Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monthly Archives: February 2012

Olympia Snowe to retire; Republican hopes of taking over the U.S. Senate take a hit

Big news out of the Pine Tree State this afternoon: Olympia Snowe, one of Maine’s two incumbent Republican senators, has announced that she has decided not to seek reelection in 2012, citing a desire to be free of the partisan rancor that pervades Capitol Hill these days. Her decision to retire could have a profound effect on the U.S. Senate electoral landscape for this cycle, giving Democrats a much-needed pickup opportunity to offset likely losses elsewhere.

“After thirty-three years in the Congress, this was not an easy decision,” Snowe said in a statement. “My husband and I are in good health. We have laid an exceptionally strong foundation for the campaign, and I have no doubt I would have won re-election. It has been an indescribable honor and immeasurable privilege to serve the people of Maine, first in both houses of Maine’s legislature and later in both houses of Congress. To this day, I remain deeply passionate about public service, and I cherish the opportunity I have been given for nearly four decades to help improve the lives of my fellow Mainers.”

“Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail.”

Snowe’s announcement seemed to catch many of her fellow Republicans off-guard, including her seatmate, fellow Republican Susan Collins, who called her decision “a complete surprise”. The deadline to file is just two weeks away, so prospective candidates from both parties will need to come to a decision quickly about running.

Chellie Pingree, one of Maine’s two Democratic U.S. Representatives, has already hinted that she is giving serious thought to entering the race.

“I want to thank Senator Snowe for her decades of service to the people of Maine,” Pingree said in a press release issued in the wake of Snowe’s announcement. “From her time in the House to her three terms in the Senate, Senator Snowe has shown her independence and dedication to Maine. I called Senator Snowe earlier to wish her and her husband all the best in the next stage of her life.

She added: “This upcoming election is critical to the future of our working families around the country, and in the coming days I will carefully consider how I can best serve the people of Maine.”

If Pingree runs, she stands a good chance of winning the Democratic nomination, which will be decided in June . She already represents half of the state, and was one of only eight Democrats to receive a higher percentage of the vote in 2010 (a difficult cycle for Democrats) than in 2008, when she was first elected.

In her one and a half terms in the U.S. House, she has consistently worked to advance the common good and strengthen America’s common wealth. Her crucial lifetime score on ProgressivePunch is an impressive 92.29%, and she is ranked as one of the country’s most progressive representatives. (She is also a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus).

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), which helped draft Elizabeth Warren into the race against Scott Brown in Massachusetts a few months ago, has already launched a “Draft Pingree” effort, which could catch fire in the coming days.

Gerald Weinand, proprietor of Dirigo Blue, Maine’s best-known progressive blog, has a must-read piece looking at might happen next, entitled The reality of running for an open seat in Maine. Click on over to get his perspective and leave a comment if you’re so inclined. Dirigo Blue also has more reaction to the news of Snowe’s retirement.

Olympus’ entire board of directors resigning to make way for new leadership

Months after the Olympus’ ex-CEO-turned-whistleblower began demanding their resignations, the entire board of directors of the scandal-ridden Japanese electronics maker is finally stepping down, the company said today.

“[A]ll the current directors and corporate auditors express their intentions to resign at the end of the extraordinary general shareholders meeting and have submitted letters of resignation to the Company,” Olympus announced in a statement.

The company also said that it was proposing a slate of eleven individuals to be ratified by shareholders as the new board of directors. Fifty-six year old Hiroyuki Sasa, who currently serves as the chief marketing officer for Olympus’ medical imaging unit, has been tapped to serve as the company’s new president.

If the proposed new board is elected, the number of  what Olympus terms “outside directors” will double, from three to six.

But major Olympus shareholders say the new slate isn’t independent enough. “The clear creditor orientation of the board is unacceptable,” Southeastern Asset Management, which owns more than five percent of Olympus’ shares, said in its own statement, attributed to vice president Josh Shore. “We are extremely disappointed with the composition of the proposed board.”

Olympus’ former chief executive, Michael Woodford, who uncovered the accounting scandal that has wiped out much of the value of the company’s stock and led to the arrests of several former Olympus directors and auditors, told Reuters that he agreed with Southeastern’s concerns.

“Looking at capital raising, to have a representative of the bank there as the chairman will only frustrate and alienate any independent foreign shareholder, and I’m sure shareholders in Japan… It’s completely and utterly wrong,” he said.

In a statement posted to Olympus Grassroots earlier this month, Woodford said he was keeping a close eye on the current disgraced and discredited board, but criticized its members (who are finally quitting Olympus) for not being more open about their plans to replace themselves.

I am monitoring events at Olympus extremely closely. Over recent days there have been many rumours about the company forming a so called ‘strategic alliance’, but the name of any such external party has not been confirmed by the company. Equally, we remain unclear in definitive terms as to whether any of the current directors plan to put themselves forward again on a new slate and also the names and backgrounds of new candidates. I have strong opinions on both these issues, as I’m sure do many thousands of other shareholders.

In relation to today’s announcement of an extraordinary shareholders meeting on April 20, my intention is currently to attend this and, I believe it will be attended by large numbers of small shareholders including company employees.

In this respect, I trust the company will make arrangements for a suitably large venue (not as in previous years at the Keio Plaza) to allow all shareholders small, large, domestic and from overseas, to have a forum in which to speak out openly as they feel fit.

This will be the first formal opportunity for all the company’s shareholders to question and hold its management to account. Of course investigations on three continents are ongoing and we are therefore still not in a position to know the full extent of what took place but before the extraordinary general meeting, I believe it is highly likely there will be further revelations and all interested parties should continue to closely scrutinise events.

- Michael Woodford, February 5th, 2012

The departure of Olympus’ current, corrupt board is long overdue. The company needs fresh blood at its helm to begin rebuilding investor and customer confidence. And it needs to take seriously the concerns of foreign shareholders, not ignore them simply because they do not own a major stake in the company.

It is our hope, as loyal Olympus customers, that the company will emerge from this dark chapter in its history by listening to stakeholders, stamping out cronyism, and triple-checking the veracity of its financial statements. More than anything else, Olympus needs accountable management to get it back on track.

Pacific NW Portal 5.2 (Seal Rock) released

This evening, we’re pleased to take the wraps off a new version of Pacific NW Portal: Version 5.2, codenamed Seal Rock.

This is a maintenance release – the second in the Newport series – so there aren’t any grand, sweeping changes in this version. However, we think you’ll agree that the improvements we have made make the site more useful and functional.

Like every prior release, Version 5.2 is named after an Oregon coastal town. Seal Rock is a seaside village, located between Newport and Waldport. It is one of the many beautiful places that can be seen from a trip up or down U.S. 101, which stretches from southern California to Olympia, Washington. Seal Rock is one of more than a dozen unincorporated communities in Lincoln County.

The following post constitutes our official changelog for Version 5.2. Please feel free to leave questions, suggestions for future versions, or other thoughts on Seal Rock in the comment thread.

Seal Rock, Oregon

Seal Rock, Oregon, from the bluff, taken September 14th, 2007 (Photo by PFly, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

View larger version of photo

Here is the list of changes for this release:

  • Speed boost. In keeping with Newport’s theme of speed, we’ve moved Pacific NW Portal to our new server cluster, which is faster and more powerful. As a result, load and refresh times have decreased. Here’s a typical comparison between Version 5.1/Agate Beach (the previous release) and Version 5.2/Seal Rock (this release):
    • Agate Beach load time: 3.25 seconds; average speed per KB: 0.04
    • Seal Rock load time: 0.56 seconds; average speed per KB: 0.01
  • Pacific NW Portal moves to its own domain. In conjunction with the server move, we’ve given Pacific NW Portal its own domain: pacific.nwportal.info. With this change, all of NPI’s projects now reside at separate domains. NPI publications, like The Advocate (this blog), will continue to live at nwprogressive.org alongside NPI’s Core Encyclopedia. We think the new URL neatly encapsulates Pacific NW Portal’s proper name as well as its purpose: to serve as a newsreader and information hub for progressives. It’s also shorter, easier to say, and more memorable.
  • Pacific NW Portal’s old domain now works again, too. Back in 2005, when we first launched Pacific NW Portal, it could be accessed by typing in nwportal.org (which would redirect to the Portal’s location under NPI’s primary domain). Unfortunately, a few years ago, that domain didn’t auto-renew like it was supposed to, and our unhelpful registrar – a GoDaddy reseller – sold it to someone else against our wishes. Following that incident, we severed all ties with GoDaddy and its affiliates (learn why you should too), and moved our domain portfolio to a new, customer-focused registrar (Tucows). Just recently, we succeeded in reacquiring the Portal’s original domain. So happily, nwportal.org points to Pacific NW Portal again.
  • Campaign Buzz now includes many more campaigns. The front page’s Campaign Buzz feed now indexes blogs for candidates in high profile races around the Pacific Northwest, including Jay Inslee, Bob Ferguson, Jeff Merkley, and Jon Tester. In addition, we’re tracking netroots-supported candidates in federal races elsewhere in the United States.

Our thanks to all who continue to support Pacific NW Portal. Enjoy the new version!

President Obama arrives in Everett for first 2012 visit to the real Washington

Good morning, everyone, and greetings from the Boeing plant in Everett, where Patrick, Eve, and I are waiting to be transported to Paine Field and the factory where the 787 Dreamliner is assembled on press buses. We’re here in Everett to cover the final leg of President Obama’s mid-February tour of the Left Coast, which began a few days ago when the President arrived in Los Angeles.

This will be the President’s first 2012 trip to Washington State, and his fourth official visit since he assumed the office. (He made two visits in 2010 and stopped by once last year as well).

Air Force One is expected to touch down at Paine Field around 10:45 AM or so, and from there the President will head into the building that Eve and I are being taken to for a tour of the facility. (The assembly line is not in operation today, presumably because it would be too noisy and unsafe to hold a media event in that environment). We’re told the President has not yet set foot inside a Dreamliner, so today will be his first opportunity to go inside Boeing’s new revolutionary widebody jet, which has taken many long years for the company to get into the air.

UPDATE, 9:10 AM (Andrew):  Just received this update a few minutes ago from the White House press pool (the print reporter that travels with the presidential entourage): “Motorcade departed San Francisco Intercontinental at 8:34 am PST, under sunny skies and the dulcet tones of a loan, albeit loud, protester. Uneventful ride to the airport. Air Force One headed to Seattle [actually, Everett] at 8:55 AM.”

UPDATE, 9:30 AM (Patrick): Those of us who went out to the flight line got to see a pretty remarkable lineup of Boeing aircraft, including many 747-8s (the newest variant of Boeing’s distinctive jumbo jet).

UPDATE, 9:50 AM (Andrew): We are now in position on the press riser inside the factory. President Obama has a good backdrop for his speech: three Dreamliners in various stages of completion, a big American flag hanging from the rafters, and Boeing machinery. In the foreground is a growing crowd of Boeing workers, who are talking shop with each other while waiting for the President to show up. It’s going to be a while.

View of the Boeing factory floor prior to President Obama's speech

What the scene looks like inside the Boeing factory where President Obama is scheduled to speak (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

UPDATE, 10:07 AM (Patrick): Out here on the tarmac, I’ve counted seven helicopters landing so far. A couple look like Black Hawks, but with an executive paint scheme. The air smells like jet fuel. It appears that the Marines will be transporting President Obama down to Bellevue/Medina for his afternoon events.

UPDATE, 10:20 AM (Andrew): There are a lot of reporters here. It’s a good thing there’s a really long press riser inside the factory here, because every major television network seems to have a crew, and there are many print reporters and still photographers here as well on behalf of their respective publications.

UPDATE, 10:23 AM (Patrick): The Washington State Patrol, sheriff’s deputies from King and Snohomish counties, and other federal and local authorities are out in full force. Glad to see them making sure the President is fully protected.

UPDATE, 10:50 AM (Patrick): Air Force One has landed and the President has exited the aircraft using a Lift-a-Loft. He is now talking to a group of friends and families of Boeing workers.

Save the Date: NPI’s 2012 Spring Fundraising Gala will be April 12th, 2012

We are pleased to announce this afternoon that we have finalized a date for our 2012 Spring Fundraising Gala, which is unquestionably the best opportunity we offer to learn about what we do and support our work. This year’s event will be taking place Thursday, April 12th, 2012, at the Mercer Island Community Center – the same place we’ve held it for the last two years.

In the weeks to come, we’ll be unveiling more information about the event, including our speaking lineup.

Tickets are, however, going on sale right now at a special early-bird rate; you can buy an individual or household ticket by clicking one of the buttons below. Prices will be going up when additional details are made public, so if you’d like to save a bit of money while securing your seat, now is the time to act.

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2012 Gala Ticket (Individual)

Early-Bird: $45.00 $60

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2012 Gala Ticket (Household)

Early-Bird: $75.00 $90

If you’ve never been to our gala in the past, picture an eclectic evening with tasty food, jazz music, great company, and speakers like Peter Steinbrueck, Jay Inslee, Bob Ferguson, Major General Paul Eaton (Ret)., Darcy Burner, Chip Hanauer, Jon Soltz, Suzan DelBene, Dow Constantine, Hans Dunshee, and John de Graaf. That’s what our event is like. It’s your chance to meet our staff and board and become better acquainted with other supporters of NPI.

Students who want to volunteer to help put on the event can get in the door free. If you’re interested in volunteering, please get in touch with us.

We look forward to seeing you on April 12th!

Permanent Defense celebrates ten years

Today, we at NPI celebrate a milestone like no other in our history to date: the ten year anniversary of the founding of Permanent Defense, NPI’s oldest project.

Ten Years of Permanent DefenseFor a decade, Permanent Defense has stood as a bulwark against Tim Eyman’s initiative factory, responding to anti-government propaganda, reframing the debate around taxes, pushing for direct democracy reform, and helping mobilize campaigns against harmful right wing ballot measures. At times, the work has seemed thankless and tiring.

But it has been worth it.

Before Permanent Defense was founded, Tim Eyman was getting an initiative past the voters every single year. Most of those initiatives (I-695, I-722, I-747) were later declared to be unconstitutional by the courts.

Sadly, those rulings unfortunately didn’t put Eyman’s initiative factory out of business. He seemed unstoppable. Even strategists who had worked against Eyman came to think of his duplicitous initiatives as unbeatable.

However, I never saw it that way.

If that had been my mindset, I would have stayed a passivist… someone who sits and watches from the sidelines. Instead, I became an activist. After an eye-opening conversation with two friends, I realized I had to do something. I founded Permanent Defense because it was evident to me that Tim Eyman needed opposition that was as determined to protect Washington as he was to wreck it.

I believe that determination counts for a lot. What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to work with people who share that can-do spirit: Rick, Kathleen, Ken, Patrick, Steve, Eve, Grace, Gael, Ralph, Rob, Steve, and Robert, plus NPI’s dozens of alumni.

And our thousands of donors and supporters – you know who you are!

Since Permanent Defense started providing Tim Eyman with much-needed opposition back in 2002, Eyman has had no consecutive victories. Think about that for a moment. For several years running, Eyman had been enjoying success at the ballot. Even after he admitted pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own supporters’ money, he still managed to qualify I-776 (which was supposed to kill Sound Transit’s Central Link light rail), and it passed narrowly, despite our efforts to defeat it. But that was the end of Eyman’s winning streak.

Perhaps the most important thing we’ve accomplished these past ten years is to prove that Tim Eyman can be stopped. We believe that an overwhelming majority of Washingtonians want government to be made better and more effective at every level…state, county, city, port, school district…. not broken. When we help Washingtonians understand the cost and consequences of a right wing initiative, most will vote no. But that takes work. And no one is going to do that work for us. Those of us who care about Washington’s future have to do it.

Of course, Eyman has not ceased to be a threat, even after his winning streak was broken. He has kept his initiative factory going.

But we have kept Permanent Defense going, too. Permanent Defense truly is a permanent defense. It’s also Washington’s first line of defense against Tim Eyman’s initiative factory, providing the only active, visible opposition to Eyman year-round. Permanent Defense doesn’t have an off-season; it’s not a campaign.

Permanent Defense has opposed each and every one of the initiatives Tim Eyman has sponsored since its founding, including I-776, I-267, I-807, I-684, I-892, I-900, I-917, I-960, I-985, I-1033, I-1053, and I-1125. (That’s a pretty long list!)

Permanent Defense also opposed Referendum 65, Eyman’s unsuccessful attempt to force a vote on the law that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and has fought several other destructive right wing initiatives not sponsored by Eyman, including I-920, I-933, I-1082, I-1100, I-1105, and I-1107.

Unfortunately, Tim Eyman only needs to be successful every once in a while to remain relevant. In recent years, his initiatives have shifted more towards undermining our plan of government and attacking our common wealth at its foundations. In other words, Eyman’s initiatives have become more dangerous – the harm they cause can’t be summarized on a price tag.

That makes our task harder, but not any less important. Washington is a presently at a crossroads. For years, elected leaders at every level of government have managed to spare many of our vital public services from evisceration by tapping reserves, raising fares and fees, rolling back hours, imposing furlough days, freezing public workers’ pay, and employing accounting tricks.

But the days when we could backfill our way out of a budget hole are at an end. Now we must decide what kind of state we want to live in.

Do we want to live in a state that abides by its Constitution, which requires that our Legislature operate democratically? Do we want to live in a state that provides a safety net for its most vulnerable citizens?

Do we want to live in a state that cares for its youth, providing them with a good education – including a college education?

Do we want to live in a state that protects its forests, farmlands, watersheds, estuaries, rivers, lakes, and coast for future generations to enjoy? Do we want to live in a state that supports and encourages people to start businesses here?

If the answer to those questions is yes, then we have to take a stand. We can’t slash and burn our way to prosperity. Further austerity measures – Tim Eyman’s prescription for Washington – will only weaken our state, not strengthen it.

As Permanent Defense begins its eleventh year, we rededicate ourselves to our mission: building a strong first line of defense against threats to Washington’s common wealth. In our second decade, we will work to ensure that Tim Eyman’s I-1053 is overturned, and organize early to build opposition against any copycat measures that Eyman tries to get past the voters. We will improve our citizen intelligence network so we can better track right wing signature drives. And we will step up our efforts to research and document the harm that has been caused by the passage and implementation of right wing initiatives during the 2000s.

Here’s to another decade of protecting Washington!

State House passes NPI-supported bill to make ballot advertising more transparent

Good news out of the Capitol Campus this afternoon: Washington’s House of Representatives has just approved a bill sponsored by Representative Andy Billig that makes it easier for voters to find out who’s trying to influence them to vote in favor of (or in opposition to) ballot measures. I testified in favor of this bill before the State Government & Tribal Affairs Committee a couple weeks ago, along with NPI board member Steve Zemke and NPI contributor Steve Breaux.

The vote was seventy-five to twenty-two. The roll call was as follows:

Voting Yea:  Representatives Ahern, Anderson, Angel, Appleton, Armstrong, Asay, Bailey, Billig, Blake, Carlyle, Clibborn, Cody, Darneille, Dickerson, Dunshee, Eddy, Finn, Fitzgibbon, Goodman, Green, Haigh, Hansen, Hargrove, Harris, Hasegawa, Hope, Hudgins, Hunt, Hunter, Hurst, Jinkins, Johnson, Kagi, Kelley, Kenney, Kirby, Ladenburg, Liias, Lytton, Maxwell, McCoy, Miloscia, Moeller, Morris, Moscoso, Orcutt, Ormsby, Orwall, Parker, Pedersen, Pettigrew, Pollet, Probst, Reykdal, Rivers, Roberts, Rodne, Ross, Ryu, Santos, Seaquist, Sells, Smith, Springer, Stanford, Sullivan, Takko, Tharinger, Upthegrove, Van De Wege, Walsh, Warnick, Wylie, Zeiger, and Mr. Speaker [Representative Chopp]

Voting Nay:  Representatives Alexander, Buys, Chandler, Condotta, Crouse, Dahlquist, Dammeier, DeBolt, Fagan, Haler, Hinkle, Klippert, Kretz, Kristiansen, McCune, Overstreet, Pearson, Schmick, Shea, Short, Taylor, and Wilcox

Excused:  Representative Nealey

A number of Republicans crossed over to join all of the House’s Democrats in voting aye on the bill. However, the four Republicans on the House’s State Government Committee – who conferred with Mukilteo initiative profiteer Tim Eyman prior to opposing the bill in executive session – all voted no (Representatives Taylor, Overstreet, Condotta, and Alexander).

Taylor and Overstreet each offered multiple amendments to the bill on the House floor (most would have weakened the bill), but they were all rejected.

Current state law requires that all written political advertising (whether pertaining to candidates or ballot propositions) include the name and address of the person or entity paying for the advertising. Radio and television advertising must include the sponsor’s name. The use of made-up or assumed names is prohibited.

HB 2499 requires that any advertising for or against ballot measures costing more than a thousand dollars must identify the top five contributors of the political committee that paid for the advertising.

It’s not an ambitious bill, but it’s important nonetheless.

HB 2499 now heads to the state Senate. After it receives its first reading there, it will likely be referred to the Government Operations, Tribal Relations, & Elections Committee, which is currently chaired by Senator Craig Pridemore.

Washington State House sends marriage equality legislation to Governor Gregoire

Joyous news to report this afternoon: After many hours of debate, our state House has followed in the footsteps of the Senate and approved a bill making marriage equality the law of the land of Washington.

The vote was fifty five to forty-three.

SB 6239, prime sponsored by Senator Ed Murray, now heads to the desk of Governor Chris Gregoire, who has promised to sign it.

Two Republicans joined fifty-three Democrats in voting yes; several Democrats joined the remainder of the Republican caucus in voting no.

The roll call was as follows:

Voting Yea:  Representatives Anderson, Appleton, Billig, Blake, Carlyle, Clibborn, Cody, Darneille, Dickerson, Dunshee, Eddy, Finn, Fitzgibbon, Goodman, Green, Haigh, Hansen, Hasegawa, Hudgins, Hunt, Hunter, Jinkins, Kagi, Kelley, Kenney, Ladenburg, Liias, Lytton, Maxwell, McCoy, Moeller, Morris, Moscoso, Ormsby, Orwall, Pedersen, Pettigrew, Pollet, Probst, Reykdal, Roberts, Ryu, Santos, Seaquist, Sells, Springer, Stanford, Sullivan, Takko, Tharinger, Upthegrove, Van De Wege, Walsh, Wylie, and Mr. Speaker [Representative Chopp]

Voting Nay:  Representatives Ahern, Alexander, Angel, Armstrong, Asay, Bailey, Buys, Chandler, Condotta, Crouse, Dahlquist, Dammeier, DeBolt, Fagan, Haler, Hargrove, Harris, Hinkle, Hope, Hurst, Johnson, Kirby, Klippert, Kretz, Kristiansen, McCune, Miloscia, Nealey, Orcutt, Overstreet, Parker, Pearson, Rivers, Rodne, Ross, Schmick, Shea, Short, Smith, Taylor, Warnick, Wilcox, and Zeiger

The Republicans who voted aye were Glenn Anderson and Maureen Walsh. Democrats voting nay were Steve Kirby, Mark Miloscia, and Chris Hurst.

“We thank Speaker Chopp and Rep. Pedersen for their leadership, as well as the bipartisan coalition of representatives who voted today to recognize the love, honor and commitment of all Washington families,” said Lacey All, Chair of Washington United for Marriage, the coalition that has been fighting for marriage equality.

“Many of us have known for a long time that recognizing the diversity and inclusion our state has to offer is key to our success. The enactment of this bill will prove to the world that Washington is a great place to live, work and raise a family. We do not doubt our opponents will be successful in placing a referendum on the ballot, and we will continue to build upon our momentum and win in November.”

Senator Ed Murray issued a statement thanking the House for passing his bill.

“It took the courage of many legislators who struggled with a difficult issue and decided to do what they believe is best for all Washingtonians to make today’s historic vote possible,” Murray said.

“It will bring to an end what has been, for me, a seventeen-year-struggle in the Legislature to recognize the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples in our state.

“In truth, it was the families who shared their stories of love and commitment who spoke to the hearts of legislators and changed minds.”

“We will need more of that mettle – the courage to share deeply personal stories for the cause of justice – if we are to win the hearts and minds of the people of Washington. I expect a referendum on this issue, and I remain confident that, ultimately, marriage equality will be Washington’s law.”

Governor Chris Gregoire agreed.

“This is truly a historic day in Washington state, and one where I couldn’t be more proud,” she said in statement. “With today’s vote, we tell the nation that Washington state will no longer deny our citizens the opportunity to marry the person they love. We tell every child of same-sex couples that their family is every bit as equal and important as all other families in our state.”

“And we take a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. I commend our House members and thank Rep. Jamie Pedersen for sponsoring this bill. Our legislators showed courage, respect, and professionalism.I look forward to signing this piece of legislation, and putting into law an end to an era of discrimination.”

All of us at NPI join our many coalition partners in thanking the fifty-five members of the House and the twenty-eight members of the Senate who voted in favor of SB 6239 for making this great civil rights advance a reality.

We still have a great deal of work to do. Opponents of marriage equality have made it plainly clear they intend to launch a referendum campaign to force a public vote on this legislation. If they are successful, this bill will be put before the people of Washington State to approve or reject. Unfortunately, our Constitution does not place certain subjects (like people’s civil rights) off-limits to the initiative and referendum process, so we can’t prevent our state’s fundamentalist right wing from turning this into a ballot question. But we can convince our fellow citizens that marriage equality is all about fairness, protection, and love.

Government should not be in the business of discriminating against couples who want the rights and responsibilities of marriage based on sexual orientation. Allowing LGBT couples to wed is an expansion of freedom, not a contraction of freedom. That’s the message we need to send in the weeks and months ahead.

Rick Santorum running ahead in Minnesota, Colorado caucuses… and the Missouri primary

After going more than a month without a victory (or even a second place finish, for that matter) it looks like Rick Santorum will finally get to bask in the glow of victory for a change. In two states that are holding caucuses tonight (Minnesota and Colorado) he is currently running well ahead of his rivals, and in the meaningless Missouri primary (which won’t be used to allocate any delegates) he has more than twice the number of votes that establishment favorite Mitt Romney has.

Here are the current results from each state:

Minnesota (as of 8:18 PM): 51.32% of precincts reporting

  • Newt Gingrich – 10.82%
  • Ron Paul – 27.02%
  • Mitt Romney – 16.64%,
  • Rick Santorum – 45.17%

Colorado (as of 8:18 PM): 3.4% of precincts reporting

  • Rick Santorum: 47.72%
  • Mitt Romney: 22.48%
  • Newt Gingrich: 17.33%
  • Ron Paul: 12.33%

Missouri (as of 8:18 PM): 98% of precincts reporting

  • Mitt Romney: 25.3%
  • Ron Paul: 12.2%
  • Rick Santorum: 55.2%

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Santorum could relinquish his lead in Colorado by the time all the results come in. It’s still early, and returns are still being tabulated by the state’s Republican Party. Updates are coming in slowly.
  • Newt Gingrich was not on the ballot in Missouri, which likely helped Rick Santorum win a much larger share of the vote than he otherwise would have. Gingrich’s campaign has dismissed the Missouri primary as a “beauty contest”, noting that the results are not binding and won’t be used to allocate any delegates. Even if the primary is nothing more than a well publicized straw poll, it still indicates Mitt Romney is not the first choice of many Republican voters.
  • Tonight’s Republican caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota took place at the precinct level, and constitute a preliminary round in the caucus and convention cycles in those states. The percentages we’re seeing tonight for each candidate could change, depending on what happens in the next round.

TPM has a recap of Santorum’s victory speech in the Show Me State.

UPDATE, 9:16 PM: Mitt Romney has pulled even with Rick Santorum in Colorado.

  • Mitt Romney: 36.59% (6,019 votes)
  • Rick Santorum: 36.49% (6,003 votes)
  • Newt Gingrich: 14.24% (2,343 votes)
  • Ron Paul: 12.46% (2,050 votes)

In 2008, Romney won the Colorado caucuses pretty handily. But he’s not doing so well this time around.

Conne family’s ordeal should serve as a reminder to all of us to be prepared

Some happy news this weekend: A family that had gotten lost on the Oregon coast while out picking mushrooms were found alive (though hungry and with minor injuries) by search and rescue teams, who pinpointed the family’s whereabouts after they were spotted from a helicopter piloted by Jackson County Commissioner John Rachor, who was flying with Curry County sheriff’s lieutenant John Ward.

The family was rescued by the Coast Guard and taken to a local hospital in Gold Beach, where they recounted their ordeal.

Belinda and Daniel Conne, both forty-seven, moved from Oklahoma last year to Oregon with their twenty-five year old son Michael. They had been staying in and around Gold Bar while looking for work, according to news reports.

On January 29th, they left their campsite at the Port of Gold Beach’s Huntley Park Riverside Campground (view location) to go pick mushrooms. They drove a little ways up into the Klamath Mountains, parked their Jeep Cherokee, and headed off on foot. They brought one load of mushrooms back to their vehicle, but they got lost while trying to retrieve their second load.

That’s when their troubles began.

In the heat of the afternoon, they left their jackets at the end of a gravel road. Their last meal was a peanut butter sandwich each on Sunday [January 29th, 2012].

When they didn’t come home the first night, the camp host alerted authorities. Searchers hit the ground Monday. Wednesday, searchers found the Connes’ Jeep.

The Connes spent the first night in rain, sheltering under a pile of brush. The second day, they built a lean-to, but it fell down. Heeding the advice of another mushroom picker, Michael Conne hiked uphill to try to see where they were, but returned cold, wet, and with no better idea where they were. Trying to find their way out downhill, they discovered a hollow log they could all squeeze into, and they stayed there, covering the opening with bark and hiking downhill to a creek to fill plastic bags with water. When it rained, they tried to plug the leaks with bits of wood.

On the sixth day, the family eventually managed to reach a clearing, where they signaled for help using a pocket knife and the screen of a BlackBerry smartphone. Unbeknownst to them, they were only about a quarter of a mile from a road, and only around a mile away from their vehicle.

As mentioned earlier, all three were airlifted to safety and comfort in Gold Beach; their pit bull walked out of the woods with search and rescue crews.

While this story has a happy ending, it ought to serve as a reminder to us all that it’s incredibly important to be prepared when going out into a remote area. If the Connes had been better equipped, and had their wits about them, they wouldn’t have had to spend six days shivering in the foothills of the Klamath Mountains.

Their first mistake was not bothering to bring any proper navigational tools with them. They did have a BlackBerry, but smartphones – even those running BlackBerry OS, the world’s most versatile messaging platform – do not make suitable backcountry navigational aids.

They should have taken an taken topographic maps and a compass with them, so they could orient themselves on unfamiliar terrain.

(They could also have purchased or rented a handheld GPS unit, but a GPS is a nice-to-have item, not a substitute for maps and a compass.)

Their second mistake was not bringing any portable shelter or emergency rations with them. After they found themselves lost, they did not have any snacks, let alone ingredients for a meal. Had they had rations to fall back on, they would probably have been in better spirits, and they would have had more energy, which might have given them the resolve they needed to find their way out of the woods. (Remember, they were only a quarter mile from a road when they were found).

And, if they had had a lightweight tent, they could have pitched it and gone inside during the nights, instead of trying to trying to build a fort of evergreen boughs or trying to make a hollow log waterproof.

And what were they thinking, abandoning their jackets “in the heat of the afternoon”? That’s something a savvy outdoorsman (or outdoorswoman) never does. The way to stay comfortable while in the backcountry is to dress in layers. Outerwear that’s not being used during the warmest parts of the day should be folded up and put into backpacks for use during the cooler hours.

Anyone who has learned wilderness survival skills, or been part of the Scouting movement, is probably familiar with the Ten Essentials, which are the key to surviving in the backcountry. They are:

  1. Navigation (map and compass)
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

If the Connes had been carrying the Ten Essentials, they would have fared much, much better after finding themselves lost. But, judging from the news reports, it sounds like they had almost none of the Ten Essentials. They didn’t even have matches, so they could not start a fire to keep themselves warm, or to signal rescuers. As a result, they ended up being pretty miserable.

When I was young, I learned to appreciate the difference between backcountry and frontcountry camping (also known as car camping).

Backcountry treks require far more preparation than froncountry camping trips, because you can’t take bulky items like propane lanterns, two-burner stoves, or family-sized tents. You have to have the proper gear. You plan out your meals, figure out what you’ll need to stay warm, where you might want to camp if you’re going on an overnight outing, and you always, always, always tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. You don’t just disappear.

To be comfortable and safe in the backcountry, you travel light and you travel prepared. You don’t take what you don’t need, for every unnecessary item only adds to the weight you’ll have to carry.

These rules apply to day trips in the backcountry as well as overnight trips. The Conne family didn’t follow the rules, and as a consequence, they spent nearly a week trying to survive in the woods without shelter or sustenance.

If you’re ever going out into the backcountry, you owe it to yourself and the people who care about you to plan ahead. If you don’t know how to get outfitted for a backcountry trip, and you don’t have a good friend who can advise you, go talk to the good people at REI. They’ll be able to help make your trip a much more pleasant and safe experience.

Washington’s Senate approves marriage equality legislation after long debate

Wonderful, wonderful news to celebrate tonight: After a debate that stretched for more than an hour and a half, and saw the adoption and rejection of more than a dozen amendments, Washington’s state Senate has voted to approve legislation making marriage equality the law of the land.

The vote was twenty-eight to twenty-one. Four Republicans joined nearly all Democrats in voting yes in favor of the bill, SB 6239, prime sponsored by Senator Ed Murray and requested by Governor Chris Gregoire.

The roll call was as follows:

Voting Yea: Senators Brown, Chase, Conway, Eide, Fain, Fraser, Frockt, Harper, Hatfield, Haugen, Hill, Hobbs, Kastama, Keiser, Kilmer, Kline, Kohl-Welles, Litzow, McAuliffe, Murray, Nelson, Pflug, Prentice, Pridemore, Ranker, Regala, Rolfes, and Tom

Voting Nay: Senators Baumgartner, Becker, Benton, Carrell, Delvin, Ericksen, Hargrove, Hewitt, Holmquist Newbry, Honeyford, King, Morton, Padden, Parlette, Roach, Schoesler, Sheldon, Shin, Stevens, Swecker, and Zarelli

The Republicans who voted in favor of marriage equality were Joe Fain, Andy Hill, Steve Litzow, and Cheryl Pflug. The Democrats who voted against were Jim Hargrove, Paull Shin, and Tim Sheldon.

In a statement following the passage of the bill, Murray thanked his colleagues and all who have worked to help make today’s vote a reality.

“The citizens of Washington state have come to understand that lesbian and gay families are their neighbors and their friends,” Murray said. “We share the same short moment of life. We like you seek the chance to live our lives, to experience joy, to care for our families, to contribute to our families and to the nation we love.”

Governor Chris Gregoire – who watched the vote from the wings of the Senate chamber – released a statement congratulating the Senate for approving SB 6239.

“Tonight the Washington State Senate stood up for what is right and told all families in our state that they are equal and that the state cannot be in the business of discrimination. I believe that this decision should be made by our state Legislature, and I’m proud our elected leaders recognized that responsibility. Tonight we saw the best of Washington and our leaders. They were respectful and they were kind. I thank Senator Ed Murray for his leadership.”

“This vote was courageous and was only possible with bipartisan support. That support shows Washington’s commitment to equality.”

“Fair-minded and responsible leaders crafted a bill that protects religious freedoms while ensuring equal rights. I commend our state Senators who acknowledged tonight that separate but equal is not equal.”

“Tonight our families are better for this vote. Our kids have a brighter future for this bill. And our state is better for this bill. I encourage the House to approve this bill and get it to my desk for my signature. I look forward to the day when all Washington citizens have equal opportunity to marry the person they love.”

This post will be updated with more details as the evening goes on.

President Obama’s schedule for February 17th Seattle visit begins to take shape

A few days ago, White House officials let it be known that President Obama would be stopping in Washington State again for a mid-February visit.

They didn’t announce his itinerary or schedule, but we figured it wouldn’t be long before the campaign began sending out invitations to fundraisers with the President. Yesterday, the first invitations began going out, for an event in downtown Bellevue around midday.

Here are the details:

Please join President Obama at a Lunch with supporters like you in Bellevue.

What:
Obama Victory Fund 2012 – Lunch with President Obama & Special Performance by the Head and the Heart

Where:
Bellevue Westin
600 Bellevue Way NE
Bellevue, Washington

When:
Friday, February 17, 2012
12:30 PM

Space is Limited

The minimum required to get in the door is $1,000. For just $4,000 more, you can have your picture taken with the President at a photo reception. For a grand total of $6,000, you can get into the photo reception with a friend.

Or, for $10,000, you can buy up a table at the event.

There is a special $250 rate for Young Democrats, but even that reduced rate may be beyond the means of those it is intended to benefit.

(Tuition in this state keeps going up, as Democrats currently attending Washington’s public universities and colleges can attest).

Prior to speaking at the luncheon, the President will be attending an invitation-only brunch with even more generous donors. His campaign holds a lot of those kinds of events during any given month – most at private residences.

As far as we know, no events have yet been announced in Seattle itself.

We’ll let you know if any are.

For security reasons, the Secret Service never divulges trip logistics or notifies the news media which routes the President’s motorcade will take during a visit. However, if history is any indication, it might be a good idea to avoid I-5 and SR 520 during midmorning and midafternoon on Friday, February 17th. Those highways will likely be shut down while the President goes to and from Boeing Field.

We wonder, though: if the President and his entourage take SR 520, will they need to pay the bridge toll? Emergency vehicles are exempt if on official business – but what about The Beast? And the press vans?