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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Suzan DelBene's path to victory: Three factors that make a 2010 upset in WA-08 possible

Full Disclosure: I am a supporter and volunteer for Suzan DelBene's campaign.

Two years ago, after Darcy Burner lost for the second time, Eastside Democrats and progressives were heartbroken. The Democratic Party had fielded a nationally recognized candidate with strong netroots support, who seemed headed for victory after a strong first attempt in 2006. Unfortunately, Darcy couldn't manage to seal the deal with voters, and Reichert narrowly escaped defeat again.

The conventional wisdom in the wake of 2008 was that Reichert's seat was secure. But that didn't stop Suzan DelBene, a political newcomer with a deep business background, from stepping forward to run. Undaunted by others' indifference, she began quietly building a campaign organization and laying the groundwork for a challenge to Reichert. Now, with less than seventy two hours to go, she's one of the few Democratic challengers in the country who stands a decent chance of pulling off an upset in a tough cycle.

Here are three factors that make an upset in WA-08 possible this Tuesday.

First, Suzan is invested in her own success. It's been said that money is the mother's milk of politics, and unfortunately, it's true.

It takes a lot of money to win a congressional race. Expenses include ads, literature, field staff, campaign offices, parade fees, and the like.

Reports for the most recent quarter showed DelBene with more cash raised than Reichert. DelBene was one of only six Democratic challengers who raised more money than their Republican opponents. Although she has done well in fundraising, she's also not hesitated to tap her own wealth. She recently injected another $1,350,000 into her campaign treasury.

Furthermore, DelBene was recently added to Daily Kos' Orange to Blue list on ActBlue, raising over $27,000 in small donations in the past week.

In addition, Congressman Reichert has lost the institutional support from the National Republican Congressional Committee which buoyed him through the 2006 and 2008 elections.

Second, DelBene has benefited from Reichert's awful record as a congressman. In the last few months, Reichert has opposed equal pay for women, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Act, and the The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Reichert also infamously told Republican precinct committee officers he only breaks with his party on the issue of environmental protection to keep the likes of the Sierra Club and Washington Conversation Voters "out of the game".

Conservatives like Ernest Huber can't stand him because he isn't uncompromising like some of the insurgent Tea Party candidates (though his voting record makes him look like one). Republicans who identify as partial progressives may be attracted to DelBene because of her business background and her pragmatic mindset.

Both Ernest Huber and Tim Dillon got over 5% of the vote in the primary election.

Third, when interest in voting is high, Democrats tend to do better; this has been documented. (Republicans, conversely, have the advantage in low-turnout elections). Secretary of State Sam Reed is predicting sixty six percent turnout this year, with our U.S. Senate race and many ballot measures driving turnout.

High interest could help Democrats overcome the so-called "enthusiasm gap" and provide crucial support for Democrats DelBene, who started early and laid the groundwork necessary to take advantage of a late groundswell in the home stretch. It's not just Suzan who could use a boost. Many Democratic legislators found themselves behind Republican challengers in the August 17th election, and are considered by the establish to be in danger of losing their seats.

If Suzan is to win, it's gonna take a full-fledged get-out-the vote effort. Democratic activists who want to help capture the 8th are being urged to sign up for canvassing and phonebanking shifts.

There isn't much time left, so readers who don't want to go back to the exact same agenda of the Bush error should contemplate getting involved.

Rick Larsen urges young people to mail in ballots, help with Democratic GOTV efforts

As Election Day draws closer, candidates across Washington State are making the most of opportunities to meet with and rally supporters.

For instance, Patty Murray is traveling around Washington in a campaign tour bus, and today Rick Larsen visited Western Washington University in order to motivate the student vote. Larsen spoke in an event which included a live stream John Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity/And Or Fear and a speech by Jean Melious, a Western professor and head of the Whatcom County Plannng Commission who is running for Whatcom County Council Position 1.

Larsen naturally talked about getting out the vote, which is especially important because Larsen is considered to be a tight contest with John Koster. Larsen's objective is to get more young Democrats to mail in their ballots. Only fifteen percent of likely voters are younger than thirty four, and Koster has a larger share of the vote of those who have already voted.

Those in the room at Western seemed to be students who have already decided and cast their ballot, but, as Larsen said, young people are normally late voters, and he was on campus in part to convince the faithful to spread the word, as well as phonebank and canvass the area, including the student dorms, in the last few hours before the deadline arrives to postmark ballots.

Larsen also spoke about Koster's anti-education agenda and potential options left to Democrats if Republicans take over the House this election.

Current polls show Larsen slightly ahead of Koster, and his campaign team is working feverishly to ensure his reelection. Congressman Larsen is confident that he will win, and if election history is any indication, he will, having beaten Koster in an open contest for the seat a decade ago.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Suspicious packages bound for United States contain explosive material, President says

Two packages, bound for Jewish synagogues in the United States, were intercepted abroad and found to contain explosive material, President Obama confirmed today at White House press briefing.

The packages, which originated in Yemen, were found and examined last night, according to authorities. The discoveries prompted searches of cargo aircraft and trucks at several locations here in the United States, including at Newark Liberty and Philadelphia International Airports, to see whether there might be additional packages with similar material in transit. None have been identified yet so far.

The United States' two largest courier firms each said they were assisting federal security and intelligence agencies in the investigation.

"UPS is fully cooperating with authorities who are monitoring reports of potentially suspicious packages on board cargo flights," the United Parcel Service said in a statement. "We can confirm that authorities have investigated two aircraft in Philadelphia and one in Newark. All of these aircraft have landed safely. Security is of the utmost importance to UPS."

"In cooperation with the FBI, local authorities have confiscated a suspicious package at the FedEx facility in Dubai," FedEx said.

"The shipment originated in Yemen and as an additional safety measure, FedEx has embargoed all shipments originating from Yemen. The Company is cooperating fully with the authorities on this matter; any additional information regarding this matter must come from the FBI."

There has been some speculation that the intercepted packages were a "dry run", intended to test the feasibility of having bombs delivered by shipping companies. But if terrorists wanted to send bombs through UPS and FedEx, why wouldn't they give it their best shot the first go-around? It seems more likely that this is a terrorist prank, meant to scare us and get us stirred up. That's not to say that counterterrorism officials shouldn't treat this as a major threat; they should. News networks, on the other hand, should avoid blowing this out of proportion and ginning up a hard news scare-a-thon right before Halloween.

One final thought: It's kind of ridiculous that we have put so much energy and money into "security measures" that result in harassed and inconvenienced passengers at airports, when terrorist have other ways of striking at us.

Our own senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell know this, which is why they've been working on increasing security at our ports the last several years. We should be scanning all cargo that comes in from abroad, including everything that's in those mammoth shipping containers.

Forget high tech scanners designed to peer into Americans' bodily orifices... let's do a better job of inspecting what's going through our ports.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Washington is not the new Florida

Poll-centric blogger Nate Silver published a post a few hours ago on his New York Times blog trying to make sense out of the many polls that have been conducted in our U.S. Senate race, and reminding his readers that our electoral process is different from other states because we vote almost entirely by mail.

What bothered me most about the post is not so much the content, but the headline. Silver's analysis doesn't justify the title that he gave his post. What he's basically trying to say is that Washington is an important bellwether state this cycle, but his choice of words seems to suggest that our Senate race will be close and that ballot-counting will be messy before a victor becomes apparent.

Which is funny, because that's what I remember pundits saying about the 2008 gubernatorial rematch between Chris Gregoire and Dino Rossi.

It was guaranteed to be close, the belief was, simply because Rossi had come so close in 2004, and challenged the election in court.

But it wasn't close. At all.

We knew that night that Chris Gregoire was the winner, and Rossi conceded the next morning, fading from the political scene for a year and a half.

When a friend or journalist asks me to analyze a race, I don't rush to the computer screen to find out what the latest polls say. I prefer to look at electoral history for insight. And electoral history has shown that Patty Murray has repeatedly triumphed after being underestimated by the pundits and by Republicans.

It was said that she couldn't win in 1992. She did. It was said that she couldn't win in 1998. She did. It was said that she couldn't win in 2004. She did.

If those past victories are any indication, Patty Murray is going to win again, and will be gracing the front covers of state newspapers on November 3rd with a big smile, having defeated Dino Rossi by a comfortable margin. This isn't a prediction by me; it's just simple probability. I don't need a poll to tell me that incumbents usually win, no matter how hostile the political climate is.

In the last decade or so, we've had one extremely close gubernatorial race (2004) and one very close senatorial race (2000). There was no Democratic incumbent in either of those contests, however. No Democratic incumbent has been bested in a statewide race in Washington since before I became an activist. The last Republican to be elected to the U.S. Senate in Washington was Slade Gorton in 1994. He defeated then-future King County Executive Ron Sims, 56% to 44%, and was narrowly ousted by Maria Cantwell just before the turn of the century.

I bring all this up because I don't think polls tell the whole story. Pundits and poll aficionados like Silver love sifting data so much that they can't resist playing with numbers, even if the research that produced those numbers is suspect.

(Markos Moulitsas, who is a fan of Nate's, found out the hard way that polling isn't always reliable or accurate. A few months ago, he got burned badly by the now-defunct Research 2000, which he promptly sued for generating bogus data.)

Even if our Senate race turns out to be extremely close, it's unfair to say that "Washington is the new Florida". If the Murray/Rossi race drags into December, we're not going to be hearing about butterfly ballots or hanging chads. Nor are we going to hear about mishaps at King County Elections, which has modernized its operations and significantly beefed up security.

State law is very clear on what happens in the event of a very tight race. There's an automatically triggered machine recount of our paper ballots, and then a hand recount, if the losing side wishes to put up the money to pay for it. The victor of the hand recount gets certified as the winner.

But again, the chances of the Senate contest being as close as the 2004 gubernatorial contest was are low. Dino Rossi isn't a fresh face running for an open seat. He's a known quantity who is campaigning on the failed policies of the past. Washingtonians didn't endorse his extreme right wing agenda when Bush was running, and we're no more likely to this year.

Why privatization of government operations (especially prisons) is a really bad idea

This morning, I was listening to NPR on the way in to work when I heard their investigative report on how Arizona's horrible new "papers please" fascist-style immigration law came into existence.

The whole story is highly worth reading or listening to.

But the gist of it is: the bill was invented by the for-profit prison corporations. Think about it. For them, it's just good business. They run prisons, and get to charge the government on a per prisoner, per day basis. So the more people they can get into their prisons, the more money they make.

Their product, as it were, is incarcerated people.

Which is kind of a funny (but not ha-ha funny) business to be in. Because they can't just manufacture incarcerated people. They can't go pull people off the streets themselves. Rather, they need the government to go out and arrest, try, and convict people on their behalf.

It's pretty straightforward, really. In order for their business to grow, they need the government to arrest more and more people. So their growth model becomes "what new groups of people can we commoditize by getting the government to take their liberty away?" Easy answer: brown people. Go after the immigrants.

Listening to all that in the car this morning made me, well, pretty disgusted. But then it got me thinking. It's always this way when government services get privatized. It's a question of motive.

When "small government" types get their way and allow activities once performed by government to be turned into private, for-profit industries, it's always this way. It's inevitable. When the government runs the prisons, it's not doing so out of any desire for profit. When government runs the prisons, that's a cost sink that takes money away from roads, education, and everything else.

The incentive, then, is to keep people out of prison. Which in turn means investing in prisoner education programs, worker retraining, drug treatment, urban revitalization, Head Start, and hundreds of other such programs.

Keeping people out of prison means investing in the very things that make everyone's lives better in the first place.

But when the "small government" greed-heads get their way and privatize the prison system, the motive completely changes. They win by keeping people in prison, and by finding ways to get more people into prison. And because they bill these "services" back to the government, their motive is to find ways to make prison more expensive, not cheaper.

And what do you think is happening inside the prison? Well, for the for-profit prison company, recidivism is a good thing. It's repeat business.

But prisoner services like education and job training cost real money. The for-profit prison system will look for every way it can to cut services, while maximizing the number of people they hold and the amount of time they hold them for.

The whole point of prison is to take people who have sinned against society out of society for a while, so they can think about what they've done, and come back as better people who won't sin against us again. Seems to me that privatization, and the profit-motive that comes with it, is kind of the opposite of that.

If appeals to the long-term good of society don't move you (or, if you know they won't move your right-wing neighbor), there's always this. Privatizing government services always ends up costing you more. Always. Every single time.

Privatized prisons cost you more — even if you are a one hundred percent law obeying citizen — because you pay for those prisons through your taxes. Privatizing prisons is just a way for the owners and shareholders in for-profit prison corporations to pick the pockets of law abiding citizens.

After all, prisoners don't pay taxes.

Privatized healthcare costs you more. We all know this.

Americans pay way more for healthcare and health insurance than people who live in countries that have nationalized healthcare. We can argue the specifics all day long, but there's no denying that our money is going to corporations whose motive is profit, not health and wellness.

So they'll raise rates as high and as fast as they can, while looking for every way possible to deny service. It may be evil, but come on. It's just good business.

It's the same with Social Security. The incessant calls to privatize it amount to replacing government's motive of "enabling seniors to live with some dignity rather than in destitute squalor" with a private-sector motive of profit.

Which means exactly two things: figure out how to raise Social Security withholding rates on younger, working age citizens, while simultaneously figuring out how to reduce the benefits paid out to seniors.

It may be evil to push our parents and grandparents out onto the streets, but come on. It's just good business.

Pick any other example you want. Find me a case where the "small government" types want to privatize something, and I'll show you how it's going to cost you more and reduce everyone's overall quality of life.

Every. Damn. Time.

That's the thing, folks. Happiness is not always profitable. There are social goods — situations or services which are beneficial to the happiness of everyone in society, generally — which are fundamentally incompatible with the profit motive.

For any such thing, it simply isn't moral to supply the investment and infrastructure necessary for it through private enterprise.

It's not moral to try to supply healthcare because it kills people for profit. In a purely for-profit system, it's too easy to raise profits by denying care, and then people die.

It's not moral to privatize Social Security, because the inevitable result will be reducing the independence of seniors. That's not good for them. It's not good for their children, who are having a hard enough time making ends meet as it is without also needing to chip in for their parents' housing and care years earlier than they otherwise would have.

And it's not moral to privatize prisons, to turn the liberty of human beings into collateral damage in the relentless pursuit of profit.

Privatization is always a bad idea, because it changes the motives.

What's on the ballot next Tuesday where you live? Any initiatives, referenda, or propositions relating to privatizing any activities currently performed by your state or local government? If there are, do yourself — and your society — a favor. Think long and very, very hard, before endorsing such a scheme.

Because in the long run, you'll always pay.

NO on 1107: Reject soda lobby's attempt to buy favorable laws at Washington's expense

As our economy remained mired in recession earlier this year, the state Legislature passed 2ESSB 6143, which, among other things, extended the sales tax to candy, bottled water (exceptions being for medical use or people without potable water) and carbonated beverages, in order to preserve funding for vital public services.

The Legislature's move angered the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, and their bottlers so much that they spent millions buying signatures in an successful attempt to force a public vote on that part of the budget. They've now spending millions more in an attempt to buy our votes.

What they don't want you to understand is that candy and soda are classified by the federal government as foods of minimal nutritional value. They are not necessities in any Washington household, not necessary to sustain life; merely luxuries that we enjoy. Indeed, candy and soda have played a part (among other factors) in the obesity crisis facing people today.

As of two days ago, the aforementioned companies, through the American Beverage Association, had poured $16,731,050 into the campaign to pass I-1107, according to the Public Disclosure Commission.

The ABA is responsible for 99.9999% of the money behind Initiative 1107. Only $10,801.61 has come from individuals. Of that amount, $9,775 was contributed by two local lobbyists who represent — you guessed it — the Washington Soft Drink Association and the Northwest Automatic Vending Association.

So the amount that has been donated to the campaign by average Washingtonians who would be affected by the tax, and not industry insiders, is actually $1,026.61. Make no mistake, this campaign is being funded by outside interests.

It's not as if the soft drink industry has fallen on hard times. Coca-Cola has reported that their third quarter profits are up, with a net income of $2.06 billion. PepsiCo announced improvement of its bottom line in the third quarter with profits of $1.92 billion. And while Dr Pepper Snapple Group's income may have fallen by five percent, its net income for the third quarter was reported earlier today as $144 million.

Why should these greedy, out of state interests dictate whether or not our children have first-rate schools or whether or not a citizen of Washington can have health care? Why should the soft drink and candy industries get special tax breaks they don't need?

Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Dr Pepper are not representing our interests. They act they're accountable to nobody, not even their own shareholders. They're only concerned with their bottom line: selling more of their products. And our common wealth should not be wasted on entities that provide such little return on investment.

On or before November 2nd, help put a stop to one of the biggest corporate power grabs in Washington State history. Stop greed and vote NO on I-1107.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

President Barack Obama graces The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for a full half hour

A few hours ago, President Barack Obama became the first sitting Commander in Chief to appear on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, engaging in a healthy and substantive half-hour discussion about his administration's record and his efforts to move our country forward.

The show, taped at the District of Columbia's Harman Center for the Arts (the Daily Show's home while it is in our nation's capital) was the first ever to consist entirely of nothing but an interview, which seems entirely appropriate considering that the guest was America's chief executive.

President Obama sits down with The Daily Show's Jon Stewart
Photo by Pete Souza, courtesy of the White House

It actually ran long, ending about six minutes after The Colbert Report normally would have begun. No part of the interview was cut from the broadcast.

Moments after the show opened, Stewart introduced the President, who stood and waved in appreciation of the audience's enthusiasm.

After presenting the President with "Mug Force One", Stewart quickly initiated a serious conversation with Obama about the administration's successes and failings, asking a series of gently provocative questions.

The President defended his record, but acknowledged that "change doesn't happen overnight". He was pensive and observant in his answers. The conversation didn't really cover any new territory, but it was far more substantive and meaningful than much of what passes for political discourse on cable. The essential question which underpinned the whole discussion seemed to be, What happened to the transformational change we were promised in 2008?

The President made some important points while attempting to answer that question. He cited the filibuster as a problem, noting that it isn't in the Constitution, has been abused in this Congress to an unprecedented degree, and essentially gives the Republicans veto power over the Democratic majority. The President further explained that the filibuster works against compromise and negotiation, because it pushes people in opposite directions.

(The same is true of Tim Eyman's Initiative 1053, which is an attempt by corporate lobbyists to give Republican legislators the ability block revenue-raising bills in the Graveyard of Progress).

He also alluded to gerrymandering, observing that many House districts are drawn so that they're easier for one party to hold on to.

The President bristled when Stewart described the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as "timid" — a word that many progressives would find appropriate, at least when comparing the bill to what it might have been.

"Jon, I love your show, but this is something where I have a profound disagreement with you," he said. "This notion that health care was timid... This is what most people would say is as significant a piece of legislation as we have seen in this country's history."

It's certainly significant, considering how difficult it is to move anything through Congress, but the problem is, it's where we needed to be decades ago. President Obama didn't say this, but he could have reminded everybody that Democrats had a chance to bargain with Nixon, and held out for too much.

If they had been willing to settle for a more incremental bill then, we might be further along the path to single-payer today than we are.

Contemplating the larger question, What happened to the transformational change we were promised in 2008?, the President said as the interview drew to a close, "I guess on all these issues, my attitude is, if we are making progress step by step and inch by inch, then we are being true to the spirit of the campaign."

"I would say yes we can, but... it's not going to happen overnight."

It's true that many people had unrealistic expectations of what Obama could accomplish before he took office. That said, the administration has moved at a snail's pace in addressing some of the transgressions of the Bush error. The President has done little to reverse the assault on our civil liberties, for instance. The Patriot Act is still on the books and the Justice Department is still defending policies instituted by George W. Bush and his minions in federal court.

What's more, the President refuses to order the Department of Justice to quit defending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in court, even though he himself says the policy is indefensible and wants Congress to abolish it.

The President and his team need to express more empathy for their base. Because taking your friends for granted is a mistake. Real leadership and wise governance require two-way communication — a key progressive value.

The administration made some significant progress on this front today by sending the President to The Daily Show and hosting five leading progressive bloggers at the White House for an on-the-record conversation.

If they're smart, they'll make aggressive and genuine outreach a priority from now on, and they'll actively work to build bridges instead of inadvertently burning them.

POSTSCRIPT: USA Today has a surprisingly excellent review of President Obama's appearance on The Daily Show, by Robert Bianco. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Court injunction against LimeWire won't kill forks of LimeWire... or Gnutella

Today a federal judge ordered the company behind LimeWire — which is one of the earliest post-Napster filesharing clients — to effectively cripple installations of the software from afar by making use of a backdoor it had baked into recent versions.

Most of the media coverage I've seen about the injunction has been pretty spare in terms of context, because the articles are being written by overworked and underpaid journalists who don't understand the technology.

What most of these reports don't explain is that LimeWire is an application, or a client, for accessing a decentralized network, not a centrally-controlled service like Napster. The "official" LimeWire client is being rendered inoperable by its distributor through backdoors, but that won't mean an end to Gnutella, the network that LimeWire served as a portal to.

Nor does the court injunction mean an end to the unbranded application itself. See, LimeWire is free software. Its source code is freely available... anybody can modify it and distribute it themselves. And, in fact, this has been happening for years.

When Lime Group was first hauled into court by the recording industry earlier this decade, a number of developers, concerned that backdoors might be built into future versions of LimeWire, forked the project and created FrostWire. Since FrostWire isn't under the control of Lime Group, it is unaffected by the judge's order. Moreover, it can't be shut down even if a judge wanted it to be, because it doesn't contain the backdoors that were put into LimeWire.

And FrostWire is just one fork. There are others, like MP3 Rocket and Cabos. And of course, there are Gnutella clients that do not share LimeWire's heritage at all, like Gnucleus/GnucDNA, gtk-gnutella, Symella, Phex, or KCeasy. Those examples I just named are all free software, so it is impossible to get rid of them.

Gilmore's Law, stated by libertarian John Gilmore, holds that the Internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it.

In other words, an entity that wants to suppress something (whether it be a photograph, a program, a text, or something else) is more likely to succeed in making it more widely available. This has also been called the Streisand effect.

The Recording Industry Association of America has been trying for years to stop people from exchanging music with each other. They haven't succeeded. And they can't succeed, at least not without destroying the Internet as we know it. It's arguably just as easy or easier to find something for download on some far-flung website using Google than it is to find through a Gnutella client. Should Google be shut down because it can be used to find sites that distribute music without authorization from the copyright holder? No, of course not.

Programs like FrostWire can be — and are — used to exchange content that is released under a permissive license like Creative Commons or is in the public domain. That doesn't matter to the RIAA. They want disabled or destroyed what they cannot control. Instead of looking to the future, they are clinging to the past. In the process, they are turning into dinosaurs.

They are making themselves irrelevant.

The RIAA can claim that it won today, but LimeWire's court-ordered destruction is a hollow victory. LimeWire will live on through its forks, and Gnutella will continue to operate. People who have been using LimeWire are more likely to seek out a replacement like FrostWire than whip out their credit card and pay an RIAA-sanctioned distributor for their tunes. That's the reality that's missing from the shallowly-researched traditional media articles about the injunction.

NO on I-1082: Reject the insurance industry's latest ploy to pad their profits at our expense

For nearly a hundred years, the workers’ compensation program in our state — commonly referred to as L&I after the Department of Labor & Industries, which runs it — has provided Washingtonians with insurance coverage for work-related injuries, lost-time compensation, medical care and other services.

The system currently covers approximately 171,000 employers and nearly eighty percent of Washington’s 3.2 million workers. About three hundred and fifty large employers (such as Boeing, Microsoft and Wal-Mart) opt out and run their own programs in accordance with state standards.

According to numbers provided by the Department of Labor & Industries, their administrative expenses were 17.5 percent of total benefits paid on claims for the period of 1999 to 2008 – about a quarter the national average.

Nonetheless, the system has long been criticized by the state's most powerful right wing lobby, the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), for charging what they claim to be unnecessarily high premiums to businesses in order to offer what they consider to be overly-generous benefits to injured workers.

BIAW has repeatedly lobbied the Legislature to lower costs for employers by allowing early settlement of medical claims.

When those efforts failed earlier this year, BIAW drafted Initiative 1082, which basically stipulates that private insurance providers must be allowed to take over the system, arguing that profit-seeking companies would deliver efficiencies through competition that would benefit consumers.

Allowing private insurance providers access to the workers’ compensation market would certainly increase competition, but the point of industrial insurance is to provide protection to injured workers. It's not about making profits. The aim of I-1082 is to allow big insurers to make more money whilst failing to provide for adequate enforcement or regulatory oversights to protect the public interest.

I-1082 would jeopardize protections that we depend on if we get injured on the job. We know too well from experience how health insurance companies find ways to deny or delay paying claims.

Unfortunately, I-1082 fails to provide safeguards to prevent these kinds of problems. There would be no enforcement mechanisms to protect workers from delays during the claims process, and insurance companies could increase their rates without prior approval from the State Insurance Commissioner.

Of course, shortchanging consumers and injured workers is the only way that insurers would be able to make a profit offering industrial insurance on the private market; their overhead costs in marketing and executive compensation would make them less competitive than L&I, and they’d need to make up the difference somewhere. That’s why BIAW and the insurance industry have written so many gaping loopholes (wide enough to drive a truck through!) into I-1082.

Voters should also be concerned about what would happen if I-1082 were to pass and our state had to transition from a public to a private system. When Connecticut privatized payment of some claims, a private contractor hired college interns to do highly specialized work and charged the state $105 an hour for their time. The state Attorney General concluded that "privatization spawned inefficiency, incompetence and increased costs.”

Voters should be suspicious of wealthy corporations and lobbies that spend big to buy laws that stack the deck in their favor.

I-1082 seeks to dismantle a publicly-administered system that we the people, through our government, have some say over, and allow unaccountable corporations to take over and dictate things. As the old adage goes, it makes no sense to put the foxes in charge of the henhouse. Vote NO on I-1082 and help put a stop to one of the biggest corporate power grabs in Washington's history.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Right wing eliminationist sentenced to prison for threatening Senator Patty Murray

Remember Charles Alan Wilson? The denizen of Selah who was so upset over the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that he made numerous phone calls to Senator Patty Murray's office threatening to kill her?

Well, today was Wilson's last day in court. Following his arrest in late April, he pleaded guilty to the charge of threatening a federal official, and so, as a consequence of his plea, he was sentenced to a year and a day in prison by U.S. District Court Judge John C. Coughenour, a Reagan appointee.

Prior to adjourning, Coughenour read the following magnificent statement, penned by one of his law clerks, Colin George. He explained that he had asked his clerks to write down what they'd tell Wilson when he was sentenced. He liked George's submission so much that he decided to read it aloud in court rather than to use it as an inspiration for his own composition.
Mr. Wilson, I have no doubt in my mind that you are passionate about your country. That you respect the Constitution. And that when you made those phone calls about what you perceived to be the dangers of healthcare reform, you thought you were standing up for what you believed to be American ideals. But I want to remind you about one of the most important American ideals of all.

The presidential election of 1800 was the first time in the history of this planet that power was transferred from one political faction or party to another without bloodshed. Power had transferred between political allies peacefully before, but between enemies, the only transfers had occurred with the help of swords and guns. The American system changed all that.

The very foundation of our system of laws and government, and the promise of democracy is that political change is accomplished through reasoned debate, through persuasion, and through voting.

And we have a word for people who try to effect political change through violence and threats of violence. Just this week, a commentator on one of the major news networks said, and I quote, "Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims." This is about as ignorant, hateful, and bigoted a statement as I can imagine. Terrorism is not a religion.

Terrorism is not an ethnicity. Terrorism is not a color. Terrorism is replacing peaceful political participation with violence.

At the same time, Mr. Wilson, ending terrorism is not a crusade. It's not a clash of civilizations. It should not be an unending war, and it should not be an excuse to limit anyone's freedom, American or not. Ending terrorism requires a commitment to the elimination of violence, coercion, and threats from political life. And when I hear people in the media who proclaim on one hand to be supporters of the "war on terror," while on the other hand stirring up the kind of violent outrage against our elected leaders that you felt, well it makes me think that we have lost our way. And it makes me think we have the wrong defendant here today.

You lost your way, Mr. Wilson. And you let the urge for violence overcome your commitment to reason. And when you did so, you did not just break the law, you betrayed the values about which you are so passionate. Mr. Wilson, I believe that you are sincerely sorry for your actions. And I doubt I will ever see you in my Court again. But as serious as our commitment to peaceful political change is, so must be the punishment for those who seek to effect change through threats and violence.
It's hard to imagine a more fitting response to Wilson's actions than those paragraphs, which weave together history and media criticism into an eloquent defense of our values and our system of government.

Colin George's words remind us that terrorism cannot be defeated with terrorism. Destructive words beget destructive acts, and destructive acts beget more destructive acts. Unfortunately, that wisdom did not guide the Bush administration and Congress' response to the September 11th attacks.

Instead of becoming stronger as a country, we became weaker, because our leaders reacted out of fear instead of courage.

Tolerance and two-way communication are important values in the progressive moral system, but we claim no monopoly on the principles of peace. To the contrary... we wish more conservatives shared our vales, because then we'd have more in common. It's difficult to empathize with a right wing eliminationist, let alone reason with such a person. They make it impossible. You're either with them or you're against them. It's absolute.

It's challenging to fight intolerance without being intolerant. This is the paradox the right wing finds themselves in. They say they're committed to the defeat of America's enemies. For them, any means justifies that end. Eliminationists see progressives as being in the way, so they seek our destruction. They don't seem to realize that holding such beliefs means that they have more in common with the likes of al-Qaeda than their fellow Americans.

We can't fall into the same trap.

As progressives, we must continue to battle hate speech and violence without giving up on the idea of free speech and freedom. That's why we're so glad to see that justice has been served in the case of Charles Alan Wilson.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

FIRED UP at the University of Washington: The Murray/Obama rally, in pictures

That was electrifying!

I've said here on The Advocate before that there's nothing like being at a good old Democratic rally, and I came prepared for a memorable event here at the University of Washington. But this was something else.

This surpassed all of my expectations.

This rally was the most explosive, passion-filled event I've ever covered. It wasn't as big as the KeyArena rally two and a half years ago, but it made up for it with what felt like greater intensity.

The people who came to Hec Edmundson Pavilion today seemed to be there because they wanted to demonstrate their loyalty and their appreciation to the young and charismatic orator they elected two years ago, as well as to Senator Patty Murray, who has never forgotten that being entrusted with great power also means being entrusted with great responsibility.

The crowd was so responsive that at times it was impossible to hear what the person at the podium was saying. The President is somewhat used to this, and he would occasionally lean over the podium to yell out the remainder of an applause line as the arena literally vibrated with sound. But the speakers who came before him had the thrill of being suddenly drowned out at least a couple of times too.

To say the activists here were supercharged would be an understatement. The notion of an "enthusiasm gap" seems like a joke considering what just took place here. This was more like a rock concert than a rally. It was epic.

If you're reading this and think I'm exaggerating, ask somebody who attended. There's no hyperbole in this post. You had to be here.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll end my written account of this rally now, and continue the story in pictures. Ready? Let's go!

Dow Constantine speaks at Murray/Obama rally
Above: King County Executive Dow Constantine opens the main program at Hec Edmundson Pavilion

Suzan DelBene urges activists to turn Dave Reichert out of office
Above: The Democratic nominee in Washington's Eighth Congressional District, Suzan DelBene, addresses her biggest crowd to date

Line outside Hec Edmundson Pavilion
Above: Governor Chris Gregoire reminds Democratic activists that Dino Rossi doesn't share the values of Washington State

Thunderous welcome for President Barack Oba,a
Above: President Obama looks out on the crowd with appreciation as Patty Murray waves from the podium. Cheering and thunderous applause went on for several minutes before Murray could even begin speaking.

President Barack Obama smiles at Senator Patty Murray
Above: President Obama steps forward to speak, acknowledging Senator Patty Murray, who first ran for the Senate in 1992 as the "mom in tennis shoes" and has been consistently underestimated by pundits despite winning three times.


Above: President Obama shakes hands of starry-eyed supporters after delivering his remarks at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

President Obama honors Washington women, urges Democrats to get out the vote

Not long after Barack Obama's first visit to the Evergreen State as President (which occurred on August 17th) I penned a column for Reporter Newspapers calling on both Patty Murray and Dino Rossi to make themselves more accessible to voters, concluding that we would benefit from more retail politics and less stagecraft.

Part of what motivated me to write the column was the fact that the events the President did with Senator Murray weren't even open to the public or even to the press. You had to purchase access to be sure of getting in. The problem was, the minimum entry fee was too steep for many families to afford.

That led me to ask this question:
Why didn’t Murray’s campaign at least schedule a rally to balance out the fundraisers, which cost $500 or more to get into? That would have at least allowed more of Murray’s own volunteers and supporters to catch a glimpse of Barack Obama. And the President enjoys lifting people’s spirits at a rally. He did it many times while on the trail in 2008.
Coincidentally, only a few days after that column's publication, Patty Murray's campaign announced that the President was returning to the Evergreen State to headline a rally at the University of Washington.

I have no doubt that they were already in talks with the White House to make a second trip out here a reality before I wrote my column.

Regardless, it was pretty satisfying to log into my inbox one afternoon in late September and read the media advisory announcing the event.

The President certainly made the most of his second visit to Washington State.

Air Force landed last night at 9:22 PM, bearing down on Boeing Field from the north and making two one hundred and eighty degree turns before coming to a halt in front of the airport's passenger terminal. The President was greeted by Governor Chris Gregoire, Representatives Jim McDermott and Jay Inslee, and King County Executive Dow Constantine, among other Democrats. After talking with them in front of the Lift-a-Loft, the President briskly walked over to the welcoming party behind the metal barrier and shook hands.

His motorcade then departed to his hotel on northbound Interstate 5.

The President began his day today by making an unexpected visit to Top Pot Doughnuts at 9:21 AM, surprising and delighting patrons inside.

"Hey guys," the President said as he walked in, accompanied by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, speechwriter Jon Favreau, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, and White House Trip Director Marvin Nicholson.

Cheers immediately broke out in the doughnut shop.

After shaking hands, the President stepped to the counter and ordered a couple dozen doughnuts for his staff. "I think we've gotta sample everything, right?" the President asked. "So why don't you just give us a sample," he instructed the clerk. "Whatever you recommend."

The President then went upstairs with Senator Patty Murray, and met a family from Virginia and a family from Maryland who were visiting Seattle (what are the odds?)

Returning downstairs, he paid for the doughnuts (leaving a generous tip), paused for a Kodak moment, and then sampled one of the doughnuts.

"This is outstanding," the President said. "You can't eat this every day."

He was gently corrected by one of the Top Pot employees, who explained that some Seattleites do, in fact, stop by daily.

At 9:34 AM the President's motorcade departed downtown. With its path cleared of traffic by Seattle police, it arrived at the Wedgwood home of Erik and Cynnie Foss only four minutes later. The route was lined by enthusiastic crowds, including students from a nearby school that had apparently emptied out entirely.

The Fosses gave the President a gift to take back with him for Malia and Sasha, and after speaking privately with the family for a few minutes, the President went out into the backyard for a discussion on women and the economy.

Eli Sanders of The Stranger and Joel Connelly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer attended and each have published thorough recaps, so I won't paraphrase the pool reports from the Fosses' backyard. The transcript is available on the White House's website for those who'd like to read the questions and answers themselves.

The President concluded his remarks shortly after 11 AM, having taken eight questions, and the motorcade was rolling at 11:18 AM. The journey to the University of Washington took seven minutes.

The President and Senator Murray opted to speak to the overflow crowd of about three thousand gathered inside of Husky Stadium first; the President jogged out of the tunnel with Murray and Secret Service agents at 11:36 AM.

Each spoke for a few minutes. Murray went first, then turned to Obama.

"Thank you, Huskies!," the President began. "It is great to see all of you. Look, I'm not going to give a long speech now because then you’ll be listening to two long speeches. I just wanted to — the main reason I wanted to come out, because I thought it would be cool to run through the tunnel."

The crowd laughed.

"I liked doing that. But I also wanted to come out and just say thank you to all of you, because there are a lot of you who worked on our campaign, there are a lot of you who voted, some for the very first time, because you realized that we're at a crossroads in history right now. America is the greatest country on Earth, but we didn’t get here because it was preordained."

"We got here because our parents and our grandparents and our great grandparents, they were all willing to roll up their sleeves and work — to work on behalf of freedom, to work on behalf of opportunity."

"I've been inspired by you because, wherever I go, traveling across this country, especially when I meet young people, I am reminded of your energy and your drive and your imagination," the President added later. "And for all the problems we're going through right now, we still have the best workers on Earth, we've got the finest universities on Earth, we've got the best entrepreneurs on Earth. We've got the freest, most vibrant economy on Earth..."

"[And the] best President on Earth!" somebody shouted.

"Well, I won't say that," the President said as the crowd applauded, "but we've got a pretty good President," he joked.

"I am here to deliver one simple message: If you have not voted yet, you’ve got to get that ballot and put it in the mail. Don't delay. Do it right after this rally. You’ve got to, then talk to your friends. You’ve got to talk to your neighbors. You’ve got to make phone calls. You’ve got to knock on doors."

"You have to make sure that you are as fired up and as excited now as you were two years ago -- because the work is not yet done. And I have to have Patty Murray back in the United States Senate."

At 11:47 AM, the President finished speaking and headed into Hec Edmundson Pavilion itself. Less than a couple minutes after Governor Chris Gregoire finished speaking, he and Murray walked into the arena, which simply vibrated with thunderous applause and cheers.

The noise did not abate one iota for several minutes.

At last, however, Murray was able to speak. She began by challenging pundits and cynics to leave the D.C. bubble, come to Washington State, and see for themselves that Democrats are fired up.

She proceeded to defend her record in the U.S. Senate, saying she was proud of her votes to hold Wall Street accountable, expand healthcare coverage to more Americans, and force banks out of the student loan business.

She described Obama as a "great president", eliciting sustained cheers and applause from the crowd, which behaved as if in the presence of a rock star.

And she reminded activists of her own humble upbringing.

"When I was a teenager, my dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He spent much of his life in a wheelchair," Murray said.

"It was a very tough time for my family. He lost his job, and I was just about to go on to college, and I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to do it," Murray recounted. "But my parents never gave in and they never gave up. And with the help of our country, which was at our backs, with Pell grants and student loans, they managed to send all seven of their kids to college."

"Even though they had to cut their budget and make tough choices every day, they believed in investing in their family's future. And today, because they looked to the future, because this country was at our back, all seven kids [are working and have good jobs]."

She described herself and her siblings as "a firefighter... a lawyer... a computer programmer at Microsoft... a sports writer... a mom staying at home taking care of her kids... a middle school teacher... and a United States Senator!"

Turning her attention to Dino Rossi, she declared, "I think we deserve better than a one-word answer to every problem. We deserve better than Di-NO!"

Taking another swipe at her challenger, she added, "My opponent wants to go back to the three R's — and those aren't the three R's that you learn here at the UW. His three R's are repeal, rewind, and retreat... Mr President, I think we've got several thousand people here who don't agree with that!"

At 12:15 PM, Murray concluded her remarks and embraced the President, who stepped forward to another deafening roar of applause.

"I am thrilled to be back in Seattle," the President told the crowd.

After recognizing state and local leaders, he explained, "When this state sent Patty to the Senate, she wasn’t one of those lifelong politicians who wanted the job for the fancy title or the nice office. She was the mom in tennis shoes, who was just looking to help a few people and solve a few problems. All these years later, that’s exactly what she has done."

"And Washington — Washington, you know Patty Murray. You know what she’s made of. You’ve seen her go to bat to keep Boeing jobs and aerospace jobs right here in Washington. You’ve seen her fight for clean energy jobs and new infrastructure jobs. You’ve seen her fight to make sure that this nation keeps faith with our veterans because it is a sacred trust."

The President urged rallygoers to get out the vote, noting, "There are a lot of folks out there in Washington, D.C. — not in Washington state, but in Washington, D.C. — who are saying, you know what, it can’t be done, just like they said in 2008. You can’t — what they’re saying is — what they’re saying is that you can’t say no to the special interests, that you can’t overcome the cynicism in politics."

"Yes we can!" the audience shouted.

"That you can’t overcome the millions of dollars in negative ads."

"Yes we can!" the audience shouted.

"That you can’t elect a black guy with a funny name, Barack Obama."

"Yes we can!" the audience shouted. (Some shouted, "Yes we did!")

"They’re always telling us what we cannot do, and you just keep on coming back and saying, yes, we can," the President declared.

After assailing the policies of the Bush error, which led to the financial meltdown of 2008 and the Great Recession, the President offered an analogy that has become a staple of his stump speeches around America. (Many of you reading have probably heard this one before).

"The Republicans took America’s car and drove it into the ditch," the President began. "And it was a really deep ditch. And it was really reckless driving. So Patty and I show up at the — we show up at the scene of the accident. The Republicans have climbed out of the car, abandoned the accident. Patty and I, we’re putting on our boots, and we go down and into the ditch, and it’s muddy down there, and it’s hot, and it’s dusty. But you know what, we know we’ve got to get the car out, so we just start pushing."

"And Patty, even though she’s small, she’s tough, so she’s pushing hard. She’s pushing. And even though I’m skinny, I’m pretty tough, so I’m pushing."

Rallyogers laughed heartily.

"And sometimes our feet slip a little bit, and sometimes it’s not budging, but we’re just staying on it, and we’re sweating. And every once in a while we look up, and the Republicans are up there on the road, they’re just waving. They’re going around whispering to everybody, 'They’re not pushing hard enough. They’re not pushing the right way.'"

"And we say to them, 'Well, why don’t you come down here and help push?' 'No, no, no, no. But push harder, push harder.'"

"So we just go ahead and push. And finally, finally, we get this car up on the road —finally. The car is a little banged up... it’s got to go the body shop. We need to get a tune-up. But you know what, it’s pointing in the right direction. It’s ready to move. And suddenly, we get this tap on our shoulders, and we look back. Who is it? It’s the Republicans. And they say, "We want the keys back.'"

The President paused for dramatic effect, then concluded in a booming voice, "And you can’t have the keys back. You don’t know how to drive."

The crowd roared.

"I want Patty Murray driving the car. The Republicans can ride with us, but they’ve got to be in the backseat... where they can’t do too much damage."

The President concluded his address by reflecting on the struggles of progressives throughout American history, reminding activists that change is never easy. It's hard. It's slow going. In an era of instant gratification, we don't want to wait, but things that are worth doing usually took time.

It took time for past generations of liberty-loving liberals to persuade their fellow colonists to break away from England, and to end slavery, and to expand suffrage to women, blacks, and and young people.

Likewise, it will take us time to restore America. We can't get discouraged.

"Don’t ever let anybody tell you that this fight is not worth it. Don’t let them tell you that you’re not making a difference," Barack Obama said.

"The journey we began together was not about putting a president in the White House. It was about building a movement for change that endures," the President added. (We at NPI couldn't agree more).

"That’s what Patty Murray believes. That’s what I believe. And if that’s what you believe, I need you to knock on doors, and make phone calls, and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors. And if you do that, I promise you, not only will we win this election, but we will restore the dream for the next generation."

After shaking hands with the lucky few standing directly behind the metal barricades that encircled the stage, the President departed. His motorcade sped to Boeing Field and within a half hour, Air Force One was lifting off for San Francisco.

LIVE from the University of Washington: Hec Ed filled to capacity for Murray/Obama rally

All morning, people have been filing into the University of Washington's Hec Edmundson Pavilion, hoping to participate in the biggest event of Senator Patty Murray's 2010 reelection campaign: a rally with President Barack Obama.

As of 10:50 AM, the arena was filled to capacity, with not a seat left in the house (except for a few rows directly behind the press riser, which don't afford a view of the stage). The scene here is reminiscent of President Obama's big campaign rally at KeyArena in February 2008 (although there were more people at that rally, because KeyArena can hold more people).

I'm sure we're going to hear our lineup of speakers take an opportunity to scoff at the notion of an "enthusiasm gap". If the lines stretching around Hec Ed are any indication, Democrats — and particularly young people — are fired up and ready to go. Anyone who is outside the arena at this point isn't going to get in, and will be directed to the overflow viewing area.

Line outside Hec Edmundson Pavilion
That's likely to be a lot of people, because the line stretches all the way around Husky Stadium into a parking lot adjacent to the Montlake Cut. It was a least a mile long as I was making my way over to the press entrance.

There are at least five people here who aren't present to support Patty... I can count five young guys in blue and yellow Dino Rossi t-shirts. They're all sitting together in one of the upper rows.

The main program is due to begin in just a few minutes. I'll continue to post updates here and on our Twitter feed.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

President Barack Obama arrives in Seattle, beginning second visit of his presidency

After speaking to a crowd of thousands at the Oregon Convention Center on behalf of Oregon's Democratic gubernatorial nominee (John Kitzhaber) earlier this evening, President Barack Obama and his entourage boarded Air Force One for a quick flight from Portland's Air National Guard Station to Seattle's Boeing Field.

The flight, which reporters traveling with the President described as "uneventful", ended at 9:22 PM when Air Force One touched down.

The modified Boeing 747 swept in from the north, barreled down the runway, and then made two one hundred and eighty degree turns before taxiing to a halt in front of the airport's passenger terminal.

Air Force One parked on the tarmac
Ground crews wheeled a Lift-a-Loft to the side of the aircraft as the President's motorcade and police escort pulled up alongside.

Moments later, Obama appeared, waved, and strode down the stairs.

President Barack Obama waves as he exits Air Force One
Besides his own advance team, he was greeted by Governor Chris Gregoire, U.S. Representatives Jim McDermott and Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine, state Senators Ed Murray, Marilyn Strickland, Karen Keiser, and Claudia Kauffman, and several local Democratic activists.

After thanking this welcoming committee, the President briskly walked over to the fifty or so people gathered behind metal barricades to shake hands.

This came as a surprise to some of the reporters with me on the press riser, who had speculated that the President would just get into his limousine and drive to his hotel after a long day. Obama opted not to disappoint the crowd, however.

Presidential motorcade departs Boeing Field
Shortly before ten o'clock, he climbed into his limo and the long presidential motorcade sped away. It arrived in downtown Seattle several minutes later, having made use of the northbound lanes of Interstate 5. We understand the President is staying at the Westin, which is used to hosting very important guests.

President Obama begins swing through Pacific Northwest in Portland, Oregon

This afternoon, President Barack Obama arrives in the Pacific Northwest to campaign for John Kitzhaber and Patty Murray as part of the first leg of a longer trip through the west on behalf of Democratic candidates.

Air Force One took off from Andrews Air Force Base about four hours ago, and is due to touch down at Portland's Air National Guard Station in an hour. The President — who is watching the Yankees/Rangers game en route, according to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs — will first participate in a photo reception with Kitzhaber donors before speaking to a crowd of thousands at the Oregon Convention Center in northeast Portland.

After the rally, the President and his team will make the short hop up the I-5 corridor to Seattle's Boeing Field. They are expected to arrive a few minutes before ten o'clock. Tomorrow morning at 10, the President will facilitate a backyard discussion at a home in Seattle (we can't tell you where, for security reasons).

Then he'll be at the University of Washington's Hec Edmundson Pavilion for the big rally with Patty Murray, addressing the crowd at about 11:40 AM.

Immediately after he finishes speaking and shaking hands, his motorcade will head back to Boeing Field and Air Force One will take off for California.

To watch the Kitzhaber rally in Portland, head over to UStream. The President is scheduled to start speaking at around 6:45 PM or so.

Our friends from BlueOregon are at the event and will be tweeting throughout.

NPI releases video explaining the cost and consequences of Tim Eyman and BP's I-1053

This afternoon, we're pleased to announce the release of a new video that explains the cost and consequences of Tim Eyman and BP's Initiative 1053.

As we've explained before, I-1053 unconstitutionally gives an extreme partisan minority of legislators the ability to veto bills that seek to raise revenue to protect vital public services. It may seem less dangerous than the other corporate initiatives — it's the only one without a fiscal note — but trashing majority rule is a far greater threat to our state's future than deregulation or bigger deficits.

What's at stake here is whether we live in a democracy or not. If I-1053 passes, corporate lobbyists will be able to tighten their grip on our statehouse. They can stop the Legislature from repealing any tax break by convincing just seventeen senators to side with them. Even if Washington's other one hundred and thirty lawmakers want to protect the public interest.

That's not democratic. Or constitutional. Or fair. Or a practical way to govern.

Produced by NPI board member Lynn Allen with help from NPI's senior planner, Kathleen Reynolds, our video runs a little more than four minutes. Its availability coincides with the release of the NO on 1053 coalition's first television ad.

Watch it (permanent link):


And don't forget to check out the NO on 1053 coalition's first television ad.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dave Reichert doesn't know what the Glass-Steagall Act is (sad, but true!)

Nice catch by Suzan DelBene's campaign:
QUESTION [at Newcastle Chamber of Commerce Forum]: I agree with you that overregulation is not a good thing, but do you think that they should reinstate The Glass-Steagall Act and at least separate the banks’ ability to gamble with our money?

DAVE REICHERT: Well, the Glass-Steagall Act is one that I’m not familiar with. I’m sorry I have to go back and look at that, but I do agree it’s something that we haven’t dealt with on the House side in committees that I’ve had, so I’d be happy to look at that and come back and give you an answer on that.
Talk about being unstudied! Reminds me of this answer from four years ago:
RYAN BLETHEN: Do you believe the FCC should push changes wanted by media conglomerates? If so, does Congress need to create laws that promote local and diverse ownership of the press and media?

DAVE REICHERT: That's an issue that I am not familiar with, and I will have to pass on that question.
Not familiar with, not familiar with... notice a pattern?

Amazingly, back in 2006, the Times endorsed Reichert, even after he admitted in the above debate transcript that he didn't know anything about one of their signature issues. But that was only because the Blethens despised Darcy Burner. Darcy's not running this time around, and as a consequence, Reichert didn't get their support by default. Instead, it went to Suzan DelBene.

Now we're seeing repeat after repeat of that moment from the 2006 debate at Meydenbauer Center. Reichert's like a deer caught in the headlights.

If Reichert knew anything about the history of economic security legislation in this country, he'd know about the Glass-Steagall Act. It set up a firewall between commercial and investment banking which was only torn down by Republicans and President Clinton at the end of the 1990s. Our own Senator Cantwell is the sponsor of a bill to restore Glass-Steagall, and Suzan DelBene supports that effort. Dave Reichert, meanwhile, doesn't even know where he stands.

“The public deserves better than a ‘woefully unprepared’ Dave Reichert who ‘comes up short’ again and again,” said Scott Whiteaker, communications director for Team DelBene, referring to local columnists and editorial writers who have given Reichert's record a failing grade. “Dave Reichert’s latest gaffe shows why he has zero credibility on the economy and perfectly illustrates how he doesn’t understand how to address the challenges we face today.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

New South Park Bridge project wins TIGER II grant from U.S. Department of Transportation

The United States Department of Transportation announced today that it will put up the final $34 million necessary to fund the replacement of the old South Park Bridge in south Seattle, which closed down at the end of June, severing an important link over the Duwamish River.

The $34 million grant comes from USDOT's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) initiative, which was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. King County, the City of Seattle, and the Port of Seattle have all pledged money towards the project as well, which will total about $130 million and take two to three years to complete.

The grant was officially announced by Senator Patty Murray at an event on the deck of the old bridge this morning.

With her were King County Executive Dow Constantine and most of the King County Council, who thanked Murray for her efforts in securing the grant.

"This is a huge victory for a community that deserves an economic jolt," Murray declared from the bridge deck, to relieved neighbors.

"A rebuilt South Park Bridge will get workers back on the job, customers back into businesses, and ease congestion through south Seattle."

“I congratulate Seattle and King County for their success in acquiring the federal funding necessary to replace the torn down South Park Bridge," added Senator Maria Cantwell in a news release.

"Not only does this project provide immediate construction jobs, it will also ensure the long-term economic vitality of the South Park neighborhood by reopening a key commerce transportation route. The new bridge will improve transportation safety, decrease travel times, and speed the delivery of goods and services while contributing to area job growth and economic development for years to come.”

We at NPI are very glad to hear that this very deserving project has won a TIGER II grant. One of our own board members — Seattle Port Commissioner Gael Tarleton — has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to convince other elected leaders to make this project a priority, and the rest of us thank her for standing up for the neighbors of South Park. True leadership involves listening, and Gael proved that she's a listener by making time to go attend community meetings so she could hear residents' concerns. This issue has been on her radar for a very long time.

Congratulations to Gael and everyone else who worked to make this project a reality. It's wonderful to see that it's actually going to leave the drawing board.

Suzan DelBene added to Daily Kos' "Orange to Blue" fundraising list

This morning, our good friend Joan McCarter announced over on Daily Kos that Suzan DelBene has been added to "Orange to Blue", a national list of netroots-endorsed candidates maintained by Kos Media.

The list exists to help worthy progressive Democrats running in federal races raise money from the netroots community.

I extend my congratulations to Suzan for this much-deserved honor, as do NPI's other staff... in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that all of us are, as individual activists, supporters of (and volunteers for) Suzan.

Because NPI is a tax-exempt nonprofit, we do not endorse office-seekers, or participate in fundraising efforts for candidates. So, while we can provide coverage of the contest in WA-08 here on The Advocate, we can't join Joan's call to action. However, if you'd like to hear her pitch for why Suzan is deserving of netroots support, you are welcome to click over to Daily Kos.

Suzan was also recently endorsed by The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The News Tribune, the other major daily that circulates within the 8th Congressional District, has endorsed Dave Reichert.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Obama Administration appeals DADT ruling

Despite repeated pronouncements from President Obama that he will end the Clintonian "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the U.S. military, his Administration has decided to appeal the ruling of Federal District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips in which she issued an injunction requiring the military to stop enforcing the policy. So much for words and deeds being congruent.

In a 48-page court filing, Clifford L. Stanley, the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, argued that the military, particularly in wartime, should not be required to “suddenly and immediately restructure a major personnel policy that has been in place for years.” Mr. Stanley said the injunction would disrupt efforts to prepare for a more orderly repeal of the policy.

“The stakes here are so high, and the potential harm so great, that caution is in order,” he said.

How deplorable that the Obama Administration would use national security as an excuse to continue discrimination against one group of people. I must have missed the threat assessment memo that listed being openly gay and serving your country as being just as terrible as being a terrorist.

Funny, but I also don't recall one incident of a mob of gay jihadists terrorizing their fellow citizens. Yet somehow the President and his team have found common cause with the radical right.

The Administration would argue that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would somehow cause such a loss of morale at such a critical time, rendering the U.S. military suddenly impotent to carry out its mission around the world, but particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. Need I remind President Obama that he was once a candidate who was going to end Bush's war and bring the troops home? Well, we're still waiting Mr. President.

Furthermore, as an African-American who has been known to invoke Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the President should show more sensitivity to the plight of yet another group that continues to seek an America where they are judged not by their sexual orientation but "by the content of their character."

It's long past time for Don't Ask, Don't Tell to be relegated to the pages of history books.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

JPMorgan Chase becomes latest Wall Street bank to pump money into Tim Eyman's I-1053

As if there weren't enough corporate villains behind Tim Eyman's Initiative 1053 already, JPMorgan Chase has become the latest greedy behemoth to join StopGreed's pantheon of rogues.

Yesterday, it donated $30,000 to the Association of Washington Business-controlled (and Orwellian named) "Citizens for Responsible Spending" committee, which, after several weeks of dormancy, is taking in new donations, presumably to pay for a deceitful ad campaign cooked up by the AWB's hacks.

JPMorgan Chase isn't the only giant corporation responding to Don Brunell & Company's request for October cash. BP has coughed up another $35,000, bringing its aggreggate total to $100,000, and giving it the uncontested status as the single largest donor to the initiative.

Tesoro and ConocoPhillips, meanwhile, have each put up an additional $25,000.

We've said this before, but it bears repeating again: The reason that big oil companies and Wall Street banks are enthusiastic backers of Tim Eyman's Initiative 1053 is because they want to protect all the special tax breaks that they currently enjoy at our collective expense.

This is about wanton, unchecked greed, pure and simple. It's not about good government and it's certainly not about protecting Washington's families. That's what the corporate operatives behind 1053 want you to believe... but it's a lie!

The Legislature came close in the most recent session to repealing an exemption that mostly benefits out-of-state banks and raising the hazardous materials fee to pay for Puget Sound cleanup.

The suits who run these greedy corporations don't want to contribute to our common wealth and pay their fair share, so they're spending big bucks to try and fool us all into changing the rules that our state has operated by since statehood. Their objective is to tighten their grip on our Capitol.

I-1053, along with I-1082, I-1107, I-1100, and I-1105, is one of the biggest corporate power grabs in Washington State history. These initiatives are cold, calculated attempts to prey on Washingtonians' fears about our economy and trick us into giving up our sovereignty and unlocking our public treasury so big corporations can go hog wild and raid it.

It's a wealth transfer from our common wealth to the already wealthy.

At a time when so many are struggling, and vital services are stretched to the breaking point, it is absolutely critical that we defeat these ill-conceived schemes and reject toxic money for toxic politics.

Vote NO on I-1053, I-1082, I-1107, I-1100, and I-1105!

World watching as San José mine rescue gets underway at Camp Hope, near Copiapó, Chile

Unless you've been living in a cave somewhere for the past few months, disconnected from civilization, you've probably heard about the plight of the thirty three miners who found themselves trapped underground when the San José gold and copper mine near Copiapó, Chile unexpectedly collapsed a couple of months ago. Incredibly, they managed to survive for seventeen days, on their own, before contact was made and a supply chain was established.

Now, sixty four days after the disaster, they are being transported to the surface through rescue capsules designed by NASA and built by the Chilean navy.

The rescue operation has become a top story around the world, with more than a thousand journalists on the scene in Copiapó to chronicle every development.

World leaders, meanwhile, have been wishing the recovery effort well.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the brave miners, their families, and the men and women who have been working so hard to rescue them," said President Barack Obama in a statement released by the White House. "While that rescue is far from over and difficult work remains, we pray that by God’s grace, the miners will be able to emerge safely and return to their families soon. We are also proud of all of the Americans who have been working with our Chilean friends on the ground to do everything that we can to bring these miners home."

If you want to watch the rescue operation in real time, just turn on any cable news channel (except Fox, of course). If you're lucky enough to have the BBC, make that your first choice for coverage. The British put our networks to shame. They've got twenty five journalists on the scene.

Seattle Times endorses Suzan DelBene for Congress in WA-08... again

As expected, the Blethen-owned Seattle Times, which enjoys the highest circulation of any newspaper in the state, has affirmed its earlier endorsement of Suzan DelBene for the August 17th election with a general election endorsement:
The Seattle Times endorses Democrat Suzan DelBene. The technology entrepreneur from Medina is politically untested but offers tremendous promise.

A deep and continuing financial crisis calls out for someone with sharp business and entrepreneurial skills and an acute understanding of what went wrong in the first place. DelBene is an unambiguous supporter of the tough financial reforms recently enacted by Congress. Reichert would work to repeal parts of the reform legislation. A repeal would signal a return to diminished federal oversight and watered-down consumer protections.
The editorial makes it clear the Blethens are disappointed in Reichert, and are ready to move on after years of carrying water for him. The endorsement actually covers a lot of ground, and Suzan (like Patty Murray) is recognized for her support of net neutrality, an issue that the Blethens are progressive on, but which has not factored into their endorsements in the last few cycles. It looks like they're finally starting to use it as a key barometer, which is entirely appropriate.

The Times' endorsement of Suzan is its third consecutive endorsement of a Democrat in a competitive federal race this cycle. In the last midterms, the Times went Republican, backing Mike McGavick, Dave Reichert, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers over Maria Cantwell, Darcy Burner, and Peter Goldmark. Perhaps they've reversed course because they've taken so many atrocious and indefensible stands in state and legislative races. (They're also backing most of the evil corporate ballot measures, and trying to help torpedo Initiative 1098).

Congratulations to Suzan on securing the Times' endorsement. It's a real coup... not because the Blethens' opinion matters, but because it's always a big deal when a challenger can convince a stodgy editorial board to abandon an incumbent and recommend a fresh face to voters.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Debate over I-1098 at UW Tacoma lives up to its billing as "the great income tax debate"

Earlier this evening, University of Washington Tacoma played host to one of the most anticipated events of the season: a no-holds barred debate between Bill Gates, Sr. and former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton over Initiative 1098, which would impose an income tax on high-earners and dedicate the revenue to public schools and healthcare coverage.

The debate was billed as matchup between Gorton and Gates (who are both lawyers), but the two venture capitalists who appeared alongside of each — Matt McIlwain and Nick Hanauer — turned out to be show-stealers.

McIlwain, of Madrona Venture Group, served as Gorton's backup, while Nick Hanauer of Second Avenue Partners fulfilled that role for Gates. At one point, the two got into an informal but sharp back-and-forth argument which likely would have continued for some time if not for the intervention of the moderator. I actually wouldn't have minded seeing that, because it would have been more exciting. The format wasn't bad, but I thought it was implemented poorly.

In particular, I was annoyed that the moderator kept directing one-sided questions to the wrong side. A one-sided question should always go to the "opposing team", so to speak, so that the team that agrees with the questioner speaks last and can present a rebuttal. There did seem to be a fairly even ratio of questions from audience members supporting and opposing I-1098, but the panelists mostly stuck to their scripts when answering questions.

However, as I mentioned, there was that one exchange where Hanauer and McIlwain went at it. They certainly weren't mincing words. Here's the complete transcript of that bit, beginning with the question... fair warning, it's rather long.
MODERATOR: What incentive will wealthy people have to stay in Washington State, rather than move to Florida, where there is no income tax?

McILWAIN: I'm sorry, could you repeat the question again?

MODERATOR: Certainly. What incentive will wealthy people have to stay in Washington State, rather than move to Florida, where there is no income tax?

McILWAIN: Well, it's a good question. I think one of the other taxes we have in our state is the [voter-sanctioned] nineteen percent estate tax, which is the highest in the country. And so... there are a number of people, be they wealthy, or I think more importantly, innovative, that would have the incentive to not stay in this state, if we went to having the fourth-highest tax rate on income tax in the country, and we also have that nineteen percent estate tax. But I think that there are some things that are the bedrock of Washington that are critically important.

And we've talked about a few of them already tonight. We all believe that education is the paramount duty of our state, and of our citizens. And we do have, despite the challenges, and a need for real reform in education, a very, very strong track record of good educational results, and wonderful teachers, and administrators, that help deliver those results. We also have a burgeoning innovation economy, and I'll talk more about that in my closing remarks.

But the way this works, having worked on the ground, helping start build companies from a couple of folks and a PowerPoint presentation and a dog, is that you have this kernel of an idea of a problem that's not being solved well, often because of the work you were doing at your prior company. And it breeds a virtuous cycle of insights in high-potential innovative people that then start something and ultimately lead to successful new products and job creation.

Let's take one example. Microsoft, and from Microsoft, we had RealNetworks. And then a twenty one year old engineer from Maryland moved out to work at RealNetworks, and five years later, he left to start Isilon Systems. Ten years later — and much blood and sweat and tears going into building the company — Isilon employs five hundred people, has two hundred million dollars in revenue, and is one of the most rapidly growing companies in America. That's what we want to perpetuate. And now there's companies like Corensic that are spinning out of Isilon. That's the innovation economy that we're trying to preserve in this state. An income tax will not help.

HANAUER: So, again, the idea that an income tax will chase innovation of the state is just not true. Again, if was true, Silicon Valley would be in Casper, Wyoming. Here's why Silicon Valley is where it is: Stanford. Stanford is why Silicon Valley is where it is. Now, in this state, we have the capacity to build a Stanford. If we had the courage of conviction — and the vision — to invest enough in the University of Washington, the UW could be Stanford. And that's what creates an ecosystem of innovation in a state. Not a low income tax. There's this... implication, in this idea, that rich people, business people, will leave the state if the income tax goes up, that offends me. Because it assumes that people like me are money-grubbing sociopaths...

[Laughter]

HANAUER: ... who don't care about anything but what we get to keep in our checkbooks. That we don't care about the public good. That we don't care about investing in our schools. That we don't care about clean water, or clean air. That if you make it slightly more expensive for us, we will run... we will run. And it's not true. And I certainly hope it's not true.

McILWAIN: So, just a quick rebuttal on this one, because this is important, folks. This income tax is not about "the wealthy". It's about the future of Washington State, and the opportunities. I couldn't agree with more with Nick on the importance of the University of Washington and its centrality to that. But let's take a look at Oren Etzioni, who is a professor that moved here to be a professor of computer science. Our firm helped start a company with him called Farecast, that many of you have used. It's now Bing Travel. And we recruited from, another state, a very talented CEO... and none of these people were wealthy. And most of them still aren't, but they're better off today because they built a truly great company. Madrona, our firm, has invested over two hundred million dollars in over ten startups out of the University of Washington. And we're working hard to not only make money for us, but some of our investors, and guess who one of them is? The University of Washington! That's the virtuous cycle of economic growth and innovation that we're trying to perpetuate.

HANAUER: So, Matt... are you gonna stop investing?

MODERATOR: Mr. Hanauer, did you want to take a minute to rebut that?

HANAUER: Are you guys going to fold up shop and go away? I don't think so. Why are rates of company creation in Silicon Valley and California so much higher than they are here — with their income tax? It's because... it's because ninety five percent of a lot is still a lot. [It's] because California creates an ecosystem within which great wealth can be created. And even if you don't get to keep every cent — as Sergey and Larry [of Google] will tell you — okay, maybe they could have had sixteen billion, but fifteen billion is still pretty good! It's pretty good!

McILWAIN: I think, other than the weather, we're not trying to perpetuate the California system.

HANAUER: California has lots of problems... California has lots of problems. But the rate of company creation is not one of them.
I found McIlwain's perspective on startups interesting, but as you can see from reading above, he offered no evidence that an income tax on high-earners would stifle the kind of "innovation economy" that he says he is so focused on preserving. And that's because, as Nick so adeptly put it, it wouldn't.

Taxes are like membership dues in our country. This is something McIlwain — who apparently plays soccer, according to TechFlash — should be able to understand. A soccer association can't exist for free. It costs money to rent and/or maintain fields, pay referees, purchase insurance, and so on. Membership dues are collected to pay for these expenses. Similarly, we collect taxes to pay for vital public services that we want and need, that our families and businesses cannot do without.

By paying taxes, we're really just pooling our resources into a common wealth, so we can do for ourselves what we cannot do in our separate and individual capacities, as Abraham Lincoln put it. The public services we all pay for are the foundation that our economy is built upon. They're the key to prosperity.

Here's Nick Hanauer, again:
In my experience, entrepreneurs aren't that shortsighted. They tend to be much more visionary, and care much more broadly about the situation they're in, than what the tax rate is on the income that they might possibly make in the future. What they care about is, Am I in a context that allows me to create great wealth? And that has everything to do with the kind of community we build, together.

If it was true, what they say about taxes, then the best opportunities would be in the places with the least taxes... like Somalia. But it's not true, is it? Is it? It's not true. The best opportunities to create great wealth, in this country — and in the world — are in high-tax places.
Laughter and applause broke out after Hanauer humorously delivered his punch line, Like Somalia. He did an absolutely spectacular job of reframing the debate. Rarely have I heard anyone so clearly and credibly articulate what progressivism is all about, in any setting. The trip to Tacoma was worth it just to hear Hanauer completely deconstruct the right wing's view of taxes.

And he had a great closing, too:
Every industrialized democracy... every single one... is a high-tax, high-regulation, high-government society. And that is because these two things are inextricably intertwined. I am not here because I am a do-gooder. I don't want to pay more tax for fun. I want to pay more tax because it will create more prosperity for you and me.
That's reframing. "Do-gooder" is a phrase that right wingers like to attach to progressives. The phrase suggests that we want to give handouts to people who really don't deserve them, because we naively believe that handouts will help.

Actually, as Nick implied, progressives believe in giving folks who need help a hand-up, not a handout. That's because we know it's impossible to "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" if you don't have any boots to begin with.

Without opportunity, there is no prosperity. People are not truly free if they have no opportunities to pursue their dreams. A strong common wealth is a prerequisite for creating opportunities and economic growth. That's why it is so important that we vote YES on Initiative 1098 this autumn.