law at the conclusion of my term.

My election in 2004 tipped the balance in the Senate in favor of Democrats and because of that, I believe we were able to improve education funding and transportation funding.
Weinstein was the first Democrat elected as Senator of the 41st, which includes Mercer Island, Newcastle, and neighborhoods of Bellevue and Renton.

He will likely be succeeded by Representative Fred Jarrett, who now plans to vacate his House seat and run for the Senate...as a Democrat.

Jarrett could certainly make the case that he is the most progressive Republican in the Legislature. His views seem much closer to ours than those of his own caucus. We are happy to welcome him to the Democratic Party.

His switch increases the House Democratic caucus by one vote while making it extremely unlikely that the Republicans will have a shot at recapturing the 41st's Senate seat next November.

Democrats will also have an opportunity to hold on to Jarrett's House seat, too. With Jarrett's departure from the GOP, the Eastside looks solidly Democratic.

Republicans may accuse Jarrett of being a political opportunist, but we sense he's tired of sharing a tent with people who don't share his values:
I felt there was a strong tradition in the Republican Party that really couldn't be lost. So what I've been doing as long as I've been in the Legislature is trying to articulate that...progressive Republican viewpoint, and what I found is I may have a lot of ego, but I don't think I have enough ego to think anymore that I can do it.
UPDATE: Here is Jarrett's formal statement:
After many months of careful consideration and many conversations with my family and supporters I have decided to run for the 41st District Senate seat as a Democrat in the 2008 election.

This is not a decision I make lightly.

Forty years ago, I volunteered on my first Republican campaign. Later, I worked on Dan Evans' first gubernatorial campaign and came of age during his time as governor. In the decades since, I’ve served as a Republican precinct committee officer, legislative district chair and legislator.

It has been a difficult journey from the party I volunteered for in the 1960s, to the Republican Party of today. I have, I think, remained true to Republican values of investment in education and transportation, civil rights, environmental protection, and well managed and effective government. And, I’ve felt an obligation to work within the party to maintain or restore those traditions.

Yet over the years, while those values have remained important to the 41st District and to me, the Republican Party has evolved in different directions.

I have always held the belief that a legislative body functions best with a diversity of political and opinion – and that open and honest debate is essential to the development of good legislation. The two-party system has been central to this.

Yet, it has become clear to me over the years that my philosophy of government and my approach to problem-solving is increasingly at odds with my colleagues in the Republican caucus.

I retain a great respect for my Republican legislative colleagues. They represent their districts well. But, individually and regionally we see the legislative process in different ways.

My goal as a member of the state legislature has always been to accomplish results for my district and state. I try to approach issues with an open mind and seek solutions that are in the best interests of my constituents - not what is best for any political party or re-election campaign. This has meant working to craft legislation that can win support from both sides of the aisle rather than trying to create campaign issues for the next election.

I am proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish by working across the aisle in Olympia.

We face very difficult problems in this state – problems that cry-out for thoughtful, bipartisan solutions: Creating Twenty-First Century education and transportation systems, protecting our environment and assuring that state government accomplishes its mission effectively and efficiently.

I have concluded I can work best for the interests of the 41st District as a Senate Democrat. I think I can accomplish more for transportation, education and other important issues confronting our state as a Senate Democrat.

Many have told me that this is a politically risky move – that I should be content to stay in my current position where my re-election is more certain. But I don’t want to be a state legislator simply for the sake of being in office – I want to make a difference.

I have also been told that this move will cause some to say that I am abandoning the Republican Party. Yet I am the same person today that I was when first elected to public office in 1979.

There is no perfect political party, neither Republican nor Democratic. But those who wish to serve the public must choose regardless.

I have concluded that my vision for the state and our government has a better fit with the Democratic Party. I could have waited until after the upcoming legislative session to announce this decision but that would have not been the fair thing to do. I wanted my constituents and House colleagues to know of my decision.

It has been my honor over the last seven years to represent the 41st District in the state House of Representatives. I hope to continue representing the 41st District in the future.
The local right wing probably won't miss Jarrett, but their prospects of regaining seats in the Legislature in 2008 suffered another blow today.

GOP's Christmas gimmickry is absurd

For as long as I can remember, Christmas and the winter holiday season have been my favorite time of year. I view it as a time to catch up with family and friends, enjoy holiday traditions, exchange gifts, and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Little did I know when I was younger that there was a war on.

If many conservatives are to believed, Christmas is under attack...and yours truly, as a proud liberal, is one of those trying to destroy it.

In recent years this ridiculous, divisive charge has been leveled at progressives by prominent figures within the right wing who relish politicizing the holiday. The traditional media frequently goes along for the ride.

Take this morning headline in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Ho-ho-no: McDermott votes against Christmas
Or the equally pathetic headline on its "Big Blog":
McDermott takes a stand against Christmas
Uh oh. Here we go again.

Both the story and the blog post (which are presumptuous and contain no quote from the Representative) are about McDermott's nay vote on House Resolution 847, "Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith". While we don't have a problem with a resolution recognizing Christmas, the language drafted by Iowa's Representative King (a Republican) is too heavily focused on numbers and grandiose statements boasting about the predominance of Christianity.

A simple and more humble acknowledgment of the Christmas holiday would have been much more appropriate than what Representative King came up with.

The most annoying part of his resolution is this sentence:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives -- acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States
What role was that? As Farrell Till writes in The Christian Nation Myth:
The primary leaders of the so-called founding fathers of our nation were not Bible-believing Christians; they were deists...Fundamentalist Christians are currently working overtime to convince the American public that the founding fathers intended to establish this country on "biblical principles," but history simply does not support their view.
Perhaps McDermott wanted to take a stand against that clause of the resolution, or maybe he wished to express his unhappiness with the Republican Party's Christmas gimmickry (it's gotten pretty old).

Headlines like "McDermott takes a stand against Christmas" may be attention grabbers, but they are inaccurate.

McDermott took a stand against a resolution that was about Christmas. How can a member of the U.S. House vote against a celebration?

Unless McDermott actually wants to abolish Christmas (which we doubt) implying that he's against the holiday is irresponsible journalism.

UPDATE: Ah, here's the reason:
"While the Republicans are passing a resolution celebrating Christmas, the president was vetoing health care for children. There's a little bit of irony going on around here," McDermott said today.
So it was a vote to protest Bush's SCHIP veto.

Mocking the right wing's "War on Christmas" gimmickry this week is cartoonist Andrew Wahl, who neatly traps the Republicans in their own nonsense:

A Holiday Message from George W. Bush

If the right wing truly respected Christmas they'd leave the Feast of the Nativity alone... and let Christians across America enjoy the season in peace, without trying to stir up trouble. Too bad there's little chance that will ever happen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bush vetoes funding for children's healthcare again in the midst of the holiday season

This is compassionate conservatism at work?
President Bush’s [second] veto of an SCHIP expansion was only the fourth veto of his presidency. AP reports that the White House "sought as little attention as possible, with the president wielding his veto behind closed doors without any fanfare or news coverage."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that they have not yet scheduled a date for an override vote, but it could be "next week" or "the week after."
For American kids seriously in need of the care SCHIP would provide, Bush's veto is like getting a lump of coal in a Christmas stocking.

Medical organizations are already speaking out in protest of Dubya's cruelty:
"Today’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) will have a serious negative impact on low-income children and their families across this nation."

- Jay Berkelhamer, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics

"The number of uninsured kids has increased by nearly 1 million over the past year, and action must be taken to reverse this trend. The AMA strongly urges members of Congress from both political parties to stand on the side of America’s parents and children by voting to override the veto."

- Edward Langston, Chair of the American Medical Association’s board of trustees
The Bush administration is happily dumping billions of dollars into Iraq every month, but when Congress tries to strengthen our nation's safety net for children...look out, here comes the veto pen.

Today's action is just another reminder that the right wing doesn't care about the common good. They don't want government to take care of those most in need, let alone provide a universal healthcare system that covers everyone.

Those children who don't have access to healthcare today?

The right wing's answer is tough luck. Their parents didn't work hard enough, weren't disciplined enough, to become prosperous. Those families should be on their own. It's not the job of government to help out those who are suffering. Conservatives believe a social safety net is immoral.

We couldn't disagree more. If the job of government is to guard the common good and protect our freedoms, then American families must have economic security...freedom from want, as FDR said. Americans who are sick and lack access to healthcare are not free to seek fulfillment in their own lives.

If we Americans are truly a responsible, caring people, then we must have a safety net for our brothers and sisters who are not free from want.

If there were a Democratic president in the White House today, SCHIP expansion would have been signed into law months ago. Unfortunately, we're still stuck with a double talking, stubborn, corrupt former oilman with backwards priorities who relishes power, squandering resources, and bullying Congress.

After six plus years of George W. Bush in the White House, we've had more than a taste of the right wing agenda - we've had a bellyful, as Jay Inslee likes to say. Change can't happen quickly enough. Nothing less than the future of our country is at stake in next year's presidential election.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

RIAA again claims that ripping CDs is illegal

It's your compact disc. You bought it. But the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) possibly the most abusive and greedy corporate consortium on the continent, wants total control over what you do with your music:
The RIAA has filed a brief in an Arizona U.S. District Court against Jeffrey and Pamela Howell, an average Joe and Jane couple who have ripped their CD collection to MP3s for easy sharing throughout their home and -- presumably -- iPods. The brief claims that ripping CDs to MP3s is a violation of copyright laws and the fair use doctrine.

The audacity of the RIAA's claim wouldn't be too surprising, given its penchant for overzealous attacks of digital media, if it weren't in direct contradiction of arguments made by RIAA lawyers in a case filed in 2005. In the case, MGM Vs. Grokster, representation from the RIAA explicitly said that making digital copies of music for personal use was protected.

Atlantic Vs. Howell is scheduled to have its first hearing on January 24. Here's hoping that this case gets tossed out, because if the courts find in favor of Atlantic, it will place all of us with digital audio devices on the RIAA's hit list.
The RIAA is actually suing the Howells not because they ripped CDs, but because it alleges they made copyrighted digital music files accessible through peer to peer (P2P) networks. Under current U.S. copyright law - which the industry wrote and the courts regularly enforce - it's illegal to share music across peer to peer networks if it wasn't explicitly released into the public domain or under a license that permits sharing and reproduction.

But now the RIAA is suddenly saying as an aside: You can't make any copies of the music you own, even if the copies are for your own personal use:
It is undisputed that Defendant possessed unauthorized copies of Plaintiffs' copyrighted sound recordings on his computer.

[..]

Virtually all of the sound recordings on Exhibit B are in the “.mp3” format. (Exhibit 10 to SOF, showing virtually all audio files with the “.mp3” extension.) Defendant admitted that he converted these sound recordings from their original format to the .mp3 format for his and his wife’s use.

The .mp3 format is a “compressed format [that] allows for rapid transmission of digital audio files from one computer to another by electronic mail or any other file transfer protocol.” Napster, 239 F.3d at 1011. Once Defendant converted Plaintiffs’ recording into the compressed .mp3 format and they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the authorized copies distributed by Plaintiffs.
This language flies in the face of what RIAA attorney Don Verrilli told the United States Supreme Court in MGM v. Grokster:
The record companies, my clients, have said, for some time now, and it's been on their website for some time now, that it's perfectly lawful to take a CD that you've purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod.
Perfectly lawful? How about perfectly illegal if we change our minds?
As part of the on-going DMCA rule-making proceedings, the RIAA and other copyright industry associations submitted a filing that included this gem as part of their argument that space-shifting and format-shifting do not count as noninfringing uses, even when you are talking about making copies of your own CDs:
"Nor does the fact that permission to make a copy in particular circumstances is often or even routinely granted, necessarily establish that the copying is a fair use when the copyright owner withholds that authorization. In this regard, the statement attributed to counsel for copyright owners in the MGM v. Grokster case is simply a statement about authorization, not about fair use."
Understand what that little excerpt means? Backing up your music library - ripping your compact discs to MP3 or another format - is only okay as long as the RIAA decides it is okay. It's NOT fair use, the RIAA contends.

You may do it with their "authorization". You may not do it if they decide to revoke that authorization.

The RIAA thinks it should have total control over the music that we legally purchase, and that's an outrage. Our existing copyright law, which was put together by corporate conglomerates, is a joke and needs to be completely overhauled.

Right now consumers have very few guaranteed protections; that needs to change. Our government exists to strengthen the common good, not help powerful corporations get more wealthy.

The RIAA's behavior is evidence enough that America desperately needs a new progressive technology and intellectual property policy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Al Gore's Nobel acceptance speech

This morning Al Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, an incredible honor which all of us at NPI are incredibly proud of him for earning. His words of his wisdom warrant being shared as widely as possible, so we're publishing the entire transcript of his remarks here.

Al Gore on the Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize - December 10th, 2007

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.

I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it.

Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death.

Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life's work, unfairly labeling him "The Merchant of Death" because of his invention -- dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace.

Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name.

Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken -- if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.

Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, "We must act."

The distinguished scientists with whom it is the greatest honor of my life to share this award have laid before us a choice between two different futures -- a choice that to my ears echoes the words of an ancient prophet: "Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."

We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency -- a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst -- though not all -- of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.

However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world's leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler's threat: "They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent."

So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.

As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.

We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.

Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is "falling off a cliff." One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.

Seven years from now.

In the last few months, it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter. Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods.

Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home. Unprecedented wildfires have forced a half million people from their homes in one country and caused a national emergency that almost brought down the government in another.

Climate refugees have migrated into areas already inhabited by people with different cultures, religions, and traditions, increasing the potential for conflict. Stronger storms in the Pacific and Atlantic have threatened whole cities.

Millions have been displaced by massive flooding in South Asia, Mexico, and 18 countries in Africa. As temperature extremes have increased, tens of thousands have lost their lives. We are recklessly burning and clearing our forests and driving more and more species into extinction.

The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.

We never intended to cause all this destruction, just as Alfred Nobel never intended that dynamite be used for waging war. He had hoped his invention would promote human progress. We shared that same worthy goal when we began burning massive quantities of coal, then oil and methane.

Even in Nobel's time, there were a few warnings of the likely consequences. One of the very first winners of the Prize in chemistry worried that, "We are evaporating our coal mines into the air."

After performing 10,000 equations by hand, Svante Arrhenius calculated that the earth's average temperature would increase by many degrees if we doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Seventy years later, my teacher, Roger Revelle, and his colleague, Dave Keeling, began to precisely document the increasing CO2 levels day by day.

But unlike most other forms of pollution, CO2 is invisible, tasteless, and odorless -- which has helped keep the truth about what it is doing to our climate out of sight and out of mind. Moreover, the catastrophe now threatening us is unprecedented -- and we often confuse the unprecedented with the improbable.

We also find it hard to imagine making the massive changes that are now necessary to solve the crisis. And when large truths are genuinely inconvenient, whole societies can, at least for a time, ignore them. Yet as George Orwell reminds us: "Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

In the years since this prize was first awarded, the entire relationship between humankind and the earth has been radically transformed. And still, we have remained largely oblivious to the impact of our cumulative actions.

Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth's climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: "Mutually assured destruction."

More than two decades ago, scientists calculated that nuclear war could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, causing a "nuclear winter." Their eloquent warnings here in Oslo helped galvanize the world's resolve to halt the nuclear arms race.

Now science is warning us that if we do not quickly reduce the global warming pollution that is trapping so much of the heat our planet normally radiates back out of the atmosphere, we are in danger of creating a permanent "carbon summer."

As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, "Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice." Either, he notes, "would suffice."

But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet.

We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war.

These prior struggles for survival were won when leaders found words at the 11th hour that released a mighty surge of courage, hope and readiness to sacrifice for a protracted and mortal challenge.

These were not comforting and misleading assurances that the threat was not real or imminent; that it would affect others but not ourselves; that ordinary life might be lived even in the presence of extraordinary threat; that Providence could be trusted to do for us what we would not do for ourselves.

No, these were calls to come to the defense of the common future. They were calls upon the courage, generosity and strength of entire peoples, citizens of every class and condition who were ready to stand against the threat once asked to do so. Our enemies in those times calculated that free people would not rise to the challenge; they were, of course, catastrophically wrong.

Now comes the threat of climate crisis -- a threat that is real, rising, imminent, and universal. Once again, it is the 11th hour.

The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable.

For now we still have the power to choose our fate, and the remaining question is only this: Have we the will to act vigorously and in time, or will we remain imprisoned by a dangerous illusion?

Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy on earth and forged a shared resolve with what he called "Satyagraha" -- or "truth force."

In every land, the truth -- once known -- has the power to set us free.

Truth also has the power to unite us and bridge the distance between "me" and "we," creating the basis for common effort and shared responsibility.

There is an African proverb that says, "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." We need to go far, quickly.

We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help.

But they will not take us far enough without collective action. At the same time, we must ensure that in mobilizing globally, we do not invite the establishment of ideological conformity and a new lock-step "ism."

That means adopting principles, values, laws, and treaties that release creativity and initiative at every level of society in multifold responses originating concurrently and spontaneously.

This new consciousness requires expanding the possibilities inherent in all humanity. The innovators who will devise a new way to harness the sun's energy for pennies or invent an engine that's carbon negative may live in Lagos or Mumbai or Montevideo. We must ensure that entrepreneurs and inventors everywhere on the globe have the chance to change the world.

When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us.

The generation that defeated fascism throughout the world in the 1940s found, in rising to meet their awesome challenge, that they had gained the moral authority and long-term vision to launch the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and a new level of global cooperation and foresight that unified Europe and facilitated the emergence of democracy and prosperity in Germany, Japan, Italy and much of the world.

One of their visionary leaders said, "It is time we steered by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship."

In the last year of that war, you gave the Peace Prize to a man from my hometown of 2000 people, Carthage, Tennessee. Cordell Hull was described by Franklin Roosevelt as the "Father of the United Nations." He was an inspiration and hero to my own father, who followed Hull in the Congress and the U.S. Senate and in his commitment to world peace and global cooperation.

My parents spoke often of Hull, always in tones of reverence and admiration.

Eight weeks ago, when you announced this prize, the deepest emotion I felt was when I saw the headline in my hometown paper that simply noted I had won the same prize that Cordell Hull had won. In that moment, I knew what my father and mother would have felt were they alive.

Just as Hull's generation found moral authority in rising to solve the world crisis caused by fascism, so too can we find our greatest opportunity in rising to solve the climate crisis. In the Kanji characters used in both Chinese and Japanese, "crisis" is written with two symbols, the first meaning "danger," the second "opportunity."

By facing and removing the danger of the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to gain the moral authority and vision to vastly increase our own capacity to solve other crises that have been too long ignored.

We must understand the connections between the climate crisis and the afflictions of poverty, hunger, HIV-Aids and other pandemics. As these problems are linked, so too must be their solutions. We must begin by making the common rescue of the global environment the central organizing principle of the world community.

Fifteen years ago, I made that case at the "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years ago, I presented it in Kyoto.

This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions.

This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 -- two years sooner than presently contemplated. The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself.

Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis. It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.

We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.

And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon -- with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.

The world needs an alliance -- especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they've taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.

But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters -- most of all, my own country -- that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.

Both countries should stop using the other's behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.

These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must.

No one should believe a solution will be found without effort, without cost, without change. Let us acknowledge that if we wish to redeem squandered time and speak again with moral authority, then these are the hard truths:

The way ahead is difficult. The outer boundary of what we currently believe is feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. Moreover, between here and there, across the unknown, falls the shadow.

That is just another way of saying that we have to expand the boundaries of what is possible. In the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, "Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk."

We are standing at the most fateful fork in that path. So I want to end as I began, with a vision of two futures -- each a palpable possibility -- and with a prayer that we will see with vivid clarity the necessity of choosing between those two futures, and the urgency of making the right choice now.

The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote, "One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door."

The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: "What were you thinking; why didn't you act?"

Or they will ask instead: "How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?"

We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.

So let us renew it, and say together: "We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act."

In Brief - December 10th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • At Blog for Oregon, Jenni Simonis has put together some very nifty maps which compare the votes for Measures 37 and 49 in Multnomah County. Oregon's most urban. Jenni's findings are very interesting: "In 2004, 69 of the county's 127 precincts voted for Measure 37 and 57 against (there is one precinct in the county with 0 voters)...Last month, only three of the county's precincts voted against Measure 49."
  • A burn ban is in effect for King, Snohomish and Pierce counties in all fireplaces and uncertified wood stoves unless they are the only sources of heat. Outdoor burning of any kind is also off limits likely through Tuesday.
  • If you missed him during his last visit to Seattle, you have another chance to catch Barack Obama in a more intimate and cool location this Tuesday night at the Showbox. General admission tickets are $100, while students get a break with $35 tickets. Come by to show your support for Barack... or just see what all the excitement is about.
Across the Nation
  • Mike Huckabee seems to think that we will go the way of the Romans if marriage equality becomes the law of the land in America. So that is what brought about the downfall of prior Western civilizations...extending civil rights? Somebody needs a history lesson....
  • The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy has defined a sensible progressive immigration policy and challenges the netroots to address the issue head-on. It's time for this topic to become a priority and the netroots are well suited to elevate the issue in the public discourse.
  • Where will New Orleans hurricane victims go in May when FEMA closes its emergency trailer camps? More than half of the city’s population rented their home before the disaster, but there are not enough rental units to meet current demand and what is available is too pricey for many.
Around the World
  • Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will join Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, as a female leader of a Latin American country when she is sworn in today as Argentina’s next president. This is the first time that two women have led Latin American countries at the same time, a landmark event in the traditionally male-dominated region. Could a female president of the United States be far behind?
  • Al Gore uses the Nobel awards ceremony to offer strong words to the world on the threat of global warming. Regardless of who occupies the Oval Office in the future, he sees Americans as becoming leaders in solving the climate crisis. Let’s make that more than wishful thinking.
  • President Vladimir Putin today endorsed Dmitri A. Medvedev, as Russia’s next president, almost guaranteeing his election. Two New York Times correspondents also answer reader questions on Russia’s future, including Putin’s role, economics and Russian youth.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

In Brief - December 9th, 2007

Here is today's brief news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Oregon's Republican Senator up for election next year, Gordon Smith, is only at forty percent approval ratings, according to the Oregonian. The two Democrats in the race, Steve Novick and Jeff Merkley, are undoubtedly cheered by this news as they prepare for next year.
  • Governor Gregoire, Senators Murray and Cantwell, and other local elected officials toured flooded regions of Washington on Saturday, after Dubya finally declared the area a federal disaster area. Washingtonian leaders are pressing for more relief funding, however, with Gregoire calling the federal response thus far just a temporary "band aid."
  • King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer is mounting an initiative to make King County's elected offices non-partisan. Dwight Pelz and other Democratic leaders are adamantly opposed to this idea (as are we) with Pelz pointing out that "King County is becoming an increasingly and possibly permanently Democratic county, and this is a way for Republicans to try to maximize their power in a Democratic county."
Across the Nation
  • Oprah Winfrey introduced Barack Obama to an audience of 10,000 in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday night. It was the beginning of Ms. Winfrey's much-discussed and anticipated three-state tour promoting Obama's candidacy.
  • The Decider's budget director threatened a White House veto of Congress's $500 billion spending package, despite the apparent capitulation (again) of Congressional Democrats to the President's demands of continued Iraq war funding without troop withdrawal deadlines.
  • The Justice Department on Saturday announced a formal inquiry into the destruction of video tapes associated with interrogations of two suspected terrorists. Shockingly, the President has "no recollection" about the tapes' existence or destruction, prior to being briefed regarding the matter on Thursday.
Around the World
  • A British soldier was killed in Afghanistan Saturday during an exchange of heavy gunfire pitting the Taliban against British and Afghan forces in a town called Musa Qala, a Taliban stronghold. Atleast two children were killed in the fighting.
  • India's national security adviser issued a "stark terror warning" regarding new anticipated attacks against economic infrastructure in the Middle East. The warning is the result of intelligence gathered regarding al-Qaeda's training schools on the Afghan-Pakistani border. According to Mr. Narayanan, al-Qaeda will be targeting, among other things, oil tankers and pipelines.
  • Swarms of locusts are damaging crops and worrying authorities in Kenya. The BBC is reporting that it has been 45 years since such large numbers have been seen in the area.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Friday, December 7, 2007

So it's okay to burn the Mexican flag?

Conservatives have tried to argue for years that we should amend the United States Constitution to ban burning of our country's flag. But apparently it's okay to burn flags, so long as none of them are American:
An anti-illegal immigration activist is unlikely to get a permit to burn a Mexican flag on the steps of the state Capitol because of air pollution concerns.

Nick Bradford, of Tacoma, said he wants to burn the flag when the legislative session opens in January to encourage the state to do more to crack down on illegal immigrants, including allowing local police to arrest people who enter the U.S. illegally.

"Obviously, the protest is intended to get the attention of the public, but also the politicians here, in Washington," Bradford said. "We can't always bark at the other Washington and George Bush. We can do things locally here."
So it is okay to burn the Mexican flag as a form of protest, but not the American flag? Is that what conservatives think?

While the actual destruction of a flag - any flag - does not infringe on anyone else's freedom, releasing dioxins and harmful pollutants into the air does, and so the negative impact to our environment constitutes acceptable grounds for barring the ignition of a fire to burn flags.

Conservatives, of course, have a different idea of what freedom means, and they have argued that flag burning (and other forms of destruction) should be banned because flag desecration is an offensive gesture. So what they're really trying to ban is the expression of particular political views - which is ironic given how fiercely and regularly they invoke the First Amendment.

We believe changing the Constitution to specifically suppress the First Amendment is morally reprehensible. As Justice Brennan wrote in Texas v. Johnson:
We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.
So here's a question for those of you who support restricting free expression by prohibiting flag desecration: do you believe in a ban against the desecration of any nation's flag, or just the Stars and Stripes?

O'Reilly: Netroots are "devil worshippers"

This has to be the funniest thing he has ever said:
On Fox News Noise yesterday, Bill O’Reilly let loose on “far-left websites” like DailyKos, stating, “If you read these far-left websites, you’re a devil worshipper. You are.” O’Reilly’s ombudsman responded, “As a journalist, you know better than that.” O’Reilly shot back: “Satan is running the DailyKos. Yes, he is!”
Apparently, that bit was supposed to be a joke:
At the end of the segment, O’Reilly said, “That was a little satire there...don’t get too upset about it.”
Or maybe not:
But he then added, “I still think they are satanists.”
So...why hasn't anybody told us about the dark rituals!? Is there something we should know about? (UPDATE: We just received a coded message from George Soros. All is clear now - we've got our instructions!)

Humor aside, perhaps a commenter on Think Progress said it best:
So, Bill thinks we worship the devil.

and Coulter says we are godless.

I’m so confused. Well at least the right wing is there to tell me how to think.
Another gem from DailyKos:
But our Hell Fire...is run on solar energy. While we are burning in hell, we will do it with energy efficiency. No foreign oil is heating our Hell Fire and Brimstone.
This one was good too:
Are we communists or socialists or nazis? Billo cannot make up his mind...

...I am having an identity crisis as I do not whether to go to my Sacrifice a Virgin Prayer Meeting or stay home and read Stalinist literature.
These photoshopped images are also hilarious (the last one is supposed to be O'Reilly - in feline form, no less!)

Well, the foaming at the mouth continues. Is O'Reilly just delirious with hate, or is he truly insane? Either way, he's the biggest clown on television. I really feel sorry for people who watch his program and actually believe his fiction.

In Brief - December 7th, 2007

Here is today's quick news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Darcy Burner's campaign has announced free lead screenings for toys parents aren't quite sure about. The testing events will happen next weekend (Saturday the 15th and December the 16th) ; at many different locations in the 8th Congressional District between Puyallup and Redmond.
  • Traffic is now moving through a formerly flooded stretch of Interstate 5 near Centralia, but Lewis County is only beginning to recover from the storm's beating. (Learn how you can contribute to disaster recovery efforts). Things aren't much better on the coast, where many are still without power. However, Amtrak has resumed service between Seattle and Eugene - trains began running again yesterday.
  • A new poll of Oregonians shows that health care is an important concern. Whether the predictable results of the poll register with anyone in D.C. who's not in the pocket of the health insurance lobby remains to be seen.
Across the Nation
  • Thanks to the efforts of Representative Jay Inslee and others, the New Apollo Initiative is rolling forward. Yesterday afternoon, Congress passed HR 6, the Energy Independence and Security Act (235-181), which, among other things, raises CAFE standards to 35 mpg by 2020, and yanks about $20 billion in subsidies from under the well-heeled feet of large oil corporations. The White House's Resident Decider, though, has threatened a veto, should the Senate's version pass. Shocking.
  • Senator Maria Cantwell remains undaunted by Republican stonewalling of the farm bill that is working its way through the Senate. She has offered a common sense amendment that helps not just her own constituents but people all across America. Common sense and facts never seem to play well with Republicans, though. Not if they don't fit into right wing frames.
  • Everybody knows how important Ohio will be to winning the White House in 2008 - but we have a chance this month to win a special election in Ohio's 5th District with Robin Weirauch. Visit her website to learn more about her campaign. We're $ure there'$ $something you can do to help.
Around the World
  • Great news for China's auto industry, but not great news for the planet: China's new auto boom will add more cars to an already too-crowded nation. Unfortunately, we can't point fingers, because the United States hasn't embraced the environmental revolution.
  • More disclosure: Democrats would like to investigate the CIA's rather suspicious destruction of two tapes related to the interrogation of suspected al Qaeda operatives. Well, if “enhanced techniques” were involved, surely they were perfectly legal, so why the mystery?
  • In Vancouver (British Columbia), airport officials there have decided to make some changes as the result of an investigation following the taser death of a disturbed traveler from Poland. See that, Mr. Decider. Investigate, analyze results, improve. Yeah, ya gotta get that last part. We can indeed learn from other countries. It's okay. Really.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Dubya gives out the wrong phone number

Here's a perfect example of what we've come to expect from this administration:
As he announced his plan to ease the mortgage crisis for consumers, President Bush accidentally gave out the wrong phone number for the new “Hope Now Hotline” set up by his administration.

Anyone who dialed 1-800-995-HOPE did not reach the mortgage hotline but instead contacted the Freedom Christian Academy — a Texas-based group that provides Christian education home schooling material.

The White House press office quickly put out a correction moments after the President’s remarks.
Dubya do learn from his mistakes, right?

Police escort Tim Eyman out of Yakima City Council meeting

Surprise, surprise...an obnoxious Tim Eyman showed up at a public meeting. Except this time, elected leaders weren't interested in hearing his rude remarks:
Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman got the boot from last night's Yakima City Council meeting.

"This is very unfortunate," Eyman told the city council as he was escorted out by a police officer.

Eyman was trying to read a letter to the editor defending newly elected council member Rick Ensey that he says the Yakima Herald refused to print.

But the mayor cut him off when he started attacking Bonlender and the paper.

The council voted 5-2 to stop him from speaking.

He refused to leave and that's when police got involved.
It serves him right. If he expects to be taken seriously and allowed to speak he should be more respectful. It's pretty funny to see so many on the right wing defend obscene behavior when it's one of their clowns making the ruckus. But when somebody on the left is lewd or uses profane language...look out! A sermon on civility ensues.

Insofar as public meetings are concerned, there should be a standard... and everyone should be held to it. Those who are abusive lose their right to have the floor. That's protecting free speech, not trampling it.

UPDATE: The Yakima Herald Republic has a thorough article on the backstory to all of this. There's also video.

If you watch you can hear Eyman complain about being attacked on blogs (no doubt he means major fixtures in the local netroots community like NPI, HorsesAss, blatherWatch, and On the Road to 2008):
...For years I’ve been libeled, denigrated and insulted by anonymous people on blogs, but blogs are little stray comments like you’d hear in any lunchroom, they’re mosquitoes in the alligator infested swamp of politics...
Hey, Tim: You do realize that most of us who are actually blogging criticism of you - as opposed to commenting - are not anonymous? I make no secret of who I am. Neither does David Goldstein, Michael Hood, or Dan Kirkdorffer.

By the way, Tim, if blogs and online forums are unimportant pests in our media and political landscape, why do you spend so much time on them?

You want to talk about politics being a swampland? You're certainly qualified, Tim, because the swamp is (figuratively) where you and your buddies, including the Fagans and your multimillion dollar financier Michael Dunmire - dwell.

You guys show up at a public hearing and heap all the scorn you can on elected officials. You're divisive, rude, and mean spirited. You dodge tough questions and avoid an honest, legitmate debate. For instance, you refuse to talk about corresponding service cuts when you promote slashing taxes.

And that's why you get so harshly and frequently criticized in the netroots community, which has little to zero tolerance for right wing bullying.

You think you've been libeled? When was that? Go on, Tim...make your case. Show where we defamed you. And while you're at it, please explain why you think it's okay to treat fellow citizens with such malice and contempt in public.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Rainfall and floods of epic proportions crippling the Pacific Northwest

It's hard to imagine that almost a year after the massive Hanukkah Eve Windstorm, we'd be experiencing a weather sequel of equally epic proportions, but that's just what has been happening over the last forty eight hours.

Massive flooding has hit cities throughout Puget Sound, including Seattle, threatening homes and businesses.

Many roadways throughout the region are washed out, including Interstate 5, which is completely closed in the Chehalis area because it is under water. Flooding has stranded Burlington Northern Santa Fe trains and caused the cancellation of Amtrak Cascades service along the entire corridor.

Mudslides are also blocking train tracks in many places. Slides between Seattle and Everett have knocked out Sounder runs to Snohomish County. Highway 2 is also closed near Stevens Pass because of avalanche danger.

High winds have cut power to many citizens on the coast and damaged power lines, causing outages in rural areas. Nearly six billion gallons of rain have fallen in recent hours and more precipitation is in the forecast for tonight. Rivers throughout Western Washington are swollen at record high levels.

Two have died in Grays Harbor County as a result of the storm.

The floods trapped or cut off some hikers and homeowners who had to be rescued by helicopter. The effects of the storm prompted Governor Christine Gregoire to declare a state of emergency, allowing the Washington National Guard to be mobilized for response and recovery efforts.

To the south, things aren't any better in Oregon:
The damage was similar throughout Oregon, where Gov. Ted Kulongoski also declared a state of emergency as residents there dealt with flooding, power outages, landslides and blocked highways. Abby Kershaw of Oregon Emergency Management said communications are so bad it is not certain how many people have been evacuated.
The enormous volume of water is causing huge problems, most notably in the state's largest city, which is denser and more developed:
In Seattle, where rescue crews were forced to carry people from hard-hit homes in the Northgate area and then shelter them on Metro buses, Mayor Greg Nickels said flatly that the city's infrastructure had been unable to cope with the deluge.

"The systems that this city was built around -- the draining systems, the transportation systems -- simply were not built to handle this kind of rainfall," he said.
Measurements at SeaTac show that today was the second wettest day on record... ever, which is pretty amazing. Before venturing out be sure to check the latest road closure information, and be aware that many schools, churches, and businesses are shut down because of the flooding, including Nathan Hale High in Seattle and Northshore District headquarters in Bothell.

Olympia's Democrats have lost their way

With last Thursday's disgraceful special session quickly fading into history, I want to take the opportunity to share my thoughts about what happened - and why it happened - while my reflections and observations are fresh.

Rick (NPI's Outreach & Advocacy Director) and I spent much of November 29th in Olympia. We attended two committee hearings, spoke to lawmakers individually, and watched or listened to the activity on the Senate and House floors. And when we left the state capital that evening, we left disappointed yet not surprised.

We made the effort to be there because you can't win if you don't show up. That's the idea behind Governor Howard Dean's successful fifty state strategy.

We went hoping that we would be heard. Hoping (though not expecting) that the lawmakers in front of us might realize the mistake of reinstating I-747.

Unfortunately, we and many other Washingtonians representing diverse interests throughout the state opposed to I-747 reinstatement were ignored.

The two hearings that were held on the legislation were as pointless as the Federal Communications Commission's recent farce of a meeting in Seattle, held with just five business days' notice. Over a thousand showed up for that event to fill the public comment period with near universal opposition to the proposed relaxation of media ownership rules. But less than 72 hours later, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced a largely unchanged version of his plan to roll back restrictions.

The same thing happened in Thursday's special session.

There was virtually no deliberation and no open-mindedness. Most lawmakers came prepared to do the governor's bidding and leave without bothering to think about the ramifications. The few that didn't comprised a brave but tiny minority.

As our good friend Steve Zemke said in his testimony, the entire special session was a railroad. Other matters were set aside, rules were suspended, and thoughtfully prepared amendments rejected in committee or on the floor with little discussion...all to ensure that a defective, regressive right wing property tax limit would be hurriedly put back on the books with no sunset.

Representatives of many different constituencies (firefighters, churches, senior citizens, workers) testified in committee against I-747 reinstatement, urging the Legislature to consider meaningful progressive alternatives instead.

Not a single irate homeowner testified demanding that the Legislature reenact a one percent cap. (I'm obviously not counting Tim and entourage, who are in politics for a living and don't count as "regular folks").

Those present supporting Eyman included employees of the Washington Policy Center and the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, which made predictable statements on his behalf using conservative framing.

Despite the strong opposition, reinstatement was voted out of committee anyway.

And despite all the problems raised with Gregoire's property tax deferral bill, during the hearings and on the floor, the House and Senate passed that too. The governor signed both bills and one of the saddest, most shameful days in our state's history finally ended.

Olympia failed the people of Washington State. And Democrats failed to lead.

Instead, they scrambled to cave to the right wing and were even mocked by Tim Eyman for doing so. "You’ve kind of sold out every principle you believe in," he said gleefully to the Democrats on the Senate Ways & Means Committee, including a clearly irritated Senator Margarita Prentice (the chair).

Having the special session in the first place was bad enough, but the Democratic leadership made it worse by calling for the defeat of wise amendments (Prentice) or unapologetically defending the reinstatement (Speaker Frank Chopp).

By putting Initiative 747 back into law, Gregoire, Chopp, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, and fellow Olympia Democrats surrendered their moral vision. In one fell swoop they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, alienating the party's progressive base while giving credibility to the right wing's agenda.

What do their actions say to voters? We're inauthentic. We don't really believe in the progressive values we talk about. Don't trust us to govern because we're incapable of coming up with our own ideas and solutions.

Authentic Democratic leaders don't roll over and give in when progressive values may seem unpopular. Being authentic means having the courage to consistently stand up for what you believe in - not abandoning your beliefs for the sake of political gain, or because you smell an election on the horizon. Voters respect authenticity, even if they don't agree with all of a candidate's views or positions.

Dino Rossi's entry into the 2008 gubernatorial race seems to have had the side effect of vaporizing Christine Gregoire's resolve and determination.

It's hard to believe this is the same governor who in 2005 insisted the Legislature increase revenue to fund improvements to our transportation system and took the lead in restoring the estate tax after it was nullified.

Hard to believe this is the same governor who a year ago proposed a budget that committed more funding to schools, healthcare coverage, and environmental protection.

And hard to believe this is the same governor that has been unafraid to clash with the Bush administration, bring warring interests to the same table to broker a deal, or defend countless decisions she's made to guard or enhance the common good.

Gregoire's first term record is largely progressive. But lately her spirit and bold attitude have been on vacation.

Instead of being a leader she has cowered like her predecessor Gary Locke, who did not effectively respond to the likes of Tim Eyman and Dino Rossi.

And unless she changes course, she is going to defeat herself next November - which would be a great tragedy for Washington.

Christine Gregoire needs to run for reelection as Christine Gregoire, not as a less conservative or more progressive version of Dino Rossi. Think about it: Why should voters choose Dino Rossi Lite when they can have Dino Rossi?

If Gregoire, Chopp, and Brown want to win in 2008, they have to extricate themselves from the trap of reactionary politics, a trap that is all too easy to fall into, thanks to the right wing's domination of public discourse:
It is not an accident that conservatives are winning where they have successfully framed the issues. They've got a thirty to forty year head start. And more than two billion dollars in think tank investments.

And they are still thinking ahead. Progressives are not. Progressives feel so assaulted by conservatives that they can only think about immediate defense. Democratic office holders are constantly under attack. Every day they have to respond to conservative initiatives. It is always, "What do we have to do to fight them off today?" It leads to politics that are reactive, not proactive.


- George Lakoff, Don't Think of An Elephant
Without our own think tanks, without our own research institutions, we can't effectively counter the other side's ideas with our own.

This is precisely why the Northwest Progressive Institute was founded: to aid in bridging the infrastructure gap between the progressive movement and the right wing. Of course, the existence of NPI and similar organizations cannot magically eliminate elected Democrats' reactionary thinking.

Thursday's special session proved that.

We're here to help, but party leaders (especially those in public office) have to listen and take advantage of our advice and our ideas. Especially on fiscal issues, where the right wing's framing is strong.

Our work is a foundation to be built upon. That foundation is merely a beginning; unless it is embraced, it can't become a finished product.

If Democrats in Olympia truly believe in governing responsibly, they'll build on the cornerstones placed by NPI and other progressive institutions instead of allowing the right wing to push them around. If they do not, we'll see repeats of what happened in last Thursday's sorry special session along with the destruction of the party's hard-fought gains at the state level.

POSTSCRIPT: Activists and advocates dismayed at what happened last Thursday who want to make a difference and be part of a unique political strategy center, built on activist roots, are more than welcome to join us.

In Brief - December 3rd, 2007

A note to our readers: Today's edition continues the new format for our In Brief feature, which divides the post into three parts, focusing on local, national, and international news, including politics, business, sports, technology, weather, or other categories. We hope the new format is more insightful, organized, and comprehensive than the old jumbled style.

With that introduction done, here is today's quick news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Just when we thought we could get back on the road after a weekend of snow, heavy rains are causing road closures and snarling traffic in the Seattle metro area. The state's worst hit area is the Southwest as most major roads in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties are impassable and as of early Monday, 33,000 electric customers were without electricity.
  • Four gay men have come forward claiming to have had sexual encounters with Idaho Senator Larry Craig. The claims come as a response to Craig's now famous televised denial, "I am not gay. I have never been gay." Sure, we believe you, Larry...
  • High fructose corn syrup is now out at PCC Natural Markets, where the ubiquitous sweetener is no longer allowed in the store's products. Debate continues as to the health effects of eating the sugar, but customers seem to appreciate its absence.
Across the Nation
  • Bush loyalists agree to can't seem to agree on who pushed for a vote on the Iraq war before the 2002 mid-term elections. According to Ari Fleischer, Karl Rove "just has his facts wrong" as he continues to assert that it was Congress who pushed for a hasty vote.
  • Hostile Takeover author David Sirota's recent column reminds us that Blue (or Bush) Dog "Democrats" are sadly doing a disservice to their constituents facing home foreclosure by opposing a new bill designed to ameliorate the terms of "subprime" mortgages. They are hiding behind flimsy excuses while socking away campaign cash from the financial and real estate industries.
  • Grassroots community groups told stories and offered challenges to the Democratic presidential candidates at the Heartland Presidential Candidate Forum in Iowa on Saturday. The coalition of social activists and organizations promotes a people-first agenda. Hillary Clinton saw some opposition at the forum, while Barack Obama seens ti pulled ahead in latest Iowa polling.
Around the World
  • The biggest-ever conference on climate change opened today in Bali, Indonesia, as new reports state that global warming is progressing at a faster rate than previously thought. The two week confab is supposd to draft a succeeding agreement to the Kyoto Protocol which expires at the end of 2012. Al Gore is slated to attend.
  • Opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez eked out a narrow win in a referendum on a constitutional overhaul which would have granted Chavez sweeping new powers. It was his first major electoral defeat in nine years and will likely slow down his tightening control over the nation. The victory threw Venezuelans into a frenzy of partying into the wee hours of the night.
  • There is hope yet for diplomacy with Iran according to National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. All 16 U.S. spy agencies agree that Iran's nuclear weapon program has been on hold since 2003 and that the country is open to negotiation on the program. How will the Bush administration find a way to twist this information as grounds for war?
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A history of Initiative 747...

In his Sunday Seattle Times column, Ron Judd has a short and pithy take on this week's special session and the events leading up to it:
Somewhere in a dark room in Olympia, a state printing office employee is setting new type for late-2007 revisions to the educational pamphlet "How a Bill Becomes a Law in Washington State." We got an early look:

1) Unemployed Mukilteo watch salesman turned professional initiative huckster consults Magic-8 Ball, dreams up ill-conceived, penny-wise, pound-foolish tax initiative.

2) (Poorly) paid signature gatherers hired and deployed.

3) Public, endlessly harassed outside Wal-Mart, signs initiative to get annoying signature gatherers to go away. Measure qualifies for ballot.

4) Initiative passes with 60 percent approval, drawing highest "yes" percentage in counties whose logos incorporate lentils.

5) Measure ruled unconstitutional by state Supreme Court.

6) Demagogue talk-radio gasbags throw orchestrated hissy-fit.

7) State legislators stampede like frightened herd of wildebeests to Olympia to make the original measure into law — calling the huckster a coward on their way out the doors.
Yep, that about sums up the story of Tim Eyman's Initiative 747 and last week's unncessary reinstatement of it.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Region turning into winter wonderland

As predicted, December has landed with snowy skies. The landscape is pretty white here in Redmond - it's been snowing steadily for several hours now.

What can we expect over the rest of the weekend? Our friends at West Coast Weather have an updated forecast for central Puget Sound readers:
A cool and dry air mass is in place with an upper level low off the coast and this will bring bands of moisture into the region. The greatest chance of snow will be from 4 PM today till midnight on Sunday.

Then on Sunday the temperatures will warm up to above freezing by at least 10 AM if not sooner. There are several factors that are in play that makes this an interesting forecast. First, there is a cool and dry air mass in place that is being reinforced by cold air that is filtering through from Snoqualmie Pass, and this has a two way impact. It will help keep temperatures close to freezing.

However, this drier air does not have a lot of moisture content. Second, there is warmer air from the south that will try to move in and push this cool dry air out. This is one big reason why snow forecasts vary: it's the timing of the cold air being pushed out.

Finally with some cool air at the surface and warm air aloft this evening there will be chance of some freezing rain.
Most communities in the Seattle metro area can expect between half an inch to three and half inches of snow today. Be careful if you're out driving this weekend - many roads are slippery and icy. Use extra caution.

Redmond celebrates the season

How do you know the holidays have arrived in your town?

Is there a special tradition or event that tells you it’s time to put the lights up and start the Christmas cards? The RedmondLights celebration will start off the season for NPI's hometown this Sunday with a gigantic Christmas tree, a starry walk by the river, hot cider and music from around the world.

What brings us out of our warm houses on a Sunday night? Maybe it’s the free food and the blinking lights. Perhaps it’s the warm smiles on the faces of the couple serving cider or the kids in the hand bell choir.

The holidays are a great excuse to come together, but I think the reason we gather is because of community. Community events are glue that binds us together and give us and our home an identity. Remember last year’s wind storm and the week without power? Remember the fireworks on the Fourth of July? Common memories build common ground.

A sense of community is crucial to democracy. Connecting with our neighbors allow us to be exposed to other viewpoints. Shared traditions can create shared values.

So much is accomplished over a cup of hot chocolate and a Christmas carol! Whether you celebrate Diwali, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, you can join in on the fun at RedmondLights. We'd love to see you tomorrow!

UPDATE (Andrew): Here's the RedmondLights schedule. Like Kathleen, I go every year and have a great time.

DATE: Sunday, December 2nd, 2007
TIME: 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM
LOCATION: Event starts at Redmond City Hall Campus

Bundle up the children and gather with your friends and neighbors for a festive tree lighting at City Hall, followed by the annual holiday walk along the Sammamish River Trail. The Kickoff concludes with entertainment from around the world at Redmond Town Center and free samples of foods and beverages from Redmond vendors.