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Monthly Archives: August 2012

RNC Postmortem: Republicans head home after last day of convention in Tampa, Florida

Yesterday was the final day of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Here are a few parting thoughts on the convention from The Seattle Times‘ Jim Brunner, The Stranger‘s Paul Constant, and other journalists who were in town covering the convention from a national perspective.

Paul Constant has an essay in The Stranger summarizing his time in Tampa, called Stuck in a Room with Mitt Romney. It’s an extremely well-written piece which gives a feel for what Tampa was like during the RNC. Constant doesn’t just describe the cityscape and the scene inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum – he bluntly describes the mood and freely shares his impressions of the delegates themselves. Reading it, I almost felt like I was there (and glad I wasn’t).

Here’s an excerpt:

All the talk about patriotism, about supporting the troops, is just lip service. This is the most unpatriotic crowd I have ever been a part of. What they are against is community. Every sentence is devoid of empathy. Every finger-wag is aimed directly at an American who can’t afford health insurance, who hasn’t had a raise on their minimum-wage job in four years. Even as they rail against a statement that the president never really made, they are talking about tearing America down and leaving something meaner and greedier in its place. They’re radicals—radicals who’ve gone over the edge and are trying to make their radicalism mainstream.

Yikes. If Paul is going to Charlotte next week to cover the Democratic National Convention, I hope the Democrats can show him a better time.

The Tampa Bay Times has a whole set of postmortem pieces in today’s paper (and online). Stephanie Hayes has a recap of Meghan McCain’s birthday party for her dad, columnist Sue Carlton asked if the people of Tampa could have their city back, and Eric Deggans reflected on how social media made the 2012 RNC different from past conventions. The paper also took the trouble to ask departing delegates from other states what they thought of the Bay Area, and concluded that Tampa had received mixed reviews.

Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner tweeted last night that Republicans didn’t make use of all of the decorations ordered for the convention. He posted a picture on Twitter showing thousands of balloons still in the rafters. Brunner has yet to file a postmortem-style piece on the convention for the Seattle Times, but if and when he does, I’ll update this post with a link (or another editor will).

Politico’s Ken Vogel managed to secure some time with right-wing billionaire David Koch and found out that Koch is (gasp) for marriage equality – as is Clint Eastwood, who stole the show last night during primetime with his bizarre stunt in which he pretended to have a conversation with an imaginary President Obama, portrayed by a chair. Koch told Vogel “I believe in gay marriage” and also suggested he wouldn’t be opposed to cuts in the defense budget, unlike Mitt Romney, who has indicated he doesn’t want to reduce military expenditures by one penny.

Flashback to the Bush Error: In 2001, Paul Ryan defended budget-busting tax cuts

Today, we’re beginning a new series on The Advocate called Flashback to the Bush Error that will feature new installments on Fridays each week through Election Day. The purpose of this series is to document and explore Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s support for the failed policies of George W. Bush during the eight years that Bush was in power (January 2001 – January 2009).

Philosopher George Santayana once reflected that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Given how short our attention spans seem to be these days, we think it’s worth remembering what happened to our country prior to President Obama’s accession to power in the historic presidential election of 2008.

Our hope is that this series helps illustrate differences between the campaign platforms of Barack Obama/Joe Biden and Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan, which are quite stark. The traditional media spends way too much ink, airtime, and pixels doing horse-race style political coverage (who’s winning, who’s losing). We’re going to do our best to steer the conversation in a different direction.

In this first installment, we’ll be delving into Paul Ryan’s record on fiscal matters.

Ryan and his admirers have long portrayed him as a principled man who is very concerned about our ability to “live within our means”, which is a favorite maxim of conservatives. In reality, Ryan deserves a healthy percentage of the blame for the mess that we’re in as a country. Let’s begin with some context.

Paul Ryan was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1998, during the second midterm elections of Bill Clinton’s presidency. (That was the same year Jay Inslee returned to Congress in Washington State).

At the time he was sworn in, he was the second youngest member of the House of Representatives. It wasn’t long before House Republican leadership assigned him to the Committee on Ways and Means.

As I alluded to above, in 2001, Ryan was an enthusiastic supporter of George W. Bush’s proposal to slash federal income taxes, especially for the wealthy. In debates on the House floor, he stuck to his assigned talking points when given an opportunity to weigh in on the merits (or lack thereof) of the tax cuts:

Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman for yielding me this time. I have been listening to this debate with a lot of wonder. I am a newer member to the committee and a newer Member to Congress. It is amazing to me the excuses we are hearing to further separate people from their own money. We hear that this tax cut is just too big, it is irresponsible, we cannot handle it. I refer Members to this chart which shows that this is six cents on the dollar, six cents on the dollar that every American taxpayer is sending to Washington over the next ten years. $1.6 trillion out of $28 trillion.

Paul Ryan, March 8th, 2001 (Source: Congressional Record)

Two months later, Ryan again urged passage of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, claiming it would lead to broader prosperity:

We are paying down the national debt as fast as we can. And even after doing all of those things, you are still overpaying your taxes. What we are simply saying is rather than take your money and find new ways to spend it for you here in Washington, we want to give it back to the American people, put the money back into their paychecks as they overpay their taxes, and revive this engine of economic growth, small businesses and entrepreneurs, and prey on people’s hopes and dreams and aspirations. That is what this all about.

Paul Ryan, May 16th, 2001 (Source: Congressional Record)

Of course, by the end of the Bush years, the national debt had skyrocketed as a result of years of deficit spending, job losses were mounting by the month, and income inequality had reached a disturbing new high.

Tax cuts, wars account for nearly half of public debt by 2019

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities chart showing that the Bush tax cuts and Bush-initiated occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed most significantly to the national debt.

Ryan was not the only one claiming that the Bush tax cuts would do wonders for the economy.

The conservative Heritage Foundation went so far as to explicitly predict that passage of the Bush tax cuts would “effectively” result in the elimination of the national debt by 2010. Republicans promised the the people of the United States that slashing taxes would be the greatest possible thing for the economy and was a fiscally sensible course of action.

They were dead wrong then, and they’re dead wrong now.

Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney want to return us to the Bush error. They’ve tried to avoid sounding like apologists for Bush on the campaign trail, because they don’t want to be associated with one of the most unpopular presidents in American history. But the reality is, they want to pick up where Dubya left off. They want to return us to the same failed policies that wrecked our economy and cost us our moral authority around the world. We can’t afford that.

Patient Protection Act a start, but U.S. still needs true healthcare reform: Medicare for All

Along with economic security, the future of Medicare has emerged as a significant issue in the presidential campaign. The Patient Protection Act, passed more than two years ago and recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court,  provides insurance reform, not healthcare reform. But both are needed.

The Patient Protection Act imposed new requirements on health insurers: young people can stay on their parents’ plans until age twenty-six, coverage cannot be denied to people with pr-existing conditions, there are larger caps on lifetime expenditures on behalf of the insured person, and eighty-five percent of premium income must be spent on patient care. The Act also mandates that everyone purchase health insurance.

The individual mandate was one of the focal points of the lawsuit brought by just over two dozen states’ attorneys general against the Act.

The states argued that the individual mandate is unconstitutional because it exceeds the powers that the Constitution grants to Congress. But the Supreme Court reasoned that the penalty due from individuals who don’t buy health insurance constitutes a tax – and Congress has the power to impose taxes.

Do the justices see the ramifications of what they’ve done?

If buying insurance is a payment in lieu of a tax, why not call the payment a tax? If it’s a tax, why have the insurance companies collect it? We have an Internal Revenue Service that already collect taxes.

The insurance companies are not a friend of efficiency in healthcare: their profit is derived from a portion of the money that passes through their hands on the way to your doctor or hospital. While an insurance company may balk at paying for the care you need, on the whole, they want to see more payments made to healthcare providers. With more payments to doctors, the insurers get to keep more: cost containment is not one of their goals.

Insurance companies contribute to inefficiency: each has its own forms, its own methods, its own hurdles for your physician to jump over. Physicians spend too much time battling insurance companies on behalf of their patients. Winning those battles is a form of patient care, but that isn’t what your physician trained to do. When your physician has a back-office staff to join the battle, that staff contributes to the bill, not directly to your care.

The Patient Protection Act was crafted to reduce federal spending on healthcare. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, deviously named “Path to Prosperity”, counts on these savings, even though Republicans have vowed to repeal the legislation. Mitt Romney, just nominated by the Republican Party as its candidate for president, repudiates the Patient Protection Act, even though it was modeled in part on the insurance reform he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts.

We have health insurance reform – if we can keep it. We need healthcare reform – if we can achieve it.

RNC Watch: Charter bus fiasco keeps Washington State Republicans up really late

Today is the third day of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Here’s a roundup of some of the goings-on there, as reported by The Seattle Times‘ Jim Brunner, The Stranger‘s Paul Constant, and other journalists who are in town covering the convention from a national perspective.

Incompetent central planning by the Republican Party kept many of Washington State’s Republican delegates from getting back to their hotel at a reasonable hour last night. The Seattle Times‘ Jim Brunner reports that the privately owned and operated charter buses that were supposed to expediently transport delegates between the Tampa Bay Times Forum and a “transfer zone” at Raymond James Stadium (where a second fleet of buses were waiting) trapped each other in a traffic jam outside of the entrance to the transfer zone.

Consequently, it took a very long time for delegates to get to the bus that had been chartered to bring them back to their accommodations. Delegates ended up demanding to be let off the first bus so they could walk to the second one. Brunner tweeted that he reached the Holiday Inn around 3 AM.

Brunner also tweeted that he was passing the time with initiative promoter Tim Eyman, who is attending the RNC as a guest of Kirby Wilbur’s, and later quoted Eyman in his write-up of the fiasco:

Boarding the second bus back to a Clearwater Beach hotel, I needled Eyman that perhaps better central planning or a beefed up public transit system could have avoided the chaos.

“Absolutely not!” he shot back, laughing. “What they needed was a total free market – no buses at all and said to everybody find your own way to get to the damn stadium and then everybody would have found their own route to get to the place. It was just too much socialism!”

I didn’t hear Eyman say this, so I don’t know if he was attempting to be deliberately over-the-top, but what he told Brunner makes no sense.

Not having any kind of a transportation plan – telling everyone to find their own way to the Tampa Bay Times Forum (which, incidentally, was built with public money) – would not have worked at all. There are more than two thousand delegates at the RNC, and thousands more participating in the RNC who are not delegates. If each attendee was instructed to commute to the arena in their own vehicle, only a lucky few would be able to get inside without having to spend much of their day waiting inside an idling taxicab or rental car.

What’s more, Eyman’s notion of a “total free market” is ludicrous. There’s no such thing as a free market… let alone a “total” free market. (Incidentally, “total free market” is a curious phrase for a conservative to use, since it would seem to imply that “free markets” are not in fact free, as progressives have long pointed out).

In reality, all markets are constructed for somebody’s benefit, and no market stands on its own for very long without regulation. Very few markets in the real world are considered by economists to be perfectly competitive. (A perfectly competitive market is a market that is driven exclusively by market forces, like the four laws of supply and demand, where firms have no control over prices).

If government played no role in transportation, we would not have a very good roads system, and our economy would not function, because building and maintaining a far-flung roads system is not something the private sector is capable of doing. Businesses depend on the public sector to construct and operate basic infrastructure like roads, bridges, and ports (which allow them to transport goods to market) and mass transit systems (which allow their employees to get to work).

Roads are just as socialist as mass transit. All transportation planning is by necessity social engineering. But then, Tim Eyman has never been a transportation expert. He doesn’t understand what it takes to efficiently and effectively move people from place to place. No wonder the people of Washington have repeatedly said no when he’s tried to convince them to let him play transportation planner.

Anyhow, enough about that. Let’s move on.

Though the Washington State Republicans’ host hotel (a Holiday Inn) is located some twenty-five plus miles from the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Clearwater, the delegation does have pretty good seats inside the Forum, which is one of the country’s more spacious basketball arenas. Brunner says the delegation has a prominent spot right behind Virginia with a good view of the podium.

The Stranger’s Paul Constant continues to talk to protesters on the streets of Tampa. The latest installment of his series depicting protesters and their signs features a man named Bob, who is apparently a counter-protester (a protester protesting the protesters – sorry for the mouthful!) Earlier, he talked to Laura, a Tampa native who doesn’t agree with the Republican platform.

Local businesses in Tampa aren’t yet seeing much of a boost in foot traffic from the Republican National Convention. The Associated Press reports that bad weather and tight security appeared to be keeping many delegates away from storefronts in downtown. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn still believes the convention will result in a net gain for the city, though he admitted downtown was “dead” on Monday, the first day of the convention.

Republican governors are spending a lot of time in Tampa wooing big donors behind the scenes, reports Politico’s Ken Vogel, who used to work at The News Tribune of Tacoma some years ago. Wrote Vogel:

On Wednesday afternoon, one governor after the next pulled up in SUVs with police escorts to a discreet side entrance of the exclusive Tampa Club for a luncheon of the Republican Governors Association’s top donor club, the Executive Roundtable. It provides special access to governors for folks who give $25,000 or more each year, more than 80 of whom came to hear speeches from Govs. Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Chris Christie of New Jersey, and to mingle with Govs. Terry Branstad of Iowa, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

The Republican Governors Association is expected to spend heavily on Rob McKenna’s behalf in the coming weeks. The Democratic Governors Association is poised to do likewise on behalf of Jay Inslee.

RNC Watch: RGA Chairman says Rob McKenna would govern like Scott Walker

Today is the second day of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Here’s a roundup of some of the goings-on there, as reported by The Seattle Times‘ Jim Brunner, The Stranger‘s Paul Constant, and other journalists who are in town covering the convention from a national perspective.

At the Holiday Inn this morning in Clearwater (a suburb of Tampa) the Washington State Republican delegation heard from special guest Bob McDonnell, who is the governor of Virginia as well as the current chair of the Republican Governors Association (RGA). McDonnell apparently came primarily to sing the praises of Rob McKenna, the party’s candidate for governor. (McKenna himself is not in Tampa, having elected to stay home and campaign in the Evergreen State). According to the Seattle Times’ Jim Brunner, who was in the room and heard the speech, McDonnell singled out Wisconsin’s Scott Walker as one of the best governors in the country… and then suggested McKenna would govern like Walker:

He [Walker] represents what governing is all about. You look people in the eye, you have the courage to tell them the truth about what you can and can’t afford, about what policies you have to put in place… and then you get elected and you actually do it.

[...]

That’s what Scott Walker did in Wisconsin, and that’s what Rick Hill and Rob McKenna are going to do in their states as well.

Democrats have long suggested that Rob McKenna is a Scott Walker wannabe, while McKenna’s campaign has tried its best to dimiss the juxtaposition.

But now the chairman of the Republican Governors Association has made the very same comparison. That’s pretty telling.

Meanwhile, as if we needed another reminder that the authorities have resolved to put protesters’ First Amendment rights on ice during the national conventions, The Stranger’s Paul Constant reports that police officers shooed a couple of Working Washington activists away from the Clearwater Holiday Inn (which, again, is the host hotel for the state Republican delegation). The activists had not been planning on disrupting the breakfast meeting – they simply wanted to be in a place where Washington’s Republican delegates could see them. But they left after police told them to get lost and threatened to arrest them if they didn’t.

Two white supremacists were ejected from the Tampa Bay Times Forum after they physically and verbally assaulted a black CNN camerawoman. The two individuals – who have been described in some press reports as Republican delegates – reportedly threw peanuts at the woman and sneered, “This is how we feed animals.” The assault took place in front of several witnesses.

CNN confirmed the incident and said it had worked with the Republican Party to address the matter, but had no further comment.

The network ought to do us all a favor and actually report on this story instead of just saying, Yeah, that happened. Who are these racists? Are they delegates? Republican Party leaders? Or just guests at the convention? Is their ejection permanent? (Let’s hope they’re not going to be allowed back in).

ThinkProgress did a great job earlier this evening of liveblogging the RNC during the primetime speaking segments. They managed to keep an eye on the traditional media’s coverage while also highlighting some of the inconvenient truths ignored by speakers like Chris Christie of New Jersey, who gave the keynote address… and referred to himself more often than Mitt Romney. (For instance, key indicators show that New Jersey’s economy has not improved since Christie took office after defeating Democrat Jon Corzine in 2009).

Tim Eyman’s lawsuit over I-1185 fiscal impact “dimissed in full and with prejudice”

A baseless lawsuit filed by Tim Eyman against the state’s Office of Financial Management (OFM) has been dismissed in full and with prejudice following a hearing in Thurston County Superior Court earlier today.

After listening to arguments by Senior Counsel Steve Dietrich (representing the state) and Tim Eyman (who appeared pro se), Judge James Dixon signed an order presented by Attorney General Rob McKenna dismissing the case in its entirety. His decision means that Secretary of State Sam Reed’s office can move forward with the printing of the voter’s pamphlet for the November general election.

Eyman had petitioned the court to force OFM to rewrite its fiscal impact statement for Initiative 1185, his latest attempt to reimpose his unconstitutional scheme that prevents the Legislature from raising revenue without a two-thirds vote.

But Judge Dixon found his complaint to be without merit.

Eyman filed his suit because he was unhappy that the fiscal impact statement for I-1185 did not match the one OFM published two years ago for I-1053. Eyman contended that OFM should have simply re-issued the document it published two summers ago with a couple of minor word changes. But, as we explained earlier this week, there’s a very good reason why OFM didn’t do that:

OFM has a duty to the people and the elected leaders of Washington State to accurately identify and describe fiscal impacts of proposed initiatives.

In 2010, prior to the adoption of Initiative 1053, the agency determined that enactment of I-1053 would not have a direct fiscal impact. At the time, I-1053 was not law, so OFM was making an educated guess about the initiative.

As it turned out, the fee provision of I-1053 (which was not present in I-1053′s predecessor, I-960) did have a direct fiscal impact, so OFM appropriately took that into account when preparing the fiscal impact statement for I-1185.

Tim Eyman is now asking a court to force OFM to not account for its prior mistake – in other words, to not make use of what it has learned about I-1053 since I-1053 went into effect – because he does not want the truth about the consequences of I-1053′s clone I-1185 to be known and to be discussed.

Eyman’s lawsuit is completely without merit. OFM has not committed any wrongdoing. The agency should not be compelled to reissue its fiscal impact statement for I-1185 simply because Tim Eyman doesn’t like it.

Eyman, who loves to orchestrate publicity stunts to attract news coverage, tried to dress the part of a lawyer and sound lawyer-like. He opted for a suit and tie and reportedly did his best to put on a show for the cameras without breaking decorum. But it was all for naught. His request to prevent OFM’s fiscal impact statement from being published in the voter’s pamphlet was denied.

Amusingly, he appeared unconcerned about the demise of his case after it was dismissed, despite having fretted in his legal pleading that OFM’s fiscal impact statement would undercut his ability to sell I-1185 to voters.

Eyman claimed afterward that he was representing himself because he had anticipated he’d lose and didn’t want to have to foot a $6,000 bill for having an attorney appear on his behalf. But $6,000 is chump change considering how much money powerful corporations have ponied up for I-1185. Why was Eyman unwilling to spend any of his oil or beer money pursuing this case?

Maybe it’s because this really was just another publicity stunt.

POSTSCRIPT: Brad Shannon and Jim Camden have more.

One of six proposed coal terminals in Washington and Oregon abandoned

Ask a political organizer in Whatcom County, and it trends that they will tell you about how often they hear voters ask about the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point, right outside of Bellingham. They get frustrated. Train tracks cut right through Bellingham, and run along next to local businesses. Sit for a few hours at a Bellingham restaurant/brewery, and multiple trains will come by to stifle conversation in the time it takes for the train to go about their self-assured route.

We have already covered some of the signs of opposition to the proposed coal terminal. Bellingham isn’t alone in its opposition, and many cities have expressed opposition or concern, including Seattle. This opposition has come before the agencies conducting the study about the impacts of the coal terminal have even figured out what exactly they’re going to be studying yet. But Cherry Point isn’t the only coal terminal proposed. Six coal terminals have been proposed in Washington and Oregon.

At least, until last week.

Last Tuesday, Florida-based company RailAmerica announced that it was no longer pursuing a coal export terminal in Grays Harbor. The reasoning given was that another company was interested in shipping something other than coal, and this operation would actually start running quicker than the time it would take to build a coal terminal. The decision gives greater credence to the reasoning that it might better economically for companies to ship inventory other than small, black rocks that contribute to climate change.

RailAmerica giving up on the Grays Harbor terminal is a cause for celebration for the those who have taken a stand against coal. Showing that there are better and faster ways to generate economic activity in the region will help sway those who believe that exporting coal is the only way to create jobs.

One down, five to go. Five coal terminals is still a lot to worry about.

Republican Todd Akin’s offensive comments about rape draw widespread condemnation

Yesterday, Missouri Republican Todd Akin, who currently serves in the U.S. House of Representatives and is the party’s U.S. Senate nominee this year, was interviewed by St. Louis’ local Fox affiliate about his candidacy. During the interview, Akin was asked if he believed that abortion should be available to women who are raped. Akin gave the following widely-reported answer:

Well, you know, uh, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, ‘Well, how do you – how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question.’ It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

Akin’s comments spread like wildfire across the Internet. Hours later, Akin apologized, claiming that he “misspoke”, which is code for I’m not sorry for what I believe, I’m only sorry that I wasn’t more clever with my choice of words.

Akin has once again given us a glimpse inside the ultraconservative minds of far right-wing Republicans who object to women making their own reproductive health decisions. He did not misspeak. He was describing his beliefs – beliefs that are shared by other uncompromising opponents of women’s rights.

People unused to this kind of extreme rhetoric might wonder whether Tea Party favorite Todd Akin was absent from health class on the day that human reproduction was covered. Or perhaps he never took a health class… it’s optional in Missouri. Local school boards can decide whether to offer it or not.

And when teaching about sex, schools must stress abstinence as the only completely effective way to avoid pregnancy. (Of course, practicing abstinence does not guarantee that a woman won’t become pregnant if she is raped).

To describe Akin’s comments as offensive would be putting it lightly. Consider the words Akin used. The phrase “legitimate rape” stands out. What’s that supposed to mean? That some women who are raped are victims, but others aren’t?

As President Obama said this morning, “Rape is rape.” But radical conservatives don’t think that way. If you’re a woman… and you are raped… and you get pregnant… well, tough. If you are raped, and get pregnant, but don’t want to torture yourself for another nine months carrying a pregnancy you didn’t plan for to term, you have to suck it up because that embryo is more important that you are.

This is the same Todd Akin who cosponsored H.R. 3 with Paul Ryan, wanting to add “forcible” to the definition of rape to further narrow the exceptions allowed for federal funding for abortion. Todd Akin obviously likes his adjectives when it comes to rape, because there are so many ways to describe it.

To add insult to injury, this guy is on the U.S. House’s Science and Technology Committee. There is no science that backs up his view of how a woman’s body responds after being raped. In fact, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists considered Akin’s comments so egregious that they felt compelled to weigh in with a statement on the matter:

Recent remarks by a member of the U.S. House of Representatives suggesting that “women who are victims of ‘legitimate rape’ rarely get pregnant” are medically inaccurate, offensive, and dangerous.

Each year in the US, 10,000–15,000 abortions occur among women whose pregnancies are a result of reported rape or incest. An unknown number of pregnancies resulting from rape are carried to term. There is absolutely no veracity to the claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.”

A woman who is raped has no control over ovulation, fertilization, or implantation of a fertilized egg (i.e., pregnancy). To suggest otherwise contradicts basic biological truths.

Any person forced to submit to sexual intercourse against his or her will is the victim of rape, a heinous crime. There are no varying degrees of rape. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate and insulting and minimizes the serious physical and psychological repercussions for all victims of rape.

Akin also seems to like the technology that gives us vaginal ultrasounds, even though he doesn’t understand how requiring women to have one before a legal abortion is a deplorable invasion of privacy.

Of course, other Republicans are doing their best to distance themselves from Akin. “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement,” the Romney campaign was quick to declare. “A Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”

Did the campaign check with Mr. Ryan or ultraconservative organizations like Focus on the Family before issuing that statement?

Voters of the State of Missouri will certainly have a clear choice for U.S. Senate this fall, as Todd Akin has shown no sign that he is going to fold under pressure from the Republican establishment. Will Claire McCaskill benefit? It’s hard to say at this point. More women vote than men, and Missouri women will surely be reminded of Todd Akin’s misspeaking before they fill out their ballots in October and November.

We should all keep in mind that Paul Ryan and many other Republicans think like this guy. They just hasn’t been so brutally honest.

Turnout, get-out-the-vote efforts will determine whether Washington moves forward or slides backward after November

Few elections will be as pivotal in Washington State history as the November 2012 election. It is an election that could decide whether Washington steps boldly into a progressive future, or whether it falls victim to right-wing policies that benefit the top 1% while denying basic rights to many of the state’s residents.

Progressives can win big victories this November – but it will require a high voter turnout to get there. But as the August election showed, there’s a lot of work ahead to improve turnout and get voters to cast their ballots.

Despite predictions that voter turnout could reach the mid-40% range for the August statewide election, the actual numbers fell far short.

As of last Sunday, August 12th, 35.97% of registered voters cast a ballot in the winnowing election. Several thousand ballots remain to be counted, but it’s unlikely that turnout will break 40%.

Conventional wisdom holds that turnout will rise for the November election. Presidential elections typically see the highest turnout rates in Washington, as in other states. Washington also tends to have above average turnout – 62% of Washington voters cast a ballot in November 2008, compared with the national average of 58.5%.

Yet there are worrying trends that turnout could be low even in November. Polls of voter intentions show fewer people intend to cast a ballot in 2012, with young voters lagging behind their 2004 and 2008 intention levels. In 2008, of course, strong turnout from young voters helped put Barack Obama in the White House. Reduced turnout in 2010, on the other hand, helped the Republican Party retake the US House of Representatives. Privately, progressive candidates and elected officials are noticing a trend across the country of lower turnout.

Washington State has the chance to make history at the November ballot by being the first state to approve marriage equality at the polls by approving Referendum 74 and by being the first state to legalize marijuana (if I-502 is approved). Washington also has a closely contested governor’s race, and downballot races that could decide control of the State Senate and other important offices.

High voter turnout is important for all of those races, but particularly for R-74 and I-502. Marriage and marijuana are two issues where the universe of undecided voters are much smaller than usual. Because there just aren’t very many voters who can be persuaded to change their views, winning those campaigns will require a focus on getting out the vote. A large turnout from King County, especially from voters in Seattle, may well be the difference for both R-74 and I-502.

Although the election is still three months away, now is the time to begin working to improve turnout. It starts with registration. Ask your friends and family if they’re registered to vote – and if their registration is up to date. The deadline to register for the November election is October 8 (October 29 if you’re a new voter in Washington State), but we should be encouraging people to register now. The Secretary of State’s website can help register you online, direct you to an in-person registration location, or even help you register via Facebook.

Once ballots are in the mail, which will occur in early October, getting voters to return the ballots quickly will be the next important task. Voting early is good from a logistical perspective, ensuring your ballot has been received and leaving yourself time in case there are any problems to resolve. It’s also helpful for the campaigns themselves. If more voters turn in their ballots early, that allows campaign staff and volunteers to focus on chasing down a smaller number of people, making their own GOTV efforts more targeted and more effective.

November 2012 will be a turnout election, and progressives can win it – but only if we work hard to get our family and friends to turn in their ballots. Equality, sensible drug policies, and the future of our state hang in the balance. We can’t let the right win because Washington progressives left their ballots on the kitchen table.

WOW! Félix Hernández pitches first perfect game in Mariners history at Safeco Field

All hail King Félix!

The twenty-six year old Mariners pitching phenom solidified his place in baseball history by becoming the first Seattle pitcher to toss a perfect game in front of 21,000+ cheering fans on a sunny summer day at Safeco Field. The Mariners scored just one run against the Tampa Bay Rays, but that was all it took to win the game in the 9th inning. Hernández was dominant, striking out twelve batters. He retired the last batter he faced after initially falling behind in the count 2-0.

Safeco Field erupted in jubilant celebration following the final strikeout.

A pitcher is considered to have pitched a perfect game when no batter from the opposing team reaches first base.

In other words, the pitcher (backed up by the defense on the infield and the outfield) has to retire every batter he faces, for a total of twenty-seven consecutive outs. A perfect game is, by definition, also a no-hitter.

Six Mariners pitchers collectively tossed a no-hitter earlier this season against the Los Angeles Dodgers (on June 8th), tying the record for a no-hitter with the most pitchers involved. That was quite an accomplishment… but this is something else.

Asked by Root Sports when he realized that he might be on the verge of making history, he replied, “It was in my mind the whole game. I was like, ‘Come on, you gotta do it. You gotta do it. When I came out in the ninth, I was a bit nervous.”

No doubt he was, but he got the outs he needed.

The Mariners’ John Jaso also shares in the accomplishment. He is the first Seattle catcher to call a perfect game. He’ll surely remember this day (and his successful partnership with Félix) for the rest of his career.

The gem was only the twenty-third perfect game in Major League Baseball history. It was the third perfect game this season, which is a new MLB record.

The Mariners were on actually on the losing end of one of the two previous perfect games pitched earlier this season; now it’s their turn to win one.

Elected leaders were quick to congratulate Hernándezon the feat.

“Today all of Seattle is the King’s Court,” said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. “Using all four of his pitches, King Félix blew the Rays out of the water. Backed up by some of the best defensive players in the game, King Félix and the Seattle Mariners made history at Safeco Field. I congratulate him on this incredible achievement and know that all of Seattle joins the Mariners in celebrating today’s game.”

“Today we saw a piece of baseball history here in King County,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine, also a big Mariners fan.

“Congratulations to Félix Hernández on pitching the 23rd perfect game in Major League Baseball history and the first in Seattle Mariners history. He was just awesome. He made us proud. Today he proved he truly is the King.”

The linescore of today’s game

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Rays (63–54) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Mariners (55–64) 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 x 1 5 0
WP: Félix Hernández (11–5)   LP: Jeremy Hellickson (7–8)

No doubt wherever he is now, Mariners play-by-play announcer Dave Niehaus is beaming. My, oh my. What a game.

Kathi Goertzen: 1958-2012

This afternoon, we received the very sad news that one of Seattle’s best known newscasters and community leaders is no longer with us.

Kathi Goertzen

Much-beloved Seattle news anchor Kathi Goertzen. (Photo courtesy of Dan Lewis and KOMO 4 News).

Kathi Goertzen, who for decades was the face of KOMO 4 News with coanchor Dan Lewis, died around 12:45 PM today after a long, difficult battle with several brain tumors, the station announced. She was fifty-four.

In a message to viewers, KOMO’s news director Holly Gauntt expressed gratitude for the unwavering support Washingtonians have shown to Goertzen before, during, and after her many surgeries – which altered her appearance but not her spirit.

Our co-worker, our angel, our precious friend, Kathi Goertzen, died today, surrounded by her loving family.

The long fight against the tumors that have ravaged her brain is over. She is at peace now, comfortable and surrounded by all that is good. Please know, as we do, that your love enveloped her. It strengthened and encouraged her. She loved your compassion and concern more than you’ll ever know. You helped her fight a valiant fight. We want to thank each and every one of you for that.

You truly made a difference in our friend’s life. Kathi spoke of her own mortality with courage. She was a woman of great faith who was confident in the knowledge that her life on this earth was but one chapter in her journey. Kathi is with God now, of that we are sure.

There is no more pain and suffering. We hope you find comfort in the words she spoke when talking about this day:

“I’m not afraid to die. I have a great belief, a great faith there’s more. There’s more to me, there’s more to this life.”

Tributes appropriately began flowing in immediately. KING’s Jean Enersen and KIRO’s Steve Raible each recorded clips honoring Kathi on behalf of their respective stations, which KOMO aired during its 5 PM newscast this evening, jointly anchored by Dan Lewis, Steve Pool, Eric Johnson, and Mary Nam.

Dan Lewis and Kathi Goertzen

Dan Lewis and Kathi Goertzen, KOMO TV’s charismatic and well-respected anchor team. (Photo courtesy of KOMO News).

“Today, a piece of the fabric of my life is gone,” Pool told viewers. He worked with Goertzen for more than three decades at KOMO, and was among those who knew her best. “She was the glue that held us all together [as a team],” he added.

The region’s elected leaders also remembered Kathi.

“My heart is with the family, friends and colleagues of Kathi Goertzen,” said Governor Chris Gregoire in a statement. “She had countless fans, not just in Seattle, but around the globe, and was one of the finest people I knew. She was a terrific journalist because she cared deeply about her work and the people it touched. She had passion and it showed. She put her heart and soul into every story, and was a warm and welcome presence at the anchor desk every evening.”

“As her fight against brain tumors waged on, we saw yet another side of Kathi. She was courageous, fearless and inspirational.”

“Not afraid to share her own story, she remained strong, with that beautiful smile, to the end. Kathi brightened our lives and leaves a remarkable legacy.”

“As the face of KOMO News for twenty years, Kathi Goertzen was a successful and accomplished journalist who approached her work with integrity, compassion, and a dedication to the public good,” agreed Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

“Her strength and resiliency during her illness made her an inspiration to many in our community. She will be long remembered in Seattle for her accomplishments at the anchor desk as well as her grace in the face of adversity. Kathi was beloved by the people of Seattle, and we will miss her.”

“My heartfelt condolences to Kathi’s family, her friends, and all who welcomed her into their homes through the medium of television,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Kathi leaves a legacy of kindness, professionalism, and strength as she gracefully battled her illness for more than a decade. She was an icon of television news in the Pacific Northwest, and she will be missed.”

Senator Maria Cantwell, meanwhile, paid a personal visit to Fisher Plaza to convey her condolences to Goertzen’s family and colleagues. She placed a bouquet of flowers next to a collection of other items left to honor Goertzen’s memory.

“KOMO News’ Kathi Goertzen was as courageous as they come and an excellent Pacific Northwest journalist. She never gave up and will be greatly missed,” Senator Patty Murray said on Twitter.

Goertzen was just twenty-two years old when she joined KOMO 4 News as a journalist after graduating from Washington State University (WSU). Within a few years, the station had promoted her to the anchor desk.

She first anchored weekend newscasts, then began anchoring weeknights after it became apparent she was a great newscaster. In the late 1980s, the station hired Dan Lewis to join her behind the desk, and thus began what became the longest-running partnership at a local news station west of the Mississippi.

During her career, Goertzen won five Emmys and an Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in broadcasting.

Kathi's colleagues remember her

Kathi Goertzen’s colleagues remember her during the August 13th, newscast at 5 PM. Pictured are Steve Pool, Dan Lewis, Eric Johnson, and Mary Nam.

Like many other young Washingtonians, I grew up with Kathi Goertzen and Dan Lewis. They brought the news into my family’s living room, whether it was good or bad. Like Dennis Bounds and Jean Enersen at KING5, they made a great team. It was evident to me as a viewer that they weren’t just colleagues – they, along with weatherman Steve Pool and sports anchor Eric Johnson, were the best of friends. The camaraderie they enjoyed was fun to watch, particularly before Apple Cup weekend, when Pool (an ardent Husky fan) and Goertzen (an ardent Cougar fan) would endlessly tease each other on-air.

All of us at NPI extend our deepest condolences to Kathi’s family, friends, and colleagues, especially her husband Rick and daughters Alexa and Andrea. She is also survived by her parents and sisters.

Kathi was a remarkable anchor and a wonderful person. It would be an understatement to say that we will miss her. Washington and the Pacific Northwest were blessed to have her as a journalist and community leader for over thirty years.

BREAKING: Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan said to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick

Breaking news this evening: A number of media outlets are reporting that the 2012 Republican ticket has now been set with presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s selection of U.S. Representative Paul Ryan to be his running mate. Ryan, who represents Wisconsin’s 1st District and chairs the House Committee on Budget, is well-liked by movement and establishment conservatives alike.

Ryan is the author of the eponymous (and infamous) Ryan budget, which would end Medicare as we know it and cripple many other vital public services that are vital to America’s economic security and well-being.

Romney reportedly settled on Ryan after ruling out several other names on his short list, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, former Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, and Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.

Romney is set to make the announcement early tomorrow morning in Norfolk, Virginia, with the USS Wisconsin as a backdrop. The Wisconsin is an Iowa-class battleship that served in World War II, the Korean War, and even the First Gulf War before it was decommissioned and turned into a museum ship. The announcement is expected at 8:45 AM Eastern/5:45 AM Pacific.

The Romney campaign reportedly has sent a private jet from Boston to Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin to ferry Romney’s V.P. pick to Norfolk.

Judging by the early reaction on Twitter, strategists for Barack Obama are relishing the prospect of being able to attach the Ryan budget to Mitt Romney like an anvil. And progressive activists seem about as enthused about a Romney/Ryan ticket as conservatives have been prior to tonight’s breaking news.

If it’s really Ryan, Romney will have picked one of the only people who could have had an impact in the race. But, not the way he wants.

— Bill Burton (@billburton716) August 11, 2012

Who’s calling the shots? The base sends Mitt his marching orders on VP. nyti.ms/MCbyjD

— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) August 10, 2012

As a Wisconsinite, I can confidently say that Paul Ryan is a maniac masquerading as a reasonable man.

— nilay patel (@reckless) August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan is the one VP pick who can unite liberal and conservative America. #CouponsCouponsCoupons

— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan was a speechwriter for Bob Dole’s VP choice, Jack Kemp, in 1996. So apt because Mitt Romney is Bob Dole with a $50M IRA.

— Matt Ortega (@MattOrtega) August 11, 2012

Romney’s announcement comes on a weekend packed with sporting events, including the PGA Tour and the final two days of the Olympics. Romney is set to embark on a multi-state bus tour following tomorrow morning’s announcement – possibly with Ryan alongside him.

Wanted: Women willing to run for office

At a time when women’s reproductive rights are under attack in state legislatures across the country, there might soon be no female Democratic governors to push back. The only two such governors left in office – Washington’s Chris Gregoire and North Carolina’s Bev Purdue – are leaving office in 2013, and only one state, New Hampshire, has nominated a Democratic woman for governor this year. In other words, women are losing ground.

 “We might as well turn the clock back 50 years, because that’s the last time we were without a sitting woman governor who supported reproductive choices and options, and that’s what we’re looking at again,” said Sam Bennett, president and CEO of the Women’s Campaign Fund.

In 2006, Governor Gregoire stood up for Washington women when the State Board of Pharmacy proposed a rule allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense medication, including the emergency contraceptive Plan B, because of moral objections. Governor Gregoire pushed for and negotiated a compromise with the board that protected women’s access to Plan B, and she continues to defend that compromise as it is litigated in federal court.

Contraception, until recently an accepted part of our culture and a primary factor in 20th century women’s empowerment and acquisition of freedoms, is the latest thing that “freedom-loving” conservatives love to hate. Since August 1st, the Patient Protect Act has guaranteed women no-cost contraception, but efforts to ease religious objections to this provision weren’t enough for many state legislatures:

Nine states have considered legislation or ballot measures that would either reject the federal regulation or undermine contraceptive coverage in state law.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) has a roundup of other appalling Republican attacks on women’s rights this year:

Republican legislatures across the United States have repealed equal pay guarantees, made it legal to fire women for using contraception, forced women to undergo unnecessary and invasive ultra-sounds before having an abortion, silenced two female Democratic legislators in Michigan after using medically correct terms to speak out against anti-choice legislation, and called a sexual assault victim “defective.”

While Democratic men have long supported women’s rights, women provide a different perspective from men and bring different styles and skills to the political table. In fact, last week NPR reported that the stocks of companies with women on their boards outperform those with all-male boards – further proof that a balanced approach is better.

While the majority of women currently serving in state legislatures are Democratic, the total number of female legislators has been stagnant at around 23% for over a decade. Thankfully, researchers are investigating what we can do as a society to encourage women to run for office and increase this number. Interestingly, on average, when women run, they tend to win their races as often as men do. What is really needed is for more women to be recruited to run for office, and these candidates need female elected officials to mentor them. The Democratic Party could facilitate this process, as it often has a powerful role in candidate recruitment and funding.

To have a truly representative democracy and a balanced perspective from our political leadership, women need to step up, and the Democratic party and women officeholders must support and encourage them to run for office. Kudos to the ladies taking a chance and running for office this election season. Your country and your sisters need you.

Suzan DelBene gets boost from EMILY’s List, DCCC; Roll Call now rates WA-01 “Leans D”

The last forty-eight hours have been pretty sweet for Suzan DelBene and her campaign team. The good news just keeps rolling in following her big win in this month’s winnowing election, which ended Tuesday.

First, the DCCC has confirmed that DelBene will receive priority support over the next three months as she battles John Koster for the position of U.S. Representative from Washington’s 1st Congressional District.

DelBene will be part of the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” effort (although the 1st District hasn’t been held by a Republican since the 1990s, so it’s technically not a district that would be going from red to blue).

“[On Tuesday], the voters of the 1st Congressional District said loud and clear they want a member of congress who will deliver results, not rhetoric. They want someone who will stand up for the middle class, get our economy back on track, protect Social Security and Medicare,” said DelBene in a statement. “Being named to the Red-to-Blue program is another show of the growing support and momentum we’ve received as we move onto the general election.””

Second, DelBene received a hefty and enthusiastic endorsement today from EMILY’s List, which only supports pro-liberty Democrats for Congress.

“Suzan is an experienced business leader and savvy entrepreneur who has used her sharp skills to help struggling families get back on their feet,” said Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List.

“She’s a progressive champion who is committed to promoting clean energy, expanding access to healthcare and economic opportunity, and holding Wall Street accountable. Washington families need leaders like Suzan to fend off Tea Party extremists, and EMILY’s List is proud to support her candidacy.”

EMILY’s List had stayed neutral during the winnowing election to avoid burning bridges with any of the candidates. (Darcy Burner, Laura Ruderman, Suzan DelBene are all strong, pro-liberty Democratic women.) Now that the general election matchup has been unofficially set, the organization is free to endorse… and it has. In the last election cycle, EMILY’s List raised nearly forty million dollars to help elect its candidates in key races across the U.S.

Third, the race in WA-01 has now been rated “Leans Democratic” by Roll Call, one of the more widely read journals of D.C. politics.

Roll Call offered this explanation for the upgrade:

DelBene’s victory brings the best news for House Democrats. Even in the state’s most competitive House district, it will be difficult for Snohomish County Councilman John Koster (R) to paint DelBene as too liberal for the district. DelBene’s ability to self-fund — she donated $1.9 million to her campaign for the primary — in a presidential election cycle makes this an uphill climb for Koster.

Accordingly, Roll Call is changing its race rating for Washington’s 1st district from Tossup to Leans Democratic.

Koster and his Republican friends were probably already planning to define whichever Democrat made it through the winnowing election as too liberal for the district. That move is part of the classic Republican playbook – they use it in pretty much every competitive district in the country.

The only places where they don’t use it are districts they’ve written off… and those locales get branded as populated by crazies or whackos (I’m not paraphrasing; those are literally labels the other side dismissively uses).

State Republican Party Chair Concern troll Kirby Wilbur, a former conservative talk show host, had been hoping that Darcy Burner would be Koster’s general election opponent, figuring that Republicans would be favored to pick up the seat if Burner (whose is more outspoken than DelBene, but holds similar views on the issues) ended up as the Democratic standard-bearer.

Wilbur should be careful what he wishes for.

In 2005, Republicans were gleeful when it was announced that Howard Dean had been elected chair of the Democratic National Committee. Dean was promptly mocked and derided by Republican operatives and right-wing blogs. But Republicans weren’t laughing on Election Night in November of 2008, when Dean’s reinvigorated DNC helped propel Barack Obama into the White House.

DelBene’s campaign says it’s all hands on deck and full speed ahead for the November general election. They’re already getting organized so they can be prepared for the home stretch in October… as is John Koster’s camp.