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

Monday, June 30, 2008

George Fearing: 4th Congressional District deserves better representation

Democratic challenger George Fearing, who is running for Congress against Republican Doc Hastings in the 4th Congressional District, joined the Klickitat County Democrats on Thursday to present his priorities for a healthier Washington:
"Klickitat County needs more jobs and I would like to see some companies come here to develop alternative sources of energy such as wind power," said the Democratic candidate.

"If we don’t do something soon, that aluminum plant is going to be torn down and used for parts."

The Tri-Cities-area attorney, who cited listening as one of his political strengths, likened the legislative process to practicing law.

"A congressman is like a lawyer," he said. "You represent people and you put aside your own interests."
Fearing wants to ensure that new jobs come with a living wage and protect the common wealth in Central Washington, including the preservation of public lands that should be available to future generations.

In the first quarter of the year, Fearing outraised Hastings, though he still trails in cash on hand. The second quarter is almost over, but it's not too late to help George out. By making a donation, you can help Democrats compete in Eastern Washington. After all, what could be more fun than forcing Doc Hastings to actually campaign and debate the issues?

My home is Oregon. Gordon Smith's home is nowhere near mine.


Last week, Gordon Smith's campaign released a new television ad (yeah, again--Smith is swimming in loot and running through it like water) attempting to tout his "Eastern Oregon roots".

Here's the script:

I See Oregon's natural beauty and more...

Its people, jobs and way of life.

I'm Gordon Smith and I believe no part of our state should ever be left behind.

Some say lock the land up and the people out. No way.

Because no one loves the land more than the farmers, loggers and ranchers who care for it.

I approve this message because what some call 'the rest of Oregon,' we simply call 'home.'


Besides attempting to pander to farmers, loggers and ranchers (most all of whom do love our state and its land dearly--but I daresay not more than the rest of us who call Oregon "home") the ad attempts to lasso Smith as a man of Oregon who lives here and embraces the rural life.

The ad has little to do with the biography of Senator Gordon Smith.

Smith was indeed born in Pendleton, Oregon. But the family moved to Maryland when Gordon was a child as his father accepted the job as assistant secretary of Agriculture under President Eisenhower (this blog post claims that the Smith's moved in 1954, but I have no cooberating evidence). In any case, Smith left Oregon and didn't return until sometime in the 80s.

Smith was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996. For the last twenty years, he's again gone missing from Oregon.

While Smith's Senate counterpart Ron Wyden has kept his promise to hold a public town hall meeting in each county in Oregon every year, no such promise was made by Smith. Nor to my knowledge has he even come close to anything similar. And while Smith has held some joint public town hall meetings with Wyden, a call to Smith's office this afternoon didn't yield an answer as to how many Smith himself has held in the last year.

A Google search didn't show much in terms of Smith town halls, either. I'm waiting for a call back from Smith's office to find out when and where they've taken place in the last year, if at all..

Unlike Smith, I wasn't born in Oregon. I was born in Idaho. But my family moved to a small town in eastern Oregon when I was a toddler. I lived in that small community until I graduated from high school. I attended college in Oregon, too. In fact, the only time I've moved from the state is from 1987-1995 to live in Washington state. I'm an Oregonian not just in name but in spirit. And unlike Gordon Smith, this is truly my home.

Smith owns a brick mansion in Pendleton and a frozen food plant about 20 miles out of town. How often he visits his house, I'm not sure. But he hasn't run the business since 1996, when he was elected to the Senate.

On my travels to eastern and central Oregon, I've asked people about their visits with Smith. The vast majority of the time I hear that they never see Smith (but they see Wyden and his people a few times a year). For a man trying to claim the mantle of "Oregon is home", Smith sure isn't in contact with his neighbors (or his constituents) very much.

Doug MacDonald's criticism of light rail and rapid transit is flawed - here's why

Last week, Crosscut began publishing an in-depth, three part series by former state transportation secretary Doug MacDonald which brazenly asserts that rail "has no place in a big new transit plan". MacDonald, who oversaw the state's highway and ferry system for over six years before he resigned in 2007, can't drive because of poor eyesight, and recently became a regular bus rider.

While MacDonald does appreciate the value of public transportation, he is regretfully only a proponent of one type: buses.

MacDonald seems to despise Sound Transit with a passion. It's clearly evident in his writing. He doesn't like the agency's focus on rail, doesn't like its proposed projects, and amazingly, doesn't even like its process for gathering public input. He gives Sound Transit almost no credit for its work.

(Maybe jealously is partly to blame...surveys show that Sound Transit has a better relationship with the public than WSDOT).

MacDonald's long data-filled diatribe against rail and Sound Transit makes a number of conclusions that are problematic and deserving of a response. In this post, I'm going to challenge MacDonald's premise that rail shouldn't be part of the mix of transit solutions we build to alleviate congestion and give commuter choices.

The first mistake MacDonald makes is that he forgets the old maxim one size doesn't fit all. Just as the human body has different types of blood vessels (arteries, veins, arterioles, venule, capillaries), an effective, usable transit system must be multimodal. Buses simply cannot adequately substitute for rail, just as capillaries can't do the job of arteries. The most usable transit systems typically have these components.

Commuter Rail. Also known as heavy rail. Typically runs on diesel. Efficiently moves large numbers of people between destinations or hubs, such as Tacoma and Seattle (Sounder), without ever getting stuck in traffic. Typically operates around rush hour or for special events only. Amtrak operates long distance commuter trains in some regions of the United States.

Light Rail. Usually runs in its own right of way, powered by electricity, along key corridors, connecting communities together and offering guaranteed travel times. Light rail operates at high speeds with fast station stops. Light rail also makes more frequent stops (unlike heavy rail) and runs continuously throughout the day.

Streetcars. Also referred to as trolleys or trams. Most modern streetcars are powered by electricity, although San Francisco's system continues to use cables. Streetcars, as the name suggests, are built into the street, and they run for short distances with a high number of stops. They are designed to carry less people than light or heavy rail. The South Lake Union Trolley and Tacoma Link (which Sound Transit has confusingly branded "light rail") are streetcars.

Buses. Buses are large road vehicles that transport passengers along designated routes. Because buses do not operate along trackway, routes can be changed. This provides flexibility but may also create confusion for riders. Buses are especially ubiquitous and dominant in Puget Sound because most communities are not served by rail. Because buses are road vehicles, they are prone to getting stuck in traffic congestion. "Bus rapid transit" routes attempt to solve this problem by providing a dedicated, restricted lane for buses to travel in. Note that the term does not actually refer to the speed of the buses.

Shuttle service. Shuttle services like King County Metro's Dial A Ride Transit bring public transit to homes and businesses not well served by buses. Shuttles operate on variable routes, meaning they generally go to where the riders are instead of the other way around. DART does not go door to door, however. Instead, it goes to the nearest predetermined access point (which passengers must walk, bike, or drive to) when it leaves the route.

Vanpools. The most cost effective mode of public transportation available, vanpools allow a small group of people (usually between five and fifteen) to share the ride from home to the workplace. Vanpools take advantage of high occupancy vehicle lanes to dodge traffic jams. A derivative concept, the vanshare, allows a small group of people to share the ride from home to a major transit hub where the passengers and driver may then board a ferry, commuter rail, light rail, or bus.

We already have great "rubber tire" transit services in Puget Sound. Metro's vanpool program is perhaps the most successful in the United States, for example, and together Metro, Community Transit, and Pierce Transit have a huge bus fleet. What we're missing is a rail network.

We have capillaries moonlighting as arteries and veins.

Rail is extremely effective at carrying large numbers of people through corridors, which is where our worst congestion is. Think about it: when was the last time you sat in a traffic jam on any of the streets around your house? Our highways, like Interstate 5, Interstate 405, Interstate 90, and State Route 520 are the big bottlenecks in our transportation system.

Except for Sounder, rail does not currently serve any of these corridors, and there is no light rail (there will be in 2009 when Central Link opens).

Sounder's popularity alone is evidence we need more rail, not less.

The second mistake MacDonald makes is that he attacks Sound Transit for not doing what it is, in fact, doing. In MacDonald's words:
Sound Transit's expensive tax increase would be spent almost entirely on the limited routes and services it sponsors, so here's the big question: When could we ever expect more funding for the 90 percent of the system virtually exploding with double-digit ridership increases today that is not part of Sound Transit?

Struggling to digest the big Sound Transit swallow, would public appetite in the era of unaffordable gas prices recover in time to take up the much larger needs of the system as a whole?

The single-vision Sound Transit directors and staff haven't raised this question in their own discussions or in their ongoing "public outreach" publicity blitz.

Riders, potential riders, all elected officials, and taxpayers should care about the big picture, even if Sound Transit apparently doesn't.
Doug unfortunately has it all backward.

Sound Transit was not created to funnel money into a bigger and badder bus fleet. It was created to design and build a regional transit network that improves mobility in Puget Sound. Or, in other words... look at the big picture, something that our existing transit providers cannot do a good job of because their primary objective is to operate buses that serve neighborhoods in one county only.

What would be the point of having an organization that simply duplicates what Metro, Community Transit, and Pierce Transit already do?

Sound Transit's dollars are supposed to be spent on worthy capital projects that connect the region together. Since rail lines cannot be built overnight, Sound Transit has started by providing much needed express bus service, which is operated by its partner agencies.

It's strange, but MacDonald is condemning Sound Transit for not spending its money the way it's required to (and the way the public expects it to).

MacDonald goes on to claim that creating a rail network isn't worth it because it takes time to build. Let's debunk this third erroneous conclusion.
Sound Transit knows exactly what new projects it would build. And when it would hope to complete them.

Don't hold your breath to see new transportation services from these projects anytime soon. Most of the new projects would not go into service until 2020, when today's four-county regional population is expected to have grown by an additional half million people, from today's 3.6 million.

Nevertheless, some of those eventual projects certainly will be big – in dollar cost, anyway!
The old adage, Rome wasn't built in a day comes to mind here. Just because we can't get rail overnight doesn't mean we shouldn't get started building it. The longer we wait, the more it will cost.

By making the decision to expand Link now, we can save money and reap the benefits sooner. If we dither, we are simply postponing an inevitable decision. Sooner or later, we'll be so sick of traffic congestion that we will move ahead and invest in rail because we need a reliable way to get around.

Rail is a long-term investment. It has to be thought of in that way. It doesn't make sense to decide against a project simply because it won't be finished and available tomorrow. The necessity of immediate action should not preclude wise and thoughtful planning for the future.

MacDonald used to head WSDOT - he of all people should know that it takes time to develop infrastructure. Many of the projects funded by the 2003 nickel gas tax increase are still under construction. Others have just opened, like State Route 520's new westbound flyover ramp at Redmond Way.

Clearly, MacDonald had no problem approving highway projects that he knew would take years to be completed during his tenure.

On to Number Four. MacDonald claims the impact of Link expansion would be negligible and argues that many of the new riders would come from buses:
Altogether, for spending about $4.1 billion in today's dollars (more because of inflation to the time the projects are actually built), bright ribbons of light rail would serve two corridors in King County only and would eventually accommodate by 2030 a total of perhaps 100,000 daily boardings more than would be the case if none of the proposed light rail extensions in the new plan were made at all.

Reaching that gain in ridership 22 years from now represents the equivalent of growing today's regional transit boardings of almost 540,000 by less than a fifth. That's the equal of growing today's ridership at an annual compound rate of growth of just under 0.8 percent. Of course, if you think about it, even that is a big overstatement, because lots of those so-called new riders are already on the buses to be replaced by the light rail lines, so they really aren't new riders to transit at all!
Emphasis is mine.

The two corridors that Link expansion would serve are two of the most heavily traveled routes in Puget Sound. Deploying Link south towards Tacoma, north towards Everett, and east towards Redmond will provide commuters with dependable transport to work no matter what the weather or traffic conditions are like. Rail is a crucial foundation for a usable mass transit system.

Expansion of Link also ultimately gives the bus fleet further reach into surrounding communities because huge numbers of buses are no longer needed to do rail's job.

MacDonald's canard that rail will siphon riders from buses is a particularly egregious statement. I'll let conservatives Paul Weyrich and Bill Lind (who, like ourselves, understand the value of rail transit) tackle this one (PDF):
Buses and rail transit are at least as different as apples and oranges. With a few exceptions, they serve different purposes and different people - so different that it may be more of a hindrance than a help to lump them together as "public transit."

In general, buses serve the purpose of providing mobility to people who have no car or cannot drive - the transit dependent [i.e. Doug MacDonald]. Rail transit serves the purpose of reducing traffic by drawing to transit riders from choice, people who have cars and can drive if they choose to do so.
Consider the evidence:
The differences between bus riders and rail transit riders were dramatically demonstrated in a comparative survey of both done in St. Louis in 1993, shortly after Light Rail opened in that city.
  • Among bus riders, 70% said they used the bus because they did not drive or had no car available.
  • For train riders, the figure was 17%.
  • 11% of train riders took the train because it was faster than driving, and 13% because it was more relaxing; for bus riders, the figures were 3% and 2%.
  • 84% of train riders rated service as excellent or good, compared to 57% of bus riders.
  • 40% of bus riders owned no car, and 28% had two or more cars. Only 8% of train riders had no car. 68% had two or more cars.
  • 48% of bus riders live in the inner city, compared to 14% of train riders [who are more likely to live in the suburbs].
  • 57% of bus riders have annual household incomes of less than $20,000, compared to 21% of train riders. Only 6% of bus riders have incomes of over $45,000, compared to 38% of train riders.
For the 40% of bus passengers who have no car, the bus is their only way to get around. That is true of only 8% of train riders.

But the 68% of train riders who have two or more cars would presumably drive if there were no train, so for them, the social purpose of rail transit is to reduce traffic. In fact, 68% may be too low; the same survey found that before the Light Rail line opened, 79% of rail riders did not use transit at all.
Research in other major American cities has produced remarkably consistent results. Trains get commuters out of their cars in large numbers; buses do not. What does this mean?

It means if we expand Link north, east, and south, we can take far greater number of single occupant vehicles off the road than we can with buses, even buses traveling in their own dedicated lanes. Buses simply do not appeal to people who have the option of driving like trains do. Unlike the bus, rail is:
  • reliable: runs in its own right of way and doesn't get stuck in traffic
  • convenient: runs so frequently you don't need a schedule to ride it
  • clean: powered by electricity, so it doesn't produce emissions
  • quick: operates at high speeds with fast station stops
  • flexible: can be built at grade, above ground on aerial trackway, or below ground in tunnels
Rail also offers a smoother ride. Anyone who has driven or ridden in a vehicle traversing Interstate 5 in the Central Sound knows how bumpy the road can be - and lumbering buses don't handle bumpy roads well.

Rail's ability to get commuters out of their cars could drastically improve our transportation mess. Yes, growth will continue and the highways will still be somewhat crowded, but quality of life will improve if we build rail. Hundreds of thousands of commuters would finally have a choice.

The whole basis of MacDonald's critique is flawed because he pits rail and buses against each other without considering that each is complimentary, and does something that the other cannot.

Weyrich and Lind use fruit as a metaphor:
Imagine a fruit wholesalers convention where a speaker, three sheets to the wind on hard cider, holds up an apple and an orange and exclaims, "Everybody should buy oranges, not apples. Why, this orange produces twenty times as much juice as this apple!"

To which a sober farmer replies, "It makes no sense to compare completely different fruits. Comparing apples and oranges is as dumb as comparing buses and rail transit."
MacDonald is like that speaker obsessing over the wonder of the orange, standing next to charts that show how much juice the average Florida fruit produces compared to a Washington apple.

In this case, MacDonald's "juice" is boardings, which prop up his argument that buses are superior. The proper measurement to evaluate transit, however, is revenue passenger miles, which he doesn't use.

In Part 2 of his series, MacDonald has the audacity to derisively attack Sounder as "sprawl rail" for encouraging long distance commuting.

That claim is breathtaking in its stupidity.

Once again, MacDonald has it backwards. Rail encourages density. It is highway building that encourages sprawl - the kind of highway building that MacDonald's WSDOT was and is still obsessed with. Our car-dependent communities sprung up around the highways we constructed decades ago.

Sounder isn't causing problems, it's solving them. Sounder is taking cars off the highways and making everyone's commute more manageable.

If MacDonald truly cares about halting sprawl and encouraging people to live closer to where they work, he'll start a public campaign to get the Legislature and his successor Paula Hammond to cancel the widening of I-405, a project that will ultimately cost a terrific amount of money and yield zero benefit to commuters.

Let's put that money into expanded bus service. How about it, Doug?

MacDonald also tries to argue that the phenomenon of induced traffic will cancel out the cars taken off the road by light rail. That is, people will assume other people are riding the train, and so will make the choice to drive, causing "recongestion".

But McDonald doesn't produce a shred of evidence to back up this claim.

There is an incredibly stark difference between building light rail and adding new lanes. Adding lanes does nothing to solve congestion because it encourages people to take more trips. Adding light rail, on the other hand, does improve congestion because it gets commuters out of their cars. It gives hundreds of thousands of people a reliable way to get to work.

Making high quality transit available does not encourage people to take more trips in their cars, it encourages them to try the train.

Incidentally, if MacDonald understands induced traffic, why is WSDOT so stuck in its mindset of enlarging highways? MacDonald ran the agency for over half a decade. Why didn't he urge the Legislature to fund local bus service? (Part of the state motor vehicle excise tax used to do this, until it was eliminated by Gary Locke and the Legislature in 2000).

In Part 3 of his series, MacDonald laughably claims that "social engineering is a bad idea for pushing change." Memo to Doug: ALL change is "social engineering"! Building highways was and is "social engineering".

Our city ordinances that mandate wide streets and unwalkable neighborhoods are "social engineering". WSDOT's dogged determination to make I-405 and I-5 ever wider is "social engineering" at its worst.

It's time for this pointless old phrase to be retired.

MacDonald also criticizes Sound Transit's public relations and marketing operation:
Now, Sound Transit recognizes only one brand in the region: Sound Transit. Its corporate strategy and its big advertising budget — who has ever seen its tax-funded equal? — focus overwhelmingly on a single product: rail transit. That won't do for a truly regional-minded transit agency.
Don't get me started on WSDOT's marketing, Doug, especially those stupid signs next to Interstate 5 that proclaim: FREEWAY EXPANSION - IMPROVES TRAFFIC.

Sound Transit's objective is to build a regional transit system. Naturally, its advertising reflects that goal, although it does promote its Express bus service too. The reason Sound Transit has a marketing budget is that people can't simply be forced aboard mass transit. They have to be persuaded to try it. Sound Transit's public relations budget allows it to make the public aware of what it offers.

Again, in Part 3, MacDonald dismissively knocks rail as a nonstarter:
Successful organizations build their strategies around meeting customer-driven needs. The customer-driven mission here is to help move ordinary people where they need to go. It's not to lay a few ribbons of expensive rail lines where it seems suitable and convenient to engineering firms, public relations consultants, contractors, and rail buffs.
This is getting really old.

"Successful organizations build their strategies around meeting customer-driven needs?" You're getting into corporate mumbo jumbo territory here, Doug.

It's callous and ridiculous to suggest that Sound Transit exists to line the pockets of contractors and satisfy rail buffs who gleefully want expensive new toys.

That's akin to saying WSDOT just serves asphalt pavers and shipbuilders, not the public. (Even we wouldn't argue that, although there's no disputing that widening highways is good business for asphalt pavers.)

The "few ribbons" of rail that Sound Transit hopes to lay will, when built, be the bedrock of a regional rail network that will provide a reliable lifeline between our communities. Cities that have already built rail networks enjoy huge societal benefits compared to metro areas that only have buses.

In 2004, Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute authored a report (PDF) which highlighted some of the differences between "bus only" cities and cities with a well developed rail network. Unlike "bus only" cities, "large rail" cities have:
  • 400% higher per capita transit ridership (589 versus 118 annual passenger-miles).
  • 887% higher the transit commute mode split (13.4% versus 2.7%).
  • 36% lower per capita traffic fatalities (7.5 versus 11.7 deaths per 100,000 residents).
  • 14% lower per capita consumer transportation expenditures ($448 average annual savings), despite residents’ higher incomes.
  • 19% smaller portion of household budgets devoted to transport (12.0% versus 14.9%).
  • 21% lower per capita motor vehicle mileage (1,958 fewer annual miles).
  • 33% lower transit operating costs per passenger-mile (42¢ versus 63¢).
  • 58% higher transit service cost recovery (38% versus 24%).
Rail, again, is a long term investment. It pays off over time. As Litman notes, all too often, people like Doug MacDonald err in their conclusions:
When critics conclude that rail transit is ineffective and wasteful, the failure is often in their analysis. Either from ignorance or intention, critics fail to use best practices for transit evaluation. Their statistical analysis tends to be flawed and biased. They ignore many benefits of rail transit, and understate the full costs of travel by other modes under the same conditions. They use inaccurate information. These errors and omissions violate basic evaluation principles and significantly distort results. Critics claim that rail transit support is limited to "Pork Lovers, Auto Haters, and Nostalgia Buffs." This is untrue.
MacDonald's analysis is faulty and his conclusions mistaken. His entire series is really a vendetta against rail and Sound Transit, not a useful and unbiased evaluation of our existing mass transit system.

We welcome MacDonald's newfound interest in strengthening bus routes and increasing service. But we already have enough John Niles and Mark Baerwaldts out there harmfully bashing rail and deceiving the public. At the very least, we expect former public servants like Doug MacDonald to present a more credible argument if they're going to participate in a public debate about investing in rail.

It's telling that MacDonald became a passionate fan of buses after he started riding them. We hope that when Link service begins, he'll be open to trying it, and he'll change his mind about rail.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

At least two initiatives likely to be on Washington State's November ballot

Washington State Secretary of Sam Reed's office announced in a media advisory on Friday that it is expecting sponsors of two progressive initiative campaigns to submit a substantial number of signatures this week - enough to ensure that both initiatives have a high probability of qualifying for the November 2008 ballot.

Proponents of Initiative 1000, the Death with Dignity initiative championed by Booth Gardner, will turn in their final batch of signatures this Wednesday, July 2nd, shortly after midday, and SEIU Healthcare 775 NW, which is sponsoring Initiative 1029 (to require increased training requirements for long term care workers), will turn in an estimated 300,000 signatures on Thursday, July 3rd, in the afternoon.

Reed's office says Tim Eyman has not made an appointment to turn in more signatures for Initiative 985, which would open carpool lanes at almost all hours of the day and divert state money to duplicate services the state already offers (like roadside assistance crews and synchronized traffic lights).

July 3rd is the last day Eyman may submit signatures.

In addition to I-1029 and I-1000, voters in urban Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties may be considering a transportation package from Sound Transit, which has until mid-August to decide to present a proposal.

Recent research conducted by Sound Transit suggests the public is heavily in favor of a 2008 vote on expanding mass transit and Link light rail. The 6,077 individuals who responded to Sound Transit's questionnaires over the last few months were mostly in agreement about how the agency should proceed:
  • 91% say it's extremely or somewhat urgent to expand mass transit
  • 81% say it's extremely or somewhat urgent to add more light rail
  • 81% say it's extremely or somewhat urgent to add more commuter rail
  • 81% say it's extremely or somewhat urgent to add more express bus
Additionally:
  • 76% favor a 2008 vote
  • 10% favor a 2010 vote
  • 3% favor a post-2010 vote
The seventy six percent figure in favor of a 2008 vote is remarkably consistent with a scientific telephone poll conducted of eight hundred and nineteen registered voters in February earlier this year, which asked the following question:
The Sound Transit Board of Directors will soon decide whether or not to put a transit expansion measure on the ballot in November of this year. In general, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose putting a transit expansion measure on the ballot in November of two thousand eight?
Results were as follows:
Favor: 75% (47% strongly favor + 28% somewhat in favor)
Oppose: 22% (9% somewhat opposed + 13% strongly opposed)
Undecided: 3%
An earlier poll conducted by Sound Transit last November following the defeat of Proposition 1 found that over seventy percent of respondents wanted a separate vote on transit expansion. The more recent responses suggest the electorate is enthusiastic and ready to vote on a proposal this year, rather than waiting until 2010, when construction costs will have increased.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

FISA vote delayed until July 8

McJoan is reporting that thanks to Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), the Senate has delayed voting on the telecom-amnesty laden FISA bill until July 8, so that Senators can go home for the Independence Day recess.

This is where you come in. Now that our Senators have to come home and face us, please let them know that giving telecom companies a free pass to spy on you and your neighbors, without a federal warrant compelling them to do so, is not acceptable.

So here are the numbers to call (in alphabetical order by state):

Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) - (208) 342-7985
Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) - (208) 334-1776
Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) - (503) 326-3386
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) - (503) 326-7525 [please call and thank Senator Wyden for his opposition to the bill]
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) - (206) 220-6400
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) - (206) 553-5545

Many Senators also have town hall meetings during the recess, so if you're aware of one please attend and speak out on this issue.

And if you get a commitment from one of our Northwest Senators, please drop us a note in the comments so we can cross them off the list and recognize them appropriately.

UPDATE: On the motion for cloture on the FISA bill, here is how our Senators voted (Yea vote being the wrong vote).

Craig - Yea
Crapo - Yea
Smith - Yea
Wyden - Nay
Cantwell - Nay [Thanks Senator Cantwell!]
Murray - Yea

While it's really no surprise that the Idaho Senators want this bill passed, Gordon Smith apparently hasn't figured out what way he needs to vote on this bill to try and save his job. But with Senator Murray also voting the wrong way, it's clear we have our work cut out for us.

And neither presidential candidate voted when the motion was on the floor. So while you're at it, call Senator Obama and demand some leadership from him on this issue. It's simply unacceptable for the Democratic nominee not to weigh in on this important issue, regardless of scheduling conflicts or fundraisers.

Obama's Senate office - (312) 886-3506
Obama's Campaign office - (866) 675-2008

Dino Rossi a Republican again?

Dino Rossi's campaign just sent out a fundraising email to supporters promising a special lapel pin to anyone who makes a campaign contribution. The email, like all of Rossi's rhetoric, manages to distort Governor Gregoire's record. But what I find most amusing about it is what it says at the end. First, though, Rossi's sales pitch:
There is not a moment that we can waste in this campaign - every day and everything we do is important.

Knowing that, we've created a limited edition lapel pin available exclusively to you today. [Sadly, it's more expensive than my book, and much more expensive than Tim Eyman's fraternity wristwatches.] The pin reads, "Rossi 2008" and serves as a reminder that we must all do everything we can every day to ensure a decisive victory in 2008. I would be honored to have you wear this pin and tell your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues how important the change we are working to bring Olympia is to our future. [I can't promise you the spoils I hope to deliver to my powerful, wealthy friends, but remember, if you work hard and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, you, too, can learn how to exploit the law and make a pile of money like BIAW does!]

Please follow this link to reserve your limited edition pin today with a donation of $75 or more.

My opponent, Governor Christine Gregoire, relies on big campaign contributions from the traditional liberal groups like unions and trial lawyers who want higher government spending- which will translate into higher taxes for all of us. [I'm for higher taxes too, but only the kind you can't see. Lots of user fees, taxes on future generations, and de facto taxes on people who will be cut off financially by my administration.] I am relying on contributions and support from citizens like you in every corner of our state who agree- we need change in Olympia.

[Meanwhile, I am also relying on my very good friends at the Building Industry Association of Washington to taint and defile the airwaves with slimy attack ads that denigrate my opponent to my benefit and approval. Have I mentioned that I am a hypocrite?]

As governor, I will stop the out-of-control spending that is crippling our state's budget. I will take the lead to finally bring solutions on crucial issues we face every day and return quality to our schools [just so you know, WEA, this is lip service, you can forget about cost of living increases for teachers when I am governor], fix the problems with our roads, highways and ferries [in other words, more lanes!!! Lanes good!], build a strong economic climate for business to thrive, and ensure greater public safety for our citizens [and by that, I mean handing our counties an unfunded criminal justice mandate. Local courts and police will have to fend for themselves under my budget.]

[I am not yet sure how I am going to avoid decimating the economy while slashing taxes and cutting services, but I'll probably follow my idol George Bush's example - borrow and spend. It's the cheap and easy way out when you're trying to have a free lunch.]

That is my pledge to you and I ask that you join me today to se cure [sic] a decisive victory and ensure the change we need on Election Day. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Dino

P.S. I'm running for Governor because we need change in state government to build a better future for our families and state [my wealthy friends.] Will you join my campaign to change Washington by making an immediate donation of $50, $75, $150, $250 or more? With a donation of $75 or more today, I will rush you this exclusive "Rossi 2008" lapel pin as a reminder that we all must go the extra mile in 2008 to bring the real change and leader ship [sic] our state needs. Thank you for your generosity and support.
Obviously the bolded text in brackets is mine.

Here's how the email ends:
Paid for by Dino Rossi for Governor | Republican
So now he's a Republican? Converted from the Graveyard of Progress (GOP) Party at a second's notice, eh? Funny how Dino's website and signs say GOP, but his emails to his fan club say "Republican". Apparently, he just switches between labels at will. I guess that's the kind of inconsistency and pandering we can expect from him if he becomes governor.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The People vs. The Powerful Part II

As I predicted on June 6, today you can put one more on the scoreboard for the powerful. George W. Bush may not have packed the Supreme Court enough to keep habeas corpus down, but when it comes to corporate interests you can be sure that John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and company will stand up with their corporate masters. As sure as Pavlov rung his bell and the dogs came running, Samuel Alito would have been on the side of Big Oil, except that he owns stock in the corporation in question, and something called judicial ethics got in the way.

Today, the Roberts Court in a 5-3 decision, reduced the amount of punitive damages that ExxonMobil has to pay for the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, from $2.5 billion to $507.5 million. Chief Justice Roberts, along with Justices Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and Souter voted in the majority. Justices Breyer, Stevens and Ginsburg dissented. As previously mentioned, Justice Alito sat this one out.
It took Exxon Mobil just under two days to bring in $2.5 billion in revenue during the first quarter of 2007.
And it's taken Alaskans 19 years just to get approximately one-half a day's profits in damages paid to them, after having to watch the original damages whittled down first from $5 billion to $2.5 billion, and then down to $507.5 million.

As I pointed out before:
This is the same company that reported the largest annual profit in U.S. history in 2006, with $39.5 billion. It followed up 2006, by besting its record of the previous year by reporting $40.61 billion in profit for 2007. And as the Washington Post noted, ExxonMobil's 2006 "revenue of $377.6 billion exceeded the gross domestic product of all but 25 countries."

[...]

Another way that ExxonMobil has used its profit, as is the case with many large socially irresponsible corporations, is that it has tied this case up in the courts for the past 19 years. Why tie the case up in litigation for 19 years? Just ask investigative journalist Greg Palast.

While cameras rolled, Exxon executives promised they’d compensate everyone. Today, before the US Supreme Court, the big oil company’s lawyers argued that they shouldn’t have to pay Paul or other fishermen the damages ordered by the courts.

They can’t pay Paul anyway. He’s dead.

That was part of Exxon’s plan. They told me that. In 1990 and 1991, I worked for the Chenega and Chugach Natives of Alaska on trying to get Exxon to pay up to save the remote villages of the Sound. Exxon’s response was, “We can hold out in court until you’re all dead.”

ExxonMobil doesn't care about the damage it did in Prince William Sound. It's been fighting for 19 years to not pay what it owes Alaska residents. There are still environmental consequences that have lasted to this day. And let's not forget the emotional damage, including suicides and divorces, courtesy of ExxonMobil. And then there is physical damage, as in persistent ailments for the cleanup workers. But none of this matters to ExxonMobil, because the victims will all be dead before they get any money. If there's a way to drag out paying the $507.5 million, ExxonMobil will find it.

Someone explain to me how the United States Supreme Court got into the business of reducing or limiting punitive damages? I'm no legal scholar but one semester of Constitutional Law at USC taught me that the Court is supposed to rule on matters of constitutionality. The last time I read the Constitution, it didn't say "thou shalt determine appropriate damages for aggrieved parties in tort claims", among the powers enumerated to the Supreme Court.

Are there any Republicans out there who still want to talk about activist judges? Today, there was no constitutional question answered by the court. Instead, the Supreme Court overstepped its constitutional authority and made public policy, by determining when enough is enough with regard to punitive damages. And this was a complete travesty of justice.

Gordon Smith's ads continue to generate controversy

The firestorm brewing over Gordon Smith's latest ads isn't waning.

Yesterday's new ad trying to link him to Barack Obama is creating quite a mess for Smith. First, the Obama campaign released a statement saying that he supports Democrat Jeff Merkley for U.S. Senate.

Then bloggers started going to work on the ad.

Most notably, Todd Beeton at MyDD does a little investigation of the ad, discovering that Obama didn't exactly give Smith the praise that the ad claims, not to mention the deceptive nature of the ad's graphics.

The other ad generating controversy stars two Democrats, which I've discussed before here. The ad makes the claim that Smith was one of the first to stand up to Bush and Republicans on Iraq: obviously untrue.

Former Democratic Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse, who co-stars in the ad, tells reporter Jeff Mapes her side of the story:
I wasn't able to reach Furse to talk about this ad until Tuesday, after she returned from a vacation in Canada.

She said that she misspoke in the ad. "I know that he wasn't the first to oppose the war," she said. "He was one of the first of his party to oppose the war...that is what I meant."
So the Smith campaign let a TV ad go on the air that they knew was deliberately false? What other explanation is there? They know Smith wasn't "one of the first" to oppose the Iraq occupation. Smith wasn't even one of the first Republicans to oppose the invasion.

Smith's spokesperson doesn't exactly clear up the matter:
Gilbride, Smith's spokeswoman, said the ad only meant to convey that Furse was praising Smith for being one of the first Republicans to oppose the war. "Obviously, many Democrats opposed the war before Sen. Smith," she said.
What the ad meant to convey was deception, Ms. Gilbride. This is a U.S. Senate campaign. Every word is scrutinized.

Either the Smith campaign is completely inept or they knew exactly what they were doing in trying to mislead Oregonians. Neither speaks well for Gordon Smith.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

FISA Debate in the Senate: Senator Chris Dodd's Remarks

Senator Chris Dodd(D-CT), along with Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) have all announced that they will filibuster the FISA legislation before the Senate, which passed the House last week with retroactive telecom immunity.

Here is an excerpt of Senator Dodd's remarks from tonight. In the speech, Dodd not only expresses his opposition to retroactive immunity for telecoms, but he also skewers the Bush Administration for its long train of abuses and usurpations(to borrow from the Declaration of Independence).

And let me make clear, at the outset of this debate, that this is not about domestic surveillance itself. We all recognize the importance of domestic surveillance – in an age of unprecedented threats. This is about illegal, unwarranted, unchecked domestic surveillance.

And that difference—the difference between surveillance that is lawful, warranted and that which is not—is everything.

Mr. President, I had hoped I would not have to return to this floor again under these circumstances – hoped that in these negotiations we would have been able to turn aside retroactive immunity on the grounds that it is bad policy and sets a terrible precedent.

As all of my colleagues know, I have long fought against retroactive immunity, because I believe, quite simply, it is an abandonment of the rule of law.

[...]

Opponents of immunity, including myself, have stated that we would support a reasonable alternative to blanket retroactive immunity.

No one seriously wants to financially cripple our telecommunications industry. The point is to bring checks and balances back to domestic spying. Setting that precedent would hardly require a crippling judgment.

It’s much more troubling, though, that our Director of National Intelligence even bothers to speak to “liability protection for private sector entities.”

This isn’t the Secretary of Commerce we’re talking about, but the head of our nation’s intelligence efforts.

For that matter, how does that even begin to be relevant to letting this case go forward? Since when did we throw entire suits out because the defendant stood to lose too much?

It astounds me that some can speak in the same breath about national security and bottom lines. Approve immunity, and Congress will state clearly: The richer you are, the more successful you are, the more lawless you are entitled to be. A suit against you is a danger to the Republic!

And so, at the rock-bottom of its justifications, the telecoms’ advocates are essentially arguing that immunity can be bought.

Give the whole speech a read, it's worth it. And thanks to Senator Dodd for standing up for the Constitution and rule of law. He's been a consistent and strong voice on this issue.

Help Wanted: Liberals Need Not Apply

So the Department of Justice has a little big employment discrimination problem. Who would have thought that particular agency was political? Certainly not this group of fired U.S. attorneys.
Ivy Leaguers and other top law students were rejected for plum Justice Department jobs two years ago because of their liberal leanings or objections to Bush administration politics, a government report concluded Tuesday.

[...]

As early as 2002, career Justice employees complained to department officials that Bush administration political appointees had largely taken over the hiring process for summer interns and so-called Honors Program jobs for newly graduated law students. For years, job applicants had been judged on their grades, the quality of their law schools, their legal clerkships and other experiences.

But in 2002, many applicants who identified themselves as Democrats or were members of liberal-leaning organizations were rejected while GOP loyalists with fewer legal skills were hired, the report found. Of 911 students who applied for full-time Honors jobs that year, 100 were identified as liberal and 80 were rejected. By comparison, 46 were identified as conservative, and only four didn't get a job offer.

The political filtering of applicants ebbed for the three years between 2003 and 2005, the inquiry found, then resumed by 2006.

So what the DOJ has done is illegally disqualify a bunch of liberal-leaning lawyers from employment, based on their political beliefs. Can anyone say lawsuit?

A full copy of the report detailing DOJ hiring practices can be found here.

Dinobuilding Industry Association of Rossi increasingly desperate in gubernatorial bid

With the Republican brand in decay, the Republican legislative caucuses bereft of wise leadership, and no high profile right wing lawyers willing or available to run for state Supreme Court, the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) has found itself stuck in a precarious position this year.

The electoral map looks bad, with virtually no opportunities to stack the courts or decrease Democratic majorities in the Legislature.

So the state's most powerful right wing lobby, wanting to net at least one breakthrough in 2008, is gambling heavily on the candidacy of Dino Rossi, hoping that voters will turn a blind eye to the impressive record of the state's most effective governor in recent history - Chris Gregoire.

The BIAW and Rossi have always been close, but with filing period over and done with, it seems they're all each other has this year.

The BIAW needs Rossi to win to score a major victory in a tough political year, and Dino Rossi needs a special interest with deep pockets to falsify his opponent's reputation. The BIAW has thus become a division of Rossi's campaign, and Rossi has become a symbol of the BIAW.

They're inseparable - part of the same beast (video).

And that beast has realized the only way it can take down Chris Gregoire is to deceive the people of Washington State. Their goal is to cunningly portray the governor as a weak, do-nothing politician who answers to bureaucrats (or "Olympia insiders"). So far, the Dinobuilding Industry Association of Rossi's campaign of deception has included:
  • Massive ad buys that ignore Gregoire's accomplishments and blame her for unsolved problems that Rossi helped create with his shortsighted, irresponsible 2003 budget,
  • Self-identifying as a member of the "GOP Party" (which stands for Graveyard of Progress Party) to avoid the tarnished Bush Republican brand - a move that has actually offended the Republican Noise Machine,
  • Web videos that level bogus accusations against the governor, pitched to the traditional media and right wing bloggers.
But Chris Gregoire, aided by leaders in law enforcement, is fighting back.
"Make no mistake, today Washington state is a safer place to live because of the leadership of Gov. Gregoire," said Ray Moss, vice president of the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association. "We have the lowest crime rate in 14 years because Gov. Gregoire has made public safety her number one priorities.”

"These are sleazy attack ads by BIAW and unlike in politics, in law enforcement it is all about integrity. We are not allowed to lie," said Bill Hanson, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. "Gov. Gregoire has spent over a decade making it easier for law enforcement to keep communities safe and harder for criminals to evade the law."

"We are with Gov. Gregoire not because of her words, but because of her action and record protecting Washington state,” said Lee Reeves with the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs.

Gov. Gregoire has been endorsed by every major organization in the law enforcement and firefighting community including:
  • Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs (WACOPS)
  • Washington State Fraternal Order of Police
  • WFSE/AFSCME Local 308 (which represents Community Corrections Officers)
  • Law Enforcement Administrators of Washington (LAW)
  • Washington State Patrol Lieutenants Association
  • Washington State Patrol Troopers Association
  • Washington State Association of Fire Chiefs
  • Washington State Council of Firefighters
“We have hit rock bottom in this campaign and it is only June,” said Gov. Gregoire.
While Gregoire works to better our state and collect public input from Washingtonians, Rossi has been hanging out with his Holocaust-trivializing pals. Rossi was the centerpiece of the BIAW's recent annual gathering at Skamania Lodge, where he was was welcomed by President Brad Spears as "a candidate who believes as BIAW believes."

No doubt that's true, but it doesn't mean an apology from the BIAW for its outrageous comments is any more likely. (The Anti-Defamation League has insisted that the BIAW apologize).

Rossi can't actually run on the strength of his ideas or beliefs, because that means trying to sell Washingtonians the same failed right wing agenda espoused by George W. Bush. Rossi is thus reduced to selling himself, which is what he's best at anyway, but he doesn't look impressive compared to Governor Gregoire.

To get around that problem, Dino and the BIAW are throwing as much mud as they can at Gregoire. But it doesn't seem to be sticking very well, so they're throwing more. They're increasingly desperate because so much is at stake.

A second Gregoire term promises better public schools, more environmental protection, greater access to healthcare, new consumer safeguards, and a truly multimodal transportation system.

And they can't stand the thought of that. They want to halt Gregoire's investments into our common good and common wealth.

Fortunately, we have the power to stop them in their tracks - and we will.

UPDATE: Barack Obama responds to Smith ad

As I mentioned earlier today, incumbent Republican Gordon Smith's campaign has released a new ad which claims that Barack Obama praised Smith.

Well, Barack Obama just released a statement on the ad, and he made it clear he's not neutral in Oregon's U.S. Senate contest.
"Barack Obama has a long record of bipartisan accomplishment and we appreciate that it is respected by his Democratic and Republican colleagues in the Senate. But in this race, Oregonians should know that Barack Obama supports Jeff Merkley for Senate. Merkley will help Obama bring about the fundamental change we need in Washington," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.
Another Smith ad, another denouncement from a Democrat that Smith hoped to align with in order to reinforce his sinking campaign.

Smith's strategy? Pretend that he is a Democrat while voting to give big corporations a pass (telecom immunity, anyone)? continuing to support the occupation of Iraq, and blocking the adoption of universal healthcare.

Smith campaign rocked by controversy over ad in Oregon's Senate race

Last week, I posted about Oregon's Democratic congressional delegation going after Gordon Smith's ad which claimed that Smith was "one of the first" to stand up to Bush and Republicans on Iraq.

Now, KATU news in Portland has picked it up. Reporter Melica Johnson has the story. Interestingly, Smith claims that he was against the war before the 2006 election, and offers a reason for his silence.

Make sure to listen all the way to the end of the news piece.

Smith didn't want to come out against the war for political reasons? We've got men and women dying in Iraq and he's worried about his political positioning? Nice.

Eric Kleefeld at TPM Election Central also made note of the controversy calling the ad's claim "dubious" and saying, "Obviously, a whole lot of other people were against the war well before November 2006 - and Smith himself voted for the war in 2002 and remained a supporter for four years."

Today, Smith is clearly showing his sweat as well. Ads have been on the air in Oregon demonstrating Smith's allegiance to oil and gas companies - while taking their campaign contributions. To fluff his cred, Smith now touts praise from Barack Obama and Dem Gov Ted Kulongoski (eschewing the GOP brand).

We wonder what Smith's good buddy John McCain thinks of Smith hiding under the Obama umbrella. So much for Smith's loyalty to the ticket.

Monday, June 23, 2008

mcjoan: "if we don't stand up for progressive values, who will?"

Our Pacific Northwest neighbor mcjoan (she posts on the front page of Daily Kos) is now working with Glenn Greenwald to tell Barack Obama to "keep his vow" to try to strip the telecom immunity provision from the FISA bill when the vote comes up in the U.S. Senate this week.

In addition, MoveOn (whose members have endorsed Obama) is conducting a campaign urging Obama to do what he promised -- support a filibuster to stop the enactment of telecom amnesty.

As mcjoan says
Our job also isn't to go off sulking in a fit of pique because our leaders let us down. Blustering, whining, refusing to play anymore is the least helpful and productive of avenues. I keep coming back to Howard Dean and his admonition to us at Yearly Kos in Chicago that we are working on a long term project here to take our party back. Making this party ours again is going to take a lot of work and a long time. We do that by staying engaged. We do that by telling our representatives, including our presidential candidate (who is STILL head and shoulders better than the alternative) what we expect of them and by making their decisions matter.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Larry Phillips to explore run for King County Executive in 2009

Councilmember Larry Phillips, who represents the 4th District on the King County Council, announced recently that he is forming an exploratory committee to consider a bid for Executive in 2009.

In a letter to supporters this weekend, Phillips writes that people all over the county have been asking him if he's running, hopeful that a progressive with serious clout will emerge to take on Ron Sims, who is already preparing to seek an unprecedented fourth term. Phillips says they're getting an answer:
I am announcing the formation of an exploratory committee to consider a run for King County Executive. This committee will provide me with an organized structure to not just talk with citizens, but to hear what they have to say about how King County can best serve their needs.

Running for County Executive is a big undertaking and one I do not take lightly. I have a deep respect for the incumbent, as he's done many good things in King County, and I realize that it's hard to move on.

But thirteen years in office - with an unprecedented fourth term on the horizon - is a long time. The times are changing, the problems are changing, and too often they are left unattended and without effective Executive leadership.
Phillips is correct about that. Much to our dismay, since winning a third term in 2005, Ron Sims has somehow managed to turn himself into an undiplomatic, unpredictable contrarian.

On transportation (the topic where we're most disappointed in him) he has been nothing but an obstacle. Last year he reneged on his support of Roads & Transit (or Proposition 1) late in the campaign, claiming he came to his senses about the folly of road expansion. And so far this year, Sims has been critical and unhelpful as the Sound Transit Board contemplates the idea of going to the ballot in 2008 with a transit only package. He routinely misses board meetings and colleagues consider him to be a near-certain "no" vote on a 2008 proposal.

Additionally, Sims is obsessed with unrealistic congestion pricing schemes that punish Washingtonians for driving. Instead of building a great public transportation system that relies on a rail backbone to increase mobility, or tackling sprawl by placing a moratorium on new exurban mazes of cul-de-sacs and McMansions in the unincorporated Cascade foothills, Sims wants to make commuting even more painful than it already is. Yeah, that'll work.

Sims has also become increasingly defensive, rejecting even constructive criticism of his plans or policies from the county council or citizens' groups.

We're in the midst of a pivotal election year, with several strong Democrats running for statewide or federal office (Chris Gregoire, Darcy Burner, John Ladenburg, Peter Goldmark, Jim McIntire, to name a few). Fielding a competitive team is all-important, and that's why Democrats who aren't on the ballot are lending a hand to help those that are - especially in the quest for campaign dollars.

For example, State Party Chairman Dwight Pelz graciously hosted an excellent, well attended event earlier this month to benefit Peter Goldmark's campaign.

Ron Sims, as it turns out, has been busy raising money too...for himself.

And his reelection effort so far has largely been propelled by county staff, Sims' subordinates who depend on county government to make a living:
This morning [last Tuesday] Sims holds a $75-a-plate breakfast at the Seattle Westin Hotel that is expected to draw a crowd of more than 1,400. Attendance at the breakfast was promoted largely by "table captains" who included environmentalists, labor organizers, current and former public officials, and the largest single group — county employees including Sims' personal staff and agency administrators.
Now, there's nothing wrong with county staff backing a candidate - they're entitled to participate in the process like anyone else, provided they don't use government resources for electioneering.

But this looks an awful lot like machine politics at work, and it's all too easy for a political machine to end up strangling democracy and impeding progress.

Ron Sims has now been at the helm of King County for thirteen years. In that time, he's successfully navigated the county through some very stormy seas. But lately, his effectiveness as a leader seems to have gone downhill. It's time for a fresh start and a new infusion of energy into the Executive's office.

We are confident that Larry Phillips, if elected, could provide both.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

As Gas Prices Go Up, Record Ridership on the Rails

With fuel prices going up, and consumers feeling the squeeze at the pump and at the airport, ridership for Amtrak is on the rise. That's the good news. The bad news is that years of Republican attempts to drown Amtrak in the bathtub have resulted in it having difficulty to meet the growing demand.

Amtrak set records in May, both for the number of passengers it carried and for ticket revenues — all the more remarkable because May is not usually a strong travel month.

But the railroad, and its suppliers, have shrunk so much, largely because of financial constraints, that they would have difficulty growing quickly to meet the demand.

Many of the long-distance trains are already sold out for some days this summer. Want to take Amtrak’s daily Crescent train from New York to New Orleans? It is sold out on July 5, 6, 7 and 8. Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, on July 5? The train is sold out, but Amtrak will sell you a bus ticket.

“We’re starting to bump up against our own capacity constraints,” said R. Clifford Black, a spokesman for Amtrak.

The first point that needs to be made is that rail is a viable option. This is a lesson Europeans learned a long time ago. Portland has light rail, the Max, and Sound Transit is working to bring a viable light rail system to the Puget Sound Region. Both should be expanded. I've been to Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco and in every city I didn't use a car, I used rail. Los Angeles even started putting in light rail before I moved here 6 years ago. If you want to be a "major-league" city, get yourself a light rail system.

The other point that needs to be made is that our Democratic-controlled Congress should expand funding for commuter rail because with the cost of oil not coming down anytime soon, the airlines are going to continue nickel and diming passengers until only the rich can fly. With additional fees for checked baggage and United Airlines' recent announcement that it will require minimum stays, David Goldstein probably has it right:

Better carry a shitload of quarters with you the next time you fly folks, just in case the plane loses cabin pressure and you have to feed the goddamn coin slot on the oxygen mask.

Can pay toilets on airliners be far off? And if people are paying to use the toilet, don't you think they'll feel entitled to smoke in the lavatories? Who really wants to travel that way?

With the state of our fossil-fuel based economy the way it is, it's time to start thinking about other transit options, including building and/or expanding commuter rail. As we do that, perhaps Amtrak should be reconsidered as well.

And while we're at it, can Sound Transit please have the Sounder stop at the Olympia station for all those commuters in Thurston County who work in Seattle?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Eyman schedules press conference for I-985 turn-in, no reporters show up

Well, this has to be a first. Via Chris Mulick at the Tri-City Herald:
Ever wonder what happens when someone stages a press conference and the press doesn’t show? Me, too. And until I leave the business I’ll never know.

But initiative promoter Tim Eyman found out today.

[...]

As he always does, Eyman made rounds of the press houses afterward, toting a chalkboard he apparently had planned to use as a visual (times are tight) to illustrate how many signatures have been collected so far.

"It used to be newsworthy that we were close to qualifying for the ballot," he said.

So what happened at the pressless press conference?

"We didn’t say anything," Eyman said. "We walked in, no press there."

So he unloaded his boxes of signatures and left.
It must have been terrifying for Tim not to have any microphones, cameras, or open notepads in front of him. Nobody came - what a shame!

Finally, the Olympia press corps aren't giving Tim Eyman the attention he doesn't deserve. Bravo from all of us here at NPI!

House Democrats cave to Bush again, approve immunity for telcos

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

- Benjamin Franklin

It's days like these that remind all of us at NPI that the 2006 midterm victories ended up being (as Senator Amy Klobouchar of Minnesota says) merely a "down payment" on needed progressive change:
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday that could shield phone companies from billions of dollars in lawsuits for their participation in the warrantless surveillance program begun by President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks.

The White House-backed, compromise measure -which triggered a firestorm of opposition from civil liberties groups - would also overhaul U.S. spy powers and replace a temporary surveillance law that expired in February.
NPI strongly condemns the House's approval of this fatally flawed bill. Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and the House Democratic leadership have failed the American people today by once again rolling over for George W. Bush.

The House Democratic caucus, unfortunately, seems to be brimming with with cowards and apologists who either surrender when the administration and its Republican allies scream obstructionist, or who have already sold themselves to the other side for political gain (for example, the Blue Dogs).

It's sickening how House Democratic leadership allows itself to be used. Over and over again. Bush gets what he wants while Pelosi and Hoyer try to pretend the deal is a compromise. But Bush doesn't accept compromises. He doesn't deal.

House Democratic leaders must know this by know. But they still laid down and let the Republicans walk all over them because they foolishly believed they had to do something. They didn't have to do anything.

They could have tabled the matter. The White House wants this bill to protect telephone companies. That's the whole point. Republican smoke and mirrors aside, this has nothing to do with America's safety or defense.
It’s Christmas morning at the White House thanks to this vote. The House just wrapped up some expensive gifts for the administration and their buddies at the phone companies. Watching the House fall to scare tactics and political maneuvering is especially infuriating given the way it stood up to pressure from the president on this same issue just months ago. In March we thought the House leadership had finally grown a backbone by rejecting the Senate’s FISA bill. Now we know they will not stand up for the Constitution.

No matter how often the opposition calls this bill a ‘compromise,’ it is not a meaningful compromise, except of our constitutional rights. The bill allows for mass, untargeted and unwarranted surveillance of all communications coming in to and out of the United States. The courts’ role is superficial at best, as the government can continue spying on our communications even after the FISA court has objected. Democratic leaders turned what should have been an easy FISA fix into the wholesale giveaway of our Fourth Amendment rights.

More than two years after the president’s domestic spying was revealed in the pages of the New York Times, Congress' fury and shock has dissipated to an obedient whimper. After scrambling for years to cover their tracks, the phone companies and the administration are almost there. This immunity provision will effectively destroy Americans’ chance to have their deserved day in court and will kill any possibility of learning the extent of the administration’s lawless actions. The House should be ashamed of itself. The fate of the Fourth Amendment is now in the Senate’s hands. We can only hope senators will show more courage than their colleagues in the House.

- Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington Legislative Office
We do want to thank some courageous and outstanding Northwest Democrats who stood up to Bush and voted NO on this bill. Cheers to Representatives Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen, and Jim McDermott, who refused to be cowed by the White House. Jeers to Norm Dicks, Adam Smith, and Brian Baird for rolling over.

Here's Larsen's statement, which sums up his decision:
Americans who may have been the targets of illegal surveillance have the right to a fair hearing in a federal court. But as a result of this bill, the Bush Administration could be let off the hook for its warrantless wiretapping program.

The question our federal courts should be allowed to decide – free from congressional intervention -- is whether the law was broken, not whether the Administration wrote permission slips to break it.
Jay Inslee's speech to the House floor opposing immunity is on YouTube.

In Oregon, cheers to Peter DeFazio, Darlene Hooley, David Wu, and Earl Blumenauer for standing together against this betrayal of the Constitution.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Oregon's Congressional D's throw down on Smith ad

Gordon Smith's campaign is currently airing a TV ad starring two Democrats: Former Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse and former State Senator Avel Gordly.

The two women claim in the ad that Smith that was one of the first Republicans to "stand up to Bush" on the war in Iraq.

Darlene Hooley, David Wu, Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio released a statement today responding to the ad:
After watching Gordon Smith's new television ad featuring Elizabeth Furse and Avel Gordly we feel compelled to respond and to help set the record straight: Gordon Smith was not one of the first to speak out against the war. It was only after the resounding rejection of the failed Bush agenda at the ballot box in 2006 that Gordon Smith revealed that he harbored second thoughts about the war. Any previous consternation, on his part, was concealed from his constituents and those of us that were fighting to change this disastrous policy.

To this day, he has turned a blind eye to the other abuses: Halliburton; independent contractors; torture. The list on the war alone is as extensive as it is troubling.

We welcome Senator Smith's change of heart. We hope that it extends past just the war, to deal with all the assorted disasters and outrages associated with it.

We know that our friend and former colleague Elizabeth Furse has been gone from Congress for a long time. Had she still been in office, she would have opposed the war with us from the beginning rather than wait years for Senator Smith to speak out.
They could have also added that Smith was not in fact "one of the first" Republicans to push back on Iraq. He wasn't one of the second, third or fourth, either.

Six Republicans voted against the Iraq invasion resolution. I've also found three others who spoke out before Smith: Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC),Rep. Wayne Gilchrist (R-MD) and Rep. John Duncan, Jr (R-TN). It seems Avel and Elizabeth were played..or they're trying to play Oregonians.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Border Skirmish

You know it's election season when the special interests fire up their independent expenditure campaigns. It's been well-covered that ChangePAC and It's Time for a Change are BIAW astroturf fronts designed to channel unlimited funds to benefit the Rossi campaign. But at least BIAW is based in Washington.

Did you know special interests in Oregon are taking aim at Washington state politics?

The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde are done with asking the public to call Clark County commissioners and defeat La Center’s mayor.

In their latest advertising blitz opposing the Cowlitz Tribe’s casino plan, owners of Oregon’s top-grossing Indian casino have moved up the chain of command.

Through their proxy, Citizens for a Healthy Clark County, the Grand Ronde government is paying for television commercials saying that “George Bush’s plan for Clark County” would inflict chronic traffic jams, create nasty pollution and bankrupt small businesses.

The commercial ends with photos and phone numbers for Gov. Chris Gregoire, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Congressman Brian Baird, all Democrats.

Regardless of where you stand on expanded gambling opportunities in the state, there is nothing good about Oregon interests (ok, so it's actually a sovereign nation, but still located across the border) interfering in Washington affairs.

Apparently, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde are fearing the competition.

And who isn't for a healthy Clark County? I don't live there, but I don't want an unhealthy Clark county. It's a misleading name designed to confuse voters into supporting the Grand Ronde position.

Join NPI at the NWroots Conference this weekend in Tacoma

Are you ready to revolutionize grassroots politics?

This weekend in Tacoma, the Northwest Progressive Institute is hosting the NWroots Conference, a strategic gathering for people like you who want to make our progressive movement stronger. Registration is FREE and open now.

This year’s elections are pivotal and will decide the future of our region and our country. The time couldn’t be better to develop a plan for becoming more effective as a movement. If we truly want to make the most of the opportunities before us, we need to strengthen our ties and learn how to effectively harness new tools and tactics for political organizing.

That’s what the NWroots Conference is about.

Join fellow activists and bloggers like you, plus legislative leaders and candidates like Senator Eric Oemig, Darcy Burner, Peter Goldmark, and John Ladenburg.

It's a chance to network with like-minded progressives, learn more about the status of local races all over the region, give candidates your feedback, and share ideas for building a stronger movement.

There is no cost to attend, thanks to the generous support of sponsors like SEIUHealthcare, the United Food & Commercial Workers, and Fuse.

Again, registration is open now and will be open through this Saturday morning.

If you don’t live in Tacoma, you can stay overnight at the Hotel Murano on Saturday, June 21st and receive a special discount. Please call the Hotel Murano at 1-888-862-3255 and ask for the Northwest Progressive Institute group rate.

We hope to see you in Tacoma this weekend!

GAO to Air Force: Rebid tanker contract

The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress' investigative arm, today told the Air Force that it strongly suggested reopening the competition for a contract to build refueling tankers, sustaining Boeing's protest of an award to Airbus and Northrop Grumman (PDF document):
The agency also made a number of other recommendations including that, if the Air Force believed that the solicitation, as reasonably interpreted, does not adequately state its needs, the Air Force should amend the solicitation prior to conducting further discussions with the offerors; that if Boeing’s proposal is ultimately selected for award, the Air Force should terminate the contract awarded to Northrop Grumman; and that the Air Force reimburse Boeing the costs of filing and pursuing the protest, including reasonable attorneys’ fees.

By statute, the Air Force is given 60 days to inform the GAO of the Air Force’s actions in response to GAO’s recommendations.
The GAO said it sustained Boeing's protest for these reasons:
(1) The Air Force, in making the award decision, did not assess the relative merits of the proposals in accordance with the evaluation criteria identified in the solicitation, which provided for a relative order of importance for the various technical requirements. The agency also did not take into account the fact that Boeing offered to satisfy more non-mandatory technical “requirements” than Northrop Grumman, even though the solicitation expressly requested offerors to satisfy as many of these technical “requirements” as possible.

(2) The Air Force’s use as a key discriminator that Northrop Grumman proposed to exceed a key performance parameter objective relating to aerial refueling to a greater degree than Boeing violated the solicitation’s evaluation provision that “no consideration will be provided for exceeding [key performance parameter] objectives.”

(3) The protest record did not demonstrate the reasonableness of the Air Force’s determination that Northrop Grumman’s proposed aerial refueling tanker could refuel all current Air Force fixed-wing tanker-compatible receiver aircraft in accordance with current Air Force procedures, as required by the solicitation.

(4) The Air Force conducted misleading and unequal discussions with Boeing, by informing Boeing that it had fully satisfied a key performance parameter objective relating to operational utility, but later determined that Boeing had only partially met this objective, without advising Boeing of this change in the agency’s assessment and while continuing to conduct discussions with Northrop Grumman relating to its satisfaction of the same key performance parameter objective.

(5) The Air Force unreasonably determined that Northrop Grumman’s refusal to agree to a specific solicitation requirement that it plan and support the agency to achieve initial organic depot-level maintenance within two years after delivery of the first full-rate production aircraft was an “administrative oversight,” and improperly made award, despite this clear exception to a material solicitation requirement.

(6) The Air Force’s evaluation of military construction costs in calculating the offerors’ most probable life cycle costs for their proposed aircraft was unreasonable, where the agency during the protest conceded that it made a number of errors in evaluation that, when corrected, result in Boeing displacing Northrop Grumman as the offeror with the lowest most probable life cycle cost; where the evaluation did not account for the offerors’ specific proposals; and where the calculation of military construction costs based on a notional (hypothetical) plan was not reasonably supported.

(7) The Air Force improperly increased Boeing’s estimated non-recurring engineering costs in calculating that firm’s most probable life cycle costs to account for risk associated with Boeing’s failure to satisfactorily explain the basis for how it priced this cost element, where the agency had not found that the proposed costs for that element were unrealistically low. In addition, the Air Force’s use of a simulation model to determine Boeing’s probable non-recurring engineering costs was unreasonable, because the Air Force used as data inputs in the model the percentage of cost growth associated with weapons systems at an overall program level and there was no indication that these inputs would be a reliable predictor of anticipated growth in Boeing’s non-recurring engineering costs.
Today's news is a big deal for Boeing and Washington State Democratic leaders (including Governor Gregoire and Senators Cantwell and Murray, who all issued statements praising the GAO review).

Not only did the GAO give the Air Force a stern rebuke today, it also told it to pay for the costs of Boeing's protest.

The GAO review does not mean the tanker contract will go to Boeing. However, if the Air Force conducts a fair competition, there's a good chance Boeing could come out on top. Loren Thompson, an expert at the Lexington Institute, has plainly sketched out how bizarre the Air Force's conclusions were:
The Air Force refused to consider Boeing cost data based on 10,000,000 hours of operating the commercial version of the 767, substituting instead repair costs based on the 50-year-old KC-135 tanker. It said it would not award extra points for exceeding key performance objectives, and then proceeded to award extra points. It said it wanted to acquire a "medium" tanker to replace its cold war refueling planes, and ended up picking a plane twice as big.

Whatever else this process may have been, it definitely was not transparent. Even now, neither of the competing teams really understands why the competition turned out the way it did. It would be nice to hear from the Air Force about how key tradeoffs were made, because at present it looks like a double standard prevailed in the evaluation of the planes offered by the two teams.
Thompson's analysis does a really good job of concisely explaining all the holes in the Air Force's justification for giving the award to Northrop and Airbus.

Maybe with new leadership at the Air Force, we can have a competition that doesn't give either side an inside advantage.

UPDATE: Sounds like Northrop's political allies are stunned by the news. They must have thought they had this one in the bag. What a shame!
Alabama Governor Bob Riley was in an editorial board meeting at Bloomberg headquarters in New York when he learned of the news, which will create further delay in Northrop's plans to build the tankers in his state and create at least 1,500 jobs.

"Oh, God, that's not good," said Riley, a Republican serving his second term. Earlier, he said it would take "an absolute nutcase" to prefer the Boeing bid over Northrop's.
Only an absolute nutcase would think that giving a European dominated consortium preferential treatment for a lucrative military contract was okay.

If the competition is rigged, it's not a competition at all. What's not good is the Air Force's inability to conduct an impartial bidding process.

Treating your customers like criminals

Although I have not personally read Dale Carnegie's classic work How to Win Friends and Influence People, I feel pretty comfortable suspecting that his advice for businesses wishing to expand their customer base does not include a suggestion to treat those same customers as criminals.

Generally speaking, that's a great strategy for becoming yesterday's news, which is what the Associated Press news service (the "AP wire") may ironically become if it does not quickly paddle its way out of the rough waters it foolishly launched itself into last week.

Last week, the AP send a cease and desist letter to the Drudge Retort, complaining that portions of some of its news stories has been excerpted by Drudge, rather than merely being linked to. In doing so, the AP has--intentionally, as far as I can tell--started a war between itself and the blogging community. That the AP has the nerve to suggest that it understands the "spirit of the internet" better than bloggers do (i.e. "link, don't quote"), is as Kos suggests, laughable:

The AP is going to lecture bloggers about what the "spirit of the internet" is all about? Laughable. And the AP certainly doesn't have free reign to rewrite copyright law on its own. Fair use provisions exist for a reason.


Kos, himself holding a specialized law degree in matters related to copyright, darned well ought to know what he's talking about, and as he is handling the entire matter quite well, thank you very much, I'm not particularly inclined to rehash here everything he has said.

What I do want to add is a broader observation into the messy, multi-party clash between the internet, the "information wants to be free" aspects of internet technology and emerging internet culture, U.S. and international copyright law, Fair Use, and corporate interests.

On the one extreme you have corporate interests, such as the Associated Press, claiming that they hold sole dominion over their creative works, and that none shall tread, however lightly, upon them without prior consent (or a bit of payola). On the other extreme there are, not to mince words, zealots like Richard Stallman who despise any restrictions on the movement of information, whatever its source.

As always, here in the real world the solution lies somewhere in the middle.

Historically, "the middle" has been codified in our copyright laws, which assert protections for creative people against the wholesale theft and copying of their works (traditional copyright protection), while also encouraging a vibrant and expresive culture of creativity by allowing limited copying of that same information (that's the "fair use" part of the law).

What is unclear today is whether the new capabilities created by internet technology will ultimately demand alterations to the legal definition of "the middle", or whether existing copyright law and fair use concepts are sufficient to find that balance between the legitimate rights of authors, artists, and the AP to protect their works, and the equally legitimate needs and desires to at times spread that work around without first obtaining a license.

If all this seems strangely familiar, that's because it is. We've been seeing exactly this same battle play out in the music industry, which has pitted the RIAA against file-sharing services such as napster and bittorrent. In that case, the RIAA's strategy of shotgunning the public with copyright infringement lawsuits has proved to be too far on the corporate end of the spectrum. Judges are routinely throwing out many of these lawsuits on the grounds that they've been filed with far too little evidence of any actual guilt by the named defendants.

What is salient here, with respect to the AP's arguments, is that the RIAA hasn't managed in any significant way to affect the file sharing behavior that seems to scare the pants off of them. But in trying to litigate their way to victory, they have managed to earn a reputation in the minds of most Americans as a bunch of disreputable corporate bullies.

So if anyone at the AP happens to be reading this, I would encourage them not to follow the RIAA down the proverbial rat hole. Don't do it. You'll lose in court, just like Kos says, and even if you somehow prevail in court you'll lose in the court of public opinion. Either way, it's bad for you.

Better, then, to take a genuinely cooperative stance with respect to the legitimate journalistic use of your material by bloggers. Try to find something in that middle ground that will work for everyone. My suggestion: the "link but don't quote" position is a loser right out of the gate. Instead, why don't you try "go ahead and quote, but please also link back to the source" as a more refined and workable position. Kind of like this:


On a more personal note, I would like to ask the audience here for some help. In late 2003, as was reported on the AP wire, my cousin Todd Staheli and his wife were murdered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:

A day after confessing he killed an American Shell Oil executive and his wife, a 20-year-old handyman recanted and said that two other Brazilians committed the crime after he showed them how to get into the couple's condominium. The handyman, Jociel Conceicao dos Santos, was put in Brazil's witness protection programme after making the statement on Friday to police and human rights officials, said Rio state security secretary Anthony Garotinho."These people, he says, were the real authors of this crime and he only collaborated with them," Garotinho said. Dos Santos said he received 40,000 reals (US$13,800) for providing the information to the men.

Dos Santos gave the men's names to authorities and said they were from Rio, said Garotinho, who declined to provide the names and said police were searching for the men. His calm confession at a news conference after his arrest on Thursday raised doubts after he said his motive was to punish Staheli for smearing him with a racial
slur in fluent Portuguese. But Staheli's relatives in the U.S. state of Utah said the executive spoke little or no Portuguese after arriving in Brazil less than four months before the killings.

The FBI, which has been monitoring the case, does not consider the case closed, said Wesley Carrington, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia.


Although there was eventually an arrest in the case, the evidence was never particularly compelling and to this day neither I nor the other members of my family believe that the actual assailant or assailants have been identified. In the slight chance that anyone reading this has information that can help, please let us know.


And if the AP wants to try suing NPI for that particular quote-and-link, I promise you this: we'll hire Kos as our lawyer.

The reality is that most bloggers are good, decent people. They understand that journalism in any form is work. Hard work, at that. If all you're asking for is fair credit for the work you've done, in the form a link accompanying fair use quotes of your material, I think you'll find that most bloggers will be happy to do that. Hint: the links and quotes are the most effective form of free advertizing you're going to get, too.

But if you're going to insist on trying to sue your way to victory, I promise you this: you won't win any friends, and you'll lose whatever influence you may presently have over other people.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pandering election year asshole-ishness reaches epic proportions in Oregon

(Update, 4:00 PM: Smith has apparently considers his comments sufficiently offensive enough to offer an apology. Within it he reiterates his opposition to gay marriage but says he'll work for civil rights for gays and lesbians. In Smith's world, Oregonians are supposed to believe that the GLBTQ community can have all the civil rights they want just as long as they don't want to get married).

Senator Gordon Smith (R-Oregon) is the ultimate asshole wolf in well-mannered sheep's clothing. With his toothy Pepsodent smile and fluffy Prell coif, Smith has lured Oregonians and Americans into a false belief: that he's a warm/fuzzy independent (or biconceptual) who works and votes across the aisle.

In fact, Smith has placed himself in the cadre of those whose vote is vastly lockstep with the Bush Administration. Smith's votes have helped launch the United States into one of the worst periods in our history. From the war in Iraq to an energy crisis/global climate change crisis reaching the emergency stage, Gordon Smith has been a willing standard bearer for the policies of George W. Bush.

Only when its time for the Oregon electorate (and media) to start paying some election year attention to him does Smith try to vote along the values lines of Oregonians. The interim sees his vote cast squarely in Rightwingia.

The latest salvo in Smith's effort to show moderation is his recent muddled and convoluted statement that seems to be in support of gay marriage.

(View video)

Depending on how you decipher this mess, Smith seems to be saying that discrimination against gay marriage is similar to the persecution of Mormons based on polygamy.

Some in the blogosphere have used this as a point to laud..cuz after all, we have to start somewhere to get the righties on board with civil rights.

But these bloggers haven't been following Smith's career. They don't know that this is the kind of garbage he pulls in an election cycle.

In 2004, Oregon's ballot contained a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Gordon Smith lent his image and words to a mailer sent to Oregonians in favor of the amendment.(PDF available upon request)

Smith also gave an extensive interview to a local right wing columnist, reinforcing his opposition to gay marriage.

In addition, Smith voted for DOMA, which says that states don't have to recognize gay marriage, even if it was performed in a state that does.

Gay marriage isn't the only issue where Smith lurches to the right in the off-season, only to do a left shift in the election cycle.

In fact, according to the Washington Post's vote database, Smith rarely bucks his party at all - until this year (via Jeff Alworth at Blue Oregon).

On the environment, Smith's League of Conservation Voter scorecard shows a marked jump in the last year as he burnishes his campaign cred for the electorate.

On the war in Iraq, Smith's PR juggernaut did a great job of shoving his "the Iraq war may be criminal.." speech into the news cycle. But when it came time to actually back his words with action, Smith failed to back a bipartisan resolution opposing Bush's troop level increases in Iraq. He also continues to vote for Iraq war funding with no timeline.

It's all part and parcel of this same pattern.

Gordon Smith's words and actions are calculated and consistent. He's gone out of his way to ensure that gays and lesbians in Oregon (and around the nation) cannot be married. His environmental votes are garbage.

His position on the occupation of Iraq is a joke...set up to pander to an ill-informed electorate and journalists willing to let him get away with it.

The video above does not demonstrate a politically courageous man trying to do the right thing. It highlights a muddled attempt to pander to Oregon voters that pay little attention to him.

And a local media that continues to fail in its duty to inform.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Oil: Not Just for Cars

Think the oil crisis only affects how far you drive or where you drive your car/truck/SUV? Think again. The price of oil affects everything.

For Kevin Brown, an economist with the American Chemistry Council, the iconic product is a plastic bottle of shampoo. Aside from the water, 100 percent of the value of the ingredients comes from oil- or natural-gas-based products.

"That bottle is made of high-density polycarbonate. The cap is made from another plastic. The label is a composite of plastic resin and paper. The ink on that paper is petroleum-derived. The glue on the back is petroleum-derived. Now let's look inside the bottle, at the surfactants, emulsifiers and fragrances," he said.

"It's all petrochemistry."

He has calculated the value of the petro-ingredients of a variety of products: Tires, 62 percent (from the artificial rubber to carbon blacking); a vacuum cleaner, 30 percent (many plastic parts); lipstick, 100 percent (from the paraffin wax to the dyes and fragrances).

Even paper, which mostly grows on trees, owes about a quarter of the cost of its materials to petro-products needed to convert pulp into pages, he said.

That's not to mention the Ziploc bags and plastic containers you use to store food, any plastic utensils (such as spatulas or forks and spoons), many of the non-wooden toys used by children, or the outer shell of any of your home electronics. The vast majority of products we all take for granted and use on a daily basis are petroleum-based products.

As the price of oil continues to rise, perhaps it's time to think differently.

Honda rolled out its first zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell car today. And American car manufacturers laughed when Japanese automakers started rolling out hybrids ten years ago. And look where GM and Ford are today.

The FCX Clarity, which runs on hydrogen and electricity, emits only water and none of the noxious fumes believed to induce global warming. It is also two times more energy efficient than a gas-electric hybrid and three times that of a standard gasoline-powered car, the company says.

[...]

A breakthrough in the design of the fuel cell stack, which is the unit that powers the car's motor, allowed engineers to lighten the body, expand the interior and increase efficiency, Honda said.

The fuel cell draws on energy synthesized through a chemical reaction between hydrogen gas and oxygen in the air, and a lithium-ion battery pack provides supplemental power. The FCX Clarity has a range of about 270-miles per tank with hydrogen consumption equivalent to 74 miles per gallon, according to the carmaker.

The 3,600-pound vehicle can reach speeds up to 100 miles per hour.

Indeed, it is time to think differently, which is why Sound Transit thinking about taking a shot at expanding light rail is a prudent course of action.


BREAKING: Al Gore to endorse Obama tonight

Vice President Al Gore just sent out this message to his list of supporters:
Dear Friend,

A few hours from now I will step on stage in Detroit, Michigan to announce my support for Senator Barack Obama. From now through Election Day, I intend to do whatever I can to make sure he is elected President of the United States.

Over the next four years, we are going to face many difficult challenges -- including bringing our troops home from Iraq, fixing our economy, and solving the climate crisis. Barack Obama is clearly the candidate best able to solve these problems and bring change to America.

This moment and this election are too important to let pass without taking action.

That's why I am asking you to join me in showing your support by making a contribution to this campaign today:

Over the past 18 months, Barack Obama has united a movement. He knows change does not come from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or Capitol Hill. It begins when people stand up and take action.

With the help of millions of supporters like you, Barack Obama will bring the change we so desperately need in order to solve our country's most pressing problems.

If you've already contributed to this campaign, I ask that you consider making another contribution right now. If you haven't, please take the next step and own a piece of this campaign today.

On the issues that matter most, Barack Obama is clearly the right choice to lead our nation.

We have a lot of work to do in the next few months to elect Barack Obama president, and it begins by making a contribution to this campaign today.

Thank you for joining me,

Al Gore
Gore will endorse Obama tonight at 5:30 PM Pacific Time. Tune in on CNN or MSNBC if you can. The speech will also be streamed live at barackobama.com.

Eyman makes appointment to turn in signatures for I-985

In an e-mail to supporters this morning, Tim Eyman announced that he plans to turn in signatures for his traffic nuisance initiative, Initiative 985, this Thursday.
Here's the scoop -- today in Spokane, Mike and Jack will process all I-985 petitions and voter signatures that came in to our PO Box last week from both our volunteers and our paid folks. Based on their cursory analysis over the weekend, they're certain we'll hit the minimum threshold of signatures -- roughly 224,880 -- and so we've made an appointment with the Secretary of State this Thursday, June 19th, 11:00 am, 520 Union Bldg, Olympia.

But we need much more voter signatures than just the minimum. Based on the signature turn-ins in 2005, 2006, and 2007, we can predict that roughly 18% of the voter signatures won't perfectly match the ones the voters submitted on their original voter registration card. So we need to turn-in a bunch of extra voter signatures -- a cushion -- to ensure we qualify I-985 for the ballot. That means we need to reach 275,000 (preferably more) voter signatures before the July 3 deadline.

That means we need to get roughly 50,000 more voter signatures in the next 18 days. That's a tough but achievable goal. With every initiative we've ever done, it's always boiled down to the very end.
Since this is Tim Eyman talking, it's impossible to know how many signatures he really does have. If Eyman does not actually have the minimum required, he probably has less rather than more, and is inflating the number in the hopes of convincing supporters to redouble their efforts.

Even if they do have the minimum, they need a pretty big cushion to ensure qualification, and they've only got just over two weeks.

It's certainly possible they will make it, but what it really comes down to is money. Eyman has no grassroots base of dependable volunteers to collect signatures, so he needs someone to keep the money flowing so he can pay hired petitioners. If he has run out of money, there's an excellent chance I-985 will fall short.

To date Eyman's I-985 has received $469,000 in contributions, much of that money supplied by Michael Dunmire. About $454,000 has been spent, which leaves about $15,000 in his coffers. That isn't very much.

In May, Eyman received several midsize donations from conservative allies.

These included:
  • $10,000 from the BIAW on May 29th
  • $25,000 from Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman Jr. on May 29th
  • $30,000 from the Sam Adams Alliance (an out of state conservative group based in Illinois) on May 2nd
  • $2,500 from the Fremont Dock Company on May 29th
  • $2,000 from John Connors on May 29th
  • $2,000 from Electroimpact (an aerospace tooling business based in Mukilteo, which is next door to Paine Field) on May 13th
  • $1,333 from Puget Sound Security Patrol on May 13th
  • $1,000 from TK Patrick of Bellevue on May 14th
The donations listed above account for 77% of Eyman's fundraising in May.

Reports submitted to Permanent Defense over the last few weeks indicate petition circulation is still going on, but it seems less widespread than in prior years.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

LIVE from Spokane: Advice if you're running for national delegate

Having now watched hundreds of speeches from Democrats vying to go to Denver as a national delegate (here and at the congressional district caucuses), I've compiled some tips for future would be delegates, including a summary of things not to say. So if you're someone who hopes to go to a future DNC, here's how to make the most of your minute (or two) that you have to speak:
  • Don't spend all your time talking about how your candidate has inspired you to run for delegate. Obviously you've been inspired, or you wouldn't be running for delegate.
  • Don't use your time to endorse other people for delegate.
  • Avoid gimmicks to get attention. The best way to spread word of your candidacy for delegate is simply to talk to people. Placards, t-shirts, buttons, and campaign materials help with visibility but can't be counted on to deliver victory. Your reputation is your greatest asset.
  • Don't extol the virtues of your candidate. That's preaching to the choir. Everyone in the room already agrees with you.
  • Don't only talk about yourself and why you believe you should go.
  • Don't sound desperate. A great many Democrats are deserving, but few will go. Don't plead. If you're struck with emotion at the podium, though, that's different. You'll be respected for having the courage to get up there.
A few more suggestions:
  • Do speak clearly and confidently. Use the microphone even if you have a loud voice because the microphone really does help carry your voice better.
  • Do introduce yourself and provide some personal background. Highlight your greatest accomplishments or involvement with the party. Mention ideas or projects that you're responsible for instead of just saying that you volunteered on this or that campaign.
  • Do explain what you would do if elected and how your presence at the national convention will benefit the Democratic Party in your community.
If you want to run for delegate, you have to be willing to make a serious commitment. Representing hundreds of thousands of people as a delegate to the National Convention isn't merely a reward, it's a job. Answer the question: What can I bring to the table to help grow the Democratic Party?

LIVE from Spokane: Breakout time

There are so many people running for at large delegate (for Barack Obama) that the organizers of the Obama subcaucus have wisely split up all of the would-be delegates into five rooms with several of the already elected delegates to narrow the field down for Round Two. We've just broken off into seperate rooms and the speechifying has begun, moderated by the already elected delegates.

The competition isn't as fierce in the Clinton subcaucus, so they're not doing breakouts. They'll undoubtedly be done with their business before we are.

Washington State will only send seventeen at large delegates to Denver. Eleven of those delegates will be pledged to Barack Obama and six will be pledged to Hillary Clinton. At least on the Obama side, there are several hundred people who have filed a declaration of candidacy. Only about one out of forty five to fifty people will receive the honor of going to Denver.

UPDATE: We have a very diverse field of candidates here in the "Powerhouse" breakout (yes, the breakouts are named!) - geographically and demographically. I can't speak for everyone, but I know I enjoy hearing fellow Democrats talk about their background and life story.

People have amazing experiences to share.

LIVE from Spokane: Election of remaining national convention delegates begins

With the platform approved, candidate speeches over, and the workshop sessions behind us, only one item of business remains before Democrats depart Spokane: the election of the remaining national convention delegates.

Much of the state's convention delegation was elected at the congressional district caucuses a month ago. A handful of Obama and Clinton delegates were selected from the state's nine congressional districts by the delegates elected from the legislative district caucuses, which were elected at the precinct caucuses.

The remaining delegates to be elected fall into three categories: Unpledged add-on, at-large, and PLEO - party leaders and elected officials.

What do each of these terms mean?

Unpledged add-on delegates are nominated by the state party chair (Dwight Pelz) and elected by those Democrats who are already going on to Denver. Two were just elected out of four nominated - Sharon Smith and Victor Collaryo.

At large delegates are pledged to a particular candidate and are elected by the subcaucus of the Denver delegation that supports that candidate.

So, all of the Obama and Clinton delegates already going to Denver are splitting up into subcaucuses. They will choose from among the hundreds of Democrats from across the state who would also like to go to Denver.

Any Democrat may file to run for at large delegate.

Party leaders and elected officials are visible figures within the party. Ten will be chosen to go to Denver - seven for Barack Obama and three for Hillary Clinton. Like the at large delegates, they are elected in the subcaucus.

The top state and federal offices (U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, Governor) are superdelegates, so they don't dominate the competition to go to the national convention as a PLEO delegate. Most of the candidates are either legislators, mayors, or local party chairs.

UPDATE: State Representative Jeanine Kohl-Welles, Spokane County Democratic Chair Kristina Reeves, and Obama organizer Shanna Sawatzki are our female Obama PLEO delegates. The male delegates haven't been announced yet.

UPDATE II: State Senator Chris Marr, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, Steve Stuart, and State Representative Dave Upthegrove are our male Obama PLEOs.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

LIVE from Spokane: George Fearing speaks

George Fearing, our candidate for Congress in the 4th Congressional District, has taken the stage at the 2008 State Democratic Convention and is sharing his perspective about what Democratic values mean to him.

He told delegates that he abandoned the Republican Party decades ago when it became clear to him that the party no longer shared his beliefs.

"I am a pro-life Democrat," Fearing told delegates, to sustained applause. By that, he said, he means someone who opposes unnecessary wars, supports potentially life-saving stem cell research, and believes in healthcare for every American...man, woman, and child. He also mocked Doc Hastings' poor constituent service (Hastings, incidentally, represents a district with a huge agriculture industry but doesn't serve on the House Committee on Agriculture).

UPDATE: We're now in Good of the Order and almost finished with all our convention business for today.

A young woman just suggested a workshop on Robert's Rules of Order before the actual convention so more delegates can understand parliamentary procedure.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

UPDATE II, 5:30 PM: We are adjourned.

LIVE from Spokane: Following the State Democratic Convention from home

Want to follow what's happening here in Spokane at home? If so, check out TVW, which has audio and video at their website.

You can also preview the proposed platform at the state party's website. It was developed over the last few months by a hardworking group of Democrats from every corner of the state. It's fourteen pages long.

Most of the planks are based on language in platforms past, although there is one section of the platform that I wanted to repost here because it doesn't often receive that much attention from candidates or the traditional media.
Indian Tribes and Sovereignty

Indian tribes share a common history with the United States. American Indian Tribal Governments make up a part of our national identity and community. We recognize them as self-determining, self-governing, and separate governments.

Local, state, and federal governments must respect the decisions of the Native American Nations and tribal governments, affirm their rights derived from treaties and state compacts, and oppose attempts to diminish their sovereignty and cultures.

We call for:
  • Upholding treaties or tribal agreements by any party.
  • Continued efforts to maintain and restore salmon runs and protect shellfish resources that are critical to Indian needs;
  • The preservation and protection of sites of historic, cultural and religious significance;
  • Local, state, and federal governments to help improve the social, economic, and health status of American Indian people and tribes to a level equivalent to that of other Americans.
  • Educating the American public about the inherent and treaty-based rights of Indian tribes, which is vital to respectful and civil relations between Indian tribes and local communities, the state and the nation.
UPDATE, 4:45 PM: Unbelievable. We just adopted the platform. Yes, you read that right. There was no arguing over word choice and sentence fluency in the planks. Nothing of the sort. We simply approved all the excellent work that the platform committee has done.

Here's hoping that things go this smoothly at future conventions, too.

LIVE from Spokane: Afternoon update

Lunch break is over and we're back in session here at the Spokane Convention Center. So far, we've nominated our statewide slate of candidates (with the exception of the state treasurer's office), heard from most of those candidates, including Peter Goldmark, John Ladenburg, Jim McIntire, and Jason Osgood.

Jason delivered his first speech in front of a large audience, and for a first time speaker, it was spectacular. The theme of Jason's campaign is simple. He's running for Secretary of State because our state deserves a sound, fair elections system where voter privacy is protected and the open primary is restored. By the time he left the stage, the whole hall was cheering and he received a standing ovation.

Sitting in chairs for long periods of time can get uncomfortable, so a number of delegates are up and wandering around, stretching their legs. A few have stopped by the press table (where I'm blogging from) and left business cards, flyers, or buttons. Also blogging the convention here with me is Jim Camden of the Spokesman-Review, David Postman of The Seattle Times, Bryan Bissell of PolitickerWA, and Niki Sullivan of the Tacoma News Tribune, who's still getting used to sitting next to (proudly) opinionated bloggers like myself:
When I came to the state Republican convention two weeks ago, I posted about what it was like. In that spirit, what follows is a bit about what it's like at the state Democratic convention.

For starters, it's a bit more laid back: There aren't as many security guards and we can walk wherever we want (even on the floor!) without supervision. Music (mostly 90s rock, it seems) is often played while candidates approach the stage.

Another difference: There are a lot more bloggers covering the event -- including partisan bloggers. I'm still getting used to sitting at the press table and having my next-door neighbor clap and cheer during candidate speeches.

But other than that, things are similar. Lots of candidate speeches, lots of procedural maneuvers and lots of delegates with giant name tags.
Less paranoia about security , more openness...yeah, that sounds like the atmosphere of a Democratic Party gathering.

Also worth a read is Daniel Kirkdorffer's recap over at On the Road to 2008.

LIVE from Spokane: Convention rules waiting for approval, delegates propose amendments

Having heard from our morning all star lineup of speakers, we're now at the point where it's time to adopt the proposed convention rules.

The credentials committee has made its report and about 1,200 delegates have been seated (including alternates).

Delegates at the 2008 Washington State Democratic Convention

Only about half of the delegates elected to the state convention have shown up.

I think there are several reasons for this. One, Spokane is a long drive or train ride from Western Washington, home to most of the state's population centers. Two, nominating season is over and we now have a presumptive nominee (Barack Obama). Three, we have already had precinct caucuses, legislative district caucuses, county conventions, and congressional district caucuses. Many Democrats repeatedly gave up their Saturdays to be involved.

Anyhow, adoption of the rules hasn't been a simple affair.

A number of amendments have been proposed, and so far, every change that has been proposed has been rejected.

The most recent amendment called for hearing a particular charter amendment before other charter amendments because said amendment would lower the bar for amending the charter. A number of delegates, including former party chair Paul Berendt, seemed to think we were considering adoption of that amendment, when in fact we were hearing a motion to change the order of the agenda.

Convention Chair Greg Nickels had to gently correct Paul Berendt and explain the actual motion, whereupon Berendt abruptly stopped speaking, sighed, "Never mind" and left the microphone to general laughter.

Nickels has been doing a really good job as Temporary Chair. He sounds patient and understanding, consults David McDonald (our parliamentarian) when he needs advice, and that's exactly the qualities we need as a Chair.

UPDATE: We have adopted the convention rules and selected a permanent convention chair - Lt. Governor Brad Owen, whose nomination was uncontested. He was unanimously elected as Permanent Convention Chair.

Who says Democrats can't come together quickly and move forward?

LIVE from Spokane: Senator Amy Klobuchar funny, inspiring

A few moments ago, Washington State Democrats heard from Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who filled in for Senator John Kerry as keynote speaker.

I think Klobuchar's energy took a lot of people by surprise. She was funny and inspiring, witty and chipper. She creatively linked the states of Washington and Minnesota together culturally, and praised Senators Murray and Cantwell for their work in the United States Senate, particular Murray's helpfulness in appropriating funds to repair the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis last year.

Klobuchar's sense of humor really shone during her forty plus minute address, as did her gift for storytelling.

LIVE from Spokane: A loud and enthusiastic greeting for Governor Gregoire

Introduced by her daughter Michelle Gregoire, the Governor of Washington State just took the stage, flanked by dozens of cheering Democrats waving placards. I'm not sure I've ever seen the Governor quite this cheerful. She seems to be radiating happiness and confidence. Perhaps it's all the energy the room. Or maybe it's her resolve to keep strengthening our state. Or both.

Chris Gregoire Addresses the 2008 Washington State Democratic Convention

Whatever it is, I know I'm thrilled that the governor has such an optimistic attitude and a strong spirit. Like Patty Murray, Gregoire began by praising Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for running a historic campaign.

She told delegates that Barack Obama will be a partner for Washington State when he is elected as the next President of the United States of America.

And she didn't mince words about her opponent, Dino Rossi. "He pretends that he is an outsider who has never seen Olympia, Washington," Gregoire observed. She reminded Democrats that Rossi spent many years in the state Legislature and likes to boast of his days as the chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee.

"When I took office I inherited his budget. It was a two point two billion dollar deficit. We have erased the deficit," Gregoire declared to loud applause.

Gregoire touted the recent Pew study that awarded Washington State an "A" grade for government performance and effectiveness. She reviewed the progress that we've been able to make during her first term in office.

"Last year we saw the lowest unemployment in the history of the state of Washington...Forbes Magazine ranked us as one of the five best states in the country to do business," Gregoire said.

Scolding Rossi, she added, "When I took office, he was cutting 40,000 children off healthcare...Since that time we have added 84,000 and by 2010 every child in Washington will have healthcare coverage."

She dismissed Rossi's transportation plan as a fantasy and slammed his approach. In one of the best lines of her speech, she remarked, "He ignores transit alternatives and says, build more lanes".

I've been waiting to hear that dig for a long time. Well done, Governor!

UPDATE: The Governor concluded her speech by asking,
"What's the difference between my opponent and George W. Bush?" and answering rhetorically with a sharp, "Nothing!"

"If you believe we need to renew hope in his country...vote for Democrats!" Gregoire told delegates. "You are the storytellers," she said, urging activists to talk to neighbors and family about the election.

All in all, it was a solid, well received speech. Democrats are fired up and ready to reelect Governor Chris Gregoire this November.

LIVE from Spokane: Convention in session

The 2008 Washington State Democratic Convention is now officially in session here in Spokane with this morning's call to order. We've heard several welcome messages from Spokane County Democrats, including Senator Chris Marr, and listened to Chairman Pelz' report to the party.

Greg Nickels has just been appointed as Temporary Chair of the convention, and is introducing Senator Patty Murray, who spoke last night at the gala banquet.

UPDATE: Murray largely repeated her remarks from last night, so I'll just briefly summarize the main points of her speech:
  • We need to elect Barack Obama as our next President.
  • George W. Bush has failed America.
  • Chris Gregoire is doing a terrific job as governor - we need to keep her working for us in Olympia.
  • It's time to send Mark Mays, George Fearing, and Darcy Burner to Congress to join our congressional delegation.
  • The right wing agenda has been disastrous for America. Veterans, children, seniors, and working families have been left out in the cold by the Bush administration and its Republican allies.
  • We need to elect Barack Obama as our next President.
"Thanks to Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, every child in America knows that they can be anything they want to be," Murray told the delegates.

LIVE from Spokane: Congressional Breakfast

Today's activities began at 7 AM with the Congressional Breakfast. Darcy Burner served as MC. One thing that struck me deeply is how articulate our Congressional Reps and Congressional candidates are about issues.

They spoke from the heart. Of what's possible and attainable if we work hard.

Jim McDermott was the closing speaker and was, as always, engaging and folksy. I had a chance to speak with Darcy Burner and Jim McDermott afterwards. I've spoken with Darcy before, but this was my first opportunity to speak with Jim,

One of the great things about being a Democrat in Washington State is the accessibility of our leaders. I grew up in Los Angeles, and the idea of being involved in the party to the degree that so many activists are here was essentially ridiculous.

We from the 45th are all seated together on the convention floor. More later.

Friday, June 13, 2008

LIVE from Spokane: An incredible speech

I'm heading off to the gala reception (one of the many receptions this evening) and won't be able to post again tonight, but I wanted to note that Lt. Governor Mark Parkinson of Kansas just finished his speech, concluding the gala.

He is a former Republican who switched parties two years ago to become a Democrat. It was the best live speech I've ever heard in my life. It was full of humor and serious compassion. If I lived in Kansas, I'd vote for him for any office.

UPDATE (Andrew): Parkinson's address was indeed compelling. I've seen very few elected leaders hold the audience's attention for as long as he did. He kept everyone in suspense by continually promising to explain "the one thing" that motivated him to come to the Evergreen State for our Convention.

And he finished with a sweeping flourish that drew a loud and sustained standing ovation from the assembled Democrats.

It's hard for me to summarize what he said and do it justice, but if I have time, I'll try to transcribe his remarks from the audio recorder later.

LIVE from Spokane: A hearty welcome for Patty Murray at gala banquet

Well, tonight's gala banquet is off to a pleasant start. Just moments ago, State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz kicked things off by welcoming Democrats to the 2008 Convention and reflecting optimistically on the party's chances of taking back the White House.

He also railed against Sam Reed's "goofy" primary and jeered at Dino Rossi for submitting "GOP" next to his name on the ballot instead of Republican.

Pelz introduced Senator Patty Murray, who was warmly welcomed.

Murray devoted much of her speech to the Bush administration's stubborn resistance to progressive change and the hope that Barack Obama's campaign is bringing to America. Murray drew a standing ovation when she touched on Mess o'potamia, declaring, "I knew I was right when I voted against the war in Iraq."

Murray told Democrats that she has witnessed a sea change in Congress even without a Democratic president in the White House. "Finally, instead of talking about flag burning and Terri Schiavo, we're having real debates," she stated.

But she noted that Dubya still occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the Democratic majority in the Senate is slim.

"Time and time again, we have seen this president take out his veto pen and say no to families, no to children, and no to our men and women in uniform," Murray thundered. "What is the Republicans' answer [to challenges like Iraq, or bringing universal healthcare to America]? Obstruction!"

What Congress needs, Murray added, is more Democrats.

"Wouldn't it be great if we could add Mark Mays, George Fearing, and another woman, Darcy Burner, to our congressional delegation?" she asked to applause.

LIVE from Spokane: Gala banquet begins

I heard one estimate that there are a couple thousand people gathered together here in the ballroom at the Spokane Convention Center for tonight's traditional gala banquet. I don't think I've ever seen so many Democrats dressed so formally, but there are hundreds of people in business dress here.

Dwight Pelz just gave a stirring speech, describing how a large number of Republican candidates have chosen NOT to list the word "Republican" next to their names on the ballot.He cited Dino Rossi as a prime example. Apparently, Dino will be listed on the ballot as: "Dino Rossi, prefers GOP" or words to that effect.

Patty Murray is speaking as I type. She spoke respectfully about Hillary Clinton (and I say this as a Clinton delegate), and passionately about Barack Obama. She is not pulling any punches in slamming Republican agenda.

Patty just introduced Chris Gregoire, which led to another standing ovation. It feels like doing a series of knee bends, but it is wonderful to be able to hear from so many Democratic leaders.

UPDATE: The Governor just re-told her "Dubya and the puppies" joke. For those who haven't heard it, it goes like this (in an abbreviated form):

Dubya is riding in his limo along Pennsylvania Ave when he spots a boy on a street corner with a box of puppies, and the box is labeled "Republican puppies."

Now Dubya know we're mired in a quagmire in Iraq, Americans are suffering from high gas prices, no bid contracts, etc., but look at those puppies! So the next day he rounds up Dick Cheney and heads back to the same street corner to show him. The same boy is there, with the same box of the same puppies.

But now, the box is labeled "Democratic puppies."

Dubya asks the boy why the box says Democratic puppies instead of Republicans." The boy looks at Dubya and said "Well, their eyes are open now."

Dinner has arrived, so I'll sign off for now.

LIVE from Spokane: My excellent first day

From the Executive Director: I'm pleased to welcome a new contributor to NPI and the Official Blog this evening: Michael Finkle, an energetic Democratic activist who will be representing the 8th Congressional District in Denver at the Democratic National Convention in August.

Like the rest of us here at NPI, Michael believes in opening up the political process, and that's why he wants to share his experience as a delegate with all of you. I hope you'll join me in welcoming him aboard.


I met up with a fellow delegate on the plane ride from Seattle, and haven't stopped talking with people since. I was concerned about animosity between the two sub-caucuses, but that has turned out to be a non-issue.

It is great to see Democrats coming together.

I attended a presentation on campaigning 101, and came away with some energy and ideas. I have contact information to get a copy of the PowerPoint presentation, and that's on my to-do list.

The Darcy Burner luncheon was energizing. Darcy spoke, and was great. But what really impressed me was the number of people from outside the 8th CD who attended, donated money, and voiced strong support. Several union folk pledged support in the form of going to their unions for support.

I'm writing this from the gala banquet. I have time to do so because I lost my ticket and have to wait for them to look me up in the computer.

This has been an uplifting experience so far, and I'm looking forward to filing more posts throughout this weekend.

LIVE from Spokane: Afternoon sessions on blogging, top two primary draw crowds

Following Darcy's luncheon at midday today, I headed back into the Spokane Convention Center to drop in on two of the afternoon sessions: a presentation on the "Top Two" primary by Dwight Pelz, Sam Hunt, and David McDonald, and a workshop on blogging hosted by John Wyble and David Goldstein.

Dwight's presentation (and the ensuing panel discussion) largely echoed the criticisms I've been making here for weeks.

Specifically, that "Top Two" is bad for grassroots politics, bad for voter choice, bad for independents, bad for minor parties, bad for major parties...bad for pretty much everyone. It undermines and undercuts grassroots democracy by taking nominations out of the hands of the voters.

Thanks to Sam Reed and the Grange, our primary has been turned into an elimination game where the people with the most clout and name recognition go on to the finals. There is nothing guaranteeing that a diversity of viewpoints will be represented on the general election ballot.

In some areas, only candidates of one political party will be on the ballot.

Several people asked about the party's legal strategy going forward. David McDonald reminded everyone that the case is still in court because the United States Supreme Court only ruled on the 9th Circuit's summary judgment.

Representative Sam Hunt suggested that the Legislature's next move will be determined by what happens this August, the first time the "top two" primary will be used. Voters are in for a surprise, because most people seem to be under the impression that the blanket primary is coming back. But it isn't.

"Top Two" is radically different - and not in a good way. It removes choices for voters in the general election, when most people participate.

I was pleased to see that people are catching on.

The audience was supportive and understanding. At least inside the Democratic Party, confusion over the primary is starting to dissipate, and that's a very positive development. We can't educate the public about the consequences of "Top Two" if we don't get the ramifications ourselves.

The blogging workshop covered everything from setting up a blog to how the netroots community influences the traditional media. Several people asked for advice about which technology (or platform) to use.

Some seem surprised to learn that there are plenty of choices when it comes to software, and the wide array may seem daunting, but ultimately blogging is about writing and not scripting or coding.

David and John did advise would-be bloggers in attendance who are ready to make a long term commitment to the medium to start building an identity from the very beginning - minimally buying a domain name so that readers don't get lost when and if a decision is made to upgrade to something with better features.

Near the end of the session, I spoke briefly about the Northwest Progressive Institute and our Pacific NW Portal project, explaining what our media gateway does and urging the audience to submit their blogs to its Regional Blogs Directory.

I should mention that Dan Kirkdorffer of On the Road to 2008 is also here and has been blogging the Convention. He's posted about his arrival in Spokane this morning as well as the sessions this afternoon.

BREAKING: Tim Russert Has Died

NBC News Washington Bureau Chief and host of Meet the Press, Tim Russert has died of an apparent heart attack.

Tom Brokaw, the former anchor of NBC Nightly News, came on the air at 3:39 p.m. and reported that Mr. Russert had collapsed and died early this afternoon while at work. He had just returned from Italy with his family.

“Our beloved colleague,” a somber Mr. Brokaw called him, one of the premier journalists of our time. He said this was one of the most important years in his life, with his deep engagement in the network’s political coverage, and that he “worked to the point of exhaustion.” Mr. Brokaw said Mr. Russert was a true child of Buffalo and always stayed in touch with his blue collar roots and “the ethos of that community.”
This is sad news, and we offer our condolences to the family of Tim Russert and his co-workers and friends at NBC News.

LIVE from Spokane: 2008 State Democratic Convention is underway

Welcome to the beginning of NPI's three day live coverage of the 2008 State Democratic Convention in Spokane, Washington.

I'm here at the Convention Center and Doubletree Hotel downtown, awaiting the start of the program for Darcy Burner's luncheon.

So far, it's been a busy but quiet morning. The space is so cavernous here that walking between meetings, workshops, and caucuses is quite peaceful.

Spokane Convention Center

Registration is open and a steady stream of Democrats have been signing in all morning long. Party convention committees have also been in session - Rules, Credentials, and Platform. I am a member of the Rules Committee, so I attended that meeting only. Our business was relatively straightforward: reviewing the proposed agenda, checking over the modified boilerplate convention rules, and voting on recommendations for the submitted charter amendments.

One of the charter amendments called for giving the Young Democrats of Washington State two votes on the state Central Committee. We recommended not adopting that amendment (to my chagrin and opposition).

Another set of amendments called for making it easier to amend the charter. We unanimously rejected these as well.

David McDonald, who is one of our Democratic National Committee members, gave a detailed, insightful, and fascinating report of what happened at the Rules & Bylaws meeting at the end of last month on the East Coast.

David recounted that the committee had a very exhaustive discussion, staying up very late into the night on the eve of the actual meeting, and deliberating extensively on three main options insofar as Michigan was concerned.

The committee ultimately adopted a proposal that was drawn up in Michigan itself, with input from the state party and the presidential campaigns.

UPDATE: Former state party chairman Paul Berendt has just finished a very generous introduction of Darcy Burner, who is addressing a luncheon of supporters at the Doubletree Hotel, talking about the inspiration for her candidacy and the plan going forward for turning the 8th Congressional District blue.

What I'm really liking about this speech is how many of the different topics Darcy has touched on. There's personal background interwoven with campaign strategy and a candid presentation of ideas to improve America's common wealth and overall quality of life. So far, Darcy's talked about the Responsible Plan, immigration, bolstering the economy, investing in renewable energy, and giving veterans an opportunity to get an education through a twenty first century GI Bill of Rights - which Congress is considering and Dubya has threatened to veto.

Darcy also plainly described what is possible, noting that Reichert's margin of victory in 2006 can be erased if she receives just a handful of more votes per precinct. And anyone who has experience political organizing knows what a difference one person can make walking their precinct and canvassing Democratic voters.

Our challenge in 2008 is to do just that.

What really matters, after the election is over, isn't what happens at a caucus or at a convention or a fundraiser (although functions like the state convention are important) but what happens in between: the phonebanking, the doorbelling, the organizing. Or talking to friends and family about a candidate or a ballot measure. The best campaigns are always alive and active somewhere; they're not just a series of high profile events at hotels, parks, or community centers.

Darcy understands why grassroots and netroots organizing is so important, and her candidacy has been all about embracing new tools, technologies, and tactics to build a winning congressional campaign.

Review: The Uprising

We're not gonna take it.
No, we ain't gonna take it.
We're not gonna take it anymore.
Like Dee Snider of Twisted Sister delivering the smackdown to some kid's parent with those rebellious lyrics in 1984, with his New York Times bestselling book The Uprising, David Sirota is kicking down the door and putting the establishment on notice that we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore.

In The Uprising, Sirota reports from the front lines of populist movements on both the political left and right, showing the anger of a people who feel that their government, one that is supposed to be "of the people, for the people, and by the people" does not work for them. From a stint with the Minutemen on the California border with Mexico, to profiling populist Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Jon Tester (D-MT), to following the efforts of Marcus Courtney and WashTech to organize high-tech sector workers at Microsoft, to the fragmented anti-war movement, David Sirota effectively lays out the stark realities of an establishment that is broken and the popular discontent that is bubbling up from the grassroots.

Make no mistake, the uprising is not solely the domain of progressives who chafe at every move the Bush Administration makes. Social conservatives who believe their government has through its complacency and apathy, enabled illegal immigration, have joined the uprising, as have fiscal conservatives who seemingly have watched their government spend money faster than Monty Brewster.

The Uprising is a highly entertaining and informative account of what's gone wrong with our system of government through the eyes of the people who are trying to do something about it. And with this book, David Sirota cements his status as one of the leading progressive voices in our country.

In short, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Uprising, and see what it's all about. But don't just read the book. Challenge yourself to join the uprising and get involved. For our readers in Portland, below is the information on David's book tour event tonight:
Portland, OR - Friday, June 13th, 7:30pm: Powell's Bookstore
Reading, Q&A and book signing co-sponsored by the Oregon Bus Project, with after-party at bar. Location: Powell's Bookstore, 1005 W. Burnside, Portland, OR. Contact: Alex Tischenko, shoshana.bochner (at) busproject.org) at 503-233-3018. Facebook event RSVP (optional).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dori Monson, mouthpiece for the BIAW

It seems that 710 KIRO talk show host Dori Monson has taken umbrage at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Joel Connelly, whose latest column deservedly slams the BIAW for its slick radio campaign that unfairly trashes Governor Chris Gregoire's record of improving transportation on Dino Rossi's behalf.

Monson went to great lengths to insult Joel on his show today, sneering, "I shouldn't criticize Connelly too much - everybody knows he's totally lost it," and then proceeded to claim that Joel is "a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party."

Really.

I guess such absurd accusations are typical Dori Monson fare, but anybody who knows Joel appreciates that he takes the time to listen to everyone's viewpoints and doesn't much care for one party rule.

What's more, he makes a point of keeping his ear to the ground. He's frequently out of the newsroom, following candidates' retail politicking, attending conventions, and journeying out into the field to discern what people are saying and doing.

I can't remember the last time I saw Dori Monson out in public observing the political process. In fact, I can't even remember the last time I saw Dori at all.

Oh, wait...now I can! It was in one of those badly produced cable television ads for Stupid Prices furniture outlets. That was it! There was Dori, plopping himself down in a recliner and urging viewers to hurry on over and buy themselves a new couch or television stand in his brash, annoying voice.

What I found most pathetic about Dori's little spiel today, though, is his defense of the Building Industry Association of Washington.

Apparently there's nothing wrong or immoral about using a loophole in state law to grab the refunds from an insurance program to build a political war chest, deliberately funnel that money between various political action committees so as to conceal the source of it...and then, to air disparaging attack ads that unfairly blame one of the state's most pragmatic, effective elected officials for a lack of progress, when in reality, said elected official is largely responsible for ALL of the recent progress that's been made in improving our state's transportation system.

The BIAW is nothing more than a tool for Dino Rossi. They're Rossi's loyal Rottweilers. Their job is to defame, distort, discredit, deface, and create disillusionment with the governor's job performance.

Condemning the BIAW's underhanded tactics and divisive rhetoric doesn't make Joel Connelly a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party.

But Dori Monson's consistent, unapologetic, and strident defense of the state's meanest, nastiest, and greediest right wing lobby does make him a mouthpiece...for the Building Industry Association of Washington.

Yeah, it sucks to be Gordon Smith

This has NOT been Republican Senator Gordon Smith's best week ever.

On Tuesday, Smith's longtime spokesperson, RC Hammond, abruptly and mysteriously left the campaign. Lindsay Gilbride from the senator's office was quickly shuttled in to take over duties.

Gilbride stated that Hammond simply wanted to move into the private sector to explore new pastures. All due beasty inferences aside, the sudden departure of Hammond, a seasoned spokesperson who has good relations with the local media, is a blow to Smith's operation. The scuttle here is that Gilbride may be merely an interim replacement and the Smith folks are looking to hire a big gun to take over for Hammond. Stay tuned.

Then today's West Linn Tidings skewers Smith on their editorial page over the county timber payments issue:

For Sen. Gordon Smith the timber payments fiasco is a different matter. Smith, a self-proclaimed champion of timber-dependent communities, may become the biggest casualty over this issue at the polls next fall.

By failing to effectively weigh in on timber payments, Smith forfeited a golden opportunity to be a hero and relinquished it to his Democratic rival, Sen. Ron Wyden, who has crafted timber payments amendment of his own and attached it to the president’s military spending bill. Even if this maneuver doesn’t work, Wyden can come back to Oregon and truthfully say that he fought the good fight for rural counties.


And finally, NRSC Chief John Ensign is using Obama to throw Gordon Smith under the bus:

He said that while Sen. Barack Obama’s impact on down-ballot races is “unknowable at this point,” he expects Obama to boost the prospects of Democratic candidates in some states -- naming Oregon as an example.

“Without Barack Obama, [Sen.] Gordon Smith probably wins [reelection] going away,” Ensign said.


Ensign is desperately trying to triage the ailing GOP's dimming chances at holding seats. The fact that he's singling out Smith as a guy in a badly weakened position doesn't bode well at all for Gordo.

The future is Link: A look inside Sound Transit's new light rail system

As the cost of driving continues to rise thanks to soaring gasoline and diesel prices, Puget Sound commuters are increasingly clamoring for alternatives to the automobile to get around. Transit ridership is climbing, and Sound Transit is working diligently to increase service to meet demand.

The agency recently opened a new Sounder station in Mukilteo (Tim Eyman's hometown) and is asking the public for feedback on a possible ballot proposal which would increase revenue to fund more rapid transit across the region.

With the exception of Sounder and streetcars like the South Lake Union Trolley or Tacoma Link, the region's transit network is comprised of buses operated by King County Metro, Community Transit, Pierce Transit, and Everett Transit. And unfortunately, the skyrocketing cost of fuel is making it more expensive to run the bus fleet, as the Wall Street Journal reported on May 30th:
[A]t the very moment they should be investing to expand their services, the same driver that is ballooning ridership is crippling transit budgets: steep fuel bills.

As record numbers of people board buses and trains, higher costs are forcing public transit agencies to scale back on services, further straining capacity. Local transit agencies fret that the capacity problems may squander the opportunity to convert more Americans to public transportation.

"There's only so many times a person can walk out to a bus stop and say, 'Oh, it's too crowded to ride, I'm driving,'" says Jeff A. Meilbeck, general manager of the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority. Ridership on Flagstaff's Mountain Line rose 34% to 85,602 in April from 63,685 in April 2007, he says, noting that drivers have had to turn some riders away.
This is one of the problems with heavy reliance on "rubber tire transit" (a term that John Carlson is fond of): Buses and shuttles, like cars, need fuel to power their internal combustion engines. Lots of fuel.

The combination of rising fuel prices and slumping sales tax revenue (due to a slackening in consumer spending) is putting the squeeze on public transit providers across the country. With buses becoming more expensive to operate, it is absolutely imperative that our region construct a rail backbone that can transport commuters effectively, quickly, and reliably through our most congested corridors.

Our economy depends on our common wealth, including our transportation system. And beginning next year, our transportation system will get a big boost with the opening of Central Link, the region's first light rail line.

Because Link runs on electricity, and not diesel, it is both clean and inexpensive to operate. In terms of efficiency, it's also vastly superior to buses.

Sound Transit broke ground on Central Link five years ago. Today, the system is nearly complete and most of the project's components have been delivered on time by contractors. The Downtown Transit Tunnel has been renovated, much of the track has been laid, and many of the stations are complete. The Emerald Mole has drilled the Beacon Hill Tunnel, an astonishing engineering feat.

Several days ago, Sound Transit graciously offered the Northwest Progressive Institute a tour of the new Central Link system, including the new Operations & Maintenance facility in south Seattle, the almost finished Tukwila station, and much of the actual route, which connects Seattle to SeaTac International Airport.

What follows is a look inside Central Link, with accompanying information about what riders can expect when the line opens to the public in 2009.

All of the photos you're about to see, by the way, exist because of you, our readers, and other supporters like you, who generously donated money to help us expand our work. Thanks to your financial support, the Northwest Progressive Institute been able to invest in new state-of-the-art media equipment that allows us to tell a story not just through text, but rich multimedia... images, audio, and video.

So enjoy the pictures! Your investment made them possible.

The vehicles

The Link fleet totals thirty five vehicles, all manufactured by Kinkisharyo of Japan. The frames and shells are built in Osaka and sent to the Pacific Northwest for final assembly. The rail cars are 3.81 meters in height, and 2.65 meters in width. The first delivery was made just over a year and a half ago, in November of 2006.

Sound Transit has been conducting continuous testing of the vehicles to prepare the fleet for service next year. If you've traveled through south downtown in recent months, you've probably seen Link vehicles out on the tracks at some point.

When we arrived at the Operations & Maintenance facility in the rain last week, several vehicles were out in the yard undergoing testing.

Link Trains Undergoing Testing

More were inside the garage, where they can be inspected underneath from maintenance pits or serviced from above via elevated platforms.

The driver cab of a Link light rail car

The shot above shows the front of one of the vehicles, with the panel raised to allow technicians access to the machinery underneath. To the sides are stairwells leading up to the raised platforms next to the train. This next shot (below) shows the top of the vehicle, plugged in for systems testing.

Looking at the top of a Link light rail train

Now, let's take a look at the maintenance pit, which is mostly used for inspections (not service work), according to the operations team.

Link Maintenance Pit

Here's a closeup shot of what the vehicle looks like from underneath.

The view of a Link light rail car from underneath

And here's a view of the wheels.

Link Wheels

Now, let's actually head on inside the train. What you're about to see is the finished interior of the Link vehicles.

While exterior shots may be found everywhere (in Sound Transit's slideshows, television ads seeking public input, on the local five o'clock news, and in newspaper stories) views of the inside are uncommon.

Inside of a Link vehicle

My first impression, once I stepped inside, was a memory of my experience in Chicago last summer. I stepped off my flight at Midway International Airport and boarded an Orange Line train to downtown and my hotel.

I was delighted by how reliable, simple, and efficient the train was there. I'm pleased to report that Link will be every bit as comfortable and navigable. Sound Transit has thought of everything.

For example, route maps above the doors:

Link Route Map

...and scrolling LED screens that can display the time, the next station stop, and other important information for riders:

Link LED Screen

Sound Transit tells NPI that the Link system will include clear audio cues, not unlike the ones that are used on Sounder today. These cues were hugely beneficial to me in Chicago, and they're essential for riders who are blind. They provide orientation so riders know where they are. For example, the voice might say:

Doors closing.
This is a southbound train to SeaTac International Airport. Estimated arrival is twenty two minutes.
The next stop is the International District/Chinatown Station. Transfer to Sounder, ST Express, Metro, and Amtrak.

In Chicago, the entire transit system - including the bus fleet - uses the same consistent cues, making it much easier to ride.

Here's another view of the interior:

Inside of a Link vehicle, corridor view

The cardboard taped down to to the floor is there to protect the new vehicle walkways from getting dirty and marked up before they enter service.

Link cars utilize low floors and have plenty of room on board for disabled riders. There's even space for two bicycles to be stored. The trains are designed to be very comfortable, with climate control and air conditioning. Link trains can be configured with one, two, three, or four cars, making the system highly flexible.

Finally, let's take a look inside the driver cab:

Advanced controls inside of the driver cab

Link cars are equipped with advanced controls that help operators keep passengers, pedestrians, and motorists safe.

Video monitors on either side of the cab help eliminate blind spots. A multi-volume horn allows an audio warning to be sounded if necessary.

The main display shows the speed, status of the vehicle (for example, whether doors are open or closed) and information about the brakes. The train is smart enough to enforce vehicle braking when required without operator intervention.

Central Link trains will reach a top speed of 55 miles per hour (or 88 kilometers per hour) but won't travel at that speed wherever the track is at grade and next to a roadway, housing, or businesses (such as along Martin Luther King Jr. Way).

Tukwila station

Sound Transit's Tukwila International Boulevard Station is easily one of the largest on the Central Link route. It's the only station with parking and the second to last stop on the southbound end of the line.

Main entrance to Tukwila station

It was explicitly designed to facilitate easy transfers to buses. The bus turnaround is actually under the station platform, which was built alongside the aerial track above ground. The grand entrance to the station, seen above, leads upstairs to the main level, which is covered and features hanging public art.

Public artwork inside the Tukwila station

The station will look quite a bit brighter and cheerier on sunny days thanks to all the windows, but unfortunately, there was a downpour the day of the tour, so the skies are a cloudy, misty gray outside in these photos.

Another flight of stairs, escalators, and several elevators lead to the station platform at the top. There is ample space for passengers to wait to board either a southbound train to SeaTac or a northbound train to Westlake Center, most of it covered (although not entirely sheltered from the elements).

Public artwork inside the Tukwila station

To the north, the track features a crossover - a pair of switches that allow trains to be moved over from one track to the other.

Crossover switch on the Link tracks

The future is Link

As of the end of last month, there is continuous track running all the way from Westlake Center in downtown Seattle to SeaTac International Airport. Before the end of summer, Central Link test runs will be extended along the line all the way to Tukwila (currently, testing is happening in South Downtown only).

With construction on Link ninety percent complete, the future of rapid transit in our region is just over the horizon. More importantly, Sound Transit is the only public agency planning and building a transportation system that doesn't rely solely on the internal combustion engine. Link means greater energy independence and new options for commuters. The right wing has bitterly fought Central Link every step of the way, but they have lost. Rapid transit is coming to the greater Seattle area.

At a time when fuel prices are in flux (but generally rising) we need all the efficient, safe, and speedy electric light rail we can get.

Rule of Law Makes A Rare Appearance

After a long eight years, at last a breath of fresh air. It appears the Constitution lives.

In a rebuke to the Bush Administration, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that foreign terrorism suspects being detained at Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detention in our court system. Welcome back habeas corpus, how we have missed you.

In its third rebuke of the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners, the court ruled 5-4 that the government is violating the rights of prisoners being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The court's liberal justices were in the majority.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."

Justices Breyer, Bader Ginsburg, Souter, Stevens and Kennedy formed the majority. Chief Justice Roberts, along with Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas all dissented.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Uprising Book Tour Hits the Pacific Northwest


If you're in Oregon or Washington, please join nationally syndicated weekly columnist, New York Times bestselling author, frequent progressive radio and cable television show guest, and fellow blogger David Sirota, who is in town for events, tomorrow and Friday, to promote his new book The Uprising.
The Uprising is a new book by New York Times bestseller David Sirota about the re-emergence of populist politics on both the Right and Left in America.

[...]

The Uprising is all new, firsthand investigative reporting from across the country, showing how populism has become a dominant political force in both national and local politics. Sirota, a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, takes us far from the media spotlight into the trenches where real change is happening - from the headquarters of the most powerful third party in America to the bowels of the U.S. Senate; from the auditorium of an ExxonMobil shareholder meeting to the quasi-military staging area of a vigilante force on the Mexican border.
Here's the schedule of public events:
Seattle, WA - Thursday, June 12th, 7:30pm: Elliott Bay Book Company
Reading, Q&A and book signing co-sponsored by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, SEIU 775 and Fuse Washington. Location: Elliott Bay Book Company, 101 South Main Street, Seattle, WA. Contact: 206-624-6600. Facebook event RSVP (optional).

Portland, OR - Friday, June 13th, 7:30pm: Powell's Bookstore
Reading, Q&A and book signing co-sponsored by the Oregon Bus Project, with after-party at bar. Location: Powell's Bookstore, 1005 W. Burnside, Portland, OR. Contact: Alex Tischenko (shoshana.bochner@busproject.org) at 503-233-3018. Facebook event RSVP (optional).

I highly recommend you attend one of these events if you're able to. David is a bright, articulate speaker and if you're wondering what you as an average citizen can do to take back your government then The Uprising is for you.

Of particular interest to those of us in Washington is a chapter on anti-worker policies at Microsoft and how Marcus Courtney and WashTech have worked to organize workers in the high-tech sector.

Watch for my review of The Uprising to be posted in the next couple of days.

Update: You can see video of David's recent appearance on The Colbert Report here.

Say it to my face, why don't you?

Well, this is a new one.

For all that I am an activist, I make a point not to push my politics in people's faces. I don't bring up Bush or Obama with random people I meet.

I don't wear one of those "Buck Fush" t-shirts. But I do have two bumper stickers on my car. One for Darcy Burner, and one for Barack Obama.

They're the only candidates I've encountered in my life who I felt strongly enough about to make that kind of public statement.

So yesterday, somebody put a bumper sticker on my car that read "Democrats are defeatist cowards."

Let us revel, shall we, in the delicious irony of the fact that whoever felt so motivated to deface my car and call me a coward, chose to do so anonymously. I have no idea who it might have been. Someone at work?

Someone at a random supermarket parking lot? One of my neighbors? I have no idea. But let's set the record straight.

Am I a defeatist for wanting to fight to take my country back? For wanting to fight for the principles espoused in our Constitution?

Am I a defeatist for serving as a precinct committee officer for my neighborhood, to organize and get out the vote for good progressive candidates?

Am I a defeatist for seeking out the company of my fellows at my legislative district Democrats meetings, to take part in the state party's organization and activities? Am I a defeatist for blogging here and elsewhere?

A defeatist would give up, stay home, and resign himself to watching the nation go down the tubes. I ain't doing that.

I'm fighting, in my own way and on my own terms, for the kind of nation and world I want my kids to have. But I'm sure as hell not giving in to defeat.

Am I a coward, then? I sure do hate fighting and violence. I guess I can see how certain unenlightened mindsets would call cowardly this instinct away from using force as a tool to get what I want. I don't own a gun.

In high school and grade school, I avoided getting in fights at all costs (which didn't stop me from getting beat up from time to time anyway).

I do, generally speaking, avoid confrontational situations. I'm not a belligerent or aggressive person. I marched against the first gulf war when I was in college, and put up my share of "no war for oil" signs before this war started.

And yes, my personal heroes do include those two icons of peaceful change: Mahatma K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Does that make me a coward, trying to live by the principles of two of the bravest agents of change the 20th century produced?

I don't think I'm as brave as Gandhi or King. They were truly in a league of their own. But frankly, I don't think it makes me cowardly in the least to want to emulate their methods. In many ways picking up a gun is the easiest way to fight.

Kill your enemies from a distance, where you don't have to look in their faces or talk to them or even pretend that they are also human with their own beliefs and hopes and loved ones.

Finding peaceful solutions to the problem if Islamic fundamentalist violence, or to the problem of Israel vs. Palestine, or to the thorny question of how to equitably share the world's resources among an exploding world population, that's hard. Violence is easy. Peace is hard.

And cowards are the ones who take the easy way out.

To me, one of the most ironic and perplexing aspects of the dynamic between progressives and conservatives, between tolerance and ideological fanaticism, is this: the conservatives and ideologues, by being intolerant to other viewpoints (even to the extent of being willing to kill people with other viewpoints) would seem to be at a tactical advantage.

That willingness, in the extreme, to win an argument simply by killing the opponent would seem to suggest that conservative thought would come to dominate the world, given enough time. And yet, history shows otherwise.

Somehow, despite this seeming tactical disadvantage, it is clear over the span of human civilization that there is vastly more tolerance and open-mindedness in the world today than there was a hundred years ago, or five hundred years ago, or a thousand years ago.

The "arc of history," as Dr. King so eloquently named it, bends as much towards tolerance as it does towards justice.

Being a progressive, I am naturally respectful of the rights of my fellow citizens, to hold opinions which I consider the most serious folly.

I respect that right, and even their right to express those opinions. But come on. There's a proper way and a wrong way to do so. There's a time and a place.

I may not get that same consideration back from them, but at least I don't go around putting disrespectful bumper stickers on other people's cars.

So, my dear anonymous fellow citizen, next time you want to call me a coward, have the guts to say it to my face.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oregon: Get your primer! ...and breaking news in the U.S. Senate race

From the Executive Director: We're pleased this morning to welcome a new contributing editor to the Northwest Progressive Institute - Carla Axtman.

Over the last few months Carla has been on hiatus from blogging, working for victorious Oregon Senate candidate Jeff Merkley, who defeated Steve Novick for the Democratic nomination. Merkley will face incumbent Republican Gordon Smith this fall. Before joining the Merkley campaign, Carla's posts could be found at Loaded Orygun and Preemptive Karma. She'll be filing reports from the Beaver State here at NPI every few days. This is her first - please enjoy!


The geographical and political landscapes in Washington and Oregon are strikingly similar. Both states have the greater population centers west of the Cascade mountain range that trend to the progressive and the rainy. The residents on the east side of the mountains tend to vote more conservative--and have populations composed heavily of farmers and ranchers. Both have large metropolitan areas in their NW corners that essentially anchor the liberalism of the state.

(The immediate big news of the Oregon political day is that Independent Party candidate John Frohnmayer is ending his bid for the U.S. Senate seat. That news is still breaking, but I've confirmed with the Merkley campaign that Frohnmayer is indeed out.)

Where I see Washington's Mexico begin to part ways with our northern neighbor is our rather vast libertarian streak. Oregonians enjoy a maverick sensibility that chafes at the perception of government being too intrusive in their personal lives, while at the same time expecting to be provided basic government services--and attempting to spurn the financial cost. Oregon also likes to consider herself a leader: the first to pass the landmark Bottle Bill in 1971 (updated in '07 to include water bottles), the first in the U.S. to pass Death With Dignity and a stalwart if not confusing insistence that residents cannot pump their own gas.

Add to the mix the fact that the Oregon Republican Party is in tatters:
The Oregon Republican Party has hit the financial skids, facing more than a quarter-million dollars in debt and an IRS lien for failing to pay payroll taxes. "It's far more debt than we've been in for years," party spokeswoman Brianne Hyder said Tuesday. "It's a tough year for Republicans to raise money in Oregon."

The bad financial news comes as the party is struggling to recruit candidates for open statewide posts. It also comes during a presidential election year when state parties are called upon to help deliver votes in November. (snip)

According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, the party had $35,850 in cash on hand in its federal political action committee as of the first of the year and $263,930 in debt. The state PAC had about $42,00 in cash on hand, according to a report filed with the state Elections Division.
Barack Obama enjoys a ten-point lead over McCain in Oregon, according to Survey USA. However, SUSA has done poorly with their polling in Oregon this cycle, consistently under-polling Obama's primary lead over Clinton and the Democratic Senate primary, so grain of salt and all that. McCain has a shot at doing better in Oregon than other blue-trending states because of our maverick-ness, but Oregon is also suffering from a heavy dose of Bush/Republican fatigue. Expect things here to continue to move toward the Democrats.

The down-ticket races should also move toward the "D" column. Especially with the news that Independent Party candidate John Frohnmayer is ending his bid for the U.S. Senate seat. Frohnmayer was attempting to run to the left of Democrat Jeff Merkley and expected to take votes away from him. This has to frustrate incumbent Republican Gordon Smith, who has decided to run largely on Jeff Merkley's platform: pro-environment, pro-civil rights, anti-Iraq war, etc. Unfortunately for Smith, his votes don't match his rhetoric.

Republicans are expected to lose every statewide election this cycle--except for the U.S. Senate seat, which pundits say leans Republican but polling puts it closer to a toss-up. The only other race where the GOP is likely to prevail is the 2nd Congressional District , where Greg Walden enjoys a general voting stranglehold.

I'll profile the other Oregon races in the coming weeks..and bring you breaking news from the state that isn't allowing its NBA franchise to bail.

Boo-yah!

Articles of Impeachment introduced

Last night, for roughly four hours on the floor of the House of Representatives, something historic happened. Dennis Kucinich introduced formal Articles of Impeachemnt against President Bush. [UPDATE: YouTube video of C-SPAN's coverage. Part 1, Part 2 ]

Speaking for myself, let me thank Dennis Kucinich with a loud Hallelujah! for finally doing what should have been done years ago.

The Articles include 35 specific points, covering everything from lying about the reasons for war with Iraq to gross negligence on Katrina to spying on Americans in violation of the Fourth Amendment to establishing secret laws via the executive Office of Legal Council to suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus. It's quite the list.

Oddly, John Conyers' response to the near immediate call that his committee--Conyers is the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee--take up the articles and hold hearings was to demand that those who would see justice done here first provide compelling rebuttals to five excuses reasons why he shouldn't do so. I say "oddly" because it was Conyers himself who extensively documented the very abuses of power in question in a 2006 book he wrote called The Constitution in Crisis. DailyKos has a lovely thread taking up many quite valid rebuttals to Conyers' objections, which I won't repeat here.

I do want to address one of Conyers' objections, though: that pursuing impeachemnt hearings would cost the Democrats the election. Personally, I don't see that at all. If anything, I see the opposite as more likely. Follow me here, Mr. Conyers:
  1. Bush is guilty as sin on all 35 of Kucinich's charges, and you as well as anybody know it.
  2. John McCain is at this point inextricably connected to George W. Bush. On the vast majority of Kucinich's charges (or at least, the ones that most Americans are already familiar with) there are Senate votes backing up the President's lawless behavior or public statements by McCain endorsing that behavior.
  3. The Obama campaign is and will do everything it can between now and November to tie McCain even tighter to Bush's policies and legacy.
  4. Therefore, shining a very bright light on those charges now, while it still matters to the election, can only help to sour the electorate further on the McMaveric Senator from Arizona.
Is that clear enough for you, John?

Now I know as well as anybody that this--frankly historic--introduction of substantive Articles of Impeachment (something we haven't seen since Watergate) is unlikely to result in any actual consequences for the Worst President Ever. In all probability, what will happen is this: Kucinich will assert his right to debate and a vote, at which point the articles will either be tabled or referred to the Judiciary committee, where they will languish until January 20th, after which time they'll be moot anyway.

But that is hardly the point. The point is that someone in our legislature has finally stood up to say "No. This is wrong. This President's behavior shall not stand unaccused or unexamined." It's high, high time this happened. Thank you Dennis Kucinich. It's gratifying to know that at least one Honorable Member of the House has the spine to stand up to the wanton lawlessness of the Bush administration.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

BIAW's paid media attack campaign against Governor Gregoire has begun

The virulently right wing Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), perhaps the state's meanest and nastiest special interest, recently began an "independent" advertising campaign on behalf of Republican Dino Rossi which is designed to distort Governor Chris Gregoire's record on transportation.

The BIAW, which relies on a loophole in Washington State law for its political war chest and is Rossi's staunchest ally, has been hammered in recent ballot battles after a string of victories earlier this decade.

It lost on nearly every front in 2006, when voters rejected Initiative 933, declined to support the BIAW's handpicked candidates for Supreme Court justice, and gave Democrats legislative victory after legislative victory.

But the BIAW is undeterred. Its attempts to install Rossi in the governor's mansion may have failed in 2004, but its attachment to Dino is so strong that it's hard to know exactly where his campaign ends and the BIAW begins.

Each is loyal to the other and neither has any qualms about playing political hardball to cross the finish line first.

The BIAW's efforts to savage Governor Gregoire have been constant and unyielding. Back in January, in its official newsletter (Building Insight), the BIAW declared that Gregoire was "a heartless, power-hungry she-wolf who would eat her own young to get ahead."

It hasn't just made thoughtless comments about Gregoire, however.

Recently, the BIAW absurdly compared the state Department of Ecology and its leadership to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany and asserted that environmental protection groups "silently approve" of loosely organized, militant campaigns like the Earth Liberation Front to burn down housing developments.

In 2004, the BIAW spent over half a million dollars on ads attacking Gregoire. One ad even attempted to blame Gregoire for the open (or pick a party) primary system first used by the state in 2004.

The BIAW seized on the issue not because it loved the blanket primary struck down as constitutionally by the Supreme Court, but because it wanted to convert voter unhappiness with the open primary to unhappiness with Gregoire.

The BIAW even deceptively used the term "open primary" in its ads to refer to the blanket primary, which is incorrect. In a true open primary, voters must still choose a party ballot, but they don't have to register with a party beforehand, as is the case with a closed primary.

The open primary is thus open because there is no party registration.

The conservative Seattle Times editorial board slammed the BIAW for its dishonesty then, writing in an unsigned editorial:
There isn't a mop big enough to clean the sludge seeping into the increasingly nasty campaign for Washington governor.

The Building Industry Association of Washington, which supports Republican candidate Dino Rossi, bought $500,000 worth of air time to peddle ads that are lies and distortions. The ads feature different colors of paint splattering on bewildered voters, then up pops the visage of Attorney General Christine Gregoire, a Democratic candidate for governor, and the words "Fought Against Open Primaries."

Not true.
The BIAW, of course, is used to such criticism, and is also used to deflecting it by repeating the false claim that the corporate media is liberal, which is completely untrue. Most of the state's newspaper publishers and editorial boards actually lean conservative or are adamantly right wing.

This ideological bent is not all that obvious, because editorial boards tend to back incumbents seeking reelection, regardless of party.

What is much more telling is an editorial board's choice in a race with no incumbent, or when it gives a challenger its support.

The Seattle Times, for instance, endorsed Dino Rossi in 2004, one of the few high profile races for open seats that year. It also endorsed Rob McKenna for Attorney General, though it supported Dave Ross in the 8th Congressional District.

Last cycle (2006) the Times famously endorsed Mike McGavick in a widely panned editorial that was thoroughly discredited by extensive critique.

The BIAW's new round of radio ads are pretty slick, according to reports we've heard. The motto of the right wing hacks who put them together could have been "Doubt is our product". The whole idea is to convince voters that Gregoire hasn't done anything to solve the state's transportation problems, and that thanks to her, the state is wasting the resources it already has.

This is a lie.

Unlike Dino Rossi, Governor Chris Gregoire has stepped up to the plate and taken on the transportation challenge. In 2005, she insisted that the Legislature take meaningful action to undo the hole created by Tim Eyman's Initiative 695, which the Legislature foolishly reenacted in 2001 after Gary Locke buckled under.

The result was the 2005 Transportation Package, which was unsuccessfully assaulted twice by Dino Rossi's own allies, whose initiatives to repeal the funding (Initiative 912 in 2005, Initiative 917 in 2006) were complete failures.

It is Gregoire who has refused to ignore safety concerns on our roads in favor of dumping money into new lanes. It is Gregoire who stood up and called for new investments in our common wealth when few were willing to do so. It is Gregoire who has been left to deal with the mess created by her predecessor Gary Locke and Republicans in the state Legislature.

And it is Gregoire who has grappled with the difficulty of replacing aging structures like the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge at a time when construction costs are soaring, federal help is practically nonexistent thanks to the Bush administration's priorities, and money is tight.

And what of Dino Rossi?

As a legislator in Olympia, Rossi voted against the 2001 statewide transportation budget, proposed eliminating Sound Transit (which conservatives like Tim Eyman are still itching to do) and refused to support funding for the ferry system.

In 2005, after losing the gubernatorial election contest, Rossi declined to take a position on Initiative 912, a measure which divided his allies. While Governor Gregoire defended the importance of fixing unsafe bridges, resurfacing washed out roads, and eliminating dangerous choke points, Rossi was silent.

In 2007, shortly after declaring his second candidacy for Governor, Rossi was again evasive, first declining to take a position on Roads & Transit, and then saying that he "expected" to "vote against it".

After months of showing no leadership, Rossi finally rolled out his own plan back in April, at which point it instantly became clear why he'd waited so long: Rossi doesn't have anything that resembles a solid plan.

His proposal was laughed out of the state the same day it was introduced.

The Lewiston Tribune called it a "something for nothing scheme", noting Rossi didn't just forget about specifics, he "faked" them.

Experts have expressed incredulity, too:
Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington state Transportation Center at the University of Washington, said Rossi's numbers are "completely divorced from reality."

"He lowballs almost all the estimates and never says where all the funds are going to come from. It's a political statement. It's complete silliness," Hallenbeck said.
The BIAW and Rossi hope to distort and obscure Gregoire's strong record, which is key to her reelection bid. This first round of advertising is pretty subtle, but the BIAW is just getting started. Millions of dollars in attack expenditures by Rossi's allies could already be in the pipeline.

Fortunately, voters have seen through trashy attempts at persuasion by the BIAW before, and we believe they will do so again this year.

The Man Behind the Curtain

Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for President, has cultivated and carefully guarded a perception that he is a straight-talking maverick, who is not beholden to party or the special interests. But like the Wizard of Oz, all of the flashing lights and startling noises, are just a cover for the man behind the curtain. And just like the Wizard, McCain does not want you to look behind the curtain.

Just take a look at his campaign chairman/economic advisor: former Senator Phil Gramm
, an unapologetic shill for corporate interests. Let's examine Gramm's record.

Back in the '80s, Gramm smiled upon the abrupt deregulation of the savings-and-loan industry, described by his idol Ronald Reagan as America's opportunity to "hit the jackpot" of growth. He used his political clout to protect the Texas operators whose crooked machinations eventually helped to bankrupt the S&L industry. In fact, the S&L debacle cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.

Meanwhile, Gramm had lent his name and energy to passage of the first Reagan budget in 1981, whose sweeping tax cuts failed to prevent recession -- and eventually required a long series of tax increases, beginning in 1982, to stanch the enormous deficits they created. At the same time he coauthored the Gramm-Rudman Act, which supposedly placed sharp constraints on federal spending but in reality had little impact.

[...]

But Gramm was not the kind of economist whose convictions are shaken by evidence, no matter how compelling. So obsessed with protecting bankers from government oversight was he that when Clinton tried to place stronger controls on terrorist money laundering, Gramm opposed even that measure as a "totalitarian" incursion.

Before he retired from the Senate in 2002, he wrote the Gramm-Bliley bill, an act broadly deregulating the financial industry -- and now blamed by many economists for the epidemic of speculation and fraud that has shaken the global economy. [emphasis mine]

They say the measure of a man is the company he keeps. With advisors like Gramm, can you afford to have John McCain in the White House?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Text of Hillary Clinton's concession speech

Today, Hillary Clinton delivered the finest speech of her entire political career, conceding the Democratic presidential contest and urging her supporters to unite behind Senator Obama to win back the White House. The following is the text of her remarkable and compelling address delivered in Washington, D.C.

Thank you very, very much.

Well, this isn't exactly the party I'd planned, but I sure like the company.

And I want to start today by saying how grateful I am to all of you, to everyone who poured your hearts and your hopes into this campaign, who drove for miles and lined the streets waving homemade signs, who scrimped and saved to raise money, who knocked on doors and made calls, who talked, sometimes argued with your friends and neighbors, who e-mailed and contributed online, who invested so much in our common enterprise, to the moms and dads who came to our events, who lifted their little girls and little boys on their shoulders and whispered in their ears, See, you can be anything you want to be.

To the young people, like thirteen year-old Anne Riddell from Mayfield, Ohio, who had been saving for two years to go to Disney World and decided to use her savings instead to travel to Pennsylvania with her mom and volunteer there, as well.

To the veterans, to the childhood friends, to New Yorkers and Arkansans, who traveled across the country, telling anyone who would listen why you supported me. And to all of those women in their eighties and their nineties, born before women could vote, who cast their votes for our campaign.

I've told you before about Florence Steen of South Dakota who was eighty eight years old and insisted that her daughter bring an absentee ballot to her hospice bedside. Her daughter and a friend put an American flag behind her bed and helped her fill out the ballot. She passed away soon after and, under state law, her ballot didn't count, but her daughter later told a reporter:

"My dad's an ornery, old cowboy, and he didn't like it when he heard mom's vote wouldn't be counted. I don't think he had voted in twenty years, but he voted in place of my mom."

So to all those who voted for me and to whom I pledged my utmost, my commitment to you and to the progress we seek is unyielding.

You have inspired and touched me with the stories of the joys and sorrows that make up the fabric of our lives.

And you have humbled me with your commitment to our country.

Eighteen million of you, from all walks of life, women and men, young and old, Latino and Asian, African-American and Caucasian, rich, poor, and middle-class, gay and straight, you have stood with me.

And I will continue to stand strong with you every time, every place, in every way that I can. The dreams we share are worth fighting for.

Remember, we fought for the single mom with the young daughter, juggling work and school, who told me, "I'm doing it all to better myself for her."

We fought for the woman who grabbed my hand and asked me, "What are you going to do to make sure I have health care?" and began to cry, because even though she works three jobs, she can't afford insurance.

We fought for the young man in the Marine Corps t-shirt who waited months for medical care and said, "Take care of my buddies over there, and then will you please take care of me?" We fought for all those who've lost jobs and health care, who can't afford gas or groceries or college, who have felt invisible to their president these last seven years.

I entered this race because I have an old-fashioned conviction that public service is about helping people solve their problems and live their dreams. I've had every opportunity and blessing in my own life, and I want the same for all Americans.

And until that day comes, you'll always find me on the front lines of democracy, fighting for the future.

The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama, the next president of the United States.

Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run.

I endorse him and throw my full support behind him.

And I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me. I have served in the Senate with him for four years. I have been in this campaign with him for 16 months. I have stood on the stage and gone toe-to-toe with him in twenty two debates. I've had a front-row seat to his candidacy, and I have seen his strength and determination, his grace and his grit.

In his own life, Barack Obama has lived the American dream, as a community organizer, in the state senate, as a United States senator. He has dedicated himself to ensuring the dream is realized.

And in this campaign, he has inspired so many to become involved in the democratic process and invested in our common future.

Now, when I started this race, I intended to win back the White House and make sure we have a president who puts our country back on the path to peace, prosperity and progress.

And that's exactly what we're going to do, by ensuring that Barack Obama walks through the doors of the Oval Office on January 20th, 2009.

Now, I understand... I understand that we all know this has been a tough fight, but the Democratic Party is a family.

And now it's time to restore the ties that bind us together and to come together around the ideals we share, the values we cherish, and the country we love.

We may have started on separate journeys, but today our paths have merged.

And we're all heading toward the same destination, united and more ready than ever to win in November and to turn our country around, because so much is at stake.

We all want an economy that sustains the American dream, the opportunity to work hard and have that work rewarded, to save for college, a home and retirement, to afford that gas and those groceries, and still have a little left over at the end of the month, an economy that lifts all of our people and ensures that our prosperity is broadly distributed and shared.

We all want a health care system that is universal, high-quality and affordable, so that parents don't have to choose between care for themselves or their children or be stuck in dead-end jobs simply to keep their insurance.

This isn't just an issue for me. It is a passion and a cause, and it is a fight I will continue until every single American is insured, no exceptions and no excuses.

We all want an America defined by deep and meaningful equality, from civil rights to labor rights, from women's rights to gay rights, from ending discrimination to promoting unionization, to providing help for the most important job there is: caring for our families. And we all want to restore America's standing in the world, to end the war in Iraq, and once again lead by the power of our values, and to join with our allies to confront our shared challenges, from poverty and genocide to terrorism and global warming.

You know, I've been involved in politics and public life in one way or another for four decades. And during those forty years, our country has voted ten times for president. Democrats won only three of those times, and the man who won two of those elections is with us today.

We made tremendous progress during the nineties under a Democratic president, with a flourishing economy and our leadership for peace and security respected around the world. Just think how much more progress we could have made over the past forty years if we'd had a Democratic president. Think about the lost opportunities of these past seven years on the environment and the economy, on health care and civil rights, on education, foreign policy and the Supreme Court.

Imagine how far we could have come, how much we could have achieved if we had just had a Democrat in the White House.

We cannot let this moment slip away.

We have come too far and accomplished too much.

Now, the journey ahead will not be easy. Some will say we can't do it, that it's too hard, we're just not up to the task.

But for as long as America has existed, it has been the American way to reject can't-do claims and to choose instead to stretch the boundaries of the possible through hard work, determination, and a pioneering spirit.

It is this belief, this optimism that Senator Obama and I share and that has inspired so many millions of our supporters to make their voices heard. So today I am standing with Senator Obama to say: Yes, we can!

...and that together we will work, we'll have to work hard, to achieve universal health care. But on the day we live in an America where no child, no man and no woman is without health insurance, we will live in a stronger America. That's why we need to help elect Barack Obama our president.

We'll have to work hard to get back to fiscal responsibility and a strong middle class. But on the day we live in an America whose middle class is thriving and growing again, where all Americans, no matter where they live or where their ancestors came from, can earn a decent living, we will live in a stronger America. And that is why we must help elect Barack Obama our president.

We'll have to work hard to foster the innovation that will make us energy independent and lift the threat of global warming from our children's future. But on the day we live in an America fueled by renewable energy, we will live in a stronger America. And that is why we have to help elect Barack Obama our president.

We'll have to work hard to bring our troops home from Iraq and get them the support they've earned by their service. But on the day we live in an America that's as loyal to our troops as they have been to us, we will live in a stronger America. And that is why we must help elect Barack Obama our president.

This election is a turning-point election.

And it is critical that we all understand what our choice really is. Will we go forward together, or will we stall and slip backward?

Now, think how much progress we've already made. When we first started, people everywhere asked the same questions. Could a woman really serve as commander in chief? Well, I think we answered that one.

Could an African-American really be our president?

And Senator Obama has answered that one.

Together, Senator Obama and I achieved milestones essential to our progress as a nation, part of our perpetual duty to form a more perfect union.

Now, on a personal note, when I was asked what it means to be a woman running for president, I always gave the same answer, that I was proud to be running as a woman, but I was running because I thought I'd be the best president.

But I am a woman and, like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious, and I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us.

I ran as a daughter who benefited from opportunities my mother never dreamed of. I ran as a mother who worries about my daughter's future and a mother who wants to leave all children brighter tomorrows.

To build that future I see, we must make sure that women and men alike understand the struggles of their grandmothers and their mothers, and that women enjoy equal opportunities, equal pay, and equal respect.

Let us resolve and work toward achieving very simple propositions.

There are no acceptable limits, and there are no acceptable prejudices in the twenty first century in our country.

You can be so proud that, from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories, unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the president of the United States. And that is truly remarkable, my friends.

To those who are disappointed that we couldn't go all of the way, especially the young people who put so much into this campaign, it would break my heart if, in falling short of my goal, I in any way discouraged any of you from pursuing yours.

Always aim high, work hard and care deeply about what you believe in. And, when you stumble, keep faith. And, when you're knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can't or shouldn't go on.

As we gather here today in this historic, magnificent building, the fiftieth woman to leave this Earth is orbiting overhead. If we can blast fifty women into space, we will someday launch a woman into the White House.

Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it - and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.

That has always been the history of progress in America.

Think of the suffragists who gathered at Seneca Falls in 1848 and those who kept fighting until women could cast their votes.

Think of the abolitionists who struggled and died to see the end of slavery. Think of the civil rights heroes and foot soldiers who marched, protested and risked their lives to bring about the end of segregation and Jim Crow.

Because of them, I grew up taking for granted that women could vote and, because of them, my daughter grew up taking for granted that children of all colors could go to school together.

Because of them, Barack Obama and I could wage a hard-fought campaign for the Democratic nomination. Because of them and because of you, children today will grow up taking for granted that an African-American or a woman can, yes, become the president of the United States.

And so, when that day arrives, and a woman takes the oath of office as our president, we will all stand taller, proud of the values of our nation, proud that every little girl can dream big and that her dreams can come true in America.

And all of you will know that, because of your passion and hard work, you helped pave the way for that day.

So I want to say to my supporters: When you hear people saying or think to yourself, If only, or, What if, I say, please, don't go there.

Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward.

Life is too short, time is too precious, and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been. We have to work together for what still can be. And that is why I will work my heart out to make sure that Senator Obama is our next president.

And I hope and pray that all of you will join me in that effort.

To my supporters and colleagues in Congress, to the governors and mayors, elected officials who stood with me in good times and bad, thank you for your strength and leadership. To my friends in our labor unions who stood strong every step of the way, I thank you and pledge my support to you.

To my friends from every stage of my life, your love and ongoing commitment sustained me every single day. To my family, especially Bill and Chelsea and my mother, you mean the world to me, and I thank you for all you have done.

And to my extraordinary staff, volunteers and supporters, thank you for working those long, hard hours. Thank you for dropping everything, leaving work or school, traveling to places that you've never been, sometimes for months on end.

And thanks to your families, as well, because your sacrifice was theirs, too. All of you were there for me every step of the way.

Now, being human, we are imperfect. That's why we need each other, to catch each other when we falter, to encourage each other when we lose heart. Some may lead, some may follow, but none of us can go it alone.

The changes we're working for are changes that we can only accomplish together. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights that belong to us as individuals. But our lives, our freedom, our happiness are best enjoyed, best protected, and best advanced when we do work together.

That is what we will do now, as we join forces with Senator Obama and his campaign. We will make history together, as we write the next chapter in America's story. We will stand united for the values we hold dear, for the vision of progress we share, and for the country we love.

There is nothing more American than that.

And looking out at you today, I have never felt so blessed. The challenges that I have faced in this campaign are nothing compared to those that millions of Americans face every day in their own lives.

So today I'm going to count my blessings and keep on going.

I'm going to keep doing what I was doing long before the cameras ever showed up and what I'll be doing long after they're gone: working to give every American the same opportunities I had and working to ensure that every child has the chance to grow up and achieve his or her God- given potential.

I will do it with a heart filled with gratitude, with a deep and dividing love for our country, and with nothing but optimism and confidence for the days ahead.

This is now our time to do all that we can to make sure that, in this election, we add another Democratic president to that very small list of the last forty years and that we take back our country and once again move with progress and commitment to the future. Thank you all. And God bless you, and God bless America.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Filing Week: Final Report (June 6th, 2008)

We've reached the end of filing week and that means that matchups for the August 19 primary are set, so here's the rundown of the races. Remember that under Top Two, only the candidates that get the most votes will advance to the November general election, regardless of party affiliation.

Federal Races
  • 1st Congressional District - Congressman Jay Inslee (Democrat) will be taking on Larry Ishmael (Republican).
  • 2nd Congressional District - Congressman Rick Larsen (Democrat) has three challengers: Rick Bart (Republican), Doug Schaffer (Democrat), and Glen Johnson (Democrat).
  • 3rd Congressional District - Congressman Brian Baird (Democrat) has also drawn three challengers. Cheryl Crist (Democrat), Michael Delavar (Republican) and Christine Webb (Republican) have all filed.
  • 4th Congressional District - Congressman Doc Hastings (Republican) will be challenged by George Fearing (Democrat) and Gordon Allen Pross (Republican).
  • 5th Congressional District - Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Republican) will face off with Mark Mays (Democrat), Randall Yearout (Constitution Party), Barbara Lempert (Democrat), John Beck (Libertarian Party), and Kurt Erickson (Republican).
  • 6th Congressional District - Congressman Norm Dicks (Democrat) faces Doug Cloud (Republican), Paul Richmond (Democrat) and Gary Murrell (Green Party).
  • 7th Congressional District - Congressman Jim McDermott (Democrat) leads a crowded field including perennial candidate Goodspaceguy Nelson (Democrat), Mark Goldman (No party preference), Donovan Rivers (Democrat), Al Schaefer (No party preference), and Steve Beren (Republican).
  • 8th Congressional District - Congressman Dave Reichert (Republican) has drawn five challengers: Boleslaw (John) Orlinski (No party preference), Richard Todd (No party preference), James Vaughn (Democrat), Keith Arnold (Democrat), and Darcy Burner (Democrat).
  • 9th Congressional District - Congressman Adam Smith (Democrat) will square off with James Postma (Republican).
Statewide Races
  • Governor - Governor Chris Gregoire (Democrat) will face Dino Rossi (Republican), Will Baker (Reform Party), Duff Badgely (Green Party), John Aiken Jr. (Republican), Christian Pierre Joubert (Democrat), Christopher Tudor (No party preference), Javier Lopez (Republican), Mohammad Hasan Said (No Party Preference), and James White (Independent).
  • Lt. Governor - Lt. Governor Brad Owen (Democrat) is being challenged by Marcia McCraw (Republican), Arlene Peck (Constitution Party), Jim Wiest (Republican), and Randel Bell (Democrat).
  • Secretary of State - Secretary of State Sam Reed (Republican) finds himself running against Mark Greene (Party of Commons Party), Jason Osgood (Democrat) and Marilyn Montgomery (Constitution Party).
  • State Treasurer - With the incumbent retiring, this is an open seat being contested by Jim McIntire (Democrat), Allan Martin (Republican) and ChangMook Sohn (Democrat).
  • State Auditor - State Auditor Brian Sonntag (Democrat) faces Glenn Freeman (Constitution Party), and J. Richard (Dick) McEntee (Republican).
  • Attorney General - Attorney General Rob McKenna (Republican) is being challenged by Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg (Democrat).
  • Commissioner of Public Lands - Commissioner Doug Sutherland (Republican) and Peter Goldmark (Democrat) will face off.
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction - Superintendent Terry Bergeson will be taking on John Patterson Blair, Don Hansler, Randy Dorn, David Blomstrom, and Enid Duncan.
  • Insurance Commissioner - Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler (Democrat) has drawn two challengers: John Adams (Republican, and not the dead President) and Curtis Fackler (No party preference).
For the full slate of legislative candidates, please visit the Secretary of State's website.

The People vs. The Powerful

Here's a flashback for you, and apologies in advance for the length of this post, but the issue is well worth it.

On March 24, 1989 the oil tanker Exxon Valdez, loaded with over 50 million of oil and headed for Washington state, ran aground and spilled almost 11 million gallons of crude into Prince William Sound.

This oil spill is still considered number one in terms of of damage to the environment.
The Exxon Valdez was carrying 53,094,510 gallons or 1,264,155 barrels of oil. Approximately 11 million gallons -- the equivalent of 257,000 barrels or 38,800 metric tonnes -- were spilled. The amount of spilled oil is roughly equivalent to 125 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

[...]

From Bligh Reef, the spill stretched 470 miles southwest to the village of Chignik on the Alaska Peninsula. Approximately 1,300 miles of shoreline were oiled. 200 miles were heavily or moderately oiled (obvious impact); 1,100 miles were lightly or very lightly oiled (light sheen or occasional tarballs). The spill region contains more than 9,000 miles of shoreline.
So why am I posting on something that happened over 19 years ago? Because after 19 years have passed, ExxonMobil still refuses to pay all of the court-ordered, $2.5 billion in damages (reduced from $5 billion thanks to corporate attorneys) that it owes.

This is the same company that reported the largest annual profit in U.S. history in 2006, with $39.5 billion. It followed up 2006, by besting its record of the previous year by reporting $40.61 billion in profit for 2007. And as the Washington Post noted, ExxonMobil's 2006 "revenue of $377.6 billion exceeded the gross domestic product of all but 25 countries."

So what does ExxonMobil do with all of the money it rakes in? Former CEO Lee Raymond knows, and it isn't anything that provides the customer relief at the pump. Raymond was the beneficiary of a "$69.7 million compensation package and $98 million pension payout" when he retired in 2006. But that's not all...

As David Sirota notes in his new book, The Uprising:
Unlike nearly every other big energy company on the planet, ExxonMobil officially refuses to invest any serious resources into developing alternative or renewable energy. This is a company that is so committed to making money selling oil for conversion into a greenhouse gs that it once underwrote an Epcot Center ride devoted to teaching kids about the supremacy of fossil fuels.

Warming the planet, in other words, us ExxonMobil's whole business, and one it does quite well.
ExxonMobil doesn't just disavow that climate change is real, it funds front groups who put out junk science and report it as fact to bolster the company's position.
ExxonMobil’s position on global warming has not solely been one of denial, however. ExxonMobil has been funding many of the efforts designed to cast doubt on the overwhelming evidence linking human activities and global warming. Greenpeace has identified about 40 ExxonMobil-funded organizations that either have sought to undermine mainstream scientific findings on global warming or have affiliated with a small group of climate “naysayers” who continue to do so. In 2004, ExxonMobil gave $1.9 million to 26 organizations specifically to challenge the scientific consensus on global warming; this is more than double the amount given to organizations in 2003 for grants earmarked for global warming work ($905,000).
And yet, ExxonMobil still refuses to pay for all of the damage that it cause in Prince William Sound in 1989.

Another way that ExxonMobil has used its profit, as is the case with many large socially irresponsible corporations, is that it has tied this case up in the courts for the past 19 years. Why tie the case up in litigation for 19 years? Just ask investigative journalist Greg Palast.

While cameras rolled, Exxon executives promised they’d compensate everyone. Today, before the US Supreme Court, the big oil company’s lawyers argued that they shouldn’t have to pay Paul or other fishermen the damages ordered by the courts.

They can’t pay Paul anyway. He’s dead.

That was part of Exxon’s plan. They told me that. In 1990 and 1991, I worked for the Chenega and Chugach Natives of Alaska on trying to get Exxon to pay up to save the remote villages of the Sound. Exxon’s response was, “We can hold out in court until you’re all dead.”

So on February 27, the United States Supreme Court held 90 minutes of oral arguments in the case of Exxon Shipping Company v. Baker. Justice Samuel Alito recused himself as he is an ExxonMobil shareholder.

With Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. not participating, a result of his ownership of Exxon Mobil stock, the possibility of a 4-to-4 tie was clearly present. A tie would affirm the appeals court’s judgment in favor of a class of 32,000 fishermen and business owners, who stand to receive about $75,000 apiece from the $2.5 billion award. It was abundantly clear to everyone in the crowded courtroom that if the plaintiffs could just hold on to four votes, they would win the case.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule in this case between now and June 23.

At stake is whether corporations are allowed to continue to do whatever they like no matter the cost. As the Supreme Court leans right, in my mind it's likely that even without Justice Alito, the Court will rule in favor of ExxonMobil. If that's the case, it will be a complete travesty of justice.

But all of this underscores why we all need to be doing what we can to elect Barack Obama as our President. It underscores the need to get an attorney who will be the People's lawyer in the office of the Attorney General. And we need to restore funding and regulatory authority for federal consumer protection agencies.

The Founding Fathers did not establish a government of the corporations, for the corporations and by the corporations. Between the administrations of Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43, the government has been perverted into an instrument of the corporations. But, as both Governor Howard Dean and Barack Obama have shown us, we have the power. It's time for a change.

Talking with our enemies

Now that Obama has secured the nomination, between now and November I am sure we will hear more and more about the whole subject of talking with our enemies: Obama's stance that he would hold talks with Iran and other nations we're not on the best of terms with, and the Bush/McCain stance of not talking to those nations until they meet various preconditions.

Let's leave aside for a moment that the very preconditions Bush has outlined for talks with Iran amount to Iran having already implemented the changes that we would be pushing for if we were to hold talks.

Yeah, that makes my head spin just a bit, too. I guess that would make for a pretty short agenda for the talks, though, which is nice if you have as much difficulty talking coherently as Bush and McCain seem to:
  1. Fly to Tehran
  2. Thank Amedinijad for bowing to our will
  3. Fly home
I'm all for the notion of talking with our enemies. Obama himself has given several good reasons why he would do this and why it makes sense. But there's one reason I haven't heard him or anyone else say. A reason that seems so important to me as to constitute an Elephant in the Room (no pun intended). I don't understand why no one else has brought this up, so I'm going to:

If we aren't willing to talk with our enemies, war becomes the only alternative.

Our view of war is so negative that it really should be avoided at all costs. Bush and McCain seem to feel much differently about war, though, which perhaps explains why they're willing to eliminate all other options right out of the gate.

But this is the real world, in which there isn't absolute good or absolute evil. This is the real world, where war causes nothing but suffering for all those involved and doesn't actually make anyone safer.

This is the real world, where there is nearly always some common ground that two parties - even those with the highest levels of antipathy towards one another - can agree on, if they have a strong enough motivation. And the way I see it, the appalling thought of throwing our nation's children into the meat grinder is a pretty damn strong motivation to find that middle ground.

Which requires talking.

Why has no one pointed this out? Why isn't Obama talking about this?

I don't get it. So if by some bizarre turn of events Barack Obama ends up reading this post - or if someone from the Obama campaign is reading it who can put a word in his ear - here's the statement I'd like to hear you make the next time McCain criticizes your stance on this issue:

Once again Senator McCain has chosen to label me as weak on security for saying that I would talk to President Amedinijad without any pre-conditions. Nothing could be less accurate. The way I see it, there are really only two options for dealing with Iran. Talking, or fighting.

Negotiation, or war. America has lived through the heartbreaking folly of war for the past five years. We have seen the lives of over four thousand of America's children sacrificed in the process, and countless thousands injured, suffering wounds that will affect them for the rest of their lives. And for what. The war in Iraq has not made us one bit safer as a nation. We all know that.

War is always an option. But it should be the last option. The very last one, to be turned to only when the stakes are critically high, and when all other options have failed.

So yes, I will talk with Amedinijad. I will talk with Kim Jong-il. I will talk with Hu Jintao, or any other world leader I need to. Of course I will. Because I will never use war as a first resort. I will never, as Senator McCain's policies would do, leave war as the only resort for dealing with America's adversaries.

I will never throw America's volunteer soldiers into harm's way until absolutely every other option has failed. I'll never do it, and no President worthy of the office ever should, either."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Filing Week: Report for June 5, 2008

It's the next to last day of filing week, and here is today's update on the candidates who have filed.

The federal races:
  • 5th Congressional District - Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Republican), Kurt Erickson (Republican) and Randall Yearout (Constitution Party) all filed today.
  • 6th Congressional District - Paul Richmond (Democrat) and Gary Murrell (Green Party) filed to challenge Congressman Norm Dicks.
  • 7th Congressional District - Congressman Jim McDermott (Democrat) and Steve Beren (Republican) filed today.
  • 8th Congressional District - Darcy Burner (Democrat) filed to challenge the ineffective Congressman Dav Reichert.
And the statewide races:
  • Governor - James White (Independent), Javier Lopez (Republican) and Dino Rossi (Republican) all filed to challenge Governor Gregoire.
  • Lt. Governor - Marcia McCraw (Republican) and Arlene Peck (Constitution Party) have filed challenges to Lt. Governor Brad Owen.
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction - Incumbent Terry Bergeson and Enid Duncan have filed their papers.
  • Insurance Commissioner - John R. Adams (Republican) filed to challenge incumbent commissioner Mike Kreidler.
  • Attorney General - In an oversight from a previous day, I forgot to note that the incumbent Republican Rob McKenna has filed for re-election.
You can find information about the candidates who filed for legislative races on the Secretary of State's website.

Give General Wes Clark Orders to Work with Darcy Burner

Democrats Work, a group whose mission is "to mobilize grassroots Democrats to perform community service projects...as Democrats," and WesPAC have launched the final round of voting in its contest to put General Wes Clark to work in the congressional district of one of five challengers.

This is where you come in. Our very own Darcy Burner needs your vote now. The contest closes tomorrow (Friday) at midnight Eastern time, and if you haven't voted yet, please go vote for Darcy as soon as you read this post, and put General Wes Clark to work on a community service project with Darcy Burner in the 8th Congressional District.

And when you're done voting for Darcy, tell your friends to go vote for her too.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Filing Week: Report for June 4, 2008

We've now passed the midpoint of filing week, and here are today's updates. You can find the list of those who filed on June 3 here, and on June 2 here.

The federal races:
  • Congressman Jay Inslee has filed for re-election in the 1st Congressional District.
  • George Fearing (Democrat) has filed to challenge Congressman Doc Hastings in the 4th Congressional District.
  • Mark Mays (Democrat) has filed in the 5th Congressional District. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers has not yet filed.
  • Congressman Dave Reichert has filed for re-election in the 8th Congressional District. Democrat Darcy Burner has not yet filed.
And the statewide races:
  • Governor - Christopher A. Tudor, who declines to state a party preference, has filed to run against Governor Chris Gregoire.
  • Secretary of State - Marilyn Montgomery (Constitution Party) as filed to run.
  • Commissioner of Public Lands - Both Peter Goldmark (Democrat) and incumbent Doug Sutherland (Republican) have filed.
  • Insurance Commissioner - Democratic incumbent Mike Kreidler has filed for re-election.
You can find a list of candidates who have filed for legislative offices on the Secretary of State's website.

Remaining Washington Superdelegates Endorse Obama

Earlier today, the final two holdouts among Washington state superdelegates endorsed Senator Barack Obama.
Ed Cote (KOH-tee') of Vancouver and Sharon Mast of Bellevue are members of the Democratic National Committee. In prepared statements, both superdelegates say the end of the final primaries in South Dakota and Montana means it's time for Democrats to unite behind Obama.
Let the party unity begin.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Filing Week: Report for June 3rd, 2008

It's the second day of filing week, and besides me filing my PCO candidacy form in Thurston County, here are the major developments from today. Andrew had a post on those who filed yesterday.

First, the federal races:
  • In the 3rd Congressional District, Republican Michael Delavar has joined the race with Congressman Brian Baird and Cheryl Crist, both Democrats.
  • In the 6th Congressional District, Congressman Norm Dicks has filed for re-election.
  • In the 7th Congressional District, Donovan Rivers (Democrat) and Al Schaefer (no party preference) have filed to run against Congressman Jim McDermott, who hasn't yet filed.
  • In the 8th Congressional District, James E. Vaughn (Democrat) has filed. Democrat Darcy Burner and Congressman Dave Reichert have not yet filed.
  • In the 9th Congressional District, Congressman Adam Smith has filed for re-election.
And the statewide races:
  • Governor - John W. Aiken (Republican) has filed to run against Governor Chris Gregoire.
  • Treasurer - Former Democratic State Representative Jim McIntire and Allan Martin (Republican) have filed to replace retiring Treasurer Mike Murphy.
  • Auditor - Glenn Freeman (Constitution Party) has filed to run against incumbent Auditor Brian Sonntag.
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction - David Blomstrom joined the race with Randy Dorn and Don Hansler. Incumbent Terry Bergeson has not yet filed.
You can find information on the legislative candidates who have filed on the Secretary of State's website.

The Dream is Alive

While watching a televised speech that Barack Obama gave yesterday, a colleague pointed out that when speaking in public Obama never says he's running for President. Rather, Senator Obama always makes a point of saying he's running for President of the United States. As the candidate who is working to bring the country and all of its diverse interests together, it's a deliberate and powerful rhetorical device; united being the key word.

So, on this historic night when the Democratic Party has nominated an African-American man as its standard bearer for the first time, in a year that the party has seen the most diversity among its candidates, it's important that we understand that while Barack Obama is black, he is not the black candidate. He is our candidate.

And when his opponents inevitably start to beat him down, remember these words from Barack Obama's July 27, 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention:
For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as one people.

If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child.

If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent.

If there's an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

It is that fundamental belief -- it is that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keeper, I am my sisters' keeper -- that makes this country work.

It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: "E pluribus unum," out of many, one.

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.

There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.

The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
After all the fear, angst and hate of the past 8 years, isn't it time that we are reminded of all that brings us together, gives us hope and helps us dare to dream of a better future for all of us?

Nearly 45 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. I'm here to tell you that on this night in 2008, with Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee, the dream is still alive. But that dream isn't just for African-Americans, it's alive for every American.

Obama Speech Leaked

Markos has posted the full text of the remarks that have been prepared for Senator Barack Obama to deliver as he wraps up the Democratic nomination tonight, which were posted earlier, in various places online, despite being embargoed. Here is an excerpt of the speech with the message that has resounded with voters time and time again:

There are those who say that this primary has somehow left us weaker and more divided. Well I say that because of this primary, there are millions of Americans who have cast their ballot for the very first time. There are Independents and Republicans who understand that this election isn't just about the party in charge of Washington, it's about the need to change Washington.Ê There are young people, and African-Americans, and Latinos, and women of all ages who have voted in numbers that have broken records and inspired a nation.

All of you chose to support a candidate you believe in deeply. But at the end of the day, we aren't the reason you came out and waited in lines that stretched block after block to make your voice heard. You didn't do that because of me or Senator Clinton or anyone else. You did it because you know in your hearts that at this moment -- a moment that will define a generation -- we cannot afford to keep doing what we've been doing. We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future. And for all those who dream of that future tonight, I say -- let us begin the work together. Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America.

Barack Obama's campaign theme has been "Change we can believe in", but it isn't enough to believe in change. It may be cliche to elicit Gandhi, but it's time for all of us, not just Senator Obama, to be the change we want to see in the world.

BREAKING: Barack Obama now the presumptive Democratic nominee!!!!!!!

After six long months of primaries and caucuses and conventions, the nominating season is over. Barack Obama has chalked up enough delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination. He is our presumptive standard bearer.

Here's the Associated Press:
Obama's victory set up a five-month campaign with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a race between a 46-year-old opponent of the Iraq War and a 71-year-old former Vietnam prisoner of war and staunch supporter of the current U.S. military mission.
Superdelegates are continuining to come forward, pledging their support to Obama:
The polls have closed in South Dakota, while those in Montana will close at 10 p.m. Eastern time. The early returns from South Dakota showed that race too close to call.

During the day, a parade of Democratic superdelegates stepped forward to declare their allegiance to Mr. Obama, pushing him ever closer to the threshold of 2,118 delegates needed to receive the nod formally at this summer’s Democratic convention in Denver.

As South Dakota’s polls closed, Mr. Obama was within a handful of delegates of securing enough delegates for the nomination, according to the campaign’s tally.
Every one of us at the Northwest Progressive Institute firmly believes that Barack Obama has what it takes to defeat John McCain in November. Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States of America. We believe he will heal, replenish, and restore our suffering and divided nation.

Obama to clinch nomination tonight

The turning point in the race came and went back in February, but tonight, the Democratic presidential contest will finally be over:
Obama, who would be the first black candidate nominated by a major party, picked up more than two dozen endorsements from party delegates, putting him just 11 delegates away from the number he needs to become the Democratic standard-bearer. The two final primaries today in South Dakota and Montana have a total of 31 pledged delegates available.

Neither candidate campaigned today. Obama was planning a victory celebration tonight in Minnesota while Clinton was in New York, preparing her own address to supporters.

Democratic members of Congress promoted the idea of putting Clinton on the party's ticket with Obama in November as the vice presidential nominee.

Representative Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat, said Clinton told the state's congressional delegation on a conference call today that she "would be open'' to the vice presidential slot if that would help Obama's campaign.
A number of Montana superdelegates, including Governor Brian Schweitzer as well as Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester, have pledged to endorse the winner of the Treasure State's primary, which is expected to be Barack Obama.

"Parlor games", (as Senator Claire McCaskill put it) aside, the pick for vice president is largely in Barack Obama's hands. He is at the top of the ticket - the choice of running mate is ultimately his to make.

So, will Clinton concede tonight? Will she end or suspend her presidential bid? The campaign will surely deny it up until the moment that she says it publicly...they want to be in control of the ending, not cede the moment to the media.

Top Two: Bad for voter choice, bad for grassroots politics

In just a few weeks, we'll be two months away from our second-ever August primary election, which, for the first time in four years, won't be a clean open primary, but will instead be the first act in what is now a two part general election.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, the state Grange, and their allies take such a dim view of political parties that they came up with a system that tries to pretend parties are nothing but labels. It's a system that isn't even a true primary election at all. They sold it to the Legislature in 2004 as a replacement for the old unconstitutional blanket primary, and the Legislature, not certain that it would pass constitutional muster, passed it into law with a designated backup - an open primary similiar to what Montana uses, and a real primary election.

In one of his finest acts as Governor, Gary Locke vetoed out the "Top Two" language in the law, giving Washington State an open primary which we have used ever since, even after the passage of Initiative 872, which was challenged in court.

That is, until the U.S. Supreme Court mistakenly allowed I-872 to be reinstated.

Primary ballots aren't even in the mail yet, but already, "Top Two" is causing headaches for candidates, grassroots party leaders, and campaigns.

The state Democratic Party, gamely fighting to ensure that there will be somebody carrying the party's banner in each race in the fall, has told its legislative district organizations to hold nominating conventions to select legislative candidates to officially represent the party.

In some districts, like the 45th and the 48th, which cover Redmond (NPI's hometown) this hasn't been a problem, because the incumbent legislators are all Democrats. But in a few Seattle LDs, where there are several vacancies due to retirements of Democrats, it hasn't been smooth sailing.

While the 33rd picked its former chair, Tina Shamsheldin, as the Democratic nominee for one of the district's two House seats, the 46th had an extremely close contest between Scott White and Gerry Pollet.

The final tally ended up being a difference of three weighted votes, and when the meeting ending, Pollet was the winner.

But then....
Dean Fournier, a White supporter who took the ballot boxes home with him recounted the ballots on his own—and found, according to an email from Fournier to Valdez, an extra ballot that put White in the lead. Thus ensued the lengthy debate about which candidate was the true winner in the close and bizarre nominating battle.
The dispute has apparently been settled under terms drawn up by Chair Javier Valdez, with Pollet agreeing he won't use any language stipulating that he is the official nominee (which rather defeats the point of having a nominating convention) and White agreeing not to challenge the results of the nominating convention. The two candidates are likely to be dual endorsed at the next meeting of the 46th.

Meanwhile, the 36th Legislative District has refused to even hold a nominating convention. The two Democrats running there are John Burbank and Reuven Carlyle. Its leaders, who aren't giving their district's precinct committee officers much credit, argue that having only PCOs pick the nominee isn't democratic.

Says Vice Chair Janis Traven:
We have two candidates, both of whom are good Democrats... We have a very robust endorsement process in our district, and I think we're just going to go ahead with that.
The 36th's Democratic leaders also bizarrely claim that holding a nominating convention would somehow disenfranchise the eighteen thousand people who participated in the precinct caucuses in February.

But this doesn't make any sense. First, in Washington State, the presidential nominating system is seperate from everything else on the ballot. Attendees of the presidential caucuses only came to cast a vote for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, and maybe to submit resolutions. That was the point.

Second, if these guys are going to make the argument that nominating conventions exclude people, then they should be saying the same about caucuses.

If the goal is simply to get as many people to participate as possible (albeit passively) then why use the caucus at all? The Democratic Party could have opted to use Sam Reed's presidential primary. It didn't, and I didn't hear Janis Traven complaining about the decision to hold caucuses.

Because the 36th District Democrats have refused to pick a nominee, State Chairman Dwight Pelz has stepped in and done so...himself. Pelz picked his friend John Burbank as the party's standard bearer, but is still hoping that the 36th's PCOs will step in and nominate a candidate.

What a mess.

We've now got distracted legislative district organizations and top party officials playing the role of referree between competitive Democratic candidates. This is wrong. Democratic voters should be picking the nominees.

The choice belongs to the people of our party. It's too expensive to hold special caucuses in every jurisdiction every year. And they don't attract the numbers that a presidential caucus does. That is why we really need the open primary.

We Democrats should have the right to nominate our own candidates, and in lieu of a proper primary, nominating conventions are indeed necessary to ensure that we have a standard bearer for the fall. Otherwise, how can we as a party unite behind one person and work to elect him or her to office?

Thanks to Sam Reed and the Grange, Democratic voters no longer have the right to nominate our party's candidates. Neither do Republican voters.

And this is just the beginning. In August, there will undoubtedly be at least a dozen races where candidates of only one party go forward to November. It could even happen in a statewide race. That will mean most candidates will be eliminated from the ballot before the end of summer.

Candidates are understandably upset:
The whole debacle, White adds, speaks to the problem with the top-two primary, which the Democrats are continuing to fight in court. "It’s created a lot of confusion at the grassroots," White says. "This [process] is exactly why the Democrats have been so frustrated."
And soon, many voters will be, too.

Remember, Washington State has never used the "Top Two" primary before. What voters are used to is the old unconstitutional blanket primary, which did not restrict voters to choosing between candidates of only one party. That's what most people likely thought they were getting back when they voted for Initiative 872.

The blanket primary sent on the top vote getter from each party to the general election. But "Top Two" isn't the blanket primary. It's a scheme that has turned the primary election into the first act of a general election.

This is bad for democracy because more Washingtonians turn out to participate in the general election than any other election or political event. A lot more.

And this November, instead of seeing a ballot featuring choices between a multitude of candidates representing many different viewpoints, voters will see ballots with only two choices in every race.

So instead of something like this:
  • John Doe, Democrat
  • Jane Smith, Republican
  • Jacob West, Green
  • Amy Ferguson, Libertarian
  • Arnold Williamson, Independent
...they'll see:
  • John Doe, Prefers Democratic Party
  • Jane Smith, Prefers Republican Party
...or, worse, they'll see (especially in Seattle):
  • John Doe, Prefers Democratic Party
  • Linda Sherman, Prefers Democratic Party
Or vice versa in places like Eastern Washington, where Republicans dominate.

Voters whose own views won't be reflected on the general election ballot will be disenfranchised. They'll either be forced to choose between two candidates they may not like at all, or they'll have to abstain.

We think many voters are going to be pretty unhappy when they open up their general election ballots and realize there's only two choices in all the races. Especially those Washingtonians who forget or aren't enthused enough to vote in August. Libertarians and Greens will probably be angrier than most because they are unlikely to have any candidates on the general election ballot.

Sam Reed and his cohorts at the Grange forget that the very purpose of having a primary election, facilitated by the government, is to empower the loyal voters of a particular political party to have a voice in the selection of the nominee. It's about broadening grassroots political participation. It's about encouraging freedom of assembly - a First Amendment right!

There is a simple solution that will take care of this mess, one that will relieve precinct committee officers and party delegates of the duty of nominating candidates, keep power in the hands of the grassroots instead of the party chairs', ensure voters have plenty of choices in the general election, and protect the First Amendment rights of every Washingtonian - including those who choose to belong to a party.

That solution is to restore the open primary and do away with the horriby misguided Top Two - permanently.

Monday, June 2, 2008

BREAKING: David McDonald Endorses Barack Obama

This past weekend Goldy reported on David McDonald's thoughts about the Democratic National Committee's Rules & Bylaws Committee meeting, of which McDonald is a member.

As a DNC member, McDonald is also a superdelegate, and one of the few from the WA delegation who remains uncommitted. A couple weeks back he told me that he planned to endorse after the May 31 meeting. Yesterday, he still wasn’t ready to commit:

Because of the level of the rhetoric I want to decompress before I decide for whom I will vote. But I expect to reach a decision next week.

Looks like McDonald has made his decision.

David Gregory of NBC just announced on his show a few minutes ago that David McDonald has endorsed Senator Barack Obama.

UPDATE: The Associated Press report regarding McDonald's endorsement can be found at the Seattle Times' website..

Also, with State Party Vice-Chair Eileen Macoll endorsing Senator Clinton last week, and David McDonald's endorsement of Senator Obama today, that leaves DNC Member Ed Cote, DNC Member Sharon Mast, and former House Speaker Tom Foley as the only uncommitted superdelegates.

UPDATE II: Speaker Foley has already endorsed Senator Clinton, according to 2008 Democratic Convention Watch. The Washington State Democratic Party website that I linked to needs updating.

Filing Week: Report for June 2nd, 2008

It's filing week in Washington State and already a significant number of candidates have turned in their paperwork to run for office.

Here's a quick roundup of the important races. First, federal:
  • Rick Bart has filed to run against Congressman Rick Larsen in the 2nd Congressional District.
  • Cheryl Crist is challenging Congressman Brian Baird in the 3rd Congressional District. (Note that Crist is a Democrat, not a Republican. Baird will undoubtedly be selected as the nominee at the state convention).
  • Doc Hastings has filed for reelection in the 4th CD. Challenger George Fearing, the likely Democratic nominee, has not filed yet.
  • In the 5th Congressional District, neither incumbent Cathy McMorris Rodgers nor the likely Democratic nominee Mark Mays have filed yet. But two other candidates have: Barbara Lampert, who claims to be a Democrat, and Libertarian John Beck.
  • Doug Cloud (a Republican) is challenging Representative Norm Dicks in the 6th Congressional District.
  • Mark Goldman and Richard Todd have filed in the 7th and 8th Congressional Districts, respectively, as independents. Democrats Darcy Burner and Jim McDermott have not filed yet.
On to statewide executive races:
  • Chris Gregoire has filed for reelection as Governor (no challengers yet).
  • Brad Owen has filed for reelection at Lt. Governor (no challengers yet).
  • Three candidates have filed for Secretary of State: incumbent Republican Sam Reed, Democrat Jason Osgood (who NPI will likely support) and perennial candidate Mark Greene.
  • Brian Sonntag has filed for reelection as Auditor (no challengers yet).
  • John Ladenburg has filed to run for Attorney General. Incumbent Rob McKenna hasn't turned in his paperwork yet.
  • For Superintendent of Public Instruction, Don Hansler and Randy Dorn have filed. Incumbent Terry Bergeson hasn't yet.
For Supreme Court, only two justices seeking reelection have filed so far: Mary Fairhurst and Charles W. Johnson.

I won't go through the legislative races because there are so many, but you can see them for yourself at the Secretary of State's website.

So far, almost all of the candidates are honoring Sam Reed's request to use the language "Prefers X Party", but early filers tend not to be the most colorful candidates - there's plenty of time for the Goodspaceguy Nelsons of the state to toss in their names and slogans. We'll continue to keep you posted all week.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"Want to see Michelle Obama in Billings and Kalispell? Knock on 50 doors or make 100 phone calls."



Michelle Obama will be in Montana on Monday, making appearances in Billings and Kalispell. Tickets are free, but you have to agree to help get out the vote by knocking on 50 doors or making 100 phone calls. Now that's an idea I haven't seen before. I've attended an event with Michelle and believe me, it will be worth your time to volunteer and then get to see and hear her. To sign up to volunteer, you have to go down to the headquarters in Kalispell or Billings--no online registration!