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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pacific NW Portal: Three Years!

Thirty six months ago, in the early weeks of Dino Rossi's ill fated gubernatorial election challenge, we launched a project to bring together the many blogs in the growing local netroots community: Pacific NW Portal.

Our goal then was to establish a simple, yet helpful gateway for activists, elected officials, reporters, and interested citizens.

Since the site's debut on January 31st, 2005, we have worked to steadily improve Pacific NW Portal from a slightly shaky experiment to a stable, reliable resource providing a wealth of information at visitors' fingertips.

Major milestones in the Portal's development history have included True Blue/3.0 (July 2005), Marine Green/3.5 (October 2005) and Seaside/4.0 (May 2006). Version 4 has held up remarkably well since its release, and while we're pleased with the compatability it introduced, we don't consider it a final product. As long as there is room for improvement, development will never be finished.

Today we are pleased to announce the completion of Version 4.2... the "Third Anniversary Edition". While this is only a minor update, we hope the following changes result in a greater user experience:
  • We've added a "New Blogs on the Block" feature to the front page that highlights incoming additions to our Regional Blogs Directory, which we hope will steer traffic to writers that are just starting out.
  • We've revamped the Regional Wire teaser (also on the front page) and restyled it to match the other "news wires" carrying recent headlines from the traditional media. You'll find links to ten of the latest posts from across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, and Montana there.
  • We've fixed a number of feeds that became broken due to link rot.
  • Finally, we've reset the Washington State News Wire, which (for some reason) froze and stopped showing the latest stories.
To our readers, and everyone who has visited Pacific Northwest Portal or recommended it to a friend or fellow activist, thank you. We especially appreciate those bloggers that link to the Portal or display a "Syndicated" link button. Your support is invaluable and sincerely appreciated by all of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute.

Three years is an awfully long time in the netroots era. We can only imagine where Pacific Northwest Portal will be three years from now.

We hope you'll be along for the ride.

Recommend An Open Letter to 710 KIRO on Daily Kos!

I've crossposted our Open Letter to 710 KIRO regarding the cancellation of the David Goldstein Show to Daily Kos. Readers, if you're registered at Daily Kos, please recommend the diary so that the entire United States netroots community knows about this travesty of a programming decision.

In Brief - January 31st, 2008

I really enjoy reading community newspapers. There is a level of personality and authenticity to them that you don't see in larger papers, even in their local sections. On my morning bus ride, I borrowed a gentleman's The Facts newspaper, a paper distributed primarily in the Central District that covers local Black news and events.


These sorts of publications are fundamental to creating a sustainable progressive ethos in our cities, states, and nation. This and other forms of "alternative media" such as the netroots when used together have the ability to reach peoples' hearts and minds in ways that past activists could only dream of. Progressivism is about positive people creating positive changes to their lives, the lives of others, and their surrounding environment. In order to do this, we must take advantage of every tool at our disposal, even little local newspapers.


Also, Black History Month begins tomorrow, but I wanted to begin today with something I'll do throughout the next month: a summary of interesting Black History facts. For each Thursday In Brief, I'll include some lesser known moments in Black History.


Now for the news:


In the Pacific Northwest


  • Newsflash: it's been snowing. I have actually been rather impressed with how city/state services have handled the weather situations, but they may soon be running out of resources to maintain this level of responsiveness in Oregon. This weather is abnormal, and I wonder if climate change deniers still feel the same way as sit waiting for I-90 to reopen.

  • Seattle in recent years has had number of incidents where citizens have claimed that police officers have been using excessive force. It turns out that Police Department doesn't think that's too big of a deal, since they have for the most part rejected recommendations for disciplining officers.

  • Areva Incorporated, a French energy conglomerate that specializes in nuclear energy, has begun lobbying Idaho Governor Buch Otter and other state lawmakers. Their goal is to gain approval for tax incentives for uranium enrichment sites.

Across the Nation


  • Soldiers coming back from Iraq have suffered from a host of challenges to their mental and physical health. A large number have suffered from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and it's now reported that some of that could be due to concussions suffered during battle. Couple this with the increased number of soldier suicides, and we have a full-blown crisis upon us.

  • The FCC's auction for the all-important 700 MHz "C" Band of wireless spectrum may be nearing completion as a $4.71 Billion bid went un-topped in the 10th round of the contest. A great breakdown of the impact of this auction is here.

  • It's not really news, but CNET's Sophia Cope offers a great perspective on why Real ID is a fatally flawed idea.

Around the World


  • David Too, a member of the opposition party in Kenya, was shot and killed yesterday. This postpones the aformentioned peace negotiations in Kenya, which will resume Friday. This timeline really breaks down the tragic sequence of events.

  • Progressives in the Bolivan government, led by President Evo Morales, are proposing ammendments to that country's constitution that among other things include aggressive wealth redistribution and nationalization of industries. It's being met by strong opposition from the country's white elite, who call this a "move towards socialism."

  • I wasn't aware that we were bombing Pakistan, but apparently we are. The attack, carried out by a pilotless U.S. Predator, is reported to have killed 13.

Black History Moments


  • Today in 1797, Congress refused the recorded petition submitted by African Americans. The petition was called the North Carolina Slave Petition, which was the first petition for an end to slavery from freed Blacks.

  • Today in 1865, the 13th ammendment was passed, which upon ratification abolished slavery.

  • Today in 1956, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s home in Atlanta was bombed.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

An Open Letter to 710 KIRO

As I wrote earlier, we're pretty unhappy with Bonneville International's decision to cancel The David Goldstein Show (formerly on weekends, 7-10 PM). So we've written an open letter which we're inviting the entire netroots community...readers, commenters, writers, all...and KIRO listeners to co-sign with us.

Here's the letter:
January 30th, 2008

Rod Arquette
Program Manager
News/Talk 710 KIRO
Bonneville International Seattle

Dear Rod:

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our profound disappointment with your sudden termination of several KIRO weekend personalities, including Bryan Styble and Carl Jeffers, but especially, David Goldstein.

For months, we have watched with dismay as the quality of KIRO’s programming has tumbled downhill. More and more airtime is being filled with syndicated talk or reruns – the same bland fare that can be found on almost every other station. This decline began while the station was owned by Entercom, but has sadly continued following Bonneville International’s acquisition of KIRO.

You are making a serious mistake if you believe that canceling live local talk and replacing it with “filler” programming is good for listenership or the community that KIRO and Bonneville proudly claim to serve.

You are also willingly sacrificing your unique competitive advantage in the Seattle market by firing hosts who gave Washingtonians a compelling reason to tune in on weekends. Listeners (if they wish) can already choose from a wide selection of programming across the dial that has been pre-recorded and is being rebroadcast.

By following the rest of the industry in obliterating your own talent, you are signaling to listeners that today’s bottom line is more important than KIRO’s future as a prestigious and uncommon radio station.

To put it more succinctly, you are encouraging your listeners not to listen.

Because live local talk has become the exception in the radio industry rather than the rule, there is value in being different…in offering to the people of this region what competitors are not offering on the weekends: a chance to call and join in a conversation, live in-depth coverage of a major Seattle news story, or simply the opportunity to hear what a local personality has to say.

The David Goldstein Show featured a wide range of unconventional and exceptional guests…including journalists, comedians, columnists, bloggers, and elected officials. David offered six hours of entertaining and original radio every Saturday and Sunday night. We will miss his show and his voice.

Your decision may yield financial savings, but it comes with its own cost: our loyalty to News/Talk 710 KIRO. You have invited us not to tune in on the weekends, so rest assured – we won’t.

Sincerely,


Andrew, Rick, Jason, Kathleen, Jonathan, Scott, Garlin, Keith, Jennifer, John, and the entire Northwest Progressive Institute team
Sign the open letter to Rod Arquette and 710 KIRO Management.

KIRO cancels The David Goldstein Show

Why? Because syndicated talk and reruns are cheaper:
710-KIRO has canceled my show “for budgetary reasons.” I’m not exactly sure about all the changes to the weekend schedule (I just talked to Bryan Styble, and he too got the ax,) but apparently syndication and reruns better fit the station’s current business model than live, local talk. Ah well.

Coming off a fall book where 710-KIRO weekends placed number three in the market, and a several month streak of jam-packed spot loads, I’d say the weekend shakeup was a bit of a surprise… that is, if Frank Shiers recent fate hadn’t been the handwriting on the wall. Over the past 14 months 710-KIRO has now shed itself of at least 38 44 hours a week of live local programming, and the salaries that go with it. It’s a trend that has been repeated at radio stations throughout the state, and I can’t say it’s one that ultimately better serves the community.
I appeared several times on David's show during his run - including live from YearlyKos 2007 - and I can't emphasize enough how deeply disappointed I and everyone at the Northwest Progressive Institute is by this news.

To put it simply, this is a bad move...a really bad move. If Bonneville International (KIRO's owners) think people are just going to continue listening to syndicated blathering or reruns, they're wrong. We certainly won't be tuning in.

Live local talk has value. It's too bad station management only sees dollar signs.

Now would be a golden opportunity for CBS Radio Seattle to add a local political talk show to their Air America/Nova M/Jones progressive lineup.

David Goldstein understands the business and he would be a great weekday host for AM 1090. He would give the station a local personality and increase AM 1090's ratings. From CBS Radio's perspective, the financial risk would be fairly minimal and the potential gain significant. They should go for it.

Super Tuesday: How the states will fall

Super Tuesday is now just a few days away, and though I have never cared for polling and the science of political forecasting, I do enjoy making predictions simply based on instinct, drawing from my observations, feelings, and inferences about what might happen. It's fun, I don't have to worry about my guesses being taken seriously, and talking about the possibilities is informative, because there's an opportunity to learn more about how the process works.

I'm only going to make predictions for the Democratic competition, because I really don't care who the Republican nominee is. They would all be equally awful from my perspective. Many Democrats have a secret preference, but I do not.

So with that out of the way...here we go!
  • Primary states that Hillary Clinton will win: California (but Barack won't be far behind!), New York, Arkansas, Tennessee, New Jersey, Delaware
  • Primary states that Barack Obama will win: Massachusetts, Illinois, Utah, Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma
  • Caucus states that Hillary Clinton will win: Minnesota, New Mexico, Alaska
  • Caucus states that Barack Obama will win: Colorado, Idaho, North Dakota, Kansas
  • Primary state that could go either way: Arizona
Finally, American Samoa will go for Hillary Clinton. It has three delegates.

If you're someone who prefers a visual, here is a map showing my predictions. Note that the figure paired with each state is the total number of pledged delegates at stake (Democratic delegates only). Clinton and Obama will divide the total number of delegates in each state between them depending on how much support they receive in the primaries or caucuses.

Super Tuesday Predictions

I think Clinton and Obama will run roughly even on Super Tuesday in the delegate score. Clinton may emerge somewhat ahead, and Barack Obama will try to close the gap by making a big showing in...yes...wait for it...Washington State!

A few wise political observers here, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Joel Connelly, have pondered the possibility of Washington being relevant. Cynics laughed, but now it looks like the joke is on the cynics.

Unless Super Tuesday is a giant rout for either Obama or Clinton...and that doesn't seem likely at this point given the diverse group of Democrats voting or caucusing on February 5th...the spotlight will swing to the Evergreen State. We're next. And so, for a few short days, we'll be the center of attention.

Have predictions to share? Please leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Edwards ends presidential campaign

The Democratic presidential contest will officially become a titantic clash between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with John Edwards' departure from the race today. From the Associated Press via Yahoo News:
"The two-time White House candidate notified a close circle of senior advisers that he planned to make the announcement at a 1 PM EST event in New Orleans that had been billed as a speech on poverty, according to two aides. The decision came after Edwards lost the four states to hold nominating contests so far to rivals who stole the spotlight from the beginning — Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama."
I am personally saddened by this news - I was hoping he would stay in through Super Tuesday. Now that there are only two candidates left in the running (not counting Mike Gravel) I will happily put my efforts behind the candidacy of Barack Obama. I hope that Senator Edwards will do the same.

UPDATE (Scott): While Andrew and myself are Obama supporters, the rest of our staff strongly supported John Edwards. I know that all of us admired his commitment to progressive ideals. His perspective and voice were refreshingly important and influential. As Jason wrote earlier this week:
He grew up in a household of modest means. He has that personal experience. He raised himself up from it to a place where, now, he is truly a free man, unencumbered by worries about whether he'll ever have problems affording first-rate health care, about where his next meal will come from, or whether he'll be able to pay his heating bills in the winter.

And, having gotten to such a place, what has he chosen to do?

Did he say "Great, I'm rich! Now, how do I become super-ultra-uber-filthy rich?" No. He chose to go into public life to continue fighting for regular folks like me. We have an almost unspeakable amount of respect for that.
While Edwards' campaign for the presidency is no over, we hope that he will not be exiting from public life. His vision is needed now more than ever.

We invite Edwards supporters to now join us in supporting Barack Obama. Between Obama and Clinton, Obama has shown the greater commitment to the disenfranchised, poor, and forgotten people in our country.

While Edwards has said he will not be endorsing anybody soon, we hope that he realizes that Obama is the candidate who will advance the causes he holds dear.

We also hope that Barack Obama recognizes Edwards' commitment to justice and equality with a position in his cabinet, should he win the nomination and the presidency. The Justice Department could certainly use his insight.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

McCain projected to win Florida, Rudy Guiliani finally gives up

After pinning all of his hopes on Florida's winner take all Republican primary...and losing...Rudy Guiliani has decided to drop out of the presidential contest and endorse his rival, John McCain, who triumphed over Mitt Romney in the Sunshine State. McCain, in his victory speech, lavished praise on Guiliani and spoke respectfully of the other remaining Republican contenders:
This was a hard fought election, and worth fighting hard for, but I've been on the other side of such contests before, and experienced the disappointment. I offer my best wishes to Governor Romney and his supporters.

You fought hard for your candidate, and the margin that separated us tonight surely isn't big enough for me to brag about or for you to despair. Governor Huckabee and his supporters, as always, brought to this campaign conviction and passion and something we don't always have enough of in these contests, good humor and grace.

And I want to thank, my dear friend, Rudy Giuliani, who invested his heart and soul in this primary, and who conducted himself with all the qualities of the exceptional American leader he truly is.
How touching.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is trying to milk her fifteen point plus showing over Obama for all it's worth, even though the Democratic National Committee has stripped Florida of its delegates. Clinton, of course, now wants those delegates to be seated and voting for her. She will claim momentum going into Super Tuesday even though none of the Democratic candidates actually campaigned in Florida.

Her campaign is making sure she is available for the cameras tonight - she's currently on MSNBC as I'm writing this, speaking at length with Keith Olbermann.

MSNBC's headline on the banner underneath Clinton reads: BREAKING NEWS/Clinton finishes 1st in Florida, Obama is 2nd but no delegates to be awarded.

So will this Sunshine State beauty contest influence what happens next week on Super Tuesday? Hillary Clinton's campaign hopes so, but Barack Obama and John Edwards will correctly call it a hollow victory.

As for the matter of Florida's delegates - the delegation may be uncontroversially seated at the convention but punished in another way - unless Clinton and Obama carry the competition all the way to the Denver.

Then there would be fireworks aplenty.

Clinton "wins" Florida

And 20 minutes after polls closing, CNN is calling this one for Clinton, 48% to Obama's 30% with 34% of the precincts reporting. John Edwards trails with about 17 %. Interesting to note, also, that CNN currently isn't even bothering to show the Edwards tally.

Well, I suppose when the traditional media outlets choose who can debate and in which venue, it follows that they can omit whomever they want from the results.

UPDATE 1: Ah, now they've included Edwards (and Kucinich) in the count as of 5:30 PST.

UPDATE 2: With 68% of precincts reporting, a more defined picture emerges:

  • 50% Clinton
  • 32% Obama
  • 15% Edwards
  • Kucinich is still pulling about 1% of the vote

Florida primary results

First, two items of note:
  • Florida is largely symbolic for Democrats, since the DNC has punished the state party for moving its nominating event beyond Super Tuesday.
  • The ballot includes Democrats who have dropped out of the race: Biden, Dodd, Kucinich, and Richardson, all of whom are receiving votes.
With that in mind, early results (1% counted) Clinton has a substantial lead. She's at roughly 50%, while Obama is at 30%. Clinton flew into Florida earlier this evening to hold a rally with supporters, while Barack Obama remained in the Midwest, where he has been campaigning in Kansas. He added another "superdelegate" into his win column today with the endorsement of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

He also has the support of Arizona's Janet Napolitano, another popular Democratic governor. Sebelius and Napolitano journeyed to Washington State last November for a fundraiser on behalf of Governor Christine Gregoire.

Meanwhile, Washington State's senior senator (Patty Murray) has told traditional media outlets that she will soon reveal who she is supporting for President. Senator Maria Cantwell is backing Hillary Clinton,

On the Republican side, where the voting translates into delegates, Giuliani is lagging far behind rivals Mitt Romney and John McCain, who are both pulling in about 34% of the vote to Rudy's 14%. I guess it's hard 9/11 to 9/11 work 9/11 into 9/11 every voter's 9/11 concern 9/11 after all.

More thoughts and results to follow.

Participation in Florida primary looking high

The voting is beginning to come to an end in the Sunshine State this hour as the Republican presidential candidates vie for the fifty seven convention delegates up for grabs in the winner take all contest:
Polls suggest John McCain and Mitt Romney are neck and neck, with Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani trailing.

Former New York Mayor Mr Giuliani, who led national Republican polls for months, has staked his bid for the party nomination on winning Florida.

The Democratic election is mostly symbolic after an internal party row.

For the Republican hopefuls, 57 delegates are at stake in the winner-takes-all primary.

They will attend the party's national convention later this year when the Republican candidate is chosen.

The Florida victor will also gain crucial momentum ahead of Super Tuesday on 5 February, when 24 states vote.

Mr Giuliani, who has focused almost his entire campaign so far on Florida, will be hoping the opinion polls that have him trailing well behind the two front-runners prove to be wrong.

Mr Giuliani has insisted that he expects to win the primary.

"You don't contemplate losing it. That isn't something you do on the day of a primary," he said.
According to Florida election officials, turnout has been "steady" all day, with polling places in the highly populated Miami urban areas the highest. The networks and Associated Press are of course holding on to their exit polling data, but will undoubtedly not hesitate to coronate a winner in an hour if the numbers suggest a rout by one of the candidates.

The polls have just closed in most of Florida (it's 7 PM), but are still open in the Panhandle because that part of the state uses Central Time.

Update on Homeowner's Bill of Rights: SB 6385 moving towards floor of Senate

A key consumer protection bill - the first part of a broader Homeowner's Bill of Rights - has passed out of committee and is moving towards the Senate floor, according to our Legislative Advocacy bill tracker:
  • Action 07 - January 28, 2008 - Passed to Rules Committee for second reading.
  • Action 06 - January 28, 2008 - Minority; without recommendation.
  • Action 05 - January 28, 2008 - Minority; do not pass.
  • Action 04 - January 28, 2008 - CPH - Majority; 1st substitute bill be substituted, do pass.
  • Action 03 - January 25, 2008 - Executive action in the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection & Housing at 8:30 AM
Senate Bill 6385 allows Washingtonians to recover repair costs in court if their homes are damaged by negligent construction. It is now before the Senate Rules Committee and will likely be heading to the floor soon for a vote.

Last Thursday, our Outreach & Advocacy Director (Rick Hegdahl) testified in support of the bill before the Senate Consumer Protection & Housing Committee.

You can help pass this bill by contacting your state senator and urging their support of SB 6385 and the Homeowner's Bill of Rights. The vote on SB 5550 last year (home warranties, another part of the Homeowners' Bill of Rights) was 30-19. The roll call from that vote was as follows:

Voting Yea: Senators Berkey, Brown, Eide, Fairley, Franklin, Fraser, Hargrove, Hatfield, Haugen, Hobbs, Jacobsen, Kastama, Kauffman, Keiser, Kline, Kohl-Welles, Marr, McAuliffe, Murray, Oemig, Poulsen, Prentice, Pridemore, Rasmussen, Regala, Rockefeller, Shin, Spanel, Tom, and Weinstein

Voting Nay: Senators Benton, Brandland, Carrell, Clements, Delvin, Hewitt, Holmquist, Honeyford, Kilmer, McCaslin, Morton, Parlette, Pflug, Roach, Schoesler, Sheldon, Stevens, Swecker, and Zarelli

Even if your Senator voted against SB 5550 last year, it is still very important to let them know there is popular support for this idea. Call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.6000 and ask to be connected to your state senator. Or, find your lawmaker using the legislative directory and send an e-mail/fax.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dubya's 2008 State of the Union address: Nothing new to see here

If you want to do something productive with your evening, we suggest not watching the State of the Union address tonight, because Dubya isn't going to say anything new, and unless you're a fervent wingnut, you'll just be irritated and annoyed by his (mostly) Orwellian language.

This is my favorite part of the speech - where he calls for telecom immunity:
The Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America. We have had ample time for debate. The time to act is now.
Wrong. Now is the time to say hell no to your un-American attempt to excuse corporate lawbreaking and violation of civil liberties. How fitting it is that the Senate voted to block the Bush/McConnell telecom immunity bill earlier this afternoon.

Bush also urged Congress to buy into his "Pell Grants for Kids" program. If you're wondering what the catch is to that, here's your answer:
SOTU: Bush’s ‘Pell Grants for Kids’ Plan Is Vouchers In Disguise
Bush said: “To open the doors of these schools to more children, I ask you to support a new $300 million program called Pell Grants for Kids. We have seen how Pell Grants help low-income college students realize their full potential. Together, we have expanded the size and reach of these grants. Now let’s apply that same spirit to help liberate poor children trapped in failing public schools.”

FACT — PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS PERFORM THE SAME IF NOT BETTER THAN PRIVATE SCHOOL STUDENTS IN MATH: In a comparative analysis, “the average for public schools was significantly higher than the average for private schools for grade 4 mathematics and not significantly different for reading. At grade 8, the average for private schools was significantly higher than the average for public schools in reading but not significantly different for mathematics.” [NCES, 2006]

FACT — PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS PERFORM THE SAME IF NOT BETTER THAN RELIGIOUS SCHOOL STUDENTS: In a 2006 comparative analysis, the average adjusted school mean for Conservative Christian schools “in reading was not significantly different from that of public schools. In mathematics, the average adjusted school mean for Conservative Christian schools was significantly lower than that of public schools.” [NCES, 2006]

FACT — MAJORITY OF AMERICANS OPPOSE RATHER THAN SUPPORT SCHOOL VOUCHERS: Asked in 2006 if they “favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense,” 60 percent of Americans opposed vouchers while only 36 percent were in favor. “The average response from the 1998 peak to today has been 57 percent opposed and 40 percent in favor.” [Center for American Progress, 9/15/2006]

FACT — VOUCHERS DO NOT LEAD TO SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT GAINS: A 2002 study, “which examined privately funded voucher programs, found no significant achievement gains for students using vouchers versus students in public schools.” [GAO, 2002]

FACT — VOUCHERS DRAIN MONEY FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS: In 2002-2003, “nearly half: the cost of the voucher program in Milwaukee “came as a reduction in funding to the Milwaukee Public Schools.” “In 2001-2002, up to 238 Wisconsin school districts were forced to raise property taxes to make up for funding lost to the vouchers program.” [American Federation of Teachers]
If you visit the main page of ThinkProgress, you can see more fact checks for Bush's speech, posted in real time as Bush promotes the right wing agenda.

This quote from Bush's appearance on Fox Noise earlier today sums up his presidency and his pathetic speech tonight:
BUSH: ...there’s just a certain freedom of movement that you don’t have and so I tell people, "yeah, there’s a bubble but life’s pretty comfortable inside the bubble."
Precisely. Another beautiful Bushism.

Why we are supporting John Edwards

Editor's Note: This is the second in a two part series from the staff of the Northwest Progressive Institute concerning our presidential preferences.

This post reflects the views of the majority of the Northwest Progressive Institute's staff, myself included, and is not the position of the organization as a whole. When the primary voters have had their say, all of us at NPI will be delighted to support the Democratic nominee.

- Jason Black, Senior Policy Analyst


Don't get us wrong. We like Barack Obama... quite a lot. Nearly everything he says, we agree with. His platform is solid, his rhetoric is motivating. We like him, and can totally understand why Andrew and Scott support him.

Only, we like John Edwards more.

Edwards has our support until the end - until such time as he says he doesn't want it any more. There are a few specific reasons for this.

The first has to do with the selection of causes and issues that Edwards has chosen to base his campaign on. He's the one who has pulled talk about the poor, about the worsening class-divide in America, into this year's presidential race.

His "Two Americas" theme, which he's been shouting from the rooftops for a long time now, is a important theme, because the right wing's assault on the middle class is (and has been) absolutely devastating.

Healthcare that costs too much and doesn't do anything, legislative "reforms" that let corporations walk with increasingly spiky heels all over their workers, monetary policies and lax regulations that encourage predatory home lending, the slow whittling-down of our public schools (personally, I scarcely know how I'm going to help my kids through college!)

This death by a thousand cuts is what the right wing has inflicted upon us. This, friends, this is what class warfare feels like. Edwards gets it.

If it's impossible for an American citizen to play by the rules - stay out of trouble, work hard, the whole bit - and get ahead, then America is doomed. Edwards gets that. This is a deep, fundamental problem our society has right now, one that has the ominous potential to make America a very bleak place indeed, and he's the only one running who's talking about it.

The second, weirdly, is because he is a self-made rich man. Go ahead, rub your eyes and double-take, shake your head in disbelief.

There is a huge difference between being rich because you earned it, and being rich because you inherited it. From observing the behavior of people in the latter camp, we have this sense that because they never had to work for their money, somewhere deep in their psyche, they're not secure about their fortunes.

Because they don't have the personal experience of having built that wealth, they worry that the money could run out, or somehow disappear.

So they do everything they can to acquire more money against that fear. It leads to unbridled greed. When you put people like that in charge of the government, it leads to tax cuts for the rich and the host of other truly horrific fiscal policies that are designed to funnel money from the poor to the rich.

John Edwards is different. He earned his wealth himself, through his own hard work. That he earned it by fighting against big business on behalf of regular folks like me pleases us to no end, but isn't really relevant to our point.

He grew up in a household of modest means. He has that personal experience. He raised himself up from it to a place where, now, he is truly a free man, unencumbered by worries about whether he'll ever have problems affording first-rate health care, about where his next meal will come from, or whether he'll be able to pay his heating bills in the winter.

And, having gotten to such a place, what has he chosen to do? Did he say "Great, I'm rich! Now, how do I become super-ultra-uber-filthy rich?" No. He chose to go into public life to continue fighting for regular folks like me. We have an almost unspeakable amount of respect for that.

From Edwards, we get the sense that he recognizes that there is a practical limit to greed. There is a point at which a man can look at his portfolio and say "Yup, that's enough. I'm good from here on out."

His freedom means that we can trust him. He's unencumbered by the need to keep any special interest benefactors happy, and therefore he can - and regularly does - say what he thinks really needs to be said.

The fact that he knows he doesn't need to do this--he could head to the Bahamas and sit on the beach sipping Mai-Tais for the rest of his life if he wanted to, but he does it anyway makes me believe in his sincerity for his cause: our cause, more than anything else.

Third, his stump speech is backed up by excellent, highly specific plans for how to address the issues he's talking about.

His plans for how to help the poor and middle classes are excellent. His plans for tackling the climate crisis are are innovative.

His plans to get us out of Iraq are as good as any, considering the snafu of a situation we're in. Obama and Clinton prefer to speak in generalities (yes, we know, they have position papers on a wide range of topics too, full of their own specifics), while Edwards is totally comfortable talking about how, specifically, he would go about fixing what ails America.

We think of it in terms of that old joke about going to the doctor and saying "Doc, it hurts when I do this." From Dr. Clinton we'd expect an answer like "Don't worry. I've got the experience to help with your problem." From Dr. Obama, we'd probably hear, "We'll get you better. The important thing is not to lose hope."

From Dr. Edwards, we'd expect to hear "Really? Show me. Okay. It looks like you've pulled a muscle in your back. Do you have a desk-job? You do? I thought so, I see this a lot from desk-jockeys like yourself. What I want you to do when you get back to your office is check your chair and make sure it's really level. A lot of those office chairs, especially the swivel chairs, aren't quite level and it throws people's backs out of alignment. So level up your chair, make sure you're sitting with your feet flat on the floor, and call me if it hasn't improved in about a week." Specifics. Experience is great. Hope is great. But please, convince us you actually know how to fix our problems.

The last touches on elements we've mentioned a little bit already. It's that he's a fighter. Say what you want about lawyers, and trial-lawyers in particular, but we love that Edwards has a great history of actually fighting the front-line battles in real people's lives.

Clinton offers a veneer of experience, but all the experience in the world doesn’t impress us if we can’t believe you'll put it to use trying to help the vast majority of Americans in the best ways.

Obama offers us his message of hope, as if we didn't all have hope already. Without hope that we could make the future a better place than the present, why would we bother even to vote, much less write blog posts like this one or be involved with fine organizations like the Northwest Progressive Institute?

We don't need hope; we've got hope in spades, man. What we need is a fighter in our corner. Someone who can and will take the fight to places we can't personally take it. Someone with a history of doing exactly that, and being wildly successful at it. Someone exactly like John Edwards.

So that's why we support John Edwards. We know his chances aren't great to win the nomination. That's hardly the point.

He is the embodiment of exactly the characteristics of vision, values, leadership, determination, and mettle that we want in a President. Like we wrote at the beginning, we'll be happy to vote for the eventual nominee. But right now, we are voting our consciences. We are voting our values.

Primary season is not the time for tactics. This is not the time to try to guess who will win and vote that way because you like to vote for a winner. No.

Primary season is the best opportunity the citizens of America have to express our real values through our vote. So vote for Hillary Clinton if you want. Vote for Barack Obama if you want. But do it because that person is the best embodiment of your own true values and vision for America.

For us, there's only one real choice. John Edwards.

Smile, it's a snow day

Okay, so maybe you did have to go to work or class today...but for many Western Washingtonians, today is a day to relax inside with a cup of hot cococa or journey outside to go sledding. Outlying areas in the Seattle metro area (including Redmond) received at least several inches of snow last night. Many roads are thickly layered over with snow and ice, making travel difficult.

Consequently, the list of school districts and colleges cancelling classes is long, and many employers have told employees not to come in to work today.

If you have to go out today, read over this travel advisory from WSDOT first:
Plow trucks are out in force today to keep up with the snow. Crews were out all night applying anti-icers, and are now putting down de-icer and sand. Daytime crews came in early in many places to assist the night crews.

In the Seattle metro area, crews are focusing on the I-5, I-405 mainline routes, and then will switch to the harder hit secondary routes, like SR 522, SR 525, SR 9 and SR 18.

Metro area mainline routes are looking great for drivers with bare, wet conditions. Outlying routes, especially those in higher elevations like Issaquah and the Tiger Mountain summit, are seeing a more accumulation. Crews are quickly responding these trouble areas. The I-5 Express Lanes have been open in the southbound direction overnight and will be switched to the northbound direction at 11 a.m.

In South Puget Sound, crews are clearing snow and ice from I-5 in Tacoma, SR 512 and outlying areas in Pierce County. The Hood Canal area remains a trouble spot, with daytime crews coming in early to help keep traffic moving.

Crews in Southwest Washington have seen snow on SR 14 near the Oregon border, but metro areas near Vancouver are bare and wet. Outlying areas have been treated with anti-icer and no major incidents are reported at this time.

Extra morning crews are also in WSDOT traffic management centers this morning to assist with the morning commute and keep traffic moving.

Snow will continue on mountain pass highways, with 10-12 inches expected at Snoqualmie Pass tonight. Most of Eastern Washington, still digging out from the weekend snow and freezing rain, will continue to see snow and cold temperatures.

We do need drivers help:
  • On ice and snow, take it slow.
  • Pay extra attention to bridges, curves and shady spots.
  • Stay back from snow-clearing equipment.
  • Allow more time to travel.
  • Keep a safe driving distance.
  • Turn off the cruise control.
A winter storm watch remains in effect all day today. Here's the National Weather Service:
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN SEATTLE HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WATCH FOR THE LOWLANDS OF WESTERN WASHINGTON...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM THIS EVENING THROUGH LATE TONIGHT.

THE SNOW ADVISORY FOR EVERETT AND VICINITY AND THE SEATTLE- BREMERTON AREA WILL EXPIRE AT 6 AM. SNOW SHOWERS WILL CONTINUE THROUGH 6 AM ACROSS THE NORTHERN TIP OF THE KITSAP PENINSULA AND PARTICULARLY FROM EVERETT DOWN ACROSS NORTH SEATTLE...THEN BEGIN TO TAPER OFF. ANOTHER INCH OF NEW SNOW IS POSSIBLE IN THESE AREAS. FURTHER SOUTH OVER BREMERTON AND SOUTH OF SEATTLE...THE CHANCE OF SHOWERS WILL DECREASE MORE QUICKLY.

FOR TONIGHT...A STRONG FRONTAL SYSTEM WILL MOVE ACROSS WESTERN WASHINGTON TONIGHT THROUGH EARLY TUESDAY MORNING. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT ONE TO FOUR INCHES OF NEW SNOW MAY ACCUMULATE FROM THIS STORM.

AS TYPICAL WITH LOWLAND SNOW IN WESTERN WASHINGTON THERE IS CONSIDERABLE DOUBT ABOUT HOW MUCH SNOW MAY ACCUMULATE. AT THIS TIME...THE AIR MASS IS COLD ENOUGH FOR SNOW...BUT THE INCOMING SYSTEM WILL BRING INCREASING SOUTH WINDS TO THE AREA...WHICH MORE OFTEN THAN NOT WARMS UP THE AIR MASS ENOUGH SO THAT RAIN IS MIXED WITH THE SNOW...OR JUST RAIN FALLS. IF THE LATEST COMPUTER MODELS ARE ACCURATE THEN UP TO 4 INCHES OF NEW SNOW MAY ACCUMULATE BEFORE THE FRONT MOVES EAST AROUND SUNRISE TUESDAY.
Pacific Northwest Portal's Winter Preparedness page has more information about keeping your home in solid condition during freezing and snowy weather.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Why we are supporting Barack Obama

Editor's Note: This is the first in a two part series from the staff of the Northwest Progressive Institute concerning our presidential preferences.

This post reflects only the views of myself and Scott Gifford, one of our tireless and capable contributing editors.

- Andrew Villeneuve, Executive Director


We are Obama fans.

Like Markos, we would happily support any of the three major candidates, each of whom, we believe, could defeat whoever the Republicans throw at us.

Senator Clinton is a determined leader and brings with her a tremendous amount of intellectual gravitas. Senator Edwards speaks knowledgeably and forcefully about the challenges that face most American families - such as wage stratification, healthcare, or making college affordable.

But Barack Obama is the only candidate of the three who is talking about transformative, sweeping change. Not just a change in who runs the executive branch, but a visible, meaningful change in our politics and our culture.

Change that casts aside apathy, conflict, and cynicism in favor of fresh energy, harmony, and renewed hope for the United States of America.

Perhaps because he is such a gifted communicator, he speaks the plain language of real American values more masterfully than his rivals.

Obama has inspired a breathtaking number of young people across America - the generation whose participation is critical to the future of our democracy - to care about our nation's political process and become involved with his campaign.

We have been impressed with the responsiveness of the Obama campaign firsthand. Earlier this month, we inquired as to Barack Obama's position on transportation and livable communities - a topic that doesn't receive much attention in the traditional media. We promptly received a comprehensive paper outlining Obama's support for Amtrak, for municipal rapid transit and light rail, for a stronger air traffic control system, and for livable, walkable communities.

And then, when we had a couple of very specific follow-up questions, Obama's team tried their best to answer those for us as well.

Barack is a strong and charismatic leader capable of rallying our nation together... and building a powerful Democratic Party, as Roosevelt and Kennedy did. He is a candidate that Americans feel they can trust. Someone we can identify with, as Caroline Kennedy declared so eloquently in her New York Times column today.

If the Clinton and Bush years have taught us anything, it is that narrow (and illegitimate) victories are often somewhat pyrrhic. President Bill Clinton, for example, held many positions that were hardly progressive (don’t ask don’t tell, welfare cutbacks, and the "Defense of Marriage Act", to name a few).

Clinton governed well, considering the hostile Republican Congress he had to contend with for most of his presidency. But he was unable to advance the progressive cause and be the shepard of dramatic, transcendental change.

And George W. Bush...well, don't even get us started. The rampant destruction Bush and his cronies have caused will forever be a remembered as a tragic era error in our nation's history.

Compare Bush and Clinton to Ronald Reagan, revered as a saint among conservatives and held in fond regard by many biconceptuals (or independents) as well. Reagan cleverly championed individualism and advanced the right wing agenda as president. He won reelection decisively over Mondale in 1984 and spent much of the decade quietly dismantling the work of Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter.

Much as we dislike and disagree with Reagan's views, we have to admit that he did an outstanding job of winning Americans to his side. He sought to move voters to embrace his worldview, rather than sacrificing his beliefs in an attempt to get support. He even persuaded Americans who did not agree with his conservative views to vote for him. And that's the kind of power that Barack Obama has.

In recent decades, Democratic candidates have unfortunately come to rely on polling and focus groups to determine the direction of their campaigns.

This is a self-defeating move. The job of leaders is to lead, not to follow.

Following the voters may make sense if you desperately want to capture the White House, as Hillary Clinton does. Barack Obama's campaign, in contrast, is about growing the Democratic Party and building the progressive movement. Movement building requires communication, framing, connecting, and engaging in politics in its truest and most traditional sense.

The word politic is from Latin or Greek. It refers to matters that pertained to citizens or the state; the body politic. Politics is the science or study of how to best govern, not simply how to win elected office. While winning is important, it is only important as a necessary condition for the true aim of politics, to create good public policy for the betterment of the nation.

It’s about inspiring Americans to see that they can be better, and to see progressive ideas as the key to improving this country.

It's not just about restoring America's promise. It's the true advancement, in every dimension, of the values our country was founded upon and has always stood for.

Hillary Clinton and John Edwards may have their own unique strengths, but neither has Barack Obama's extroadinarily compelling emotional message or diverse, widespread appeal. As the nominee - the Democratic standard bearer - Obama would benefit more from having Edwards and Clinton at his side than Clinton or Edwards would benefit from having Obama at their side.

Why? Because the theme of Obama's candidacy, which resonates both inside and outside the Democratic Party, is a new, unifying progressive politics for America. Clinton, on the other hand, is the darling of the Democratic establishment, while Edwards is a confrontational populist who justifiably wants to fight back against corporate greed and degradation of our common wealth.

We admire Edwards' resolve and passion for fighting the good fight. But America needs more than that at this critical moment, at this crossroads in time.

Healing the harm caused to this country through years of a divisive "you're either with us or you're against us" administration will take courageous and patient leadership from an authentic, pragmatic Democrat. It will take a Commander in Chief who can move this country forward by making it nearly impossible for Republicans to choose not to compromise.

We believe Barack Obama will be that President.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

In Brief - January 26th, 2008

If I had to sum up this week in two words, they would probably be cold and colder. There's an ice-chest out on my balcony that has been out there since mid October (please don't ask). Today, I happened look and found it full to the very top with water. Given that it has been closed all this time, it's quite a testament to how much rain we've had that enough could seep in around the lid to fill the danged thing up. But what surprised me was that the water was also frozen.

Now, an ice-chest is basically just an insulated plastic box whose job is to keep heat from flowing from one side to the other. It "keeps the hot side hot and the cold side cold" as it were. For the water inside the insulated box to have frozen, well, that tells me it's been pretty darned cold these past few days.

Anyway, on to today's news roundup. For all I know, vastly interesting things may have happened in the world yesterday, of which I remain clueless.

I was newsless all day Friday from having spent the whole day with my son at Children's Hospital. So if I missed linking to something really astonishing, like, say, Mitt Romney pulling a rich guy white-knight move to keep the Sonics in Seattle as a play for votes in Washington's upcoming caucuses - then you'll forgive me.

In the Pacific Northwest

First, a look at what's been happening under the dome in Olympia this week.

State Senator Karen Keiser has introduced a universal healthcare proposal to the Legislature. David Sirota has an excellent article about it. I love his opening line so much I'm going to steal it: "There is a simple fix for our ailing healthcare system, and it has the right-wing in a panic".

Meanwhile, State Senator Ken Jacobsen, having spent too much time on the tarmac, has introduced a Passenger Bill of Rights. The Senate Consumer Protection and Housing Committee held hearings on the bill Tuesday, and were by all accounts not disposed to look kindly on airline representatives' assurances that no such measure is necessary.

When my mom was a kid in upstate New York in the 1950s, she participated in the 4-H program. Back then, 4-H was mostly oriented at agricultural science and other matters of interest to rural farming communities like my Mom's. These days, 4-H is a bit different. Now they do cool stuff like teach Snohomish kids about environmentalism.

Washington's Clark County GOP is taking national heat for spreading lies about Barack Obama. A big congratulations to Northwest Progressive Institute alumnus Jon DeVore for breaking this story. Personally, I fail to see how there is anything the least bit smear-worthy about being a Muslim or an athiest, although in the interests of full disclosure I should be the first to admit that I may be just a tad biased on that point. As my private life is my own, however, I'll leave it to you to figure out which of those two perfectly honorable categories I happen to belong to.

Water is still in the news. Idaho farmers are watching winter weather to decide what to plant. Snowpack in watersheds that serve southern Idaho's vast farm areas are at normal levels for the moment, but need to double in the next couple of months in order to provide normal irrigation levels for the coming growing season.

What crops farmers plant depend on forecasts for available irrigation water. With global warming likely to create long-term drier conditions here in the Northwest, we can probably expect to see slow trends away from water-intensive cash-crop human chow like sweet corn and towards towards less lucrative, but less thirsty crops.

I called Idaho farmer Don Taber, who runs a 4,000 acre spread in the Shoshone area of Idaho, to ask about it. He says that he'd prefer to plant corn, but as water forecasts become increasingly bad, he'll have to switch to spring wheat, malt barley, "silage corn" (read: you chop it up and feed it to cows), or at worst, oats. But I'm not worried; personally, I like a nice bowl of oats.

Washington districts don't flip parties often. No, I suppose they don't, as this Seattle POst-Intelligencer story claims. What the story fails to mention, however, is that they wouldn't have had any story at all except for a) an unprecedented amount of last-minute GOP spending on Lazy Dave's behalf, and b) freakishly torrential rains and flooding on election day 2006 that disproportionally affected voters in some of Darcy Burner's key areas.

I don't argue with the premise that unseating a sitting member of Congress is an enormous undertaking, but I think to look purely at the results of the 2006 election without also considering the backstory of those races is an invitation to learn the wrong lesson from recent history.

Across the Nation

  • The ACLU has posted a concise summary of the current FISA situation on DailyKos. Worth a read, and then, a follow-up call to your Senators. Ok, I lied. I did go look at a little bit of news yesterday. But hey, look at this next item. I'm in good company!
  • Liar in Chief. Keith mentioned this yesterday, but it's important, so I'm going to repeat it. The Center for Public Integrity has released a comprehensive analysis of the 935 lies promulgated upon the American public leading up to the Iraq war. I'll give you, well, no guesses (you shouldn't need any) as to who told the greatest number of those. Huge props to the CPI for doing this, and my condolences to the people who had to do the research to put this database together. It must have been frightfully depressing work.
  • Dennis Kucinich will introduce Articles of Impeachment on Monday. If only the Speaker of the House were as interested in protecting the Constitution as this former presidential candidate. Although Kucinich wasn't the horse I was backing, his stance on holding the Bush administration accountable for its crimes does make me regret that he's backing out to go protect his House seat. I hope he keeps it. We need congressmen and women with the spine to, you know, actually do what they pledged in their oaths of office.
  • Now that the Fed is cutting interest rates, the markets (and everybody else, for that matter) is freaking out about the looming recession, proposals are surfacing for how to fix it. On the Repulican side, we have Bush and presidential hopefuls like McCain calling for making permanent the ludicrous tax cuts that helped get us in this mess. On the progressive side, we have insightful folks like Dean Baker arguing that this is a great opportunity to jump-start a new green economy. AlterNet, once again, has a nice follow-on analysis with some further facts and figures. Warning: you might not want to read AlterNet's piece, on the grounds that it could make you really mad. But then, if you're not already really mad at Bush and his entire administration, this probably won't do it either, so read on. What have you got to lose?
  • Remember last week I linked to a story about making it easier for schools to use local produce? I said I thought that was cool because eating stuff that's from closer to where you are is good for the environment. But, changing where you eat isn't the only way. Here's a story on how changing what you eat can also make a big difference.
  • But in an interesting editorial juxtaposition, AlterNet also reports on why we shouldn't fear cloned meat. I'm sure cloned meat is just fine. Why wouldn't it be? But I say, talk to me when we can have our cake and eat it too: vat grown, low-carbon-footprint nicely marbled thick juicy steaks. Don't laugh - NASA is working on it...
Around the World

  • The United Kingdom has green-lighted controversial stem-cell research. England's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority has granted permission for researchers to attempt to fuse human DNA into animal egg cells, in an attempt to extract stem cells from the resulting embryos. Why? Because human eggs are in understandably short supply.
  • I can't think of anything sufficiently snarky to say about this one, so I'll just let the phrase origami spaceplane stand on its own. And yes, this appears to be legit.
  • In other quite literally screwy space news (hey, this is the "around the world" section), some clever Canadians have hit upon a novel solution for the problem of dealing with liquids in micro-gravity. If space tourism ever hits the mass market--which, personally, I'm really hoping it will, someday you may be drinking coffee out of a-- um, off of a--, well, from a gizmo like this.
On the Lighter Side

  • Sublimely funny, geeky web-comic XKCD neatly sums up debates about the paranormal.
  • Sure, people talk about hooking up generators to their hampsters' wheels, but nobody ever actually does it. Do they?
Finally, if you think the Puget Sound's traffic problems are bad, thank your lucky stars they're nothing like this. Of course if we don't stop trying to "build our way out of congestion" with more and wider highways, as Eyman and his ilk keep insisting we should, sights like this might not be so unthinkable around here. Here's a hint: Phoenix tried it. Now they have highways all over the place, and traffic is as bad as ever. L.A. tried it too. Now they practically set the worldwide standard for bad traffic.

As I like to say, a smart person learns from their mistakes, while a wise person learns from the mistakes of others. It's time we wised up around here.

This Day in History
  • 1564: The Council of Trent officially splits Roman Catholicism from Protestantism.
  • 1700: The Cascadia Earthquake, measuring approximately 9 on the Richter scale, strikes off the coast of what is now Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver Island. The Juan de Fuca plate, along a roughly 1000 mile stretch of fault line, slipped 20 meters or so in one shot, sending tsunamis across the Pacific to inundate parts of Japan. The most recent, similar quake to compare it to was the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which killed nearly a quarter-million people in Southeast Asia.
  • 1861: Civil War -- Louisiana secedes from the Union. Given that just this past Monday, Louisiana saw white separatist groups protesting on Martin Luther King day, one has to wonder, did they ever really come back? So, to the thankfully small minority of folks who continue to engage in such outright foolishness: Come on, fellas, that fight has been over for almost 150 years now. You want to come join the rest of us here in the 21st century?
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Text of Senator Barack Obama's victory speech in South Carolina

The following is Senator Barack Obama's victory speech following his resounding triumph in South Carolina over rival Hillary Clinton.

Over two weeks ago, we saw the people of Iowa proclaim that our time for change has come. But there were those who doubted this country’s desire for something new – who said Iowa was a fluke not to be repeated again.

Well, tonight, the cynics who believed that what began in the snows of Iowa was just an illusion were told a different story by the good people of South Carolina.

After four great contests in every corner of this country, we have the most votes, the most delegates, and the most diverse coalition of Americans we’ve seen in a long, long time.

They are young and old; rich and poor. They are black and white; Latino and Asian. They are Democrats from Des Moines and Independents from Concord; Republicans from rural Nevada and young people across this country who’ve never had a reason to participate until now. And in nine days, nearly half the nation will have the chance to join us in saying that we are tired of business-as-usual in Washington, we are hungry for change, and we are ready to believe again.

But if there’s anything we’ve been reminded of since Iowa, it’s that the kind of change we seek will not come easy.

Partly because we have fine candidates in the field – fierce competitors, worthy of respect. And as contentious as this campaign may get, we have to remember that this is a contest for the Democratic nomination, and that all of us share an abiding desire to end the disastrous policies of the current administration.

But there are real differences between the candidates. We are looking for more than just a change of party in the White House.

We’re looking to fundamentally change the status quo in Washington – a status quo that extends beyond any particular party. And right now, that status quo is fighting back with everything it’s got; with the same old tactics that divide and distract us from solving the problems people face, whether those problems are health care they can’t afford or a mortgage they cannot pay.

So this will not be easy. Make no mistake about what we’re up against.

We are up against the belief that it’s ok for lobbyists to dominate our government – that they are just part of the system in Washington. But we know that the undue influence of lobbyists is part of the problem, and this election is our chance to say that we’re not going to let them stand in our way anymore.

We are up against the conventional thinking that says your ability to lead as President comes from longevity in Washington or proximity to the White House. But we know that real leadership is about candor, and judgment, and the ability to rally Americans from all walks of life around a common purpose – a higher purpose.

We are up against decades of bitter partisanship that cause politicians to demonize their opponents instead of coming together to make college affordable or energy cleaner; it’s the kind of partisanship where you’re not even allowed to say that a Republican had an idea – even if it’s one you never agreed with.

That kind of politics is bad for our party, it’s bad for our country, and this is our chance to end it once and for all.

We are up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. We know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics; this is why people don’t believe what their leaders say anymore; this is why they tune out. And this election is our chance to give the American people a reason to believe again.

And what we’ve seen in these last weeks is that we’re also up against forces that are not the fault of any one campaign, but feed the habits that prevent us from being who we want to be as a nation.

It’s the politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon. A politics that tells us that we have to think, act, and even vote within the confines of the categories that supposedly define us.

The assumption that young people are apathetic. The assumption that Republicans won’t cross over. The assumption that the wealthy care nothing for the poor, and that the poor don’t vote. The assumption that African-Americans can’t support the white candidate; whites can’t support the African-American candidate; blacks and Latinos can’t come together.

But we are here tonight to say that this is not the America we believe in. I did not travel around this state over the last year and see a white South Carolina or a black South Carolina. I saw South Carolina.

I saw crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children. I saw shuttered mills and homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from all walks of life, and men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. I saw what America is, and I believe in what this country can be.

That is the country I see. That is the country you see. But now it is up to us to help the entire nation embrace this vision.

Because in the end, we are not just up against the ingrained and destructive habits of Washington, we are also struggling against our own doubts, our own fears, and our own cynicism. The change we seek has always required great struggle and sacrifice. And so this is a battle in our own hearts and minds about what kind of country we want and how hard we’re willing to work for it.

So let me remind you tonight that change will not be easy. That change will take time. There will be setbacks, and false starts, and sometimes we will make mistakes. But as hard as it may seem, we cannot lose hope.

Because there are people all across this country who are counting us; who can’t afford another four years without health care or good schools or decent wages because our leaders couldn’t come together and get it done.

Theirs are the stories and voices we carry on from South Carolina.

The mother who can’t get Medicaid to cover all the needs of her sick child – she needs us to pass a health care plan that cuts costs and makes health care available and affordable for every single American.

The teacher who works another shift at Dunkin Donuts after school just to make ends meet – she needs us to reform our education system so that she gets better pay, and more support, and her students get the resources they need to achieve their dreams.

The Maytag worker who is now competing with his own teenager for a $7-an-hour job at Wal-Mart because the factory he gave his life to shut its doors – he needs us to stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship our jobs overseas and start putting them in the pockets of working Americans who deserve it. And struggling homeowners. And seniors who should retire with dignity and respect.

The woman who told me that she hasn’t been able to breathe since the day her nephew left for Iraq, or the soldier who doesn’t know his child because he’s on his third or fourth tour of duty – they need us to come together and put an end to a war that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged.

The choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders. It’s not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white.

It’s about the past versus the future.

It’s about whether we settle for the same divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today, or whether we reach for a politics of common sense, and innovation – a shared sacrifice and shared prosperity.

There are those who will continue to tell us we cannot do this. That we cannot have what we long for. That we are peddling false hopes.

But here’s what I know. I know that when people say we can’t overcome all the big money and influence in Washington, I think of the elderly woman who sent me a contribution the other day – an envelope that had a money order for $3.01 along with a verse of scripture tucked inside. So don’t tell us change isn’t possible.

When I hear the cynical talk that blacks and whites and Latinos can’t join together and work together, I’m reminded of the Latino brothers and sisters I organized with, and stood with, and fought with side by side for jobs and justice on the streets of Chicago. So don’t tell us change can’t happen.

When I hear that we’ll never overcome the racial divide in our politics, I think about that Republican woman who used to work for Strom Thurmond, who’s now devoted to educating inner-city children and who went out onto the streets of South Carolina and knocked on doors for this campaign. Don’t tell me we can’t change.

Yes we can change.

Yes we can heal this nation.

Yes we can seize our future.

And as we leave this state with a new wind at our backs, and take this journey across the country we love with the message we’ve carried from the plains of Iowa to the hills of New Hampshire; from the Nevada desert to the South Carolina coast; the same message we had when we were up and when we were down – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope; and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people in three simple words:

Yes. We. Can.

Obama wins massive victory in South Carolina

With nearly 100% of the votes counted, Barack Obama has bested Hillary Clinton in the South Carolina Democratic primary by a nearly 2 to 1 margin, drawing support from every corner of the state and defying the expectations of many pundits.

Obama has just finished giving an unbelievably powerful victory speech at his South Carolina headquarters, It's perhaps one of the strongest and most eloquent he's ever delivered. I watched and was greatly impressed by his tone and choice of words. It's hard not to feel cheerful and and hopeful - hard not to believe a bright horizon is possible - when you hear Barack speak. He is a gifted communicator and a wise leader. I am convinced he would serve our nation very ably as President.

Senator Clinton's campaign released this concession statement an hour ago:
I have called Senator Obama to congratulate him and wish him well.

Thank you to the people of South Carolina who voted today and welcomed me into their homes over the last year. Your stories will stay with me well beyond this campaign and I am grateful for the support so many of you gave to me.

We now turn our attention to the millions of Americans who will make their voices heard in Florida and the twenty-two states as well as American Samoa who will vote on February 5th.

In the days ahead, I'll work to give voice to those who are working harder than ever to be heard. For those who have lost their job or their home or their health care, I will focus on the solutions needed to move this country forward. That's what this election is about. It's about our country, our hopes and dreams. Our families and our future.
We expect to receive the text of Senator Obama's speech directly from his campaign shortly, and we will post it here immediately when we do.

Obama also picked up the endorsement of Caroline Kennedy this weekend in a beautiful Sunday New York Times guest column:
OVER the years, I've been deeply moved by the people who've told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn't that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.
Kennedy's column certainly echoes what Obama has said on the stump: that transformative change is needed: not just Democratic control of the White House or the repudiation of the right wing agenda, but the advancement of a unifying progressive politics that heals America and opens the door to a better future.

Democrats turn out in high numbers to vote in South Carolina primary

Like Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, South Carolina is seeing record turnout from Democrats participating in the presidential nominating process:
Party officials predicted a record-setting turnout. Throughout the state, party officials said they had early reports of high turnout, in predominantly white and black precincts. Several precincts in York County, on the state’s northern edge, had surpassed their complete voting totals from four years ago by early afternoon. Officials said similar turnout patterns were coming in from Aiken County, on the Georgia border.

Four years ago, about 290,000 people voted in the presidential primary here, but officials are predicting that as many as 350,000 voters could participate this time. With 45 delegates to the Democratic National Convention at stake, which will be divided among the candidates, South Carolina offers the most diverse contest to date in the party’s nominating season.
The energy and enthusiasm for the presidential race is very likely to be extremely high going into Super Tuesday.

Democrats are feeling excited about the openness of the contest, the diversity of the three contenders, and the growing strength of the party.

That was fast: Barack Obama already the projected winner in South Carolina!

The traditional media, having spent today and the last few days talking endlessly about South Carolina's Democratic primary, barely waited for the polls to close this evening before declaring a winner based on exit polling. Story arc first, corroborating details or proof later.

If the numbers are to be believed, Barack Obama has won a huge victory there, beating Hillary Clinton by a substantial margin. According to the exit polling done by the Associated Press and the major television networks, here's how several key demographic groups voted:

Blacks
Obama 81%
Clinton 17%
Edwards 1%

Black Women
Obama 82%
Clinton 17%
Edwards 0%

Whites
Edwards 39%
Clinton 36%
Obama 24%

Obama's win in South Carolina - if indeed he is the victor - will certainly keep the Democratic contest open heading into Super Tuesday. Clinton and Obama will have split the first four states holding officially sanctioned nominating events in January between themselves - equally.

It's so refreshing that we will not have a nominee crowned by Iowa and New Hampshire this year. The action now moves to the twenty four states holding primaries or caucuses on Super Tuesday, including New York and California (and in the Pacific Northwest, Idaho). A staggering 52 percent of all pledged Democratic Party delegates will be at stake on February 5th.

Meanwhile, the Republican pollster Rasmussen shows support for Hillary Clinton declining nationally, with Barack Obama and John Edwards benefiting at her expense. It's only one tracking poll (so consider it with an entire salt shaker in hand!) but it is certainly a possibility that Democratic voters are turning away from Clinton.

Friday, January 25, 2008

In Brief - January 25th, 2008

It's certainly been cold enough to snow all week, but now that the weekend is here, it looks like it will finally happen, according to most local forecasts. So do be careful in your travels this weekend, and if you can, try to donate blankets and winter coats to local shelters and missions.

Sometimes people don't come inside even if shelters aren't full, so coats and blankets distributed to these folks are the only thing keeping them from frostbite or worse. Now, on with today's quick news digest.

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Despite Proposition 1's defeat last November, Sound Transit and Puget Sound area officials haven't given up on combating gridlock in the region. According to this article in the Seattle P-I, Sound Transit will decide by March on how to proceed with a new package.
  • Mitt Romney is tired of hearing about John Edwards' “two Americas” theme. Well, here's 150 people from the America that Mitt doesn't want to hear about. They're homeless, sleeping in local shelters this weekend to prevent freezing to death. And there are probably more not as “lucky” as these folks. Yeah, Mitt: We're all just one happy well off white family living in the 'burbs.
  • Progressives should be aware that an Oregon civil rights law is being challenged in federal court by an out of state conservative group. Not just because of the rights issue itself, but because of how it affects their initiative process. When you consider how much damage Tim Eyman has done already in this state, it might serve us well to pay attention to our neighbors, and learn from their (we hope) successes as well as mistakes.
Across the Nation
  • Yesterday, Dennis Kucinich dropped out of contention for the presidency (he has his own reelection to the House to worry about). Prior to that, the Republicans lost Frederick Thompson of Hollywood and Duncan Hunter of Never Heard of Him.
  • The economy has been teetering on the edge of a recession for quite a while now; some economists say we're already in one. In a response typical of this administration, The Decider, with Nancy Pelosi's concurrence, is planning to fling small amounts of money to middle and low income taxpayers, in the hopes they'll go on a wild spending spree which will jumpstart the economy. The range of rebates we'll get could be anywhere from $600-$1200 (plus $300 per child), depending on various circumstances. As Andrew wrote yesterday, the idiocy of this idea is stunning, considering the monthly transportation and heating expenses of the average homeowner.
  • This isn't news, but it's solid bit of compilation: A new comprehensive report neatly proves that the guys who run the Bush administration are liars. It documents 935 times where Bush or his cronies deliberately misled the country to gin up support for an attack on Iraq. If those statements had been scrutinized by the traditional media back during the prelude to the invasion, we might have avoided the costly quagmire we're in today.
Around the World
  • Egypt can't quite close the border between them and the Gaza Strip. Militangs blew a huge hole in the wall earlier in the week. Hamas wants to keep the border open; to say the situation is tense, doesn't quite do it justice.
  • A grandson of Mahatma Ghandi resigned his post at a non-violence institute after making insensitive comments about Jews. He has since apologized, and will appear on a panel with Jewish leaders and others later in the year to discuss the issues he raised.
  • I haven't seen much coverage of this in the American corporate media: The U.S. is on the verge of sending troops to Pakistan. Great idea — we're not spread nearly thin enough. And the Pakistanis are apparently as eager as the Iraqis were to have us help them out.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Congress falls for the tax cut myth - again

This morning, Democratic congressional leaders announced they had reached an agreement with the Bush administration on a tax cut package that would "pay stipends of $300 to $1,200 per family and provide tax incentives for businesses to encourage spending", as the New York Times put it.

To us, this deal - a misguided proposal that addresses a symptom, not a cause - is a symbol of what is fundamentally wrong with the Democratic establishment's approach to pulic money. Certainly, Democrats are more fiscally responsible in the management of our nation's treasury than Republicans are, but how can we afford more revenue cuts when we have a record deficit?

If there was compelling evidence that this proposal would truly benefit the economy, it might be worth the cost. But Pelosi and Reid have not justified the deal they are making with Bush. A one time check might help a family pay off some of that credit card debt or make the monthly mortgage payment, but it does not solve the underlying problems that are causing our economic duress.

Michael Mandel, writing for BusinessWeek, echoes my thoughts in asking, how real was the prosperity of the last few years?
The Fed originally was created to deal with just this kind of financial crisis, and it's capable of pumping enormous amounts of money into the financial system if needed. "I have a basic faith in the Fed," says Christina D. Romer, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley. "We don't make the kind of mistakes that we used to."

But the underlying problems that ail the markets and the economy cannot be waved away by the Fed's magic wand. In truth, we're at the beginning of a long, arduous process of figuring out how much of the post-tech bubble prosperity was real and how much was the result of a credit-induced frenzy. The answer will determine what we can expect.
In the current issue of the magazine, Mandel proposes a meaningful and sensible course of action for staving off a recession, which we agree could have a positive, long term effect on the economy:
[T]here's a surprising force that could keep the bottom from falling out of the economy: the $3.5 trillion health and education job machine, which created 640,000 new jobs in the last year alone. Propelled by aging baby boomers and rising student enrollments, hospitals and schools are still hiring while almost everyone else is cutting back.

Could adding more nurses, teachers, and hospital orderlies really hold off a recession? The answer is yes — with an asterisk. What people don't realize is that health and education combined make up the single largest source of jobs in the U.S., employing 28 million people, or about 20% of the total workforce. What's more, government funds support many of these jobs, either directly or indirectly, making them less subject to the business cycle.

The hidden danger now is that fading tax revenues may cause state and local governments to cut back on their funding for schools and medical care. That could weaken health and education spending just as the consumer slump hits — a double whammy that could send the economy into recession.
Mandel doesn't say this, but what he's basically talking about is an example of how our common wealth supports our economy.

Interstate highways and airports make it possible to transport goods. The Internet provides for the exchange of ideas and ecommerce. Courts allow companies to enforce contracts and agreements. Quality public schools give employers a trained and skilled workforce. The Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health are investments in our collective wellness.

The list goes on, and on, and on. Our common wealth is what makes America strong! What do we gain by recklessly and foolishly draining our nation's treasury? We are hurting ourselves. And it's time we realized that!

Many Americans have already made a mess of their personal finances by refusing to delay instant gratification. The principle of thriftiness has been abandoned.

If we, or our government, spend nonexistent money, it had better be for a good reason. Wasteful, immoral military occupations and tax cuts for the wealthy are the worst uses of our nation's funds. Investing in education and healthcare, on the other hand, yields a prudent return and strengthens our common wealth:
Or policymakers can do something different: boost outlays on education and health. Remember that in the 1930s, John Maynard Keynes forcefully advocated the idea that government spending could bolster the economy in a downturn. Today, increasing federal health and education grants to the states, while politically controversial, could be a quick and effective way of slowing the cutbacks in jobs when tax revenues turn down. If so, Keynes could be back—and coming to schools and hospitals near you.
The Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz made largely the same suggestion a few days ago in an excellent guest column for the New York Times.

Congress needs to be reminded that simply authorizing checks for middle class Americans does not address the inequity in our federal tax structure - the huge tax cuts for the wealthy, the special exemptions fo profitable businesses (i.e. the oil industry), or the outright subisides to those same corporate interests. Congress' failure to address this elephant in the room is embarrassing and disgraceful.

Arguing that tax cuts (no matter who they are for) will miraculously solve our economic problems is comparable to pitching a special bottle of medicine that can magically avert and fully heal a life threatening disease.

Today's "deal" reminds me of a May 2003 cartoon in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, drawn by its Pulitzer Prize winning editorial board member David Horsey, which brilliantly mocked the Republican Congress for stupidly embracing tax cuts as a magic economic medicine. Here's the text of that cartoon:
In 2001, Republicans theorized that tax cuts for wealthy people and rich corporations would stimulate the U.S. economy and create more jobs...

"So we passed a whopping tax cut!" - Unidentified Republican Congressman

Since then, millions of Americans have lost their jobs...

Real wages have taken their biggest drop in 12 years...

States and cities have run out of money...

The stock market has fallen...

And the federal deifict has risen to record levels.

In response, what has the Republican Congress done?

"We've passed another whopping tax cut!"
- Unidentified Republican Congressman

"And by golly, we'll do it again if need be!" - Unidentified Republican Congressman No. 2.

Insanity Defined: Repeatedly performing the same action and expecting a different result.
The Bush administration got us into the fiscal and economic mess we're in today, yet Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid seem too eager to sing Kumbaya with Dubya... and jump behind what amounts to a cheap and shiny piece of legislation that looks pretty and sounds hefty but doesn't tackle the cracked foundation that is the real source of all the trouble.

It's hard not to notice that Democrats (both here in the Pacific Northwest and in D.C.) struggle mightily to articulate a consistent and progressive view on fiscal issues. The right wing has been so successful in framing the dialogue that Democrats fall into the trap of repeating the other side's language and reinforcing its frames. Insofar as taxes are concerned, Democrats are suffering from hypocognition - a lack of needed ideas.

The right wing's view of taxes is so prevalent and so widespread that few Democrats - let alone Americans - understand the concept of the common wealth.

Consequently, libertarian figures like Tim Eyman have an easy time selling proposals to slash taxes, and elected Democrats always have to be concerned about being blasted at election time by Republicans hoping to score cheap political points, whether said Democrats supported revenue increases or not.

Restoring the idea of the common wealth in our political dialogue may be the single greatest challenge facing the progressive movement today. And it is imperative that we do so, because without the common wealth, we can't have environmental protection, universal healthcare, transit for all, unemployment insurance, quality schools and colleges, top notch disaster response, or any other public service.

A little housekeeping...

Several elements of the Official Blog's template have gotten dusty since the last time we adjusted the layout, so we're doing a little winter cleaning today.

Thankfully, we don't expect any downtime. If you notice that the blog doesn't render properly in your browser, rest assured that it is only temporary.

UPDATE: All done. If you're curious as to what we changed, here goes: we removed a number of outdated images from the sidebar, fixed a broken RSS link, checked the blogroll for link rot, and added a few new blogs. We also wiped out a bit of deprecated code and improved the consistency of page formatting.

This houskeeping upgrade constitutes Official Blog Version 3.8 (not that this detail is particularly important or relevant, but we like to have a way of tracking what we do with the template).

Washington needs a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Testimony on SB 6385

Early this morning I traveled down in Olympia to testify before the Senate Consumer Protecting & Housing Committee about SB 6385, a crucial first step in securing a Homeowner's Bill of Rights for Washington State. I spoke after two homeowners who related their awful experiences with the committee, and was moved by their stories. The following is the text of my prepared testimony.

Chairman Weinstein and Members of the Committee:

Good morning. For the record, my name is Rick Hegdahl. I’m the Outreach & Advocacy Director for the Northwest Progressive Institute, a regional netroots strategy center working to advance the common good through ideas and action. I also run a home remodel and repair business in Bellevue, Washington, where I live – Viking Construction – so I have firsthand experience with this issue.

I’m pleased to be here today to voice NPI’s support for SB 6385.

Last year, our online coverage of the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights sparked tremendous interest from concerned Washingtonians who spoke strongly in favor of the legislation and shared their own troubling stories with us. It’s astonishing how few recourses are available to residents who discover deficiencies with their home, such as defective workmanship or moisture buildup that leads to toxic mold.

Washington is sadly one of the few states that doesn’t recognize a common law cause of action for negligent construction, which means that losses cannot be recovered unless a building contract specifically guarantees non-defective performance. Because such a protection is infrequently provided voluntarily, homeowners are left hanging when something goes wrong with their most important investment and asset. They are unable to seek the justice they deserve.

Families can lose their life’s savings. Parents can lose the ability to finance their children’s college education.

Hardworking Washingtonians can lose their health and prosperity.

They don’t even have the option of going to court. And that’s wrong.

Senate Bill 6385 is a simple and essential first step to provide homeowners with the basic safeguards they deserve under the law. Allowing irresponsible builders to escape accountability for faulty construction is unfair and unjust.

There should be an incentive for the entire industry to be committed to constructing quality homes, not just the reputable firms that already go out of their way to treat customers squarely.

The Legislature has a duty to ensure that every Washingtonian has the freedom to pursue a fulfilling life. Our state’s residents cannot be truly free if they have no way of seeking compensation when their homes begin to fall apart.

We strongly urge members of the committee to support this legislation and refer it to the full Senate for consideration.

I am happy to answer any questions you may have. Thank you.

In Brief - January 24th, 2008

It's cold; well, at least it's cold for Seattle. That's probably at the top of most commuters' minds most mornings during this sun-filled week. But besides that and the elections, there are actually other things happening in the world. So let's take a quick trip through the news!

In the Pacific Northwest
  • The Idaho Math Initiative, a plan to change math instruction and increase math achievement throughout the state, is currently being scrutinized by the state Legislature. State School's Superintendent Tom Luna says that the $4 million program "...is expensive, but...is an investment in getting children better prepared for the math they need."
  • In what could be a test for the viability of creating a number of "Green Collar" jobs, Oregon is creating a series of tax credits with the goal of catalyzing the creation of an alternative energy industry in the state. Those credits are now facing criticism, as a legislative committee meets today whether to push proposed increases to the program forward towards a vote. What happens in Oregon could have national implications and create a model for other states interested in alternative energy to follow.
  • King County Metro reported a record increase in ridership during 2007. They credit high gas prices and strong employment numbers for the growth.
Across the Nation
  • Healthcare (and universal coverage of all Americans) has emerged as an important issue this election cycle at state and federal levels. The greater prominence of this topic will hopefully open the door to is a stronger focus on preventative care. That's good news in light of a new report that shows that too few adults in the U.S. are getting the vaccinations that they should.
  • Energy is another major 2008 campaign topic. Internal EPA documents now show that staffers encouraged agency head Stephen Johnson allow California to regulate vehicle emissions beyond federal rules. Johnson will testify in front of Congress today on this issue.
  • Surprise, surprise: Dick Cheney wants to let companies complicit in the Bush Administrtion's illegal wiretapping effort go unpunished. Beyond "retroactive immunity," a provision that was filibustered by Senator Chris Dodd in December, Cheney wants wiretapping to be expanded and made permanent. January 20th, 2009, can't come fast enough.
Around the World
  • The first step towards resolving a dispute in Kenya will be taken soon as the key opposing leaders will meet this afternoon.
  • A fragile cease-fire has been established in the Congo. At a high-level, the deal signals progress towards ending the conflict and associated humanitarian catastrophe, but a drill-down into the details reveals that there are challenges remaining with how the peace will specifically be brought about.
  • Deforestation in the Amazon rose sharply in the latter half of 2007. A victim of what one activists calls a "frontier mentality," the Amazon is an important resource rich with plant and animal life which must be preserved, and this has become a growing governmental and international concern.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Novak: Dave Reichert the most likely winner of "Appropriations derby"

Yesterday, I wrote about Dave Reichert's public begging for the GOP vacancy on the coveted House Appropriations Committee, which Reichert wants to fill because of the boost he believes it would give to his plodding reelection campaign.

According to The Hill, Reichert has competition for the Appropriations seat from Marilyn Musgrave - another vulnerable Republican seeking the plum prize.

But right wing pundit Robert Novak, who has become infamous for his role in the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, is predicting in his latest syndicated column that Reichert's dreams will be realized:
The most likely winner of the Appropriations derby will be Rep. Dave Reichert, a former sheriff of King County, Wash., who has not distinguished himself during three years in Congress and gets only a 60 percent rating from the American Conservative Union. His sole qualification appears to be that he is the most endangered Republican House member in 2008 and needs to bring home the bacon to Seattle.
Seattle, eh? That's the 7th District, Bob...not that we particularly care, since the whole region deserves Democratic representation as far as we're concerned.

Still, Novak's choice of geographic terminology is sure to annoy our callous virtual neighbors over at unSoundPolitics, who like to go to great lengths to draw such distinctions (and did so frequently last cycle).

Reichert backers also can't be pleased with how Novak depicts Reichert's record... has not distinguished himself during three years in Congress. Ouch!

We'll take it a step further...Dave Reichert is a terrible representative. He's ineffective (what accomplishments does he have to speak of?), unnoticeable (ranked as one of the least influential members in Congress), and uninformed (remember his non-answer on media ownership during the October 2006 debate?)

The 8th District deserves better, and it can have better starting next January if it elects Darcy Burner to Congress this November.

Gimme more sprawl!

That might as well be what this car-loving Crosscut reader is asking for, in one of the silliest and most egocentric comments I've seen in a long time:
Fire any public employee who says "we've got to get people out of their cars." Finish all existing roadwork, lane expansion, interchange connections, etc. Open up HOV lanes to all traffic. Licence, insurance mandate and register all adult bicyclists; no more 'sharrows'. More parking garages; valet parking should be expanded. Many more tow truck to clear the roads and bridges. Cars are king. No more light rail. BRT is OK. Any questions??
Yeah, I've got a question for "animalal". Are you insane?

No, seriously! Because anyone who thinks we will cure congestion by mounting an all-out effort to encourage people to drive even more than they do today needs to go back to school and enroll in Uncommon Sense 101.

No matter how wide we make the highways and no matter how tall we build the parking garages, traffic will be just as bad as it is today, if not worse. We could choose to ignore the environmental impacts, but the economic cost would still be beyond what our common wealth can afford.

If you've seen the movie Field of Dreams, you're undoubtedly familiar with the phrase, build it and they will come.

This statement just so happens to be applicable to both highways and rapid transit (build it, and the commuters will come) but there is an important difference. Because rapid transit is so robust and efficient, it can flexibly respond to varying usage. If ridership skyrockets, the demand is easily met by lengthening the trains and increasing the frequency of service.

To put it more simply, light rail is scalable.

And it's reliable - it never gets stuck in traffic, so riders can relax knowing the amount of time it will take to reach their destination.

But highways aren't. Compare the two modes of transportation: a single light rail line can carry the equivalent capacity of a highway that's a dozen lanes across.

This isn't hard to visualize - think about how much smaller the footprint of a single occupant driver is without his or her car. The car takes up much more space.

By investing in rapid transit, we give commuters a choice and improve everyone's freedom of mobility, including those who choose to drive instead of ride. Sadly, there are still fanatics out there who can't think outside of their cul-de-sac.

NPI launches Legislative Advocacy HQ

We are pleased this morning to announce the debut of our new Legislative Advocacy Headquarters, which we hope will provide readers and activists with useful information and resources about bills that we're following.

The HQ features an overview of our 2008-2009 session priorities and a tracking aggregator that provides automatic updates for selected bills as they move through the legislative process.

In the days ahead, we'll be adding links to related traditional media stories and blog posts as well as background documentation from our own staff and other progressive organizations (for example, policy briefs and testimony).

We value feedback from our supporter community, so if you have suggestions for legislation you'd like us to be following, questions we can answer, or ideas for us to consider, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lazy Dave Reichert begging for seat on Appropriations Committee

Looking to make up for his lackluster campaign fundraising, Dave Reichert has expressed a strong interest in getting on the House Appropriations Committee, which has one vacancy now and several more incoming thanks to the departure or pending retirements of incumbent Republicans.

From the subscription only Congressional Quarterly (CQ):
At least six Republicans are vying to fill a vacancy on the House panel created by Roger Wicker ’s move to the Senate.

And more slots on that committee will become available next year when, at last count, four House Republican appropriators retire.

The GOP lawmakers seeking to replace Wicker, R-Miss. — Jo Bonner of Alabama, Henry E. Brown Jr. of South Carolina, Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Dave Reichert of Washington and Michael R. Turner of Ohio — are trying to make the case that their appointment to the committee would have beneficial electoral effects for their party in November.

[...]

Reichert also sees the seat as a path to electoral success, although his concerns are more personal than Cole’s.

"I need a seat now," said Reichert, who won his 2006 race with 51.5 percent of the vote. "Those open seats for people who are in safe seats will come later."
A House appropriations committee seat, Reichert evidently thinks, is just the medicine his ailing campaign needs. A bit more clout, new boasts to print on that franked mail, and something grandiose to tout before the editorial boards.

While Darcy soars, Dave begs. Could this race get any more entertaining?

Simpson: Transportation governance shakeup would be counterproductive

According to several legislators we've been hearing from over the last few days, Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen is poised to (unwisely) introduce a successor bill to last session's ill-advised SSB 5803, which attempted to gut Sound Transit and replace it with a new super agency with jurisdiction over roads and transit planning.

Haugen's incarnation would keep Sound Transit in place as an entity but replace the current board with a new troupe of mostly elected, well paid transportation czars who would serve six year terms from new sprawling cross county districts. The agency would also be forcibily given the responsibility of planning and building roads and highways in addition to transit systems.

It's slightly less sour than SSB 5803, but not by much.

Fortunately, there are lawmakers who realize what a bad proposal this is. Among them is Representative Geoff Simpson, who concisely explains why a governance shakeup is misguided and problematic in this morning's Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
You hear a lot of talk about "governance reform." This push is coming from fans of regional financing of state highways and those opposed to light rail. Sound Transit is delivering projects on time and on budget, bringing in hundreds of millions in federal funds and passing audits with the highest grades.

Why would we want to jeopardize that federal funding stream by creating a new layer of costly bureaucracy that will guarantee only years more of political and traffic gridlock? Congestion in this region is because of lack of investment, not lack of coordination among transportation agencies. We need to get smart and efficient when it comes to transportation. Creating more government certainly won't help. It will result only in more delay, politics, red tape and costs.
We couldn't agree more.

Despite Sound Transit's stellar track record, despite the research that clearly shows voters hated the pairing of roads and transit in Proposition 1, and despite the failure of Olympia's past meddling, Haugen and her allies seemingly remain stuck to this scheme like dried epoxy.

Simpson suggest that instead of interfering with Sound Transit, Olympia should give the agency more flexibility and freedom to fund its projects:
And because voters prefer paying taxes that relate to the undertaking, the motor vehicle excise taxing authority that was given to the Regional Transit Improvement District should be transferred to regional transit agencies so they could rely less on the regressive sales tax to pay for transportation projects. It makes more sense and it could help facilitate mass transit investments in regions across the state, not just here.
This is an innovative idea that is worthy of further exploration.

We commend Representative Simpson for his insight, thoughtfulness, and words of advice to fellow legislators. Senator Haugen would do well to listen to these suggestions, meet with Sound Transit stakeholders to solicit their feedback, and abandon her governance shakeup bill.

We must never be complacent

As anyone who belongs to the Washington State Democratic Party knows, the central office (headed by Dwight Pelz) has never been shy about asking for money.

Every few months, a new direct mail appeal is sent out to party members requesting financial support. Since NPI staff make an effort to individually involve ourselves in our local Democratic organizations (county and or legislative district), we are on the list, and so we regularly receive copies of these letters.

There's usually nothing in these multiple page solicitations that we would find blogworthy, but one of the passages in the most recent letter caught my attention, because it reminded me of my post election analysis from last November. The paragraphs I'm talking about are as follows:
Without a strong Democratic Party we risk defeat. You need only look back to the Governor's first election, three and a half years ago, to realize how close we came to electing a loyalist of George W. Bush as our governor.

Thankfully, the Democratic Party learned from our mistakes in Florida during the dark days that followed the 2000 election. We were prepared to fight for every last vote for Christine Gregoire. While she trailed in the early returns on Election Day, when every legitimate vote was counted, she was declared the winner.

This is still a strong message for anyone who feels that because we are the majority party today in Washington that we can relax. We must never be complacent. We must be prepared to fight for every vote this November.
We agree - but why weren't we prepared to fight for every vote in the last election?

In the late hours of November 7th, I wrote a post which I titled "Complacency the main culprit behind a disappointing election night", which received widespread attention and praise. It was featured by the Washington State Labor Council on their website, it was mentioned by the Spokesman-Review, and it generated a significant number of compliments from readers and fellow writers. In it, I analyzed the reasons behind the lousy results from the 2007 elections, concluding:
So...what happened? Why couldn't Democrats and progressives capitalize on last year's momentum? While there are many possible reasons, here's my take on what happened, boiled down to a single word:

Complacency.

You can't help but notice it's a theme tying together so many of the campaigns that came up short (or likely will come up short).

[...]

State party leaders and prominent Democratic elected officials seem focused on the future, not the present.

Speeches lately contain endless references to 2008, caucus preparations and the presidential race are dominating discussions at meetings, and the Gregoire reelection effort has been at the forefront of the state party's agenda for months.

[...]

In the weeks and days leading up to last night, our party has held event after event to raise money for next year.

For example, the Eastside Dinner...which featured Darcy Burner, the Magnuson Awards...which featured Hillary Clinton (and brought in a record haul for the state party), or the KCDCCC Honors Banquet...which featured Governor Gregoire.

Why were all these events in October? The Maggies are usually in August...the 2006 King County Honors Banquet was held in the winter.

It's like this whole season our party and its leadership has been joyously looking forward, celebrating the past (2006) and anticipating a great future (2008), instead of getting down to business and working to win in the present: 2007.
It's easy to get excited about the presidential race. It's satisfying to hear friends and neighbors express their disgust with the Bush administration and its failed right wing agenda. It's refreshing that our candidates are more compelling and more diverse than the crowd of white guys who make up the Republican field. But, as the letter cautions, we can't take the White House for granted.

We can't take anything for granted.

2008 is not guaranteed to be a great Democratic year. It has the potential to be, but we have to tap that potential.

Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and elected Democrats in Congress need to stop cowering to George W. Bush and give the American people a real taste of the progressive change they can expect if they vote Democratic this autumn.

Activists need to reject apathy, embrace the motto "more and better Democrats", and seek out authentic, inspiring candidates like Darcy Burner who are worthy of our valuable time, talents, and treasure.

Those who are involved with the building of progressive infrastructure, whether within the netroots community or alongside it, need to be cheerful, optimistic, and industrious in the coming months, organizing for the future and mobilizing for the election that is just on the horizon.

Party leaders need to listen to the base, and spend resources as wisely as possible, providing county and legislative district organizations with the tools they need to meet or surpass the goals set by the state office.

We owe it to ourselves and future generations not to make the mistake of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory again. We must be vigiliant and energetic in our efforts to reclaim our democracy. We must never be complacent.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Thoughts from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Since today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I'm posting an excerpt from Dr. King's Letter From Birmingham Jail. Here he is talking about courage from the faithful. (Typos are contained in the original manuscript.)
If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it vi lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jai with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.
If you have time and haven't read this document for a while, take a look. King gives one of the best explanations of creative non-violence to be found anywhere.

In Brief - January 21st, 2008

Today's presidential race would look a lot less colorful if it were not for Dr. Martin Luther King. Despite lingering racism and areas of inequality, his dream of equality and brotherhood changed the fabric of our society, enabling a great Democrat named Barack Obama to get within reach of our country's most powerful position. Whether Obama wins or loses this race, black children will look at their future differently, seeing that all options are open to them.

Dr. King's message of hope, peace and faith always inspires, but as we enter our sixth year of a bloody, expensive war in Iraq, and anther year of heated political discourse at home, it reminds us why Americans are gravitating towards Obama's identical message. It's a message that always resonates: Americans working together for freedom and justice.

We at at the Northwest Progressive Institute know that in a democracy there is and should be a multitude of viewpoints, but like King, we also know that we can solve our country's greatest problems by working together.

Much of our political disagreement is over trivial differences that frequently hide the common ground we all share.

And now for today's quick news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest

  • An outdated Seattle school will soon get a new life by opening as the Northwest African American Museum on March 8. Over two decades in the making, the museum will feature interactive displays that introduce visitors to African Americans who have played a significant role in the history of the Pacific Northwest.
  • A fake endorsement scheme by an overenthusiastic staffer has tainted the Senate campaign of Oregon Democrat Steve Novick. It's not an auspicious start for a new local chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America. Oregon looks forward to better things to come from that organization.
  • There are nearly 1,600 farms in Snohomish county and most are family owned. Snohomish county is committed to holding onto this farmland and to that end has created the Agriculture Sustainability Project. Farmers and the government are working together to grow the agricultural economy and invite feedback from the public at upcoming public meetings. Can vegetables and subdivisions coexist?
Across the Nation
  • As if being pregnant isn't hard enough, now OBs will be restricting their patients' coffee intake, as today's study from the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that women increase their risk of miscarriage in their first trimester by ingesting ten or more ounces of coffee a day. Some doctors are skeptical about the methodology of this report.
  • A Daily Kos diarist has a first hand report on Nevada caucus day shenanigans by the Clinton campaign. Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, is accusing the Clinton folks from the Atlantic of over 200 trouble incidents at the Nevada caucuses.
  • An Idaho blogger muses over why the American press doesn't cover seemingly hot issues such as allegations by F.B.I. whistleblower, Sibel Edmonds, while British newspaper The Sunday Times makes up for deficiencies in our own free press by exposing Edmonds' story. The Times details an F.B.I. cover-up of collusion between high government officials and a network stealing nuclear secrets. It makes for eerie reading.
Around the World
  • A closer look at the ethnic killings taking place in Kenya uncovers signs that the violence was a result of premeditation and government planning. Kenya has a host of tensions involving land, economics and political power that simmer under its typically smooth surface and played a part in inciting the violence.
  • Captive-bred carnivores don't fare as well as their wild born brethern states a new study from the University of Exeter. Researchers blame the captive animals' lack of hunting skills and loss of fear of humans for their low survival rate. Preserving wild populations looks like the better option for keeping Earth's diverse animal life.
  • Humanitarian groups and Palestinian allies are urging Israel to lift the border blockade on the Gaza Strip. Gaza's only power plant - which supplies 32% of its energy - was shut down last night. U.N. aid shipments have also been stopped at the border. The stand-off could harm a possible peace deal this year.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

In Brief - January 19th, 2008

(Moved up to the top - Andrew)

Perhaps because the Washington State Legislature is now in session, this week's local news skewed heavily towards energy, environmental, and educational issues.

These are all important topics. Without energy, society collapses. Without an environment, we have nowhere to live. And without education, we may as well just turn back the calendar a thousand years and start over.

In the Pacific Northwest

First, a few notes about the legislative session, which kicked off this Monday:

Recognizing that you can't fix or even understand a problem until you've measured it, Governor Gregoire is proposing greenhouse gas emissions monitoring and tracking across Washington, laying the groundwork for future mitigation efforts. Considering that history is littered with government programs that failed because they never had a way to know whether they were succeeding, all we can say is good job, Governor!

Paper or plastic? Lawmakers are considering a measure that would require grocery stores to use more recyclable bags:
Gilliam said that all the grocery stores he represents sell reusable bags for about $1, and they also offer paper. But he said that for some customers, plastic is more convenient.
That quote just about sums up the whole world's environmental problems: individual people choose temporary personal convenience over the greater, long-term good. It's the tragedy of the commons on a global scale.

This is a really great move: making it easier for schools to use produce from local farms in their school lunch programs.

We strongly support this idea because it touches on so many important topics: childrens' wellness, a sustainable environment (consider the amount of fossil fuel it takes to truck food from afar to our schools), and helping Washingtonian growers keep their family farms, to name three.

And now, briefly...
  • This was mentioned in Monday's In Brief, but as participatory democracy only works if people know where and when to participate, I'll repeat it. Washington's caucuses will be held on February 9th. Democratic Party caucus locations can be found at this page; Republican caucus locations at this one. Yes, that's right, I linked to the King County GOP site. Hey, we're progressives, we want everybody to participate.
  • Just before leaving office in 2001, President Clinton designated several million acres of Forest Service land as protected roadless wilderness. The Forest Service is now seeking to revoke that protection on some 609,000 acres, mostly in southern Idaho. Idaho Lt. Governor Jim Risch testified during hearings on the proposal held on Monday. Proponents argue that this is a pro-active proposal, aimed at reducing the severity of future wildfire damage by making it easier for firefighters to access remote areas. Opponents argue that this is more about logging in protected areas than anything else. Monday's hearings kicked off a 90 day public comment period on the proposal; if you have an opinion on the Idaho Roadless Draft Rule, you can sound off at this Forest Service web page.
  • The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a report on what to do if FEMA denies (or underpays) your flood damage claims. With La Nina conditions expected to continue through the springtime with heavier than normal rainfall in Northwest, it may literally pay to be informed.
  • Gee, how about that: make it possible for people to measure their energy conservation, and whadda ya know, they conserve energy! Puget Sound Energy, are you listening? I signed up for your green power program the minute you announced it. When are you going to offer smart-metering technology like this too?
  • Oregon is wrestling with legal nuances of tuition-supported all day kindergarden classes. The real question is, why are we dumping billions upon billions into foreign wars when our schools can't afford all-day classes
  • Meanwhile in Washington, the Seattle Public School Board has voted to close the John Marshall alternative school. The school serves some of Seattle's most at-risk children: teen mothers, kids who have been expelled from other schools, or kids who have just gotten out of jail. The school board blames Principal Joe Drake for ineffective leadership. The school district is planning alternative programs for the displaced John Marshall students.
Finally: Bill Gates has announced he put $30 million into issue advertising for education in '08. I have to say that I find this news item particularly gratifying, not only because I focus on education policy at NPI, but because it's nice to see someone with serious money and public stature getting behind an issue I deeply care about. I see the near-abysmal state of our educational system as one of the root causes behind much of what's broken in America today.

Study after study has shown education to be the gateway to success in life. Children who get a good education can build good lives for themselves.

Children who don't get that education have great difficulty building anything better than a minimum wage existence. Personally, I want more for my kids than that, and I'm delighted to see Bill Gates step up to help. Can't wait to see the ads!

Across the Nation
  • First, let me save you a lot of time by not linking to a zillion presidential primary news items. You can get that stuff anywhere.
  • Remember the Crandall Canyon mining disaster last summer? The one in Utah that killed six miners? The one where three more perished in subsequent rescue attempts? DailyKos contributor Devilstower has an excellent writeup of the factors leading to that disaster, painting what I have to admit is a very compelling case for culpability on the part of the mine owner.
  • Reclusive world chess champion and Cold War symbol Bobby Fisher has died.
Lastly, the National Academy of Science has released a book aimed at giving the public a comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the current scientific evidence for evolution, to support evolutionary theory's place in the classroom.

I recall learning, in one of the first science classrooms I ever attended back in grade school, the difference between a theory and a hypothesis. In short, a hypothesis is more or less "any random idea about how the universe functions" while a theory is "an idea about how the universe works, which is supported by so much hard evidence that we'll all be damned surprised if it turns out to be wrong."

In my opinion, one of the sneakiest tactics the "Intelligent Design" crowd has used to muddle the Evolution-vs-ID debate is to mis-label their brand of hookup with the word "theory." And it's a glaring failure of the mass media that has covered this made-to-order controversy that reporters have universally failed to correct the terminology in their reporting.

Around the World
  • Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to summit Mount Everest, has died at age 88.
  • Turkish forces strike 60 Kurdish positions in northern Iraq. Southern Turkey contains a whole lot of Kurds, many of them native to that region, many of them refugees from Iraq. Iraq's Kurds live in northern Iraq, just on the other side of the Iraq/Turkey border. Ever since the fall of Sadaam Hussein, Turkey has been worried that Iraqi Kurds would get together with Turkey's PKK (a Kurdish separatist group) to demand a state of their own, carving a chunk out of both parent nations. Turkey has been adamant about not accepting such an outcome, and today seems willing to back that up with air strikes against PKK positions.
  • Tata Motors has unveiled world's cheapest production car. Aimed at the exploding Indian economy, the $2500 vehicle aims to be an affordable alternative for families who, heretofore, have been packing three or four people onto motorized scooters. British newspaper The Independent wonders, rightly so, whether the global environment can afford for India to go automotive in a big way. If only someone had been asking that question about us, 100 years ago.
  • Human-kind is resuming exploration of the planet Mercury, ending a 35 year hiatus with a brief flyby of the spacecraft. The spacecraft Messenger snapped scads of new photos, many of which will reveal previously unseen portions of Mercury's surface, that will be radioed back to Earth over the next several days. It will make two more flybys of Mercury, gravitational assist maneuvers designed to enable the spacecraft to enter a long-duration orbit of Mercury in 2011. Not to be outdone, European and Japanese space agencies ESA and JAXA are teaming up for a 2013 launch of a double orbiter mission to the solar system's speediest little planet.
This Day in History
  • 1862: The Confederacy suffered their first major loss of the Civil War at the Battle of Mill Springs.
  • 1917: Arthur Zimmerman sent the Zimmerman Telegram, proposing an alliance between Germany and Mexico against the United States. The message was intercepted by the British and almost immediately deciphered, giving them a key lever to use in drawing the United States into the conflict in World War I. The back-story around the telegram's interception and decryption illustrates a classic problem in signals intelligence: how to use the information you've obtained without revealing how you obtained it.
The Lighter Side
  • PC World has a presentation on the ten worst keyboards of all time. As someone with a history of keyboard-induced repetitive stress problems, and personal experience with five of the keyboards on this list (although thankfully not the several worst-of-the-worst), I have to admit that this article is a rather mixed-emotion stroll down memory lane.
  • Take a look at this Star Wars guide to the candidates. Ok, one presidential primary item. I can't resist. While comparing real presidential candidates with characters from popular science fiction movies is certainly not an advisable method for deciding how to case your vote, it is nevetheless fun.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

McCain wins close triumph in South Carolina

With almost all the votes counted, Arizona Senator John McCain is the declared victor in the South Carolina Republican primary:
Senator John McCain staved off a spirited challenge by Mike Huckabee to win the South Carolina primary on Saturday, exorcising the ghosts of the attack-filled primary here that derailed his presidential hopes eight years ago.

Mr. McCain’s victory here, on top of his win earlier this month in New Hampshire, capped a remarkable comeback for a campaign that was all but written off six months ago. In an unusually fluid Republican field, his aides said they hoped the victory would give Mr. McCain a head of steam going into the Jan. 29 Florida primary and the nationwide series of nominating contests on Feb. 5.
A Huckabee victory, a Romney victory, a McCain victory, a Romney victory, a Romney victory, a McCain victory...that has been the story so far in the GOP contest. Conservatives in half a dozen states have weighed in, but there is no front runner.

Next up for the Republicans is Florida, Rudy Guiliani's last bastion of hope in his sputtering, pathetic campaign for the Republican nomination.

Huge Democratic turnout the real story so far in race for the White House

A diarist on Daily Kos points out that the real story so far in the race for the White House hasn't been receiving much attention. And that's how lopsided the turnout has been when you compare Democrats and Republicans.
So...for those of you scoring at home:

IOWA: 236,000 Democrats and 119,000 Republicans

NEW HAMPSHIRE: 284,000 Democrats and 233,000 Republicans

MICHIGAN: 593,000 Democrats and 867,000 Republicans (NOTE: Republicans had a primary with delegates at stake. Democrats did not)

NEVADA: 114,000 Democrats and 43,000 Republicans.
As Steve says, the energy is on our side. Americans are sick of the failed right wing agenda and ready for progressive change.

John McCain leading in South Carolina primary with a fraction of the vote in

With just over 20% of precincts reporting in South Carolina, John McCain and Mike Huckabee are battling for the lead in the Republican primary. None of the major television networks are projecting a winner yet. The race is too close to call.

McCain currently has 36%, while Huckabee has 28%. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney and Frederick of Hollywood are competing for third place. Thompson is currently winning that battle (but not by very much); he has 15% to Romney's 14%.

Ron Paul and Rudy Guiliani running far behind with 4% and 2% apiece.

Thompson was the first of the field to address supporters, but his speech only consisted of a ridiculous glorification of conservatism. Thompson did not speak to or even hint at any future plans. Keith Olbermann just asked Tim Russert on MSNBC what the point of the speech was, and Russert replied that no one knew, not even Thompson's advisors, who couldn't tell NBC what to expect from his remarks.

UPDATE: As of 5:35 PM Pacific Time (and with 40% counted) the numbers appear to be holding steady, with little change. Huckabee has tightened the gap between himself and John McCain, but that's about the extent of the change.

UPDATE II: Duncan Hunter is apparently dropping out of the Republican contest. It's about time - I'm not sure how he has stayed open for business for so long. Describing his showing in the caucuses and primaries as terrible would be generous.

Barack Obama the true winner in Nevada!

Guess who the real winner in Nevada is? It's not Hillary Clinton!
So check it out, Obama literally won more delegates in Nevada than Clinton:
A source with knowledge of the Nevada Democratic Party's projections told The Nation that under the arcane weighting system, Obama would win 13 national convention delegates and Clinton would win 12 delegates. The state party has not released an official count yet.

Barack Obama released an official statement celebrating a delegate victory. "We came from over twenty-five points behind to win more national convention delegates than Hillary Clinton because we performed well all across the state, including rural areas where Democrats have traditionally struggled," he said.
And the Obama campaign is milking it, throwing the Hillary campaign's own words against it:
Senator Obama was awarded 13 delegates to Senator Clinton's 12. As Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson said, "This is a race for delegates...It is not a battle for individual states. As David knows, we are well past the time when any state will have a disproportionate influence on the nominating process."
Ha ha ha. As if this thing couldn't get any more absurd.
So Nevada is essentially another hollow victory for Hillary Clinton.

She gets the headlines and the paper-mâché crown from the traditional media, but Barack Obama will get more delegates.

Nevada hasn't changed anything.

Onwards and forwards to the next chapter in the race for the White House.

Romney wins big, Clinton gets narrow victory

As luck would have it, a rare snowfall is complicating the South Carolina primaries, along with problems with electronic voting machines in Horry County.

Bad weather is not likely to diminish the impact of the primary results however, since the Republican winner of the South Carolina primary has been the party's nominee since 1980. A win here gives a candidate a big psychological boost and a stamp of approval in the South.

In Nevada, Mitt Romney is holding onto his enormous lead, with 38% of precincts reporting. His reputation as a successful businessman gave him an edge with Nevada voters who listed the economy as their number one concern.

The state has the highest number of foreclosures in the country. Of those jittery voters, entrance polls Saturday morning indicated that 26% favored Ron Paul which may explain his better than usual results:

Romney: 55%
McCain: 12%
Paul: 12%
Thompson: 8%
Huckabee: 8%
Giuliani: 4%

*As of 1:08 PM Pacific Time

Obama and Clinton are still battling it out for supremacy in Nevada, although Hillary Clinton is now the projected winner there. But if she holds on, she can only claim a narrow victory, not a blowout win.

It would be fun to see Barack Obama take South Carolina next, if only to keep the traditional media's Pundit League off balance.

Traditional media projecting that Hillary Clinton will win Nevada caucuses

CNN, the Associated Press, and NBC are projecting that Hillary Clinton will win the Nevada caucuses, with about 52% of precincts reporting.

Senator Clinton currently has about 50% support to Barack Obama's 45%, with most of the rest of the vote going to John Edwards. If Edwards' support were added to Obama's, however, it would be a pretty even split between the respective winners of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Surprisingly, Hillary Clinton carried the Strip. Here's the Las Vegas Sun:
Hillary Clinton has carried five of the nine at-large casino sites on the Strip, despite the influence of the Culinary Union. Clinton has carried at sites in the Flamingo, the Rio, Paris Las Vegas, the Bellagio, and Wynn Las Vegas. Only the site at Caesars has gone for Obama so far. First vote at the Mirage was 178 for Clinton and 153 for Obama and 3 for Edwards and three uncommitted. So on second round, that site, too, apparently will go for Clinton. The Luxor site is closely divided and voting again. No word from New York New York.
The Clinton campaign's fears about the Culinary Union's leadership leaning on members to caucus for Barack Obama were clearly unfounded.

Obama, Clinton trading lead in Nevada, early results are inconclusive

The Nevada Democratic caucuses are well underway, and while there's plenty to watch, there's no outcome to talk about yet.

So far Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been trading the lead, with John Edwards a very distant third, with a tally similiar to what Bill Richardson received in Iowa and New Hampshire. According to the Nevada Democratic Party, all of the counties are now reporting precinct caucus results.

Senator Hillary Clinton: 49.21%
Senator Barack Obama: 44.82%
Senator John Edwards: 5.37%
Uncommitted: 0.39%
Congressman Dennis Kucinich: 0.2%
Senator Mike Gravel: 0%

*As of 12:36 PM Pacific Time

CNN, which has been airing live footage from inside one of the Las Vegas caucuses, says it is currently crunching entrance poll numbers. That's better than having no feed at all, but why can't they have video from other caucus sites?

UPDATE: As of 12:50 PM, Hillary Clinton has opened up a wide lead over Senator Obama, but it's still early and precincts are still reporting.

Obama leading early in first Nevada Democratic caucus results

The first Nevada caucus results are in, and Barack Obama currently has a small early lead. Keep in mind that only a few counties are currently reporting.

Senator Barack Obama: 49.3%
Senator Hillary Clinton: 46.48%
Senator John Edwards: 2.82%
Congressman Dennis Kucinich: 1.41%
Senator Mike Gravel: 0%
Uncommitted: 0%

*As of 12:06 PM Pacific Time

According to the Las Vegas Sun, some of the Democratic conveners had to wait to set up their caucuses because the Republicans were using the same rooms:
One of the more amusing sights at Republican caucuses this morning was of Democratic volunteers watching nervously.

They weren’t necessarily worried about who would win the Republican half of the caucus, but whether the Republicans would complete their caucus in time so they could prepare for their election.

“We have to wait until they tear it down,” said Democratic volunteer Daylon Blind, 24. “I hope they do it as quickly as possible.”

The Republican caucus was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. — two and a half hours before their counterparts’ turn - but confusion about how to register, how to elect delegates and how to vote delayed the process, which party insiders had hoped would take just 30 to 45 minutes.

Not quite. The Republican caucus took about an hour.
It's too early to draw any conclusions at this moment. So while the pundits spin their rhetorical wheels furiously, we can sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

UPDATE: Hillary Clinton now has the lead. The numbers are changing rapidly, so I'm only going to post occasional updates.

There isn't much to analyze yet, obviously.

Senator Hillary Clinton: 48.73%
Senator Barack Obama: 44.67%
Senator John Edwards: 5.58%
Congressman Dennis Kucinich: 1.02%
Senator Mike Gravel: 0%
Uncommitted: 0%

*As of 12:18 PM Pacific Time

Traditional media: Mitt Romney wins Nevada Republican caucuses

While voting continues in the Republican primary in South Carolina, news outlets are projecting that Mitt Romney has won the Nevada caucuses in a landslide:
Based on entrance poll results, ABC News projects that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will win the Nevada Republican Caucuses.

Romney, coming off a major victory this week in Michigan, was the perceived frontrunner entering the Nevada race, which has been overshadowed as most of the candidates focused during the past few days on the South Carolina Republican primary.

Romney won broad support among Nevada's Republican voters, according to preliminary entrance poll result analysis by ABC News. Notably, while Mormons only make up 7 percent of the state's population, the accounted for roughly a quarter of Republican caucus-goers. Ninety percent of them supported Romney, who is Mormon.
Romney can now boast of having three states in his win column (Wyoming, Michigan, and Nevada) which is more than any other candidate. But South Carolina is also voting today, and it remains to be seen who will win there. Most of Mitt Romney's rivals did not campaign in Nevada, and so his victory there isn't much of a surprise. But South Carolina remains an important prize.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In Brief - January 17th, 2008

I hope that people have been reminded by the recent snow and ice on the roadways to drive defensively and thoughtfully.

In my home state of Michigan, we see this stuff all the time, but in the Pacific Northwest lowlands, it's quite unusual. Be careful out there.

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Governor Gregoire delivered her 2008 State of the State Address to the Legislature on the 15th. Focusing her message on the healthy state economy, the strength of Washington exports, and the ability of Washington's people to rise to the challenge presented by the floods, the Governor said that she "put our state back on track toward a safe, prosperous, healthy future." Our executive director followed the speech live, and if you missed that post, take a look at his observations.
  • The Oregon Health Care Summit is in session today. Participants will discuss how the state can give health care to the 1 in 6 Oregonians that do not currently have it. The end result will be a report with recommendations, completed by October 1st.
  • Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is hit with another delay, and the stock price suffered as a result of the news.
Across the Nation
  • The White House has revealed that they may have accidentally illegally recycled tape backups that contained emails and information from the run-up to the Iraq occupation and the Valerie Plame leak case.
  • Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is giving general support to bipartisan calls for a short-term economic stimulus package, but he's light on the actions he specifically will/will not be in favor of taking.
  • Apple held its biannual Macworld conference in San Francisco, CA this week. During CEO Steve Jobs' keynote, he made a number of announcements about new products. Here's a brief recap of what Apple unveiled:
    • MacBook Air - An ultra thin laptop computer
    • iPhone and iPod Touch software updates
    • iTunes movie rentals
    • Time Capsule - A wireless backup solution for Macs and Windows machines
    • Apple TV, take 2
Around the World
  • The virtual civil war taking place in Kenya continues on as violence and tension remain high after their recent election. The European Union wants to freeze aid to Kenya until the unrest calms.
  • 2 animal rights and anti-whaling activists were turned over to Australian officials after they boarded a Japanese ship they accused of illegal whaling.
  • British Airways Flight BA038 ran into trouble at London's Heathrow Airport earlier today, crash landing short of the runway. The pilot heroically glided the Boeing 777 aircraft down to the ground after losing all power, according to an airport worker. Thirteen people were hospitalized but there were no fatalities, fortunately.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Time for I-960 to be challenged in court

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Olympia correspondent, Chris McGann, has an article in tomorrow's newspaper about the negative effects Tim Eyman's Initiative 960 is having on the legislative process:
The news releases required under the measure citing proposed new taxes or fees in legislation are seen as cheap fodder for any political candidate who takes on an incumbent -- and they threaten to derail plans as varied as organizing radiology assistants to taxing carbon industries.

"It is getting in the way of open consideration of ideas," said Rep. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, who sponsored a bill that would tax greenhouse gas emissions. "It is getting in the way of taking care of the business of our state."

[...]

"You would not believe the vitriol that has come in on my telephone today," said Chase, who added lawmakers will be reluctant to have their names associated with any bill that would trigger I-960 notification.

Most of the outrage was based on the estimated taxpayer price tag for the bill [HB 2420], which is misleading, she said.

"I'm just now studying how they [OFM] came up with that figure because right now, we don't have a price for carbon," she said. "So it is ridiculous to put this out here when there are so many assumptions. It dampens down the legislative discussion that we need to have to come up with good legislation.
The whole point of Eyman's "notification" gimmick was and is to provide Republican candidates (who portray themselves as against taxes and government in general) and his own vocal but small band of supporters with ready-made attacks against Democratic lawmakers. These Initiative 960 mandated releases are gift wrapped for the right wing on the public's dime.

Look at what happened to Representative Chase. She sponsored a bold proposal to address the climate crisis, and it is being trashed by people who have signed up for the Office of Financial Management's list simply so they can scream at every lawmaker who proposes something that costs money.

Pooling our money together into a common wealth to allow us to collectively improve our lives and our communities...what a horrifying thought.

Eyman, who has explicitly urged his followers to sign up for the notification system, has already accused the Office of Financial Management (and Governor Gregoire) of nefariously trying to make it hard for citizens to subscribe.

As usual, his accusation is wholly without merit. Perhaps the subscription process (which is opt-in, of course) could be more user friendly, but that's a limitation of the listserv software the state government uses.

As an aside to readers... if you want to thank lawmakers who have the courage to sponsor legislation that they know will have a price tag slapped on it like a big discount sticker, we urge you to subscribe yourself to the notification list.

Because the legislative session has just started, the unconstitutional two thirds supermajority requirement for raising revenue has not yet been tested yet, but it undoubtedly will be. As Representative Lynn Kessler notes:
Although House Democrats would be cautious of bills with new fees, they won't be able to completely avoid them.

"There will be some that we need," she said.

Kessler said OFM has already flagged six bills -- two from the Republicans and four from the Democrats -- as those subject to the I-960 requirements.

She said at this stage it seems counterproductive. For example, a group of radiologist assistants wants legislative authorization to form a professional board or commission, and, like similar groups, the costs would be paid for by the members of the group.

But even though the group is asking for something it intends to pay for itself, the bill may stall out of concern about the extra attention it would put on its sponsors and those who vote for it.
Back in the autumn of 2007, we said that this was the kind of paralysis Initiative 960 would create... and we are now being proved correct.

Is it any surprise that Tim Eyman thinks this situation is just super?

Initiative 960 was never about transparency or accountability - it was and remains an undemocratic scheme to cripple government (and ensnare Democrats).

It is time for this pile of garbage to be hauled into court and challenged.

Like many of Tim Eyman's previous measures, Initiative 960 is in direct conflict with the supreme law of our land - the Washington State Constitution, which established our state government and reaffirmed the American tradition of majority rule with minority rights. In our series last fall (Unconstitutional, Unfair, Unsound) we explained why Initiative 960 is bad law, and therefore vulnerable to legal challenge.
Here's an excerpt from Part One:
The supreme law of our state defines all the instances where supermajorities are required for the Legislature to take action. On all other occasions, the Constitution says that majority rule will prevail. Adding or subtracting exceptions in the Constitution may only be done through amendment.

[...]

State courts in Alaska have interpreted the virtually identical language about majority votes in their Constitution to be both a floor and a ceiling, and it can be reasonably expected that courts here will do the same.

Floor and ceiling means that "majority" is an absolute definition: no bills can pass through the Legislature without a majority; while anything greater than a simple majority cannot be required to pass bills.

The language in I-960 calls for a two thirds minimum "yea" vote of all lawmakers to pass revenue increases; the state Constitution says such legislation may move out of the statehouse with only a simple majority.
A lawsuit taking aim at Initiative 960's constitutionality is not a matter of if but when. Thankfully, the demise of Initiative 960 at the hands of the state Supreme Court would be final. It is unconstitutionally rotten to its core, and the Legislature wouldn't be able to reinstate it even if it wanted to. How distressing for Tim Eyman & Co.

The narrow majority of voters that approved Initiative 960 may not have realized what they were really voting for, but fortunately, our democracy comes with a self cleansing mechanism: the power of judicial review.

Presidential candidates, debates, and God

“Freedom requires religion.”

- Mitt Romney, the GOP winner in Michigan and Wyoming

“...what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards..."

- Mike Huckabee, the GOP winner in Iowa

Whatever you think about the top three Democratic candidates, none of them is pandering to Christian fundamentalists like this. And the way Romney and Huckabee are talking, it's pretty clear that trampling the Constitution on their way to power is a perfectly legitimate goal in their goose-step to the presidency.

Which means, of course, continuing the policies of the Bush administration. Merge church and state? Sure! Spy on you? You bet. Prolong an illegal, immoral occupation? Yup. The only one who truly believes in the Constitution, getting out of Iraq, and has at least a veneer of sanity is Ron Paul.

But even that veneer is pretty thin. He'd like to do away with the Internal Revenue Service, impose a (regressive) "flat tax", and give corporations even more leeway to increase their stranglehold on America. He's a libertarian with fangs.

Watching the Democratic debates last night (with the fiasco of the Michigan primaries taking place in the background), I found myself grumbling over at least one response per candidate that I didn't fully agree with.

And I was still fuming over MSNBC's decision to exclude Dennis Kucinich from the debate, a la the Des Moines Register. But that's another rant entirely.

Still, after watching a rather collegial, lucid debate — despite Tim Russert's deservedly heckled attempts to dredge up a race or sex-based sparring match — I was cheered up by the Michigan primary results on the Republican side: Rudy Giuliani's dismal performance (again), the non-effect of Ron Paul, Fred Thompson, and Duncan Hunter, and the two quotes that opened this post.

I might grumble that any of the Democratic candidates aren't progressive enough or didn't vote as expected on a particular matter of importance, but at the very least, I wouldn't be ashamed to say about any of them: Yeah, that's my president. Right now, I can't say that about any of the string of sycophants in Neocon Land, including the current occupant of the White House.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Romney and Clinton win big in Michigan, "Uncommitted" 2nd in Democratic contest

It's now about 7 PM Pacific Time and the results in Michigan are looking pretty solid with over half of the votes counted.

For Republicans, Mitt Romney is the projected victor. He is decisively beating John McCain and Mike Huckabee, who are (as of this hour) coming in second and third, respectively. Rudy Guiliani and Fred Dalton Thompson remain non-factors in the race, and are receiving less votes than Ron Paul. Ouch!

Clinton's win, on the other hand, is hollow and insignificant. Without Barack Obama and John Edwards on the Michigan ballot, Clinton can't boast of a triumph over her two main rivals, who will be competing against her in the upcoming Nevada and South Carolina nominating events. Perhaps not surprisingly, the number of votes for "Uncommitted" in the Michigan Democratic primary is high at 36%.

The Democratic primary has to be embarrassing for Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and the Dingells, who thought that they would be forcing the Democratic contenders to campaign in their state by moving up their primary. Instead, the candidates refrained from campaigning there and several of them withdrew their names from the ballot in protest of Michigan's violation of Democratic Party rules.

The result? A contest in which "Uncommitted" racked up over a third of the votes.

The full results:

Democrats
Clinton (203,156) 58%
Uncommitted (128,918) - 37%
Kucinich (14,256) - 4%
Dodd (2,451) - 1%
Gravel (1,563) - 0%

Republicans
Romney (229,963) - 39%
McCain (176,833) - 30%
Huckabee (94,692) - 16%
Paul (37,512) - 6%
Thompson (21,866) - 4%
Giuliani (16,544) - 3%
Uncommitted (11,586) 2%
Hunter (1,928) - 0%

Zoom! No drama in Michigan

I was just listening to Nova M radio at the top of the hour, and marveling at how quickly the outcome in Michigan was announced.

Ross Simpson of the Associated Press Radio news had no sooner announced that the polls had closed in Michigan than, two minutes into his 3-1/2 minute "newscast," he interrupted himself to announce that Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton were the projected winners for their respective parties.

Talk about "breaking news." Yikes.

Thoughts on the State of the State, live

Governor Christine Gregoire has just begun her annual address to a joint session of the state Legislature. She opened her speech by acknowledging that much work remains to be done despite three years of progress since taking office in 2005.

Gregoire is focusing her initial remarks on veterans and victims of the recent storms in southwestern Washington. She recognized twelve individuals for outstanding contributions to storm recovery efforts.

And she noted that she and Mike Gregoire have attended sixteen funerals for fallen Washington soldiers who died in Iraq or Afghanistan in the last year. (When was the last time Dubya went to a soldier's funeral?)

FIRST UPDATE: The Governor is asking the House and Senate to pass legislation to help victims of the subprime mortgage crisis before the end of the session, relating the sad tale of a Federal Way family forced out of their home as a call to action. I'm glad to see this made it into the speech early.

SECOND UPDATE: Gregoire is reflecting on successes from the past year. Here's a sampling of what she is covering:
  • passage of the constitutional amendment to create a rainy day fund,
  • Forbes Magazine recognizing Washington State as the fifth best state in the nation in which to do business,
  • the lowest unemployment rate in state history
Gregoire also thanked the Legislature for promptly reinstating Initiative 747 as she requested in November. That, of course, was a failure of leadership, not an accomplishment. Fortunately, the applause didn't sound very enthusiastic (which doesn't surprise me - it's nothing to be proud of).

THIRD UPDATE: Gregoire is now talking about education - notably the state's success in implementing a voter approved initiative to reduce class sizes and her administration's efforts to make college more affordable.

I was happy to hear the governor mention the National Board certification program that a record number of Washington teachers are undertaking to demonstrate that they are meeting the highest professional standards possible.

Touching on transportation, Gregoire sought to provide assurances that the Evergreen Point floating bridge replacement and Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition projects were moving forward. She also spoke of investigating how to improve mobility in Spokane.

Gregoire ended by urging lawmakers to be mindful of the many unsolved problems Washington faces. "Claiming victory now would diminish the challenges ahead," Gregoire said solemnly. I hope the governor remembers her own words on the campaign trail, because giving voters a glimpse of what her second term would look like will help her win in November.

It's easy to talk about past successes; it's harder to spend time talking about tackling those remaining challenges. If Gregoire is able to do that in the coming months, I think she'll be more successful at blunting Dino Rossi's attacks.

State of the State address tonight

Governor Christine Gregoire is set to deliver the annual State of State address tonight at 5 PM before a joint session of the House and the Senate.

I'll be following the speech live and posting my observations here starting in about an hour and a half. I'll also post the text of Gregoire's remarks.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I first published this yesterday by accident when I put up the wrong draft. It wasn't supposed to go live on Monday...because the speech is today. I've moved this post up and now it's where it belongs.

Yesterday, hinting at what she might say during her address tonight, the governor urged Washingtonians to keep flood victims in mind:
Businesses and individuals in Southwest Washington are still struggling to recover from the catastrophic damage the storms caused. I urge our corporations and residents to open their pocketbooks for them. Neighbors need to be helping neighbors at times like this.
A list of additional recommended relief organizations is available at the Military Department's Emergency Management Division.

Please drive carefully this morning

It's slippery, it's slick, and it's dangerous in many areas:
Early morning commuters north and east of Seattle are waking up to black ice and snow on the roads.

A fast moving storm hit western Washington late Monday night and early Tuesday morning. Temperatures have dropped into the lower 30’s and upper 20’s and bringing some snow and ice in north King County and into Snohomish County.

If there is ice on your windshield this morning, it’s a good indicator that there will also be ice on the roads. Black ice is difficult for drivers to see, especially in the early morning hours, and brings a large potential for spin-outs and collisions.

Drivers can expect winter driving conditions on all state highways and secondary roadways. Motorists need to be prepared for these conditions at all times by carrying chains, basic safety equipment, and keep your vehicle in proper operating condition.

Once the system clears the Puget Sound region, it will continue to the east and hammer the mountain passes with more snow, where crews have been battling snow almost non stop for weeks. Crews are preparing for five to seven inches of accumulation overnight.
WSDOT has more information.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tim Eyman will say anything

One of the favorite pastimes of our local Grover Norquist clone is to attack legislators (especially Democratic lawmakers) for almost every fault imaginable. Today, on the opening day of the legislative session, Tim set his sights on Senator Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island, who heads the Transportation Committee. From his email to supporters this morning:
RE: Sen. Haugen -- That was then, this is now

That was then, this is now:

January 3, 2008, Everett Herald, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen: "Congestion is our number one priority."

January 13, 2008, Everett Herald, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen: "As far as I'm concerned, safety must be the highest priority of our state transportation system."

Politicians will say anything.
Really? Politicians will say anything, eh, Tim? You would think that, wouldn't you, because you are a politician who is willing to say anything.

Like Dino Rossi, you are a salesman, except what you guys peddle is not goods or services - it's mistrust, suspicion, and anger - towards government.

If the population of Washington State could gather together in one place in the style of an Athenian meeting, Tim Eyman would be the guy dancing around the edges of the assembly in a clown costume attempting to generate as much cynicism and disgust towards those in charge as possible.

As usual, Eyman makes a weak attack that starts falling apart when it is reframed. From his perspective Haugen's comments are contradictory; to me, they are not. Why can't both of those goals be the number one priority?

As I wrote last Thursday:
Solving our transportation crisis will require investments towards two goals: safer infrastructure and reduced congestion, both of which are equally important and also related.
Think about it: not fixing unsafe roads and bridges leaves us vulnerable to disaster (particularly earthquakes)... and fails to stop preventable traffic fatalities.

Not providing choices and not investing in mass transit forces us to use our cars to go everywhere, which results in congestion that costs us all time and money.

Unsafe infrastructure and congestion both carry a heavy economic price tag, but they have more in common than that. They're directly related to each other.

For example, eliminating dangerous choke points can reduce congestion, and building a light rail system can cut down the number and intensity of serious auto collisions (many of which are caused by distracted motorists trying to make up for the time spent sitting in traffic by multitasking).

I suspect that Senator Haugen, who has served in the Legislature for a number of years, is aware of the connections I just described, and would agree with me that a safer transportation system and a less congested one are not mutually exclusive objectives, but equally vital priorities.

Tim "I wanna do something constructive for a change" Eyman, on the other hand, continues to demonstrate why libertarians don't have the chops to tackle our toughest challenges. Eyman's Initiative 984, the latest product from his Mukilteo factory, is billed as a "professional" cure-all to traffic congestion.

It would siphon existing funds from several revenue sources (including the vehicle sales tax) and reroute them towards three things:
  1. Roadside assistance crews... which the state already has,
  2. Traffic light synchronization...which cities across Washington already do,
  3. Open the HOV lanes during off peak hours...which the state already does (in many places)
Initiative 984 is laughably redundant and insignificant in scope. It isn't even a remotely serious attempt to solve our transportation crisis, which is more deeply rooted than Eyman realizes.

Perhaps if Tim understood what really causes traffic jams, he would be able to discern why congestion is so hard to fix.

And he wouldn't be opposed to building light rail, which is the most effective way to get people out of their cars - and frees up space on the highway for snobbish, dismissive libertarians like him who want nothing to do with "choo choo trains".

The primary cause of gridlock is sprawl and poor civic planning. When we deliberately build our cities with seperate residential, commercial, and industrial areas, we can't be surprised when everyone drives. But when we design walkable communities that are connected by an accessible and reliable regional rapid transit network, we allow ourselves the freedom of mobility...the freedom to get to where we want to go without being obstructed by each other.

We're just starting to rethink our approach to growth and transportation, and grappling with the consequences of our past decisions.

The notion that we can miraculously get rid of gridlock with a few quick fixes is a folly. If solving our transportation crisis was that easy, it would have been taken care of years ago. Senator Haugen at least understands the complexity and difficulty of the problem, which is more than can be said about Tim Eyman.

In Brief - January 14th, 2008

Yesterday was the first break in a long string of drizzly days, but as luck would have it, I spent my afternoon taking part in a caucus training. Hopefully my sacrifice will pay off as the Democratic Party prepares to convene "friendly, well-organized" caucuses on February 9th. Yes, we are talking about the Democratic Party.

Washington will hold its precinct caucuses beginning at one o'clock at schools and community centers across the state and Democrats will be prepared for an onslaught of energized voters. The caucus is an opportunity to mingle with neighbors and publicly display support for a particular presidential candidate.

Unsure where your precinct's caucus will be held? Go to the state Democratic Party's website for a quick check. I am hoping for a drizzly caucus Saturday, since I can only sacrifice so much winter sunshine for my party.

Now here is today's brief look at the news:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • The Washington Legislature begins its 60-day session today with modest expectations. The Democratic leadership hopes to build upon its education and health care investments of last year, while maintaining at least $1 billion in reserve for the next budget cycle. Transportation is bound to be an important issue (as usual).
  • Not willing to wait until their state primary in May, Idaho's Republican party conducted a nonbinding straw poll Saturday naming former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as the party nominee. Anecdotally, there is no clear-cut party favorite as Idaho Republicans are split between the candidates. Front runners are in short supply this year!
  • You can now choose to register to vote online in Washington, which recently became the second state (after Arizona) to offer the service. Applicants must hold either a valid driver's license or a state-issued identification card.
Across the Nation
  • The New York Times reports that shoppers in all income brackets have sharply reduced purchasing goods and services since December. That's bad news for the economy, but our environment benefits when we don't buy what we we don't need. It's unfortunate that it takes a tight pocketbook to get many Americans to think about reducing, reusing, and recycling.
  • If wishes were horses, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen would join Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Bush atop valiant steeds. During his recent visit to the Guantanamo Bay detention center, Admiral Mullen joined the powerful duo by also wishing that the prison would be shut down. Their main obstacle is how to keep the prisoners off American soil where U.S. laws would apply to them. A wish for real justice is what's really needed to close down this American disgrace.
  • As the whole world watches our electoral politics unfold, here's some information to keep you on top of the process. The Democratic candidate will need 2,025 delegates to win the party's nomination in August. These are acquired through a combination of state caucuses and primaries, plus the support of "super delegates" which make up 40% of the total. Obama considerably lags Clinton in racking up these valuable endorsements.
Around the World
  • Great Britain's defiance of a Russian order to shut down two cultural offices inside its country worsens diplomatic tensions between the two countries. The tensions are related to a dispute over ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko's death in London.
  • The European Union plans to increase its use of renewable energy to 20% by 2020, and is developing criteria for sustainable biofuel use. Critics of biofuel fear that its cultivation harms ecosystems and increases food prices in developing countries.
  • Along with Africa's fish, Europe is receiving African immigrants as trawlers from Europe, China and elsewhere have decimated the fish supply along Africa's northwest coast, causing the collapse of its local economies. Immigrants risk their lives sailing to Europe in small boats in order to find new livelihoods.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In Brief - January 13th, 2008

If you were watching football yesterday, you know that unfortunately the Seahawks season has come to a snowy close with a loss at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. The game started quite nicely, with the Seahawks grabbing a quick 14-0 lead just a few minutes in, but any true fan could sense we were in trouble when almost as quickly we fell behind 21-14.

It seems the Hawks couldn't stop the running game, with the Packers galloping for over 230 rushing yards. Nor could our defense keep them out of the endzone: Green Bay set a franchise post-season scoring record with 42 points. It was so lopsided, Packers players were playfully throwing snowballs at each other on the sidelines with plenty of time left in the game.

Oh well. The Seahawks proved once again they can't win a playoff game on the road, but there's a touch of sunshine in Seattle this January morning. Lately, even for this time of year, that's a bit of an unusual sight. (Almost as unusual as seeing Shaun Alexander get more than 5 yards on a carry.)

With that sad news out of the way, on to today's quick news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • With the legislative session beginning tomorrow, Democratic leaders like Lisa Brown are boldly proclaiming that 2008 is not a year for "launching new initiatives." Sigh... You know, a supermajority in both the House and Senate just isn't what it used to be.
  • Budget issues are threatening the U.S. Forest Service's avalanche warning system in the Northwest.
  • Oregon developers in Clark County and Happy Valley are feeling the pinch as the demand for new housing bottoms out.
Across the Nation
  • Barack Obama had picked up another endorsement: this one's from Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, following earlier endorsements this week from the likes of John Kerry, Tim Johnson, Ben Nelson, and Janet Napolitano.
  • Organized labor is showing some divisions in Nevada in the heat of primary season. After the Nevada Culinary Workers endorsed Obama this week, "The Nevada State Education Association, which has not endorsed a candidate, filed suit late Friday, saying [that casino caucuses for the culinary workers' benefit approved publicly months ago by the state Democratic Party] provided an unfair advantage to the Culinary Workers." Other unions in Nevada aren't too happy with the casino caucuses, including the AFSCME, which has endorsed Hillary Clinton.
  • Congress and Bush are considering a $100 billion stimulus package, but some economists are concerned that such a package might be too late to stave off a projected serious economic downturn this year.
Around the World
  • After months of pressure, the Bush administration has accomplished one mission: Saddam Hussein's Baath party members now have the chance to again apply for Iraqi government jobs.
  • Yet more (possibly) rigged elections spark protests: this time in Georgia, where thousands gathered to protest against "Pro-Western" leader Mikhail Saakashvili.
  • In 2007, the Toyota Prius outsold the Ford Explorer in the U.S. Gas-guzzling SUVs aren't quite as sexy as they used to be.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

In Brief - January 12th, 2008

I've been back in Washington for just over a week now, after a relaxing holiday vacation, and I swear it hasn't stopped raining since.

They say we're in a La Nina cycle right now, which I suppose is meteorologist-speak for "really really wet." Amid all the drizzle and downpour, it must sound odd to hear that one of the things that worries me about the long term future habitability of the Northwest is water availability.

But according to the scientific research we have, climate change is going to affect rainfall patterns in much of the world, here included.

In most of the major climate model forecasts, as I understand, the Pacific Northwest is slated to become warmer and drier. Sounds good, right? Nicer weather, longer growing season. Well, maybe not. The downside is drastically reduced winter snowpack on our mountains. That snowpack is the source of our drinking water.

If that goes, our rivers, streams, and watersheds all start to dry up. We don't really have anything else to fall back on.

I spent some of my earlier years in Phoenix, which lives on fossil water pumped out of vast limestone aquifers. That kind of water takes millions of years to accumulate. We live on a tectonically active, fault-riddled chunk of Earth's crust.

So yeah, amid all the rain, I worry whether my kids will have enough water to drink when they're my age. Many people are keen to cover their roofs with solar panels (which is a terrific idea), but it may become equally important to start using our roofs to collect drinking water. Anyway, on to today's news digest.

In the Pacific Northwest
  • It's Seahawks Gameday again...make that Playoff Gameday. The Seahawks will be battling the Green Bay Packers this afternoon for the right to advance to the NFC conference championship. And once again, Washington political leaders have staked their pride on a Seahawks victory, placing friendly wagers with their counterparts in Wisconsin.
  • The City of Bellevue, for the first time in its history, has selected a woman as police chief. Linda Pillo joined the department in 1986 and has served as lieutenant, captain, major, deputy chief and, now, chief. Congratulations to Linda on her promotion.
  • The Idahoan netroots community is set to welcome Markos Moulitsas as the keynote speaker of the Frank Church Banquet in Boise on March 1st, 2008. Red State Rebels has more information about the event.
Across the Nation
  • Mathematician Paul Edelman is proposing a new method for apportioning House seats. This is a proposal for what to do with the leftover fractional seats, after you divide the population of a state by the number of people that represents 1/435th of the whole nation. I'm not sure that this proposal is better or worse than anything that's been tried before, but Edelman's idea is interesting to read about nonetheless. I'd be much more interested in a clean algorithmic method for drawing congressional district boundaries. This "son of Gerrymander" system we have now leaves plenty to be desired.
  • RedState, one of the better known conservative blog sites, is begging for money to help them buy better blogging software. Why? Because they hilariously can't find enough good conservative web developers to help them fix whatever duct-tape and bailing-wire solution they've got now. Setting aside RedState's quasi "liberal conspiracy" take on their plight, they really shouldn't be surprised to find themselves in this pickle. New technology is necessarily invented (and by extension, most quickly adopted) by people who are capable of looking at the state of the world and envisioning building something new to make it a little bit better. That is, by liberals. By their very nature, conservatives struggle vainly if ever valiantly to cling to what is old, so they should hardly be surprised to run smack into technology's inherent liberal bias. No conspiracy required.
  • The Las Vegas Sun reports that major polling organizations, hoping to avoid a hat-trick of failures after mis-calling Iowa and New Hampshire, are skipping out on even trying to figure out who might win the slot-machine state's primaries. What a refreshing development!
  • Arizona Governor Napolitano is piling on the Momentum Express, backing Barack Obama's candidacy. Will Governor Christine Gregoire follow suit? The two are good friends. Napolitano and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas headlined an Election Day fundraiser for Gregoire last November.
Around the World
  • Yesterday marks the 6 year anniversary of the opening of America's gulag at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. DailyKos blogger Meteor Blades offers this exceptional retrospective.
  • Perhaps we should be calling it the "$urge". What's really behind the reported reduction in Iraq violence? It's just that old adage, "if you can't beat 'em, pay 'em off."

On the Lighter Side

  • The latest hilarious video meme: a spoof on Bill Gates' last full day at Microsoft, now just a short six months or so away. Amazing who you can get to be in your silly spoof videos when your pockets essentially have no bottoms.
  • In the "Would be funny except that it's true" category, our ever-vigilant TSA puts a red-blooded American five year old on the no-fly list. Remind me not to name my next kid George John Thomas Washington Adams Jefferson...
And now a personal message from me to every candidate, Democrat, Republican, or World Worker's Party alike, in the wake of having had to suffer the indignities of commercial airline travel on my aforementioned holiday vacation.

Friends, the secret to landslide victory this November would be running on the promise of dissolving the TSA and undoing every other cockamamie, useless, pseudo-security requirement that has come into existence since September 11th.

I know I'm tired of taking off my shoes for the X-ray machine, having to buy water from the newsstand vendors at anywhere from two to five times the cost of gasoline, and having to segregate my "semi-liquid" carry-on items (you know, our chocolate C4 pudding cups and squeezeable primacord diaper creme for the kids) into zip-lock baggies for proper pre-flight inspection.

I strongly suspect that roughly ninety five-gazillion percent of Americans recognize that these, ahem, "security enhancements" do not in fact make us one iota more secure against truly determined terrorist miscreants.

Furthermore, I believe that we're all thoroughly annoyed with the whole business, and recognize it for the overt fear-mongering that it is.

So whoever puts that plank in their platform, you've got my vote.

If you're in the airport bottled water business, though, you've gotta be loving the madness... and plotting how to get anything else you sell banned from passage through the holy shrines of X-ray and metal detectors.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Richardson's tribute to the other Democratic presidential candidates

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who is ending his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, gave a great thank you speech yesterday in Sante Fe. I saw it in my inbox this morning and was impressed by how remarkably well written it was. Here's an excerpt from it, where Richardson praises his Democratic competitors:
Running for president brings out the best in everyone who graces the stage, and I have learned much from the other candidates running. They have all brought great talents and abilities to the campaign.

Senator Biden's passion and intellect are remarkable.

Senator Dodd is the epitome of selfless dedication to public service and the Democratic Party.

Senator Edwards is a singular voice for the most downtrodden and forgotten among us.

Senator Obama is a bright light of hope and optimism at a time of great national unease, yet he is also grounded in thoughtful wisdom beyond his years.

Senator Clinton's poise in the face of adversity is matched only by her lifetime of achievement and deep understanding of the challenges we face.

Representative Kucinich is a man of great decency and dedication who will faithfully soldier on no matter how great the odds.

And all of us in the Democratic Party owe Senator Mike Gravel our appreciation for his leadership during the national turmoil of Vietnam.

I am honored to have shared the stage with each of these Democrats. And I am enormously grateful to all of my supporters who chose to stand with me despite so many other candidates of accomplishment and potential.
It's heartening to see how Richardson managed to capture the unique strengths of each of the candidates in just a few paragraphs. The elegant presentation reminds me of the work we put into writing the annual David Neiwert Awards, which honor the accomplishments of people across the regional netroots community.

Kudos to Governor Richardson's campaign for such a graceful finish.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The challenge of fixing our transportation system extends beyond bridge replacement

Governor Christine Gregoire, accompanied by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and King County Executive Ron Sims, today unveiled her plan for replacing the aging Evergreen Point Floating Bridge across Lake Washington:
Citing safety as one of her top transportation priorities, Gregoire noted that the current SR520 bridge is four years older than the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota last year, and it is nearly at the end of its useful life. The bridge is carrying 80 percent more traffic than it was designed to carry, and is in danger during an earthquake or major windstorm

Transportation engineers rate bridges on a zero-to-one hundred scale to determine when they should be replaced. A rating of 50 means a bridge is recommended for replacement. The 520 bridge is rated below 50, at 44, the governor said.

"The bridge is aging, and as any driver knows – it is also slow and crowded. The time for action is now. We need to step up and fix this problem for the sake of Washington families and a vibrant economy that depends so much on this vital link."

The new bridge will cost approximately $4 billion to complete. Half of the funding to pay for the new bridge will come from existing state and federal sources, while another half of the funding will be paid by bridge users through tolling.

If the financing plan is approved, a new bridge would be completed by 2018.
NPI staff attended Governor Gregoire's press conference in Bellevue this morning, where she outlined the financing and replacement plan. I wasn't there, but I'm told it was a good event, informative and well attended - despite the presence of Tim Eyman, who jumped in front of the cameras like an annoying leech after the press conference was concluded.

Various explanations were offered as to the choice of tolling as a revenue source, but the main reason is that there isn't much revenue available from anywhere else.

Transportation funding has been tight ever since the Legislature foolishly reenacted Tim Eyman's I-695, and though the 2005 Transportation Package and the nickel package from 2003 helped fill in part of the hole that was created, we're still not where we should be. And don't forget that several right wing initiative campaigns were launched to gut that revenue - I-864, I-912, and I-917, all unsuccessful.

An attempt was made to fund projects at the regional level with Proposition 1 - a sixteen year plan for Roads & Transit - but voters defeated that in November. With Gregoire and lawmakers unwilling to tap more money from existing sources in an election year, Washington's political leadership has settled on tolling to supply a large chunk of the money needed.

There is truth in the argument that tolls (as a user fee) are regressive. Certainly tolling is not the most progressive way to raise money to pay for infrastructure. But there is also a compelling case to be made for tolling the Lake Washington crossing as part of the financing plan for the bridge replacement:
  • Those who use the State Route 520 span the most will be contributing more towards its replacement than other Washingtonians,
  • Tolling encourages residents to carpool, form a vanpool, ride the bus, or reduce their trips altogether,
  • Having a toll in place reminds motorists of the true cost of driving. Highways are not freeways. There is no "free lunch".
Those who want to avoid paying tolls may also have the option of moving closer to where they work - if they can afford to do so; many families cannot. Workers who have flexible jobs may also be able to telecommute, although again this is not feasible for many. The greatest consequence of tolling will be a change in the mindset of drivers. What was (ostensibly) "free" before now has a cost, and that will have predictable effects on behavior.

It is incredibly important that people who have no alternative to automobile commuting today be able to choose rapid transit instead as soon as possible. If we don't invest in building a rail backbone for Puget Sound, we will essentially be forcing ourselves to drive.

And we know that people will not abandon their cars for buses which will only become more crowded and cramped in the years to come - buses that are all too often mired in congestion along with vehicles that have a single occupant.

We have decades of research and we have common sense telling us that we need to build a rail backbone now. Central Link, while a promising start, will not serve commuters who must cross Lake Washington to get to work.

Likewise, commuters coming or going from Lynnwood and Tacoma cannot use Central Link because it does not extend out to their neighborhoods.

The Evergreen Point Floating Bridge is being replaced because it is unsafe and old, but the new structure, when completed, will be just as congested with cars if we continue our thoughtless approach to transportation.

If you drive up into Snohomish County these days, you'll see WSDOT signs saying "Freeway Expansion" and then, in a circle next to it, "Improves Traffic."

Why is the state spending our money trying to deceive us? Why is the state encouraging people to drive even more than they do today? "Freeway expansion," we're told, "improves traffic." Except it doesn't.

Widening projects are entirely fruitless. They accomplish nothing. New lanes do not ease congestion, they just increase the width of our urban canyons.

This has been repeatedly documented, and still we're wasting precious dollars making our highways bigger. Back in November, Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wisely called for an end to this nonsense, writing:
We need to go into triage mode around here. To solve these crises, we need to do something radical.

So here's my idea. It would allow us to replace the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge. Buy some new ferries. And establish a new suburban Eastside mass-transit line.

Without raising one penny of new taxes.

What we should do is: cancel the widening of Interstate 405.

That huge project would add two lanes in each direction to the Eastside's freeway. It was tabbed at $11 billion back in 2002 (which, adjusted for construction inflation, equals a googlillion today).

It's not for safety — that freeway isn't about to fall or sink into anything. Canceling those extra lanes, or at least delaying them, would free up $1.2 billion that has already been approved by the voters.
At the December meeting of the 45th District Districts (my home LD), I asked Representative Larry Springer about the possibility of canceling the I-405 project and using the money for real priorities.

Larry said the idea was a nonstarter. Why? Well, because money had already been spent to widen I-405 between SR 520 and SR 522.

I didn't continue the conversation further, but my response would have been, so what? Why should we waste even more money on Interstate 405 when we have so many needs and so little money to pay for them?

I can guarantee that the day that widening is finished, traffic on that highway will be as bad as it was on the day the construction started, if not worse. And I don't need a degree in engineering to make that very obvious conclusion.

People who truly believe that more lanes equals less congestion are delusional. Have they not been to Atlanta? Or Phoenix? Where the human-made asphalt and concrete rivers are like a mile across, and the sea of automobiles in them moves at five miles an hour or less for hours? I've seen it. I've driven in it.

It's an ugly sight.

Solving our transportation crisis will require investments towards two goals: safer infrastructure and reduced congestion, both of which are equally important and also related.

The commitment, financing plan, and timeframe to replace the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge is very welcome. That's a step towards safer infrastructure. The 2005 Transportation Package was a huge milestone for safer infrastructure.

But thanks to the failure of Proposition 1, there is a lot of work to be done on the congestion front. We supported the Roads & Transit package even though we had misgivings about some of the road projects, because the package in its entirety was worth it. However, now that Sound Transit is untethered from RTID, it needs to put light rail back before the voters, without any roads projects attached... and preface the vote by explaining the benefits of rapid transit to a public that isn't familiar with the reliability and convenience of riding a train.

Gimmicks, like Tim Eyman's latest initiative to redirect money towards stopgap measures that the state already uses to attack congestion, won't cut it.

WSDOT can spend trillions of dollars making our highways bigger and congestion won't go away. Solving congestion relief takes more than money. It takes the wisdom to spend that money on solutions that work.

Oddly enough, this is what you may hear many conservatives say if you listen to their rhetoric. We agree that how we spend our money matters. Though public funds are usually spent far more effectively than conservative think, we sometimes end up spending money on projects we shouldn't, because our political leadership doesn't take the evidence from our own experiences into account.

An chapter from Suburban Nation, which I have excerpted several times before here, makes this point beautifully:
Across the Atlantic, the British government reached a similar conclusion. Its studies showed that increased traffic capacity causes people to drive more - a lot more - such that half of any driving-time savings generated by new roadways are lost in the short run. In the long run, potentially all savings are expected to be lost. In the words of the Transport Minister, "The fact of the matter is that we cannot tackle our traffic problems by building more roads."

While the British have responded to this discovery by drastically cutting their road-building budgets, no such thing can be said about Americans.
If we really want to solve congestion, then it's time our budgets reflected an investment in light rail, in a better bus system, in streetcars, and in communities that are designed to be walkable.

Governor Gregoire understands the half of the equation that is safer infrastructure, and we're glad she does. But if she is truly committed to reducing congestion, then she should endorse the cancellation of useless widening projects, tell WSDOT to take down its deceptive signage, and ask Sound Transit how the state can help with the development of an accessible rapid transit system for Puget Sound.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Paul Begala on Fox Noise: We Report -- Even if We Know It's False

For those of you on the right wing who have criticized us for referring to Rupert Murdoch's mouthpiece as Fox Noise, or Fixed News...this is why we do so:
I've been dealing with the media and politics for 25 years, but I've never had a more surrealistic day than January 8. Several times that day Fox News reported that I was joining Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign. It was a big story - at least until the stunning election returns.

The only problem was, it wasn't true.

Fox News never even tried to contact me to verify their story, and when I contacted Fox, I felt like a character in a Kafka novel -- or at least Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Fox's Major Garrett -- a good guy whom I've known for years -- broke the story. My phone started ringing off the hook, and my email box bulged. There are still, thank goodness, a lot of real journalists out there. Tim Russert was first. I assured him it wasn't true, he thanked me for waving him off a false story, and that was that. Then my own network, CNN, called. I told them if I were quitting CNN that CNN would know before Fox News. Soon after, others called or emailed: Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, George Stephanopoulos and Teddy Davis of ABC, Beth Fouhy of AP, Mark Halperin of Time, John Harris of the Politico, Jill Lawrence of USA Today, Peter Baker of the Washington Post, Patrick Healy of the New York Times, David Gregory of NBC and Bill Sammon of the Examiner. There were probably more. I list the names only to give credit to journalists who behaved like reporters, not repeaters.
You can read the whole thing, including Begala's email exchange with Garrett, at the Huffington Post (where Garrett unbelievably says he will take Begala's note "under advisement". Um...what? There's a source who knows more about Paul Begala than...Paul Begala? I mean...what on earth?)

Using Fox Noise or Fixed News to refer to Fox is not demeaning. It's simply accurate. The truth is, Fox just doesn't care about the truth.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Really? You had no idea?

Looking at CNN's table o' stats from hell, one thing stands out—the number of people who decided today for which candidate they would vote (if you clicked the link, you'll have to scroll about ¾ of the way down to see this particular topic).

Consider this: CNN's exit polling tells us that nearly 40% of the people walking into the voting booths of New Hampshire today did not know how they would vote. That's an interesting disconnect from some of the polling groups who said Obama had a double-digit lead last night. Does that mean “Independent” might also mean “confused”? What happened between the poll and the voting booth?

I don't know. But I do know a 2% victory in a conservative (though Democratic) state of mostly white people and no real urban areas to speak of means very little in terms of “frontrunner” status. If Clinton attempts to play up “comeback” after one win and one loss, she may unwittingly sabotage herself by connecting her campaign to her husband's.

And I'll play the cynic for a moment and wonder aloud if that strange little bout of Clinton weeping yesterday gave her some sort of boost. This would not surprise me. There has been much idle chatter about how she's overdoing “tough” and not leaning on “tender” enough, and yesterday, staring those new poll numbers in the face, she probably relented to cash in on "tender." Purely my guess.

Anyway, neither Obama nor Clinton should be cocky right now.

The NH results also show that the Republicans are in even greater disarray. To swing from Mike Huckabee to John McCain—neither of whom has a chance at the White House, in my opinion—shows open disdain for the corporate media favorites, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. And if Fred Thompson wakes up, it'll be just in time to pull the plug on his campaign.

This also means, as the race is producing no runaway winners so far, that WA voters will carry significant clout going into our caucuses and primaries. So if you haven't made up your mind about which Democrat to support, start studying now. You don't want to end up making that kind of decision in the heat of a caucus. You know, like those “forty percenters.”

Barack Obama's speech in New Hampshire

Courtesy of the Obama campaign, here are Barack Obama's remarks from New Hampshire earlier tonight (as prepared for delivery). If I get the text of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards' speeches, I'll post those too.

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama - New Hampshire Primary
Tuesday, January 8th, 2008
Nashua, New Hampshire

I want to congratulate Senator Clinton on a hard-fought victory here in New Hampshire.

A few weeks ago, no one imagined that we'd have accomplished what we did here tonight. For most of this campaign, we were far behind, and we always knew our climb would be steep. But in record numbers, you came out and spoke up for change. And with your voices and your votes, you made it clear that at this moment – in this election – there is something happening in America.

There is something happening when men and women in Des Moines and Davenport; in Lebanon and Concord come out in the snows of January to wait in lines that stretch block after block because they believe in what this country can be.

There is something happening when Americans who are young in age and in spirit – who have never before participated in politics – turn out in numbers we've never seen because they know in their hearts that this time must be different.

There is something happening when people vote not just for the party they belong to but the hopes they hold in common – that whether we are rich or poor; black or white; Latino or Asian; whether we hail from Iowa or New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, we are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction. That is what's happening in America right now. Change is what's happening in America.

You can be the new majority who can lead this nation out of a long political darkness – Democrats, Independents and Republicans who are tired of the division and distraction that has clouded Washington; who know that we can disagree without being disagreeable; who understand that if we mobilize our voices to challenge the money and influence that's stood in our way and challenge ourselves to reach for something better, there's no problem we can't solve – no destiny we cannot fulfill.

Our new American majority can end the outrage of unaffordable, unavailable health care in our time. We can bring doctors and patients; workers and businesses, Democrats and Republicans together; and we can tell the drug and insurance industry that while they'll get a seat at the table, they don't get to buy every chair. Not this time. Not now. Our new majority can end the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas and put a middle-class tax cut into the pockets of the working Americans who deserve it.

We can stop sending our children to schools with corridors of shame and start putting them on a pathway to success. We can stop talking about how great teachers are and start rewarding them for their greatness. We can do this with our new majority.

We can harness the ingenuity of farmers and scientists; citizens and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil and save our planet from a point of no return. And when I am President, we will end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home; we will finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan; we will care for our veterans; we will restore our moral standing in the world; and we will never use 9/11 as a way to scare up votes, because it is not a tactic to win an election, it is a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the twenty-first century: terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.

All of the candidates in this race share these goals. All have good ideas. And all are patriots who serve this country honorably.

But the reason our campaign has always been different is because it's not just about what I will do as President, it's also about what you, the people who love this country, can do to change it.

That's why tonight belongs to you.

It belongs to the organizers and the volunteers and the staff who believed in our improbable journey and rallied so many others to join.

We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change. We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks to come.

We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.

Yes we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom through the darkest of nights.

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballot; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes we can heal this nation. Yes we can repair this world. Yes we can.

And so tomorrow, as we take this campaign South and West; as we learn that the struggles of the textile worker in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas; that the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in America's story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea – Yes. We. Can.

Clinton stuns expectations of pollsters and traditional media - not Obama

Looking at the New York Times' site a few minutes ago, I was surprised to see this headline for the New Hampshire primary results:
Clinton Stuns Obama; McCain Wins
Um....what?

Hillary Clinton may have defied the very recent expectations of pollsters, pundits, and reporters in the traditional media by rebounding quickly from her loss in Iowa. But she has long been touted by her own campaign (and many Beltway pundits) as the inevitable Democratic nominee.

Media outlets rushed to crown Obama as the front runner after his huge win in Iowa, and now that Hillary Clinton appears to have narrowly captured New Hampshire, their narrative is a big mess.

Hence the absurd headline, "Clinton Stuns Obama."

I watched Obama's speech live not too long ago, and he didn't sound stunned. Neither did his supporters. They're ready to take this to the next level.

Of course Obama's campaign was hoping and working for a victory in New Hampshire. But they have done extremely well against a formidable Hillary Clinton operation. Clinton is winning a close race tonight in a small New England state - not a blowout. If tonight's results are any indication, this race is just getting started. As Markos put it: "There is no coronation this year."

And here's the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman and Paul Kane:
Clinton's unexpected victory in New Hampshire brought her once-reticent supporters out in droves. But no one was about to claim the mantle of front runner.

"Both campaigns are going to pull every tool out of the tool box, especially now that we'll have almost two weeks until voters go back to the voting booths," said Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), a Clinton supporter.

"This is going to end up being quite a contest before it's all over."
Democrats in states other than Iowa and New Hampshire have an opportunity to influence the direction of the contest.

Nevada Democrats will caucus in a matter of days. South Carolina will follow with its primary, and Super Tuesday occurs shortly thereafter.

If the race is still up in the air after Super Tuesday, the nation's attention will turn next to the handful of states holding nominating events on Saturday, February 9th - especially Washington State's precinct caucuses.

Will we get an opportunity to enjoy the national traditional media spotlight? We'll know in a month. Even if we don't, a prolonged contest will be fun to watch in other states. The candidates all say they want to run a marathon - and we'll be glad to cheer them on from the stands.

Obama: "I am still fired up"

Barack Obama is currently speaking at his New Hampshire headquarters, echoing John Edwards' call to his supporters to keep the faith as the presidential contest moves to Nevada and South Carolina in the days and weeks ahead.

Obama congratulated Senator Clinton for her victory but noted that his campaign has outperformed expectations. It won in Iowa, destroying the narrative of an inevitable Clinton victory, and it ran close behind Clinton in New Hampshire.

His supporters appear pretty cheery despite the second place finish. They repeatedly chanted "Obama, Obama" and "We want change!" during his speech.

We're due to hear from Hillary herself next.

UPDATE: It took less than a minute for Clinton to make a "comeback" reference in her victory speech.

Meanwhile, the turnout numbers remain a big story. Blue Hampshire has been on top of that angle all day.

UPDATE II: Hillary Clinton's team is really happy, and they ought to be, considering they won New Hampshire after losing momentum in Iowa:
“Now it’s a one-on-one race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama,” said Terry McAuliffe, Mrs. Clinton campaign manager. He said that Mr. Obama came out of Iowa with momentum but Mrs. Clinton turned it around with her debate performance Saturday night and what he called a humanizing moment on the campaign trail on Monday.

Mr. Obama conceded the race to Mrs. Clinton, congratulating her on a “hard-fought victory.”

He told cheering supporters in Manchester: “You made it clear in this moment and this election there is something happening in America. We are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction.”
This race is far from over, though. Iowa and New Hampshire have contradicted each other. What happens next is anybody's guess. The traditional media narrative has been upset for a second time.

Despite closeness of race, NBC News projecting Hillary Clinton victory

Well, the percentages haven't changed much, but NBC News is now projecting that Hillary Clinton will win the New Hampshire primary, eliciting big cheers at Clinton's New Hampshire headquarters. The other networks have so far not followed suit.

UPDATE: The Associated Press is also calling it for Hillary.

Gap between Clinton and Obama staying roughly the same as vote counting goes on

With 62% of precincts reporting in New Hampshire, the Democratic race remains close but unresolved, with Hillary Clinton ahead of Barack Obama by about two percentage points. None of the top three candidates have spoken to their supporters yet, although Bill Richardson has, and has pledged to continue campaigning as the race moves west and south to Nevada and South Carolina.

Meanwhile, there's quite a bit of snickering around the blogosphere about John McCain's victory speech, which has been perceived as rather flat and uninspiring.

Elizabeth Edwards just spoke at Edwards' campaign headquarters in New Hampshire, thanking supporters and urging them to keep the faith. John is now taking the podium in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

UPDATE: Edwards began by congratulating Senators Clinton and Obama for coming out ahead, but declared the journey far from over, noting that forty eight states have yet to hold caucuses or primaries. He's sounding many of the same notes we heard last Thursday when he took the stage on caucus night in Iowa.

Clues from the New Hampshire exit polling

Here's a few interesting tidbits from exit polling conducted earlier today:
Obama won independents, getting nearly 50% of their votes. Independents comprised about 41% of the Democratic primary vote. But Hillary Clinton won among registered Democrats: 38% to 32%. Clinton wins women narrowly: 40% to 36%.

STUNNER: 47% say Obama is most likely to beat Republicans, compared to 33% for Clinton. But Clinton is still viewed as qualified to be commander in chief: 37% say she's the most qualified, versus Obama at 27%.
The Associated Press has more on turnout:
Preliminary exit polls showed independents were more attracted to the Democratic contest; about 60 percent chose the Democratic primary over the Republican primary, according to partial samples in surveys for The Associated Press and the television networks.
With about thirty five percent of precincts reporting, Hillary Clinton still has a four percent lead over Barack Obama. She has 34,575 ballots cast to his 31,249. The difference is only 3,326 votes.

Not much has changed for the Republicans.

An upbeat Mike Huckabee just spoke to his supporters in Iowa (despite coming in third) and Mitt Romney, who preceded Huckabee, also appears to be in good spirits. Romney can be happy that he has come in second in both Iowa and New Hampshire, whereas his closest rivals have fared more poorly in either state.

John McCain is currently thanking his supporters at campaign headquarters.

Here's the order of candidates finishing on both sides:

Democrats:
Hillary Clinton - 1st
Barack Obama - 2nd
John Edwards - 3rd
Bill Richardson - 4th
Dennis Kucinich - 5th

Republicans:
John McCain - 1st
Mitt Romney - 2nd
Mike Huckabee - 3rd
Rudy Giuliani - 4th
Ron Paul - 5th
Fred Thompson - 6th
Duncan Hunter - 7th

First New Hampshire results: Obama and Clinton close, McCain projected to win

The first results are in from New Hampshire, and with just over fourteen percent of precincts reporting, Hillary Clinton has a tiny lead over Barack Obama (40% to 36%). John Edwards is running in third with 17%.

Several of the networks are already calling the Republican primary for John McCain, who has a more commanding lead over his rivals. Mitt Romney is coming in second at 29%, with Mike Huckabee a distant third at 12%.

Hillary Clinton may very well win New Hampshire, but the night is still young and the Democratic race isn't close enough to call yet. It does seem very likely that John Edwards will come in third (and the networks are proudly pointing out the obvious with their projections).

What's really interesting is the comparison between the Democratic and Republican candidates, if you look at the turnout numbers. Hillary Clinton has more than twice as many votes as McCain, Barack Obama has far more than twice what Romney has, and Edwards has about three times more support than Huckabee has.

UPDATE: It's pretty hilarious that "First in the Nation" New Hampshire's Secretary of State has such a joke of a website. It looks like it was created in 1994. Worse, there's no live election returns. It's 2008 and a whole nation is watching... but they're not posting any results from the primary until tomorrow. There's no direct information on the Web for the public. That's pathetic.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Department of Justice opens criminal investigation of the Port of Seattle

What little credibility ousted Port of Seattle executive Mic Dinsmore and Commissioner Pat Davis have retained is evaporating with this news:
The U.S. Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into the Port of Seattle following a scathing state audit that found waste and possible fraud.

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sullivan notified State Auditor Brian Sonntag of the investigation in a letter Friday.

The Dec. 20 audit blasted the Port for shoddy management of construction contracts, and identified violations of competitive-bidding laws and waste of $97 million. Port officials have disputed those findings but said they would work to improve management.

[...]

Almost all of the audit's findings concerned practices that occurred under the leadership of former CEO Mic Dinsmore, who retired in 2007. [New Port CEO Tay] Yoshitani said he has no doubts he can change the Port's behavior quickly. "I'm convinced I can change behavior and the culture with that," he said.
Several of the key figures in the Dinsmore regime, which we have harshly criticized over the past couple of years, are now gone from the Port of Seattle, including Mic himself and his ally Bob Edwards, who was defeated by Commissioner Gael Tarleton last November. Commissioner Pat Davis remains, but she isn't likely to be on the commission after 2009.

Davis may not even make it through her term if the feds find that she was complicit in any lawbreaking that occurred at the Port. We'll see. If she does make it through, though, it's improbable she'll choose to run for reelection again.

KIRO shakes up its evening schedule

Several weeks ago, we learned that 710 KIRO management had signed former National Public Radio reporter Luke Burbank to host a weekday night show, which is set to begin this evening. But today, Bonneville International (KIRO's owner) took the shakeup a step further by firing fill in host Frank Shiers:
Frank Shiers has been fired from KIRO (10 PM to 1 AM) ending a station old KIRO tradition of live and local radio in that slot. Shiers will continue doing weekend work on Bonneville music station KBSG. The syndicated Phil Hendrie Show will be carried live starting tonight-- he's been doing taped show on KTTH from 2-6 AM.
Burbank's show, Too Beautiful To Live, was going to cut an hour out of Frank's show, but now Frank's gone altogether - to be replaced by forgettable, syndicated filler content. Frank wasn't a great on-air personality, but at least he was live and local. We can only hope KIRO management comes to its senses and figures out something better for the late night time slot.

As for Too Beautiful To Live, Michael Hood at blatherWatch has published a thorough preview delving into what show will be like:
Although Burbank has worked in AM radio- KVI, and Metro Traffic, he's spent much of his career in public radio-- on Seattle's KUOW, and NPR. "I've always thought I was a little too interesting for public radio, and a little too smart for commercial radio," he says. "Now I have some people from commercial radio saying, 'we want to turn you loose at night to do whatever you want.' I've just been revelling in that."

TBTL will be very personal, according to Burbank. "We want to make the smartest, most esoteric show on commercial radio."

Burbank swears that TBTL isn't just about luring a younger audience. It's more about a sensibility than age. "You'll never hear me saying this is a show for young people. It's going to be for people who are awesome."
Too Beautiful To Live airs tonight beginning at 7 PM.

Blogger helps David Broder gain admittance to restricted press area

Here's an absolutely priceless story from a Blue Mass Group blogger who is in New Hampshire following the presidential race:
OK, the Broder story. He and I were the only ones on the shuttle, so we made a bit of small talk on the ride from the lot to the building where the press hangs out (Alumni Gymnasium, if you're keeping score). When we got to the credential pickup spot, I presented my photo ID and was handed my credential, no questions asked. But things didn't go so smoothly for Mr. B. "David Broder, from the Washington Post," he said. "Hmmm," said the checker. "Broder ... Broder ... from the Washington Post, you say?" "Yes," Broder replied.

"Did you fill out a credential request?" "My newspaper did," he replied. "They told me it was all taken care of." The checker perused the list for a few moments, and then declared Mr. Broder's name absent. She handed him a form to fill out.

I was still standing there, and I assured the checker that he was, in fact, David Broder from the Washington Post. That seemed to reassure her, since I was the second person to have done that. I found that extremely funny -- imagine the headline: "Blogger helps Broder gain admittance to restricted press area." What planet are we on, again?
Serves as a delightful metaphor, doesn't it? But that's not the only story coming out of the Granite State - here's another one:
I headed back to my car around midnight - and who should I find on the empty sidewalks but a lost David Brooks, unable to find his car. He asked if I knew where the media lots were, and then proceeded to head in the opposite direction. Having parked near a media lot, I can now say with some confidence: David Brooks asked me for help, and wound up even more lost when he didn't take my directions.
Well, "lost" is a good word to describe the Beltway pundit corps, insulated and out of touch with real people. They're floundering around while the netroots in New Hampshire are having a good time and enjoying themselves.

In Brief - January 7th, 2008

The mornings have gotten much colder thanks to the onset of winter here in the Pacific Northwest, but thanks to our proximity to the Pacific, our seasons are far milder than those who live on the East Coast.

We may think we pay too much to heat our homes, but let's consider the plight of New Englanders whose primary fuel source is heating oil.

The average price of heating oil has increased over 35% since last year, making a toasty home unaffordable for many families.

This situation makes alternative energy a top issue for New Hampshire voters who are looking closely at presidential candidates' energy plans.

Necessity is causing these citizens to consider progressive solutions to the energy crisis like greater energy conservation, using solar energy and living off the grid. A couple more frosty winters like this and we'll all be singing the same tune, to the benefit of the planet.

Let's look at what else is making headlines today:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Idaho Schools Superintendent Tom Luna's proposal to increase teachers' salaries is unpopular with both parties in the state's legislature, but Idaho's governor thinks Luna might be able to implement it on his own.
  • La Nina's weather patterns are good news for the region's hydroelectric plants, skiers and even salmon this year. Snowfall could match the record set in 1998-1999, the last time a strong La Nina visited the Northwest. On the downside, the heavy snows have created severe avalanche hazards. To avoid this danger, stick to ridges and valley floors or controlled areas such as ski resorts when you head up into the mountains.
  • Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, who has been more jittery since Dino Rossi's entry into the 2008 gubernatorial race, is touting fiscal responsibility as her number one priority this legislative session.
Across the Nation
  • The Supreme Court hears arguments today on whether the chemicals used for lethal injection are painful enough that their use constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The constitutionality of the death penalty is not up for discussion at this time.
  • Set your Tivo, MythBox, or other DVR! Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will return to the air on Monday, but will they bring sarcasm and sly humor back with them? As members of the Writers Guild of America, they are barred from writing material, but we know that some of their best stuff is off the cuff.
  • Bill Gates hammed it up with A-list celebrities and presidential contenders Sunday night at the Las Vegas International Consumer Electronics Show. After poking fun at his upcoming Microsoft departure, he took time to predict the future of electronics in our "Digital Decade".
Around the World
  • When Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf relinquished control of the country's military in November, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani took command of the Pakistani army, making him increasingly important to the Bush administration. Next month's parliamentary elections will test Kayani's loyalties and give him a hand in determining Musharraf's political future.
  • The BBC reports that Iranian guard speedboats threatened three U.S. navy ships this weekend in the Strait of Hormuz. No shots were fired and Iran played down the incident.
  • Immigration is not just an issue for wealthier nations. Currently, 74 million migrants have moved from one developing country to another, causing some of the same problems experienced by rich countries. The solutions are the same as well: policies to protect workers and increased economic development in origin nations.
  • Poland's new government is negotiating a tougher stance on American plans to build missile defense bases in its country. It is concerned that support for the plan will deteriorate its relationship with Russia.
If you have something you'd like to add, please leave a comment.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Wyoming GOP conventions go to Romney

Mitt Romney may have come in second in Iowa, but he was first in yesterday's Wyoming Republican county conventions, which have received little attention:
Wyoming chose the first delegates to the Republican National Convention on Saturday, giving Mitt Romney bragging rights by awarding him the first of the lot.

The state selected the first 12 of 14 delegates to the national convention in September. The final two delegates will be elected at the state convention in May.

The former Massachusetts governor won eight delegates, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson got three and California Rep. Duncan Hunter one.
None of the other candidates won any delegates.

Romney's decision to spend a bit of time campaigning in Wyoming seems to have paid off. It's interesting that Republicans there went with Romney, the darling of the conservative D.C. establishment, and ignored Mike Huckabee, whose campaign has been more populist (and embraced by many fundamentalist Christian Republicans).

Wyoming Republicans scheduled their nominating events for early January in violation of national party rules. Consequently, Wyoming will be stripped of half its delegates at the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities.

Wyoming Republicans, incidentally, did not hold precinct caucuses yesterday, they held county conventions.

Some traditional media outlets have been referring to the nominating events yesterday as caucuses, which is misleading.

In Brief - January 6th, 2008

It wasn't too long ago that California's wildfires and dry conditions were top news. Now the state is experiencing flooding and winter storms:
A third storm in as many days took aim at California on Saturday—this one packing lightning and frigid temperatures that threatened to send utility crews running for cover and slow efforts to restore power to nearly a half-million people.

At least two deaths were blamed on the storms. One woman died early Saturday when a vehicle was swept off a flooded road in Southern California. A transportation worker in Northern California also died after he was struck by a falling branch on Friday.

Rain and wind from the new storm arrived in the state capital even before the last one finished dumping more than 5 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada. Combined the back-to-back storms were still on pace to dump as much as 9 feet of snow on mountaintops and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared emergencies in three hard-hit counties.
Brings back memories of the 2006 Hanukkah Eve Windstorm here, doesn't it? On to the rest of today's quick news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • In advance of the January 14th start of the legislative session, some Washington lawmakers are doubting the need for a University of Washington branch campus in Everett.
  • Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski has declared a state of emergency for Umatilla County area in the aftermath of recent and severe coastal storms.
  • State Representative Dennis Flannigan, a Democrat from Tacoma, may be subject to sanctions from Washington's Public Disclosure Commission for failing to disclose his ownership of 4000 shares in a company, Hythiam, Inc., that licenses a drug treatment program. According to the Tacoma News Tribune, Flannigan "helped secure state funding for [the program] last year."
Across the Nation
  • After his win in Iowa, Barack Obama has caught up with Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire polling: a a new survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire now shows a dead heat between the two at 33%. John Edwards garnered 20% for third place among Democrats. The only meaningful poll, though, will be this Tuesday on Election Night.
  • Despite the passage of legislation in Congress demanding further study, the Food & Drug Administration "is set to announce as early as this week that meat and milk from cloned farm animals and their offspring can start appearing on supermarket shelves." Yikes. Doesn't that make your mouth water just thinking about it?
  • Has-been tough guy Bill O'Reilly caused a scene at an Obama event in New Hampshire. Why is he hanging out with godless devil worshippers, anyway?
Around the World
  • Given the recent track record in this area of the world, this is surely a great idea: the CIA and U.S. military are considering an expanded covert push into tribal areas of Pakistan.
  • Kenya's President, Mwai Kibaki, says he wants to form a unity government to try to stem the wave of ethnic and tribal violence overtaking the country since recent disputed elections. Raila Odinga, the main opposition leader, is still demanding Kibaki's resignation.
  • "Kill fewer. Kill carefully." That's China's new motto as it tries to clean up its image in anticipation of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. It's estimated that China executes more prisoners than the rest of the world combined.
  • France is trying to adjust to a newly widespread ban on smoking in public places. Congratulations to the French for taking a big step towards cleaner air and healthier people.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: See why individual polls are inconclusive? A new CNN/WMUR poll out this afternoon shows that New Hampshire voters' feelings are changing. Barack Obama is gaining support at Hillary Clinton's expense:
With two days to go until the New Hampshire primary, a new CNN/WMUR poll out Sunday afternoon suggests that Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois has opened up a double digit advantage over New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In the survey, conducted by the University of New Hampshire on Saturday and early Sunday, 39 percent of likely Granite State Democratic primary voters back Obama as the party’s nominee — that’s ten points ahead of Clinton’s 29 percent. Obama is up six points and Clinton down four points from our survey conducted on Friday and early Saturday.
While polling trends can be interesting and even sightful, again, the only meaningful poll is on Election Day - when the actual votes are cast.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Seahawks win, 35-14 over the Redskins

It was a topsy-turvy game, but the Seahawks emerged as the victor:
Injured and overlooked most of the season, wide receiver D. J. Hackett has made a huge impression against the Redskins.

His fourth-quarter touchdown catch of a 24-yard pass from Matt Hasselbeck was his sixth reception so far in the game, for a team-leading 101 yards.

The catch returned the lead to Seattle, and combined with Tacoma product Marcus Trufant's dazzling 78-yard interception return, the Seahawks are comfortably back in the lead.

Trfant's TD was the first interception thrown by Todd Collins that was returned for a TD in 10 years.

"That just completely turns this game upside down," TV commentator Chris Collingsworth says.
Now it's on to Green Bay for Round 2...and back to Lambeau Field.

Friday, January 4, 2008

In Brief - January 4th, 2008

The first weekend of the new year has arrived, and it's an important one for regional sports fans. Tomorrow is the Seattle Seahawks' first 2007 season playoff game (against the Washington Redskins at Qwest Field)...and that means it's betting time! Governor Christine Gregoire has placed a friendly wager on the game with Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.

If the Redskins win, Gregoire will send O'Malley a box of Washington apples. If the Seahawks win, O'Malley will send Gregoire Phillips crab cakes.

It's hard to predict what what will happen tomorrow, except that we'll know the outcome of both contests. And now, on to today's quick news digest:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Batten down the hatches this weekend. High wind warnings are in effect for most of Western Washington and Western Oregon until late tonight. Some storms have already caused damage in Oregon and Idaho.
  • In a rather bold statement, Governor Gregoire said she'd have the Alaskan Way Viaduct replaced by 2012, or she'd have it torn down.
  • And finally, some good news: Bank robberies—in spite of the exciting videos on local newscasts—were actually down in 2007 in Washington.
Across the Nation
  • As if you haven't heard, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee drew first blood in the caucus/primary races that began in Iowa last night. Each took Iowa for their respective parties handily, leaving pundits and guessers to wonder about New Hampshire next week. Still, there's lots of time left between now and November 4th.
  • Attorney General Michael Mukasey has ordered an investigation into the destruction of CIA video files that recorded an interrogation of an al Qaeda suspect. It's subtle; on trial is the destruction of the tape—not whether the suspect was tortured. By doing this, Mukasey virtually ensures we will never have conclusive proof of torture. This is a much more elegant obstruction of justice than say, Scooter Libby or Alberto Gonzales,so it's no wonder the traditional news outlets aren't really doing this story justice.
  • In case you've been wondering about the prosperity that wealthy conservatives keep crowing about, so are economists. They're concerned about a recession. Really? After so many years of poor fiscal policy...deficit spending, tax cuts for the wealthy, the dumping of our nation's treasury into a disastrous occupation in Iraq...it's no wonder experts are feeling nervous about the future. You won't be surprised to learn that the Dow was down 250 points today, either.
Around the World
  • After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, the tattered veil that is the Bush administration's Middle East policy (and road map for peace) has finally blown off, exposing how badly this situation is being handled.
  • Oh, and speaking of the right wing's failed approach to foreign policy, let's not forget that Dubya's neoconservative henchmen are still trying hard to bungle things with North Korea.
  • In Kenya, recent elections have been violently disputed, causing over 300 deaths and upwards of 100,000 people to flee their homes, spurring fears of famine. There may be some hope today that the election could be repeated and a clearer outcome will result.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Some thoughts on the Iowa caucus

Being an Edwards supporter, I am both pleased and disappointed with the results from the Iowa caucus. Which, in case you've been in a cave since yesterday or something, were:

1. Obama
2. Edwards
3. Clinton

Pleased, of course, because he did much better than the pundits expected. Second place, for Edwards, really is a victory of a sort. Not the same as coming in first, of course, but all things considered it's a darned good showing.

Disappointed, of course, because he didn't win. There was a chance that he might have, the way Iowa uses people's first- and second-choices, that he'd take a enough of the second choices to win it.

But hardly anybody caucused for the other candidates. And of the other candidates, Kucinich - who appeals to many deeply involved activists - urged his supporters to back Barack Obama as a second choice.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I can't quite figure out why Kucinich would do this. When I look at Kucinich's record of outspokenness about ending the war and about (a record that I admire, and wish that more politicians had the guts to emulate), I see the strongest parallels to Edwards statements.

Edwards seems to me to be the one of the big 3 candidates who is making the strongest and most strident statements about ending the war. It's an issue Kucinich clearly cares deeply about, so why back Obama? It's puzzling.

One reason might be that Obama is the only one of the big 3 that didn't vote for the war in the first place -- a vote Edwards has admitted was a mistake (something, again, I wish more elected Democrats had the guts to do), and that Hillary won't give a straight answer about. So perhaps this is Kucinich's way of rewarding Obama's foresight on the Iraq AUMF. Perhaps.

But I can't help but being a bit more cynical than that. I suspect that his real motivation to back Obama is simple political deal-making.

Some back-room deal he and Obama made to trade Kucinich's Iowa second-choice votes for ... what? The vice-president slot on the ticket? A cabinet post? Who knows. I guess we'll find out later.

That's my suspicion, and I have to say, it disappoints me. Kucinich has, of late, been a principled representative and orator, particularly about Iraq and impeachment. To see him (probably) trade principle for deal-making, well, I hope I'm wrong because I thought he was above that.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

We are in for a change

Democratic caucusgoers in Iowa chose "change" over "experience" tonight and I predict that shrewd Democratic candidates around the country will feel emboldened to pick up on that theme in their own campaigns.

As a former first lady for eight years, Hillary Clinton will have a hard time wearing the badge of change. Her mantra has been "has experience, works hard". But as Iowa voters demonstrated tonight, experience is not what voters are looking for.

On the Republican side, Mitt Romney's huge war chest couldn't create a win for him in the Iowa caucuses. Does this apply to the Clinton campaign as well, which has said it is ready to run "a marathon"?

Despite being outspent by tens of millions of dollars, Mike Huckabee beat Romney by nine percentage points. Evangelical Christians were the majority of Republicans turning out tonight and they have chosen Huckabee as their man.

The energy of Democrats in Iowa, and the victories of Obama and Edwards, is a sign that the progressive movement is hungry for a new leadership and an end to the failed right wing agenda of the Bush administration.

UPDATE (Andrew): The final numbers from the Iowa Democratic Party:

Obama: 37.58%
Edwards: 29.75%
Clinton: 29.47%
Richardson: 2.11%
Biden: 0.93%
Uncommitted: 0.14%
Dodd: 0.02%
Precincts Reporting: 1781/1781
SDEs Reporting: 2500.00/2500

Richardson continuing on

Despite receiving hardly any support in Iowa, Bill Richardson is staying in. Here's an excerpt from his campaign's news release:
"We made it to the final four," Richardson said. "My staff and volunteers worked their hearts out to get us here. Now we are going to take the fight to New Hampshire."

Richardson received 7% of the vote in entrance polls. After watching the results at a rally in Des Moines, he boarded a plane for New Hampshire.

"It has been an honor to meet with Iowans and be a part of this extraordinary process," Richardson said. "I am the one candidate who has said we must end this war by getting all our troops out of Iraq. We cannot truly change this country until we end this war- and we can only do that by getting every US troop out. Americans who want to get us out of Iraq aren't giving up and neither am I. We cannot end the division in this country until we are out of Iraq and we cannot focus on fixing our problems at home and our image abroad until our troops are out of Iraq. We cannot wait until 2013 or longer."

"Thank you, Iowa. Now we go on to New Hampshire."
If Iowa is any indication, Richardson will likely remain a very distant fourth in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.

Perhaps his campaign is hoping for a strong showing in Nevada, which is close to Richardson's home state of New Mexico - we'll see.

Obama's victory speech, Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Biden drop out of contest

A jubilant Barack Obama has just taken the podium before a crowd of about 3,000 excited supporters in Des Moines, Iowa.

"They said this day would never come," Obama began. "On this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what they said we couldn't do," he declared. "They don't own this government, we do. And we're here to take it back!" Obama said, referring to the D.C. establishment.

Obama thanked his wife, Michelle, and spoke of what he would do as president - if voters in other states give him the chance (as he humbly phrased it).

Obama was propelled by an astounding number of first time caucus goers, many of them under thirty five years in age. He clearly struck a chord with young people, who turned out for him by the thousands.

If Obama does win the nomination, his ability to connect with young voters bodes well for the entire Democratic ticket in the general election.

Given that Obama, Edwards, and Clinton captured all the oxygen, it's no surprise that Chris Dodd and Joe Biden have decided to drop out.

Here's the Hartford Courant on Dodd's decision:
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd intends to formally end his campaign after finishing sixth place with less than 1 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses.

He plans to return Saturday to his home in East Haddam, Conn., campaign sources said. With the top three candidates capturing nearly 97 percent of the vote, there was no room tonight for Dodd or any other candidate in the second tier to become viable.
Meanwhile, Senator Biden's campaign has told traditional media outlets (including MSNBC) that the Senator "is about to speak at the campaign's caucus night rally and withdraw from the race."

Obama the winner in Iowa, Democratic turnout at the caucuses is huge

Team Obama has won a huge victory in Iowa tonight in an upset over Senator Hillary Clinton, the establishment favorite and autumn frontrunner:
Senator Barack Obama won the Iowa Democratic caucuses tonight in a stunning show of strength by a young African-American candidate who was virtually unknown to America three years ago. He defeated Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady, and former Senator John Edwards, the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee in 2004 by a substantial margin.

[...]

The Iowa caucuses drew intense public interest and record turnout on the Democratic side, which featured three compelling candidates waging a fierce campaign that turned on the question of change versus experience. Democratic caucusgoers strongly endorsed Mr. Obama’s vow to change the nature of politics in Washington, decisively preferring his case to Mrs. Clinton’s emphasis on her experience in public life as a senator and the spouse of a president and a governor.
Clinton was also unable to outpace John Edwards, with whom she is virtually tied for second place. Now that her inevitability has been shattered, it'll be interesting to see what happens Tuesday in New Hampshire.

I'm watching Edwards speak live to his supporters now. He's making an effort to link himself and Barack Obama (the winner) by declaring the Iowa results a defeat for the status quo and a victory for change. "We are going to stand up, we are going to rise up, we are going to create an America that we believe in," Edwards said.

UPDATE: Hillary Clinton is speaking now and showing her resolve to stay in the race, but focusing her remarks on the general election.

"We're going to take this enthusiasm right to New Hampshire," Clinton said, praising the high Democratic turnout in Iowa. "I am so proud to have run with such exceptional candidates," she added, praising her competitors and congratulating Senator Barack Obama on his victory.

She seems pretty upbeat despite not having come in first, and her supporters clearly share those feelings - they've broken into Clinton's speech several times already with chants of "Hillary!". I'm guessing that Clinton is going to stay in the hunt at least through Super Tuesday, given her mood tonight...and this statement from her campaign manager:
Clinton called Obama to congratulate him, aides said. Her campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, vowed, "This race begins tonight and ends when Democrats throughout America have their say. Our campaign was built for a marathon and we have the resources to run a national race in the weeks ahead."
HIGH TURNOUT: The Iowa Democratic Party is reporting astonishing preliminary numbers with the final count still to come:

"With 96 percent of the precincts reporting we are seeing record turnout with 227,000 caucus attendees."

In 2004, there were only about 125,000 caucusgoers.

Obama projected to win Iowa

NBC News and CNN are projecting that Barack Obama will capture Iowa. The New York Times reports he's benefiting from some of the more conservative precincts:
8:23 p.m. | More on the Numbers More evidence of Mr. Obama pulling away: he’s ahead in conservative areas that might have been Edwards territory. The Democratic side is starting to look like a photo finish for second place between Mr. Edwards and Mrs. Clinton.
Markos adds:
The youth turnout numbers are stellar, and it looks like the Democratic caucuses got double the turnout that Republican ones did.
The latest count, as of 6:31 PM Pacific Time, is:

Obama: 35.96%
Edwards: 30.60%
Clinton: 30.41%
Richardson: 1.92%
Biden: 0.98%
Uncommitted: 0.10%
Dodd: 0.03%
Precincts Reporting: 1382/1781

UPDATE, 6:54 PM: Obama continues to increase his lead, while Edwards has pulled away from Clinton, just a little bit:

Obama : 37.03%
Edwards : 30.08%
Clinton : 29.70%
Richardson : 2.15%
Biden : 0.91%
Uncommitted : 0.11%
Dodd : 0.03%
Precincts Reporting: 1611/1781
SDEs Reporting: 2216.15/2500

CNN calls Iowa for Huckabee

CNN has just called the Iowa Republican Caucuses for Huckabee. The Republican process is much simpler than the Democrats. Essentially its a straw poll. People show up, listen to brief candidate statements, cast their votes and go home.

So Huckabee now heads into New Hampshire with momentum on his side.

Two of the bigger losers so far are Ron Paul and Giuliani. Ron Paul's only real chance was that his followers were more motivated then others.

I certainly thought they were, but it is looking like that is not the case....Fred Thompson is beating him!

On the Democratic side Clinton, Edwards, and Obama are all within a 1% or 2 of each other; the Democratic caucuses take longer. Here is how it works courtesy of Wikipedia:
Participants indicate their support for a particular candidate by standing in a designated area of the caucus site (forming a "preference group"). An area may also be designated for undecided participants. Then, for roughly 30 minutes, participants try to convince their neighbors to support their candidates. Each preference group might informally deputize a few members to recruit supporters from the other groups and, in particular, from among those undecided. Undecided participants might visit each preference group to ask its members about their candidate.

After 30 minutes, the electioneering is temporarily halted and the supporters for each candidate are counted. At this point, the caucus officials determine which candidates are "viable". Depending on the number of county delegates to be elected, the "viability threshold" can be anywhere from 15% to 25% of attendees. For a candidate to receive any delegates from a particular precinct, he or she must have the support of at least the percentage of participants required by the viability threshold. Once viability is determined, participants have roughly another 30 minutes to "realign": the supporters of inviable candidates may find a viable candidate to support, join together with supporters of another inviable candidate to secure a delegate for one of the two, or choose to abstain. This "realignment" is a crucial distinction of caucuses in that (unlike a primary) being a voter's "second candidate of choice" can help a candidate.

When the voting is closed, a final head count is conducted, and each precinct apportions delegates to the county convention. These numbers are reported to the state party, which counts the total number of delegates for each candidate and reports the results to the media.
Stay tuned for more results.

UPDATE (Andrew): NBC News is also calling Iowa for Huckabee.

Predictions for Iowa

Results from Iowa should begin rolling in around 4:30 or 5:00 PM, but might not be until later. In the meantime, let's have some fun with meaningless predictions! (If only that fabled crystal ball of stilwell's was working, I could tell you what's going to happen, but alas, it's still out of order.)

Anyway, here goes:

The surprise on the Democratic side will be Hillary Clinton coming in third. I predict that Barack Obama wins with around 35%, John Edwards follows with around 30% and Clinton falls to third with around 20%.

On the Republican side, Ron Paul will outperform the expectations of many pundits. The caucuses are the perfect opportunity for his supporters to flex their muscles. While they are small in number, they are highly motivated...and only 5-10% of Iowa voters participate in the caucuses. A small but highly motivated group can therefore have a major effect.

As for the top GOP finishers...Mike Huckabee will win with around 30%, Mitt Romney will be a close second with around 25%, and Paul will be third with 20%.

John McCain will follow as a distant fourth.

Those are my guesses, and they're as good as anybody else's, because who knows how this will turn out? Certainly not David Broder and the Beltway pundit league.

If you've got predictions to share, feel free to post a comment.

Iowa in perspective

Tonight is the Iowa Caucus - the first contest of the 2008 presidential race.

The Iowa caucuses are regarded by many as a crucial harbinger of the campaign leading up to the party conventions. However since 1972, when Iowa started its "first in the nation" tradition, its track record has been mixed.

George McGovern came in third in 1972.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter came in second. In first place was an uncommitted slate. George H. W. Bush won in 1980. In 1988, he came in third.

Recently Iowa has done better as a predictor. John Kerry won the 2004 Democratic caucus by 6%. In 2000, George W. Bush won solidly over a crowed field and Al Gore defeated Bill Bradley by 26%.

In 1996 Bob Dole beat Pat Buchanan by 3%.

So enjoy the political theater that is Iowa, but remember that while a victory does give momentum going into New Hampshire and beyond, it does not guarantee victory or defeat. Just ask Bill Clinton. In 1992, he only received 3%!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Iowa coverage tomorrow, live results from Seattle Drinking Liberally's caucus

If you're planning on paying any attention to what happens in Iowa tomorrow during the precinct caucuses (and who isn't?) be sure to check out our live coverage, both here on the Official Blog and at Pacific Northwest Portal, which will feature special feeds syndicating netroots writers who are on the ground in Iowa as well as our usual dynamic elections news ticker.

The local netroots community isn't waiting for the action tomorrow in Iowa, though... we're holding a special Drinking Liberally caucus now at the Montlake Ale House, which hosts the Seattle chapter's weekly gathering. Several dozen people are signed in, and these are the results of the first tabulation:

CandidateSigned in Supporters Delegates Won
Joe Biden 0None
Hillary Clinton 4 - 4th Place
1 delegate
Chris Dodd 6 - 3rd Place 1 delegate
John Edwards 20 - 1st Place
3 delegates
Mike Gravel 2None
Dennis Kucinich 2None
Barack Obama 15 - 2nd Place 2 delegates
Bill Richardson 1None
Uncommitted0N/A
Fred Harris1None

According to the Washington State Democratic Party's formula, these results would net 3 delegates for Edwards, 2 for Obama, and 1 each for Clinton and Dodd.

Round 2 is now underway... I'll post an update shortly.

UPDATE: The final results are as follows:

CandidateSigned in Supporters Delegates Won
Hillary Clinton 5 - 4th Place 1 delegate
Chris Dodd 13 - 3rd Place 2 delegates
John Edwards 16 - 2nd Place 2 delegates
Barack Obama 17 - 1st Place 2 delegates

We had a tie between Dodd, Edwards, and Obama, while Clinton came in fourth - all other candidates were eliminated. The Kucinich, Richardson, and Gravel supporters switched en masse to Dodd along with two Edwards supporters - and another two defected to Barack Obama, for whatever reason.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Banished Words for 2008

Every year since 1971, Michigan's Lake Superior State University has released a thoughtful and humorous "List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness." Here is the 2008 (and 33rd annual) edition, for your enjoyment:
***This year, in a gesture of humanitarian relief, the committee restores "truthiness," banned on last year's list, to formal use. This comes after comedians and late-night hosts were thrown under the bus and rendered speechless by a nationwide professional writers' strike. The silence is deafening.***

PERFECT STORM – "Overused by the pundits on evening TV shows to mean just about any coincidence." – Lynn Allen, Warren, Michigan.

"I read that 'Ontario is a perfect storm,' in reference to a report on pollution levels in the Great Lakes. Ontario is the name of one of the lakes and a Canadian province. This guy would have me believe it's a hurricane. It's time for 'perfect storm' to get rained out." – Bob Smith, DeWitt, Michigan.

"Hands off book titles as cheap descriptors!" – David Hollis, Hamilton, New York.

WEBINAR – A seminar on the web about any number of topics.
"Ouch! It hurts my brain. It should be crushed immediately before it spreads." – Carol, Lams, Michigan.

"Yet another non-word trying to worm its way into the English language due to the Internet. It belongs in the same school of non-thought that brought us e-anything and i-anything." – Scott Lassiter, Houston, Texas.

WATERBOARDING – "Let's banish 'waterboarding' to the beach, where it belongs with boogie boards and surfboards." – Patrick K. Egan, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

ORGANIC – Overused and misused to describe not only food, but computer products or human behavior, and often used when describing something as "natural," says Crystal Giordano of Brooklyn, New York. Another advertising gimmick to make things sound better than they really are, according to Rick DeVan of Willoughby, Ohio, who said he has heard claims such as "My business is organic," and computers having "organic software."

"Things have gone too far when they begin marketing T-shirts as organic." – Michelle Fitzpatrick, St. Petersburg, Florida.

"'Organic' is used to describe everything, from shampoo to meat. Banishment! Improperly used!" – Susan Clark, Bristol, Maine.

"The possibility of a food item being inorganic, i.e., not being composed of carbon atoms, is nil." – John Gomila, New Orleans, Louisiana.

"You see the word 'organic' written on everything from cereal to dog food." – Michael, Sacramento, California.

"I'm tired of health food stores selling products that they say are organic. All the food we eat is organic!" – Chad Jacobson, Park Falls, Wisconsin.

WORDSMITH/WORDSMITHING – "I've never read anything created by a wordsmith - or via wordsmithing - that was pleasant to read." – Emily Kissane, St. Paul, Minnesota.

AUTHOR/AUTHORED – "In one of former TV commentator Edwin Newman's books, he wonders if it would be correct to say that someone 'paintered' a picture?" – Dorothy Betzweiser, Cincinnati, Ohio.

POST 9/11 – "'Our post-9/11 world,' is used now, and probably used more, than AD, BC, or Y2K, time references. You'd think the United States didn't have jet fighters, nuclear bombs, and secret agents, let alone electricity, 'pre-9/11.'" – Chazz Miner, Midland, Michigan.

SURGE – "'Surge' has become a reference to a military build-up. Give me the old days, when it referenced storms and electrical power." – Michael F. Raczko, Swanton, Ohio.

"Do I even have to say it? I can't be the first one to nominate it…put me in line. From Iraq to Wall Street to the weather forecast – 'surge' really ought to recede." – Mike Lara, Colorado.

"This word came out in the context of increasing the number of troops in Iraq. Can be used to explain the expansion of many things (I have a surge in my waist) and it's use will grow out of control…The new Chevy Surge, just experience the roominess!" – Eric McMillan, Mentor, Ohio.

GIVE BACK – "This oleaginous phrase is an emergency submission to the 2008 list. The notion has arisen that as one's life progresses, one accumulates a sort of deficit balance with society which must be neutralized by charitable works or financial outlays. Are one's daily transactions throughout life a form of theft?" – Richard Ong, Carthage, Missouri.

"Various media have been featuring a large number of people who 'just want to give back.' Give back to whom? For what?" – Curtis Cooper, Hazel Park, Michigan.

'BLANK' is the new 'BLANK' or 'X' is the new 'Y' – In spite of statements to the contrary, 'Cold is (NOT) the new hot,' nor is '70 the new 50.' The idea behind such comparisons was originally good, but we've all watched them spiral out of reasonable uses into ludicrous ones and it's now time to banish them from use. Or, to phrase it another way, 'Originally clever advertising is now the new absurdity!'" – Lawrence Mickel, Coventry, Connecticut.

"Believed to have come into use in the 1960s, but it is getting tired. The comparisons have become absurd." – Geoff Steinhart, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

"'Orange is the new black.' '50 is the new 30.' 'Chocolate is the new sex.' 'Sex is the new chocolate.' 'Fallacy is the new truth.' – Patrick Dillon, East Lansing, Michigan.

BLACK FRIDAY – "The day after Thanksgiving that retailers use to keep themselves out of the 'red' for the year. (And then followed by "Cyber-Monday.") This is counter to the start of the Great Depression's use of the term 'Black Tuesday,' which signaled the crash of the stock market that sent the economy into a tailspin. – Carl Marschner, Melvindale, Michigan.

BACK IN THE DAY – "Back in the day, we used 'back-in-the-day' to mean something really historical. Now you hear ridiculous statements such as 'Back in the day, people used Blackberries without Blue Tooth.'" – Liz Jameson, Tallahassee, Florida.

"This one might've already made the list back in the day, which was a Wednesday, I think." – Tim Bradley, Los Angeles, California.

RANDOM – Popular with teenagers in many places.
"Over-used and usually out of context, i.e. 'You are so random!' Really? Random is supposed to mean 'by chance.' So what I said was by chance, and not by choice?" – Gabriel Brandel, Farmington Hills, Michigan.

"Outrageous mis- and overuse, mostly by teenagers, i.e. 'This random guy, singing this random song…It was so random.' Grrrrr." – Leigh, Duncan, Galway, Ireland.

"Overuse on a massive scale by my fellow youth. Every event, activity and person can be 'sooo random' as of late. Banish it before I go vigilante." – Ben Martin, Adelaide, South Australia.

"How can a person be random?" – Emma Halpin, Liverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom.

SWEET – "Too many sweets will make you sick. It became popular with the advent of the television show 'South Park' and by rights should have died of natural causes, but the term continues to cling to life. It is annoying when young children use it and have no idea why, but it really sounds stupid coming from the mouths of adults. Please kill this particular use of an otherwise fine word." – Wayne Braver, Manistique, Michigan

"Youth lingo overuse, similar to 'awesome.' I became sick of this one immediately." – Gordon Johnson, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

DECIMATE – Word-watchers have been calling for the annihilation of this one for several years.

"Used today in reference to widespread destruction or devastation. If you will not banish this word, I ask that its use be 'decimated' (reduced by one-tenth)." – Allan Dregseth, Fargo, North Dakota.

"I nominate 'decimate' as it applies to Man's and Nature's destructive fury and the outcome of sporting contests. Decimate simply means a 10% reduction – no more, no less. It may have derived notoriety because the ancient Romans used decimation as a technique for prisoner of war population reduction or an incentive for under-performing battle units. A group of 10 would be assembled and lots drawn. The nine losers would win and the winner would die at the hands of the losers – a variation on the instant lottery game. Perhaps 'creamed' or 'emulsified' should be substituted. – Mark Dobias, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

"The word is so overused and misused, people use it when they should be saying 'annihilate.' It's so bad that now there are two definitions, the real one and the one that has taken over like a weed. – Dane, Flowery Branch, Georgia.

"'Decimate' has been turned upside down. It means 'to destroy one tenth,' but people are using it to mean 'to destroy nine tenths.' – David Welch, Venice, Florida.

EMOTIONAL – "Reporters, short on vocabulary, often describe a scene as 'emotional.' Well sure, but which emotion? For a radio reporter to gravely announce, 'There was an emotional send off to Joe Blow' tells me nothing, other than the reporter perceived that the participants acted in an emotional way. For instance: I had an emotional day today. I started out feeling tired and a bit grumpy until I had my coffee. I was distraught over a cat killing a bird on the other side of the street. I was bemused by my reaction to the way nature works. I was intrigued this evening to add a word or two to your suggestions. I was happy to see the words that others had posted. Gosh, this has been an emotional day for me." – Brendan Kennedy, Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada.

POP – "On every single one of the 45,000 decorating shows on cable TV (of which I watch many) there is at LEAST one obligatory use of a phrase such as ... 'the addition of the red really makes it POP.' You know when it's coming ... you mouth it along with the decorator. There must be some other way of describing the addition of an interesting detail." – Barbara, Arlington, Texas.

IT IS WHAT IT IS – "This pointless phrase, uttered initially by athletes on the losing side of a contest, is making its way into general use. It accomplishes the dual feat of adding nothing to the conversation while also being phonetically and thematically redundant." – Jeffrey Skrenes, St. Paul, Minnesota.

"It means absolutely nothing and is mostly a cop out or a way to avoid answering a question in a way that might require genuine thought or insight. Listen to an interview with some coach or athlete in big-time sports and you'll inevitably hear it." – Doug Compo, Brimley, Michigan.

"It seems to be everywhere and pervade every section of any newspaper I read. It reminds me of 'Who is John Galt?' from 'Atlas Shrugged.' It implies an acceptance of the status quo regardless of the circumstances. But it is what it is." – Erik Pauna, Mondovi, Wisconsin.

"Only Yogi Berra should be allowed to utter such a circumlocution." – Jerry Holloway, Belcamp, Maryland.

"This is migrating from primetime 'reality television' and embedding itself into otherwise articulate persons' vocabularies. Of course it is what it is...Otherwise, it wouldn't be what it would have been!" – Steve Olsen, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.

UNDER THE BUS – "For overuse. I frequently hear this in the cliché-filled sports world, where it's used to describe misplaced blame – i.e. 'After Sunday's loss, the fans threw T.O. under the bus." – Mark R. Hinkston, Racine, Wisconsin.

"Please, just 'blame' them." – Mike Lekan, Kettering, Ohio.

"Just wondering when someone saying something negative became the same as a mob hit. Since every sportscaster in the US uses it, is a call for the media to start issuing a thesaurus to everyone in front of a camera." – Mark Bockhaus, Appleton, Wisconsin.
You can see the lists for previous years at Lake Superior's site.

Happy New Year 2008!

The New Year means different things to different people, as I wrote last year:
Depending on your point of view, this is either an insignificant happenstance which doesn't deserve the excitement, an opportunity to turn over a new leaf, or perhaps a reason for a big celebration.
Regardless of what meaning the date has for you, 2008 has arrived. Happy New Year from all of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute.

Now, here's a few blogworthy items for your reading pleasure:

We're pleased to report that Darcy Burner's campaign easily crossed over the $600,000 cash on hand mark last night thanks to your help. Darcy has raised over $800,000 this cycle already and her final fourth quarter numbers (which will be released in a few days) will be impressive as usual.

Of course, Darcy has always been stellar at raising money, mostly because she's willing to put in the work it takes to run an aggressive campaign. But Darcy enjoys new advantages this time around, including greatly increased name recognition and campaign experience. She is actually a greater threat to Dave Reichert this year than she was in 2006.

For an incumbent in danger of being knocked out, Reichert's fundraising pace has been rather lazy. He's received the usual donations from D.C. interest groups and political action committees. Meanwhile, Darcy has blazed past him, tapping an ever increasing base of small donors.

Reichert brought Dubya in over the summer and still had a lackluster third quarter - complete with sloppy communication of the numbers to the press.

2008 presents Democrats with our best-ever opportunity to win the 8th District. Voters will have a clear choice between an ineffective conservative incumbent and a energetic progressive populist.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has instituted a new regulation to reduce the risk of lithium battery fires on airplanes. Here's what you need to know:
[Effective January 1st] Loose extended-life, spare rechargeable lithium batteries will no longer be allowed in checked luggage. Passengers will be allowed to bring only two such batteries in carry-ons and they must be carried in either the original retail packaging or in a plastic zip-lock bag.

Lithium batteries are typically found in electronic devices such as laptops and video cameras. Batteries stored in electronic devices - including cameras, cell phones, and laptops - are still allowed in both checked and carry-on luggage.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Joel Connelly is writing daily from Iowa this week about the presidential race, providing a much needed local perspective for those of us not in the Midwest. Check out his two solid columns so far: Edwards sharpens populist pitch and Dissent within GOP bubbles to the surface.

If you're wondering what happened to last night's Space Needle fireworks show, which abruptly stopped twice, a computer glitch was the culprit.

A number of new laws go into effect today in Washington State including online voter registration, a prohibition on text messaging while driving, and a first in the nation ban on the sale of most products that contain toxic PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers). The Associated Press has more.

In another sign that the kids are all right, Pew Research reports that young adults are the heaviest users of public library systems in the United States, despite their familiarly and comfort with using the Internet to get information. Commenting on the study, Pew's research director said:
The age of books isn't yet over.

It was truly surprising in this survey to find the youngest adults are the heaviest library users. The notion has taken hold in our culture that these wired-up, heavily gadgeted young folks are swimming in a sea of information and don't need to go to places where information is.
It's heartening to know that younger generations still find libraries to be a valuable resource. This article has more information about the methodology Pew used to conduct the telephone survey of 2,796 adults, including 1,702 Internet users.