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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We're all doomed! Or are we?

My problem with the news lately is that so much of it seems entirely designed to make me feel utterly doomed about the future.

We’ve got the climate crisis to combat, yet haven’t made the headway we need to on alternative energy. The more we learn about British Petroleum’s unchecked subsea oil gusher, the worse the environmental damage looks.

Krugman finally said the “d-word” in his column for the New York Times, suggesting that what we’re really in is a depression, not just a recession.

Politicians left and right — no pun intended — seem wholly in the grip of corporations, preventing us from making even the most obvious and necessary of progress in foreign policy, health care, financial reform, environmental protection, economic recovery... the list goes on.

Indeed, it’s impossible to stay informed as a responsible citizen should without feeling doomed by it all. The problems are so many, and every one of them so large, it seems impossible to even think about making headway on any of it.

It’s a problem because I don’t like feeling doomed.

Quite the opposite, actually. Which is why I am so encouraged whenever I see anything that hints that maybe we’re not doomed.

And while I can’t say that I feel particularly good about the nation’s or the world’s short term prognosis, thanks to the good folks at TED, at least today I’m feeling better about the long term prognosis.

In the past couple of days, TED.com featured a couple of videos that did a lot to lift my optimism meter up a few notches.

They’re still available for anyone who could use a lift.

One is by Ellen Dunham-Jones, on the subject of “retrofitting suburbia.” She talked about a movement that is slowly gaining steam to renovate dead and dying suburban spaces into newly urbanized ones, and the many benefits this brings.

Did you know that the carbon footprint of a suburban dweller is about three times higher than that of a city dweller? I didn’t. It’s counterintuitive, but watch the video for the explanation of how one of the best things we could do both for the environment and for people’s quality of life is to urbanize the suburban sprawl: Retrofit it for higher density, mixed-use living.

She makes a lot of sense, and I have to say, I’d like to live in a city that’s like her conception of the future for Atlanta, Georgia.

The other was by Clay Shirkey, on the subject of “cognitive surplus,” which is his fancy term for what we do with our brains when we’re just fooling around on the web. He gave a rather remarkable statistic: humanity has over one trillion hours of cognitive surplus, per year, at its disposal for doing something useful with. And through a fairly compelling set of examples, he shows how the nature of the modern internet allows and even encourages people to use their cognitive surplus in the creation of things that benefit society at large.

These two items may seem like they have nothing to do with each other, but I don’t think that’s true, and the similarities are what encourages me so much about the long term future.

The suburban retrofitting movement and Shirkey’s cognitive surplus benefits are both excellent examples of larger trends which are pushing society away from what got us in trouble in the first place.

The 20th century, for all the truly wonderful advances it brought to humanity, was still dominated in large part by an ultimately self-destructive mind set. The 20th century mindset was an ultimately extractive, selfish one. It was short sighted, and concerned primarily with the direct consequences of economic activity.

For much of the twentieth century, nobody cared about burning fossil fuels, because the worldwide consequences of doing so were so indirect, so far down the road, as to be invisible and thus not worthy of concern.

In the twentieth century, there was still enough remote and undeveloped land that industrial corporations could get away with dumping or burying their toxic waste rather than dealing with it properly. Again, out of sight, out of mind. In the twentieth century, all that mattered was finding a way to extract something of value from the world to generate a profit for yourself: take what you can get your hands on, and externalize the true costs of your activities wherever possible.

But the deeper forces giving rise to suburban retrofitting and using our free time for social good on the web are themselves acting in exactly the opposite direction. Those forces are pushing society towards generosity, rather than selfishness. Those forces are pushing us towards deep systemic thinking about the long term consequences of different choices we (either individually or collectively) can make.

The technologies of the web, in the way they empower individuals to create, share, participate, and be heard, and social movements like urban retrofitting, the return of farmers markets, and many others are, together, creating a new generation of people who are being raised to think generously rather than selfishly. To think collectively, rather than individually. To think about the whole system, rather than on just the part that is immediately visible.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the difference between the old, 20th century ways of thinking and the new, twenty-first century ones is at heart the difference between political conservatives and progressives.

If you look at the conservative movement in America today, through its expression in the modern Republican Party, what you see is an unabashed pursuit of twentieth century thinking: deregulate and give big business an unfettered hand so it can pursue extractive profits while burdening the rest of us with the full costs of how those profits were obtained.

The progressive movement in America today (which I wish I could say was actually in control of the modern Democratic Party), is exactly the other way around. We favor twenty-first century thinking — long-term, systemic, and collectively generous — at every turn.

It will, sadly, take time for the youth who are being raised in this new way of thinking to grow up and take the reins of power. Until they do, things are going to be pretty rough. But ultimately, they will grow up, and they will take power. And if we who are older and have power now can’t get the job done sooner, at least then a new generation who has the skills to fix things will at last have the power to do so.

The near future still doesn’t look good. I still feel pretty doomed for myself, and I don’t like that feeling. But at least when I see people like Clay Shirkey and Ellen Dunham-Jones pointing the way by which Gen-Y can lead humanity back out of the abyss, I don’t feel so doomed for my kids’ futures.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Daily Kos burned by Research 2000

As longtime readers know, we at NPI are fond of putting big disclaimers in any posts we write about polling, reflecting that the only real polls in politics take place on Election Day. Because we don't put much stock in polling, we don't fall into the trap of becoming obsessed with horse race coverage, and we don't run the risk of getting burned because we relied on faulty data.

That's what apparently happened to Daily Kos:
I have just published a report by three statistics wizards showing, quite convincingly, that the weekly Research 2000 State of the Nation poll we ran the past year and a half was likely bunk.

Since the moment Mark Grebner, Michael Weissman, and Jonathan Weissman approached me, I took their concerns seriously and cooperated fully with their investigation. I also offered to run the results on Daily Kos provided that they 1) fully documented each claim in detail, 2) got that documentation peer reviewed by disinterested third parties, and 3) gave Research 2000 an opportunity to respond. By the end of last week, they had accomplished the first two items on that list. I held publication of the report until today, because I didn't want to partake in a cliche Friday Bad News Dump. This is serious business, and I wasn't going to bury it over a weekend.
Markos concludes:
While the investigation didn't look at all of Research 2000 polling conducted for us, fact is I no longer have any confidence in any of it, and neither should anyone else. I ask that all poll tracking sites remove any Research 2000 polls commissioned by us from their databases. I hereby renounce any post we've written based exclusively on Research 2000 polling.
Markos also announced that Daily Kos (incorporated as Kos Media LLC) will be filing suit against Research 2000 this week, on several counts, including breach of contract and fraud. It appears that Research 2000 will have its day in court, as Del Ali and his company have signaled that they intend to countersue and vigorously defend themselves against all charges. So far, they haven't been forthcoming with an explanation, let alone data that might exculpate them.

What's more, they and the law firm that is representing them have lashed out and tried to intimidate Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com (who has commented on the matter) by sending a frivolous cease and desist letter, demanding that "damaging" blog posts and tweets Nate quoted about Research 2000 be taken down. Nate has published the letter he received for his readers to see.

The guy responsible for sending that cease and desist letter — Richard Beckler — also made some rather sweeping and unsubstantiated statements about Markos to Talking Points Memo:
Ali's attorney, Richard Beckler of Howrey LLP in Washington, told TPMmuckraker in an interview, "This guy is completely all wet. This allegation of fraud is absurd." He added, "These guys are basically ruining Mr. Ali's business."

Beckler promised to take "some kind of action soon against all of them" -- referring to Kos and the three authors of the analysis calling R2K's data into question. He declined to elaborate. Beckler also questioned the credentials of the three authors -- who Kos called "statistic wizards" -- Mark Grebner, Michael Weissman, and Jonathan Weissman. They are respectively described in the Kos post as political consultant, a retired physicist, and a wildlife research technician.
Ali himself has denied to media outlets that he did anything wrong while promising to bring about "the end" of Daily Kos:
Del Ali, president of Research 2000 in Olney, Md., said he could not respond to the specific allegations Tuesday and referred questions to his attorney, who did not return a call seeking comment.

"I can tell you, we're fine. What we're going to reveal, that will be the end of the Daily Kos," Ali said. "I can say, it has to do with people owing money."
How much money would that be? TPM again:
Beckler claimed that Kos "wont even pay his [expletive] bill. He owes [Ali] $50, $60, $70,000 dollars, something in that neighborhood."
So Beckler is asserting Markos owes his client tens of thousands of dollars, but he doesn't know how many tens of thousands. He can't name a figure. His ballpark estimate consists of an astonishingly large range. Now there's a priceless quote. Here's Markos' response (which you'll find at the TPM link above):
I wish this was a dispute about billing, because whether we've paid or not is irrelevant to the fact that they didn't deliver the polling they were supposed to. Do they really want to argue that a billing dispute justifies delivering false data?

By the way, that $50-70,000 number is nonsense. We've paid for all the polling we were supposed to have received.
If Research 2000 is a legitimate polling firm and has nothing to hide, why did it fail to produce the raw data that it promised to send Markos and Messrs. Grebner, Weissman, and Weissman? According to Markos, one of the excuses offered by Del Ali was that their computers were down and they were operating out of a Kinko's (now FedEx Office) store.

That sounds pretty strange to me. Don't they keep backups of their data they can access in the event of hard drive failure, or fire, or some other emergency?

By the way, Daily Kos isn't the only progressive organization that has contracted with Research 2000: so have MoveOn, Democracy for America, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC).

A little over a year ago, Del Ali actually invited NPI to hire Research 2000 to do polling "which would be exclusive to you and your readers", using its relationship with Daily Kos as a selling point. His message was as follows:
From: Del Ali
To: NPI
Sent: Monday, May 4th, 2009 5:20:46 AM
Subject: polling

We, Research 2000 (www.Research2000.us) are the polling firm which conducts weekly polls for the Daily Kos. I was wondering if you would have any interest in having our firm conduct local polling which would be exclusive to you and your readers. Feel free to contact me via email or at [phone number redacted].

Thank you - Del Ali, Research 2000 President
--------------------------------------------
2009 3 Free CREDIT SCORES: See Your 3 Credit Scores from All 3 Bureaus FREE!
We ignored his offer. We've talked about possibly doing our own public opinion research, but we have never been interested in using our limited resources to commission the kind of traditional polling Daily Kos contracted for. Now we're doubly glad that we have a very healthy skepticism of polling.

LIVE from Woodinville: Senator Eric Oemig kicks off reelection campaign in heart of 45th

Full Disclosure: The post makes this fairly obvious, but I'll just say this upfront. I am a strong supporter of — and a volunteer for — Eric Oemig, running for reelection to the state Senate in Washington's 45th LD.

Good evening from Woodinville!

This evening, I am honored to be joining many terrific progressives from around the Eastside and beyond to support Eric Oemig, a true champion of people powered politics and a defender of our common wealth.

Eric is kicking off his reelection campaign tonight at the Hollywood Schoolhouse, the same place where he officially began his run for Senate four years ago.

In 2006, Eric was a newcomer to politics, having decided that his district (and mine!) needed more effective representation. He declared his intention to run against incumbent Bill Finkbeiner, a Democrat-turned-Republican, early that year. Finkbeiner ultimately decided not to seek reelection, and Eric won a hard-fought campaign against Representative Toby Nixon after several seasons of campaigning.

Since joining the Senate, Eric has worked to make government more open, strengthen our public schools, bring clean elections to Washington State, and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of public services. He has also supported all of NPI's legislative priorities, from the Homebuilding Revitalization Act to instituting a revenue neutral homestead exemption that would make property taxes fairer.

Eric has also been a tireless supporter of NPI itself, and although I'm only at this event on NPI's behalf to the extent that I'm covering it for The Advocate (because NPI doesn't endorse candidates) I am thrilled that I have to put a disclaimer on this post, as required by NPI's Code of Ethics.

Eric is, quite simply, one of my favorite elected officials.

I am honored that he represents my district, and I'm going to be doing all I can to make sure we send him back to Olympia this autumn.

It's clear from the turnout tonight that I'm not the only person who thinks that way. Many of Eric's colleagues have come to support him, and the 45th District Democrats are out in force, as are many other Eastside candidates and local officeholders. Representative Larry Springer and Senator Randy Gordon are both slated to speak on Eric's behalf. The main program has not begun yet, but when it gets going, I will check back in with an update to this post.

UPDATE, 7:45 PM: The main program was excellent. We heard from Representative Larry Springer first, who reminded that while us we don't yet know how the national mood will affect legislative races, we shouldn't accept that the outcome of the 2010 midterms has already been decided. After all, no one has even cast a vote yet, and won't till October. We have to spend the next few weeks and months organizing. Victory is possible, but we have to work for it.

Senator Oemig spoke next. He talked at length about the priorities he's been working on Olympia for the last few years, particularly strengthening our public schools and moving us closer to voter-owned clean elections.

If there are two words that summarize what Eric believes, I think they're the words that comprise the signature he uses in his email: Optimizing government. Eric doesn't buy into the conservative nonsense about big government versus small government. He wants effective government.

Effective government is a key progressive principle. And Eric has worked to further it by pushing for more openness. He likes to be able to measure performance. But in order to measure performance, we need data. And unfortunately, sometimes government is opaque and there isn't any data available.

Eric has worked to change that.

Delivering the closing was Eric's colleague Randy Gordon, now the state senator from the 41st LD. Randy told us a story about the formation of HJR 4220, a proposed constitutional amendment known as the Lakewood Police Officers Memorial Act, which we will all be voting on this autumn.

The transcript of that story is as follows.
The Constitution was changed this year again. And we had a choice this year about how to change that Constitution.

We had the choice between creating an American gulag where people's rights of bail could be suspended willy nilly... Let's just remember what the presumption of innocence is all about. It could have been the presumption of innocence to think yourself innocent while you're sitting in jail contemplating your innocence.

Innocent people need to be moving on with their lives. But on the other hand, violent criminals need to let us move on with our lives. There's a balance to be struck. It takes justice.

I went to Eric with an early draft of what I was proposing as a solution. And he said to me, "Randy, I'm counting on you for this. Is it good enough?"

I reflected on it. We were there on the floor of the Senate. I still remember. It wasn't good enough. I went back. I rewrote it.

With the help of my colleague Senator Kline, we were able to put a [resolution] out there that unanimously passed the state Senate of Washington, that passed the House, [was] signed by the Governor, and is going to be on the ballot for the people - you the people - to decide this November.

But what it'll never say in the Constitution, when it is written and rewritten... is that the words on that page are entirely the responsibility of all of us, but the credit goes to somebody whose name will never appear in the Constitution: Eric Oemig.

Because his insight, clarity, focus - and simply asking the right questions fearlessly at the right time - made us all do the right thing.

It is a team sport!

And we need a conscience there. We need some who's incorruptible there. We need someone who doesn't buy into the system there. We need someone who's going to go and put you first there.

And you need to put him first.
That last line drew big applause from the packed room. I saw a lot of checks being put into remit envelopes, so I'm inclined to believe Randy's appeal struck a chord. He certainly delivers an enthusiastic fundraising pitch... Eric couldn't have picked anybody who would do a better job.

This has been a great event; hopefully, it's a sign of things to come. I firmly believe the State of Washington needs Eric Oemig at this critical time. I will be enthusiastically voting to send him back to the Senate for another term.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Accidentally sign a right wing initiative? Here's how to withdraw your signature

Over the last few days, we've received several reports from folks who have been tricked or duped by mercenary petitioners into signing right wing initiatives that they don't support. It seems that some signature gatherers are pretty desperate to get a buck and are resorting to deception to make their money. Here's a curious case of somebody who apparently supported the beverage industry's revenue repeal initiative but not Tim Eyman's latest scheme:
I refused repeatedly to sign I-1053. On 6/21/10 I was tricked through deception into signing it. There was an initiative I supported on top of I-1053 that was filled up with signatures. The person obtaining the signatures lifted the page and had me sign page 2 w/o showing me the top of the form. After I signed she said that if I wanted to sign the other initiative it was "over there".

I asked what I had just signed and she said, "it's the candy, bottled water, and soda pop initiative" and walked away to talk to other people. This was in front of Fred Meyer store in Shelton. I want to report the trickery and deception. There is no way I wanted my signature on that initiative! I am very angry she deceived me this way.
If you've been tricked into signing Initiative 1053 or another right wing initiative you don't support, take comfort in the knowledge that there is a way for you to withdraw your signature: You can ask the Secretary of State not to count it by sending the Elections Division a letter.

We've prepared signature withdrawal letters for each of the right wing initiatives currently in circulation, based on a PDF letter created by the Rebuilding Our Economic Future Coalition. The major improvement we've made is that our PDF letters are more cleanly formatted. You can fill out the form fields inside Adobe Reader so that all you have to do after you print your letter is sign it.

Download a letter here:
Once you download the letter that corresponds to the initiative you signed...
  1. Fill out the form fields (name, address, city, county, phone, date)
  2. Print out the PDF
  3. Add your signature
  4. Scan the letter back into your computer, in PDF format
  5. Open your email program and begin composing a new message. The message subject should read: I wish to withdraw my signature from Initiative Measure No. 1[xxx]. In the body, just enter a short message asking the Secretary of State to take action on the attached letter.
  6. Attach the newly scanned PDF to the message
  7. Enter elections (at) sos (dot) wa (dot) gov in the To field
  8. Enter info (at) permanentdefense (dot) org in the CC field
  9. Send the message
If your scanner won't ouput the completed letter you scanned into PDF format, send the file (e.g. TIFF, JPG, etc.) to info (at) permanentdefense (dot) org, and we'll convert it into PDF for you and send it on to the Secretary of State's office.

It's a good idea to request a return receipt (also known as a delivery receipt) for your message if your email server supports the feature. That way, you'll get confirmation that somebody at the Secretary of State's office opened and actually looked at your email message. We're checking to see if it is possible to fax a letter to the Elections Division. They used to have a fax number, but the one we had on record appears to have been deactivated.

Questions? Feel free to leave a comment on this post or contact us directly.

Senator Robert C. Byrd: 1917-2010

This morning, the family of Robert C. Byrd, the longest-serving member of Congress in American history, announced that the Senator, third in line to the presidency, had died peacefully three hours after midnight at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Byrd, ninety-two, had served as president pro-tempore of the U.S. Senate since Democrats officially regained control of Congress in January 2007. He will be succeeded by Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. His own office will be filled by appointment as soon as West Virginia's Democratic governor Joe Manchin chooses a successor.

Funeral and memorial arrangements are still pending.

Byrd was not a progressive, but he held progressive views on many important issues. He was steadfastly opposed to Dubya's invasion and occupation of Iraq, which he spoke out forcefully against early and often. We will remain forever grateful for his willingness to condemn that unnecessary and unwarranted entanglement when it was not easy to do so.

I could quickly turn this post into a novel by posting (in-line) all of the statements that have been released by prominent Democrats and Republicans in Byrd's honor, but I won't. Instead, I'll urge you to visit the Senator's official website and this page on the Charleston Gazette's website, which have a fairly comprehensive set of statements.

Neither of those pages have the statements released by our own senators, however. So without further ado, here's Senator Cantwell's reaction, which is exceptionally poignant and well written:
As the longest-serving Senator of our nation, Robert Byrd is and will forever be a Senate legend. His fierce work ethic, sharp mind, and unflagging patriotism allowed him to also be one of the most effective Senators in U.S. history. Senator Byrd always did what was best for his constituents who kept re-electing him and for the country he loved.

His high regard for the U.S. Constitution permeated his work and served as a constant reminder of the principles we strive to uphold daily in this great nation. He served in many positions of leadership, including Senate Majority Leader, guiding the upper chamber through numerous historic achievements that have shaped and improved our nation. Robert Byrd was a persistent defender of the Congress as a co-equal branch of government – he famously said he worked with Presidents, not under them – and we will miss him sorely in this great institution.

Robert Byrd demonstrated relentless passion and dedication for West Virginians over the five decades he served their interests. Not only was he a steadfast Senator for the state of West Virginia, he was a great colleague and friend. My thoughts and prayers are with the Byrd family.
And here is Senator Murray's statement:
It is a sad day for the United States Senate, the people of West Virginia, and the entire country as we mourn the loss of the nation’s longest serving Senator. Robert C. Byrd was a historian, a poet, and a true Master of the Senate.

Like every Senator, I have learned a great deal from Senator Byrd. From the protocols of managing legislation, to the best ways to work across the aisle to be as effective as possible in fighting for my state. Senator Byrd was gracious and warm. He believed passionately in the rules of the Senate and working together for the common good.

Senator Byrd was a gentleman. He was tough, but he treated people with respect. So many Senators have been guided by his presence, and he will be missed very much. But his work, his passion, and his spirit will never be gone from the Senate he loved so much.
We at NPI extend our condolences to the Byrd family, to the Senator's many friends and colleagues, and to the people of West Virginia. Our nation has lost a great legislator today. We take comfort in the knowledge that his legacy and his work will endure. His successor has enormous shoes to fill.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Seattle Unity Forum helps local progressives understand that we have to work together

Yesterday, a number of social justice and environmental groups came together to begin a process of unifying their work and creating shared goals.

Oftentimes, it seems these many of these groups are at odds with one another, but many people are beginning to realize this makes little sense.

The well attended forum, which included a number of community advocates, a Seattle city councilmember, and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, was held to help break down that barrier here in the Pacific Northwest.

One of the recurring themes that emerged in the forum was education. Wyking Garrett from UmojaFest P.E.A.C.E Center compared the minds of our youth to those organic, local gardens we like so much.

The only problem is that at present, we're putting energy and resources into developing organic gardens, but we're not investing in learning opportunities for young people. Education is the ultimate equalizer in terms of pay, quality of life, and oneness with the communities around it.

By educating our youth, we not only provide them with a sense of self, but help them understand their connection with the environment around them.

And, in fact, we need to make environmental protection and environmental science part of our school curricula, besides strengthening our government and civics courses, which are woefully inadequate.

We must ensure our children can have an education that allows them to continue the work older activists are doing now after we're gone.

Another topic that came up was homelessness and safe neighborhoods, particularly Nickelsville and its need for a permanent site.

A permanent site would allow the folks who run Nickelsville to take steps to limit the camp's impact on the surrounding environment.

They've done well so far, but as was pointed out, it's "easy to care about water conservation when you have to carry five gallons of it for miles". By allowing them to develop some level of stability they can take further steps to reduce their footprint and construct an ecologically-friendly village rather than moving a shantytown around. This would address the shelter shortages in a "green" way.

As I mentioned earlier, the overarching concept of the forum was unity. By the end of the event, I could sense both the need and desire to work together from everyone in the room. People realize what's at stake.

Craig Benjamin of the Streets For All campaign talked about the greater need for transportation choices not just because we need to protect our environment, but because we save money and become more physically fit as a result of freeing ourselves of auto dependence. (Of course, this requires building walkable, mixed neighborhoods with streetcars and light rail).

The environmental movement, in tandem with organized labor, has long sought to restructure our economy to end our addiction to fossil fuels and put humanity on the path to sustainability.

Those progressive objectives are very much in harmony with the goals that social justice activists have: remaking America as a land where hard work is rewarded and a person isn't judge by their race, religion, gender, or sexual preference.

It's time that we progressives realized that all our policy directions are interrelated, and stem from our core values of empathy and responsibility.

It's our job to unite around our finest traditional values so we can move our region and our country forward together again.

Extent of Seattle Times' Sunday convention coverage: Eight paragraphs on weather page

Proving once again that Seattle has not benefited from becoming a one-newspaper town (as the Blethen family long claimed it would), the people who put together the Sunday edition of The Seattle Times neglected to offer any significant reporting of the happenings at the 2010 Washington State Democratic Convention, which took place yesterday in Vancouver.

Readers hoping to find even a mention of the convention needed sharp eyes just to locate the measly eight paragraphs the Times did print, sandwiched between the weather forecast and a nearly half page promotional ad for food columnist Nancy Leson. And those eight paragraphs weren't even generated by someone working for the Times. They were written by an uncredited Associated Press reporter.

Seattle Times buries Democratic Convention on back of B sectionThe eight paragraphs only mention that Murray "tweaked" Rossi in her speech, and that delegates endorsed yes on Initiative 1068 and no on Initiatives 1100 and 1105. That was it. No mention of the speeches by Tim Kaine, Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck, Jay Clough, or Clyde Cordero.

There was no mention of the platform and resolutions either.

Of course, two weeks ago, when the Republicans held their convention in Vancouver, the Times saw fit to send Andrew Garber there to cover it. He wrote a story about it which ran in the Sunday paper, along with a blog post for Politics Northwest. As I remember, that story appeared on the front page of the B section (NWSunday, the Local News section).

But they did not send Garber — or any reporter for that matter — to the Democratic convention. Instead, they relied on the Associated Press, and they buried the AP story they printed on the back page of the B section.

So much for fairness and objectivity.

Several smaller papers saw fit to provide decent coverage, including The Columbian, Tacoma News Tribune, and the Everett Herald.

At least we at NPI don't pretend not to have an agenda. If we choose not to attempt to send anybody to cover a Republican state convention, we don't have to explain why. It's obvious. But the Times does owe its readers an explanation, because it claims to be objective. We'd like to know: Why did they consider the Republican convention important enough to send a reporter to, but not the Democratic convention? Do they even have an excuse?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

LIVE from Ridgefield: Party takes positions on initiatives that may appear on fall ballot

The 2010 Washington State Democratic Convention has resumed following a more than hour-long lunch break, though party Chairman Dwight Pelz has given the order to keep the World Cup match between the United States and Ghana on the big screens on the left and right side of the stage.

(Ghana currently leads in overtime, 2 to 1).

The first order of business was to approve nominations in the two congressional districts where the party had not previously nominated a standard-bearer. For the 3rd District, the party nominated Denny Heck; in the 5th, the party nominated Clyde Cordero. These nominations, first approved in congressional district caucus during the lunch break, were affirmed by the convention without opposition.

Next, a motion was made to suspend the rules to consider an endorsement of Charlie Wiggins for Supreme Court. The motion to suspend carried easily, and after a short debate between supporters of incumbent Richard Sanders and Wiggins, the subsequent motion to endorse Wiggins passed.

(Sanders, for those readers who don't know, is the most libertarian Supreme Court justice; however, his judicial philosophy appears to be more conservative in many respects, which is why the BIAW backs him.)

UPDATE: Convention Chair Craig Pridemore has called on Sharon Smith to deliver the Executive Board's report on the various initiatives that stand a chance of qualifying for the November ballot. The recommendations are:
  • Referendum 52: Endorse (Approve)
  • Initiative 1053: Oppose
  • Initiative 1068: No recommendation
  • Initiative 1082: Oppose
  • Initiative 1100: Oppose
  • Initiative 1105: Oppose
  • Initiative 1107: Oppose
Requests were made to consider Initiative 1068 and Initiatives 1100/1105 separately; these requests were granted.

UPDATE II: Delegates approved the executive board's recommendations with the exception of the three initiatives I just mentioned.

Then it was time for motions from the floor.

A motion to endorse Initiative 1068 was quickly made, and after two speeches for and against (which is all that is allowed) the convention moved to a vote. Division was called for after the vote, and after some confusion, the decision was made to obtain an exact tally. There were three hundred and fourteen yes votes, and a hundred and eighteen no votes, so the motion to endorse I-1068 carried easily.

A motion was then made to oppose Initiatives 1100 and 1105 (liquor privatization). Again, there were two speeches for and against, and again, the motion carried (although this time, there was no division).

Finally, the delegates agreed to suspend the rules to consider an endorsement of Stan Rumbaugh for Supreme Court. (Rumbaugh is challenging incumbent Justice Jim Johnson, who coauthored Tim Eyman's Initiative 747 with Rob McKenna).

No delegate spoke against Rumbaugh, although two party leaders opposed on the motion on the grounds that not enough information was available to make a sound decision. Senator Rosa Franklin, however, stood up to speak on Stan's behalf, and her support helped Rumbaugh's cause.

The motion to endorse him passed.

We are now set to hear from our candidates for Congress running in districts where no incumbent Democrat is the standard bearer.

LIVE from Ridgefield: Murray, Kaine anchor morning speaking program at convention

Good afternoon from the Clark County Events Center in Ridgefield!

Today, the Washington State Democratic Party is meeting to listen to elected leaders (and would-be elected leaders), approve a platform, consider resolutions, nominate candidates, and take care of other loose ends.

Unlike the national Democratic Party, the convention and caucus cycle in our state repeats every two years instead of every four, which means the party gathers together in midterm years as well as presidential ones.

Midterm state conventions tend to not be as well-attended as those in presidential years, although the last midterm convention (Yakima, 2006) was an exception; there were a great many Democrats there.

Fewer Democrats have made the trek this time around, which is understandable, because four years ago Democrats were out of power and fighting to regain control of the federal government. A commonly heard joke told to newcomers then was, We know why you're here... George Bush sent you.

Bush is no longer around to promulgate a backlash, but that doesn't mean the party's strength is sapping. Many of NPI's followers on Twitter have let us know they're closely following the proceedings online or on TVW, indicating that there are a not insignificant number of activists here in spirit with us.

The King County delegation is much smaller than it was at the last two conventions, which partly explains why there are fewer credentialed delegates and alternates.

Those who did make the trip to Vancouver — and stayed in the host hotel or the alternate host hotel — had to do a bit of driving to get the Clark County Events Center this morning, because the convention itself is nearly ten miles away from the Hilton. It's about a fifteen minute drive up Interstate 5.

The party is providing a shuttle for those who did not drive, but it only made limited runs this morning and probably only offer limited service again tonight. (I think it was a bad idea to force Democrats to have to commute so far to get from the officially-sanctioned lodgings to the place of business, but that's just my opinion).

The main business this morning was hearing from our senior United States Senator, Patty Murray, who is running for a fourth term in office.

First elected in 1992, Murray — nicknamed the "mom in tennis shoes" — has a well-deserved reputation as a champion of working people. For years, she has worked to strengthen our nation's common wealth and invest it in badly needed public services, especially long-term care for our returning veterans.

Murray's opponent this fall is expected to be Republican Dino Rossi, who has twice lost campaigns for governor to Chris Gregoire, in 2004 and 2008.

Murray, introduced by her young hero, Marcelas Owens, didn't hesitate to take a swipe at Rossi in her speech, declaring that nobody had to "drag her into the race" because public service for her is about helping others, not helping herself get ahead. (Rossi, on the other hand, was courted and recruited by the powerful D.C. Republican establishment, which wants to buy Murray's seat).

The Senator reminded delegates that she has often had to take tough votes throughout her career, such as her 2004 vote against giving Dubya the authorization to invade Iraq, and rejecting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

She defended the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, observing that it will lead to greater economic security for families and small businesses, protecting them from the worst insurance company abuses and temporarily alleviating the problems with our current, fundamentally unsound healthcare system.

And she called for accountability and a rethinking of America's energy policy in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, noting that she is sponsoring a bill to ban drilling off the Left Coast. "I know I'm speaking for you when I demand that BP is held responsible," she said, contrasting herself with her opponent.

And of course she brought up her work on behalf of veterans. I highlighted that last night in my post on her gala banquet address, so I'll just encourage you to read that post if you want to get an idea of what the Senator talked about.

Following Murray's well-received address, the convention heard from Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, formerly the governor of Virginia.

Kaine described passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as "putting something up on the mantelpiece of the Democratic Party," noting that previous Democratic presidents and congresses saw through the enactment of Social Security, Medicare, and multiple Civil Rights Act.

Kaine also pointed out that unlike those accomplishments, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed without a single Republican vote.

"We put this one up on the mantel by ourselves," Kaine reflected.

He devoted a significant portion of his speech to addressing the headwinds facing the Democratic Party in the 2010 midterms, observing that the party in power usually loses seats in Congress in a midterm election. That's what typically happens, Kaine said. But he made it plainly clear he doesn't think this is a typical year.

The political landscape is incredibly volatile, and that makes it all the more important that Democrats go into battle prepared. Fortunately, as Kaine says, we are blessed to have some rather good candidates in the Pacific Northwest. Some are incumbents. Some are challengers. And one running for an open seat.

"In an anti-D.C. time, there are very few senators who have less D.C. about them than Patty Murray does," Kaine told delegates. "You guys have had the smarts to beat [Dino Rossi] twice, how about a third time?"

They roared their approval.

"We're going to elect Suzan DelBene in the 8th Congressional District," Kaine added, explaining that he had already met Suzan and is confident she will run a strong campaign against incumbent Republican Dave Reichert.

Kaine explained that the Democratic National Committee is working hard to reach out to what he called "new voters" — people who turned out to support President Obama in 2008, but are considered unlikely to vote in the midterms.

What we have to help first time voters (who may be disillusioned) understand, Kaine said, is that "it's not enough to elect a president, and just say, Hey, good luck, Mr. President, go off and slay the dragons. No, you've got to be there... you've got to be there slaying the dragons with the president."

"If we can just increase the percentage turnout [of first time Democratic voters] from thirty percent to forty percent... that's a million and a half more votes for Democratic candidates all over this nation."

"Get it to forty five percent, it's two million votes."

"You know, the other guys think they're gonna take both houses back. They're going around saying that that's what they're going to do. But I think our proven track record, good candidates, a great president, and an ability to do grassroots, street-level, door-to-door, at the screen door politics, is gonna enable us to do a lot better this fall than most people think," Kaine concluded.

It's lunchtime (time to stretch and get something to eat!) so I'm going to wrap up this post and check back in later this afternoon.

Friday, June 25, 2010

LIVE from Vancouver: 2010 Democratic Convention kicks off with gala banquet

This weekend, Democrats from across the great State of Washington are meeting in America's Vancouver to organize and mobilize for the forthcoming midterm elections, which are now less than half a year away.

The convention officially began this morning with trainings and workshops for party activists, but the first "big room" event is happening now... the traditional gala banquet, which features Washington's senior elected Democrats and a special guest speaker. This year's banquet is at the Vancouver Hilton, the host hotel for the convention, and attendenace looks very strong, indicating we'll have a lively hall tomorrow when delegates officially meet to conduct business.

The three big speakers at tonight's banquet are Governor Chris Gregoire, Senator Patty Murray, and Senator Ron Wyden.

Gregoire spoke first, delivering a solid and energetic speech which was pretty cheery considering all of the challenges she's dealing with.

It had all the familiar elements of a Gregoire address: praise for President Barack Obama's leadership, accolades for Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell, a denunciation of her longtime foe Dino Rossi, and guarded hope for a turnaround in the state's financial fortunes, which rest on the strength of an economic recovery, due to our state's dependence on consumption taxes.

Gregoire has the remarkable ability to remain upbeat even while having to juggle unpleasant tasks, particularly trying to craft a state budget that reflects our finest traditional values. It showed in her speech.

Senator Patty Murray is speaking now.

She's sharpened her stump speech since the spring... perhaps because she now has an opponent who has friends with deep, deep pockets and the willingness to dump large sums of money into attack ads against her. Defending her ability to secure federal dollars for public services in Washington State, she explained that she had spent time earlier in the day at the Veterans Administration facilities at American Lake, which the Bush administration unsuccessfully tried to close.

Murray reminded the audience that she battled fiercely to prevent that facility — and the VA hospital in Walla Walla — from being closed. She was of course successful, but even though the VA agreed to modernize its American Lake campus, it didn't secure the funding needed from Congress to build it.

"So you know what I did? I went back and I got one of those earmarks," Murray said. "Thirty eight million dollars... And today, we cut that ribbon, and our men and women who have served us are going to have a beautiful long term facility — because I, as your senator, went back and fought hard for all of our veterans," she continued, to great applause and cheers of "Patty! Patty! Patty!"

"I go to work to fight for you, not for somebody in Washington, D.C.," Murray declared, emphasizing what has been the theme of all four of her senatorial campaigns to date. "I still wear my tennis shoes," she added with a smile.

UPDATE: Murray concluded her remarks by introducing Oregon's senior senator, Ron Wyden, the third and final headline speaker of the night. "We are so fortunate to have a partner across the [Columbia] River who gets what we get," she told the assembly, urging them to give Wyden a warm Washington welcome.

They did.

Wyden strode on stage, clasped hands with Senator Murray in the air, and stepped to the podium to a loud standing ovation.

He not only was quick to thank Senator Murray for being a great champion of working families, but he recognized Norm Dicks with a special shout-out. (Dicks is slated to become the next House Appropriations Chairman following the retirement of longtime Representative David Obey, if Democrats keep control of Congress this November).

"If you're thinking about Patty Murray, you have an All-Star in the United States Senate," Wyden said. "Send her back!"

"She was asked by the press the other day... she was asked, well, is she going to run on her clout, in her reelection campaign? And your senior senator said, No! I never want to run on my clout. What I'm running on is my connection to people. I'm running on my connection to the working families that are hurting, the veterans, the senior citizens that are walking on an economic tightrope... I'm running to fight for them," Wyden recounted, to roaring applause. "They don't have PACs, they don't have lobbies. But they have Senator Patty Murray!"

Wyden briefly touched on several policy directions that he works on in the Senate, including healthcare, fair trade, clean energy, and marriage equality.

He sharply denounced the idea that our common wealth exists simply to prop up big corporations when they run aground due to greed.

"If in any way, this economic notion of too big to fail ever comes up again, we as Democrats want to make sure that we have finally put the nail in that coffin. Because too big to fail essentially means if you're big and powerful, and you've got a lot of clout back east, you can take on too much risk, and you can take on too much debt, and all of you — [indicating the audience] — will pick up the bill," Wyden said.

"And what too big to fail means is that if you're Coos Bay, Oregon, or LaGrande, Oregon, or Aberdeen Washington, too big to fail means [you're] too small to succeed," Wyden declared, to applause and shouts of agreement.

Perhaps Wyden's best-received line, however, came when he recounted what he told a town hall in a conservative eastern Oregon town. "Wanna know what your senator thinks about gay marriage?" he said, repeating the question as he had phrased it. "Well, I say to you, if you don't like gay marriage, don't get one!"

The room instantly burst into thunderous applause and laughter.

Wyden closed by reminding the party faithful that Patty Murray wasn't born into a wealthy family, and has outspent and underestimated before, exhorting activists work hard and get out the vote in 2010.

"We have always, always had to work harder for this," Wyden said, reflecting that even the lousiest Republican candidates have long enjoyed a head start thanks to all the infrastructure the right wing has built over the last few years.

In other words: victory is possible, but we have to make it happen. That's something every progressive ought to keep in mind in the days and weeks ahead.

I'll be back tomorrow with live coverage from the convention floor. Goodnight!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Supreme Court: States can release names of people who sign ballot measure petitions

Early this morning, the Supreme Court revealed that it had reached an opinion in Doe v. Reed, rejecting the broad assertion that the First Amendment bars states from making public the names of those who sign an initiative, referendum, or recall petition, and affirming the decision reached in the State of Washington's favor last year by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The eight to one majority opinion was authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, and joined by every associate justice except for Clarence Thomas, who dissented. Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Antonin Scalia, and Samuel Alito all filed concurring opinions, (although Alito's reads more like a dissenting opinion).

The majority opinion declares:
The issue at this stage of the case is not whether disclosure of this particular petition would violate the First Amendment, but whether disclosure of referendum petitions in general would do so. We conclude that such disclosure does not as a general matter violate the First Amendment, and we therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals. We leave it to the lower courts to consider in the first instance the signers’ more focused claim concerning disclosure of the information on this particular petition, which is pending before the District Court.
The second part of the above paragraph effectively means that "Protect Marriage Washington" and their lawyer, James Bopp Jr., can continue preventing the disclosure of the names of the people who signed Referendum 71 for the time being, while they try to persuade a district court judge (like Benjamin Settle, who previously was sympathetic to their arguments) that disclosure of the names would lead to widespread harassment.

However, Secretary of State Sam Reed has indicated he believes his office will eventually be able to make public the Referendum 71 signatures. In a news release this morning, he says, "Absent a clear case that brings forward hard evidence of harassment, and not merely the normal rough-and-tumble of campaign discourse, we would expect to prevail [in lower court], and to eventually be permitted to release petitions through the normal Public Records Act requests."

Justice Antonin Scalia, who concurred in the judgment, disagreed with the idea that the State of Washington's interest in "preserving the integrity of the electoral process" outweighed petition signers' right to be anonymous, because he does not believe petition signers have any such right. "I doubt whether signing a petition that has the effect of suspending a law fits within 'the freedom of speech' at all," he writes in the opening paragraph of his opinion.

As he later observes, lawmaking has historically been done in public and must be done in public for democracy to be vibrant and healthy:
Plaintiffs point to no precedent from this Court holding that legislating is protected by the First Amendment. Nor do they identify historical evidence demonstrating that “the freedom of speech” the First Amendment codified encompassed a right to legislate without public disclosure. This should come as no surprise; the exercise of lawmaking power in the United States has traditionally been public.
Scalia then points out that in America's early days, petitions were read aloud in Congress, and people (only white men at the time) cast their votes in person. He wraps up his opinion with a rather magnificently written conclusion:
Plaintiffs raise concerns that the disclosure of petition signatures may lead to threats and intimidation. Of course nothing prevents the people of Washington from keeping petition signatures secret to avoid that — just as nothing prevented the States from moving to the secret ballot. But there is no constitutional basis for this Court to impose that course upon the States — or to insist (as today’s opinion does) that it can only be avoided by the demonstration of a “sufficiently important governmental interest,” ante, at 7 (internal quotation marks omitted).

And it may even be a bad idea to keep petition signatures secret. There are laws against threats and intimidation; and harsh criticism, short of unlawful action, is a price our people have traditionally been willing to pay for self-governance. Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed. For my part, I do not look forward to a society which, thanks to the Supreme Court, campaigns anonymously (McIntyre) and even exercises the direct democracy of initiative and referendum hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism. This does not resemble the Home of the Brave.
Rarely do we at the Northwest Progressive Institute strongly agree with Justice Scalia, but today, we find great wisdom in his words.

We concur that open government is essential in order to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. We are not against anonymous speech — to the contrary, we believe strongly in it — but we are against anonymous lawmaking. The people's business must be done in public.

Those who wish to force every civic-minded Washingtonian to vote on a particular issue of the day have no right to employ the instruments of direct democracy (the initiative, referendum, and recall) anonymously.

We welcome today's Supreme Court opinion affirming that the Public Records Act is not unconstitutional, though we wish it were stronger. It's too bad Justice Scalia's concurrence is not the majority opinion.

We thank Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna (both Republicans!) for fighting the good fight in this case. They stood up for the values we believe in before our nation's highest court, and we are grateful for that, even if we fervently disagree with them on a great many other issues.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Obama removes McChrystal from command

President Barack Obama announced today that he has decided to accept the resignation of General Stanley McChrystal, the man he tapped last year to lead the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The president's decision came after a midmorning meeting with McChrystal, prompted by a profile of the general to be published in the forthcoming issue of Rolling Stone.

The profile depicted McChrystal and his staff as disdainful of senior civilian figures in the administration, including the Vice President.

"The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general," Obama said in remarks delivered in the Rose Garden alongside Vice President Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and McChrystal's successor, General David Petraeus.

"It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our
democratic system. And it erodes the trust that's necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan."

"The strength and greatness of our military is rooted in the fact that this code applies equally to newly enlisted privates and to the general officer who commands them," the president added. "That allows us to come together as one. That is part of the reason why America has the finest fighting force in the history of the world."

Yesterday, we at NPI — and many other progressives — urged President Obama to dismiss General McChrystal for his disrespectful and inappropriate conduct. We're happy to see that he has done so.

McChrystal's team had to have known what they were doing when they allowed Rolling Stone to go ahead and publish its rather candid profile of them.

In a way, they did their country a favor, by making public their unprofessional behavior behind the scenes. As the president implied in his remarks, they clearly were not the right people for the job. What they did cannot be excused away as "barracks talk". They and their boss had the responsibility of setting and adhering to a higher standard. They failed in that responsibility and it is only fitting that they have been dismissed by the Commander in Chief.

Congratulations to Barack Obama for passing a key test of his presidency with flying colors. An important and essential idea in our democracy — civilian control of the military — has been reaffirmed today.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Deeptrouble, June 22nd, 2010: Right wing judge overturns drilling moratorium

Welcome to the twenty fifth installment of Deeptrouble, an NPI Advocate special series intended to visually chronicle the immense devastation wrought on the Gulf Coast by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Surface ships making their way through oily, polluted oceanToday's photo was taken by the Gulf Restoration Network. It shows a brown, goopy oil-stained marsh in Louisiana.

In a major setback for the response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a Reagan-appointed judge who owns stock in oil companies today invalidated the Obama administration's moratorium on new offshore drilling, describing the administration's half-measures as too broad and overarching:
Citing potential economic harm to businesses and workers, Judge Feldman wrote that the Obama administration had failed to justify the need for such “a blanket, generic, indeed punitive, moratorium” on deep-water oil and gas drilling.

“The blanket moratorium, with no parameters, seems to assume that because one rig failed and although no one yet fully knows why, all companies and rigs drilling new wells over 500 feet also universally present an imminent danger,” wrote Judge Feldman, a 1983 appointee of President Ronald Reagan. The administration’s order halted 33 exploratory drilling projects and suspended new permits, but did not affect platforms that were already in production.
The administration quickly promised to appeal the decision, which was roundly condemned by the environmental community.

Perhaps somebody needs to take Judge Feldman out to the despoiled marshes where oil is wreaking havoc on fragile Gulf ecosystems, and then we can see if he still thinks that merely suspending approval of new offshore drilling is an overreaction. What's really outrageous is that he doesn't seem to be disturbed by the spill. It's causing significant environmental damage in his home state.

In other news...

The number of Americans who are seeking compensation for damages caused by Baleful Petroelum's mess continues to grow. As of today, 69,872 claims have been opened by persons affected, and the total amount of money disbursed stands at $118 million. Both figures will continue to rise in the weeks and months ahead.

Besides continuing to process claims, BP is preparing to bring a third vessel into the vicinity of the site where the Deepwater Horizon was once moored, to assist in containment and collection operations.

It's going to be a long time before the traces of this calamity have been erased from the Gulf Coast. We should use the sights, sounds, and smells of this disaster to motivate us to invest in renewable energy while those sensory inputs are still fresh. It goes without saying that our future is hanging in the balance.

Progressive Elaine Marshall wins Democratic senatorial nomination in North Carolina

This is exciting news:
Elaine Marshall, brushing aside the support that Democratic Party leaders had lent to a rival, comfortably triumphed Tuesday in her second attempt to win her second U.S. Senate primary.

The veteran politician who has served as North Carolina's secretary of state for more than a decade defeated former Army prosecutor Cal Cunningham in the runoff, eight years after a similar nomination bid came up short. She will face Republican Sen. Richard Burr in November.
As of 8 PM Pacific Time, results were:

United States Senate, North Carolina (Democratic nomination)
Elaine Marshall: 60% (94,672 votes)
Cal Cunningham: 40% (63,290 votes)

Marshall and Cunningham were the two finalists in the Democratic senatorial primary held on May 4th. The results of that election were:

Marcus W. Williams: 8.46% (35,984 votes)
Ann Worthy: 3.92% (16,655 votes)
Elaine Marshall: 36.35% (154,605 votes)
Ken Lewis: 17.05% (72,510 votes)
Susan Harris: 6.99% (29,738 votes)
Cal Cunningham: 27.24% (115,851)

Marshall's campaign enjoyed strong grassroots and netroots support, winning endorsements from Blue America, Democracy for America and MoveOn. Marshall also had the backing of prominent local elected officials in North Carolina and well-known civil rights leaders. The results clearly show that she waged a strong and compelling campaign, and is the Democrat who has the best chance of taking out Republican Richard Burr in November. (Public Policy Polling asserts that surveys of voters back this up, by the way).

The DSCC, which had backed Cunningham, was quick to congratulate Marshall on her triumph. Senator Bob Menendez released the following statement:
Congratulations to Elaine Marshall on her primary victory. She is a proven reformer who has taken on the special interests in her state, and has cracked down on lobbyist activity, insurance company abuses, and excess on Wall Street.

Both Elaine and Cal Cunningham deserve credit for running spirited, aggressive campaigns. Tomorrow, we begin the general election and the choice for North Carolinians could not be any starker.

Voters will face a choice between a Democrat who has focused on creating jobs and the needs of North Carolina’s middle class and a Republican who puts partisanship ahead of doing what’s right. This November will be an opportunity for voters to hold their Senator accountable for years of looking out for the special interests and elect someone who will fight for them everyday in Washington.
This is sure a nice way to bounce back after Bill Halter's loss in Arkansas. The national media are hardly taking notice — McChrystal's comments in Rolling Stone are all the pundits seem to want to talk about — but it's another victory for the movement over the establishment. We can't have enough of those.

President Obama must relieve General Stanley McChrystal of command

This simply cannot stand:
In a new magazine profile, the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and his advisors appear to ridicule Vice President Joe Biden and are portrayed as dismissive of civilian oversight of the war.

The article, in Rolling Stone, says McChrystal's staff frequently derided top civilian leaders, including special envoy Richard C. Holbrooke and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry. One anonymous aide calls White House National Security Advisor James Jones a "clown."
Since Rolling Stone (which has a history of publishing provocative articles) first released an advance copy of the article to the press, it has dominated headlines, sparking an apology from McChrystal (who claims to have misspoken... yeah, right) and summonses from both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Barack Obama. Obama is reportedly furious and no doubt itching to give the general a private dressing down.

But the president should do more than that. He should fire McChrystal and relieve him of command. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (Article 88) makes it clear that insubordination by commissioned officers is simply unacceptable:
Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
McChrystal's comments are unbecoming of a general who has been given the important and difficult responsibly of managing a military occupation abroad. The disrespect that the Rolling Stone article depicts must be dealt with. Allowing McChrystal a reprieve would set a bad example.

As Jon Soltz wrote in the Huffington Post, "Anyone of lower rank would be immediately dismissed if he or she said of their superiors what General McChrystal said, or what he allowed members of his team to say."

There shouldn't be a double standard for generals and commanders. If anything, generals and commanders should be held to a higher standard, because they set the tone for those they command. A general who cannot conduct himself or herself professionally should not be a general, period.

President Obama can look to President Harry Truman for inspiration. During the Korean War, Truman fired popular general Douglas MacArthur "because he wouldn't respect the authority of the President," as Truman told Time Magazine in 1973. At the time, MacArthur's firing drew strong condemnations from Republicans (especially Robert Taft of Ohio), but it was the proper course of action to take.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Getting nickeled and dimed by your bank? It's time to move your money to a credit union

From time to time, you've seen us extolling the virtues of taking your money out of the behemoth, monolithic Wall Street banks and investing in local, community-based credit unions here on The Advocate. In short, credit unions are accountable to those of us living on Main Street; they're member oriented and driven, making them more responsive to their customers.

The "too big to fail" banks are subject to the whims of Wall Street, and to this day, are still unaccountable for their actions in nearly destroying our economy.

As of today, you've got another reason to put your money into a credit union. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that due to regulations that are designed to protect consumers from the corporate greed exhibited by banks, the end of the era of free checking is coming.
Bank of America and other banks are preparing new fees on basic banking services as they try to replace revenue lost to regulatory rules, in a push that is expected to spell an end to free checking accounts for many Americans.

Free checking accounts, which have been widely available for more than a decade, have been a boon to middle-class consumers and attracted low-income customers to the banking system for the first time.

Customers will likely be required to pay new monthly maintenance fees on the most basic accounts that don't generate a lot of activity. To avoid a fee, customers will have to maintain certain account balances or frequently use other banking services, such as credit and debit cards, automated teller machines and online accounts.

I must be mistaken, but when I loan my money to a bank (which is essentially what I do when I deposit money to my checking and savings accounts), I thought it was my money. It's bad enough that when I loan my money to the bank, I get a paltry interest rate on my return, but if the bank loans me money the meager interest rate is not reciprocated.

Now the bank wants to charge me for a slip of paper that is essentially the same as a dollar in my wallet. It's my money, so why am I being nickeled and dimed by my own bank? Yes, for the record, I'm a long-standing Bank of America customer, though I'm reconsidering that since I'm also a Washington State Employees Credit Union member too.

Furthermore, people of lesser means who have opened accounts at banks are now going to incur fees because their account balance may not meet the bank's requirements or because they can't afford to purchase Internet access.

Why do big banks operate like this? Why are they always trying to find ways to rip off their customers? Because their primary mission is to make money for their stockholders, that's why. Banks aren't going to change, but you and I can. We can move our money to credit unions, where we are the customers and the owners.

Credit unions tend to give their member-owners a better interest rate on their savings and investment accounts, as well as, lower rates on loans.

To be fair, there are nominal fees involved with certain transactions at credit unions (which you'd find anywhere), but you don't see these financial institutions looking for ways to circumvent federal law in order to stick it to the customer in the form of more fees. Quite the contrary, actually.

During my last visit to my credit union, the teller saw the balance in my savings account and promptly asked me if I'd thought about some of the other services the credit union provides, in order to maximize the return on my investment. I was asked about my financial goals and services were recommended to me based on my answers. The conversation was all about me, the customer, and my needs. It was not about trying to sell me a product or making money off of me.

This is the kind of excellent customer service that I expect from a financial institution, and a big reason why I have accounts with WSECU.

WSECU again proved that credit unions are superior to big banks when my wife's purse was stolen. Upon our immediate notification, Bank of America terminated both of our ATM/debit cards. The only way I had access to my account at Bank of America was to walk into a branch, and write a check to get my cash.

WSECU, on the other hand, was able to just cancel and reissue only my wife's ATM card, because our cards were simply not linked in the same careless way they were at Bank of America. I still had the same convenient access to my money at the credit union, and it made life much easier.

Given NPI's experience with our credit union, we continue to highly recommend you look into one for your financial needs.

As Andrew wrote back when Washington Mutual failed:
A number of terrific credit unions have a strong presence in the Pacific Northwest. For those looking to move their money out of WaMu and into a friendly nonprofit financial cooperative, here are a few choices:
  • BECU (Boeing Employees Credit Union): The nation's fourth largest credit union, known for its innovation and willingness to help striking union members. Membership is open to all Washingtonians. Almost all of its branches are located in Puget Sound.
  • Watermark Credit Union (formerly Seattle Telco): Another well established local credit union centered in the Seattle area with a great reputation. Membership is open to all Washingtonians.
  • First Tech Credit Union: Originally founded by employees of Tektronix. Membership is open to residents of Lane County, Oregon, people who work for the State of Oregon, or Washingtonians and Oregonians working in the high tech sector for companies like Microsoft.
  • Global Credit Union (originally Fairchild Federal): Founded in the 1950s, Global is an excellent choice for residents in the Spokane area or the Tri-Cities.
  • School Employees Credit Union of Washington: Open to Washington teachers, education support professionals, university faculty, librarians, and their family members. An outstanding option for those who are eligible.
  • QualStar Credit Union (formerly Safeway Seattle Employees’ Federal): Another good choice for residents of the Seattle metro area. Membership is open to all Washingtonians.
This is a very short list. You can easily find a comprehensive list of credit unions that you are eligible to join at FindACreditUnion.com (requires Adobe Flash player).
If Congress won't hold the big banks accountable for their misdeeds, you, the customer can. You have a choice with regard to where you do your banking. Why let banks take your hard-earned money for no good reason? Educate yourself and make the best choice for you and your family. Why not put your money with an institution that cares about your needs before profits and stock prices?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The best part of last night’s Oval Office speech

If you missed President Obama’s speech last night, televised from the White House, take a few minutes to pop over to the White House's website and watch it.

There was a lot of good stuff in it.

Obama said he was going to make BP pay for the damage they’ve caused. That was great, but it wasn’t the best part.

He talked a lot about how we must transition towards clean, sustainable energy as fast as we can. Also great, but not the best part.

For me, the best part was when he talked about the problems that led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, starting with the Minerals Management Service. The best part was when he described the MMS as being:
“…emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility.”
That’s the money shot, right there.

President Obama, wielding the grandest of all bully pulpits in American political life, took the opportunity to call out the moral bankruptcy underlying so much of what motivates right-wing strategy. For the right wing, it’s always about removing regulation so businesses can raise their profits, no matter the costs.

As we’ve seen time and time again, and as we’re seeing now in the Gulf of Mexico, when left to their own devices, either through lack of regulation or lack of enforcement, corporations will always find ways to externalize the costs inherent in their operations, so as to pad their profit margins.

“Externalize the costs” is, of course, just economic-speak for “dump the costs on somebody else.” Namely, us.

This has been going on for, well, pretty much forever. Here are just a few examples from the past century.

Mining:
  • In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City caught fire. 146 workers died when they could not escape the ten-story building, because managers had taken to locking the doors to prevent workers from going out for cigarette breaks.
  • In 1913, labor disputes between miners at the Calumet and Heckla mining company in Michigan led to the suffocation and trampling death of 73 people — 62 of them children — when company strike-busters shouted “fire” into the Italian Hall, where the striking union laborers were holding their Christmas Eve party, then barred the exits. The miners were on strike for the right to work only an 8 hour day, for which they wanted $3 in compensation. This was deemed to be too expensive for the company, which in the prior year, had produced and sold 67 million pounds of copper.
  • Let’s not forget a whole litany of coal mining disasters, which have collectively killed hundreds of coal miners through mine accidents in the past 50 years, and have killed thousands upon thousands due to health issues such as “black lung” disease. Most recently, poor safety regulation enforcement at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in Kentucky killed 29 miners in April, 2010.
Toxic waste:
  • In the 1940s and early 1950s, chemical waste dumping (rather than proper treatment and disposal) by the Hooker Chemical company led to horrific health issues and birth defects among the residents of the Love Canal neighborhood in Niagara Falls, NY, which in turn led to the EPA’s “Superfund” cleanup system.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, California’s Pacific Gas and Electric leaked hexavalent chromium into the water around Hinkley, CA, leading again to a raft of truly terrible health effects on the local residents, and a class action lawsuit famously instigated by Erin Brockovich. PG&E eventually settled the lawsuit to the tune of $333 million, but unfortunately for the citizens of Hinkley, you can’t buy back your health.
  • Oh, and in 1979 there was that whole Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident, which better safety enforcement could well have prevented.
Financial:
  • 1929’s Wall Street Crash, which caused the Great Depression, made homeless paupers out of literally millions of Americans, and pointed out the glaring lack of regulation in the financial industry. The up-side was that the resulting regulatory framework, the Glass-Steagall Act, kept us out of nationwide trouble for the next 70 years.
  • Nevertheless, in the 1980s, an under-regulated banking system led to the infamous Savings and Loan scandal during the Reagan/Bush years, in which nearly 750 S&Ls collapsed and had to be bailed out by (you guessed it) the U.S. taxpayer.
  • And of course, the current “Great Recession” we’re living through today, precipitated by the dismantling of the Glass-Steagall protections at the urging of big financial corporations.
Oil Spills
  • In 1910/1911, the Lakeview Gusher in California spilled an estimated 123 million tons of oil before it was stopped.
  • In 1977, the vessel Hawaiian Patriot spilled roughly 95,000 tons of oil off of Honolulu, HI.
  • In 1989, the Exxon Valdez spilled about 37,000 tons of oil in Prince William Sound, AK.
  • In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sunk in the Gulf of Mexico, leaking an amount of oil that is expected to surpass the record set by the Lakeview Gusher, before finally being contained.
Even in our own back yard, right here in Washington State, poor regulation over the construction industry and a complete lack of legal protection for homeowners has led to shoddy home construction that has wiped out the life’s savings of thousands of Washington families.

All of these disasters and tragedies, plus hundreds of others, are attributable either in whole or in part to this same “failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility” and that puts profits over people in every instance.

So thank you, Mr. President, for calling out this philosophy for what it is: failed, morally bankrupt in every possible sense, and just plain bad for America.

I have no problem with corporations making a profit, so long as they do it under an appropriate regulatory framework with vigorous enforcement. Because time and time again (and again and again and again), history has shown that corporations will always choose profits over people. In the end, it’s you and me who have to pay the price for their greed, and that’s just wrong.

Who governs the the AWB? Early I-1053 endorsement demonstrates it isn't the board

This morning, the Washington State Labor Council disclosed that it has been researching the Association of Washington Business' unusual early endorsement of Tim Eyman's Initiative 1053, polling prominent AWB members to discern whether they had anything to do with the endorsement.

For those who don't know, the AWB is basically the state-level chamber of commerce, and, as such, it claims to represent a very diverse group of people. Naturally, just as there are progressive and conservative activists, there are progressive and conservative businesspeople, and their inability to agree has resulted in the AWB remaining neutral in many initiative battles.

Three years ago, I spoke against Initiative 960 (which Initiative 1053 is modeled upon) at an AWB retreat on Hood Canal. I explained that Initiative 1053 is unconstitutional, undemocratic, unsound, and unfair.

I pointed out that Tim Eyman and Michael Dunmire (who were also at the retreat speaking in favor of their scheme) want to change the rules because they're not in power. I thought my message got across.

Again, that was in 2007.

Fast forward to 2010. It's the middle of spring, Eyman's scheme isn't even on the ballot yet, and without even inviting opponents to make their case, the notoriously neutral AWB is suddenly fully behind Washington's Grover Norquist clone:
Employer representatives on the Association of Washington Business’ Board of Directors have voted unanimously to support Initiative 1053, a measure requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes. Board members approved the vote May 13 during the state chamber of commerce’s annual Spring Board Meeting in Spokane.

“Taxes and increased costs on business are the top issue of concern for our members right now,” said AWB President Don Brunell. “This fall’s elections will undoubtedly be about the impact of taxes on families and businesses. Our board felt strongly enough about this measure to provide an early endorsement, in the hopes of raising the visibility of the issue among voters.”
Curiously, the press release that paragraph is from was distributed on May 18th, several days after the "Spring Board Meeting". Why didn't AWB announce the news the next day (May 14th?) Maybe it has something to do with this:
Boeing and Microsoft say they weren't at the AWB board meeting and they have taken no position on I-1053. So which businesses exactly were at AWB's meeting last month feeling "strongly enough about this measure to provide an early endorsement"? We decided to contact a few dozen of board members representing many of the state's most recognizable companies and organizations. But to date, we have yet to find a single AWB board member who'll admit to being at the May 13 meeting and to voting to endorse I-1053.
And it's not like they didn't try to reach out to people:
"Don Brunell strongly suggested we not respond to you," said AWB board member Santana Gonzales of Chevron. Another board member from a large law firm, thinking he was replying to Brunell's email warning about the WSLC, accidentally responded to us instead, and asked Brunell, "How did they get the board email addresses?" Uh.... Google?

Brunell's Cone of Silence effectively muzzled most of the board (see the list of who we contacted below), but some board members responded anyway. Here are their answers, paraphrased:
  • "I wasn't there" -- The Daily Herald Co., Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center
  • "We have not taken a position on I-1053" -- Weyerhaeuser, Avista Corp.
  • "I wasn't there" and "we have no position on it" -- US Bank
  • "I wasn't there" and "I personally oppose it" -- Bastyr University
  • "We DON'T support I-1053" -- Ben Bridge Jewelers
There was one board member who did declare her support for I-1053 -- although she says she wasn't at the May 13 meeting either. The Courage of Her Convictions Prize™ goes to... (drumroll, please)... Cherie Myers, Director of Public Affairs for Safeway!

Myers responded, "I was not there to vote, but I would support this initiative."

We assume this means that Safeway supports I-1053 since the whole point of the AWB and its election endorsements is to represent the interests of employers, and not just the personal politics of individual business lobbyists, right?
Yeah, exactly.

The WSLC's research just goes to show how unrepresentative the Association of Washington Business really is. They're so unrepresentative that it appears that only AWB staff attend AWB board meetings.

When I heard the news about the AWB endorsing Initiative 1053, my immediate reaction was, I guess Don Brunell railroaded an endorsement through his board.

Since I am not an expert on AWB's rules and bylaws (in contrast to Brunell, who obviously is), I don't know precisely how he did it. But I'm confident he was responsible for ramrodding it through. He needed the authority to use AWB's resources to help out Washington's most famous snake oil salesman.

It appears that something similar may have happened over at the Association of Washington Bankers. U.S. Bank claims to have no position on Initiative 1053, and a U.S. Bank officer (Byron Richards) is board chairman, yet the Association for some reason wrote a nice big check to Eyman's campaign coffers.

How did that happen?

Business trade groups love to talk about accountability and transparency in government, but it turns out they don't practice what they preach.

Surprise, surprise.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sports Saturday: Streaming FIFA World Cup online, plus thoughts on Pac-10 expansion

We don't usually delve into the realm of spectator sports here on The Advocate, because this is a blog about politics and policy, covering real issues that we face as a region, as a nation, and as a democratic society.

But it can't hurt every once in a while to take a break.

I've heard several sports pundits lament how unfortunate it is that Americans aren't interested in soccer like the rest of the world, and what a shame it is that the United States is ignoring the FIFA World Cup. But that's not been true in my experience. Everywhere I've gone for the last couple of days, people have been talking about the Cup. It didn't hurt that America was playing England this morning in a much-anticipated match, which the U.S. "won" by forcing a draw.

As it so happens, I was streaming the game (volume muted) whilst listening to candidates talk to the King County Democrats Endorsement Committee. (I sit on the committee, and we had a whole day's worth of candidates to interview).

And when I went to the electronics store later, the game was on there, and people were watching it and commenting about it while walking down aisles. I heard conversations about the Cup at the post office, too.

Before the game began I was looking around for the best place to stream it online, and it turns out that it's not so easy to view the matches if you don't have a television set or can't take advantage of one. I ended up using Univision's live stream, which was pretty good. It didn't matter that I hardly know Spanish, because I was only watching, not listening.

If you want an English stream, you'll probably want to check out ESPN, although ESPN is not streaming all sixty-four of the matches.

There are also live soccer channels on Justin.tv and UStream. TV Bunch has a schedule of which matches will be streamed when, in case you're an aficionado.

I've got too much going on to watch every game, but I'll be following the results, so at least I'm not uninformed.

While I'm on the subject of spectator sports, I might as well offer my thoughts on the expansion of the Pac-10, which calls itself the Conference of Champions.

Since before I was born, the Pac-10 has consisted of ten schools: Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, California, Southern California, Stanford, California Los Angeles (UCLA), Arizona, and Arizona State. All these "Left Coast" schools are located in the Pacific time zone, and all are reasonably close to the Pacific Ocean, so the conference's name was befitting.

But now, wanting to take advantage of the financial windfalls that are expected to come with enlargement, the Pac-10 is seeking to expand. It has already gobbled up Colorado and several more schools are expected to follow, shattering the Big Twelve conference. The other new schools are from Oklahoma and Texas... states that are nowhere close to the Pacific Ocean.

I have mixed feelings about the expansion. On the one hand, it's nice to have a bigger conference; a larger group of schools means more opponents for each, and the Pacific schools will be able to build stronger ties with schools in the middle of the country. On the other hand, it means the Pac-10 as we know it is history.

It's true that with the addition of the new schools, the conference could be subdivided and we could once again have the old "Pac-8" division consisting of the California, Washington, and Oregon schools. But the overall conference name will have to be changed. I'd like to throw in my nomination for the new name.

How's this sound: Mighty West.

It's short, it's punchy, it avoids the word "big" (which is overused) and it's appropriate. All the schools in the conference will be west of the Missisippi River, traditionally considered to be the American West. And, with sixteen competitive schools, the superconference will be surely be mighty.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tim Eyman got May boost from Conoco Phillips, Tesoro, industry associations

For many years, Tim Eyman has derided the state's business community — "Big Business" — as one of his enemies. But this year, with his sugar daddy Michael Dunmire apparently unwilling to cover the cost of hiring mercenaries to collect signatures for Eyman's schemes, the Mukilteo profiteer has turned to some new corporate friends to fill his coffers with cash.

Eyman's new pals include Cononco Phillips and Tesoro and two trade associations: the Washington Bankers Association and the Washington Restaurants Association. The former three donated $25,000 and the latter donated $20,000, all in May. Each contribution was made during a different week last month.

Eyman didn't waste time transferring the money to Roy Ruffino's Citizen Solutions to pay petitioners. Eyman wrote half a dozen five figure checks to Citizen Solutions in May alone. If Citizen Solutions was paying its mercenaries fifty cents a signature, then Eyman would have gained hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Progressives hardly need another reason to dislike either Conoco Phillips or Tesoro (which are part of the dirty fossil fuels industry), but now we've got one. The bankers' association's support of Tim Eyman is especially ironic and badly timed considering that America's common wealth is the only reason our banking system didn't collapse when the Great Recession hit home in 2008.

Seeing that contribution on the PDC's website this morning also makes me glad that NPI does not bank with a bank. Instead, we belong to a credit union, and like every other member, we are a part owner of our credit union. It's our financial institution, always looking out for our economic security.

If you haven't moved your money to a credit union yet, let the bankers' support of Initiative 1053 serve as an inspiration. Officers from the following banks are currently serving on the Banker's Association board in some capacity:
  • U.S. Bank (Byron L. Richards, Chairman)
  • Fortune Bank (Dave Straus, Chairman-Elect)
  • Viking Bank (Patrick Redmond, Immediate Past Chairman)
  • Bank of America (Kerry Biddle, Treasurer)
  • Cashmere Valley Bank (Ken Martin, Government Relations Committee Rep)
  • Northwest Commercial Bank (Kurt Graff, WBA PROS Chairman)
  • Columbia Bank (Melanie Dressel, Director)
  • Washington Trust Bank (Jack Heath, Director)
  • The Bank of the Pacific (Dennis Long, Director)
  • Cascade Bank (Carol Nelson, Director)
  • Community 1st Bank (Eric Pearson, Director)
  • Sound Community Bank (Laurie Stewart, Director)
  • Wells Fargo (Patrick Yalung, Director)
According to the WBA's website, the above named individuals are " responsible for the prudent stewardship of the fiscal resources of the association." That means they are the ones who approved the $25,000 contribution to Tim Eyman's latest attempt to wreck representative government in Washington.

Shame on them.

How fitting that the WBA's current treasurer is from Bank of America, one of the most corrupt, greedy, and powerful banks in the world, and one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, otherwise known as the bank bailout. Have you no shame, Kerry Biddle? You and your cohorts? Benefiting from our common wealth while simultaneously working to undermine it?

No doubt you're afraid the Legislature is going to revoke some of the special tax breaks you currently enjoy when it convenes again and faces another big budget deficit. So you prudently decided to write a check to Washington's most shameless politician, who represents the antithesis of everything that is good about our state, and who once took hundreds of thousands of dollars of his supporters' money and pocketed it for his own personal profit while lying about it.

Nice move.

As for the Restaurants Association, their board of directors is comprised of people from the following establishments:
  • S & S Hospitality, Inc. (Steve Simmons, Chair)
  • CenterTwist, Inc. (Vice Chair, Co-Chair of Government Affairs Committee)
  • Consolidated Restaurants (Jim Rowe, Sec/Treasurer and Jeremy Anderson)
  • Schwartz Brothers Restaurants (Michael Carr, Immediate Past Chair)
  • Grady's Consulting (Christopher Grady)
  • Señor Froggy of Spokane (Dave and Lisa Hooke)
  • McDonald's, Bellevue (Ernesto Simas)
  • Anheuser Busch Companies (Jim Anderson)
  • The Hostess House (Julie Morley, Southwest Chapter Chair)
  • Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro (Janet Lightner)
  • Twinco, Inc., doing business as Wendy's in Seattle (Jas Sangha)
  • Occasions Catering & Special Events (Jennie Hannah)
  • Spazzo Italian Grill (Naja Hogander)
  • Chalet Bowl (Reggie Frederick)
  • Washington Athletic Club (Robert Bonina)
  • Dickinson Northwest, Inc. (Scott Dickinson and Steve Stoddard)
  • Hilton of Vancouver, Washington (Gerry Link)
  • RAM International (Jeff Iverson)
There aren't any businesses noted here that I regularly patronize, but I'll be printing this list out to put in my car to make sure that I do not dine or do business with any of these places for the foreseeable future.

I'm actually not surprised to see the Restaurant Association supporting I-1053, however, because they have long been a right wing industry trade group. They endorsed Dino Rossi for governor in 2008. They seem to often be in cahoots with the odious National Federation of Independent Business, which is one of the most noxious right wing lobbies in America.

It's nice to know who they're run by, however. Boycotting an entire industry because of the actions of one trade group is silly and impractical. Conversely, having a very specific list of places not to patronize is useful.

(I already avoid shopping at Bellevue Square as a general rule because it is owned by Eyman contributor and Sound Transit foe Kemper Freeman, Jr. who would happily pave over paradise if he could.)

The Restaurant Association, incidentally, issued a press release a week ago touting its support for Intiative 1053. The release lied about the level of support for Initiative 1053's previous incarnation:
During the 2010 Legislative session, the Legislature temporarily repealed the two-thirds majority requirement, despite Washington voters having overwhelmingly favored this mandate, as recently as 2007 with the passage of I-960.
This is erroneous. Fifty one percent (that was the I-960 yes vote) is not overwhelming, let alone a mandate. A mandate is significant. Big. A mandate is something like sixty six percent. That's the level of support that Initiative 688 — which automatically adjusts the state's minimum wage to protect workers — received in 1998. Guess who was against Initiative 688?

That's right. The Washington Restaurant Association. The state voters' pamphlet actually listed Russ Goodman of the WRA as one of the people responsible for submitting arguments against the initiative.

We don't know at this point exactly how well Eyman's signature drive has been going. A recent memo from Association of Washington business president Don Brunell, who has been trying to drum up support for Initiative 1053, stated the initiative only had 160,000 signatures (Eyman needs around 300,000).

I can't think of a reason why Brunell would lowball the number, and yet we're hearing that the paid signature drive for Initiative 1053 is ending today. Why else would it stop unless Eyman had the requisite signatures?

We've been expecting that Eyman would be able to buy his way onto the ballot, and we're still operating under that assumption. NPI will be at the forefront of the fight against Initiative 1053, all through the summer and into the autumn.

It's going to be tough to beat, but with a smart, well executed and imaginative campaign, we can defeat Tim Eyman for the third year in a row.