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

Monday, March 31, 2008

Mariners win on Opening Day!

One down, one hundred and sixty one to go.

A few minutes ago, Mariners closer J.J. Putz put the finishing touches on a crucial debut win over the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field in front of 46,334 fans. The roof was unfortunately closed due to the booming storm that arrived not long after the first pitch, but unlike the weather, the game was great. As the left field screen proclaimed during the top of the 9th inning, the Rangers were "thunderstruck".

The final score was five to two, Mariners.

New ace pitcher Erik Bedard started the game, and with the exception of a home run surrendered to the Rangers' Michael Young, he pitched masterfully, while Jose Lopez starred in the 7th inning offensive that saw the Mariners take a four run lead, (later cut to three). Lopez's line drive double scored Yuniesky Betancourt and Ichiro from third and second bases, respectively.

A fan sign borrowing from the theme of Barack Obama's groundbreaking presidential campaign summed up the region's hopes for this season.

It read, M's: Yes we can!

Seattle will play against Texas tomorrow and Wednesday at Safeco Field before traveling to Baltimore for a three game series.

It's time to close Guantanamo

From the Executive Director: We're pleased this evening to welcome a new contributor and staff member, DiAnne Grieser, to the Northwest Progressive Institute. This is her first post - expect many more to come!

Five former U.S. Secretaries of State, both Democrats and Republicans, are calling for the nation's Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba to be closed. They include Colin Powell, who served under George W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, who served under Nixon, James Addison Baker III, who served under George H.W. Bush, and Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher, who served under Bill Clinton.

All five spoke at a roundtable in Athens, Georgia.

Powell, who served as Secretary of State when Guantanamo was first opened, was first to call for its closure. He said: "Our image abroad has dropped significantly. Perhaps this administration has spoken a little too harshly in a unilateral way," and added, "There are some things the new president can do right away. I hope the new president, and it seems it will be the case, will close Guantanamo immediately. And say to the world that we are now going to go back to our traditional, respected way of dealing with people who have potentially committed crimes."

Kissinger called Guantanamo a "blot on us" and agreed it should be closed. James Baker, who headed the now forgotten Iraq Study Group, declared:
It gives us a very, very bad name, not just internationally. I have a great deal of difficulty understanding how we can hold someone, pick someone up, particularly someone who might be an American citizen - even if they were caught somewhere abroad, acting against American interests - and hold them without ever giving them an opportunity to appear before a magistrate.
Meanwhile, the Navy's lawyer for Osama bin Laden's captured driver (Salim Ahmed Hamdan) claims that Pentagon officials are timing the prosecution of war crimes for the 2008 campaign. Lieutenant Commander Brian Mizer has also accused Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann (the legal advisor to the White House official overseeing the military tribunals) of exercising "unlawful command influence" and being "so closely aligned" "with the prosecutorial function that he cannot continue to provide the requisite impartial advice to the convening authority".

It appears that the next President, whether that individual is a Democrat or a Republican, will heed the secretaries' advice; all of the major party candidates running (even John McCain) have agreed that Guantanamo should be closed.

Governor to sign Working Families credit

Governor Chris Gregoire is poised to sign the Working Families Credit into law tomorrow during a ceremony in Olympia, NPI has learned.

The Working Families Credit is one of the many noteworthy progressive accomplishments from the 2008 legislative session. The credit decreases taxes for lower income Evergreen State residents by adding ten percent to their federal earned income tax credit refund.

Here's the Washington Budget & Policy Center on the benefits of the credit:
  • It reduces the tax bill for low-wage workers by as much as 30 percent, mitigating the unfairness of Washington state’s regressive tax structure.
  • It boosts a minimum-wage worker’s earnings by up to 31 percent when combined with the federal credit, supporting families who are working to move out of poverty.
  • It brings additional income to communities across the state, particularly rural areas and smaller towns.
The credit unfortunately doesn't have a permanent, stable revenue source yet; the initial funding for it is coming from the state's budget surplus.

While the credit isn't being offered at the expense of public services like schools or state parks, it isn't revenue neutral because the appropriation for it is provisional. And that's the problem with relying on spare change to fund a worthy idea: it's a one time solution that may not be available next biennium.

The Legislature could correct this problem by repealing unnecessary, outdated special interest tax loopholes and exemptions, and reallocating some of those savings to the Working Families Credit. NPI will be urging state lawmakers to do just that in the 2009 legislative session.

There are currently loopholes for crop dusting, real estate commissions, professional services (this is a big one), tobacco production, fertilizers and chemical sprays, gold bullion, and even bull semen insemination:
RCW 82.08.0272
Exemptions — Sales of semen for artificial insemination of livestock.
The tax levied by RCW 82.08.020 shall not apply to sales of semen for use in the artificial insemination of livestock.
The number of exemptions and tax breaks on the books, not to mention loopholes, is astonishing. There are hundreds, many of them decades old. Combined they are costing the State of Washington's treasury a staggering amount of money.

Not only do many of these exemptions and tax breaks need to be reviewed, but a sunset law needs to be enacted that will automatically force exemptions to expire after a certain period of time unless explicitly renewed by the Legislature. Tax breaks that do not result in clear and convincing benefits for the common wealth and the public good should be repealed.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Grandma Isabelle Storm: 1917-2008

This morning, I received the very sad news that my beloved grandmother of ninety years died peacefully in her sleep last night, surrounded by her family, including her husband and children.

While I will miss her greatly, I am relieved that her suffering is over, and I'd like to take an opportunity to reflect on her extraordinary life.

Isabelle was born in Portland, Oregon on May 9th, 1917 to John and Anna Tabshy. Her parents had journeyed from Lebanon to the United States of America just a few years before. They spoke mostly Arabic and were wonderful cooks. They had three other children in addition to Isabelle.

Isabelle was educated at Holy Cross Elementary School and Roosevelt High School, where she graduated in 1937. Her favorite pastimes as a young woman were listening to radio shows, playing games, and sewing (she was an excellent seamstress, and made most of her own clothes by hand). After she graduated, she got a job at the Kaufory Brothers blouse manufacturing company, where she worked for some thirty years.

In 1955, she married George Storm, and together they had three girls: Elizabeth, Carol (my mother), and Michele. This made eight children as George was previously widowed and already had five children: Marie, Olive Ann, Tony, Frances, and Patrick. Isabelle worked extremely hard to take care of all of these children (some of whom were already in their teen years!) and to maintain a beautiful home in southeast Portland where people were always welcomed and well fed.

Isabelle's first grandchild was born in 1955. To date, there are over fifty grandchildren and great grandchildren. I am one of them.

She had a wonderful sense of humor and a faith that was inspiring. It carried her through her life from one decade to the next. Remarkably, she seemed to be able to find joy and fulfillment even in the ordinary.

Though she never owned a computer, a few years ago we did give her a mobile phone (which she learned to operate!) and up until very recently, I used to call frequently to ask how she was doing and tell her all the news from Redmond.

Her sense of humor always made those conversations fun.

I spoke often with Grandma about my political involvement. While we did not have the same perspective on everything, Grandma was a progressive, like me. She was opposed to the invasion and occupation of Iraq from the beginning, didn't care for George W. Bush one bit, and thought highly of Al Gore, as I do. I can still remember us watching An Inconvenient Truth together on DVD last year.

Grandma also loved Barack Obama, and followed his presidential campaign with great interest. Had she lived through the autumn, she would have happily cast her mail-in ballot for Obama, and would have been excited to see him inaugurated as the next President of the United States in January 2009.

Isabelle and George journeyed many times up to Washington to visit us - for Easter, for New Year's, Christmas, and during the midst of summer break. We traveled to Portland even more often for Thanksgiving and family gatherings.

Last year, for her ninetieth birthday, I created a presentation filled with hundreds of slides of photos from her life, which I showed during the banquet. She enjoyed this immensely, and watched it again later with her daughters.

I am glad I was able to help her reflect on her long life before the end.

She was graceful in life and graceful in death. I will have no more conversations with her, but I will always cherish the memories of our relationship.

Rest in peace, Grandma Isabelle.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Help us give the Official Blog an official name

It's official: After forty eight months of operation, we've decided that it is time our Official Blog had an official name... and we need your help!

Today we are celebrating the fourth anniversary of the Official Blog, which was launched on March 29th, 2004, as our organization's daily voice on politics and current events. It's a historic moment for the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as a perfect opportunity to turn over a new leaf.

Many people have asked (or quietly wondered to themselves) why we would have chosen to call this blog the "Official Blog".

There was actually no we in that decision, because at the time, NPI had very few staff, and launching the blog was solely my idea.

Back in January 2007, though, I attempted to answer the question about the name, explaining my own thinking:
It certainly wasn't named that because we were worried about a "proliferation of unofficial NPI sites". It also isn't meant to imply that any other blog or blogger is somehow any less authentic or genuine than we are.

About three years ago, when NPI was only about six months old, I was looking for a way to easily present our members' commentary and analysis. We tried retooling NPI's front page to allow for easier updating, but manual updating was still a chore.

I eventually realized that what we needed was a blog. Blogs, of course, are powered by software that takes care of publishing, archiving, and allows for people to leave feedback - as well as automatic feed generation. Having a blog would allow contributors to focus on writing, which was the goal.

Defined rather simply, a blog is just a type of web page that is easy to update with new material - and usually in chronological order. That's a broad characterization; some people prefer more specific definitions.

Blogs have become popular because you don't have to be an expert at coding HTML or any other web languages to publish your thoughts online.

We wanted to create a blog not just for sharing commentary on news and events, but also to publish announcements about completed projects or endeavors in progress - any release that we "intend for the notice of the public", as Random House notes in its definition of the word official.

We envisioned the blog as the primary periodical for the organization itself - a one-stop shop where you can read about what's new at NPI, plus follow our perspective on current events.

And we have indeed used the blog for just that purpose. When Pacific Northwest Portal is updated, when we release a new podcast, or a white paper, we disseminate the completion of such projects here and often provide in-progress reports as well, before we announce the news elsewhere or through other means.

That's the story behind the name of the blog and use of the word official. We aren't worried that someone might try to set up an online journal and claim it represents the view of the Northwest Progressive Institute.
Nevertheless, "Official Blog" isn't much of a name, and it never has been popular with our friends or readers, many of whom refer to the Official Blog as simply NPI or Northwest Progressive Institute. (And both of those substitutions are acceptable).

Over the past four years there were occasions when we considered changing the name of the blog. We've consistently decided against doing so because we couldn't settle on a name... and we thought it would just create more confusion. However, we've concluded that what's more confusing is that the Official Blog isn't cited consistently because people are uncomfortable using its official name.

As for our quandary about picking a name, we're solving that by turning to you...our readers, friends, allies, and supporters.

Over the next two weeks, we will hold a naming contest to search for the ideal name to christen our Official Blog with.

We're only going to pick one name, but if that name has been submitted by you, you'll receive something special in addition to our eternal thanks.

We're offering a multi-faceted prize, including a gift certificate to Jackson Street Books, lunch with myself and NPI Outreach & Advocacy Director Rick Hegdahl (we're paying!), a free ticket to our exciting May fundraising gala (this naming contest is the only way to get a free ticket, by the way) and finally, a complimentary copy of either Outfoxed, SiCKO, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, or An Inconvenient Truth (you choose!)

Now, here are the rules:
  • Submissions must be entered by United States mail, email, or through our contact form. Your submission must contain valid contact information. (We may consider incomplete submissions in our decision, but if we cannot get in touch with you, you'll be ineligible for the prize). Submissions that are not written or typed will not be accepted.
  • All submissions must be sent in by April 12th, 2008. The electronic submission deadline is at noon; United States mail must be postmarked by this date. Any submissions sent in after then will be ineligible for the prize.
  • Your submission, in addition to your contact information and the word you think we should adopt as the name for our Official Blog, should contain a concise argument in support of your nomination.
  • You may enter as many submissions as you'd like. However, if we deem any of your submissions to be bogus (in other words, spam or silly names that are not submitted in good faith) you will be disqualified from the contest, even if some of your submissions are valid - and even if we choose one of them. You may be humorous in your explanation, but the name you submit to us should be a serious nomination.
  • Nominations consisting of names we already use in our other projects (Journal on Permanent Defense; Dispatch, Outlook, Digest, and Bulletin on Pacific NW Portal) will not be considered. Please submit something original and fresh that we haven't thought of.
Oh, and finally, no purchase is necessary for entry (but you knew that!).

It wouldn't be fair to start a naming contest without offering some idea of what we're looking for in a name. Here are our criteria:
  • It must be easy to pronounce.
  • It must sound solid if it stands on its own (like The Times) or with our organization's name in front of it (like The Northwest Progressive Institute Herald).
  • It should not be something that is already in excessive use (for example, Times or Herald).
  • It should not contain a time of day (for example, Morning Herald). This is a blog and this is the age of the twenty four hour news cycle!
  • It should be reflective of our organization's mission to advance the common good through ideas and action.
Again, nominations may be submitted in three ways. If you'd like to use our contact form, follow the link. If you'd rather submit by mail, send to the following addresses:

Email. Use feedback (at) nwprogressive (dot) org.

United States Mail. Conserve paper and use a postcard!
Northwest Progressive Institute
Post Office Box 264
Redmond WA 98073
We will announce the rollout of the new name sometime during the month of April (but definitely not on April Fools' Day - the contest will still be ongoing then, and we do not want to creake confusion by jokingly ending it prematurely).

Good luck - we look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, March 28, 2008

In Brief - March 29, 2008

First, a brief musing on names and branding. Restaurants, bands, authors, snack foods, and even presidential candidates can succeed or fail on the strength of weakness of their names. Names aren't all that matters--thankfully--but they do matter at least some. Forget, for a moment, everything else about the three presidential candidates, and let's take a quick look at the branding potential of the names McCain, Clinton, and Obama.

The name "McCain" isn't bad, honestly. It's normal, there's nothing weird about it. Its two-syllable structure with emphasis on the second syllable gives it a certain memorable cadence and power. It ends with "ain", a letter cluster that occurs in lots of other English words, and is thus useful in rhyme structures; e.g. "the rain in Spain falls mainly on McCain." It's not amazing, but it doesn't suck, and you can envision building slogans around it.

"Clinton," well, that one's harder. It doesn't rhyme nearly as well or easily as McCain. The core of it, "clint" is very western and masculine--almost cowboy in its roots--which may have worked for Bill but plays against Hillary's female candidate narrative. Outside of the Clinton family, just about the only other famous Clinton is the musician George Clinton who is indeed one funky dude but may not be what Hillary Clinton is really looking for in terms of association and branding.

Then there's "Obama." On the face of it, the name "Barack Obama" would seem to be a huge boat anchor to tie around the neck of any candidate in America, particularly one running for the office of president. It's completely at odds with the tradition of presidential names; it just doesn't sound like it belongs in the same pile with the names of our 43 previous presidents. Obama has done well to have introduced the "candidate with the funny name" line himself thus depriving the "funny name" narrative from having any power aginast him. But below the apparent negatives of his name, "Obama" turns out to be surprisingly brandable.

Why? Because English is a language that likes to take short phrases and collapse them into evocative, new words. And the name "Obama", by having the good fortune to end with the letters "ma," is just ripe for combination with a whole slew of positive-tone English words that happen to start with "ma," "mo," and similar common sounds. A few of these newly-coined words are starting to enter the vernacular. They're so self-evident in their derivation that I don't even need to explain them: Obamajority. Obamathon. Obamaniac. Obamomentum. And my favorite: Obamanomics.

Yes, it's silly. But don't for a minute let yourself think that makes it meaningless or irrelevant. As a name--and we hope as a man--Obama is a winner.

Around the Northwest:

  • David Postman reports on what the newly Supreme Court approved "top two" primary might, in the details, look like. NPI remains adamant that the "top two" primary is a huge mistake and stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the basic nature of a primary election. A primary is not "the first stage of a two-stage election". Rather, a it is solely a mechanism for political parties to determine their nominee for the general election ballot. This has not been made sufficiently clear in the past--not by Washington's elections commissioner, nor by the parties themselves--but is the reality. Postman's right, though: this is all going to be in the courts for a long time.
  • Northwest Airlines begins European service from the Portland International Airport.
  • In a bit of presumptively good environmental news, the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf has been removed from the endangered species list. Of course, that does mean it's still threatened, but hey, it's progress.
  • WA-08 candidate Darcy Burner's Responsible Plan was featured in yesterday's Washington Post

Around the Nation:

  • One of my roles here at the Northwest Progressive Institute is to think about energy policy and how we, as a society and as a species, need to evaluate and select the energy sources for our future. Clearly, a key component is going to have to be efficiency. With that in mind, I can't wait until the day we can go buy full-spectrum incandescent bulbs that are ten times more efficient than regular ones.
  • Shame on you, Network Solutions! Regardless what anyone may think of Islam, the Koran, or Dutch politics, blocking access to someone's domain name is not your call to make. Especially when you are in the domain name business...
  • Wait, people don't like being threatened? A group of high-dollar Clinton supporters (and I do mean high; there are billionares on that list) co-signed a letter to the effect that they would stop making their generous donations to the DCCC if superdelegates didn't give the nomination to Mrs. Clinton. Of course, the DCCC's job is to help Democratic members of the House, i.e. the very super delegates Clinton needs support from, get re-elected. This not-so-subtle shakedown--endorse our candidate or else--fortunately seems to be backfiring. Nancy Pelosi, the designated recipient of the letter, is having none of it and as word filters out far and wide the whole thing seems mostly to be encouraging more small-donor DCCC contributions while solidifying the perception of Clinton as willing to win even at the cost of destroying the party.
  • As California goes, so goes the nation. California's Air Resources Board has just elected to make regulations about zero-emission vehicles in California's fleet a little more flexible. Manufacturers can now satisfy fleet makeup requirements through pure zero-emission vehicles, fuel-cell vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and various combinations thereof.
  • Herb Peterson, the inventor of the Egg McMuffin, died Tuesday at his home in Santa Barbara. Invented as a fast-food version of eggs benedict, Peterson single-handedly created what has become an American cultural touch point and changed the way busy, on-the-go Americans look at breakfast.

Around the World:

  • It looks like the a cease fire, ordered by Muqtada al Sadr to his Shiite followers, is collapsing. Violence in Iraq is already spiking to levels we haven't seen in months. As for the "surge"? Well, that's no so much related to conditions on the ground as President Bush would like you to think. DailyKos contributor clammyc penned this thorough summary of the situation.
  • With Zimbabwe's presidential election happening today, President Mugabe is being warned that riots will result if, as is expected, the election is not free and fair.
  • Pieces-of-Eight and shouting out "yarr, matey!" may have gone the way of the Dodo, but piracy is still a real threat on the world's seas.

The Lighter Side:

  • Listen to the oldest recorded sound. It's not what you would call hi-fi, but think about that--the oldest recorded sound. It's from April 9, 1860: before the Civil War, and coincidentally, just days before the first Pony Express ride set out from St. Joseph, Missouri to deliver mail to far away Sacramento, California.
  • Let's hope this story from The Onion doesn't have to run for real.
  • Maybe I should add a semi-regular "this week in campaign videos" segment. Up this week, the instant classic of snark Raining McCain (at least, on McCain's behalf I hope it is), and the rockin' tune I Want Barack.
  • Another "glad I'm not there" reminder that you can't build your way out of traffic problems.
  • And finally, because it's Saturday and you should relax a bit, a couple of online board-games for you. First, the world's first mmosbg: a massively multi-player online strategy board-game. If anybody tries that with chess, my head will explode. Second, Cephalopod, and intriguing little board game with dice as counters. I have no idea why it's named that.

This Day in History:

  • 1792: The assassination of Sweden's King Gustav III concludes, 13 days after he is shot, with his death. He is succeeded by King Gustav IV Adolf.
  • 1809: Exactly seventeen years later, King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden abdicates the throne after a coup d'etat. March 29th is not, apparently, a good day for Swedish political stability.
  • 1886: Coca-Cola is invented in the Atlanta backyard of Dr. John Pemberton.

Have a great week, everybody!


Thursday, March 27, 2008

In Brief - March 27, 2008

Is it just me, or did it snow yesterday? In late March. That's not supposed to happen, but I guess the climate is indeed changing.

In that spirit, I'd like to recommend a cool blog that presents environmental issues in a great and accessible way: No Impact Man. The blurb at the tops sums the site up pretty well:
A guilty liberal finally snaps, swears off plastic, goes organic, becomes a bicycle nut, turns off his power, composts his poop and, while living in New York City, generally turns into a tree-hugging lunatic who tries to save the polar bears and the rest of the planet from environmental catastrophe while dragging his baby daughter and Prada-wearing, Four Seasons-loving wife along for the ride.
In the Pacific Northwest
  • An Idaho measure that would amend the state constitution to allow local voters to vote on sales tax increases to pay for road and transit work has come out of committee, but may face stiff challenges on the Senate floor.
  • Oregon is one step closer to a new geothermal plant in Klamath Falls. Land-use approval has been granted for a 10-megawatt power plant to Raser Technologies, a Utah-based company.
  • Pierce county is the latest recipient of the state of Washington's farmland preservation grant program, which began in 2005. The program's goal is to fund farmland preservation projects across Washington.
Across the Nation
  • Barack Obama gave a speech on economic policy today in New York. In it, he called for reform of the nation's regulatory system, immediate relief for homeowners caught in the sub-prime mortgage crisis and a $30-billion stimulus package to boost the economy.
  • In today's "Isn't it tragically ironic" section, we have word that tobacco money funded a lung cancer research study published in 2006, according to a recent disclosure.
  • The state of Florida apologized for slavery yesterday. Other states have made similar, symbolic statements of regret and remorse, but my question is: while there's all this apologizing, is there any intention of retribution (e.g. reparations, full, unrestricted voting rights, etc.)?
Around the World
  • "Change" seems to be the theme of choice for elections pretty much everywhere this year, and Zimbabwe is no different. The country will hold elections Saturday, in which voters will choose to either re-elect their current President, the controversial Robert Mugabe, or select new leadership.
  • The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing could be the most significant stage protest Olympics since 1968. Yesterday, Tibetan monks protested during a press tour of the city of Lhasa, bringing attention to the recent riots in Tibet. This will definitely not be the last protest we see in this Olympics on this issue.
  • The people and the press in Pakistan is unhappy with the visit by U.S. envoy to the country earlier this week. The trip is seen by many as an attempt "shore up Musharraf and prevent changes in policy in line with the mandate of the people." Many of President Musharraf's, a loyal Bush ally on anti-terrorism, allies were defeated in Pakistan's recent elections. The people want the United State to "restrain themselves in further meddling in Pakistan's affairs."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Judas, Mr. Carville? Really?

I was going to let it go, as much has been said already in the blogosphere about James Carville's statements after New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson endorsed Barack Obama. But somehow it just sticks uncomfortably in my craw and won't let go, so I suppose I'll add my two cents to the pile. For the record, here's what Carville said in an attempt to minimize the relevance of Richardson's quote "act of betrayal":
"Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic."
We'll omit discussing Carville's attempt to captialize on the occasion of Easter to rile up religious voters. While that's crass enough, what really ticks me off is the utter hypocracy of the statement itself.

Follow this, if you will: Bill Richardson has, as I mentioned on Monday, been a long time supporter of the Clintons. And why wouldn't he be? Bill Clinton gave him what was arguably his big break in politics. As a superdelegate, Bill Richardson would therefore be expected to endorse Hillary Clinton in her presidential bid. Or at least, we would expect him to want to do so.

Try to put yourself in Richardson's shoes for a moment. On the one hand, he'd prefer to endorse Hillary. On the other hand, Obama is a) winning, b) more electable, c) has a much greater ability to build a strong base of new Democratic voters that will see us through the next three or four decades of election cycles. And, presumably, Bill Richardson would rather see the Democrats win in November.

The math, the logic, the personalities, and the demographics all put Richardson in a tough spot for someone with such deep and long-time connections to the Clintons. But, much to his credit, he has done the right thing--stand up for the clear front-runner and best hope our party has seen since Kennedy--no matter how personally difficult it may be for him.

In his role as the nation's leading hispanic politician, he has to know that his endorsement would carry weight with hispanic voters, something Obama could especially have used back in February. Yet, Richardson held off endorsing him until after the states with the largest hispanic voting populations have voted. Obama might not have won any additional states, had Richardson made his endorsement earlier, but it would certainly have caused him to pick up a dozen or two additional pledged delegates in those states.

Surely Richardson waited so long in the hope that Hillary would turn it around, to give her every chance to re-rail this train wreck of a campaign she's been driving ever since Super Tuesday. But she hasn't, so Richardson has finally done what must be done.

His decision to wait must, I believe, be interpreted as a gift to Hillary Clinton, as an act of gratitude towards her for the past good she and her husband have done for him. For surely it would have hurt her campaign--and benefitted Obama's--considerably more had he announced his endorsement earlier.

So for James Carville to turn around and compare Bill Richardson to Judas Iscariot, well, that's wrong on so many levels I won't even try to enumerate them. Who's really guilty of betrayal here, Mr. Carville? The man who is looking out for the best future of our nation and of the Democratic party, regardless of personal cost? Or the candidate who has gone negative, cribbed from the Karl Rove playbook, trianguated, spun, and outright lied her once unstoppable campaign into the hopeless mess it has now become, the very candiate who has clearly sold out the principles that man has chosen to stand up for?

I'll stand by my answer to that question, Mr. Carville. Do you truly stand by yours?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Responsible Plan, one week later

Last monday, Darcy Burner and a cadre of excellent congressional challengers unveiled the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq (PDF). In doing so, they also unveiled a website where you, me, and anyone else who cares to can endorse the plan themselves.

Now that a week has gone by, I thought it would be good to check in and see how things are going. Here are some selected portions of Darcy's response:
Whenever I speak to voters in the 8th District, they ask me what I intend to do to end the war in Iraq. At first I did not have a good answer. I kept waiting for one to come out of Washington, DC, but it did not happen. I got tired of waiting.

We've been waiting for five years for a top down solution, and at this point it is painfully obvious that it is not going to happen. Just yesterday we passed another grim milestone: 4,000 dead. Almost 30,000 other Americans have been injured, and well over 100,000 Iraqis have died. So I decided to initiate an effort to change the conversation on national security. That conversation has been limited for far too long by discussions of military tactics, such as the surge, instead of the real conversation that American public and our public officials need to have.

Where do we go from here? How do we bring our troops home, and redirect the hundreds of billions that are being spent on the war to solving the many problems we face at home? How do we correct the mistakes that led to this mess? How do we get out of Iraq responsibly? This is the conversation the public has been hungry for.

That is what this plan--and this effort--sets out to do. Last Monday in Washington, DC, I put forward "A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq". Nine other congressional candidates from around the country had input into the effort, and several of them - Donna Edwards from Maryland, Chellie Pingree from Maine, Tom Perriello from Virginia, Jared Polis from Colorado and Sam Bennett from Pennsylvania-- joined me there. Others, like George Fearing here in Washington State or Eric Massa in New York, were unable to attend but have been early and enthusiastic supporters.

Since Monday, the response to the plan has been very overwhelmingly positive. The number of candidates that have endorsed the plan has been growing daily. Currently, 33 candidates have now endorsed the plan, including several U.S. Senate candidates. Both Democratic Senate candidates in Oregon have signed on, and the Republican incumbent there, Gordon Smith, has expressed agreement with much of it through his spokesperson. Some top national security experts, like Rand Beers, who served on the National Security Council under Reagan, Clinton and during both Bush presidencies has reacted positively. People are hungry for a responsible way out, and this plan offers that.
Of the 33 candidates she mentions, I would like particularly to call out Jeff Merkley of Oregon.

Jeff, for those who don't know him, has been in the Oregon legislature for some time now, most recently as Speaker of the House. Presently he is pursuing a bid to capture the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Gordon Smith.

I want to single out Mr. Merkley for particular recognition because he was one of the first candidates to step up and endorse the plan after it was released.

He did so one week ago today, less than twenty four hours after the plan went public. In a nation where we expect candidates to be cautious, circumspect, and poll-driven, Mr. Merkley showed the kind of leadership and true courage of his convictions that is a hallmark of our latest crop of House and Senate challengers: showing leadership even before being elected, having ideals that truly reflect the constituencies they hope to represent, and understanding that the only way to advance those ideals is to stand up for them publicly and without hesitation.

Jeff had this to say upon announcing his endorsement of the Responsible Plan:
"I opposed this war publicly from the very beginning. It's now long past time to bring our sons and daughters home, repay the debt we owe our veterans, and restore America's standing in the world," said House Speaker Jeff Merkley said. "Gordon Smith and the Bush Administration led us into this war and have never offered a plan to get us out. Smith has manipulated and confused the media and the public and done nothing to bring an end to this war."
Speaking of Senator Gordon Smith--after reading through the Responsible Plan, Smith spokesman R.C. Hammond said, that it "read like Gordon Smith wrote it." Which I can only say begs the question of why, then, didn't he?

We need more, many more, folks like Darcy Burner and Jeff Merkley in Congress. If you can, please show them some love. Here is Darcy's donation page, and here is Jeff's.

UPDATE (Andrew): Our Oregon readers already know this, but I want to clarify for our Washington readers that there is a contested Democratic primary going on down in Oregon which will be decided on May 20th.

The two main candidates are Speaker Jeff Merkley and activist Steve Novick.

Novick has also endorsed the Responsible Plan; his campaign issued their news release at about the same time Jeff Merkley's campaign did.

Darcy's campaign has told NPI that they believe the argument over whichever candidate was "first" is irrelevant - they're just happy both candidates are signed on to the plan. From their perspective, both candidates joined the effort simultaneously, so no one was "first" in that respect.

Since Darcy's campaign put this project together, we'll echo their sentiment in regards to this dispute. I have changed the wording of the post above slightly to note that Merkley was "one of the first" to sign on The Responsible Plan, because we know that's indisputable. I've linked to Novick's site in this update to be fair.

As to the matter of who started talking to who first - that's something we can't settle even if we wanted to.

Merkley and Novick supporters are free to discuss this in the thread, but please be respectful...we don't want to have to delete any comments.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Clinton on Richardson's endorsement of Obama

By now most everybody has probably heard that New Mexico Governor and former presidential candidate Bill Richardson has announced his endorsement of Barack Obama.

People are saying this matters because Richardson, being probably the nation's most prominent hispanic political figure (and a very well respected man in politics generally) can do a lot to help Obama's perception among hispanic voters. Which may be true, but at this point in the primary cicle when most of the states with large hispanic populations have already voted, may also be moot in determining our party's nominee.

What I wanted to point out, however, is the Clinton camp's response to the endorsement. Richardson has long had close ties to the Clintons--realistically, he probably wouldn't be quite who he is on the national stage today if not for Bill Clinton tapping him as Secretary of Energy--so his endorsement of Obama must also be viewed in that light. Trying to minimize the damage, Clinton spokesman Jay Carson had this to say:


"Both candidates have many great endorsers, but the voters, not endorsers, will decide this election, and there are still millions of voters in upcoming contests who want to have their voices heard."

Which is a noble and populist thing to say, but at this point it it is simply not credible to believe that the Clinton campaign actually means this. It's that pesky hard math problem her campaign faces: at this point there just aren't enough delegates left in the states that haven't voted yet for her to take the pledged delegate lead unless she wins by truly unimaginable margins. Thus, her only remotely plausible path to the nomination lies in convincing the superdelegates to give the nomination to her, despite the clearly expressed sentiment of the voters.

It's completely disingenuous and two-faced for Hillary Clinton's campaign to at once say that the voters will decide while simultaneously courting the superdelegates who are her only hope.

Any arguments that dropping out now amount to dis-enfranchising the remaining states ring hollow, too. Those voters are more discriminated against by the insane primary lineup than by whether Mrs. Clinton drops out of the race or not. I hope in future elections Howard Dean can come up with something fairer, but for this election we're stuck with the schedule we've got and the remaining states' voices have already been minimized by that irrefutable math, and by nothing else.

This has gone on too far. Hillary Clinton, I am publically calling on you, today, to admit what the rest of the nation has known for about a month now. You gave it a heck of a run, but you've come up short. Your campaign is, for all practical purposes, over and can serve no further purpose than to provide fuel for future attacks on Barack Obama. I call on you to honor the proper sentiment expressed by your spokesman: respect the judgment of the millions of voters from left states and right states, big states and small states, states that matter and those that--well, all of them matter, really.

They have judged you, and found you wanting. It is time for you to withdraw.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.

- Traditional Easter refrain

Today is Easter Sunday, the celebration of Jesus' rising from the dead.

We'd like to take a moment to wish all of our Christian readers a peaceful, blessed, and joyful day. It's wet and rainy outside, but even the gloomiest of weather can't dampen the brightest Easter spirit.

Happy Easter - Rejoice, He is Risen

Reproduced and adapted with permission from the photographer.

We had a very interesting mass at our parish this morning...the fire alarm went off during the Eucharist (it seems a child just had to find out what pulling that shiny red and white plastic lever would do) but most of the congregation stayed inside the church, and the receiving of the sacrament of Communion was not disrupted, though the din continued through the rest of Mass.

(Apparently, only the Redmond Fire Department had the power to shut off the alarm. We were helpless and unable to do anything until the trucks got there. Perhaps it's time to reexamine some of our city ordinances so we can save our ears before they're permanently damaged by unbearable screeching).

That unfortunate incident aside, I greatly enjoyed the insightful homily (or post-Gospel commentary) from our pastor. He explained that recently he had been working on the programs booklets for the Triduum, and was looking for artwork to use. He found plenty of graphics for Holy Thursday and even more for Good Friday.

But when it came time to put together the Easter Day booklet, he found the selection of actual Easter images to be rather poor.

And he added that traditional art wasn't the only area where Easter had received short shrift, using the example of Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ... which devotes two hours to Jesus' agony and crucifixion but only a couple of minutes to the Resurrection - and that's ultimately the most important part of the story, for as our pastor said, We are a Resurrection people.

He joked that he was still waiting for Gibson's sequel.

It certainly seems to me like certain Christians (cough, the religious right) have tried to make Jesus' crucifixion the epicenter of the Easter story. Certainly, the solemnity of Good Friday is important, but it pales in comparison to the wonder of the Resurrection. The Easter story is supposed to be about Jesus' triumph over death and what that means for humankind.

It should be remembered that Easter is not a one day feast, like Good Friday or Holy Thursday; it goes on for an entire season, concluding at Pentecost.

Today is a day to be cheerful and joyful, not somber.

Rejoice, for He is Risen. Alleluia!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Truly Born Again

Ever since David Kuo's book Tempting Faith was published about evangelicals and politics, I've been curious to see how they're viewing their “Godly man” president now. Not from a schadenfreude perspective, but from the perspective of people who have been... well, used.

The folks at AlterNet have reported on an interesting survey that like most people, they don't enjoy being referred to as “nuts” or otherwise treated as campaign fuel. The study found that of the people identifying themselves as “Born Again” or “Evangelical,” and who voted for Bush in 2000 and again in 2004, 40% of these people will now vote for a Democrat, and 29% would vote for a Republican. And most of the remaining voters say they'll just vote on the merits of the candidate, whichever party that might be.

The callous disregard for these people is finally beginning to be exposed—and rewarded—now that the veneer of Christianity has been sanded away from the political machinery and nobody in this administration cares who gets elected to anything anymore. There's certainly nothing wrong with being Christian (or any religion), but when religion is used by politicians as a tactical weapon—well, that's the worst kind of emotional bait-and-switch you can perpetrate on a population. And the Bush administration has done this repeatedly.

Trent Lott and people in his situation have now built up enough lobbying contacts, and they've rigged enough of the rules that they have retired from politics to work the lobbying end of the equation to see how much they can continue to wring from public coffers. Think of it: The guy wins re-election, only to retire a little over a year into his term. Might that have anything to do with the looming restriction on legislators becoming lobbyists as soon as they leave DC? Huh. Ya think?

The people in Karl Rove's 51% strategy (you don't need to win every vote, just enough) and squeezing the evangelical Christian vote out of the South and Midwest have finally had another kind of awakening: There is no God in politics. There are only politicians, and the Republican kind have treated evangelical Christians like toilet paper for the past four or five general election cycles.

Looks like they've had enough of the Conservative Revolution, too.

Friday, March 21, 2008

In Brief - March 22, 2008

Obama's unconditionally amazing speech, A More Perfect Union, has had over 3 million views on YouTube since it was posted on Tuesday. If you haven't seen this speech yet, you really owe it to yourself to do so. Watch it together, if you can, with your spouses, parents, and children. People call a lot of things historic, but this really is.

And in case you missed it--and in the traditional media's habit of going monotonal when things like Obama's speech happen, you can certainly be forgiven if you did--this past monday Darcy Burner unveiled the Responsible Plan to end the war in Iraq (PDF). She and several other congressional candidates who joined her in the effort to craft this plan released it at the Take Back America conference in Washington D.C.


If you oppose this war as much as I do, you can do three things here:
  1. Download and read the plan. It's really not that long and is pretty easy to read.
  2. Go to the Responsible Plan website and endorse the plan yourself. Stand up for rational Iraq policies that can actually do some good.
  3. Share the plan with everyone you know.
Around the Northwest

  • Brave New Leaf is a fun and actually informative environmental blog I heard about on NPR the other morning. And, it's run by a pacific northwesterner! The tagline is "everyman environmentalism, one project at a time." I like that.
  • "3 AM" girl Casey Knowles speaks out about the ad, Clinton, and her support of Obama.
  • The Peace March that set out for Washington D.C. from Portland has reached Boise. The Idaho state patrol doesn't sound too thrilled about it.
Around the Nation

  • Intel brainiacs extend WiFi connections to 100 kilometers. This could do a far-flung farms and households in Eastern Washington a lot of good.
  • Terrible floods hit the midwest, again. Here's just one of hundreds of stories about it. Somewhere between calling this a "100 year flood" and various folks saying (again) "no one could have predicted this", as if to imply that flooding of this magnitude was simply un-imaginable up to a week ago, I can only say Excuse Me? First, doesn't anybody remember 15 years ago when huge spring floods caused the Mississippi to over-run its banks? They called that one a flood of "historic proportions" too. Seems to me that a) these so-called "100 year" events are happening more and more lately, b) this is exactly the sort of thing predicted by climate change scientists, c) government agencies darned well ought to be able to prepare for--if not explicitly predict--them. Oh, right, except that our current crop of mis-administrators explicitly suppresses as much climate science as they can.
  • News Flash! Bush mis-states Iran's plans with respect to nuclear weapons. Hm. Where have we heard this story before? Seriously--how does anybody believe anything this guy says anymore?
Around the World

  • Sir Arthur C. Clarke, author and visionary, died March 18th at his home in Sri Lanka. Clarke will no doubt be best remembered as the author of "2001: a Space Odyssey", but should also be remembered for inventing the concept of the geostationary communications satellite and the space elevator.
  • Hat Trick! The State Department admits that it hasn't been very careful with the nation's passport records: John McCain's, Barack Obama's, and Hillary Clinton's passport files have all been improperly handled. But at least Condoleezza Rice has apologized to the candidates and promised to "get to the bottom" of it with a transparent and open investigation. Call me cynical, but anybody want to bet me that what we'll really get is a shallow show investigation lasting exactly as long as it takes for the next scandal to wipe this one off the front pages? No takers? Come on, my kids need new shoes!
  • Tibet, still a thorn in China's side. Tibetans living in China have decided to take advantage of the world's eyes being on China for the summer Olympics to call attention to Tibet's situation as an unwilling portion of mainland China by means of attempting to march back to Tibet. The Chinese authorities are having none of it, with predictable results ensuing. To be quite frank, I really don't understand stuff like this. I mean, I can understand China not expecting, decades back when it annexed Tibet, to meet such unwavering commitment to independence from a bunch of peace-loving buddhists. But what keeps them hanging on to it anymore? What's in Tibet, besides some tourist spots in the nose-bleed section, that China even wants? How does China not see the major karma points they'd score on the world stage if they let Tibet go? Why in the world is hanging on to Tibet worth all the trouble? P.S. In addition to the above link, the Guardian also has a nice round-up page on Tibet issues in general for anyone who wants more background and context.
The Lighter Side

  • One astronaut's take on how shooting stars are made.
  • CBS must have decided that they've milked the original Star Trek episodes for as much money as they can. Why else would they be putting the full episodes up for free viewing online?
  • Paul Krugman, sci-fi economist.
  • Pastafarians have installed a statue of the Spaghedeity on the lawn of a Tennessee county courthouse. A spokesperson for the Church of the Flying Spagetti Monster said, in an announcement friday which referred to the portrayl of other religious icons such as the Ten Commandments on courthouse property, "I respect and am proud that on the people’s lawn, the county courthouse, all of these diverse beliefs can come together in a positive dialogue." Evangelical conservatives, widely understood not to get irony, are expected to miss the point entirely.
This Day in History

  • 1621: Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony sign a peace treaty with the local Wampanoag tribe.
  • 1622: One third of the colonists at Jamestown, Virginia are massacred by Native Americans of the Powhatan Confederacy.
And a couple of northwest items:
  • 1941: Grand Coulee Dam in Washington state begins producing electricity.
  • 1993: Intel begins shipping the first Pentium chips: 60Mhz! Yeah, baby!

Bill Richardson endorsing Barack Obama

Welcome to Team Obama, Governor!
During the last year, I have shared with you my vision and hopes for this nation as we look to repair the damage of the last seven years. And you have shared your support, your ideas and your encouragement to my campaign. We have been through a lot together and that is why I wanted to tell you that, after careful and thoughtful deliberation, I have made a decision to endorse Barack Obama for President.

We are blessed to have two great American leaders and great Democrats running for President. My affection and admiration for Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton will never waver. It is time, however, for Democrats to stop fighting amongst ourselves and to prepare for the tough fight we will face against John McCain in the fall. The 1990's were a decade of peace and prosperity because of the competent and enlightened leadership of the Clinton administration, but it is now time for a new generation of leadership to lead America forward. Barack Obama will be a historic and a great President, who can bring us the change we so desperately need by bringing us together as a nation here at home and with our allies abroad.

Earlier this week, Senator Barack Obama gave an historic speech. that addressed the issue of race with the eloquence, sincerity, and optimism we have come to expect of him. He inspired us by reminding us of the awesome potential residing in our own responsibility. He asked us to rise above our racially divided past, and to seize the opportunity to carry forward the work of many patriots of all races, who struggled and died to bring us together.

As a Hispanic, I was particularly touched by his words. I have been troubled by the demonization of immigrants--specifically Hispanics-- by too many in this country. Hate crimes against Hispanics are rising as a direct result and now, in tough economic times, people look for scapegoats and I fear that people will continue to exploit our racial differences--and place blame on others not like them . We all know the real culprit -- the disastrous economic policies of the Bush Administration!

Senator Obama has started a discussion in this country long overdue and rejects the politics of pitting race against race. He understands clearly that only by bringing people together, only by bridging our differences can we all succeed together as Americans.

His words are those of a courageous, thoughtful and inspiring leader, who understands that a house divided against itself cannot stand. And, after nearly eight years of George W. Bush, we desperately need such a leader.

To reverse the disastrous policies of the last seven years, rebuild our economy, address the housing and mortgage crisis, bring our troops home from Iraq and restore America's international standing, we need a President who can bring us together as a nation so we can confront our urgent challenges at home and abroad.

During the past year, I got to know Senator Obama as we campaigned against each other for the Presidency, and I felt a kinship with him because we both grew up between words, in a sense, living both abroad and here in America. In part because of these experiences, Barack and I share a deep sense of our nation's special responsibilities in the world.

So, once again, thank you for all you have done for me and my campaign. I wanted to make sure you understood my reasons for my endorsement of Senator Obama. I know that you, no matter what your choice, will do so with the best interests of this nation, in your heart.
The above excerpt is from Richardon's email to his supporters, sent out nationwide a few minutes ago. Naturally, most major traditional media outlets are starting to pick up on the endorsement.

Richardson's decision to back Senator Obama is significant. His endorsement had been highly coveted by both campaigns. Richardson is not only a former presidential rival, but also a sitting governor (of New Mexico) as well as one of the nation's most prominent Hispanic elected officials.

Although his endorsement comes too late to help Obama in the southwestern states that Hillary Clinton has already claimed victory in (California, New Mexico, Arizona, the caucus vote in Nevada, and the popular vote in Texas) it could certainly help Obama in the general election if he is the Democratic nominee.

Richardson isn't the only former Democratic presidential candidate to be backing Obama (Senator Chris Dodd is already a supporter).

Of the candidates remaining who have not endorsed, John Edwards' would likely carry the most weight. Appearing on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno just a few minutes ago (Pacific Time), Edwards refused to speak favorably of one over the other, and confirmed that he continues to stay in contact with both campaigns.

Why Edwards hasn't endorsed Barack Obama is somewhat puzzling to me, as it is pretty clear that the differences between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are like night and day. As a family friend remarked to me recently, the subtle message of Hillary Clinton's campaign is, "Elect me. I'll take care of things for you," while the theme of Barack Obama's campaign is "Join me. Become involved and help revitalize our democracy." In other words, Hillary's approach is conventional, Obama's is not.

We desperately need an unconventional, fresh approach for challenging times. We need a candidate whose political philosophy isn't based on the destructive strategies of divide and conquer or triangulation, but is instead rooted in the great progressive American tradition of expanding freedom and inspiring the people of the United States to do better. (The Clinton approach yields immediate benefits for the Clintons, but ultimately hurts the Democratic Party).

The Pennsylvania primary is just a few weeks away, on April 22nd. If Clinton does not win, she will likely be forced to bow out of the contest in the face of intense pressure from fellow Democrats. Edwards' support could very well help Obama do better in Pennsylvania, end the nominating fight with Clinton, and unite the Democratic Party. Edwards has admitted he wants to see the party unified.

Our question for John Edwards is simple: What are you waiting for?

UPDATE: I asked our good friend Ken Camp, who helped put together the Washington for Richardson effort (along with Emmett O'Connell, who also resides in Thurston County) for his reaction to the endorsement:
I'm thrilled that Governor Richardson chose to endorse Senator Obama. Since he dropped out of the race, it has been my hope that Democrats will have an Obama-Richardson ticket in 2008. Along with millions of other people, Bill Richardson wants change too. Governor Richardson's endorsement will help Barack Obama in the Latino community, and based on my experience, will likely bring a lot of enthusiastic Richardson supporters into the Obama camp. In a general election, Governor Richardson becomes a key ally in the West to counteract John McCain. I've held out on supporting either candidate, watching to see where Governor Richardson went, and today I've decided to follow Governor Richardson's lead and support Barack Obama.
Glad to hear it. The bigger Barack Obama's people powered force, the better.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Toby Nixon reneges on decision not to run for Legislature in 2008

I guess now we know why the traditional media demands those Shermanesque statements from potential candidates for office:
Former state Rep. Toby Nixon, a Republican who heads the Washington Coalition for Open Government, says he's running for his old House seat.

Nixon lost a state Senate bid in the 45th District in 2006 to Democratic newcomer Eric Oemig. Initially Nixon said he would stay out of politics for a while and spend more time with his family and on his job at Microsoft.

But he says he'll challenge freshman Democrat Roger Goodman for a House seat. He says the Legislature has failed to make any real progress on the major problems facing the state, while setting up the state for a big deficit.
Here is what Toby said back in December when he ruled out running:
After much careful consideration and consultation with my family and advisors, I have decided to not seek election to the state House of Representatives or any another office in 2008.

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

These require more attention than would be possible if I were also running a campaign of my own this year.
Apparently that carefully thought out decision was meaningless.

We understand if Toby has changed his mind (we can respect that) but he should have left the door open to being a candidate in December.

He assured supporters and opponents alike that he wasn't going to run. He even explained why he had decided not to.

Now it's March, and suddenly, he is running. So what about all those commitments Toby said he had to fulfill? The expanded responsibilities at Microsoft? Campaigning for Initiative 25? Volunteering at those nonprofits?

If we can't expect Toby the candidate to honor his word, how can we expect Mr. Nixon the legislator to faithfully serve his constituents in the 45th District?

Back in 2006, Toby Nixon made a calculated decision to run for state Senate after Bill Finkbeiner announced his retirement. He was easily beaten by Eric Oemig, who I am very proud to call my state senator. I worked hard to help elect Eric in 2006, knowing how effective he would be in Olympia. I haven't been disappointed.

Likewise, I am thrilled to have Roger Goodman as one of my two state representatives. Roger is forthright, smart, and very friendly. He's a terrific lawmaker and a wonderful father. Despite having so many responsibilities, he does an admirable job of making time for constituents - and staying in touch with them too. (I always get a card during the holidays from the Goodman family!)

Toby is going to have an exceptionally difficult challenge ahead of him if he seriously intends to take on Roger. No doubt his Republican allies will run a vicious smear campaign against the Goodmans like they did last cycle. Their 2006 trickery didn't work, however. Roger won handily, much to the chagrin of the GOP.

We are confident that Representative Goodman will again be victorious in 2008, and we are ready to do everything we can to help him defeat Toby Nixon.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A dark day for grassroots democracy: Supreme Court reinstates "Top Two" primary

This morning, the United States Supreme Court overruled the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and reinstated Washington State's never used "Top Two" primary system, which takes away voter choices in the general election (when most Washingtonians vote) and infringes on the First Amendment rights of political parties.

NPI is deeply disappointed in the Court's decision - and the majority who signed off on it (Justices Souter, Ginsburg, Roberts, Alito, Stevens, Breyer, and Thomas). We believe the Court erred in interpreting the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which guarantees freedom of assembly to all Americans, including those Americans who choose to belong to a political party.

I never thought I would write these words... but we are very grateful to Justice Antonin Scalia for his strongly worded dissent, which Justice Kennedy joined.

The Court, by its action today, has okayed the use of a pointless, stupid scheme that disenfranchises parties and drastically reduces voter choices in the general election. The entire purpose of a primary election is for voters who belong to a party to participate in the selection of their party's nominee (or standard bearer) to go on to the general election.

That's why it is called a primary election.

If a primary election is no longer going to be used for selecting nominees, it doesn't need to be held at all.

A two part general election - which is what we now have with "Top Two" - disenfranchises voters who ignore (either accidentally or purposefully) the first part.

Ironically, thanks to Sam Reed, Rob McKenna, and the Grange, we now have a system that will sometimes or even regularly force voters to choose between candidates of only one party in November. Yes, you read that right.

The "Top Two" system, as the name suggests, only advances the top two vote getting candidates to the general election.

It doesn't matter what party they are from.

So if two Democrats get the most votes, the general election will be a contest between two Democrats. Those Washingtonians who don't want to vote for a Democrat are completely out of luck. The reverse is true as well.

In Seattle, this means Republicans can't compete in the general election. And in most of Eastern Washington, it means Democrats can't compete, which is bad for our state. Democracy thrives on debate and an exchange of ideas.

As for minor parties, well... you can forget about them.

Greens and Libertarians, for instance, will be fortunate just to get on the November ballot every once in a blue moon. They will be effectively shut out of the debate in the general election. Contemplate for a moment what this means.

Remember Bruce Guthrie, the Libertarian who ran for Senate in 2006? People like Bruce will no longer be able to stand next to the Maria Cantwells and Mike McGavicks of Washington State and argue their case to the electorate. Their campaigns will have ended in the dead of summer. And the traditional media will ignore them because they have become irrelevant.

The implementation of the "Top Two" scheme is going to ensure more monotony and less diversity in the general election - which, again, is the occasion when most Washingtonians participate in the political process!

What so many of my fellow citizens don't seem to understand is that political parties are about the only vehicles we have for grassroots political participation. Running for office takes a tremendous commitment and resources. Parties have resources, so they offer a way for nobodies to become somebodies.

Parties allow people like Darcy Burner to take on an entrenched incumbent like Dave Reichert, who enjoys all the benefits of being part of the political establishment. It would be harder for Darcy Burner to compete if she could not look to the Democratic Party as a source for funds, volunteers, and ideas.

If the parties are weakened or they disappear, who gains power?

The traditional media (and newspaper editorial boards - shudder) for one. Special interests and wealthy individuals, for another. And well known politicians with a sizable personal following they can tap for resources.

Corporate media already has enough power and money already has too much influence in our political system. What our democracy needs is more grassroots politics, not less. When we pass laws and set up rules that curtail freedom of assembly, we are hurting ourselves and limiting our own choices as a people.

The state Grange and Sam Reed ought to be harshly condemned for their unceasing attacks on parties and grassroots politics. They are responsible for proposing this Top Two garbage and hoodwinking the people of Washingon into believing Initiative 872 was a restoration of the old blanket primary system (which was also unconstitutional). It is not. It is drastically different.

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Scalia correctly observes that "Top Two" was not created out of a desire for a better means of selecting candidates, but to ensure that parties would not have any control over the nominating process:
Because Washington has not demonstrated that this severe burden upon parties’ associational rights is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest — indeed, because it seems to me Washington’s only plausible interest is precisely to reduce the effectiveness of political parties — I would find the law unconstitutional.

[...]

The right to associate for the election of candidates is fundamental to the operation of our political system, and state action impairing that association bears a heavy burden of justification.

Washington’s electoral system permits individuals to appropriate the parties’ trademarks, so to speak, at the most crucial stage of election, thereby distorting the parties’ messages and impairing their endorsement of candidates.

The State’s justification for this (to convey a “modicum of relevant information”) is not only weak but undeserving of credence.

We have here a system which, like the one it replaced, does not merely refuse to assist, but positively impairs, the legitimate role of political parties.
We can hardly assign all the blame (or let the Grange take all the credit) for the situation we find ourselves in, however.

The state's political parties have repeatedly failed to stand up for themselves. Democrats and Republicans have had tremendous difficulty pausing to stop warring with each other long enough to stand united with Greens and Libertarians and defend our democracy from harmful plots to sabotage grassroots politics.

The Grange (which is itself a special interest), Sam Reed, and their allies have been fought in court but not in the court of public opinion.

And so, because there have been no serious efforts to educate the public, a great many voters mistakenly and sadly harbor nothing but contempt for parties, which are the very entities that ably provide them with a diverse field of candidates to choose from in an election.

Political parties should be embraced and strengthened, not despised. As Dr. Reed Davis said almost three years ago in a guest post here on the Official Blog:
[A] real party is not a national or even a state committee. Those are professional organizations whose primary function is fundraising; whatever else they may be, they are most certainly not volunteer organizations whose primary function is to mobilize voters on behalf of candidates.

When I speak of the importance of parties, then, the parties I have in mind are the grassroots organizations that exist for the sake of, well, real people, and not political professionals.
Parties exist to allow like-minded citizens to organize, win elections, and influence officeholders. Parties ensure that different viewpoints are presented and articulated. They are the lifeblood of democracy.

We know that parties are imperfect. Ideally the state office and the central committees should wield less power. The problem is, it's hard to gather together millions or thousands of people to make day to day decisions.

There's certainly room for improvement. But Washington's political parties don't deserve the hostility they've historically received. And our state does not deserve this inferior, worthless elections scheme.

Candidates who can't rack up a double digit percentage of votes should not be barred from the general election by the State of Washington.

Parties should not have their First Amendment rights denied.

And voters should not be punished by a system that is designed to arrest choices.

The Supreme Court has decided that "Top Two" is constitutional. We disagree with that decision. But the Supreme Court isn't forcing us to use "Top Two". The law that created this scheme was not enacted in a marble hall thousands of miles away. It was cooked up right here at home by the Grange and approved by voters.

We can be thankful that what has been passed into law may be repealed. That doesn't mean getting rid of "Top Two" will be easy. The Grange has been winning in the court of public opinion because we've been forfeiting the match.

We can rescue grassroots democracy and get our open primary back, but we have to get out on the field first.

Obama addresses the race and "Reverend Wright" questions

What a great speech. Just magnificent.

I don't think I've ever heard such a strident statement of acceptance of diversity and recognition of the complexity of the human condition as this. Just amazing. Watch it for yourself. And remember this statement if nothing else: What we need right now is unity.

Here's a quick excerpt (emphasis mine):
For we have a choice in this country.

We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news.

We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words.

We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children.

This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
Amen, Senator Obama. Amen.

Jeff Merkley urges investigation of tanker deal

Fed up with senseless U.S. trade policies (and unhappy with a recent Air Force decision to hire Airbus to construct a new tanker fleet) Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley this week announced a plan to strengthen American economic security. He is urging Congress to:
  • conduct a full investigation into the the awarding of an Air Force tanker contract to a foreign competitor,
  • strengthen the Buy American Act,
  • and end unfair trade agreements such as NAFTA, CAFTA and the WTO.
Merkley asserts that:
American tax dollars should not be used to outsource American jobs and create family-wage jobs overseas. This is a threat to our national security and it is one more sign that our country and our government in Washington D.C. have gotten severely off track.
If the Air Force can't explain the rationale behind their decision, Merkley wants Congress to block the project's funding. Taking nearly $40 billion out of the U.S. economy during a recession is no small matter.

If Northrup Grumman outcompeted Boeing, then so be it, but if bureaucrats were pulling strings for Northrup (which is what happened with Boeing during the last go-around), then the guilty should be held accountable.

Merkley faults Oregon Senator Gordon Smith for helping to exempt the Department of Defense from the Buy America Act.

This tanker deal creates a perfect opportunity for Congress to examine the Act more closely and decide if it strengthens business here at home or allows the U.S. defense industry to coast on the promise of guaranteed contracts.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Yes, it's Monday, but it's also St. Patrick's Day.

Hopefully, this green text passes the Shamrock Test, and you didn't get pinched too much during the day.

Enjoy whatever festivities you may have planned for the evening, and do stay safe.

Liveblogging the Burner Iraq Plan

Today, Darcy Burner is releasing her plan for responsibly ending the war in Iraq. This is a plan that has been six months in the making, crafted by a panel of Iraq experts that Darcy brought together for this purpose.

The plan is being unveiled today at the Take Back America Conference in Washington, D.C.

If, like myself, you don't happen to be in D.C. to attend the event in person, you can watch it live at http://www.darcyburner.com/ starting at 2:30 Pacific time today.

But if you're on a connection that isn't friendly to streaming-media, you can follow along here on NPI's blog.

Update #1: 2:16 PM
Ok, I lied. It's not 2:30 yet, but waiting around for the broadcast to start is kind of boring, so here's an update. In the six months since Darcy originally convened the task force, she has been joined by nine other congressional challengers, who collectively form a pretty powerful "who's who" list of grassroots progressives. Most of the names on this list will be familiar to anybody who spends time on DailyKos or other national progressive websites, and it's great to see them joining Darcy Burner in this effort. Hats off to all of them: Tom Perriello (VA), Jarid Polis (CO), Larry Byrnes (FL), Donna Edwards (MD), Chellie Pingree (ME), George Fearing (WA), Eric Massa (NY), Steve Harrison (NY), and Sam Bennett (PA).

Update #2: 2:30 PM
The plan is available as a 36 page PDF file, and the USTREAM.tv control is up on Darcy's website. Good time to sign in, if you can. Looks like the broadcast will start imminently.

I'm surprised--but pleasantly so--that the plan isn't longer. I was dreading a several hundred pages tome. 36 pages is a nice length that's easily approachable and readable by everybody, yet is still enough to get into detail on the withdrawal plan. The plan itself focuses on three main objectives:

  • Bringing out troops home while transitioning responsibility for Iraq to the Iraqis
  • Change our own State Department by building new capacities for effective nation-building in cooperation with the international community
  • Committing to basic human rights throughout
The devil, as they say, is in the details. How do we bring our troops home without leaving a power vacuum? How do we do effective nation-building without creating resentment among Iraqis? How will we bring the perpetrators of Iraq war crimes to justice--particularly when some of those war criminals may themselves be high-ranking Americans?

Stay tuned...

Update #3: 2:43 PM
The broadcast is starting, although the event itself seems to be taking a little longer. Folks are milling around, still getting settled. The video quality isn't exactly HD, but it appears that Darcy is decked out in a cheerful St. Patrick's Day green outfit. This, of course, is meaningless in the grand scheme of anything. But hey, it looks good on her, and if it's fair game to report on what people are wearing at the Oscars then why not here at a conference that is actually attempting to change the America for the better?

Update #4: 2:50 PM
Ok, here we go. 445 viewers are online now. They're starting with a "person on the street" video of opinions and reactions to the war.

Update #5: 3:00 PM
The video is really choppy. But at least so far all we're missing is the opening remarks of the panel's moderator whose name I couldn't hear. I did manage to hear that he's a former congressman from Maine. If I catch his name later, I'll let you know. He's introducing Darcy now. She's opening with her perspectives on how to best provide for her child's future--a story most of us who have followed Darcy have heard before--and memories of her brother being deployed to Iraq and of sending him care packages.

"Voters get it. Voters understand that we have to end this war in
order to address any of the other problems we have." -- Darcy Burner

Now she's talking about how she convened this task force after meeting Paul Eaton, in order to have a real answer to voters about how to end the war. It's not enough, she says, to stand up and say "I would end the war; I'm committed to that" without also having a credible answer as to how.

"We've been waiting five years for a top-down solution. But no top-down
solution is coming. It's time to do a bottom-up solution." -- Darcy Burner

Update #6: 3:09 PM

Darcy is summarizing what's in the plan. You all can read the PDF as well as I can. I particularly like two things about the plan. Well, three things. One, that it explicitly defines what success looks like. Bush never bothered to do that before invading--he never said what future conditions in Iraq would constitute a successful mission. Two, the report focuses on the root causes of Iraq's continuing problems, rather than on band-aid solutions (which, frankly, military action constitutes). Three, it includes explicit recommendations for re-building the foundations of America's constitutional demoracy, our system of checks and balances, so we don't get embroiled in future Iraq-like situations.

Darcy's finishing her remarks, ceding the microphone to Donna Edwards (MD-04)

Update #7: 3:15 PM

640 viewers online now; Donna Edwards is speaking. She underscores the toll on the military: 3988 honorable service men and women, dead, over 29,000 injured. She's telling the story of two from Maryland, one who wanted to see the world, one who just wanted to go to college. That personally resonates with me, because one of the things that makes me the most upset about how conservatives have changed our nation's spending priorities has been in cutting support for higher education. It is morally wrong to have created a situation where so many ordinary Americans are forced to risk their lives in order to be able to get the education they'll need in order to succeed in life and provide for their families. That's a hell of a steep price to ask a young person to put out just to have a fair shot at the American dream. If we quit throwing money into the bonfire of the War, one of the first things I want to see restored is Pell Grants and other student aid programs that most of us or our children will need.

Update #8: 3:20 PM

Chellie Pingree is speaking. Her focus is on her perspective from the campaign trail (ME-01). She's talking about how people's questions have changed from "are you opposed to the war" to questions about how she'll end the war and a whole slew of other questions that are answered in today's report. She's echoing the "I told you so" frame Obama is using about having known back in 2002 (when Pingree was running for office before) that even folks like her and Barack knew that this war was going to be a huge mistake.

Update #9: 3:30

Next up, VA-05 candidate Tom Perriello. He's telling the "tale of two dictators" about Charles Taylor (Liberia) and Sadaam Hussein. Unlike Sadaam, he says, Taylor actually had ties to Al Qaeda. He's talking about how he was involved in diplomatic efforts that forced Taylor from power without dropping bombs, firing guns, and creating the kind of "helluva mess" that Iraq has become. Here's his best pull-quote:

"The military is doing its job; we're getting the politics wrong."

Following Perriello is PA-15 candidate Sam (Siobhan) Bennett. Siobhan is her proper--and Irish--given name. Like Darcy, she has a 5 year old son at home. She's taking time to thank Darcy for her leadership on this plan and for inviting other candidates like herself to join in. Ms. Bennett is talking about her family's military background and her own ROTC background.

"The most important thing we can do right now to support our troops is to
bring them home to the heroes' welcome they deserve."

Now she's talking about the false-choice between destabilizing withdrawl and semi-permanent occupation. "It's a lie," she says, "We can do better."

Update #10: 3:42 PM

Next, from CO-02 Jared Polis. He quipps that he's running for congress to propel Darcy into a leadership position as quickly as possible. Amen, brother! He opens by pointing out something I've been talking about here on NPI for a while: how Darcy and her as-yet-unelected classmates are already showing better leadership than the crop of boneheads currently keeping those House seats warm. He's underscoring some of the specific recommendations from the report calling for America (via its president) to explicitly state that we do not seek permanent military presence in Iraq, do not seek to use Iraq as a fulcrum from which to exert military influence in the middle east, and that we should not as a matter of public policy seek to control Iraq's oil resources.

He's taking some well earned shots at the traditional media, too, for failing to convey the "real story" to America about Iraq: the story of Iraq's 4 million refugees. Of the real reasons why some of them have come back from Syria--because their visas had expired and Syria was kicking them out, not because they wanted to go back.

That does it for the congressional challengers' speeches. Darcy's summarizing by calling everyone at the Take Back America conference to take specific actions. The rest of us should do it to:

  1. Read the plan, tell everyone you know about it
  2. Help get Darcy and her 9 co-challengers into the congress.
  3. Go to www.responsibleplan.com and endorse the plan yourself.

Next up, Matt Stoller of OpenLeft. He's pointing out how the country's feelings about the war have changed, but the framing about it hasn't: opposition still equates to anti-Americanism. He's talking about how we need to change that conversation and that framing, and that we can do it by producing and promoting plans like this. To show that being against the war doesn't mean wanting to make America less safe. Doesn't mean wanting "the surge to fail." To show that being against the war can and does mean taking America and the world to a better place. To a better future. To changing the conversation such that being against the war means being for a stronger and truly more secure America.

Well, seems to be about it, folks. They're showing some videos now which I recognize as also being available on Darcy's website. Thanks to everyone who's been reading along, and I do hope you'll take the time to read, share, and endorse the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

In Brief - March 15, 2008

In a week that saw Obama take a commanding win in Mississippi's primary, the Clinton campaign has been forced into a hail-mary strategy of doing John McCain's smear work for him. Clinton has been left with an essentially impossible task: to take the lead in anything--delegates, popular vote or states won.

All that leaves her is an attempt at a palace coup via wooing the superdelegates, but as Markos himself points out, "that path lies civil war. I doubt the supers are that stupid."

Meanwhile, here are the week's two best Democratic primary quips, as judged by an expert panel consisting solely of me:

DailyKos reader Jsn: "Saying that Hillary has Executive Branch experience is like saying Yoko Ono was a Beatle."

Sinbad (the comedian, not the legendary sailor), commenting on his 1996 trip to Bosnia with Sheryl Crow and Hillary (but not Bill) Clinton: "What kind of president would say, 'Hey, man, I can't go 'cause I might get shot so I'm going to send my wife...oh, and take a guitar player and a comedian with you."

Around the Northwest
  • With Salmon populations in an epic crash, Federal regulators are eyeing a ban on West Coast Salmon fishing. What this would do to Washington State's economy--with salmon being our signature food and part of our tourist draw--is anybody's guess. But if I have to choose, I'd take a short-term ban with longer term easing of fishing allotments over extinction of the several Salmon species we all know and love.
  • The Allen Brain Institute, an organization co-founded by Paul Allen and Jody Allen Patton, studies gene expression in the brain. This is useful in all sorts of ways, but particularly for medical researchers studying diseases like Parkenson's and Alzheimer's. While much of their existing work focuses on mouse brains, yesterday they announced that they will be producing a new 3-d map of the complete human brain.
  • Gang violence in Portland is spiking. Already this year there have been 21 gang-related incidents in Portland. Yet, the Portland Police Department's gang unit is half the size it was in the 1990s. Police, however, are only part of the solution. As reported monday on NPR's Day to Day, police can only suppress the violence; they can't address the underlying culture of gang life that leads to it.
Around the Nation
  • Republican FISA talking points dissected, brutally and without mercy.
  • Business week has a nice article on Carbon Labeling, a subject I touched on earlier this week. Hat tip to NPI reader rolandovich for the link!
  • Underscoring the correlation between global warming and extreme weather events, Atlanta was just hit by a tornado. While we can't definitively blame this particular tornado on climate change, we can certainly expect to see the frequency of this type of event rise in the coming years.
Around the World
  • NASA's Cassini saturn probe made a remarkably close flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus on Wednesday. The probe zipped past Saturn's icy moon at a distance of just 30 miles, which in spacefaring terms is almost indescribably close. So what's worth the risk of crashing a billion dollar spacecraft? Directly sampling geyser plumes eminating from Enceladus' south pole to definitively answer the question of whether Enceladus has a sub-surface ocean. Anywhere there is reliable liquid water is prime territory for searching for life, so the results of Wednesday's flyby could well determine the focus of NASA's deep space missions in the coming decade or so. There's even a blog with more up-to-date information than you'll see from NASA's press releases.
  • Iranian conservatives seem to be winning that nation's parlimentary elections. And no, that's not good news.
  • And a piece of good news: 9 year old abduction victim Shannon Matthews is found in Britain, a mile from her family's home, after a 24 day search by police.
The Lighter Side
This Day in History
  • 44 BC: Julius Caesar stabbed to death by Marcus Junius Brutus and two other members of the Roman Senate. Say what you will about our own legislative process, but at least we don't have that degree of bi-partisan rancor.
  • 1493: Christopher Columbus returns to Spain after his first trip to the new world.
  • 1990: Mikhail Gorbachev is elected as president of the Soviet Union.

Burner to release plan to end the Iraq war

Six months in the making, Darcy Burner's plan to end the Iraq war is ready. This isn't just a plan cooked up by her campaign staff to sound good in the news. No, this is the real deal: an intelligent, well thought out plan crafted by some of the best foreign policy and Iraq specialists around to bring a responsible end to the war.

Folks like Major General Paul Eaton, former commanding general in Iraq. Talk about hands-on expertise. Paul Eaton lays the blame for Iraq's current mess squarely at the feet of those who failed to plan for reconstruction:
What is absent still is a diplomatic surge, economic surge, bringing to bear the full power of the united states. When chaos hit, there was no plan.
The Burner task force also includes luminaries such as Ambassador Joe Wilson, VoteVets chairman Jon Stolz, and U.W. Professor and Islamic law expert Clark Lombardi.

The "Plan for Iraq" will be released this coming Monday, March 17th, at the Take Back America conference. Although most of us probably can't travel to Washington D.C. to attend the event live, you can watch it live at www.darcyburner.com on Monday at 2:30 PST.

The US hands-off approach to Tibet

This is the China servicing our national debt. This is the China that makes just about everything we buy today, from toys to dog food, to the computer this text on which this diatribe is composed. This is the China that crushes students in Tiananmen Square and Buddhists who can't take anymore Communist remote-control dictatorship in Tibet.

And because of our free trade agreements and reckless abandon with disaster capitalism—not to mention the past eight years of abject hypocrisy concerning human rights—the US has no moral leg to stand on when it comes to condemning the response of the Chinese government in reining in what it views as its subjects. And it wouldn't anyway. Too much business at stake.

Genocide continues in Darfur, and we're leaving the repair and healing operation largely to nonprofit relief agencies. How can we do anything else? Our military is occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. Pakistan? Too bad. Tibet? We left Tibet to its own devices decades ago, to rebel against the one ideology nearly any American, conservative or liberal, would gladly agree is a failed ideology: Communism.

Not only do we let the Tibetans fend for themselves, we openly trade with their oppressors. Not only do we trade with their oppressors, their oppressors could potentially take us out at the knees by calling in our debt to them without firing a single shot. Instead, their armies are busy crushing an impoverished rebellion.

This is what happens when policy becomes human. This is the cost of ill-conceived ideas in a background of greed. This is the cost of a “me first” ideology. People die. Generations of lives are ruined. The ecosystem is ravaged. Everybody loses.

Compassion and a broader world view must be a part of the next president's platform. We simply can't keep negotiating with governments who don't think twice about killing or torturing their own citizens as an acceptable method of retaining power.

As a nation we must turn aside from the cynicism that says, yeah, but that's not how the world works. That's how the world works as long as we accept that that's how the world works. It is possible to change, and we should be the voice of that change. It works from the bottom up, not top-down.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Imagine that--no reason to attack Iraq

Well, it's not actually news anymore, but surprise: There were no WMDs to be found in Iraq, and Saddam had in fact, disarmed after the 1991 fiasco that left his military next to useless.

Of course, this line of thinking was met with ridicule and scorn from neocons from 2003 to 2006, long after anybody with a brain had concluded the obvious anyway.

So why bother to hide another leftwing nutjob report that says there was utterly no military reason to bomb the bejeezus out of Iraq? Oh. The report was from the Pentagon? Well, that changes things a bit.

Once again, the Decider administration has opted out of public scrutiny by simply not publishing matters of public record. If you want it, you need to request it on CD or DVD. It's bad enough that they scrub the Decider's press conference transcripts so he actually sounds literate, but the continual hiding of information that might be “politically sensitive” (as the Pentagon official said) is one of the reasons we have to make sure this administration does not continue. As in: Do not allow John McCain to win in November.

Once again, if Iraq posed no military threat to us, why did we attack? After realizing there was nothing to fear, why did we stay? After seeing what our continuing presence was doing there, why didn't we at least repair some of the damage and get the hell out?

Oil. Hegemony. Hubris. Money. Old news, bad answers, yet the body count keeps rising.

Next week we'll reach a somber anniversary in this occupation: Five years. As a nation we have squandered the goodwill of other nations, ruined our reputation as a model democracy, and have generally behaved as a bully as we have enriched the defense industry, lobbyists, and oil barons.

So it's no surprise, I suppose, that the Decider wants to hide more bad news about what will be his legacy: Failure on a catastrophically large scale, generations of people in the Middle East who will forever hate America, and an economy in recession. The military industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned us about 50 years ago has bitten us on the hind end.

We can correct this, or at least begin the process, in November. Let's keep all of this primary stuff in perspective. Let's disagree, let's debate, and then let's come together and give the White House back to Americans again. It's been far too long.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Inslee, Reichert sponsor legislation to reverse FCC's new media ownership rules

Last November the Federal Communications Commission breezed through Seattle, holding a last minute hearing on proposed new rules designed to (among other things), allow media conglomerates like News Corporation or TimeWarner to easily buy up radio and television stations and newspapers in the same markets.

(For over thirty years, the FCC has prohibited newspaper owners from holding licenses to operate television and radio stations in the communities where their newspapers are published. This restriction is known as the cross-ownership rule).

The Republican dominated FCC decided not long after the hearing to adopt the new rules. The rationale was that it would stimulate competition and offer more voices in the mix. I suppose if the government's goal is to have a stale palette of old, rich white men dominating our airwaves, then yes, deregulation makes sense.

Fortunately, a few sharp folks representing us in Congress have been watching the FCC like hawks, and they're not happy.

One of them is Washington's own Representative Jay Inslee, who has served the 1st Congressional District on Capitol Hill since 1999.

He authored the following Resolution of Disapproval of the FCC's actions:
110TH CONGRESS 2D SESSION H. J. RES. ll Disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to broadcast media ownership.

JOINT RESOLUTION Disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to broadcast media ownership.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating to broadcast media ownership (Report and Order FCC 07–216), received by Congress on February 22, 2008, and such rule shall have no force or effect.
That's it. “We don't like your rule. It's not getting past us.” Actually, the press release announcing the resolution was much longer. This is not merely a progressive effort - conservatives have signed on too. One of the cosponsors is Dave Reichert. It seems even he can recognize the folly of having a few mega-corporations controlling the news.

Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota introduced a similar resolution last week, which had 17 cosponsors, including our own Maria Cantwell. Other co-sponsors included Olympia Snowe (R-ME), John Kerry (D-MA), Ted Stevens (R-AK), and yes, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton co-sponsored, too.

Media consolidation is a genuinely bad idea, no matter how it's presented. It means fewer voices are heard, and it ensures that the content you do hear and see will be as inoffensive to as few in the corporate lineage as possible.

Investigations of defense contractors will remain ignored, more instances of presidential candidates being “deselected” from televised debates will occur, and the public will continue to receive spoon-fed newsmorsels of the management's choosing, regardless of how - or if - it serves the public interest.

Congress should be commended for its prompt action to stop the FCC's giveaway to big media. Corporations control far too much of our country as it is. Our thanks to Jay Inslee and Byron Dorgan for authoring these resolutions, and to the many cosponsors who have signed on in support. Stand strong for media diversity.

John McCain's free ride

John McCain is getting a free ride, and we're helping him.

Rachel Maddow of Air America Radio has pointed this out loudly in her recent shows, and I'll gladly second the motion because clearly, nobody's paying attention.

While Hillary Clinton has been doing the Jekyll and Hyde thing lately, berating the Obama campaign one minute and apologizing profusely the next, our corporate media have cozied up to John McCain as he cruises toward November largely unchecked.

Literally, they're having barbecues with the guy. What about your stance on torture, John? What about this business of bombing Iran or 100 years of war in Iraq being just fine with you? Are you seriously considering Mitt Romney as a running mate? Oh, never mind. Here, have another rib—the sauce is fabulous!

Nobody's covering that because of sex and screaming. Elliot Spitzer's resignation (never mind that “Wide Stance” Craig and “DC Hookers Only” Vitter are still in office with no further coverage or questions of integrity; but let's focus on one piece of prostitution at a time), and the histrionics emanating from the Democratic campaigns capture all media attention these days like swarms of paparazzi angling for yet another Britney Panty Shot.

Meanwhile, John McCain skates. John McCain, of Anger Management Issues, John McCain of the Straight Fall In Line Behind W Express, John McCain of the Surge Is Working school of thought. He has pretty much said he's not going to change anything. Let's linger there a moment. This president has the lowest approval ratings since Truman after Hiroshima, and that's okay with McCain. A tanking dollar, perpetual war. Good to go!

As recently as the last Republican debate with Mitt Romney, McCain had been a very strong opponent of torture—having been through it himself—and was very clear and principled in his stance on waterboarding. Until he supported it after chatting with the President.

Same with the 100 years of war in Iraq comment. He's put some demurred distance between himself and that ill-informed quip (though it's still absurdly vague), but he hasn't exactly been probed the way Obama or Clinton have been about every perceived slight that's going on in their respective campaigns. Is it race or is it gender? Not black enough? Not feminine enough? Not liberal enough? Not conservative enough? Who wears the pants in the family? Why isn't she proud of America?

Remember John Edwards' desperate attempt to rerail the national political discourse during the Debate Final Four (Gravel was there in spirit) when Clinton and Obama got a little chippy? "...This kind of squabbling, how many children is this going to get health care? How many people are going to get an education from this? How many kids are going to be able to go to college because of this?"

Same logic applies here. Does self-immolation help us end a neoconservative regime? No.

Let's try to remember for a few seconds, at least, that oil traded briefly for $110 a barrel yesterday, we still don't have an energy policy that's worth a damn, we torture people, we can do away with habeas corpus at will, it's okay if the government uses corporations to spy on us, about 30 million people are a paycheck away from financial ruin if they get sick or hurt and lose their jobs, 63,000 people lost their jobs last month—and that John McCain wants to continue all this as a lasting monument to freedom, security, and conservatism.

Democrats hold a slim majority in the House and Senate. It's obviously not enough to get meaningful legislation passed; they're merely treading water. We need to post bigger gains there, and we need the presidency. To get there, we need to nominate a candidate without setting fire to the whole house, and without giving the neocons enough ammunition to blow our candidate out of the water.

As I've said before in previous posts, I hope our nominee is Barack Obama, but whomever it is shouldn't stand alone to face the gurgling, grinding maw of the Republican slime machine. We are in danger of putting a severely damaged candidate on the podium in November if we continue with this current course of action in giving John McCain a free ride in the media at the expense of our own candidates.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Weinstein offers to compromise with Speaker Chopp on Homeowner's Bill of Rights

Senator Brian Weinstein has issued a statement offering to compromise with Speaker Frank Chopp on the Homeowner's Bill of Rights.

The deal? Weinstein will support Chopp's "three point plan" (with minor changes) in return from a guarantee that the Speaker will support a warranty bill like SB 6385 that provides a remedy in the next legislative session. Here's the Senator:
Today, I communicated to the Speaker’s staff that I’ll agree in principle to Speaker Chopp’s three-point proposal with some minor technical and substantive changes, if he’ll agree to allow a homebuyer to bring a legal action against a builder who has violated a building code after giving the builder notice and an opportunity to fix it.

A builder is already required to comply with building codes, but Washington law affords a homebuyer no rights to enforce the building code. This is a bare minimal right that all Washingtonians must agree a homebuyer should have.

I know the Speaker is a man of his word, and I would only do this with a good faith representation from him that he will work diligently to expand the right of access to the courts to aggrieved homebuyers in the next legislative session.
Speaker Chopp would be wise to accept Senator Weinstein's offer.

Though we're disappointed SB 6385 won't become law this year, a promise from the Speaker to back the Homeowner's Bill of Rights next session would be significant, and we would certainly trust him to honor such a commitment.

Ethics reform passes the House

For a couple of weeks now, Common Cause has been actively pushing for an independent ethics oversight body to watch over the doings and mis-doings of those in the House and Senate. According to Common Cause, they were motivated to do this after several (and I should add, bi-partisan) failures of the respective Senate and House ethics committees to do anything in high-profile ethics cases.

For instance, you remember when William Jefferson (D) was caught with $90,000 stashed away in his freezer? Or that whole mess with Jack Abramoff and well, a whole lot of folks with (R) after their names? The House ethics committee pretty much let all that stuff slide.

Today, Common Cause announced that they have had some success: the House has passed a resolution calling for just such a thing: a six-member panel of non-lawmakers with the power to review and investigate allegations of ethics violations.

While I have to say that the notion of an independent ethics oversight committee is appealing, I have to ask the question of whether this is really necessary? The existing Ethics Committee's lapses would suggest so, but perhaps there are other alternatives that should be considered as well. Namely, wouldn't it be better to fix what we have, if that's possible, than to build something new?

To look into that, I thought it would be helpful to know what my own Congressman, Dave Reichert, thinks on the matter--and to be fair, what his challenger Darcy Burner thinks about it as well--so I sent them both a panel of questions last Thursday.

Sadly, Representative Reichert's office, while they were happy to take my questions, declined to comment for this story. Ms. Burner's campaign spokesperson Sandeep Kaushik did, however.

NPI: Exit polling after the 2006 elections showed a lot of voters citing corruption as an important issue for them, after high-profile scandals involving Representatives Jefferson, Cunningham, and Ney in which the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct did nothing. Have you seen any particular difference in the Committee's actions or pursuit of ethics charges since the 2006 elections? In your view, is the Committee responding to the electorate's concerns?

Kaushik: Unfortunately, not really. Darcy believes that the House ethics committee has not functioned well in recent years, and this still remains true today. It has been bogged down by partisan feuding, operates behind a cloak of secrecy and has been slow to act even when credible allegations of serious wrongdoing surface. To give you a recent example, Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) had been dogged for months by allegations that he participated in a shady land deal. But the committee only launched an investigation of Renzi after he was finally indicted on 35 counts of money laundering, extortion and other serious offenses. Congress needs to be far more proactive about investigating alleged breaches of ethics (or as in this case, criminal misconduct) by members. The failure of the committee to do its job properly has serious consequences, allowing a culture of corruption to flourish within the Congress. When Darcy is elected, she is going to work to change that.

NPI: Would you say that the Committee is functioning as it should? If not,what would need to be done to make the Committee an effective oversight body?

Kaushik: Darcy believes that the most important change would be to ensure that the members on the committee put a belief in good government above any personal political interest or partisan ties. The committee should also operate more openly where possible--we need greater transparency in government, particularly on important issues like ethics. Darcy recently pledged to go well beyond current ethics rules and publicly post information on her web site about any earmark she requests--she is committed to making government more open.

NPI: Common Cause has recently called for the creation of an external oversight body, an "Independent office of Congressional Ethics." What is your opinion on that, or any similar, proposal? Or in other words, do you think that the Congress is structurally capable of policing itself?

Kaushik: Legislation currently under consideration in the House [ed: this refers to the resolution passed yesterday] would create such an office, consisting of six non-members, chosen from both parties. The panel would review allegations of wrongdoing and forward those with merit to the ethics committee for action. Darcy supports this idea – given all the congressional scandals of recent years, it is obvious that the current system is simply not working and we need to strengthen ethics oversight. Unfortunately, this bill is running into a lot of opposition in the House from members in both parties. Darcy feels strongly that we really do need to change the inside-the-Beltway business-as-usual politics of Washington, D.C. That is a big part of the reason she is running for Congress.

My thanks to the Burner campaign for their response. Ms. Burner, anyway, should be happy with yesterday's vote in the House; Dave Reichert, probably less so. For the record, he voted against the creation of an independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

Darcy Burner qualifies for Red to Blue again

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, known informally as the D Triple C, this morning announced its first round of "Red to Blue" grants to candidates challenging Republican incumbents:
"These candidates have come out of the gate strong and the Red to Blue Program will give them the financial and structural edge to be even more competitive in November," said Chairman Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "The candidates for change in our first round of challenger Red to Blue are strong examples of Democrats who represent a commitment to new priorities for the families in their districts."
Darcy Burner's selection likely means an infusion of at least $250,000 into Washington's 8th Congressional District. Here is the complete list:
Kay Barnes (MO-06)
Anne Barth (WV-02)
Darcy Burner (WA-08)
Robert Daskas (NV-03)
Steve Driehaus (OH-01)
Jim Himes (CT-04)
Christine Jennings (FL-13)
Larry Kissell (NC-08)
Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24)
Eric Massa (NY-29)
Gary Peters (MI-09)
Mark Schauer (MI-07)
Dan Seals (IL-10)
It's great to see Larry Kissell, Christine Jennings, Dan Seals, and Eric Massa on this list in addition to Darcy. They're all terrific netroots candidates and we're glad they've decided to run for Congress a second time. Many of the successful Democratic challengers in 2006 were two time candidates.

In Brief - March 12th, 2008

It's been a tough few days for soon to be ex-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who (as most Americans have now heard) is under investigation for his involvement with a prostitution ring known as the Emperors Club VIP.

While this revelation is incredibly disappointing, we find it ironic that Republicans in the Empire State (and across the United States, for that matter) have been so quick to call for Spitzer's resignation, considering that several high profile politicians from their party have been implicated in sex scandals but have not left office.

If the Governor's actions merit his departure from public life (and Spitzer has evidently decided that they have), then Republicans Larry Craig and David Vitter need to pack their bags and leave the United States Senate, pronto.

There's more to this story that hasn't received much attention from the traditional media, though. Here's pontificator from The Albany Project:
Because the focus was a high-ranking government official, prosecutors were required to seek the approval of the United States attorney general to proceed. Once they secured that permission, the investigation moved forward.
I'd like to know which Attorney General greenlighted this prosecution after it was learned that this was nothing more than a sex sting. Was it Gonzalez? Or was it Mukasey? Whoever made the call, it seems to me like it was a huge lapse in judgment, that perhaps was influenced by political calculations.

And another thing. Spitzer has not been charged, nor has he been named in Court documents. Clearly, his name has been leaked (and leaked repeatedly) by law enforcement officials. This stinks. For one thing, it's unethical. For another thing, it's highly problematic in light of the DOJ's recent history of unwarranted political influence.
The Department of Justice needs to be forthright with Congress and the American people about how this investigation has been handled. Eliot Spitzer has much to answer for, but so do the feds.

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Representative Helen Sommers, the longtime Democratic Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, is expected to formally announce her retirement sometime after the 2008 legislative session adjourns tomorrow. Sommers has already confirmed to the Seattle Times that she plans to retire. Her departure means that Speaker Frank Chopp will have to pick a new Appropriations Chair - and Democrats in the 36th District will have to elect a new representative. Two candidates are already in the race: John Burbank, who heads the Economic Opportunity Institute, and Reuven Carlyle, an activist who has worked on the mobile communications industry for many years.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy says it is accelerating cleanup of some toxic waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near the Tri-Cities. The Associated Press reports that "the project will triple the amount of groundwater treated for hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing agent that was used as a corrosion inhibitor in nuclear reactors".
  • It looks like Oregon's May 20th primary will feature many active contests between Democrats in statewide and federal races. Besides the U.S. Senate race, multiple Democrats are vying to become the party's standard bearers for Attorney General and U.S. Representative (Fifth District). About a fifth of the legislative positions are also up for election this year.
Across the Nation
  • Remember AOL? TimeWarner's struggling Internet division, which has repeatedly attempted to reinvent itself, is still sliding downhill as of 2008. Revenue fell dramatically between 2006 and 2007 and remains flat, while turnover has increased. The company has tried to change its business model and adapt to changing times without much success. AOL was wise to ditch its "walled garden" approach, but an increasing number of users have little reason to visit AOL's website or use its software these days now that they can access their AOL email and instant message services through other software (for example, Miranda IM and Mozilla Thunderbird).
  • Admiral William J. Fallon, head of the United States' Central Command, has been forced out of his post because he disagrees with the Bush administration's disastrous foreign policy. Fallon had been recently quoted in Esquire as saying the occupation of Iraq was hurting the nation's ability to focus on other trouble spots around the world.
  • Former presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is apparently ready to accept the consolation prize of running mate if John McCain offers it to him.
Around the World
  • Britain's Ministry of Defence says that an airstrike conducted by its forces accidentally killed four Afghan civilians (two women, two children). The incident is now under investigation. A spokesman for the United Kingdom's military apologized for the innocent loss of life.
  • China, exuberant at getting the chance to host the 2008 Olympics, isn't appreciating the accompanying spotlight on its dismal human rights record.
  • Kevin Rudd's government is asking Australian corporate chiefs to exercise restraint in determining their own salaries. The Prime Minister says he does not want to see "two Australias" - a nation of haves and have nots.
Finally...they're being called the luckiest group alive:
Garden State Equality's Legends Dinner is Saturday night and we had almost booked Eliot Spitzer, but a schedule conflict proved to be a snag. Among the other names we considered was Geraldine Ferraro, who today made such a reprehensible comment about Barack Obama. Oh my. Nearly 500 people attending Saturday night and all I can say is, whew.
Larry Craig and David Vitter are available, we hear.

Sound Transit ridership saw significant increase in 2007

This may come as a shock to libertarian asphalt fanatics, but it seems Sound Transit's bus and commuter rail service are more popular than ever:
The number of people who rode Sound Transit’s fast and reliable trains and buses in 2007 increased by nearly six times the nationwide increase announced in a national report issued today.

In 2007, nearly 14 million riders boarded Sounder commuter rail, ST Express buses and Tacoma Link light rail trains, an increase of 12.3 percent over the previous year. The increase is substantially higher than the noteworthy 2.1 percent national increase documented today in an American Public Transportation Association (APTA) report.

"Each year more and more people discover that taking transit is better than dealing with rising congestion and high gas prices," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. "We will continue focusing on keeping those ridership numbers climbing by working to expand transit service. There is a lot riding on our success. Our population will go up more than 30 percent by 2030, and today about half of our state’s carbon emissions come from transportation."
This is very encouraging news.

Research confirms that transit ridership climbs dramatically when service is expanded and improved. For transit to compete, it first has to be available. If it isn't, commuters can't choose it as an alternative to driving.

Sounder and ST Express have been huge successes, but we need more than limited-stop buses and commuter rail.

Sound Transit system ridership will undoubtedly jump dramatically in 2009 when Central Link begins operating between Seattle Tacoma International Airport and Westlake Center in downtown Seattle.

What's so hard about helping homeowners?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a great editorial today calling on Speaker Frank Chopp to stop standing in the way of the Homeowner's Bill of Rights (SB 6385) which remains mired in the House Rules Committee.

The editorial links to my post from Sunday identifying seven Democrats who have sided with the BIAW against homeowners:
It's odd -- if not suspicious -- that a bill offering Washington homeowners the same protections as the state's condo owners is dying for the second year in a row. Senate Bill 6385 boils down the builder's responsibility to a warranty, and allows builders the chance to repair damage before anyone goes to court.

So why is Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp yet again killing a bill that would protect this state's homeowners from being on the hook for shoddy construction? It doesn't look good that Chopp has friends at the Building Industry Association of Washington, the bill's main opponent (BIAW executive VP Tom McCabe said he'd love to see Chopp run for governor).

Chopp worries (though he's unable to definitively say how or if) the bill might raise the cost of housing development and contractor insurance rates.
Chopp yesterday released his own "three point plan", which would: Create a new state agency (that would do what?), set up a task force to look at the issue (in other words, a study) and strengthen contractor licensing requirements (which sounds good but won't help families who have been stuck with repair bills for shoddy construction).

Why Chopp is taking the wraps off his own proposal less than seventy two hours before the session is to due to end is a mystery.

He could have done this in January.

Does he really expect the Senate to consider his proposal - which hasn't been introduced as a package of bills, hasn't had public hearings, and hasn't been vetted in committee - when he refused to let the House consider SB 6385 (which has been through the legislative process)?

The Speaker could have leveled with advocates of the Homeowner's Bill of Rights months ago and outlined his position, but he chose not to do so. He did not even release a statement about SB 6385 until after the cutoff on Friday despite intense public pressure in the hours leading up to the cutoff.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's news story about SB 6385 this morning quotes Chopp's deputy, Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, as saying:
The speaker is concerned because Weinstein's bill is all remedy-based and doesn't provide any prevention.
Representative Kessler, has it occurred to you and Speaker Chopp that SB 6385 is remedy-based for a reason? The Homeowner's Bill of Rights is a bill of rights! The whole idea is to have laws that protect innocent families who just want to live in a safe, properly constructed home!

Certainly, prevention is important, but there are people all over this state who are suffering and distraught because something went wrong with their house and the builder walked away from the situation, leaving the family to deal with the mess that the builder created. The law today provides no remedy at all, so those families have simply had to fend for themselves.

We've heard more depressing stories than we care to count. This is a real problem.

A home is the important asset most Washingtonians have. Our homes are where we sleep, prepare food, raise kids, heal when we're sick, enjoy the company of friends, and relax when not working. We shouldn't have to worry about our homes falling apart because of structural defects, or water intrusion, or toxic mold buildup caused by shoddy construction.

Requiring builders to stand behind their work is hardly unreasonable.

More than anything, we'd like to have a candid discussion about the effect Senate Bill 6385 would have if it were law today with the Speaker... but rather than agreeing to have that conversation, Chopp has countered with his own proposal, which doesn't provide any relief for victimized homeowners.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mississippi: another one for Obama

Well, Mississippi's precinct reporting stands at 97%, as of this writing, and to no one's great surprise this state goes firmly into Barack Obama's win column. Right now the vote is breaking about 60% / 37% in his favor.

I wonder who the other three percent voted for.

This gives a 17 / 11 delegate split out of the state's 33 delegates, with 5 remaining to be allocated, so expect these numbers to change.

What really gets my head spinning is Mississippi's rather convoluted process. Everybody gave a collective eyebrow-raise at the complexity and confusion of the "Texas two-step," but it seems that Mississippi goes them one better. The state splits its primary election up into six sub-elections, to which a subset of the state's 33 delegates are allocated. There are then percentage ranges for the vote totals which yield different delegate splits.

I don't claim to understand it all--I live in Washington so I guess I don't really have to--fortunately DailyKos contributor PocketNines does, and has been patient enough to explain it for the rest of us. [Update: something screwy happened to the link before. It's fixed now]

At least it sounds like Mississippi voters only have to go to one voting place and vote one time, which I suppose is an advantage over Texas' system.

Final filing day in Oregon, new endorsements for Merkley and Novick

Today marks the end of the filing period for public office in the Beaver State, according to the Oregon Secretary of State's office, which will oversee the May 20th primary election in just two months.

Oregonians will choose party nominees for statewide offices as well as cast a vote in the presidential contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Remarking on the close of filing period, Oregon Democratic Chair Meredith Wood (who has done a terrific job building the state party) declared:
2008 just keeps getting better. We are so excited to have so many qualified candidates running up and down the ballot. We are going to unseat Gordon Smith and replace him with someone who will fight for working families, not the special interests.

We will reject John McCain and his pledge to continue President Bush’s failed policies and we will increase our majorities in Salem and Washington, D.C.

Democrats are running to strengthen the economy, responsibly exit Iraq, increase access to quality health care and ensure government works for working families. Today is a great start.
Meanwhile, the two main candidates for U.S. Senate in Oregon - Jeff Merkley, currently Speaker of the state House, and Steve Novick, a longtime activist - have each picked up important endorsements in the fast few days.

Novick has been endorsed by former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, who served from 1995 through 2003 and is a widely respected leader. Novick has also been endorsed by the Oregon Education Association (OEA).

Jeff Merkley has been endorsed by the 50,000+ strong SEIU local in Oregon. He already has the support of the state's UFCW local and the AFL-CIO, along with a very long list of mayors, state representatives and senators, and county commissioners - plus Oregon's current governor, Ted Kulongoski.

Oregon's netroots community appears to be split between the two candidates. Passionately so, as a matter of fact.

Kari Chisholm, who runs BlueOregon and the political technology firm Mandate Media, works for Merkley (the campaign is one of his clients).

So does the exceptionally talented Carla Axtman, who used to write at Preemptive Karma and is a two-time David Neiwert Award recipient (we give out the awards each year to recognize accomplishments in the regional progressive blogosphere). Merkley hired her as netroots coordinator shortly after making up his mind for run for U.S. Senate last summer.

As for Novick, he probably doesn't have a stronger netroots supporter than torridjoe (TJ) of Loaded Orygun, also a two-time Neiwert Award winner and formerly of Also Also. Novick also has the support of Charlie Burr, one of BlueOregon's editors (it has two others, including Kari Chisholm) and Terry Olson.

Comment threads on posts about the Democratic primary can get rather heated, especially at BlueOregon, the state's most widely read progressive blog, where seven of the contributors support Novick and nine support Merkley. Today, Novick's campaign manager, Jake Weigler, declared in a guest post there that he's had it with the site, which he labeled a "rigged game". Responding to Weigler's criticism, Kari asserted that Blue Oregon had published "every single guest column submitted to us by Steve Novick or his campaign staff. That's exactly one."

Reading through some of these comment threads makes me feel like some of the differences I have with other Washington Democrats are pretty trivial.

We urge both the Merkley and Novick camps to spend as much time as possible talking about their own candidate's values, qualifications, and positions - not attempting to tear each other down.

There's nothing wrong with a spirited contest, but what good can come from a destructive fight between progressives? Nothing, that's what.

Speaker Chopp vs. Speaker Chopp?

Earlier today I was reading over Speaker Frank Chopp's statement that he sent out about the Homeowner's Bill of Rights last Friday (shortly after the bill cutoff) and noticed that it wasn't consistent with what The Olympian printed for their story on SB 6385 that ran on Saturday. Read on to see what I'm talking about.

Speaker Frank Chopp (statement):
I want to see protections for homeowners, but I want the right protections. The current proposal has come a long way toward common sense solutions, but there are unanswered questions relating to how it would apply in many situations.

There are related issues that can move forward. The House has passed a contractor license bill that will lead to greater accountability and significantly raise standards for homebuilders and subcontractors.

This is a serious policy discussion that has involved many members of my caucus, and it is my sense that the home warranty legislation, in its current form, would not pass a vote on the floor.
....vs. Speaker Frank Chopp (The Olympian):
In an attempt to find a compromise this year, Democratic Rep. Pat Lantz amended the bill to copy the buyer-protections in a 1990 condo law, which later was amended to deal with insurance problems. But many Republican lawmakers and the BIAW raised objections to Lantz's approach, too.

Chopp said it is his "sense" that the bill in its present form could pass in the House.
Emphasis is mine in both places.

Of course, whatever the Speaker's "sense" is, it's probably correct, because few House Democrats are going to vote for something the Speaker tells them not to vote for. This is why we have concentrated our lobbying efforts on the Speaker, asking him to change his position (though we have also repeatedly asked readers to contact their own representatives). Yes, Frank Chopp can be overruled by his caucus, but it rarely happens. House Democrats trust him as a leader.

If the Speaker allowed the bill to go to the floor and requested that his caucus vote it down, it probably would be defeated. On the other hand, if he were neutral and allowed the bill to stand on its own merits before the House, we are confident that it would pass with plenty of Democratic support.

So what's the deal with the excerpts above? Did The Olympian get it wrong? Or is Frank Chopp saying different things? I have to believe it's The Olympian, because the Speaker has at least been consistent in one respect: he won't answer our questions about the "unanswered questions" he says he has with SB 6385.

His statement last Friday contained no specific critique of the amended bill recommended by the Judiciary Committee.

Nor did his comment for KOMO TV's story.

We continue to be told the bill needs to be improved, but we're not told how.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Noteworthy accomplishments in Olympia from the 2008 legislative session

We've spent quite a bit of time recently championing Senate Bill 6385 (the Homeowner's Bill of Rights) which is still stuck in the House Rules Committee, but we'd be remiss not to mention all the great legislation that has successfully made it through the Legislature and is on its way to the Governor's desk or will be shortly. We are grateful to Majority Leader Brown and Speaker Chopp for their efforts to make the most of a short session in a presidential election year.

Without further ado, here is a comprehensive breakdown of noteworthy accomplishments from the session, organized by topic.

Transportation. Although the Legislature did not consider Geoff Simpson's excellent bill to give Sound Transit back the authority to levy vehicle fees (which taxpayers prefer over other revenue sources, like the sales tax) a counterproductive transportation governance bill sponsored by Senator Haugen was defeated in committee, and Republican attempts to prevent Sound Transit from going to the ballot in 2008 were thwarted by Democrats. Thanks to Senator Ed Murray and Representative Simpson for defending Sound Transit.

Nondiscrimination. A huge kudos to the Legislature for passing House Bill 3104, which expands domestic partnership rights. Once the law takes effect, gay couples will be able to share bank accounts, hold property together, and enjoy immunity from testifying against each other in a court of law. A round of applause goes to Representative Jamie Pedersen for sponsoring this bill, and to Equal Rights Washington for rallying public support.

Our Environment. The Priorities for a Healthy Washington coalition, which includes nearly every major environmental organization in the state, is poised to have another very successful year.

As of today, all four of the priority bills have passed the Legislature and are on their way to the Governor (or will be shortly). The four priorities include:

  • Climate Action and Green Jobs: Creates a structure and timeline for implementing the state’s global warming pollution reduction goals as well as a program to prepare Washington workers for good jobs in the clean energy economy, providing pathways out of poverty for lower-income communities.
  • Local Solutions to Global Warming: Requires the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development to provide municpalities with a tool to measure greenhouse gas emissions and establishes a competitive grant program to give funds to municipalities that are implementing ideas to fight the climate crisis.
  • Evergreen Cities: Ensures state support for urban forestry management that keeps our cities green through the retention and planting of trees.
  • Local Farms, Healthy Kids: Brings school districts and nearby farms together by easing restrictions that currently make it difficult for school kitchens to buy locally grown food.
Thanks to the prime sponsors of all four bills: Representatives Dunshee and Kagi and Senators Marr and Hatfield. Thanks also to Representatives Dave Upthegrove and Sharon Nelson for their hard work in the House.

Healthcare. Acting to protect the health of Washington children, the Legislature has passed HB 2647, which makes it illegal for any manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer to sell or distribute toys with toxic chemicals in them, effective July 1st, 2009. The Senate improved the bill last week and the House agreed to the changes earlier today. Thanks to Representative Dickerson for sponsoring the bill. Credit also goes to the Washington Toxics Coalition for keeping this issue on the front burner.

Consumer Protection. While we still need a homeowner's bill of rights, the Legislature has made huge strides to reform mortgage lending. Several critical bills are on their way out of the statehouse already or will be within hours.
  • SB 6381 establishes a fiduciary duties for mortgage brokers, ensuring that they look out for the interest of borrowers - a responsibility that other professionals (including accountants, realtors, and lawyers) already have. The bill was toned down a bit in the House, but the language is still strong, and the Senate concurred with the House amendments today. It enjoyed broad support in both houses.
  • SB 6471 does away with a loophole between federal and state jurisdiction that allowed several hundred mortgage brokers to operate without any regulation or public oversight. When the bill takes efefct, all brokers will be regulated by the State Department of Financial Institutions. It is on its way to the Governor, who will be signing it into law soon.
  • HB 2770 sets up limits on pre-payment penalties and forbids brokers from tricking unwary borrowers into accepting a subprime loan when they know the borrower qualifies for a lower interest loan. This bill is also on its way to Gregoire, who will be adding her signature shortly.
  • SB 6711 awards financial assistance to families who are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. The amount of money budgeted is small (only $250,000) but it will still rescue some Washingtonians who are in trouble. The state Senate concurred with the House's amendments today.
  • SB 6272 expands financial literacy through education and counseling to promote greater homeownership security. It appropriates $1.5 million towards that purpose. Governor Gregoire signed the bill on February 11th. It took effect immediately.
  • HB 2791 will put a stop to scammers who are trying to take advantage of families by falsely promising a way to rescue them from foreclosure. The bill unanimously passed the House and was amended in the Senate. On Friday, the House refused to accept the Senate's amendment and asked the other chamber to recede the revisions. The two chambers have until Thursday to resolve their differences.
A big thanks to Senator Brian Weinstein for his tireless work on many of these bills. Props also to Representatives Phyllis Kenney and Steve Kirby for helping shepard legislation through the House.

Cheers for the Statewide Poverty Action network and the Alliance Against Predatory Lending for fighting to strengthen consumer protection.


Clean Campaigns. SB 5278 allows municipal governments to ask voters to approve public campaign financing systems for local races. Thanks to Senator Franklin for prime sponsoring the bill, and congratulations to our friends at WashClean for organizing the grassroots lobbying effort to get this passed.

Economic Security. The Legislature will soon take an important step towards a fairer tax structure with the passage of the Working Families Credit, which decreases taxes for lower income Evergreen State residents by adding ten percent to their federal earned income tax credit refund.

The idea, which has been adopted in many other states, was embraced by the Washington Tax Fairness Coalition (of which NPI's Permanent Defense is a member) and pitched by the Budget & Policy Center. Because the credit is funded by the surplus, the House has amended the proposal to allow legislators to withhold it in the future. The Senate has not accepted the amendment but is expected to.

(The projected cost to the state is $270 million over the next four years).

NPI will be urging Legislature to repeal unnecessary, outdated special interest tax loopholes and exemptions in 2009 - and reallocate some of the savings to permanently fund the Working Families Credit.

Thanks to Senator Craig Pridemore (Senate prime sponsor), Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, and Speaker Chopp for their enthusiasm.

The Legislature is also addressing workers' compensation benefits. HB 3139 would allow workers to receive the financial and medical benefits they are supposed to get when the Department of Labor & Industries decides they are in need. The purpose of the law is to allow workers to heal in comfort before returning to the workforce. But unfortunately, the law currently allows self-insured employers to suspend benefits to workers simply because they decide to appeal L&I's decision.

HB 3139 would tackle this problem by giving the Department of Labor & Industries authority to help self-insured employers recoup overpayments.

It will encourage employers to file their appeals quickly and not prolong the process by delaying resolution. It's an idea that has the potential to save employers and workers tens of millions of dollars.

The House and Senate haven't quite agreed on specifics yet. The Senate amended the bill but the House has refused to accept the changes, so a small group of representatives and senators will meet in conference committee to hammer out a compromise that both chambers can accept.

The Washington State Labor Council deserves recognition for helping with this bill, which was prime sponsored by Representative Conway.

Municipal Broadband. An effort to coordinate the development and deployment of high-speed internet statewide (SB 6438) is nearing completion. The bill, which NPI strongly supports, requires the Department of Information Services to work with a nonprofit organization to-be-named to implement a strategy that would improve access to broadband.

The Senate on Friday refused to accept the House amendments and has requested that the House drop the changes. Again, the chambers must resolve their differences by Thursday, the scheduled end of the legislative session.

Thanks to Senators Kohl-Welles, Rockefeller, and Oemig for taking the lead on SB 6438 in the state Senate.

Affordable Housing. Finally, the state is going to something about condominium conversions. HB 2014, sponsored by Representative Maralyn Chase, requires landlords to provide tenants with relocation compensation and extends the time period that tenants have to move out to a hundred and twenty days. It also forbids landlords from starting construction during that time. Finally, it allows cities to restrict the number of condominium conversions.

The House agreed to Senate amendments on Friday, so the bill is now on its way to the desk of Governor Chris Gregoire.

Lastly, there were a few outstanding bills that passed one chamber but couldn't get through the other. These include Senate Bill 6777 (protecting Maury Island), House Bill 2775 (bonuses for National Board certified teachers), and SB 6380 (enhancing school library programs).

Readers, if you know of something that we missed, please leave a comment.

Eat your greens

We're big proponents of organic food, organic farming and eating locally-produced food versus imported foods, so we very pleased to discover this excellent article in th March issue of the PCC Natural Markets Sound Consumer (the newsletter of the Puget Consumers' Cooperative) on how we can all learn to eat green (in addition to eating our greens!) as well as shop and eat with an eye towards minimizing the carbon footprint of our diets.

Among all the excellent reasons to eat organic foods, reducing one's carbon footprint is probaby the most important reason with respect to taking the long view of life here on Earth. The article has lots of good suggestions, but here is a short list of several important ones I'd like to call attention to:
  • Conventional farming uses a lot of fossil fuels and petroleum derived fertilizers and pesticides. Organic farming omits the non-organic fertilizers and pesticides, and tends to rely more on labor than large machinery to get the job done. Sadly, "[conventional food] is marinated in crude oil by the time it reaches our table."
  • Organic farmers, many of whom have continued on the family legacy, use practices such as cover cropping and composting that act as carbon sinks.
  • Free-range livestock is healthier, and eats foods better suited to their digestive systems (e.g. grass instead of highly formulated cattle feed). Consequently, those animals produce significantly less methane than their industrially-farmed counterparts. This matters because, as greenhouse gases go, methane is twenty one times more effective at keeping heat in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
  • Foods in its original, natural form represent a lower carbon footprint because less energy is involved in processing and packaging. For example, an apple has a lower carbon footprint than an apple's worth of applesauce.
  • Waste not, want not: on average, we all need about 2,000 calories a day to be healthy. Yet, our food system produces and delivers about 4,000 calories a day per person across America. If that excess doesn't go to our waistlines, it ends up in our landfills where it gets buried and decomposes anaerobically, a process which produces additional methane.
  • The best thing you can do is, of course, grow your own food. Not an easy job, but you can't get more organic or more local than something you grew yourself in your own backyard.
Finally, although the article mentions the Leopold Center report that introduced the concept of "food miles" to the debate on America's food system, it stops short of what we consider to be the logical next step: consumers taking the lead by demanding food-mile labeling (or even better, carbon footprint labeling) on groceries and other products.

No, that's not an easy request to satisfy when you take into account the complexity of our food production and distribution system.

But the complexity is exactly why we need such labeling: currently the environmental costs of that system are hidden.

It's time we made them explicit so all of us, when "voting with our dollars" at the grocery store, can make environmentally informed choices.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

MSNBC cancels Tucker Carlson's show

Ha, ha, ha, ha:
Insiders tell TVNewser Tucker Carlson's 6 PM ET show Tucker is getting the axe, but Carlson stays on as a political contributor to all MSNBC shows at least through the 2008 election. The official announcement, expected tomorrow, will include details about who will replace Tucker at 6 PM ET as well as other political programming additions. Sources say the network is going to beef up its schedule with more NBC News talent.

In recent days, Jossip, as well as other blogs, ratcheted up the talk that Tucker would be replaced "for a new project." In its 33-month run, Carlson's show has had two names, four time slots and multiple formats. At 6 PM ET, it builds on its Hardball lead-in on some days, but loses audience on others.
Let's hope the new project isn't a Don Imus Returns simulcast.

Another big change MSNBC could make to improve its lineup is to get rid of all the prison footage it shows after hours and on weekends.

More intelligent programming would be appreciated by those of us who already tune in to MSNBC to watch Keith Olbermann (host of Countdown) and Rachel Maddow (who is a regular contributor and analyst).

Seven key Democrats siding with the BIAW against homeowners

One of the reasons that advocating for the Homeowner's Bill of Rights has been so frustrating these last few days is that the handful of Democratic holdouts who are against the bill in the House (especially Speaker Chopp) have repeatedly told us, the traditional press, and supporters who have contacted them that they can't stand behind Senate Bill 6385 because there are "various aspects" or "issues" that "still need to be worked out".

Though we've asked, neither Chopp nor his fellow holdouts (who refuse to commit to voting yes) have identified any problems or unanswered questions. If SB 6385 is so imperfect, what can be done to make it better? They haven't offered any specific suggestions. And it seems they have no intention of ever doing so, because they don't want a Homeowner's Bill of Rights passed into law.

They're refusing to work constructively with their fellow Democrats to get SB 6385 through the House and to the desk of Governor Chris Gregoire.

Before I identify the names of these representatives and document their opposition to SB 6385, I want to say that it pains us to have to do this. We don't enjoy criticizing or admonishing Democrats in public - at all.

We at the Northwest Progressive Institute are a very tolerant, pragmatic, and patient group of people. We respect the importance of political strategy, we understand the deliberative nature of the legislative process, and we appreciate the difficulties of the job of lawmaker.

But there's a point at which our patience runs out. In particular, we have zero tolerance for (1) Democrats who baselessly attack other Democrats, (2) Democrats who cave to Tim Eyman, and (3) Democrats who allow themselves to be used by the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW).

Tim Eyman and the BIAW are the two of the most uncompromising right wing political forces in Washington State. They're not interested in a meaningful exchange of ideas or the common good. They are greedy, they are selfish, and they give no quarter. Their meanness knows no bounds.

They abhor progressive values and despise Democrats. They are against the American way. They don't care about democratic tradition or the rule of law.

They just want to win at any cost.

Remember this? Or this? Or this?

In a recent newsletter, the BIAW called Governor Chris Gregoire "a heartless, power-hungry she-wolf who would eat her own young to get ahead".

These are people who are preparing to spend millions of dollars with the aim of destroying our state's Democratic majority and installing Dino Rossi as Governor. To say they are ruthless and aggressive is an understatement.

And yet we know that there are at least seven Democratic representatives in the state House who have foolishly sided with the BIAW and used their influence to block legislation the BIAW opposes, or at least pledged to vote against it. This includes SB 6385 - the Homeowner's Bill of Rights.

Here are the names and faces of these Democrats.

The BIAW Seven: Democrats Against SB 6385

Speaker Frank Chopp - 43rd District
Representatives Judy Clibborn and Fred Jarrett - 41st District
Representative Larry Springer - 45th District
Representatives Deborah Eddy and Ross Hunter - 48th District
Representative Mark Ericks - 1st District

Of all of these individuals, it is perhaps Judy Clibborn who has been the most honest about her position - though she hasn't hesitated to deceive her constituents by explaining her opposition to SB 6385 using a canned BIAW response filled with false assertions and lies.
From: Clibborn, Rep. Judy
Sent: Wednesday, March 05, 2008 2:48 PM
Subject: RE: Cause of action for negligent construction -SB 6385

This is a bad bill. I will do everything in my power to see that it does not get to the floor for a vote. It is currently in Rules and not eligible for a vote. IF it gets out, I will vote no.

Judy
The message speaks for itself. Judy Clibborn has allowed herself to be used as a tool of the BIAW. Rather than standing up for the people she's supposed to represent, she has sold herself to the other side.

The BIAW will undoubtedly reward Clibborn's loyalty with a check from its political action committee, the "Affordable Housing Council" - as it has done in the past:

11/06/2006: $700.00 from the WA AFFORDABLE HOUSING COUNCIL (general)
07/28/2006: $700.00 from the WA AFFORDABLE HOUSING COUNCIL (primary)
09/13/2004: $675.00 from the WA AFFORDABLE HOUSING COUNCIL (primary)
11/01/2004: $675.00 from the WA AFFORDABLE HOUSING COUNCIL (general)

At the same time, the BIAW will be working to ensure that Clibborn loses her Transportation Committee chairmanship by spending huge sums of money to help Republicans take control of Olympia. That is, after all, their agenda.

Perhaps it's no surprise that the BIAW has also maxed out to Deb Eddy ($1,400 for the 2006 cycle) and Fred Jarrett ($1,400 for the 2006 cycle; $675 in the 2004 cycle, $600 in the 2002 cycle, $500 in the 2000 cycle).

Additionally, the BIAW contributed $700 to Larry Springer's campaign on September 15th, 2006, and sent the same amount to Mark Ericks (July 20th, 2006) as well as Ross Hunter (September 19th, 2006).

Even Speaker Frank Chopp has been repaid for his years of friendship. The BIAW has sent him checks directly three times from its "Council" committee:

$700 on September 12th, 2006
$250 on September 9th, 2004
$600 on August 19th, 2002

If you're reading this in disbelief and thinking, maybe they've got it wrong - maybe the Affordable Housing Council is some other organization - let me assure you, this is indeed the BIAW. It's one of their many front groups, but at least the BIAW takes ownership of it on their own website:
BIAW and BIAW’s Political Action Committee, the Washington Affordable Housing Council, play an active role in Washington State elections, pouring a significant amount of time, energy and money into ensuring the election of pro-business and pro-housing candidates that support the building industry and the continued economic growth of the state.

Each year, BIAW offers its award winning campaign school seminar to candidates statewide interested in learning how to run a successful campaign. In addition, BIAW offers financial, research and planning assistance to pro-business and pro-housing candidates.
It's not just campaign contributions, either. According to Public Disclosure Commission records, the BIAW's Executive Vice President, Tom McCabe, took Chopp and Clibborn out to dinner at Ricardo's in Lacey on February 13th, 2007. And the BIAW has lavished praise on Chopp in public:
Chopp's stature has grown with his majority. He wields political clout arguably second only to the governor. He has built a coalition that includes traditional allies such as labor, teachers and environmentalists. And he has picked up surprising support deep in GOP territory.

"I'd like to see Frank Chopp run for governor," says Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, which has spent millions of dollars supporting conservative causes and Republican candidates. "I have a great deal of respect for him."
"I'd like to see Frank Chopp run for governor"!?

Chopp has in the past sharply denied cutting deals with the BIAW. But all the evidence we have suggests that that's just what he is doing.

Unfortunately, as Josh Feit noted last year, this isn't an isolated incident. There have been many ocassions where Chopp has let progressives down:
Despite their 62–36 supermajority in the state house and 32–17 supermajority in the state senate, the list of disappointments is lengthy.

The Democratic leadership has tabled or thwarted a number of no-brainer legislative items: a cap on payday-loan interest rates, a bill closing the gun-show loophole, a bill to keep tabs on corporate tax breaks by including those de facto expenditures in the budget, legislation preventing employers from holding "captive audience" anti-unionizing meetings, regulations requiring disclosure from pharmaceutical-industry lobbyists, an overall cap on CO2 emissions, tenant relocation assistance and a cap on condo conversions, legislation preventing strip-mining operations on Maury Island, protecting student free-speech rights, a homebuyers' protection bill, full funding for health-care workers in nursing homes, and a cool follow-up to the infamous $3.2 billion tax break Boeing got in 2003, making the money contingent on a requirement that the company doesn't engage in union busting.
Springer and Eddy have attempted to sound more practical in their replies to constituents than Clibborn has. They have tried to change the subject by bringing up legislation that they claim is better - HB 3349, which was cooked up by Representative Ericks in tandem with the BIAW.

HB 3349 would "provide a review of the need for residential contractor licensing." It does not guarantee that mistakes will be prevented and it does nothing to provide redress when mistakes occur.

That hasn't stopped Deb Eddy from claiming that it's just as good:
I'm still preferring that we do the sunrise review on contractors' licensing...HB 3349. There are three ways to approach problems in this area: licensing, regulations and private causes of action. I'd like to explore the other two, first [...] There are lots of other folks with serious questions about its [Senate Bill 6385] timeliness.
"A sunrise review of licensing" may sound lovely, but it doesn't help homeowners who need a legal remedy or assistance because they have no other options.

To be fair to Representative Eddy, though, she has also told NPI that "I'm not standing in the way of this bill!" And for that, we thank her. Even if she won't vote for it, at least she isn't trying to stop it from reaching the floor.

Ross Hunter, meanwhile, has dodged constituent questions about SB 6385 by claiming that he hasn't read the bill "because it hasn't appeared on the calendar". And of course it won't appear on the calendar until Speaker Chopp decides to let the bill through or he is forced to by the House Democratic caucus.

Eddy, Springer, Clibborn, Ericks, Hunter, Jarrett, and Chopp either don't understand the magnitude of the problem facing Washington homeowners or are deliberately choosing to ignore the convincing evidence that action is needed now.

To summarize the situation, consider that builders in the Evergreen State construct about 40,000 new homes each year.

An independent engineering inspection firm has estimated that seventeen percent of these - that's nearly a fifth! - have serious structural defects. That number doesn't account for water intrusion problems or other issues.

The typical repair is estimated at a whopping $25,000 just for those structural defects. Water damage, wet crawl spaces, and leaks add another $10,000 per house, bringing the total cost of the average repair to $35,000.

It all adds up to some $23 million a year, just for new homes. The market for remodels is even bigger - as is the percentage of problems.

Families throughout the state of Washington have suffered for years while the Legislature has done nothing. Read the stories for yourself:

Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Stories from Washingtonians
Series installments:

Part I: Thomas
Part II: Lela
Part III: Tanya
Part IV: Wheatley Family
Part V: Diana
Part VI: Terry
Part VII: Lin
Part VIII: Donald
Part IX: Jamie
Part X: Cooper Crest subdivision

If SB 6385 was brought before the floor of the House, it would easily pass and be on its way into law, despite the "no" votes of the BIAW Seven. Unfortunately, not all of them are just content to vote against the bill. We know at least Chopp and Clibborn have acted to prevent SB 6385 from going to a vote.

It's telling that the BIAW Seven haven't expressed any legitimate concerns with the bill. It's time that they were honest with their constituents and admitted the real reason they're opposing the Homeowner's Bill of Rights.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Obama wins Wyoming

Another win in the caucus column for Obama tonight as he takes Wyoming by a 61% to 38% margin.

So, when Hillary Clinton nets 9 delegates in two huge states where she should have ended Barack Obama's campaign, it's an upset. It changes the narrative. It proves she can handle the challenge. Never mind the fact that polls had her up by 20 points or more headed into Ohio and Texas. That's not relevant. Neither is her recent slime festival of Rovian attack ads.

As you see from this gem in the Chicago Tribune, when Obama wins a state like Wyoming by 20+ points and adds two delegates and propels him toward another state where he could widen the delegate lead, well, it's no big deal:
"We are thrilled with this near-split in delegates and are grateful to the people of Wyoming for their support," Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams said in a statement.

Recap: Several million people vote in Texas and Ohio where a total of 334 delegates were at stake, and she posts a net gain of 9 (still waiting on the Texas caucus results, which could reduce this total) for the night, and that's immensely important, even when they're still down by 100 or more delegates; but Obama wins 7 of 12 delegates in Wyoming, and that's a near-split in delegates.

Interesting weighting system ya got there, Maggie.

Spin? That's a centrifuge.

In Brief - March 8th, 2008

Since Clinton hasn't thrown in the towel yet, I'll go ahead and write up this thought that's been banging around in my head for a while. One thing that has really struck me about the difference between the Clinton and Obama campaigns has been the bottom-up vs. top-down strategies employed by both. Clinton's campaign has been very much top-down, in the style of a traditional 1900s political campaign. Meanwhile, Obama is running the first real 21st century campaign that wholly embraces and encourages grassroots messaging. Just count the number of ways Obama's campaign website has for making it really easy for people get involved.

Obama recognizes that today, people--particularly in younger demographics--don't get most of their news and information from top-down corporate media. They get it from the internet. And if the internet is good at anything, it is good at letting groups of like-minded people find each other and collaborate in truly bottom-up, grassroots ways. In short, Clinton's campaign is by her and for her, while Obama's campaign is increasingly becoming by the people, for the people.

Nothing shows this better than the flurry of candidate fan videos floating around on YouTube right now. Both candidates have fans out there making videos, but it is terribly revealing to compare the energy and content of the pro-Obama videos with the pro-Clinton ones.

The best of Obama's fan videos--Yes We Can, Si Se Puede, We Are The Ones--show spirit, emotion, raw honesty, and have their own non-campaign-vetted messages as to why these people want to elect Obama. The best of the Clinton videos (that I could find anyway) are, well, lackluster by comparison: catchy songs with photo-montages. They don't really say anything. They don't energize and motivate like Obama's fan videos do. Oh, and the YouTube view counter numbers on these videos speak volumes, too.

Clinton's campaign is fundamentally about her. Obama's campaign is about ordinary folks like Mrs. Bennett of South Carolina. The difference couldn't be more stark. If you have three and a half minutes to spare--which I'll bet you do if you're reading this at all--give it a look. It'll brighten your day.

Around the Northwest

  • The Seattle Times has this story about Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond, which also gives some nice insight into the complexities of our region's transportation problems.
  • Idaho Legislator Mike Burkett of Boise is getting smart: engaging the Idaho business community now on support for his forthcoming efforts to spend tobacco settlement money on early childhood education. Kudos to Burkett for recognizing what all the data suggests: that bolstering pre-k education is one of the most effective, and least costly, ways to increase high school graduation rates and reduce young-adult criminal behavior and incarceration rates.
  • Salem, Oregon to convert a century-old railroad bridge into a pedestrian and bicycle path. My hometown of Redmond, WA has at least one such antiquated rail bridge that could surely serve a similar purpose.
Around the Nation

  • Traditional media finally admits that Obama actually won the "Texas two-step" primary/caucus thing-a-majig.
  • More and more common in cities such as Redmond and San Francisco is curbside recycling of yard and household food waste. That stuff gets hauled off to be composted, turned into fertilizer for both consumer and commercial agriculture use. Blogger Janice Sitton of Good Green Graces takes us on a tour of a commercial composting operation to show us what happens to our leftover organic matter.
  • Bush administration has spent 50 to 60 times (that's 5000 to 6000%) more on the Iraq war than initially promised. Now, a Nobel Laureate economist (no, not Jed Bartlett) has shown this to be a prime cause in the home mortgage crisis and the slowing U.S. economy in general. Nice work and all, but, um, "no duh?"
  • Back in 2004, San Francisco was all in the news for deciding to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In the brief window of time this was going on, they issued some 4000 such licenses. Those marriages were later struck down. Now the California Supreme Court is hearing an appeal to decide who has the right to decide that gay marriage is ok--California's citizens or its legislature. The court will rule within 90 days.
  • Here's a great idea to secure the future of freedom and liberty in America: teach our children early that paranoia and fearing other citizens is not only perfectly normal, but also fun!
  • Gary Gygax, inventor of Dungeons & Dragons, has died at age 69. There are probably three seminally relevant shapers of geek culture: Star Wars creator George Lucas, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, and Gary Gygax. Wil Wheaton, actor most famous for playing Westley Crusher on Star Trek, the Next Generation, brings us this touching rememberance of D&D's impact on his life. The Associated Press has the news, too, but Wil's version comes infinitely closer to capturing the sentiment of what D&D means to geeks like me.

Around the World

  • Clever dude invents a wave-powered boat, plans to sail it across the Pacific. Let's see that technology on container ships, to start addressing the carbon footprint of our global economy.
    Death toll in Thursday's double-bombing in a Baghdad shopping district climbs to 68. I'm sorry, Senator McCain, but it doesn't sound to me like things are really getting better over there.
  • Palestinian Gunman kills eight Jewish seminary students in Jerusalem. For literally as long as I can remember, Israel and Palestine have been fighting. When is it going to stop? When will they decide that their children's lives and safety are more important than whatever issues they're so mortally unwilling to yield on? Both sides say they want peace, but do they? Really? It doesn't look like they do, and they sure don't act like they do. Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan are headed there to "ease tensions." I wish them all the luck in the world.

The Lighter Side

  • If you saw An Inconvenient Truth you may recall that one of Al Gore's early points was to quote Mark Twain: what gets us in trouble is not what we know, but "what we know that just ain't so." Namely, the assumption that Earth is so big we puny humans can't really mess it up. Here, underscoring that message in a visually obvious terms, is an image showing just how small the world's atmosphere and oceans really are. I'd like to see one with another little bubble showing how much CO2 humans have added since the industrial revolution.
  • And speaking of keeping things in the proper perspective, here's a shot of the Earth and Moon, together taken by a camera aboard the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter from 142 million miles away. It's a beautiful image and makes petty squabbles over stuff like who's in charge of this or that particular pixel seem sort of silly.
  • How NOT to do green design. This one is really hilarious, and a good reminder that as technology solutions to our energy and climate crisis start coming at us faster and faster, we'll all need to keep our skepticism dials cranked up to 11.
  • Normally I'm not a big fan of military technology, but I honestly think that technology like this, if applied broadly, would have a hugely positive effect on peace efforts worldwide.
  • This cracked me up, so I had to share. 'Mod' Star Wars: a quick peek at what Star Wars might have looked like had it been released in the hep-cat '60s, rather than the disco '70s.
  • Stephen Colbert and John Legend cover Michael Jackson's The Girl is Mine. Paying attention to the background visuals, I have to say "yes, yes she is." And we need to start treating her with dignity and respect, to give her meaning again.

This Day in History

  • 1618: Kepler discovers the third law of planetary motion, without which we wouldn't today be getting pretty pictures like that Earth/Moon portrait linked above.
  • 1765: The British House of Lords passes the Stamp Act--the source of colonial "taxation without representation" ire--which pretty much pushed the colonies into revolution eleven years later. Thanks, House of Lords! We owe you one.
  • 1884: Susan B. Anthony argues for Women's Suffrage before the House Judiciary Committee. Born in 1820, she spent 58 of her 86 years engaged in the fight for an equal right to vote. She died in 1906, 14 years short of seeing her dream realized; the 19th Amendment was finally passed five months after her 100th birthday.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bill cutoff deadline passes, but SB 6385 can still be revived

Five o'clock has come and gone and SB 6385, this year's Homeowner's Bill of Rights legislation, is still stuck in the House Rules Committee thanks to Speaker Frank Chopp, who has imprisoned it there and kept it from going to the floor so as not to offend Olympia's meanest, most uncompromising right wing lobby - the Building Industry of Association of Washington, which is preparing to spend millions to attack Governor Gregoire and Democrats in this fall's presidential elections.

Chopp has refused to identify any specific problems or concerns with the bill, which was carefully rewritten by Judiciary Committee Chair Pat Lantz to give homeowners the same protections that condo buyers already enjoy.

If the Speaker believes he has weathered the storm, he is mistaken. Advocates of the Homeowner's Bill of Rights aren't going anywhere:
Proponents of Substitute Senate Bill 6385’s homeowner protections have not given up, including Democratic Sen. Brian Weinstein of Mercer Island, who said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, is going to keep discussing it with the speaker.

Gov. Chris Gregoire also supports SSB 6385, despite its strong opposition by the Building Industry Association of Washington and its allies in the insurance industry.

Weinstein speculated that some House bills could be hung up in the Senate if his measure doesn’t move before today’s 5 p.m. cutoff. Although it’s hard to revive a bill that dies at cutoff, it can be done — and he suggested some lawmakers could ask Gregoire to keep lawmakers in town until the measure is passed.

The session is scheduled to end Thursday.
We may not be throwing in the towel, but we're very disappointed with the Speaker today. We're tired of his excuses and his stalling. Families are suffering and Chopp is singlehandedly standing in the way of their relief - as he did last year.

Instead of discussing this important issue today, the House debated the merits of beer and wine tasting in grocery stores.

Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Stories from Washingtonians (Part X)

Welcome to the tenth and final installment in our special series counting down the hours remaining until Friday evening's 5 PM bill cutoff deadline, when this year's Homeowner's Bill of Rights legislation will expire unless voted on by the state House of Representatives. Each post in this series features stories from homeowners who have been victimized by negligent construction.

These are stories of Evergreen State families who have, through no fault of their own, lost their life’s savings, their health, their ability to finance their children’s college education, and their prosperity because there was a defect or problem with the workmanship of their home.

Countdown Clock: 1 Hour, 23 Minutes Remaining Until Cutoff

Senate Bill 6385, if enacted, would give the same rights that condo owners already enjoy to homeowners. It provides families with a recourse if their most valuable investment is damaged by contractor negligence. Under current law, homeowners get stuck with the bill for shoddy workmanship. There is no warranty, no protections in place to help those who have been victimized.

We urge you to join us in calling on House Speaker Frank Chopp to bring SB 6385 to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. If SB 6385 gets to the floor it is sure to pass - and Governor Chris Gregoire is ready to sign it.

But it has to make it out of the Rules Committee first.

We conclude our countdown with the story of a beleaguered West Olympia neighborhood.
The sad story of the one hundred and forty home Cooper Crest subdivision in West Olympia is enough in itself to highlight the need for a Homeowners’ Bill of Rights.

Homebuilding increasingly occurs in areas formerly deemed unsuitable for dwellings. In this steep-sloped neighborhood, this water retention pond overflowed – causing the evacuation of one home. Foundations are overrun with water.

Cooper Crest Backyard
Because this neighborhood is steep-sloped, backyards are slip-sliding away. Tarps, stakes, and sandbags do not make very attractive play areas for kids. Because, as often happens in new construction, the soil is sterile (not topsoil), it may never grow grass and is impermeable.

Water runs off the tarps and goes into the forest below. Water runs under houses. Water penetration problems are common these days.

Cooper Crest Street Sign Askew
This street sign is not the only thing that is askew in the Cooper Crest subdivision and in new subdivisions across the state where homeowners lack recourse against negligent builders. And builder-supplied “warranties” are generally meaningless contracts of adhesion.
Here's how to get in touch with Speaker Chopp:

District Office:
444 NE Ravenna Blvd, Suite 106
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 729-3223

Olympia Office:
339C Legislative Bldg.
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7920

Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-562-6000
TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-635-9993
Email: chopp.frank (at) leg.wa.gov

Beer and wine tasting is more important than the Homeowner's Bill of Rights!

THIS is what the Washington House of Representatives is working on in the final hours before bill cutoff?
The bill giving new-home buyers a warranty against construction defects is near death in the House today, apparent victim of House Speaker Frank Chopp’s opposition for the second year in a row.

Chopp’s aides said Thursday evening the bill wasn’t dead and that he had questions he wanted to discuss with bill sponsors. But House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler said today the measure giving consumer protections of four to 10 years is doomed.

“Frankly, he doesn’t think it’s cooked. So I don’t think it’s coming out,” Kessler, a Hoquiam Democrat, said of the speaker.

Kessler said a dozen other bills including one to allow beer and wine tasting in 30 grocery stores are expected to move instead today.
This is an outrage and a slap in the face to the thousands of Washington families who have suffered, lost their health, their ability to put their children through college, and their life's savings because of serious defects with their homes.

I think a simple quote from United States Senator Patty Murray from her 2004 reelection campaign will suffice to describe the attitude of House leadership.

They've got the wrong priorities.

Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Stories from Washingtonians (Part IX)

Welcome to the ninth installment in our special series counting down the hours remaining until Friday evening's 5 PM bill cutoff deadline, when this year's Homeowner's Bill of Rights legislation will expire unless voted on by the state House of Representatives. Each post in this series features stories from homeowners who have been victimized by negligent construction.

These are stories of Evergreen State families who have, through no fault of their own, lost their life’s savings, their health, their ability to finance their children’s college education, and their prosperity because there was a defect or problem with the workmanship of their home.

Countdown Clock: 5 Hours, 32 Minutes Remaining Until Cutoff

Senate Bill 6385, if enacted, would give the same rights that condo owners already enjoy to homeowners. It provides families with a recourse if their most valuable investment is damaged by contractor negligence. Under current law, homeowners get stuck with the bill for shoddy workmanship. There is no warranty, no protections in place to help those who have been victimized.

We urge you to join us in calling on House Speaker Frank Chopp to bring SB 6385 to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. If SB 6385 gets to the floor it is sure to pass - and Governor Chris Gregoire is ready to sign it.

But it has to make it out of the Rules Committee first.

We continue our countdown with Jamie's story.
I moved into my finally finished Reality Home a hundred and eighty days after they poured the foundation on March 25th, 2005.

We were very excited and happy to be in our new home. Then the problems arrived several months later. The dry wall company, which is owned by one of the owners of Reality Homes did a poor job on our sheet rock.

We had ridges all over our ceilings and on the walls. We fought, fought, and fought with them to fix it and they just finished with it September 2006.

We also have many squeaks in the floor and they have been out several times, but nothing is improving. They will not even call us back now. Twenty months after moving in, we are still left with things to be fixed. My recommendation is not to build with Reality Homes and pay the little extra money and go with a another builder.
Here's how to get in touch with Speaker Chopp:

District Office:
444 NE Ravenna Blvd, Suite 106
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 729-3223

Olympia Office:
339C Legislative Bldg.
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7920

Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-562-6000
TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-635-9993
Email: chopp.frank (at) leg.wa.gov

Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Stories from Washingtonians (Part VIII)

Welcome to the eighth installment in our special series counting down the hours remaining until Friday evening's 5 PM bill cutoff deadline, when this year's Homeowner's Bill of Rights legislation will expire unless voted on by the state House of Representatives. Each post in this series features stories from homeowners who have been victimized by negligent construction.

These are stories of Evergreen State families who have, through no fault of their own, lost their life’s savings, their health, their ability to finance their children’s college education, and their prosperity because there was a defect or problem with the workmanship of their home.

Countdown Clock: 9 Hours, 46 Minutes Remaining Until Cutoff

Senate Bill 6385, if enacted, would give the same rights that condo owners already enjoy to homeowners. It provides families with a recourse if their most valuable investment is damaged by contractor negligence. Under current law, homeowners get stuck with the bill for shoddy workmanship. There is no warranty, no protections in place to help those who have been victimized.

We urge you to join us in calling on House Speaker Frank Chopp to bring SB 6385 to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. If SB 6385 gets to the floor it is sure to pass - and Governor Chris Gregoire is ready to sign it.

But it has to make it out of the Rules Committee first.

We continue our countdown with Donald's story.
I will start at the beginning of my Reality experience and just state the facts from my lawsuit for all to see. First my contract was altered by [a representative of] Reality without my knowledge or approval and this eventually led to their price increase of $9,747.00 (with no justification, none). Second, the drawings that Reality based my home on were not designed to meet even minimum Building Code Requirements, and even if they had been, Reality did not follow those drawings, such as using 12'-0 floor joists instead of the drawing specified 34'-0 joists.

The framing subcontractor framed my home but was not licensed through Washington State L&I. Reality said they "didn't know", but one has to ask,why not? Third, they failed framing inspection four times over the next three month period, and finally "terminated the contract" with the home still in a failed condition.

I had to quit my job in the Seattle area and move to Grapeview and finish the home myself (along with my son, Brian). Less than a month after they left the site, they filed a lien on my home and then finally file a lawsuit as if I was the guilty party that breached the contract.

I can tell all that are interested to not sign a contract with Reality in which "Mandatory Arbitration" is a requirement. I think you will lose every time! And if you are smart you will run not just walk away from Reality's contract in general!
Here's how to get in touch with Speaker Chopp:

District Office:
444 NE Ravenna Blvd, Suite 106
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 729-3223

Olympia Office:
339C Legislative Bldg.
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7920

Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-562-6000
TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-635-9993
Email: chopp.frank (at) leg.wa.gov

Hillary Clinton's empty rhetoric and deceit

It is becoming increasingly apparent to Democrats across the country that Hillary Clinton is engaged in a campaign to win the Democratic nomination at any cost, and that she cares not for the future of the party or the progressive movement, but only the fulfillment of her own ambition to become president.

Clinton herself is deceiving and misleading voters, and engaging in the very same kind of behavior that she has unfairly condemned Barack Obama for.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, then please follow along in a quick rhetorical exercise of Then & Now. You'll see what I mean.

All the text in bold that follows is my emphasis.

Then:
"Well, I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. That's, I think, a very simple proposition...And, you know, lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox."

- Hillary Clinton, February 21st, 2008 (Texas Democratic Debate)
Now:
"This is America. And we do believe you can be anything you want to be. And we want our sons and our daughters to dream big. I have big dreams for America’s future. The question is not whether we can fulfill those dreams; it’s whether we will. And here’s our answer: Yes, we will."

- Hillary Clinton, March 4th, 2008 (Ohio Victory Speech)
Then:
"Well, you know, these are the rules that are followed, and you know, I think that it will sort itself out. I'm not worried about that. We will have a nominee, and we will have a unified Democratic Party, and we will go on to victory in November...And, you know, no matter what happens in this contest -- and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored."

- Hillary Clinton, February 21st, 2008 (Texas Democratic Debate)
Now:
"I have a lifetime of experience I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience he will bring to the White House...And Senator Obama has a speech he made in 2002."

- Hillary Clinton, March 3rd, 2008 (to reporters)

“I think that since we now know Sen. (John) McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election. We all know that. And I think it's imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold...I believe that I've done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you’ll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy."

- Hillary Clinton, March 6th, 2008 (to reporters)
Then:
"If you come to Ohio and you go give speeches that are very critical of NAFTA... and then we find out that your chief economic adviser has gone to a foreign government and basically done the old wink-wink – 'Don’t pay any attention, this is just political rhetoric' -- I think that raises serious questions."

Peering at the 50 or so reporters packed into a small hotel conference room here, she added: "I would ask you to look at this story and substitute my name for Sen. Obama’s name and see what you would do with this story...Just ask yourself [what you would do] if some of my advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments."

- Hillary Clinton, March 3rd, 2008, (to reporters)
Now:
The leak of a confidential diplomatic discussion that rocked the U.S. presidential campaign began with an offhand remark to journalists from the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Ian Brodie.

[...]

Mr. Brodie, apparently seeking to play down the potential impact on Canada, told the reporters the threat was not serious, and that someone from Ms. Clinton's campaign had even contacted Canadian diplomats to tell them not to worry because the NAFTA threats were mostly political posturing.

- Globe and Mail, March 5th, 2008

The Canadian government contacted Goolsby [the Obama aide] to clarify Obama's position on trade, not the reverse. Although Goolsby did meet with Canada's Chicago consul general George Rioux (not, as was reported in the original leak, Ambassador Michael Wilson), there's no evidence that he ever described Obama's position as mere political posturing.

Instead, Goolsby responded to Canadian questions by clarifying that Obama wasn't pushing to scrap the agreement entirely, but that labor and environmental safeguards were important to him.

The memo was simply inaccurate, as even the Harper government now acknowledges after a firestorm of criticism by opposition parliament members, calling the leak 'blatantly unfair,' and saying 'there was no intention to convey, in any way, that Senator Obama and his campaign team were taking a different position in public from views expressed in private, including about NAFTA.'

- Paul Rogat Loeb, March 6th, 2008 (The Smirking Chimp)
Then:
“We haven’t ruled out rerunning these contests,” said Harold Ickes, a top adviser to Mrs. Clinton and her chief delegate hunter.

“We’ve said we think it should be settled. We believe some configuration could be devised that each party is not happy with but each party is willing to accept.

- New York Times, March 6th, 2008 (published in March 7th edition)
Now:
"I would not accept a caucus...I don’t think that there should be any do-over or any kind of a second run in Florida. I think Florida should be seated."

- Hillary Clinton, March 6th, 2008 (U.S. News & World Report)
See the pattern? It's pretty simple: the Clinton campaign is blatantly contradicting itself and failing to practice what it preaches. In short, Hillary Clinton is fueling her campaign with empty rhetoric, deceit, and mean spiritedness (of which there are nearly endless examples, plenty coming from her surrogates, especially Communications Director Howard Wolfson).

She chastises Obama for her own campaign's behavior. She puts herself and John Dubya McCain on an equal footing while insulting Barack Obama, despite having previously talked about the importance of unity in the Democratic Party.

Unity? Hillary Clinton's campaign could care less about unity. All Hillary Clinton's campaign cares about is Hillary Clinton. And that's reason enough for any Democrat to decline to support her candidacy in the primary.

Hillary Clinton's campaign has become so divisive and unfair that her behavior was described by Keith Olbermann on last night's Countdown telecast as "nuts".

We already get empty rhetoric and deceit delivered to us by the truckload every day and every week from the Republican Party. It's bad enough that Democrats in Congress can't stand up to the administration. It's appalling and disgusting that Hillary Clinton is bloodying the Democratic presidential contest to selfishly put herself ahead at not only her competitor's expense, but that of her party's.

UPDATE: Here's a long list of Clinton quotes insulting Democrats in most of the states won by Barack Obama. How many states has Clinton dissed?

Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Stories from Washingtonians (Part VII)

Welcome to the seventh installment in our special series counting down the hours remaining until Friday evening's 5 PM bill cutoff deadline, when this year's Homeowner's Bill of Rights legislation will expire unless voted on by the state House of Representatives. Each post in this series features stories from homeowners who have been victimized by negligent construction.

These are stories of Evergreen State families who have, through no fault of their own, lost their life’s savings, their health, their ability to finance their children’s college education, and their prosperity because there was a defect or problem with the workmanship of their home.

Countdown Clock: 13 Hours, 12 Minutes Remaining Until Cutoff

Senate Bill 6385, if enacted, would give the same rights that condo owners already enjoy to homeowners. It provides families with a recourse if their most valuable investment is damaged by contractor negligence. Under current law, homeowners get stuck with the bill for shoddy workmanship. There is no warranty, no protections in place to help those who have been victimized.

We urge you to join us in calling on House Speaker Frank Chopp to bring SB 6385 to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. If SB 6385 gets to the floor it is sure to pass - and Governor Chris Gregoire is ready to sign it.

But it has to make it out of the Rules Committee first.

We continue our countdown with Lin's story.
We have a home built by Chaffey Homes in 1998. Recently, we noted leakage of rainwater from the chimney to the fireplace, and into the living room, causing significant damage. An inspection uncovered multiple construction defects in the construction of the chimney as well as in the installation of the siding of the house. According to the inspector's report, some of these defects are a blatant deviation from the industry standard.

When we approached the builder, the builder told us that any repairs were our responsibility, as the warranty on the house has expired. Due to the 6-year statute of limitation, it does not appear that we have a legal claim against the builder, even if there is clear and documented evidence of violations of building codes.

What upsets me most is that the builder has known these construction defects for some time from other homes they built, but failed to alert or disclose them to other homeowners. Several houses built by the same builder in the same neighborhood had exactly the same construction defects and these owners apparently had discussed with the builder in the past. To borrow a term from my medical professionm, I believe that a builder should have the "duty to warn." When a physician diagnoses a genetic disorder or communicable condition, he or she has the duty to warn, for example, the patient's family. It is my belief that homebuilders should be held to the same standard.

I trust that you have the courage to stand up to the big builders, and help innocent homeowners and home buyers. I believe that you will do the right thing for all homeowners in the state to pass laws that require builders to comply with building codes, to act honestly when they know of problems that may damage or destroy houses.
Here's how to get in touch with Speaker Chopp:

District Office:
444 NE Ravenna Blvd, Suite 106
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 729-3223

Olympia Office:
339C Legislative Bldg.
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7920

Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-562-6000
TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-635-9993
Email: chopp.frank (at) leg.wa.gov

Thursday, March 6, 2008

House Speaker Frank Chopp wavering on Homeowner's Bill on Rights

After refusing to comment on the Homeowner's Bill of Rights for KOMO News last night, House Speaker Frank Chopp finally stood in front of KOMO's camera several hours ago and admitted that he's holding up SB 6385 in the House Rules Committee because he isn't sure the bill is ready for prime time. As Chopp says:
"The House Judiciary Committee passed this bill both this year and last year. The Senate passed it, I understand the governor is in favor of it," he said.
That's correct, Mr. Speaker. Now Washington families are pleading with you to bring this bill before the floor of the state House for a vote.
"There are still various aspects that still need to be worked out."
And which aspects would those be, Mr. Speaker? This bill is modeled on already existing law that protects condo buyers. It won't take effect until 2009, so it gives the building industry time to prepare. The amended bill was carefully rewritten by House Judiciary Chair Pat Lantz, who did a terrific job. The bill has her full support. And Governor Gregoire's full support.

And still:
"I just think there are a lot of legitimate issues that have to be concerned about it and a lot of questions that still need to be answered about that particular proposal."
Getting very repetitive now:
"We're still working on it. There are some serious issues about when you consider this particular thing. There are still various aspects that still need to be worked out."
Which issues, Mr. Speaker? What questions?

Unless you can identify what concerns you're talking about, you're opening yourself up to the accusation that you are simply stalling this bill to death at the behest of the Building Industry Association of Washington.
"I've listened to quite a number of stakeholders on this who have not had the opportunity to participate in this particular bill."
Which stakeholders, Mr. Speaker? The BIAW? Are you saying that since SB 6385 wasn't specially drafted by their lawyers, they therefore did not "participate?" Is that what you mean? Because the BIAW did send representatives to the public hearings. They testified. They had the opportunity to participate.

And they took full advantage of it. They've been invited to sit at the table all along throughout this process. But they have no interest in collaboration. It's not their style. They play hardball. You know this, Mr. Speaker.

You let the Homeowner's Bill of Rights get buried under other legislation last year on purpose and you seem ready to do it again.

Enough excuses. Enough stalling. Victimized homeowners have suffered for too long to hear you say that more deliberation, more study is needed. SB 6385 builds on years of previously introduced legislation by Senator Kohl Wells, Representative Flannigan, Representative Williams, and Senator Weinstein.

SB 6385 is endorsed by your own committee chairs. It has passed the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown is a strong supporter, as is the Governor, who is ready to sign. You are the only top Democratic leader in Olympia who has refused to endorse this bill. You represent the most progressive legislative district in the state. You ran for office to serve the people of Washington. You are in a position of great power, but with great power comes great responsibility.

Well, Mr. Speaker, we the people are depending on you and the Legislature to do your duty and ensure that millions of innocent homeowners receive a very basic safeguard to stop catastrophe in its tracks if there is a defect with their building.

A home is the most important investment most families will ever make. When something goes wrong with a family's home, that family's physical safety, health, financial security, and prosperity are all gravely jeopardized.

Mr. Speaker, you must act. The Democratic Party is the party of the people. The bill before you is a solid proposal. Now is the time to bring it to the floor. Now is the time for House Democrats to do what they were elected by their constituents to do. Now is the time for the Homeowner's Bill of Rights.

Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Stories from Washingtonians (Part VI)

Welcome to the sixth installment in our special series counting down the hours remaining until Friday evening's 5 PM bill cutoff deadline, when this year's Homeowner's Bill of Rights legislation will expire unless voted on by the state House of Representatives. Each post in this series features stories from homeowners who have been victimized by negligent construction.

These are stories of Evergreen State families who have, through no fault of their own, lost their life’s savings, their health, their ability to finance their children’s college education, and their prosperity because there was a defect or problem with the workmanship of their home.

Countdown Clock: 17 Hours, 38 Minutes Remaining Until Cutoff

Senate Bill 6385, if enacted, would give the same rights that condo owners already enjoy to homeowners. It provides families with a recourse if their most valuable investment is damaged by contractor negligence. Under current law, homeowners get stuck with the bill for shoddy workmanship. There is no warranty, no protections in place to help those who have been victimized.

We urge you to join us in calling on House Speaker Frank Chopp to bring SB 6385 to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. If SB 6385 gets to the floor it is sure to pass - and Governor Chris Gregoire is ready to sign it.

But it has to make it out of the Rules Committee first.

We continue our countdown with Terry's story.
I am pleased to see this bill has been drafted and hopeful that [the Legislature] will pass it! Although it will not help me with June 1st, 2006 Reality Home purchase or my daughter and son-in-law who had a Reality Home built near mine and took occupancy June 1, 2007 too. Or those who complained in the KING5 Reality blog post.

As far as the defects I am currently dealing [with], Reality is slowly, slowly fixing some of them. Others I cannot wait any longer for and have taken out a second loan on my home so I could hire a contractor to make the corrections.

Like I said, Reality has made a small attempt to correct defects, but they insist on sending out the same subcontractor who does not want to replace defective doors, windows, and carpet which cannot be stretched to quality wall to wall because it was to cut too short to begin with. I am learning live with and correct as my finances will allow.

I [finally] realized I was in trouble and asked for advice from [an attorney I know], who recommended after reading the contract that I cut my losses and pay the $10,000+ penalty to Reality. She said I had no rights with the contract and it was going to get ugly before it was over.

If I was to keep building I would have to be on top of them every day. I felt I had too much invested, I had purchased the parcel, and could not afford to make payments on the building site, and make payments on my current home of twenty nine years, and at my age I would never recover.

Thank God I had my daughter to watch them like a hawk. In combining our attention to Reality and both homes we were able to stop them many times from inflating building costs. Like when the foundation forms were built and there was as much as 2.5 feet of open space under the forms.

I could have crawled under the forms...they only touched one corner to the ground. They had three feet either way to build the foundation.

They chose a high spot to place the foundation and leveled off of it so when they came with the cement truck the cement would just pour out until it hit its level and cement would stay in the forms.

We spent two full days and time off from work, based on the recommendation of a Grays Harbor building inspector, who said he had never seen foundations built like that before, packing sand under and around the forms to hold the cement in.

We estimate from talking to other customers of Reality that we saved $2,000 on extra cement costs by spending $800 each for material and truck charges to bring sand to each building site. We received our first of two price increases totaling more than $2,000 in my case and $4,000 in my daughter's soon after.

We each decided to have a heat pump and forced air installed in our homes. We chose a local company rather than use their substandard Heat Pump and Furnace. Reality allowed us to have a [third party] contractor do the work, if we paid for the heaters which would have been installed in our homes, which they kept to sell and install in future Reality construction.
Here's how to get in touch with Speaker Chopp:

District Office:
444 NE Ravenna Blvd, Suite 106
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 729-3223

Olympia Office:
339C Legislative Bldg.
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7920

Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-562-6000
TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-635-9993
Email: chopp.frank (at) leg.wa.gov

Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Stories from Washingtonians (Part V)

Welcome to the fifth installment in our special series counting down the hours remaining until Friday evening's 5 PM bill cutoff deadline, when this year's Homeowner's Bill of Rights legislation will expire unless voted on by the state House of Representatives. Each post in this series features stories from homeowners who have been victimized by negligent construction.

These are stories of Evergreen State families who have, through no fault of their own, lost their life’s savings, their health, their ability to finance their children’s college education, and their prosperity because there was a defect or problem with the workmanship of their home.

Countdown Clock: 19 Hours, 44 Minutes Remaining Until Cutoff

Senate Bill 6385, if enacted, would give the same rights that condo owners already enjoy to homeowners. It provides families with a recourse if their most valuable investment is damaged by contractor negligence. Under current law, homeowners get stuck with the bill for shoddy workmanship. There is no warranty, no protections in place to help those who have been victimized.

We urge you to join us in calling on House Speaker Frank Chopp to bring SB 6385 to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. If SB 6385 gets to the floor it is sure to pass - and Governor Chris Gregoire is ready to sign it.

But it has to make it out of the Rules Committee first.

We continue our countdown with Diana's story.
[This bill]...is absolutely needed. I bought a new home from Cambridge Homes and the roof leaked all over my living room after having had the home for only two years. They refused to take responsibility and even said that I was lying about it even happening. I had to spend $4,000 to have the roof replaced.

No doubt this is small potatoes compared to what some people have had to go through, but the issue is that builders and contractors who are providing customer service are doing so because they can - there is simply no accountability, no negative consequences.
Here's how to get in touch with Speaker Chopp:

District Office:
444 NE Ravenna Blvd, Suite 106
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 729-3223

Olympia Office:
339C Legislative Bldg.
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7920

Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-562-6000
TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-635-9993
Email: chopp.frank (at) leg.wa.gov

Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Stories from Washingtonians (Part IV)

Welcome to the fourth installment in our special series counting down the hours remaining until Friday evening's 5 PM bill cutoff deadline, when this year's Homeowner's Bill of Rights legislation will expire unless voted on by the state House of Representatives. Each post in this series features stories from homeowners who have been victimized by negligent construction.

These are stories of Evergreen State families who have, through no fault of their own, lost their life’s savings, their health, their ability to finance their children’s college education, and their prosperity because there was a defect or problem with the workmanship of their home.

Countdown Clock: 21 Hours, 15 Minutes Remaining Until Cutoff

Senate Bill 6385, if enacted, would give the same rights that condo owners already enjoy to homeowners. It provides families with a recourse if their most valuable investment is damaged by contractor negligence. Under current law, homeowners get stuck with the bill for shoddy workmanship. There is no warranty, no protections in place to help those who have been victimized.

We urge you to join us in calling on House Speaker Frank Chopp to bring SB 6385 to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. If SB 6385 gets to the floor it is sure to pass - and Governor Chris Gregoire is ready to sign it.

But it has to make it out of the Rules Committee first.

We continue our countdown with the Wheatley family's story.
We had a home built in 1999 for our new family. We had three small children born while living at this home.

Our family was very ill. We discovered after living there for four years that our builder had left a hole in the roof and water was leaking through the walls, which created Stachybotrys toxic mold.

About $100,000.00 later, we are still fighting the battle. We have been in a lawsuit for four years, and there is no end in sight.

We were able to move from the home, so our health has improved, but we still fight the effects daily.

Just last week, "the other side" offered us a settlement of $35,000.00.

It doesn't seem fair that our family, and many others, have to go through this awful mess. Our family has been living a nightmare.

We only have God on our side, and would appreciate it if our government was too!
Here's how to get in touch with Speaker Chopp:

District Office:
444 NE Ravenna Blvd, Suite 106
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 729-3223

Olympia Office:
339C Legislative Bldg.
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7920

Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-562-6000
TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-635-9993
Email: chopp.frank (at) leg.wa.gov

Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Stories from Washingtonians (Part III)

Welcome to the third installment in our special series counting down the hours remaining until Friday evening's 5 PM bill cutoff deadline, when this year's Homeowner's Bill of Rights legislation will expire unless voted on by the state House of Representatives. Each post in this series features stories from homeowners who have been victimized by negligent construction.

These are stories of Evergreen State families who have, through no fault of their own, lost their life’s savings, their health, their ability to finance their children’s college education, and their prosperity because there was a defect or problem with the workmanship of their home.

Countdown Clock: 24 Hours Remaining Until Cutoff

Senate Bill 6385, if enacted, would give the same rights that condo owners already enjoy to homeowners. It provides families with a recourse if their most valuable investment is damaged by contractor negligence. Under current law, homeowners get stuck with the bill for shoddy workmanship. There is no warranty, no protections in place to help those who have been victimized.

We urge you to join us in calling on House Speaker Frank Chopp to bring SB 6385 to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. If SB 6385 gets to the floor it is sure to pass - and Governor Chris Gregoire is ready to sign it.

But it has to make it out of the Rules Committee first.

We continue our countdown with Tanya's story.
We are owners of a home in Kirkland and are involved now in building a home on Clyde Hill. Two years ago, we were one of those unfortunate families whose home was gift wrapped in plastic while we repaired the hundreds of thousands of dollars in water damage due to shoddy construction. A few years earlier, we had contracted with a local builder to build a new home for us in Kirkland. We put every dollar we had into that house.

From the day we moved into it, water started raining in. Windows leaked, the roof leaked, the wood siding leaked, and the stucco leaked. We tried for several years to work with the builder, but he could never plug all the holes.

At some point, he just wouldn't come back, and of course, we had no confidence left in him anyway. When we demanded he provide some compensation, his insurance company hired lawyers and that began a more than two year battle. They forced depositions and extensive discovery of witnesses.

They sued subcontractors, and tried to blame everyone else but the original builder. For us, it was two years of living in a leaking, moldy, wet house and then another year when we had to move out during repairs.

After obtaining a partial settlement with the builder, we began repairs. They proved to be even more challenging than we had anticipated. There was so much damage and so little quality work to save that we should have torn it down and started over.

The problem is, you don't know that when you start, so you assume you have a decent house that just needs to be fixed. Instead, we spent over $400,000 to repair the house, which was more than the builder spent to build it just a few years earlier.

Amazingly, one of the builder's defenses in the lawsuit was that the builder hadn't breached his contract. They argued, apparently with some conviction, that the builder hadn't actually promised to build a "leak-proof" house.

The contract didn't say it had to be waterproof, that the roof wouldn't link, that the floors wouldn't warp, and therefore those problems weren't breaches of the contract. We thought a builder had to build a home that serves as a home, a dry shelter. It's crazy in Washington that there is no law that says a builder has to build a watertight house.
Here's how to get in touch with Speaker Chopp:

District Office:
444 NE Ravenna Blvd, Suite 106
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 729-3223

Olympia Office:
339C Legislative Bldg.
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7920

Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-562-6000
TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-635-9993
Email: chopp.frank (at) leg.wa.gov

Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Stories from Washingtonians (Part II)

Welcome to the second installment in our special series counting down the hours remaining until Friday evening's 5 PM bill cutoff deadline, when this year's Homeowner's Bill of Rights legislation will expire unless voted on by the state House of Representatives. Each post in this series features stories from homeowners who have been victimized by negligent construction.

These are stories of Evergreen State families who have, through no fault of their own, lost their life’s savings, their health, their ability to finance their children’s college education, and their prosperity because there was a defect or problem with the workmanship of their home.

Countdown Clock: 25 Hours, 22 Minutes Remaining Until Cutoff

Senate Bill 6385, if enacted, would give the same rights that condo owners already enjoy to homeowners. It provides families with a recourse if their most valuable investment is damaged by contractor negligence. Under current law, homeowners get stuck with the bill for shoddy workmanship. There is no warranty, no protections in place to help those who have been victimized.

We urge you to join us in calling on House Speaker Frank Chopp to bring SB 6385 to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. If SB 6385 gets to the floor it is sure to pass - and Governor Chris Gregoire is ready to sign it.

But it has to make it out of the Rules Committee first.

We continue our countdown with Lela's story.
After buying an old home on Mercer Island, we decided to hire an architect and design a new home. With the architect's recommendation, we interviewed a number of experienced and reputable builders. Eventually we hired one that had built a lot of custom homes in the area. We began work in August 1999.

Several times after we had moved in, we discovered water intrusion problems in the garage. Twice the builder sent the roofer out to patch things, but every year the problem returned. Five years after moving in, we decided to hire an inspector to find out the cause of the problem and inspect for similar problems elsewhere. This inspection led to the following discoveries:

  1. The builder left out nearly every structural requirement shown in the plans. These omissions included failure to build double sided plywood walls to create lateral stability for the house. He installed some metal hold downs in some places, but never connected them.In other places, he put them in place but never attached them. Everywhere we looked, the builder had failed to comply with the structural plans.
  2. Just as shocking, the special structural engineer required by the City of Mercer Island to inspect the house missed all of these omissions. So did the City's building inspector.
  3. The builder installed a roof and deck that sloped back towards the house, which allowed all the water to drain back towards and against the house. Eventually this led to a major leak and damage to the framing.
  4. The builder installed undersized roof trusses that were not engineered to hold up our roof.
  5. The stucco subcontractor failed to apply the stucco in sufficient thickness, which led to cracks, which in turn allowed water to enter to the house.
Over the course of a year and a half, we litigated with the builder and his insurance company. Eventually, the builder's expert agreed with our expert on most of the defects. But, in mediation, where we thought we would resolve the entire case, the builder announced that he was broke, and couldn't pay any money to settle the case. To make matters worse one or more of his insurance companies declined to participate in the mediation. So after a year and half we were looked at an estimated $800,000 in repair costs, twelve months of living expenses outside the house, moving expenses, and $150,000 in legal fees.

What happened to us is not unusual. We know of others who have had similar experiences either buying new homes or building them. It takes only one bad superintendent, or a negligent stucco contractor to ruin an entire job.
Here's how to get in touch with Speaker Chopp:

District Office:
444 NE Ravenna Blvd, Suite 106
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 729-3223

Olympia Office:
339C Legislative Bldg.
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7920

Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-562-6000
TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-635-9993
Email: chopp.frank (at) leg.wa.gov

Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Stories from Washingtonians (Part I)

Over the next twenty seven hours, we're going to count down the time remaining until the bill cutoff deadline (when SB 6385 expires) by posting stories from homeowners who have been victimized by negligent construction. These are stories of families who have, through no fault of their own, lost their life’s savings, their health, their ability to finance their children’s college education, and their prosperity because there was a defect or problem with the workmanship of their home.

Countdown Clock: 27 Hours, 35 Minutes Remaining Until Cutoff

We urge you to join us in calling on House Speaker Frank Chopp to bring SB 6385 to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. If SB 6385 gets to the floor it is sure to pass - and Governor Chris Gregoire is ready to sign it.

But it has to make it out of the Rules Committee first.

We begin with Thomas' story.
I had purchased a home that was recently built and I was the second owner. There was a hidden defect that neither the homeowner inspector nor I could pick up with the way the house was sealed so that it leaked badly.

The initial homeowners claimed that they had addressed what they thought was the problem but this was clearly a larger structural problem that the builder refused to acknowledge despite a thorough structural analysis that pointed out the flaw in the construction.

None of our other insurance would provide coverage for this and the final resolution was expensive. Inititially we had to use all of the funds we had saved for our children's college education to repair the house.

Fortunately, we were able to come to an agreement with the builder but there was no legal precedent established that would provide us with any protection and at one point we saw our life savings [erased overnight] to both repair the home and to support litigation that could possibly recoup some of our losses.

We ultimately were able to recover over 50% of our losses and subsequently we believe that we will be able to send our kids to to college but at an extreme hardship.
Here's how to get in touch with Speaker Chopp:

District Office:
444 NE Ravenna Blvd, Suite 106
Seattle, WA 98115
(206) 729-3223

Olympia Office:
339C Legislative Bldg.
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7920

Toll-free Hotline: 1-800-562-6000
TTY (hearing impaired): 1-800-635-9993
Email: chopp.frank (at) leg.wa.gov

SB 6385 would provide reasonable and fair protection for homeowners

With less than thirty six hours to go before the bill cutoff deadline in the House of Representatives, more traditional media outlets are starting to weigh in on the Homeowner's Bill of Rights, urging Speaker Chopp to bring it to a vote.

First, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, from a week ago:

A similar bill died in the House last year (much to the delight of the Building Industry Association of Washington, which spent big bucks lobbying against the bill) because Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp felt that it didn't clarify the issue of liability insurance for builders.

Well, the new bill makes it clear that contractors won't need liability insurance (as some claim is the case). The latest version gets rid of the negligence clause via an amendment proposed by Rep. Pat Lantz, focusing instead on nonwaivable warranties -- not the flimsy one-year ones contractors often offer home buyers. If a contractor does the job properly, or fixes something that goes wrong, there is no cause. But if the contractor does not resolve the issue, the homeowner will be able to seek compensation.

[...]

It's bizarre that so many homeowners have been left out in the cold for so long. This bill can right the situation.
The Seattle Times joined in this morning:
Homebuilders don't like the bill. That is natural. No one likes to worry about being sued. Critics further note that Weinstein is a trial attorney, and grumble about his motives. But his bill imposes a liability that is reasonable, and that accords with standards elsewhere in American business. A house — or, these days, a town house — is the biggest investment most buyers have ever made. If they buy in summer, and discover in winter that the siding isn't any good, the builder should have to bear the cost of repairs. There are no treble damages or punitive damages or anything like that.

Simply, they have to fix the defect. We expect this when we buy a car, or a water heater, and the manufacturers of those products have learned to live with a liablilty. Good builders should be able to adjust to this law without difficulty.
Also chiming in today with a great editorial is The Olympian:
Homebuilders should stand behind the quality of their workmanship.

State lawmakers have put forth a bill that would give home buyers some recourse if they find out they are victims of shoddy workmanship.

Senate Bill 6385, as amended by the House, is the right approach. It gives home buyers in the state the same protection enjoyed by those individuals who purchase condominiums. Lawmakers should pass SB 6385 and send it to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature into law.

[...]

Good contractors have nothing to fear with the legislation before the 2008 Legislature. Building contractors doing quality work won’t have damages to repair in the first place. And they won’t get sued. Surely purchasers of single-family homes deserve the same protection from shoddy workmanship as condo buyers.

Home buyers deserve more protection than they have today, and that’s why the Legislature must act.
Finally, KOMO News ran a story last night alerting its viewers that the Homeowner's Bill of Rights is stuck in the House of Representatives.

It also explained that Speaker Frank Chopp is the one man with the power to move the bill to the floor (and he wouldn't comment for their story). The story showed footage from homeowners who have been left without recourse because of the Legislature's failure to address this issue in the past.

Readers, your representatives need to hear from you if the Homeowner's Bill of Rights is to get to the floor. Call the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and ask to be connected to your lawmakers. Or, find your representative using the legislative directory and send an e-mail.

In Brief - March 6th, 2008

March is an important month in Black history and the telling of the African American story in the Pacific Northwest. This Sunday the ribbon will be cut at the Grand Opening of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle's Northwest African American Museum. This project has been many years in the making, and will serve as a monument to the Northwest's rich history and the diversities of African American experiences that have taken place here throughout the years. I encourage all of us who embrace education and diversity to visit this museum.

In the Pacific Northwest
  • The fire set on March 2nd on the Northwest Nazarene University campus was set by arsonists, according to local officials.
  • The woman on trial for setting the 2001 eco-terror fire at the University of Washington, Briana Waters, is poised to hear a verdict today. The Earth Liberation Front, the group who is suspected of being responsible for the "Street of Dreams" fires this week, claimed responsibility for the 2001 blaze. If convicted, Waters faces up to 35 years in prison.
  • The Portland Mayoral race has gotten more interesting as Sho Dozono has not only received the endorsment of current mayor Tom Potter, but he has also become the first ever mayoral candidate that is eligible to receive public financing for his campaign.
Across the Nation
  • In response to the FCC's recent change to media ownership rules, a group of senators introduced a "resolution of disapproval" yesterday that would stop the FCC from putting the new rules into effect.
  • The National Data Exchange, a database that unifies data on criminal investigation at local, state, and federal levels, is being phased in this month. It seems to be the offspring of the Patriot Act, and its goal is to streamline investigations and to spot terrorist plots.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that childhood vaccines contributed to symptoms of Autism in a 9-year-old Georgia girl. This finding is in line with allegations made by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. concerning a link between chemicals in childhood vaccines and rises in Autism rates.

Around the World

  • There is significant tension building between Columbia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Both Ecuador and Venezuela have moved troops to their respective Colombian borders in response to the Saturday raid Colombian forces conducted in Ecuador that resulted in the death of a rebel leader and 16 others. The U.S. is urging "diplomacy" in the matter.
  • A tentative deal has been struck in Kenya. The "power-sharing agreement," which would make the opposition party leader Raila Odinga Prime Minister, is being supported by Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki .
  • The whaling industry is back in the news. Last time it was for the 2 activists that had been kidnapped being turned over to Australian officials. This time, it's because the International Whaling Commission is set to hold a meeting to find "common ground" between pro- and anti-whaling countries and organizations.
  • The Pakistan People's Party, the party of recently assassinated leader Benazir Bhutto, is meeting to select Pakistan's next Prime Minister, weeks after their victory in Pakistan's elections in February.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Oregon's Tim Eyman proposes a tax increase

Yes, you read that headline right. Oregon's Grover Norquist clone, similiar in way too many respects to Tim Eyman, is talking about raising revenue:
Bill Sizemore, one of Oregon's top anti-tax activists, is talking about raising Klamath County taxes to avoid cuts in public safety agencies.

Sizemore is a member of a task force of residents the county named to recommend how to cut $2.3 million from the county's $17 million general fund budget.

As in Jackson County and elsewhere, officials are struggling to make up for money the federal government used to send to timber counties.

Task force members said this week they would rather replace the loss of federal timber payments with new funds than cut the budgets of strained public safety departments.

"This isn't asking for more, just trying to make up for a loss," Sizemore said."
Please excuse me while I check my calendar to make sure that April Fools' Day didn't sneak up on me without warning.

....

Okay, I'm back. I checked.

It's definitely March 5th, but apparently today's the day that pigs have learned to fly. Seriously, this is an astonishing development. It's unbelievable.

A diehard anti-tax zealot found guilty of racketeeering is admitting that there is no free lunch? That yes, our common wealth - which is supported by our tax dollars - is valuable? That public services are worth investing in?

Who saw this coming? I know I never throught I'd witness something like this.

I've spent so much time in the trenches fighting Grover Norquist clones (cough, Tim Eyman) that I am really just stunned to read that Bill Sizemore is embracing the idea of increasing revenue to pay for public services.

I mean....wow.

I guess if Bill Sizemore can come around, there's hope for Tim Eyman yet.

Break on through...to the other side!

After many months of drilling (or boring), the Beacon Hill tunnel segment of Sound Transit's Central Link project is nearly complete. This morning, the giant Emerald Mole machine broke through the east face of Beacon Hill for the second time, spewing foam and clay as it emerged from the ground:

Emerald Mole Breakout

Here's a quick overview of the Emerald Mole, courtesy of Sound Transit:
  • At full size, the machine is approximately the length of a football field. It includes "trailing gear" such as supply tanks, electrical support, exhaust fans, and a conveyor belt.
  • The weight of the Emerald Mole and attached training gear is approximately six hundred and forty two tons - more than a fully loaded Boeing 747-8.
  • A 21 foot in diameter cutterhead is positioned at the front of machine (that's the spoked wheel in the picture above).
  • Equipped with various cutting tools, the cutterhead turns around att the rate of 0.1 to 2.5 revolutions per minute. Excavated material goes through openings in the face of the machine.
  • The spoils are brought into the machine by a corkscrew-like screw conveyor located behind the cutterhead. The spoils are then taken out the back to be temporarily stored on site and then loaded into dump trucks.
  • Foam is usually added to condition the soil cuttings into a paste in order for it to pass through the coneyor for removal. Water, bentonite or polymers may also be used, depending on the soil type, groundwater, and other factors. The conditioning agents are biodegradable.
  • The machine is propelled and steered with sixteen hydraulic jacks that are located around the perimeter of the machine.
  • The operator steers the machine using sophisticated positioning technology that is accurate to within an inch.
  • The machine was manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Kobe, Japan, and arrived in Seattle by ship. It took twenty five truck loads to deliver the Emerald Mole in pieces to the construction site.
Commenting on the accomplishment, Sound Transit Board Chair Greg Nickels said:

Link light rail in Seattle truly is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, or tunnels in this case. Later this summer we will be ready to pull Link light rail trains through the hill to test the trains on 10 miles of the finished tracks just south of the east portal as we prepare for the first passengers in 2009. This is a major milestone the thousands of men and women who have been a part of light rail construction from downtown to the airport.
Central Link is now more than 85% complete and on track to open for business as scheduled next year. Sound Transit says that six million plus human hours have gone into light rail construction since the project broke ground.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Barack Obama's speech in San Antonio

Courtesy of the Obama campaign, the following is the text of the senator's March 4th election night speech, delivered in San Antonio, Texas, and republished for readers who had better things to do than tune in to cable to watch the incomplete results analyzed, evaluated, and dissected to death.

Well, we are in the middle of a very close race right now in Texas, and we may not even know the final results until morning.

We do know that Senator Clinton has won Rhode Island, and while there are a lot of votes to be counted in Ohio, it looks like she did well there too, and so we congratulate her on those states.

We also know that we have won the state of Vermont. And we know this – no matter what happens tonight, we have nearly the same delegate lead as we did this morning, and we are on our way to winning this nomination.

You know, decades ago, as a community organizer, I learned that the real work of democracy begins far from the closed doors and marbled halls of Washington.

It begins on street corners and front porches; in living rooms and meeting halls with ordinary Americans who see the world as it is and realize that we have it within our power to remake the world as it should be.

It is with that hope that we began this unlikely journey – the hope that if we could go block by block, city by city, state by state and build a movement that spanned race and region; party and gender; if we could give young people a reason to vote and the young at heart a reason to believe again; if we could inspire a nation to come together again, then we could turn the page on the politics that's shut us out, let us down, and told us to settle. We could write a new chapter in the American story.

We were told this wasn't possible. We were told the climb was too steep. We were told our country was too cynical – that we were just being naïve; that we couldn't really change the world as it is.

But then a few people in Iowa stood up to say, "Yes we can."

And then a few more of you stood up from the hills of New Hampshire to the coast of South Carolina. And then a few million of you stood up from Savannah to Seattle; from Boise to Baton Rouge. And tonight, because of you – because of a movement you built that stretches from Vermont's Green Mountains to the streets of San Antonio, we can stand up with confidence and clarity to say that we are turning the page, and we are ready to write the next great chapter in America's story.

In the coming weeks, we will begin a great debate about the future of this country with a man who has served it bravely and loves it dearly. And tonight, I called John McCain and congratulated him on winning the Republican nomination.

But in this election, we will offer two very different visions of the America we see in the twenty-first century. Because John McCain may claim long history of straight talk and independent-thinking, and I respect that. But in this campaign, he's fallen in line behind the very same policies that have ill-served America. He has seen where George Bush has taken our country, and he promises to keep us on the very same course.

It's the same course that threatens a century of war in Iraq – a third and fourth and fifth tour of duty for brave troops who've done all we've asked them to, even while we ask little and expect nothing of the Iraqi government whose job it is to put their country back together. A course where we spend billions of dollars a week that could be used to rebuild our roads and our schools; to care for our veterans and send our children to college.

It's the same course that continues to divide and isolate America from the world by substituting bluster and bullying for direct diplomacy – by ignoring our allies and refusing to talk to our enemies even though Presidents from Kennedy to Reagan have done just that; because strong countries and strong leaders aren't afraid to tell hard truths to petty dictators.

And it's the same course that offers the same tired answer to workers without health care and families without homes; to students in debt and children who go to bed hungry in the richest nation on Earth – four more years of tax breaks for the biggest corporations and the wealthiest few who don't need them and aren't even asking for them. It's a course that further divides Wall Street from Main Street; where struggling families are told to pull themselves up by their bootstraps because there's nothing government can do or should do – and so we should give more to those with the most and let the chips fall where they may.

Well we are here tonight to say that this is not the America we believe in and this is not the future we want. We want a new course for this country. We want new leadership in Washington. We want change in America.

John McCain and Senator Clinton echo each other in dismissing this call for change. They say it is eloquent but empty; speeches and not solutions. And yet, they should know that it's a call that did not begin with my words.

It began with words that were spoken on the floors of factories in Ohio and across the deep plains of Texas; words that came from classrooms in South Carolina and living rooms in the state of Iowa; from first-time voters and life-long cynics; from Democrats and Republicans alike.

They should know that there's nothing empty about the call for affordable health care that came from the young student who told me she gets three hours of sleep because she works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't pay her sister's medical bills.

There's nothing empty about the call for help that came from the mother in San Antonio who saw her mortgage double in two weeks and didn't know where her two-year olds would sleep at night when they were kicked out of their home.

There's nothing empty about the call for change that came from the elderly woman who wants it so badly that she sent me an envelope with a money order for $3.01 and a simple verse of scripture tucked inside.

These Americans know that government cannot solve all of our problems, and they don't expect it to. Americans know that we have to work harder and study more to compete in a global economy. We know that we need to take responsibility for ourselves and our children – that we need to spend more time with them, and teach them well, and put a book in their hands instead of a video game once in awhile. We know this.

But we also believe that there is a larger responsibility we have to one another as Americans.

We believe that we rise or fall as one nation – as one people. That we are our brother's keeper. That we are our sister's keeper.

We believe that a child born tonight should have the same chances whether she arrives in the barrios of San Antonio or the suburbs of St. Louis; on the streets of Chicago or the hills of Appalachia.

We believe that when she goes to school for the first time, it should be in a place where the rats don't outnumber the computers; that when she applies to college, cost is no barrier to a degree that will allow her to compete with children in China or India for the jobs of the twenty-first century.

We believe that these jobs should provide wages that can raise her family, health care for when she gets sick and a pension for when she retires.

We believe that when she tucks her own children into bed, she should feel safe knowing that they are protected from the threats we face by the bravest, best-equipped, military in the world, led by a Commander-in-Chief who has the judgment to know when to send them into battle and which battlefield to fight on.

And if that child should ever get the chance to travel the world, and someone should ask her where she is from, we believe that she should always be able to hold her head high with pride in her voice when she answers "I am an American."

That is the course we seek. That is the change we are calling for. You can call it many things, but you cannot call it empty.

If I am the nominee of this party, I will not allow us to be distracted by the same politics that seeks to divide us with false charges and meaningless labels. In this campaign, we will not stand for the politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon.

I owe what I am to this country I love, and I will never forget it. Where else could a young man who grew up herding goats in Kenya get the chance to fulfill his dream of a college education? Where else could he marry a white girl from Kansas whose parents survived war and depression to find opportunity out west?

Where else could they have a child who would one day have the chance to run for the highest office in the greatest nation the world has ever known? Where else, but in the United States of America?

It is now my hope and our task to set this country on a course that will keep this promise alive in the twenty-first century. And the eyes of the world are watching to see if we can.

There is a young man on my campaign whose grandfather lives in Uganda. He is 81 years old and has never experienced true democracy in his lifetime. During the reign of Idi Amin, he was literally hunted and the only reason he escaped was thanks to the kindness of others and a few good-sized trunks. And on the night of the Iowa caucuses, that 81-year-old man stayed up until five in the morning, huddled by his television, waiting for the results.

The world is watching what we do here.

The world is paying attention to how we conduct ourselves. What will we they see? What will we tell them? What will we show them?

Can we come together across party and region; race and religion to restore prosperity and opportunity as the birthright of every American?

Can we lead the community of nations in taking on the common threats of the 21st century – terrorism and climate change; genocide and disease?

Can we send a message to all those weary travelers beyond our shores who long to be free from fear and want that the United States of America is, and always will be, 'the last best, hope of Earth?'

We say; we hope; we believe – yes we can.

Clinton said to win Ohio

After its analysts declared just a bit ago that "it could be hours" before we get a clear idea of the outcome in Ohio, NBC and CNN have decided to call the state for Hillary Clinton. The numbers are 57% for Clinton, 41% in Ohio with 52% reporting.

Results are still trickling in from Texas, which is holding both a caucus and a primary tonight. Here's an excerpt from a Daily Kos diary posted by a caucus chair from a rural precinct in Texas:
I went to my precinct caucus. 52 people showed up. Considering that total voter turnout was about 250, that's pretty good, I'd say. No one really knew what was going on, so my prior review of the rules (and a copy in my hand) turned out to be pretty helpful. The poll workers were anxious to leave, so they opened the meeting and called for the election of a chair and left.

I was nominated to be chair (probably because I kept telling everyone what the rules are, but also, quite a few people there knew me). The meeting went very smoothly. We had 7 delegates to the county convention, and after the math was done, 5 went to Obama and 2 to Clinton. I'll now be joining the other Obama delegates at the county convention in a few weeks.
In what could be an important post-March 4th twist, Tom Brokaw says a source with the Obama campaign claims Barack has fifty superdelegates lined up and ready to endorse him. That would certainly be a significant development in the race. Hillary Clinton's campaign, in contrast, seems to be running out of gas.

Looking forward, it's also highly unlikely that Clinton can overtake Obama. She's just too far behind. Obama's February romp was the turning point. Running the math, even if Clinton won every single state voting today and was able to receive 55% of all the remaining delegates from the states that haven't held nominating events, she is still behind at the end by eight delegates.

McCain clinches GOP nomination

Mike Huckabee just appeared before his supporters to concede the race to John McCain, whose four victories tonight give him enough delegates to secure the Republican nomination this summer in Minneapolis.
Calling his White House bid the "journey of a lifetime", Huckabee spoke Tuesday night from Irving, TX commending McCain on an "honorable campaign" and emphasizing his commitment to the Republican party in the fight to the November election.

"We stayed in until the race was over. We kept the faith, that for me has been the most important goal of all," Huckabee said, standing with his wife on stage at the Four Seasons Hotel. "I'd rather lose the election than lose the principles that got me into politics in the first place."
You have to hand it to Republicans...when push comes to shove, they're pretty good at getting in line. It's apparently Huckabee's turn to do the McCain Gush.

Reacting to the news, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean declared:
John McCain is out of touch with the issues facing Americans each day. Instead of offering solutions to the high cost of health care, help for the middle class or ideas to create jobs, McCain offers 100 years in Iraq and more of the same Bush budgets that have heaped debt onto our children and damaged our economy.

Instead of ending the influence of lobbyists in Washington, he's hired them to run his campaign. The closer voters look at the real McCain record, the more they will realize he cannot be trusted to deliver the change America wants.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has been projected to win Rhode Island comfortably, although not by a huge margin. Chalk up another good call by our gut predictions guru Jonathan. (He wasn't looking at the polls - honest!)

The race is too close to call in Ohio, where Clinton is leading, and Texas, where Obama is leading - as of this hour.

Obama projected to win Vermont

With about 7% of precincts reporting, Barack Obama has been projected to win Vermont by CNN and the other major networks. Obama has about 59% of the vote in the Green Mountain State, compared to Clinton's 39%. The polls haven't closed in any of the other states voting today yet (Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island) but the networks are already projecting that John McCain will win Ohio in addition to Vermont for the Republicans.

Voting has been extended in Ohio's Sandusky County due to bad weather. That means polls will stay open in some places until 9 PM Eastern Time.

Jonathan Singer has an overview of exit polling over at MyDD if you're curious. We don't care much for polling, so we won't list the numbers here. However, our gut predictions guru Jonathan thinks that Obama will win Texas narrowly, lose Rhode Island to Hillary Clinton, and be in a statistical dead heat in Ohio.

On MSNBC, they're breaking down the exit polling, which really hasn't yielded any surprises. Briefly, respondents thought Clinton has been much more unfair to Obama than he has been to her on the campaign trail, but by about ten percent credited her with having a better plan.

A supermajority said the recent debates in Ohio and Texas factored into their decision. (Only voters in those states were surveyed for the exit poll).

Finally, Marc Ambinder reminds us that Ohio's urban areas are critically important:
NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd on MSNBC points out that Hillary Clinton's delegate spread in Ohio, assuming she wins the popular vote narrowly, could be as large as +5 or as narrow as.. -1..if Obama runs up the margins in the Cleveland-area districts held by Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones.
We'll see what happens later tonight.

The corporate media campaign (oh, and primaries, too)

Forget what you think about Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Chances are, you know better than the pundits who are analyzing the heck out of the candidates. Each has strengths and weaknesses that attract or repel a stunning variety of constituencies: Soccer Moms, Security Moms, Log Cabin Republicans, Pop Tart Dads, Tiny Angels of Death Families, The Wheat Pasta Lobby, and of course, the growing Stay At Home Dads in Suburbs Who Secretly Crave Cupcakes demographic.

All of these groups have no doubt contributed to the success or downfall of your favorite candidate, according to the Alphabet Broadcasting Contingent (ABC, CBS, NBC, Faux News, CNN, MSNBC, and so on).

While today's primaries are crucial to both candidates' hopes of clinching the nomination, let's look at how these people — and they are people, after all — are cast by the corporate media.

Here are a few observations independent of what's been streamed at you, much like the sludge cannons I see fertilizing open fields at this time of the year.

The first bit of nonsense was the contention that Barack Obama was “the most liberal” of all the senators in Washington D.C. in 2007.

This came from the National Journal, a publication obviously dedicated to political fiction. I wish the allegation were true. If it were, Mr. Obama's first name would be Dennis, he'd be a lot shorter, and he'd be a congressman from Ohio.

Don't get me wrong: I'm supporting Obama (I've said it outright, so don't continue to look for the bias), but he isn't the unflinching idealist that many conservatives say he is. He's not the Messiah, and he's not Satan bin Laden. He's smart, capable, and eloquent. I can live with that. As for Hillary Clinton, she's also smart, capable, and eloquent (without her handlers).

With either candidate, we the people have a shot at being heard, as opposed to being ruled. And there's spin.

For all my bashing of the traditional media (and deservedly so), they're not doing as much damage to any one candidate as they are turning the whole thing into a sporting event. This is a lot easier to cover.

Somebody wins, somebody loses, people pay to get in, everybody makes money, and the fans go home happy (sorta). Something like that.

And the sports cliches abound. One of them always comes out swinging, it's a real horse race, no knockout punches were thrown, but there was perhaps some hitting below the belt. Yet nobody really hit a home run.

What, no corner kicks? In the last debate, Tim Russert looked like some sort of deranged Popeye ringmaster, using a scary face and a bit of a growl to provoke the jaguar into mauling the lion, while not getting any blood on himself as he charged at Clinton with NAFTA, and Obama with Louis Farrakahn.

The only thing missing was an obnoxiously large top hat, a chair, and a whip. But I guess that's what presidential candidates can expect from corporate media in 2008. That, and if you're lucky, a Dial Test from CNN.

Jeez, is that what we're reduced to? “Dis one good, dis one bad.” Wow. Corporate spinmeisters have peddled whatever scum floats to the top of the campaign cesspool: the Hillary's a bitch narrative, the Barack's a militant Muslim narrative, she's too angry, he's not angry enough. Stories. Some of them stick (usually the most hateful), and some of them get repeated by people who don't know any better.

They're doing their best to create stories where none really exist. The truth about the candidates usually lies between the boundaries of understatement and hyperbole. But that doesn't make news exciting, and won't keep you glued to your widescreen through the 57 Viagra/Zoloft/Purple Pill commercials.

What's not being reported? How brutal and absurdly long these campaigns have been for each candidate personally.

How wrong it is for each candidate to have to devote most of their time to raising obscene amounts of money to even get noticed, let alone noticed nationally.
How, once they're in office, they'll have to devote a certain amount of their term to fundraising for the next election.

How the actual election machinery hasn't significantly changed in the past four years, and could thus result in dubious counts in key states and counties.

Why the Electoral College, so outdated, is still guarded by those in power.

It's much more immediately rewarding to show Obama in a turban, or to show Clinton yelling at a rally.

We must stop giving corporate media this power. It's not "the people" telling corporations we want to be entertained into oblivion; we want objective reporting. It's not "the people" demanding three minutes of national news and 23 minutes of local car crashes and waterskiing squirrels. Focus groups do that.

We want, and need, an American voice. It will be messy, and it won't fit in a 10-second clip, but it will be ours. And it must be heard.

Today, I hope the people in Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Rhode Island completely screw up prognosticators and talking heads, and vote for who they please.

If we really want change, a Democrat in the White House will be a good first step, but the people driving the message: That's money.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Homeowner's Bill of Rights Update: SB 6385 in House Rules Committee

After winning a "do pass" recommendation from a majority on the House Judiciary Committee, the Homeowner's Bill of Rights on Friday moved to the House Rules Committee, where it has been placed on second reading. The bill now has just three days to make it to the floor and pass the House of Representatives... or it will die.

Readers, in these next seventy two hours, there is a real opportunity to make a difference. Every email sent, every phone call dialed has an impact.

Last night we received a message from House Judiciary Chair Pat Lantz. She wrote "Thank you for your support. It will most certainly help move this bill along."

Our friend Sandy Levy, who has extensive experience working with all parties affected by the Homeowner's Bill of Rights, has prepared a great Q&A debunking the myth that insurance rates will skyrocket if we pass this consumer protection legislation. Sandy's background is as follows:
For the past 28 years, I have worked as a private lawyer, representing large and small commercial contractors, dozens of specialty subcontractors, building suppliers, and occasionally property owners.

Over the past 10 years more and more of our firm’s work has involved homeowners with construction defect claims. We have represented buyers of inexpensive homes in Tumwater, attached townhomes in Bellingham, condos all over King County, and apartment house owners in Snohomish County.

We have also defended wire manufacturers in fire cases, plumbing suppliers in products liability cases, and sheetrock suppliers at the University of Washington. On any given day in our office, we spend time representing just about everyone involved in construction, including architects, builders, contractors, suppliers and property owners. Currently, we represent two of Washington’s largest home contractors, as well as most of the electrical suppliers.

From this perspective, we see every aspect of residential planning, development, and construction. Without a doubt, I can say that the quality of construction over the past twenty years has been in a steep downward slide, driven, it seems, by a commitment to profit, and not quality workmanship.

Builders who used to employ their own framing and concrete crews now subcontract 100% of the work. The largest homebuilders don’t employ any of their own people to work onsite. Some even subcontract supervision, if they supply any.

We have taught courses and I put on seminars for all aspects of the construction trades, trying to train superintendents, contractors and subs. Some contractors are committed to improving and training their people, while others are driven solely by a desire to cut costs and increase profits.
The Q&A is as follows.

Question: Will SB 6385 drive up the cost of insurance builders are required to carry?

Answer: First, we have to look at what insurance builders are required to carry. RCW 18.27 requires builders to provide $250,000 in liability insurance to cover claims made for personal injury or property damage caused by the builder. All builder policies exclude coverage for defective work and breach of contract. More recently, to avoid having to cover water damage claims, insurers have excluded coverage for any form of water intrusion, wet or dry rot, mold, mildew and decay. SB 6385 does not add any additional requirements to carry insurance.

It is hard to see how insurance premiums will rise when the insurers do not provide coverage for the types of claims that might arise from these warranties.

Question: Have mandatory warranties driven up the costs of insurance in other states?

Answer: At least ten other states require home builder warranties, including California, which has had a mandatory 10 warranty for years. No one, not BIAW or Master Builders, has shown any impact on residential building following the enactment of warranty legislation. Until the end of 2006, most homebuilders, including California and Oregon builders, enjoyed record profits. This may change now due to the nationwide bursting of the housing bubble, but not because of laws holding builders accountable for shoddy construction.

According to the Master Builders Website, at least 19 states require builders to have liability insurance. These programs have been in place for many years. Master Builders does NOT report that these states have seen huge increases in insurance premiums. In fact, they offer no information or evidence of any insurance impact.

Question: Won’t the bill increase insurance premiums?

Answer: Even if the liability policies covered claims for breach of warranties, or are offered in the future, all such insurance is experienced-based. That means the insurers will look at the experience of the builders in terms of prior lawsuits, and claims against them. It’s no different than obtaining auto insurance, which is also required by law. If you have repeated traffic violations, your premiums will go up. If you drive for five years without a violation or accident, your premiums decline. It is and has been the same for builders.

Even without the warranty bill, insurers have charged builders various rates depending on the number of accident claims filed against them.

Question: Can’t homeowners get their own insurance?

Answer: No. Every homeowner’s insurance policy specifically excludes damages due to construction and design defects, including latent defects. Those policies also exclude damages arising from water intrusion, mold, wet and dry rot. Homeowners cannot buy coverage to protect them from construction defects.

Question: What effect will the warranty bill have on overall quality of construction?

Answer: Our society operates on principles of personal responsibility. If you act recklessly and insure either a person or his property, the common law requires the responsible party to pay the other party for his damage.

Builders have never had to compensate injured homeowners for damages to their homes. The warranty bill would, for the first time, impose responsibility on the builders. This is no different than other industries, including doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, salon operators, and dog trainers.

If you are negligent, you can be held responsible. If you want to minimize those risks, you find ways to cut down on your exposure. You send your employees for new training, you attend continuing education courses. Maybe, you hire a consultant to look at your operations. The point is, when you know you can be held accountable, you respond in a business-like way.

Builders will send their key people to waterproofing seminars to learn from experts how to avoid these problems. In fact, commercial builders and condominium builders hire experts to oversee the construction.

All subcontractors on condominiums have to prove to the developers that they have the expertise to perform the required work.

There is no doubt that builders will train themselves and their subcontractors to minimize the risk by improving the quality of their work.

Builders who try to cut corners, who refuse to adjust their work, will and should suffer from performing shoddy workmanship, the same way other businesses suffer from negligence. If some unscrupulous builders go out of business, that may be a good thing. Their futures are in their own hands.

Question: If insurers do not currently insure construction defects, is it fair to require that they be held accountable?

Answer: Right now, it is the homebuyer himself who is acting as the builder’s insurer. If the builder builds a shoddy home, the buyer not only has to pay to buy it, but then has to pay again to fix it. The homebuyer is in effect offering free insurance to the builder. Is that fair?

To answer this question, we have to remember that builders are already required to comply with all building codes and ordinances. SB 6385 does not add any requirements. Also, with most new home purchases, buyers have no ability to verify that the homes were built properly. So, as between the builders and the buyers, the builders are the only ones capable of preventing the defect in the first place.

As a society, we have decided to require minimum building codes, minimum standards for food production and safety, labor standards, and many other regulations.

We do so without regard to whether the responsible party can obtain insurance. Government's job is to protect people from unreasonable risk of harm to persons and property. We cannot base decisions on whether to protect ourselves on whether insurance is available or not.

Question: Is there anything contractors and insurers can do to minimize any impact from the new warranties?

Answer: The bill does not take effect until July 2009, more than 16 months from now. During that time, builders and insurers should get together to discuss what they can do to minimize any impact. For example, insurers could provide coverage for ordinary construction defects if builders agree to undergo training and certification.

The industry could offer waterproofing classes, superintendent classes, and subcontractor certification.

Hospital insurers routinely audit hospitals to verify compliance with health and safety standards. They compare a hospital’s surgery results with other hospitals. They require administrators to certify that all surgery centers meet minimum quality standards. Builders and their insurers could do the same thing.

If hospitals can run efficiently, if space programs can operate effectively, home builders can learn to build homes without major defects.

Doing so will result in better homes, and lower costs of both construction and insurance. Those builders who go through the appropriate training could use that as a marketing tool. Maybe the industry would offer a certificate course and builders who participate would qualify for lower cost of insurance.

Builders committed to high quality construction, and not the highest possible profit, will prosper. Those whose only goal is to maximize profit will eventually suffer the consequences, as they should.

Question: Is there anything small builders can do to minimize the effects on their businesses?

Answer: They should ask their associations, the BIAW or Master Builders, to offer training courses and establish quality standards. They could also self-insure through BIAW. Imagine that BIAW would offer high quality training programs throughout the state. If a builder obtains the BIAW certificate of Excellence, it would become eligible for self insurance through BIAW.

During construction, BIAW could send its own inspectors to inspect their Excellence members’ work, to identify any problems and protect both the builders and the homeowners. This program would bring down the costs of construction in the long run, and the number of construction defect claims.

They should be doing this now, but they have no incentive because they have immunity from lawsuits and can’t be held accountable.

Bills to hold builders accountable have been offered in Olympia for a decade, but they have been defeated by the industry. Builders will not have any financial incentive to improve their practices unless they can be held accountable.


Please ask your representatives to support the Homeowner's Bill of Rights. Call the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and ask to be connected to your lawmakers. Or, find your representative using the legislative directory and send an e-mail.

Is Tim Eyman becoming a surrogate for Dino Rossi's campaign?

We ask, because it sure sounds like it. From Richard Roesler's Eye on Olympia:
Noting that "we'll be back here soon," I-960 author Tim Eyman stood before the state Supreme Court chambers today and said he can't believe that Gov. Chris Gregoire didn't know about the court challenge beforehand:
"It is an absolute crock to think that the head of the Democratic Party is somehow an innocent bystander in this entire effort. The entire legislative session is coordinated and being decided and making policy decisions purely based on what Gregoire wants and what is going to help her running for re-election."
Tim, when are you going to get a clue? Governor Gregoire isn't in public office because she enjoys power or the media spotlight like you do. She ran for office because she wanted to make a difference, advance the common good, and improve the lives of her fellow citizens.

The real crock is your stupid accusation that "the entire legislative session is being coordinated and being decided" by Gregoire just so that she can lay the groundwork for a successful reelection bid. Anyone who truly knows Gregoire understands that's not her style. Sure, she's in politics, and she has a competitive spirit, but her focus is on making our state a better place.

To argue that Gregoire is solely responsible for shaping the legislative session is silly. Not only does Gregoire work collaboratively with House and Senate Democrats to set an agenda, but she's comfortable reaching across the aisle as well.

Just ask Richard DeBolt, who was interviewed by Governing Magazine for its cover story last year profiling Gregoire:
"I've been in leadership roles under other governors," says House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, "and they were very formal and process-oriented. She'll come in and talk to you one on one."

[...]

Since Republicans had the most to say at the beginning of her tenure, there's no reason not to give them the last word now. "We're not always ideologically aligned," says DeBolt. "But I think she's a good manager and that she's doing a good job of running the state."
Ironically, Gregoire's weakness isn't her record, it's the lack of appreciation for her many tremendous accomplishments - notwithstanding last November's unnecessary special session.

Gregoire has been such a diligent chief executive throughout her first term that she has spent little time concerning herself with the public's perception of her job performance. Fortunately, she's made changes recently to address that problem, including the formation of a capable communications team last autumn.

Eyman is correct that Gregoire is no fan of his unconstitutional initiative. And why should she be? Because a narrow majority of voters approved it? Its fate at the ballot box is irrelevant. It was and remains a libertarian scheme to paralyze government. More importantly, it's in conflict with the supreme law of our land.

If writing unconstitutional laws is okay, then perhaps I should submit an initiative to the people of Washington State proposing that Tim Eyman be exiled to a Caribbean tax haven permanently. If I convince people to vote yes, then their decision should be respected regardless of what that pesky Constitution allows. All I need to do is get the voters to approve my initiative. Then Tim Eyman can be forcibly removed from Washington State whether he likes it or not.

(We don't have to worry about his rights, you see. The Constitution doesn't matter, so he doesn't have any rights).

That is Eyman's argument - Olympia should abide by my initiative, period.

The Constitution is meaningless unless it is enforced. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown - not Governor Gregoire - is asking the state Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional the provision of Initiative 960 that requires two thirds votes of the House and Senate to raise revenue. Eyman claims there's nothing wrong with the provision but still sounds worried that it will be overturned.

(Gee, wonder why that is? He must know that he's wrong).

Eyman's claim that Gregoire is really behind the lawsuit is a lie. It was Brown's idea. If Eyman has been paying any attention he would know that Brown is the Democratic leader who has expressed the most annoyance and disgust for his unconstitutional initiative.

It should come as no surprise that she's the one who is filing the lawsuit.

Even reporters know that Eyman is lying. From Joe Turner at the Tacoma News Tribune:
Tim Eyman seemingly will do anything to rile up his supporters, including what the Nixon-era press secretary called being “at variance with the truth.”

(That means “lying.”)

Here’s what Eyman e-mailed to his fans (and reporters) Sunday night:
Gregoire plans to sue the voters, disrespecting the voters’ approval of I-960. Gregoire is sticking her finger in the eye of the voters. She plans to sue the voters, disrespecting the voters’ approval of I-960.
Well, that’s just not true.

I asked Eyman today why he told his supporters that Gov. Chris Gregoire is suing over Initiative 960 when the lawsuit is being filed by Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, and he said, "She’s (Gregoire) the head of the Democratic Party. And she could stop it if she wanted."

Well, that’s not true, either. Gregoire may very well be in sympathy with what Brown is doing, but Eyman is framing the issue as if it’s all Gregoire’s fault.

Eyman also proceeded to say a few more things in the interview that were flat-out wrong and I told him I wasn’t obliged to report things he said if I know they are wrong. He told me he was just exercising his right of free speech.
Emphasis mine. As Will says, "The newspapers Tim Eyman lies to are the same ones who run his guest columns, the same ones who quote him, and the same ones who, more often than not, play stenographer" for him.

NPI and Permanent Defense have repeatedly urged the Evergreen State press corps to stop giving Eyman a free ride. Unfortunately, there are few in the traditional media willing to consistently scrutinize and cynically parse his lie-ridden propaganda.

Gregoire reacts to "Grading the States" report

The governor's office has just released a statement in reaction to Pew's Grading the States report (announced this morning) in which Washington State received an "A" for effective government performance and management of public resources:
"That’s the kind of report card about which any parent would be proud!” Gregoire said in response to the latest ratings. "Although we are very proud of this success, we will keep striving to improve how we deliver results to the people of the state. Next time, we want to receive nothing but As [in each category]."

Pew attributed the improved results to the governor’s use of the Government Management Accountability and Performance project to set meaningful goals for state agencies and measure their progress toward achieving them.

Gregoire said this process has helped the state improve its efficiency and effectiveness, and a good example is the elimination of the long waiting list at the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR).

Since January 2007, DVR, a division of the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), has eliminated a waiting list that was once 14,274-people long — a feat that DSHS initially thought to be impossible — while steadily improving its success rate of putting people back to work.
While Republican Dino Rossi continues to insist that Democrats in Olympia are doing a terrible job, unbiased national observers say we're leading the country.

Leveling baseless labels like "failure" at our state's hardworking Democratic officials isn't going to lead to a GOP victory in November. But apparently it's the best attack they can come up with.

The Republican Party is bankrupt of promising ideas - and it's showing.

In Brief - March 3rd, 2008

It sometimes seems like education gets short shrift here in Washington State. For all the talk about "the state's paramount duty" to ensure that our childrens do learn, education funding continually comes up woefully short.

For example, consider school libraries. At a time when reading and math have become the highest priority in school curricula, school libraries are losing librarians and can't afford to keep their collections up to date. What is more integral to reading than a library? A librarian in Ridgefield, WA, reports that she serves four schools in her district. Four!

On a weekly basis, that puts her in each school a little more than one day a week.

A Senate bill (SB 6380) that intended to give school districts more money to hire librarians and update library books passed the Senate unanimously this session, but despite powerful support from parents and teachers the bill died in the House. The most recent state revenue forecast dampened enthusiasm for making more investments in our common wealth.

I volunteer in a school library. When I'm there, I hear the excited buzz as the kids come in to enjoy one of their favorite times of the week and then I hear the quiet hush as the students put their noses into the books that the librarian carefully selected for their enjoyment.

If we want our children to read, we have to explain why reading is a critical skill and provide access to books that are intriguing and captivating.

Let's take a look at today's headlines:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Oregon currently has the dubious distinction of spending more on its prison system than any other state. A 1994 initiative mandating minimum prison sentences is partly to blame. Two November ballot measures could increase the incarceration rate and prison spending even further if they pass.
  • Several "Street of Dreams" homes in Snohomish County were destroyed this morning by arsonists. The blazes were apparently set off by individuals associating themselves with Earth Liberation Front, who stupidly believes that the way to save the environment is to start destructive fires (and increase the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to boot).
  • Two earthquakes of approximately 5.1 and 4.9 magnitude struck about 200 miles off the Oregon coast this morning, near the town of Bandon. The quakes caused no damage.
Across the Nation
  • Congressman Dennis Kucinich is fighting to keep his House seat in Tuesday's Ohio primary election. He is being slammed by his Democratic opponent and some of Cleveland's political leaders for ignoring his home state. Kucinich's Democratic constituents will decide tomorrow whether they want to keep Dennis as their standard bearer.
  • John McCain has a tricky line to walk in satisfying ultra-conservatives, biconceptuals and independents in his presidential race, and his long twenty five record shows inconsistencies with his positions on key issues such as immigration, tax cuts and torture.
  • The falling dollar has allowed the price of crude oil to reach a new high of $103.95 per barrel. Investors are using oil as a hedge against the sinking dollar and their speculation is driving prices higher.
Around the World
  • Dmitri A. Medvedev will become Russia's next president, although he will share the head-of-state duties with his former boss, Vladimir Putin. Putin has pledged to serve as Russia's prime minister and plans to enlarge the duties of his new position. Perhaps he should give Dick Cheney a call.
  • The United Nations Security Council is expected to approve new sanctions against Iran because of suspicions that it is again developing nuclear weapons. All five permanent members and six out of ten non-permanent members support the sanctions.
If you have something to add, please leave a comment.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pew gives Gregoire, Washington State an "A" for government performance

From the Great News for Washington, Bad News for Dino Rossi Department: A new fifty state report card due to be released tomorrow by Pew Research gives Washington an "A" grade for government performance.

(The Pew accolade follows last year's gushing story in Forbes about Washington's excellent business climate, and Gregoire's appearance on the cover of Governing Magazine, which honored her as one of many Public Officials of the Year).

Report Card

The high score, awarded to only three states in total, provides fresh and convincing evidence that Governor Chris Gregoire and the Democratic legislature are doing a terrific job, despite what Republicans would have us all believe:
WASHINGTON [D.C.] March 3rd: All 50 states received report cards today evaluating each state government's performance in serving the public. Grading the States 2008 is the only 50-state assessment of its kind that evaluates and grades each state based on a range of areas, from budget and finance to roads and bridges. The report demonstrates the importance of state governments that work better and cost less, particularly in the wake of widespread budget deficits and a weakening national economy.

"Fostering meaningful change through fact-based research provides all states with useful knowledge to pursue innovative solutions that will strengthen performance and service to the public," said Susan Urahn, managing director of The Pew Center on the States. "State leaders and managers should look beyond the grade and pursue the opportunity that the report provides: to operate more efficiently and effectively, improve transparency, and be more accountable for results."

Overall state performance in 2008 ranged from A- (Utah, Virginia, and Washington) to D+ (New Hampshire). The national average among the 50 states was B-, which 18 states received. Thirteen states earned grades above the national average and 19 states' grades were below the national average.
While there's always room for improvement, getting an "A" grade is a huge vindication of the Gregoire record as chief executive. Washingtonians can be proud that our governor is one of the nation's best, most skilled public servants, and rest assured that the Evergreen State is competently and effectively managed under strong Democratic leadership.

The Washington page of the report is filled with glowing praise for Gregoire and her work as governor. A couple of choice excerpts (emphasis is mine):
Washington has been a consistent leader in results-based governance. It was ahead of nearly all other states in controlling spending by keeping track of where investments were and were not paying off.

Under Governor Christine Gregoire, Washington’s government has, if anything, moved further ahead on this front. Upon taking office, Gregoire instituted a Government Management Accountability and Performance program, or GMAP, which emphasizes periodic public forums during which key players on particular issues come together to problem-solve and report results to the governor and her leadership team. Participants walk away with well-formulated plans, due dates—and often commitments from the governor in exchange for vows for tangible improvements.

[...]

Bottom line: No state in the nation is better at developing and sharing information than Washington. That doesn’t mean it isn’t trying to expand its definition of excellence. A case in point is that the governor is pushing for more easily accessible financial data. “Even if I can figure out the right question to ask, I am all too often having them scramble to manually construct the data,” she says.
The Washington page ends with a quick reference to Tim Eyman's Initiative 960:
The two-thirds majority required in the legislature to increase taxes has made it difficult for state leaders to raise the funds necessary for balance at times when revenue dips.
Fortunately, that provision from I-960 will (likely) soon be off our books thanks to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane, who is filing a lawsuit tomorrow challenging the section's constitutionality before the state Supreme Court.

Here are the individual scores for Washington broken down by criteria:
People: A-
Money: A-
Infrastructure: B+
Information: A
It's no surprise that infrastructure would be our weakest category. We've only recently begun to strengthen our common wealth by investing in education, healthcare, and transportation - and we've still got a long way to go. But we're still above average compared to the rest of the country.

Other Pacific Northwest states barely received passing grades. After Washington, Idaho had the next highest score: a B minus. Oregon and Montana each received a C plus. Alaska trailed in last place with a C. Still, none of those results are as bad as "First in the Nation" New Hampshire's D plus.

The report cited Oregon's shaky tax structure as the biggest problem there, decried the negative effect of term limits in Montana (it makes for an inexperienced legislature), and admonished Alaska for not knowing how to spend its money wisely.

The report's introduction highlights Washington as an example of fiscal prudence in action, applauding the state for keeping its budget in line with "changing tides":
Washington State’s longterm perspective and sophisticated projections, for example, have helped it avoid unpleasant surprises. The state generates long-term budget outlooks — at least six years out — that are not just insider planning documents but, says Candace Espeseth, assistant director of the state’s budget division, something the legislature looks at, as well. “We have quarterly updates for many of our forecasts and our caseloads,” she says. “We’re constantly realigning.”
The Pew findings may come as a shock to Dino Rossi and his Republican cronies, who have assailed and repeatedly attacked the Governor as a complete failure. Here's our question tonight to Rossi backers - everyone from Luke Esser to Tim Eyman to Stefan Sharkansky - How are you going to spin an "A" grade for our state and its Democratic leadership as a failure?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Bring on the Initiative 960 legal challenge!

It's time this unconstitutional piece of garbage was stricken from our books:
Senate Democrats have laid the groundwork for a lawsuit against a tax-limiting initiative, with the majority leader considering the unusual step of filing her own lawsuit in hopes of making it easier for lawmakers to raise taxes.

Friday's legal maneuver, coming in the 2008 session's waning days, is an unusually strong sign that lawmakers have grown tired of initiative promoter Tim Eyman's forays into limiting the Legislature's power.

The groundwork was laid when the Senate began debate on a proposed $10 million liquor increase that would pay for drunken driving enforcement and substance abuse treatment.
Acting to ensure Senate Democrats would have standing to bring a lawsuit, Senate Majority Lisa Brown requested that Brad Owen (the President of the Senate) rule Initiative 960 unconstitutional before the vote so the bill could go forward. When Owen declined to do, saying a court should decide the matter, the Senate went ahead and voted on the bill anyway.

25 senators voted in favor and 21 voted against.

So while it had majority support in the Senate, the revenue increase didn't meet the unconstitutional "two thirds" threshold set in place by Initiative 960.

This means that there is now an actual conflict between our state's supreme law of the land and an Eyman initiative - not simply a hypothetical collision. Back in January, I declared that it was only a matter of time before a lawsuit challenging the validity of Initiative 960 was filed:
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.

[...]

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..
In addition to wiping it off the books, a court decision against Initiative 960 would create a precedent that would prevent Eyman and others from paralyzing the legislative process with future initiatives to force supermajority votes on any category of bills (Eyman has already conceived one new "two thirds" initiative).

For a detailed look at why Initiative 960 is bad law, please read our series from last fall - Unconstitutional, Unfair, Unsound:

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

In Brief - March 1st, 2008

Yesterday's big presidential primary dust-up started when the Clinton campaign released a new ad asking voters who they wanted answering the White House "red phone" when something bad happens at 3:00 AM.

It's an interesting choice in the wake of Clinton's plagiarism accusations against Obama, because as the ever-observant folks on the 'tubes have pointed out, a McCain supporter released an earlier video using exactly the same argument, albeit with lousier production values.

To make matters worse, those same persnickitty intertubers dug up video from Campaign 2004 of Bill Clinton reminding people of the difference between fear-mongering and hopeful inspiration - a clip that, after watching it, we hope the Obama campaign makes liberal use of.

Obama responded to the Clinton ad with an elegant statement asserting that it's not who picks up the phone we should so much be concerned with, as what kind of judgment that person will exercise when they do. His point is well taken, what with Mrs. Clinton demonstrating ample poor judgment these past few days: her choice to go negative and her selection of issues on which to do so. Doubly so given Obama's own long-running stance against the Iraq war.

Yesterday, capping off a month in which they have shifted the goalposts of success almost daily in a way that is eerily similar to how the Bush administration has shifted the goalposts for success in Iraq ever since "mission accomplished", was not a good day for the Clinton campaign.

And now, the news you didn't see, well, on the news:

In the Pacific Northwest
  • Take a trip back to the 1962 Seattle World's Fair in this recently digitized home video just chock-full of visual nostalgia, It's the Space Needle, before it was cliche, and the Seattle Center Flag Pavilion, when it still had flags. The cable tramway (whatever happened to that?) gliding high above the International Fountain. And a Seattle skyline so uncluttered by skyscrapers that the elevated monorail track stands out as an obvious landmark. Hat tip to Kevin Schofield for the link.
  • The Seattle Times provides a nice roundup of presidential campaign donations by technology workers living in Puget Sound.
  • Idaho lawmakers float a proposal to create a scholarship fund for nurses who agree to perform at least four years of service teaching nursing after completing their graduate degrees. Given the nation-wide nursing shortage, this proposal sounds like a winner.

Across the Nation

  • Trials of suspected terrorists have finally started at Guantanamo Bay, but that doesn't mean that justice is being served.
  • Today on BUSH-TV's long-running hit series Blame the Victim: Tanking economy is home buyers' fault.
  • Internet service providers like Comcast don't like the idea of an open Internet because it would stop them from selectively blocking websites or using bandwidth shaping to slow down sies like YouTube or technologies like BitTorrent. That's why Comcast recently resorted to paying people to attend an FCC hearing on Net Neutrality. They don't want to have an honest discussion with proponents of an open Internet.
  • William F. Buckley, godfather of the Neo-conservative movement, is dead at 82. NPR offers their usually thorough retrospective on his life and works.
  • Two items from the United Nations: Maude Barlow, who we met a couple of weeks ago, has urged the adoption of a UN Water Covenant: a global solution to the impending problem of water availability. The UN has also weighed in on the public housing crisis in post-Katrina New Orleans, calling for protection of minorities' rights.
  • An explosion in an Illinois shopping mall has injured nine people. The phrase "explosion in a shopping mall" brings to mind only two possible explanations: act of terrorism, or some kind of accident. This one, fortunately, turns out to be the latter. Without making light in any way of the horrible thing that just happened to those nine people, this does underscore that Americans are in more real danger from aging infrastructure (anybody remember the Minneapolis Bridge collapse?) than from the government's inability to legally tap our phones without getting warrants.

Around the World

  • The British Government has ordered that transcripts of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet meetings be released to the public. Why do we care? Because in those transcripts likely hides a whole lot of light that needs to be shed on the Bush administration's dealings with Blair in the run-up to the Iraq war. Or in other words, just exactly what was the full, never-been-told story behind the Downing Street Memo?
  • Four days after Raul Castro took his brother's place as Cuban President, Cuba has signed two key international human rights treaties. Although normally this would call for speculation as to whether the U.S. government would soften its stance against Cuba, this being an election year and Cuba being such a hot-button issue for many Hispanic Americans, it's probably safe to conclude that Congress and the administration will leave this one alone unless public pressure forces them to respond.
  • While legislators over on this side of the pond don't seem to have particularly noticed that the Bush administration has suspended the "Great Writ" of Habeas Corpus, a significant contingent of their counterparts in England are about to revolt against Gordon Brown's government over plans to do that very thing to terrorism suspects over there: detain them without charge for up to 42 days.

The Lighter Side

This Day in History

This was actually a pretty busy day in history. Here are some of the best bits, but a quick trip to Wikipedia for the rest wouldn't be a terrible way to spend a few minutes, either.

  • 1692: Sarah Good, Sarah Osbourne, and an Arawak Indian woman named Tituba were brought before magistrates on charges of Witchcraft, beginning the Salem Witch Trials
  • 1700: Since yesterday was the quadrennial leap-day, it seems fitting to recall that on this day 308 years ago, Sweden introduced its own Swedish Calendar, a plan to come into compliance with the Gregorian Calendar by skipping all the leap days over a forty-year period.
  • 1781: Before the Constitution we all know and love, there were the Articles of Confederation, ratified by the continental congress on this day in 1781. This document organized the 13 states into a nation, and was the law of the land for seven years until the current Constitution was ratified in 1788.
  • 1803: Ohio, now about to participate heavily in the selection of our next President, was admitted as the seventeenth state.
Finally, we're pleased to report that thanks to your help, the local netroots community had a successful "Burn Bush for Burner" fundraising drive this week. The goal was to generate two hundred and fifty donations to offset the money raised by Laura Bush's Eastside appearance for Dave Reichert. But by the end, we had brought in almost double the goal: 432 donations for a total of $21,879 in just a few short days. A big thanks to everyone who helped.

We don't know what the Reichert campaign brought in, but every time we can respond, we demonstrate the value of people powered politics.

If you have something to add, please leave a comment.