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: December 2012

Looking Back at 2012: Republicans and conservatives in their own words

Remember these quotes? Take a stroll down Memory Lane:

“What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke [sic], who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

— Excerpt from a vile and disgusting Rush Limbaugh rant on February 29th.

Look, I believe that, uh – and I’ve said this before, and everybody either gives a sigh of relief or a cynical laugh – there is no chance that Obama will get reelected… Zilch, none, zip, nada.”

— Fox Noise talking head Dick Morris, speaking to Sean Hannity as a guest on February 27th, 2012. Moments later, Morris also wrongly predicted “We’re also going to win ten seats in the Senate.”

There are forty-seven percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are forty-seven percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.”

— Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, speaking at a May 17th reception for wealthy donors at the home of private equity mogul Mark Leder.

I don’t think we’re promoting Mitt Romney on this network.”

— Fox Noise Channel’s Bill O’Reilly, still living in denial (August 7th).

On my website there’s literally — it demolishes the idea of a hockey stick, new peer-reviewed study, so the idea that Bill Nye is just going around saying CO2 is up, therefore global warming is dangerous, we should be concerned, it’s not. It’s not dangerous.”

— Climate crisis denier Marc Morano, claiming that global warming is a hoax and dismissing the possibility that serious consequences will result from humanity failing to curb emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere (December 5th).

Is this just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better, or is this real?

— Fox Noise Channel host Megyn Kelly, questioning Karl Rove on-air on November 6th after he predicted that Mitt Romney could still win Ohio.

You know, I know they go out and… incest is so rare, I mean, it’s so rare. But, uh… the rape thing, you know… I know a woman who was raped and kept her child, gave it up for adoption, and she doesn’t regret it.  In fact, she’s a… she’s a big pro-life proponent. But on the rape thing, it’s like… how does, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s not… that’s a consequence of this crime… how does that make it better? You know what I mean?

— Republican John Koster, at an October 28th event with Tom Price of Georgia.

You’re just trying to gain a political advantage, sorry. Why don’t you go get a job?

— Defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, dismissing Democratic campaign volunteer Kendra Obom, who was trying to ascertain his views on reproductive rights (April 24th).

I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Richard Mourdouck, the unsuccessful Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Indiana, during an October 23rd debate with Democratic opponent Joe Donnelly. Mourdouck, a darling of the Tea Party, was solidly defeated two weeks later.

If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down.”

Todd Akin, the the unsuccessful Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Missouri, in a television interview on August 19th.

Take your message of equality of achievement, take your message of economic dependency, and take your message of enslaving the entrepreneurial will and spirit of the American people somewhere else. You can take it to Europe, you can take it to the bottom of the sea, you can take it to the North Pole, but get the hell out of the United States of America.”

— Ousted Republican Representative Allen West of Florida, deriding progressives at a January Lincoln Day Dinner in West Palm Beach, Florida. West was defeated for reelection by Democrat Patrick Murphy in November.

 “Thank God! Now we might have a real election on the great issues of the day. Paul Ryan almost perfect choice.

— Media mogul and Fox Noise Channel owner Rupert Murdoch, praising Mitt Romney’s choice of running mate on Twitter (August 12th).

This election is a total sham and travesty. We are not a democracy!

— A disappointed Donald Trump, whining bitterly after his man Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama on November 6th.

I am lighting candles, sacrificing sheep, whatever it takes. I’m begging, talking to God every day that it be Darcy Burner because she is the Dennis Kucinich of Washington State. If Darcy is the nominee, we will get sixty percent of the vote, easy.”

— Washington State Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur, fantasizing about a Darcy Burner/John Koster matchup in the 1st Congressional District prior to the August winnowing election on July 25th. Koster ultimately faced Suzan DelBene instead of Darcy Burner, and lost to DelBene twice – in the old 1st Congressional District represented by Jay Inslee, and the new 1st Congressional District drawn by Tim Ceis, Slade Gorton, Tom Huff, and Dean Foster.

My campaign for U.S. Senate is picking up speed as I’ve crisscrossed the state from the Tri-Cities to Bellingham. Everywhere I go I hear the same rallying cry: Cantwell Can’t!.

— Republican State Senator Michael Baumgartner, attacking Maria Cantwell in a March 25th email to supporters. In November, however, Cantwell crushed Baumgartner, taking more than sixty percent of the vote statewide and even showing that she could win outside of Western Washington.

I don’t know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don’t know that. But I do know this, that in his heart, he’s not an American. He’s just not an American.”

— Republican Mike Coffman, at a fundraiser for his campaign on May 12th. Coffman subsequently claimed he “misspoke”, but did not renounce his comments.

I think we can all look to my beloved birth city of Detroit as example of what liberal policies will do to greatness. Detroit is a canker sore compared to this glowing city on the Detroit River that I was raised in and it’s direct result of the Mayor Coleman Young and the Jennifer Granholms of the world and the tragedy of pimps and whores and welfare brats being blood suckers and destroying the greatest city in the world.”

— Outspoken rocker Ted Nugent, who serves on the board of the National Rifle Association, mindlessly blaming Democratic leaders for poverty and crime in Michigan’s largest city (March 30th).

I highly approve of Romney’s decision to be kind and gentle to the retard.

— Tweet from Ann Coulter, October 22nd.

Media Matters has not compiled a Most Outrageous Statements of 2012, but they do have a nice recap of Fox’s gas price fibs that we recommend reading.

Alexandria police arrest Idaho Senator Mike Crapo for driving under the influence

But not to worry, we hear you can be forgiven for driving drunk (or, in Larry Craig’s case, soliciting sex in an airport bathroom) if you’re a Republican:

Police in Alexandria, Virgina  said the three-term senator from Bonneville County failed field sobriety tests after an officer saw Crapo’s vehicle run a red light and pulled him over about 12:45 a.m. Sunday.

“There was no refusal (to take sobriety tests), no accident, no injuries,” Alexandria police spokesman Jody Donaldson said. “Just a traffic stop that resulted in a DUI.”

Crapo, who was alone in his vehicle, registered a blood alcohol content of 0.11, police said. The legal limit in Virginia is the same as in Idaho — 0.08.

The senator was taken to jail, then released on an unsecured $1,000 bond about 5 a.m., police said. He is charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence.

Crapo, sixty-one, is serving his third term in the United States Senate. He joined Congress’ upper chamber in 1999, and served for a decade alongside Larry Craig, who chose not to seek reelection after he was arrested in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for lewd conduct during the summer of 2007.

One of Crapo’s first official acts as a U.S. Senator was to cast a vote in favor of convicting former President Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice following Clinton’s trial in the U.S. Senate, which lasted for over a month, presided over by former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

On February 12th, 1999, Crapo took to the Senate floor to announce how he had decided to vote. Here is an excerpt from that speech:

At the outset [of the trial], each Senator was administered a separate oath by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This special oath was separate and distinct from the oath of office that each Senator takes when sworn into office. To my knowledge, this is the only other occasion in which our Founding Fathers required a separate and distinct oath of U.S. Senators to perform a constitutional responsibility.

Once again, the incredible wisdom of our Founding Fathers was evident. As each Senator took the oath to provide impartial justice, a realization fell over us that we had just embarked on a very solemn duty. No longer was the Senate a legislative body, it was a court of impeachment. A unique court, to be sure, not identical to traditional civil and criminal courts, but a court nonetheless.

This oath to render “impartial justice” was a promise to God under our Constitution. It also represented a duty to all Idahoans to represent them impartially. I committed that I would conduct myself in a fashion so that at any time I could affirm that I fully honored this commitment.

Emphasis is mine.

Crapo certainly isn’t proud of his conduct this weekend. In a brief statement issued this evening, he tried to sound very apologetic. But curiously, he referred repeatedly to his crime as “this circumstance” , instead of admitting what he’d done:

I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance… I made a mistake for which I apologize to my family, my Idaho constituents and any others who have put their trust in me. I accept total responsibility and will deal with whatever penalty comes my way in this matter. I will also undertake measures to ensure that this circumstance is never repeated.

Driving under the influence in Virginia is typically a Class 1 misdemeanor when an individual has a blood alcohol content below .15. The Old Dominion has one of the toughest DUI laws in the country, as Senator Crapo is about to discover. A conviction for a first-time DUI offense carries a maximum fine of $2,500 (minimum $250) and a one-year revocation of the individual’s license to drive. (Operating an automobile in the United States is a privilege, not a right).

Additionally, Virginia requires that those convicted of a DUI participate in a mandatory Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP). Presumably, Senator Crapo will be participating in Alexandria’s ASAP, once he formally accepts responsibility for his behavior and pleads guilty to driving under the influence as he has implied he will.

At 43rd State Blues, regular writer MeAndG’s reaction was pure snark:

Idaho:

One large land mass.
One small population.
One political party filled with more screw-ups than you can fit in an average class at the Betty Ford Center.
Nice going!
Great family values!
Way to set an example for our children!

Meanwhile, at Fort Boise, Tom van Alten called the DUI “not good publicity“:

Fortunately, no accident and nobody hurt. And fortunately, he was probably planning to be in the area on January 4 anyway. But nobody expected Idaho’s senior Senator to be making a court date in Alexandria to answer a D.U.I. charge. There’s the “staunch social and fiscal conservative” thing, which hardly immunizes one from slipping past 0.08, but being a bishop of the Mormon Church is supposed to do that.

Crapo is indeed fortunate that he was caught. Had he not been stopped by police, he might have caused harm to himself or others by continuing to drive while intoxicated. Hopefully his arrest this weekend will result in him choosing to take a cab home or get a ride from a friend the next time he has a lot to drink at a party.

Or better yet, he can abide by the laws of his church – which he is supposed to be a leader of – and not consume alcoholic beverages at all.

NRA’s answer to Newtown tragedy: Put armed guards in every school in America

This morning, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its zealous leader, Wayne LaPierre, finally broke their silence over the slaughter of twenty children and seven adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

At a press conference in the District of Columbia, not far from the White House, LaPierre said that immediate action needed to be taken to protect America’s schoolchildren. But he didn’t throw his lobby’s support behind an assault weapons ban, legislation to close the gun show loophole, or increased funding for mental illness treatment. Instead, he called for armed guards in the nation’s schools.

Now, the National Rifle Association knows that there are millions of qualified active and retired police; active, reserve and retired military; security professionals; certified firefighters and rescue personnel; and an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every school. We can deploy them to protect our kids now. We can immediately make America’s schools safer — relying on the brave men and women of America’s police force.

The budget of our local police departments are strained and resources are limited, but their dedication and courage are second to none and they can be deployed right now.

I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school — and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January.

Reaction to the NRA’s press conference came swiftly. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, cofounder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, blasted LaPierre’s media event and proposed course of action:

The NRA’s Washington leadership has long been out of step with its members, and never has that been so apparent as this morning. Their press conference was a shameful evasion of the crisis facing our country.

Instead of offering solutions to a problem they have helped create, they offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe. Leadership is about taking responsibility, especially in times of crisis. Today the NRA’s lobbyists blamed everyone but themselves for the crisis of gun violence. While they promote armed guards, they continue to oppose the most basic and common sense steps we can take to save lives – not only in schools, but in our movie theaters, malls, and streets.

Enough.

As a country, we must rise above special interest politics. Every day, thirty-four Americans are murdered with guns. That’s why seventy-four percent of NRA members support common sense restrictions like criminal background checks for anyone buying a gun. It is time for Americans who care about the Second Amendment and reasonable gun restrictions to join together to work with the President and Congress to stop the gun violence in this country. Demand a plan.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer was asked what he thought of LaPierre’s comments during a briefing that he and Nancy Pelosi held for the D.C. press corps. “I do not believe those remarks represent anywhere near a significant portion of America,” Hoyer replied. “I don’t believe, frankly, that they represent necessarily the majority of views of responsible members of the National Rifle Association who want guns to hunt, want guns to protect their home and their house, and our children.”

On Slog, David Goldstein estimates that LaPierre’s proposal to put armed guards in every school would cost at least $18 billion a year. He came up with that figure by calculating approximately how many schools the country has, and then looking at the average salary of a police officer:

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the national average annual cost of employing a police officer was $116,500 in 2007. Rounding up to $120,000 to account for inflation, that’s $120,000 times 150,000 officers: LaPierre’s proposal would cost taxpayers about $18 billion a year.

But budgets are tight — how to pay for it? Well, as the NRA likes to remind us, freedom isn’t free, and who better to pay this cost than the gun owners themselves? Various estimates place the number of civilian firearms in the US at about 250 million. So, $18 billion divided by 250 million guns: An annual license fee of about $75 per gun should adequately cover the expense of the NRA’s proposal to put armed police officers at every K-12 school in the U.S.

LaPierre stuck to his scripted remarks during the NRA’s media event. He did not take questions or explain how his “National School Shield Emergency Response Program” would be implemented, let alone funded. (An annual license fee on guns could supply the revenue needed, as suggested above, but LaPierre didn’t propose that.) His speech was interrupted several times by protesters, who had to be hauled out of the room by security. LaPierre did not acknowledge the protesters.

Besides calling for armed guards, LaPierre also ranted and railed at great length against violent video games and violent entertainment… as if video games represented a bigger threat to the safety of America’s youth than Bushmasters and Glocks, which are actual weapons that can kill people!

And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for ten years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it?

Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like “American Psycho” and “Natural Born Killers” that are aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it “entertainment.”

But is that what it really is? Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography? In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes — every minute of every day of every month of every year.

Wow. Could it be more painfully obvious that the National Rifle Association is a front for gun manufacturers? What a dodge: blame violent video games for corrupting the minds of young people, but ignore everything that gun manufacturers have done to make it easier for people to acquire and carry deadly weapons that can kill a lot of people in a very short amount of time.

The existence of games like Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Kombat is not a secret. When Grand Theft Auto first came out, it made headlines, and there was a discussion about restricting its availability. I remember that coverage.

It is not true that our nation’s mass media has attempted to conceal the existence of violent video games or shield the makers of such games from criticism. Lawmakers such as Joe Lieberman and Jay Rockefeller have expressed concerns about violent video games for years, and have even gone so far as to propose legislation limiting the sale or distribution of graphic games. However, there is no solid evidence linking violent video games to violent acts.

As for “Kindergarten Killers”, that’s a very old Flash game which was created by an outfit that purposely posts shocking material on its website to offend people. The game was never popular and is no longer online.

Plenty of people find violent video games distasteful; I’m one of them. I don’t play first-person shooter games and never have. I just don’t find them enjoyable. I’d rather play classic real-time strategy titles like Age of Empires or Command & Conquer. But I know perfectly friendly and compassionate people who do play Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Crysis, Halo, or countless similar franchises.

It’s possible that violent video games desensitize some people to actual violence. But a gamer does not have the ability to go out and cause carnage without a real weapon supplied by a gun manufacturer.

People don’t die or become physically injured as a result of playing a violent video game. But people do die as a result of mishandling their own guns. When a loaded gun goes off, it can kill. And accidental discharges of deadly weapons are unfortunately a common occurrence. We hear about such incidents all of the time.

LaPierre could have use his press conference today to throw the NRA’s weight behind increased funding of services to help the mentally ill. But he didn’t.

What he did say was this:

How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame — from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity that they crave — while provoking others to try to make their mark?

A dozen more killers? A hundred? More? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?

How is an “active national database” going to stop mentally ill people who want firearms from obtaining them at a gun show or from a store in a state with lax weapons acquisition regulations?

LaPierre’s press conference was so bad, it’s getting scathing reviews from all quarters. Even conservatives are saying it was counterproductive.

Perhaps filmmaker Michael Moore –  who once interviewed LaPierre’s predecessor Charlton Heston for his 2002 Academy Award-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine - had the best reaction. He called the NRA’s response to Newtown “the most deranged, delusional ‘press conference’ I’ve ever seen.”

LIVE from Olympia: Washington’s electors meet to vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden

Good afternoon from Olympia! Eve and I are here at the Washington State Capitol Campus to witness one of many Electoral College meetings taking place across the United States. Twelve individuals, chosen by the Washington State Democratic Party, are here to cast votes for president and vice president on behalf of the people of the State of Washington, who chose Barack Obama and Joe Biden for those positions in the just concluded presidential election.

The meeting will be held in the State Reception Room of the Legislative Building. We have just arrived and will be providing live updates throughout the next hour.

UPDATE, 12:02 PM: The meeting has been called to order by Secretary of State Sam Reed. All of the Democratic electors are here, so none of the alternates will be seated. The electors (and again, there are a total of twelve) are:

  • 1st District: Grifynn Clay of Snohomish;
  • 2nd District: Dave Gossett of Mountlake Terrace;
  • 3rd District: Kathleen Lawrence of Vancouver;
  • 4th District: George Fearing of Kennewick;
  • 5th District: Rick Lloyd of Spokane Valley;
  • 6th District: Gail Kirk of Tacoma;
  • 7th District: Maria Ehsan of Seattle;
  • 8th District: Elizabeth Satiacum of Olympia;
  • 9th District: Georgia Spencer of Seattle;
  • 10th District: Harvey Brooks of University Place;
  • At Large: Heather Fralick
  • At Large: Alec Stephens

UPDATE, 12:05 PM: Governor Chris Gregoire has just spoken, paying tribute to Reed for many years of service on behalf of the people of the State of Washington. Both Gregoire and Reed are leaving office in January, ending decades of public service. They will be succeeded by Jay Inslee and Kim Wyman, respectively.

UPDATE, 12:08 PM: The electoral college voters have elected at-large elector Heather Fralick as the chair for the meeting.

UPDATE, 12:12 PM: Time to vote for president! Each elector is signing their names to several sheets of paper, for records of today’s proceedings will be sent to Congress, to the National Archives, and kept by our very own Secretary of State.

UPDATE, 12:20 PM: Washington’s twelve electoral votes officially go to Barack Obama for the office of President of the United States of America!!

UPDATE, 12:23 PM: Voting for vice president has begun.

UPDATE, 12:28 PM: Washington’s twelve electoral votes officially go to Joe Biden for the office of Vice President of the United States of America!

UPDATE, 12:32 PM: We are almost done. The electors just have to agree to adopt the minutes and then adjourn. Each elector will pose for a photograph with Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed.

UPDATE, 12:42 PM: Several of the electors are delivering brief remarks putting Barack Obama’s presidency in historic perspective.

UPDATE, 12:44 PM: The meeting is adjourned. Electors and alternates will now pose for photos.

Rodney Tom to constituents: “I believe my credentials as a Democrat are rock solid”

Since announcing on Monday that he has decided to join with Tim Sheldon in engineering a new Republican majority in the Washington State Senate, Medina’s Rodney Tom has been fielding phone calls and emails from unhappy Democratic constituents in the 48th District who have told him in no uncertain terms that they regard his actions as a betrayal of their trust.

Washington State Democratic Chair Dwight Pelz spoke for the party’s grassroots base when he declared, “The truth here is that Senator Tom has instigated this unprecedented coup and joined with Republicans to install himself as Majority Leader out of a desire to further his own personal ambitions, not out of what is in the best interests of his constituents or the public at large. What he announced today is a prescription for instability and division.”

Tom, of course, doesn’t see it that way.

Judging by how Tom has chosen to respond to the Democratic and progressive activists who have written in to him, it appears he has convinced himself that he can continue to belong to the Democratic Party in the 48th District while simultaneously belonging to the Republican Party on the Capitol Campus in Olympia.

Those who decided to express their displeasure with Tom by email have been getting a form letter in response. Tom does not discuss the ramifications of Republicans controlling the state Senate in the letter (which is what Democratic activists have said they are most upset about), but rather reels off his own goals for the budget and what he considers to be his “rock solid” Democratic credentials.

We know this because several NPI supporters have been kind enough to forward on the replies they got from Tom, and we were able to compare them.

With the exception of a few minor word changes in a couple of places, the responses are identical, and demonstrate that Tom thinks he has more important things to do at the moment than reply individually to his constituents (like script his next moves in a back room with Republicans).

Since Tom has chosen to reply to his constituents in this manner, we might as well publish and discuss the form letter, for the benefit of everyone who has not had the time to send Tom a note but shares the sentiments of those who have.

I’ll take Tom’s response paragraph by paragraph, and offer thoughts in between.

Let’s start with Tom’s opening line:

Thank you for writing to me regarding your [dismay]/[outrage] that I joined in forming a bipartisan majority in the Senate.

There is nothing bipartisan about the majority that Tom and Sheldon have helped engineer. By joining the Republicans, they have left the Democrats.

Tom subconsciously admitted as much when he referred to his Democratic colleagues as “them” during his press conference with top Republicans like Mark Schoesler last Monday. Of course, Tom wants the Republican majority he has engineered to be referred to and thought of as a bipartisan majority, but that’s a fiction. Tom is a former Republican and Tim Sheldon has always been a Republican at heart (Sheldon was a supporter of George W. Bush during the Bush error).

Nevertheless, Tom  – perhaps sensing that a second self-declared party switch in six years would make him look the opportunist he is – wants to be considered a Democrat, not a born-again Republican.

I understand your sincere concern, and I want to be clear: I am a Democrat and I will remain a Democrat. I believe my credentials as a Democrat are rock solid. If you look at my stances throughout the years, I am a socially progressive, fiscally prudent Democrat. I’ll compare my positions on social issues with any member of the Democratic Party. I’ve always been 100 percent pro-choice; I have supported the marriage equality effort my entire ten years in the Legislature; I have been one of the strongest supporters in the Legislature for family planning funding; I was the prime sponsor on the gun show loophole closure legislation. At the federal level I believe in the Buffet rule; that we need a more progressive tax structure and a much higher federal estate tax, and that we’re spending way too much on defense. I don’t know of anyone who would say those positions come from the Republican platform.

Senator Tom does not appear to understand what it means to be a Democrat. The Democratic platform is not some laundry list of issue positions or stances; it is a statement of values and principles, with policy directions derived from the logic of those values and principles. The party does not demand that its candidates and elected leaders rigidly adhere to the platform.

However, Democratic candidates are absolutely expected to govern as Democrats once elected. A Democratic legislator is expected to work with other Democratic legislators to advance Democratic values and principles.

Rodney Tom is doing the opposite.

Actions speak louder than words. An elected official’s record matters more than his or her rhetoric. Rodney Tom can say he’s socially progressive, but his power grab jeopardizes the prospects of socially progressive legislation like the Reproductive Parity Act – which might well have passed last session were it not for Tom, Sheldon, and the departing Jim Kastama, who conspired with Republicans to give them the Senate floor right before a crucial cutoff.

Had Tom chosen to stay in the Democratic caucus and work with his Democratic colleagues, Ed Murray would be the incoming majority leader, and Democrats would control the Senate’s committees. But Tom wanted power, and he got it by hammering out a backroom deal to engineer a Republican majority with fellow renegade Tim Sheldon. Whatever his credentials as a Democrat were before, they’re not relevant now. What is relevant is what he has done.

Moving on:

I also believe we need to be fiscally responsible, which means we can’t spend money we don’t have. George W. Bush was the most fiscally irresponsible president in our nation’s history, but that doesn’t give Democrats a license to follow his stupidity. As a country, we are broke. The Simpson-Bowles proposal at the federal level is just a start; to pretend we’re not in a huge fiscal hole is to be blind to reality. I believe we have a moral obligation not to burden future generations with our excessive spending. George Washington said it best, “We should avoid ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burdens that we ourselves ought to bear.” The American Dream is to leave a legacy where the next generation is better off, not starved by our debts.

Speaking for myself, I am unaware of any Democrats who want to follow the bad example that George W. Bush set. With the help of Republicans in Congress, Bush slashed taxes for the wealthy, invaded other countries without paying for it, and awarded plenty of lucrative no-bid contracts to the military-industrial complex. We are still living with the excesses of the Bush error.

But we are not broke. It is a mistake to think of the United States as analogous to a household or even a corporation (which can go broke or bankrupt). Tom’s choice of words makes me think he does not understand macroeconomics. As a country, we certainly have debt; however, we also have the ability to pay off our debt without gutting the public services we want and need.

Fiscal responsibility is a policy direction the Democratic Party strongly supports. But fiscal responsibility does not mean austerity. Austerity measures at all levels of government are actually irresponsible because they result in degraded or destroyed public services and fewer jobs. We have an infrastructure deficit in addition to a financial deficit, and we simply cannot ignore that.

At the federal level, we need to both invest in our future and get more control over our debt, which spiraled out of control during the Bush error.

If Tom is so concerned about solving our nation’s manufactured fiscal crisis, perhaps he should resign from his position and go to the Other Washington to lobby for what he thinks is right. Here in this Washington, we have a different set of fiscal problems. We have a regressive, loophole-ridden tax structure that is completely broken. We are sorely in need of tax reform to ensure that we can fairly and amply fund the public services our state’s economy depends on.

Unfortunately, the Legislature, which Rodney Tom has been a part of for nearly a decade, has resorted to backfilling and gimmicks to balance the budget, instead of addressing the root causes of our fiscal problems.

For example, in November of 2007, Tom voted with Democrats and fellow Republicans in a one-day special session to reinstate Tim Eyman’s Initiative 747 at the request of Governor Chris Gregoire. When the Supreme Court tossed I-747 out as unconstitutional, they gave the Legislature an opportunity to get to work on tax reform. But instead of making the most of that opportunity, the Legislature simply reenacted Eyman’s regressive initiative.

Back to Tom’s reply:

By focusing on empowering middle-class families, our coalition’s priorities are:

  1. Providing a vibrant economy, so we have a stronger job market.
  2. Providing a world-class education system, so our students will have the skills and knowledge to compete in a global, high-tech world.
  3. Making sure we have a sustainable budget that lives within our means by prioritizing core government functions.

This is meaningless boilerplate. I’d wager that everyone elected to the statehouse in 2012 wants “a vibrant economy” and “a world-class education system” and “a sustainable budget”. The devil is in the details, as the saying goes. And this is where Democrats and Republicans diverge. Democratic candidates and Republicans may say similar things on the campaign trail, but the logic of Democratic/progressive and Republican/conservative values is very different. To elaborate a bit:

  • Democrats believe that broad prosperity stems from public investment. Washington is a great place to live, work, and do business because of its parks, schools, universities, first responders, hospitals, and other public services. The public infrastructure paid for by the taxpayers of this state and of the United States is what makes our vibrant economy possible. Republicans believe that government is the problem, that it already takes too much of our money, and that it should be drowned in a bathtub, to paraphrase Grover Norquist (Tim Eyman’s role model). Republicans want to wreck government by eliminating or crippling vital public services.
  • Democrats believe that budgets are moral documents, and that our state’s budget, when there is a shortfall, should be balanced by raising revenue in addition to finding savings wherever possible. Republicans see budget shortfalls as opportunities to slash vital public services. Republicans also oppose raising revenue or repealing outdated, unnecessary tax loopholes in virtually all circumstances. Many Republican state legislators have signed Grover Norquist’s absolutist no new taxes pledge.
  • Democrats have called for I-960/I-1053/I-1185 to be struck down because it violates our state Constitution and undemocratically prevents the Legislature from operating the way our founders intended it to. Democrats want government that works and a Legislature run by the many, not the few. The Republican Party of Washington has supported all of the aforementioned initiatives and is now preparing to support Tim Eyman and Janea Holmquist Newbry in a push to put the two-thirds scheme for raising revenue into the Constitution by amendment. Ironically, that will take a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature to do, and Republicans do not have the votes.

By striking a deal to become Majority Leader in name only and put Republicans in control of the Washington State Senate, Rodney Tom has embraced the Republican agenda and the conservative values system that underpins that agenda.

That is his choice. He should not be surprised that Democrats see his power grab as act of betrayal. Because that is precisely what it is.

I am very much focused on the end goal of what gets to the governor’s desk, knowing that we have a solidly Democratic House that hasn’t always been fiscally prudent. I believe it’s imperative that the Senate lead the charge in coming out with a fiscally responsible budget, so that when we compromise between the House and Senate, we don’t have the summation of two fiscally irresponsible budgets, taking us off the fiscal cliff.

Speaker Frank Chopp and members of his caucus would, I am sure, dispute Tom’s contention that “we have a solidly Democratic House that hasn’t always been fiscally prudent.” Speaker Chopp has fought hard to save many vital public services from being eviscerated and eliminated. His efforts in that regard have been heroic and noble, and deserve commendation, not condemnation.

Speaker Chopp and his caucus recognize that Washington must invest in its future. That is why Chopp and House Democrats have worked to comply with the McCleary decision and save services like Apple Health or Disability Lifeline.

Rodney Tom, meanwhile, has been obsessed with conservative schemes like liquor privatization, which don’t save money or improve Washington’s quality of life.

I would remind you that there was a lot of concern about my actions last session when we went to the Ninth Order in the Senate to develop an alternative budget to the budget proposed by the Democratic majority. In the end, the final budget vote was 44-2, unprecedented bipartisan support that showed we really did move to middle ground; that we could all agree to a better budget for taxpayers and make sure that our most vulnerable were protected. And we fully funded core government services.

The Senate did not go to the Ninth Order to develop an alternative budget, it went to the Ninth Order to pass an alternative budget that had been put together in a back room by Republicans without public input. That alternative budget got a frosty reception in the state House.

In the end, contrary to what Tom implies, the Legislature went home after passing a final budget that more closely resembled the budget originally proposed by Ed Murray and the Democratic majority than the Republicans’ midnight budget.

As David Goldstein explained back in April:

Senate Republican budget chief Joe Zarelli’s $44 million of cuts from K-12 and $30 million from higher education? Didn’t happen. Disability Lifeline, the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Treatment and Support Act, Housing and Essential Needs, State Food Assistance, and other social programs Zarelli sought to eliminate? All funded in the final budget at levels similar to what Murray had proposed.

The Dems’ proposed one-day delay in making a payment to public school districts, well, that particular accounting maneuver was squashed, but then so was the Republicans’ proposal to skip a payment to state pension funds. Instead, much of the half billion dollar revenue shortfall is made up with a different accounting trick, one which which keeps $238 million in local sales taxes on the state’s books for 30 days, but without delaying the redistribution back to local jurisdictions.

Tom would like us all to think that the late night session he helped engineer back in March led to a better budget. In reality, all it did was generate mistrust and prolong the legislative session, wasting time and money.

Tom’s form letter ended with the following:

Thank you again for your note and your concern. I hope you have the patience to judge my efforts by what ends up on Governor Inslee’s desk.

think Peace!

And what about the legislation that doesn’t end up on Governor Inslee’s desk? Thanks to Rodney Tom, Republicans will be in a position to kill a lot of bills that would advance Democratic/progressive values in the 2013 legislative session. Extreme Republicans like Pam Roach and Mike Padden are already slated to receive committee chairmanships. That is what matters more than anything else.

By teaming up with Republicans to seize power in the Washington State Senate, Rodney Tom has turned his back on the donors, volunteers, and voters who elected him in 2006 and 2010 and expected him to govern as a Democrat. By behaving like an opportunist, he is inviting Washingtonians not to trust him.

A modest proposal

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings of December 14th, many are calling for reform of gun control laws, stronger gun control laws, a re-introduction of the assault weapons ban, and so forth.

These are worthy conversations that should be had.

To them I would add another idea.

On Saturday, author Maureen Johnson tweeted:

@maureenjohnson: Just a thought about teachers/school staff: I think a LOT of them would throw themselves in the line of fire to save children.

I don’t doubt for a second she’s right. Do you? Contrast that with what we pay to teachers for doing their job.

As a society, we have apparently decided that fostering the future productivity of future generations is worth about $40,000 per year. I think that’s insultingly low, but that’s the situation and I’m not here to take on the question of what quality education is really worth.

But I also can’t help noticing that teacher contracts aren’t ever negotiated with the explicit recognition that teachers may at times be asked to lay down their lives for our children. At least, I have never once heard of that happening. (If you have, leave a comment. I’d love to hear about it and what the outcome was.)

Yet clearly, as Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook now show, teachers clearly deserve hazard pay.

I don’t mean that facetiously at all. These are people who, although that isn’t what they were trained for at all, do at times make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of other people’s children.

How can you put a price on that?

Setting sentiment aside, it’s entirely possible to put a price on that. The only question is what’s that price, and how would we pay for it?

How much?

The question is essentially “how much do you have to pay someone to do a job that may get them killed?” Fortunately, we have a good point of comparison: defense contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to one study commissioned by the Aerospace Industries Association, the answer is about $80,000 per year.

Figures vary—some less well sourced numbers I found ranged as high as $100k for truck drivers—but $80k is a reasonable value for this analysis. As a rough calculation, teachers therefore deserve an additional forty grand in hazard pay.

Figures from the 2000 census indicate there were 6.2 million teachers in the United States. Multiply by $40,000, and that’s two hundred and forty-eight billion dollars. Almost a quarter of a trillion dollars. Fair enough.

How would we pay for it?

Well, since the hazard to teachers seems to come primarily from guns, let’s ask the gun-sector of the economy to pay for it.

The rationale for this is simple. Firearms, as a product category, induce a degree of harm on society as a whole. As we saw in Connecticut, at times that harm is monstrous. Yet the gun sector is not required to make good on that harm in any way. The fact that the gun sector is permitted to externalize the true costs in blood and tears of their products represents an almost a quarter-trillion dollar annual subsidy, resulting in gun prices that are far, far lower than their true economic cost.

How much is that per gun? Well, exact annual gun sales figures are hard to come by. The FBI doesn’t track gun purchases directly, but only background checks for gun purchases. Of those, there have been 16.8 million so far in 2012. Granted, this is an imperfect metric–not all background checks result in an eventual purchase, and conversely, one buyer can purchase multiple guns. Searching for “total U.S. gun sales” gives figures anywhere from 4.7 million in 2006, to 14 million in 2009, to 10 million in 2011, from a variety of sources.

Since there’s no way to count, we have to estimate. Given the uncertainty in the available figures, and that the latter number is from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (a group who, one presumes, has some informed basis for that figure), let’s go with 10 million. From there, the math is trivial.

$24,800 per gun

So that’s my modest proposal: 248 billion divided by 10 million. To eliminate this gun industry’s quarter-trillion dollar subsidy; to stop the de facto practice of allowing the gun industry to externalize the true costs it imposes on society; to give teachers the hazard pay they so richly deserve for accepting the responsibility of laying down their lives for our children, all we have to do is institute a $24,800 fee on each and every gun sale in America.

It’s simple, straightforward, and fair. It is quite literally nothing more than asking those who would buy guns to pay the true cost of them.

If you disagree, if you think that’s too much to ask, that’s fine. It’s a free country. Just answer me this: whose lives are you saying aren’t worth it?

Teachers’ or children’s?

Authorities release the names of those killed yesterday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary

Authorities in Connecticut have now released the names of the children and faculty killed yesterday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. The overwhelming majority of those killed were very young children, only six years old, as has been reported. Three of the children were seven years old. The adults (all women) ranged in age from twenty-seven to fifty-six.

Here are the names and ages of the deceased:

  • Mary Sherlach, fifty-six
  • Anne Marie Murphy, fifty-two
  • Dawn Hocksprung, forty-seven
  • Lauren Russeau, thirty
  • Rachel Davino, twenty-nine
  • Victoria Soto, twenty-seven
  • Chase Kowalski, seven
  • Daniel Barden, seven
  • Josephine Gay, seven
  • Charlotte Bacon, six
  • Olivia Engel, six
  • Ana Marquez-Greene, six
  • Dylan Hockley, six
  • Madeline Hsu, six
  • Catherine Hubbard, six
  • Jesse Lewis, six
  • James Mattioli, six
  • Grace McDonnell, six
  • Emilie Parker, six
  • Jack Pinto, six
  • Noah Pozner, six
  • Caroline Previdi, six
  • Jessica Rekos, six
  • Avielle Richman, six
  • Benjamin Wheeler, six
  • Allison Wyatt, six

No doubt we will be hearing more about the lives of the victims in the days to come as their family and friends remember them and honor their memories.

We at NPI extend our most heartfelt condolences to all affected by this tragedy in Newtown. It’s revolting and sickening to imagine that any human being could be capable of shooting classrooms full of innocent kindergartners.

Police are still investigating a motive. They have reportedly uncovered some promising evidence already, and they have been able to determine that the alleged shooter did not walk into the school, but rather forced himself in, which indicates the school had already taken precautions to ensure the safety of its pupils.

It appears the administrators and teachers at Sandy Hook did all they could to protect their young charges. Unfortunately, the assailant was armed with assault weapons, including a rifle… contraptions which have no useful purpose except to injure or kill human beings. Bullets from those weapons (legally purchased and owned by the shooter’s mother) apparently killed all of the people listed above.

Activists, artists, elected leaders react to the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut

The slaughter of more than two dozen children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut is, without question, one of the most horrific events we have gone through as a country.

No surprise, then, that it has become the chief topic of conversation all over the country…. in shops, offices, homes, and online.

At the White House, President Obama stopped by the James M. Brady Press Briefing Room (named for a survivor of gun violence) to speak to the White House press corps about the massacre. Wiping away tears, the President said, “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. And each time I learn the news I react not as a President, but as anybody else would — as a parent.

“And that was especially true today. I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.”

“Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children,” the President added. “And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

New York Michael Bloomberg, who co-chairs Mayors Against Illegal Guns with Boston Mayor Thomas Meninio, released a statement calling on President Obama to do more than issue a call for “meaningful action”.

We’re going to run his statement in full, because it is the most appropriate response we have seen to this tragedy today. Here it is:

With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it’s still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their ABCs are safe.

We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again.

For every day we wait, thirty-four more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five-year olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before.

What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response.

My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.

Millions of people have reacted to the attacks through social media, particularly Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, but also Identi.ca and other networks.

Many people have channeled their frustration, anger, and sadness towards the National Rifle Association (NRA), one of the country’s most powerful lobbies and an uncompromising voice against sensible restrictions on firearms.

So far, the NRA has not officially commented on the massacre in Newtown, except to say, “No comment”. The NRA’s latest tweet references a holiday promotion and its website is devoid of any references to Newtown.

Last week, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre suggested to reporters that Kasandra Perkins – the slain girlfriend of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher – would still be alive if she had been carrying a firearm.

“The one thing missing in that equation is that woman owning a gun so she could have saved her life from that murderer,” he told USAToday.

What’s LaPierre going to say about the tragedy in Newtown? That those teachers and kindergartners could have saved their lives from “that murderer”, if only they were armed? (Unconfirmed reports, by the way, have suggested the gunman, said to be twenty-year old Adam Lanza, was wearing body armor).

In reality, guns make us less safe. A family that keeps guns at home is ironically more likely to experience a homicide or suicide. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine:

Living in a home where there are guns increases the risk of homicide by 40% to 170% and the risk of suicide by 90% to 460%.

Young people who commit suicide with a gun usually use a weapon kept at home, and among women in shelters for victims of domestic violence, two thirds of those who come from homes with guns have had those guns used against them.

The NRA’s answer to gun violence is to advocate for more gun ownership. It is now estimated that the ratio of guns to people in America is approaching one to one… in other words, there are around ninety or more guns for every one hundred people. But, while the number of homicides has been decreasing, far too many people are still killed with guns, and deadly massacres like today’s have become more common.

Sensible restrictions on firearms are sorely needed in this country. Requiring background checks for all gun sales (no exceptions) is not an idea that it is at odds with the Second Amendment. Even staunch defenders of the Second Amendment agree that people who are mentally ill should not possess guns.

So let’s take steps to ensure that they can’t – and don’t.

Plenty of people are offering similar thoughts on social media today. Here’s a collection of some of the most cogent tweets we’ve seen today, from fellow activists, artists, and comedians:

When Americans are outraged, the @NRA is silent. When Americans are silent, the NRA is busy pushing its agenda. Outrage must become action.

Remi Kanazi ‏

A nation that refuses to do anything to help its citizens – especially children & teachers – not get murdered is a failed state. #Newtown

Nima Shirazi

I want to live in a world where the mental health lobby is as powerful as the gun lobby.

Karen Bergreen

It’s not politicizing a tragedy to want to avoid another tragedy.

Brooke Jarvis

It’s time to direct resources & policy attention towards this massacre trend in accordance with the national security threat it’s become.

Derek Young

What if we started by requiring gun owners to pay liability insurance?

Miles Kurland

In my few years, I’ve lived through a lot of stories of shootings. But none had ever shown survivors clutching naptime blankets & pillows.

Henry Kraemer

The next time someone goes on a killing spree w/a .233 caliber soul, lemme know. [Replying to] @GlennBeck It is not the gun. It is the soul.

Robert Silverman

Guns don’t kill people. People in states without gun-purchase background checks & waiting periods kill people.

John Fugelsang

Too soon to speak out about a gun-crazy nation? No, too late. At least thirty-one school shootings since Columbine. (10:37 AM) […] The NRA hates freedom. They don’t want you to have the freedom to send your children to school & expect them to come home alive. (12:37 PM)

Michael Moore

And from Asia, Mark Kelly, the husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, writes:

I just woke up in my hotel room in Beijing, China to learn that another mass shooting has taken place – this time at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in CT. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the entire community of Newtown, CT. I just spoke to Gabby, and she sends her prayers from Tucson.

As we mourn, we must sound a call for our leaders to stand up and do what is right. This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow, and condolence. The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve leaders who have the courage to participate in a meaningful discussion about our gun laws – and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America. This can no longer wait.

We’ll continue to update this post with more reaction as we get it.

At least eighteen children and eight adults slaughtered at school in Connecticut

Devastating, heartbreaking, horrible news out of New England this morning:

At least 27 people — including 18 children — were killed Friday morning at a local elementary school, marking the deadliest shooting ever in Connecticut and one of the worst ever in the country.

The shooting happened at about 9:40 AM [6:40 AM Pacific Time] at Sandy Hook Elementary School, officials said. Police said one shooter was killed late Friday morning. There were multiple reports early Friday afternoon of a second shooter.

Lt. J. Paul Vance, a state police spokesman, said a shooter was dead inside the building. He did not release any details on any of the victims and did not address reports of a second shooter.

The event sent shockwaves throughout the state and the nation and generated a response from the FBI and a statement from the White House. Federal authorities are working with Newtown and state police to coordinate the response.

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy’s office said that state and federal law enforcement personnel were on their way to Newtown to help coordinate the emergency response. The governor’s staff said that President Obama had called the governor to express his deepest condolences and offer federal assistance.

At least two weapons were said to have been recovered, according to media reports. The deceased suspect is thought to be a male in his early twenties, who reportedly came into the school with multiple weapons and body armor.

The President is expected to make a statement at the White House shortly.

The death toll from today’s tragedy already appears to be more than twice as high as the awful 1999 Columbine tragedy in Littleton, Colorado, in which twelve people (most of them high school students) were killed by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

Our hearts go out to the families whose brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and grandchildren were senselessly gunned down this morning. They will be in unimaginable pain in the days, weeks, and months ahead. We grieve with them in spirit and pray that they will find the strength to recover from this calamity. There is no worse news a family can receive than to hear a child, parent, or sibling has been gunned down at school.

Proponents of unrestricted gun ownership will say that now is not the time to talk about implementing measures to prevent or avert gun violence. We strongly disagree. We recognize that a tragedy has just taken place, that we do not yet know all of the details about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, that the community there is still in shock, and our thoughts ought to be with the victims.

But the reason there are victims at all is because we have failed as a nation to address both the symptoms and the root causes of gun violence. How many more tragedies must we endure before we decide to act? In the past fifteen years, gunmen have opened fire on innocent people in schools, malls, movie theaters, college campuses, grocery store parking lots, houses of worship, and even an Army base.

Since 1968, when Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated, more than a million people in the United States have been killed by guns. More than a million!

When are we going to decide that enough is enough? When are we going to muster the political will to do something about this problem? What is it going to take? If the murder of nearly two dozen children in an elementary school cannot galvanize us to take action, what will?

LIVE from Seattle: Huge turnout for final scoping hearing on Gateway Pacific Terminal

This afternoon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington State Department of Ecology, and Whatcom County (the co-lead agencies) are holding the seventh in a series of scoping meetings to determine how to best proceed with an environmental impact statement for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal and Custer railroad spur at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.

This meeting was originally going to be held earlier at a smaller venue, but it was pushed back to today in anticipation of big crowds. It’s a good thing the meeting was moved. There are a huge number of people here.

The co-lead agencies have set up two rooms to accommodate hearing participants. Each room has at least a thousand chairs set up in it (and most of the seats are now taken).

Participants have been asked by the hearing’s moderator not to applaud, cheer, boo, or otherwise make noise so as to allow agency representatives and the court reporter present to listen carefully to the testimony and make notes. Participants have been told they can wave their signs to signify their agreement with a speaker, or show “thumbs down” to signify disagreement.Persons testifying will have two minutes apiece (and no more than that) in which to speak.

Ready for several hours of continuous live coverage? Here we go!

UPDATE, 4:11 PM: We’re now hearing from a representative of the Lummi Nation who says it is “not acceptable” to his tribe for traditional burial grounds to be despoiled by industrial development.

UPDATE, 4:14 PM: Our next speaker is the chairman of the Tulalip tribes. He’s making his opposition to coal exports plainly clear.

“Tulalip will not tolerate impacts to the health of our tribal members… These projects pose significant threats to our environment.”

“We ask you not permit any project that significantly impacts our way of life.”

UPDATE, 4:16 PM: Our last Native speaker comes from the Swinomish tribe. She’s echoing the sentiments of the previous speakers. “The Swinomish people want to ensure that we all live healthy lives,” she told the agency representatives.

UPDATE, 4:20 PM: The Raging Grannies are the first to testify. And naturally, they’re testifying in the form of a song.

UPDATE, 4:23 PM: Our next speaker is an environmental engineer. Her comments are very on point. “I ask that you evaluate the impact of burning all of the coal that would be transported through all of the export terminals.” Specifically, she urged the agency representatives to think about the consequences for ocean acidification and endangered species. She concluded by saying,” We say no to coal exports… period.”

UPDATE, 4:26 PM: Our next speaker, Sharon Levine, says, “We should not be encouraging Asia to use fossil fuels.” She urged agency representatives to consider “cumulative impacts”. “We really need to be thinking about things like coal train derailments,” she declared.

UPDATE, 4:26 PM: And now, State Representative Reuven Carlyle is up!

UPDATE, 4:28 PM: Carlyle is telling the agency representatives that the EIS must be “data-driven” and “thorough”. “We are one state,” he reminded the panel. “A comprehensive, cumulative impacts statement is vital.”

UPDATE, 4:31 PM: Our next speaker is a twelve-year old student from Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood – Rachel Hall. “Within my lifetime, I’m no longer going to be able to ski at Snoqualmie Pass because of global warming,” she says. “My generation will pay a high price for the global warming that you do.”

Lots and lots of signs in the air!

“If you make coal more available, more people will burn it,” she notes.

Huge cheers and applause break out after moderator makes an exception to the noise rule for “people under eighteen.”

UPDATE, 4:33 PM: Our next speaker is one of Tacoma’s city councilmembers. “I am here this evening concerned about coal train impacts on my city and cities like mine,” he says. He’s outlining several areas of concern he wants the agency representatives to look at. For example:

  • Concern about at-grade crossings in Tacoma;
  • Concern about how this negates activity with climate action plan;
  • Concern about impact on property values.

UPDATE, 4:36 PM: Our next speaker is from Montana. The room has gone extra quiet because everyone is listening intently. “I’ve worked in a coal mine and I’ve seen how things are done. How the Earth is dug up,” he told the agency representatives. “From our river, all the way to your ocean… the water will be poisoned… You can’t drink that water, where I work.”

 

UPDATE, 4:40 PM: Our next speaker is a farmer who has come some distance to speak. “I understand the need to burn coal for electricity… but I also understand that coal is a finite resource,” he said early on in his prepared remarks. He went on to condemn the Corps of Engineers for not holding scoping meetings in Wyoming and Montana. “I can’t understand why I should need to travel over a thousand miles to comment on a project that affects my livelihood,” he told the agency representatives.

UPDATE, 4:43 PM: Our next speaker comes to us from the Edmonds City Council. She’s asking the agencies to consider the impacts that coal trains would have on Edmonds ferry traffic and the beaches of Edmonds.

UPDATE, 4:45 PM: Our next speaker is a twenty-two year old transplant from Minnesota who works at the Bonneville Power Administration and moved here because he wanted to enjoy the Pacific Northwest’s quality of life. “I would love [for the co-lead agencies] to see the external costs,” he told the representatives.

UPDATE, 4:49 PM: We finally have a speaker in green shirt. (People wearing green shirts are here to support the proposed terminal project). “We need these facilities to preserve port and rail jobs,” he told the agency representative. “Coal is not a pollutant when burned…. except when burned,” he quickly added, catching himself, as people began to laugh. Lots and lots of thumbs down.

UPDATE, 4:52 PM: Our next speaker is Seattle small business owner Mike Dash. He wants the agencies to look at permafrost melting, because that could result in a very large increase in carbon dioxide emissions. He says he wants four things to be included in the EIS:

  • How much of a margin of safety do we have in terms of where we are now and the melting of the permafrost?
  • How would the proposed terminal at Cherry Point impact permafrost melting?
  • What’s the cost of building seawalls to protect us against superstorms?
  • Would external costs be covered by the builders of the terminal?

UPDATE, 4:53 PM: Our next speaker wants the co-lead agencies to look hard at the impact of coal trains on wildlife sanctuaries.

UPDATE, 4:59 PM: Our next speaker has to be one of the youngest people here. Not sure how old he is, but boy, can he speak. (Sorry for the pun). This is one of the most inspiring bits of testimony I’ve ever heard at a public hearing. “This plan proposes tons and tons of coal going through many neighborhoods… next to train tracks,” he says. “My question is: What would the health impacts be on people – especially children living near the train tracks?” He concluded by saluting the red-shirted masses for turning out to oppose the project.

UPDATE, 5:00 PM: We’re now hearing from the editor of CoalTrainFacts.org. She’s pointing out that we all inhabit the same planet Earth. What happens on the other side of the world affects us: “Coal burnt in Asia hurts people there and blows pollutants back here.”

UPDATE, 5:03 PM: Our next speaker is a Native American. “I do not support any coal development of any kind,” he told the co-lead agencies. “It’s destroying, and has destroyed, our environment, and wildlife.”

UPDATE, 5:06 PM: We’re now hearing from a Sumner community leader concerned about economic impacts on her city. She memorably prefaced her remarks against the project by saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”

UPDATE, 5:10 PM: Our next speaker has some harsh words for the fossil fuels industry: “Any activity based on coal ought to be considered a criminal activity at this time in our history.”

UPDATE, 5:14 PM: Our next speaker is a rancher from southeastern Montana who is “vehemently opposed” to allowing corporations to extract coal from the Rocky Mountain West and export it overseas to be burned in China. He complained about the two-minute time limit and expressed the worry that the Corps is treating the hearings it is doing as merely a formality. As he departed the stage, many people shouted their enthusiastic agreement, in violation of the rules.

UPDATE, 5:17 PM: Now we’re hearing from the leader of the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club, who says we should be working on developing high speed passenger rail, supporting sustainable agriculture, and investing in renewable energy instead of exporting coal to China.

UPDATE, 5:18 PM: Our next speaker is challenging one of the talking points of coal port proponents. “They say this will create jobs, but it could destroy jobs,” he told the agency representatives.

UPDATE, 5:21 PM: Our next speaker is from the Association of Washington Business, which is an affiliate of the Chamber of Commerce. He is only the second person to have spoken in this room in favor of the project. “Opponents are asking you to go beyond the legal requirements,” he told the agencies. He added: “We call on the Corps of Engineers, Washington Department of Ecology, and Whatcom County to apply federal laws fairly and promptly.”

UPDATE, 5:24 PM: Our next speaker is the mayor of Lynden, who has endorsed the Gateway Pacific Terminal (as have several other mayors in Whatcom County). “We are a nation of laws. Permitting agencies should not interfere with lawful commerce,” he told the agency representatives. Plenty of people waved red herring placards or stood up with their thumbs held down. Hissing also broke out, in violation of the rules.

UPDATE, 5:30 PM: We’re now hearing from Michael Ramos of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. “With the Scriptures, we have to say: Before us we have life and death. Choose life!”

UPDATE, 5:38 PM: Now that’s a concise ending – from our last speaker: “Coal is dead!”

UPDATE, 5:41 PM: We can hear singing coming from the adjoining room. Sounds someone with a lot of talent from one of our Northwest tribes.

UPDATE, 5:41 PM: We are now about halfway through the hearing.

UPDATE, 5:43 PM: Our current speaker is telling the panel that the Pacific jetstream will blow harmful emissions from China’s coal-burning power plants back to our skies in the span of just a couple of weeks. “This a monumentally stupid thing to do,” he says. “I say hell no to rapacious greed.”

UPDATE, 5:44 PM: Our next speaker says it’s time to expand and update our passenger rail system instead of using our railroads to ship coal overseas to China.

UPDATE, 5:46 PM: Our next speaker is another young person – a fifth grader, to be specific – who humorously says she’s been “dragged to meetings” to learn more about coal. She wants the panel to think carefully about all of the environmental consequences of this project.

UPDATE, 5:48 PM: Our next speaker is a project proponent. “It’s clear there is a market for the product and a profit to be made…. The economic advantages of moving the project forward are enormous.”

He concludes: “Let’s build the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point… Let’s move forward for prosperity.”

UPDATE, 5:51 PM: We just heard from another eloquent speaker from the Northern Cheyenne tribe. Really glad to have people with us from Montana and Wyoming who would be affected by this.

UPDATE, 5:54 PM: Another Lummi speaker is up now. “I grew up as a commercial fisherman,” he says. “We’re already suffering from the chemicals that are being leached into the waters by the aluminium smelters that are up there.”

“You should see those tankers that pollute our waters,” he says.

 

UPDATE, 5:56 PM: Dave Myers is now speaking on behalf of the building and construction trades. He’s in favor of exporting coal to China. Some sound bites:

  • “It’s only appropriate to evaluate the Gateway Pacific Terminal on its own merits.”
  • “I’m confident the studies will show limited impacts on the environment.”
  • “This project will bring real construction and family wage jobs to Washington State… We need to embrace opportunities like this.”
  • “I believe we can be smart and responsible when using coal.”

UPDATE, 6:01 PM: One more hour to go!

UPDATE, 6:03 PM: Our next speaker is someone who has done thirty years of environmental work. She wants the agency representatives to look at the infrastructure that would be required to support the coal trains.

UPDATE, 6:06 PM: We’re now hearing from Grace Ann Bird, a Nisqually tribal member. “I live within a few miles of the Burlington Northern train tracks that are proposed to carry uncovered coal trains,” she says. She’s concerned about coal trains negatively impacting tribal fishing grounds

UPDATE, 6:08 PM: Lee Nugent from the Seattle building trades is now at the podium, speaking in favor of the project. “Everybody’s heard every concern from both sides of this,” he says. “What we haven’t addressed is why China’s using all of our coal… China is burning our coal is because we keep buying their products.”

“If coal is going to be used, we should try to put environmental standards on it,” he concludes.

UPDATE, 6:10 PM: Our next speaker is a young woman who is soon to be a mother who works on a farm and raises poultry. She doesn’t want the meat she sells to be contaminated as a result of toxic dust from coal trains.

UPDATE, 6:14 PM: “What kind of people are we?” our next speaker is asking. She wonders “what kind of collective craziness” would allow a project like this to go forward. “Now is our last chance to get the future right,” she adds.

UPDATE, 6:17 PM: Our current speaker is playing an audio clip of train noise (from a freight train) recorded up in Whatcom County. It’s not a pleasant sound.

UPDATE, 6:19 PM: We’re now hearing about some of the potential consequences to our ecosystems that would result from allowing this project to be built.

UPDATE, 6:22 PM: Our next speaker is a Lummi Island resident. “There are too many significant adverse impacts to mention in two minutes,” he says. But he urges the agency representatives to thoroughly analyze the cultural impact of the project on the Lummi people. He also gives Sightline Institute a shout-out.

UPDATE, 6:24 PM: Wow, another young speaker thoughtfully urging that we really think through the consequences of this. An eleven year-old this time. I’m really surprised and impressed by the number of youth who have stepped up to the podium at today’s hearing. Bravo to these kids for becoming activists so early in their lives.

UPDATE, 6:26 PM: Our next speaker suggests China’s appetite for coal won’t last for very long, and that consequently, a coal terminal would be a waste of money.

UPDATE, 6:28 PM: Our next speaker is a former Seattle University dean. “I would like you to consider that you are co-creators with God of Earth’s future,” she says. “Our faith tells us that we are special creatures created by God and that we have these great responsibilities.”

UPDATE, 6:31 PM: Our next speaker was trained by Al Gore to deliver his “An Inconvenient Truth” presentation on the climate crisis. He’s reading off some seventh graders’ reactions to the coal terminal project.

UPDATE, 6:34 PM: Our next speaker is someone who says she moved to the Pacific Northwest because of its magnificent coast. “Washington is the only state with a marine recreational trail,” she notes. “As you move forward with the scoping, you must consider impacts to shoreline recreation.”

UPDATE, 6:36 PM: Our next speaker says it is “beyond unthinkable” that in 2012, we are considering increasing our dependence on fossil fuels instead of powering past coal, oil, and natural gas.

UPDATE, 6:38 PM: Our next speaker is an oceanographer and retired EPA water quality specialist. “I think that you have heard today a broad number of people speaking about effects that go all of the way from Montana and Wyoming to China… “I hope you have noted that these are all interconnected effects.”

UPDATE, 6:44 PM: Well-known environmental attorney Peter Goldman is now addressing the agency representatives, urging them to do due diligence in preparing the environmental impact statement.

UPDATE, 6:45 PM: Our next speaker says he is prepared to physically impede coal trains if need be. He uses the last forty seconds of his time to repeatedly say, “We won’t do this!”

UPDATE, 6:46 PM: Our next speaker wants the co-lead agencies to consider if the ventilation in the Great Northern railway tunnel is activate. He’s also concerned about potential negative impacts on historic buildings.

UPDATE, 6:48 PM: The meeting has been so efficiently run that we have time to hear from additional speakers (which is a good thing).

UPDATE, 6:50 PM: Our next speaker is both passionate and spiritual. “Our planet cannot speak,” she says. “Our children, not yet born, cannot speak. I ask that you look into the future fifty years.”

UPDATE, 6:54 PM: Our next speaker wonders whether the railroads operating the coal trains that would be bringing coal to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal would be required to cover the trains.

UPDATE, 6:57 PM: An observation: Having people signify disagreement by waving their hands or signs really seems to work. It allows the moderator to move quickly between one speaker and the next, and it ensures the speakers themselves get more time to say what they want to say.

UPDATE, 6:59 PM: Our next speaker is from Nathan Hale High School. “My generation is faced with the realtiy of climate change as our future,” he says. “That science they show us in biology tells us we’re rapidly approaching the point of no return.”

UPDATE, 7:01 PM: So that Nathan Hale student was our last speaker. Great way to end the hearing. She was really eloquent. “When we get to the point of no return, money won’t matter. Survival will.” Great thought!

UPDATE, 7:02 PM: The hearing is adjourned. Everyone is heading their separate ways, Thanks for reading our live coverage! If you’d like to watch this hearing later on, you can do so on TVW or the Seattle Channel. They were here taping the proceedings.

Well, it’s time to close the lid on the laptop and head out. Thanks for following along with our live coverage! We hope it was informative and helpful.

LIVE: Van Jones at the Washington State Budget and Policy Center Conference

NPI liveblogs Jones speaks at the Budget and Policy Center lunch, laying out a vision nationally:

12:35 PM: “If your news station is named after a sneaky and predatory animals…you might question whether your news is fair and balanced.”

12:37 PM: “If we just stand our ground, we can finally bring the Reagan values to an end.”

12:37 PM: “Ask people if they want to cut Medicare. 75% of people say no.”

12:40 PM: “That is a sea shift, that the reign of terror of the Grover Norquists of the world has come to an end.” On the fact that we are politically accepting the need for new revenue.

  • 12:42 PM: “The country might be richer, but I picture I’m going to be poorer.” On why people thought Romney might be better for the economy but voted for Obama.

    12:45 PM “You could get a situation where you get the majority of votes in the state legislature, but still not get to govern.” Referencing the Monday power grab here in our state.

    12:47 PM: “The people who have done well in America should do well by America…and if that’s a radical idea, then it is a radical idea your parents and grandparents held by for much of the last century.”

    12:51 PM: “You guys have some of the dumbest tax loopholes in the country when you have the smartest people.” On our state tax code.

    12:54 PM: “Tax waste, Tax pollution. Tax the stuff you don’t want in America. And for god sakes, don’t put the car in reverse.” Van Jones on coal.

    12:57 PM: “We are the guilty party, we power our human civilization, our Western civilization on death right now…What is coal? Coal is a substance that has been dead for 100 million years.”

    1:02 PM: Van Jones speaks on respecting and protecting our old energy workers as we transition to new energy sources, and the amount of jobs that would be created by investing in clean energy.

    1:04 PM: Don’t go in reverse Washington state. Keep on pushing for a progressive future.”

    We then transition from a speech into a Q&A with the audience and Van Jones. Topics ranged from conservatives trying to take out Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, to our progressives give up on good ideas very quickly while conservatives stick to bad ideas and persevere in making bad policy.

    1:10 PM: “You don’t need health insurance, you need health care.” On how most insurance is for uncertainty, but you’re guaranteed to see a doctor, “even if it is to sign a death certificate.”

    1:15 PM: A question is asked about higher education and Inslee’s promise not to raise revenue. Van Jones’ response was to “kick him in the butt” and the need to “use carrots and sticks with our friends”. He then talked about how there has been sense of complacency when issue allies are in power, and how if McCain was president we would all be in jail for being” conscientious objectors” because of drone strikes.

    After another question, in which Van Jones’ talked about our nation’s changing demographics, and how wealthy white liberals vote out of their self interests as much as poor working class men, but we call the conservative low-income person ‘stupid’, the lunch keynote wrapped up and we had another inspirational speech by one of the best progressive minds in the nation.

  • Rodney Tom, majority leader of Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, claims Lisa Brown’s office

    Rodney Tom, the former Republican turned Democrat turned de facto Republican, admitted today while talking to the Capitol press corps that he’s “expecting” to take over current Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown’s corner office in the Legislative Building, even though he will be the chamber’s “majority leader” in name only.

    Tom is evidently eager to get his hands on the trappings of power.

    Tom and fellow Democrat-in-Name-Only Tim Sheldon announced at a press conference yesterday that they’re going to caucus with Senate Republicans for the next two years, but remain in the Democratic Party.

    At least, that’s what they think. Neither man seems to understand that the Democratic Party now views them as Republicans.

    They’ve chosen to caucus with Republicans, they’ve signed their names to a document embracing several Republican policy directions, and they’ve given Republicans control over the Senate’s committee structure and committees. That means they are no longer Democrats.

    They’ve picked a side and made their beds, so to speak. Now they’ll have to live with the consequences.

    In Tom’s case, the most important consequence is that he is guaranteed to face a credible Democratic opponent in 2014, backed by the Democratic Party. Tom’s district became even more Democratic than it already was after the Redistricting Commission finalized the state’s new district map nearly a year ago.

    This November, the 48th voted for Democrats up and down the ticket by healthy margins, as the following list of results shows:

    • 61.4% – Barack Obama (D), President
    • 64.5% – Maria Cantwell (D), U.S. Senate
    • 52.9% – Jay Inslee (D), Governor
    • 55.8% – Bob Ferguson (D), Attorney General
    • 51.8% – Kathleen Drew (D), Secretary of State
    • 69.3% – Ross Hunter (D), State Representative – Position 1
    • 61.4% – Cyrus Habib (D), State Representative – Position 2

    David Goldstein has posted the same list on Slog.

    Now, it’s true that the 48th is not as Democratic as the 43rd or the 36th. But the 48th is an area Rob McKenna used to represent on the King County Council, and its residents didn’t even vote for him for governor.

    And consider this: The last time the 48th elected someone running as a Republican to the state Legislature was in 2004… when Rodney Tom won reelection to the state House of Representatives. It has been that long.

    The voters have now sent Tom to the Senate twice… as a Democrat, with the expectation that he would govern as a Democrat.

    But Tom is now planning to govern as a Republican. From the corner office that has been Lisa Brown’s since January of 2007.

    Had Democrats not lost any seats, Tom and his pal Sheldon would not have been able to help Republicans engineer a majority, and they likely would have remained in the Democratic caucus because the Democrats would have been the majority party even without them. It’s better to be in the majority than the minority.

    But now that the pair of them hold the cards, they’ve gone over to the Republicans, because the Republicans are willing to give them something the Democrats won’t: Power. Or at least the illusion of power.

    What these guys are really getting is job titles. The Republicans are getting the influence. This is about power for them, too.

    Yesterday, responding to Tom and Sheldon’s defections, Washington State Democratic Chair Dwight Pelz said in a statement: “The truth here is that Senator Tom has instigated this unprecedented coup and joined with Republicans to install himself as Majority Leader out of a desire to further his own personal ambitions, not out of what is in the best interests of his constituents or the public at large. What he announced today is a prescription for instability and division.”

    Rodney Tom himself spiked the ball for Pelz’s response when he told reporters, “This is not about power… this is not about control.”

    I watched the press conference, and had a good laugh when I heard that. In attempting to negate his critics’ framing of his actions, Tom (unintentionally) evoked that frame. He caused everyone listening to think about the words power and control. And, like I’ve been saying, that’s exactly what this is about. Power and control. It’s a power play. It’s politics.

    Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon could easily collaborate with Republicans on occasion from the Democratic caucus if they wished. Aisle-crossing happens all of the time in a legislative body. But then, they wouldn’t be in charge. By forming an alliance with the Republicans, Tom gets to pretend to be the chamber’s majority leader and Tim Sheldon gets to fill in for Brad Owen when he’s away.

    I say pretend to be majority leader because, as both David Goldstein and Andrew Garber observed today, Tom isn’t actually the leader of anyone except himself and Tim Sheldon. (And he may not even be Sheldon’s leader; Sheldon is a wild card).

    Ed Murray remains the Senate Democrats’ leader, and Mark Schoesler, recently elected to succeed Mike Hewitt, made it clear today that he’s still the leader of the Republicans. Schoesler is not stepping back into the Republican ranks and letting Tom run the caucus; he is staying in charge.

    Again, what Tom is getting under their deal is a title… the title of majority leader. He is not getting the clout that normally goes with it. He will not have his own caucus staff, or a party campaign committee like the SDCC or SRCC at his disposal.

    Tom will need Schoesler and every one of Schoesler’s members to be around and on board all of the time – or he won’t have twenty-five votes.

    The Democrats are fully aware of this, and Ed Murray signaled today when he spoke with The Stranger and The Seattle Times that he’s inclined to reject the Republicans’ offer to allow Democrats to run some committees. (The Democrats still have to meet to decide what they want to do. The “power-sharing” agreement the Republicans drew up was drafted without their input; it’s being presented to them as a take-it-or-leave-it proposal).

    “I think it would be healthier for the institution if twenty-four of us are a strong minority influencing the process as a minority,” Murray told Times reporter Andrew Garber. “I think it would make for a better product in the end.”

    Murray – and his colleagues – would be smart to reject the Republicans’ phony “power-sharing” proposal, and to keep Tom and Sheldon out of their caucus room.

    The Republicans have seized power; but they want Democrats to join them in pretending that the Senate will be cooperatively run in a truly bipartisan fashion. Democrats should say no, and let Tom and Sheldon know they can’t have it both ways. If they wish to caucus with Republicans and govern as Republicans, they’ll be considered Republicans. Even if they don’t want call themselves Republicans.

    Republicans seize control of state Senate with the help of Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon

    Senate Republicans announced today they have formally reached a deal with Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon (of the 48th and 35th Districts, respectively) to run Washington’s Senate for the next two years, which means that Democrats will be in the minority for the first time since the 2006 session.

    At a press conference in Olympia, Tom and Sheldon confirmed that they have signed an agreement to form a “Senate Majority Coalition Caucus” which will consist of the two of them plus the twenty-three Republican senators. The Republicans have all agreed to allow Tom to serve as their majority leader and Sheldon to serve as the Senate’s president pro tempore. (The president pro tempore presides when the Lieutenant Governor is not available to run the Senate).

    Tom and Sheldon, conversely, are allowing Republicans to determine the Senate’s committee structure. The Republican caucus has already released a document on its website which lists the reorganized committees, their names, and chairs.

    The following tables are from that document:

    Committee Makeup Chair
    Natural Resources and Parks 4 Democrats, 3 Republicans Democrats will appoint chair/Sen. Pearson ranking Republican
    Agriculture and Water 4 Democrats, 3 Republicans Democrats will appoint chair/Sen. Honeyford ranking Republican
    Trade and Economic Development 4 Democrats, 3 Republicans Democrats will appoint chair/7th District senator ranking Republican
    Financial Institutions & Insurance 4 Democrats, 3 Republicans Democrats will appoint chair/Sen. Benton ranking Republican
    Higher Education 4 Democrats, 3 Republicans Democrats will appoint chair/Sen. Bailey ranking Republican
    Environment and Marine Waters 3 Democrats, 2 Republicans Democrats will appoint chair/Sen. Delvin ranking Republican
    Committee Makeup Chair
    Ways and Means 12 Republicans, 11 Democrats Sen. Hill [Democrats choose ranking member]
    Commerce and Labor 4 Republicans, 3 Democrats Sen. Holmquist Newbry [Democrats choose ranking member]
    Early Learning and K-12 Education 6 Republicans, 5 Democrats Sen. Litzow [Democrats choose ranking member]
    Government Operations 4 Republicans, 3 Democrats Sen. Roach [Democrats choose ranking member]
    Law and Justice 4 Republicans, 3 Democrats Sen. Padden [Democrats choose ranking member]
    Health Care 5 Republicans, 4 Democrats Sen. Becker [Democrats choose ranking member]
    Committee Makeup Chair
    Human Services and Corrections 3 Republicans, 3 Democrats Sen. Carrell (co-chair)/Democrats will appoint a co-chair
    Transportation 8 Republicans, 8 Democrats Sen. King (co-chair)/Democrats will appoint a co-chair
    Energy and Telecommunications 3 Republicans, 3 Democrats Sen. Ericksen (co-chair)/Democrats will appoint a co-chair

    Notice that the Republicans gave themselves control of the all-important Ways & Means Committee, as well as Government Operations, and an equal number of members on Transportation (which means they can block Democrats from moving any bills they don’t like through Transportation).

    Republicans tried to dress up their announcement as “getting away from politics” being in the public interest. Right. Because politics shouldn’t be political.

    “It’s supposed to be a power-share rather than a power-grab,” Linda Evans-Parlette told reporters gathered for the press conference Capitol Campus.

    But a power-grab is exactly what this is. By joining forces with Tom and Sheldon, Senate Republicans have made themselves the majority party in the Senate. The voters did not elect a Republican majority to the Senate in 2012. The Republicans have, instead, engineered a majority by reclaiming Rodney Tom and adding longtime renegade Tim Sheldon to their ranks.

    The Republicans are not dissolving in favor of a brand new caucus led by Rodney Tom. Rather, the Republican caucus is allowing Rodney Tom to be their leader, and allowing Tim Sheldon to stand behind the rostrum when Brad Owen is not around.

    Tom and Sheldon have both said they don’t intend to leave the Democratic Party. But in joining the Republican Party, they have left the Democratic Party. They can hardly expect to be considered Democrats when they are caucusing with Republicans. Tom and Sheldon can say they’re Democrats, but that doesn’t make them Democrats. Actions speak louder than words.

    Tom and Sheldon are trying to cast themselves as courageous bridge-builders and promoters of cooperation. In reality, they are opportunists.

    And an opportunist is the worst kind of politician there is.

    There is nothing virtuous about this coup (and it is a coup). It was plotted behind closed doors without public input or public hearings. Senate Democrats were not consulted about the committee structure or other details. House Democrats are not a party to the deal. And Governor-elect Inslee is not either. The Senate does not have the ability to pass budgets or make laws on its own.

    I listened to Tom answer questions from reporters at today’s press conference and it was evident from his tone that he considers himself part of the Republican caucus now. Asked whether he would be caucusing with Republicans, he responded, “There’ll be a majority coalition caucus and a minority caucus… I will be caucusing with the majority.”

    In other words, Tom will be caucusing with the Republicans… and hoping Democrats won’t be too upset with him. “We expect to work with them,” he told reporters. I noted – and you should too – that he referred to the Democratic caucus, now led by Ed Murray, as them. Which, of course, makes sense. Tom may not have consciously intended to use those words… he was not reading from a prepared statement. He was speaking off the top of his head. And it’s evident he doesn’t consider himself part of the Senate Democratic caucus anymore.

    Neither does Washington State Democratic Chair Dwight Pelz, who issued this statement not long after the announcement was made:

    In 2010, Senators Tom and Sheldon stood for reelection as Democrats. In the case of Senator Tom, he even accepted over $25,000 in contributions from the State Democratic Party. But today, Senators Tom and Sheldon turned their backs on the Democratic Party by siding with a radically right Republican caucus that earlier this year attempted to slash critically important funding for education and social services for the elderly and the vulnerable.

    To imply that the current Democratic caucus is unwilling to work across party lines to move our state forward is absurd. Just two years ago, Democratic Senator Ed Murray and Republican Senator Joe Zarelli worked together to build a bipartisan budget – an unprecedented show of unity in Olympia.

    The truth here is that Senator Tom has instigated this unprecedented coup and joined with Republicans to install himself as Majority Leader out of a desire to further his own personal ambitions, not out of what is in the best interests of his constituents or the public at large. What he announced today is a prescription for instability and division.

    Ed Murray, meanwhile, reacted coldly to the Republicans’ announcement.

    “We recognize that any majority in the Senate will be an unstable one, and we are committed to forming a mutually agreed-upon way for Republicans and Democrats to work together,” he said. “We don’t believe the Republicans’ take-it-or-leave-it plan offers the right way forward. We remain hopeful that Republicans will be open to negotiations to ensure the full functioning of the Senate.”

    Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who represents the neighboring 36th District, issued her own response. She did not mince words.

    “Forcing half the chamber to accept a take-it-or-leave-it plan is not the way you foster collaboration, trust or respect,” Kohl-Welles said.

    “That’s a recipe for confrontation, not collaboration — and it bears little resemblance to the Democratic principles I believe my constituents in the 36th District and people across the state expect legislators to uphold.”

    Tom and Sheldon suggested to reporters that other Democratic senators might join with them in abandoning the Democratic caucus in the coming days and weeks.

    But no one else was masquerading as a Democrat at today’s press conference in the Legislative Building. Unfortunately for Tom and Sheldon, their former turncoat pal Jim Kastama (who helped Republicans rush a budget through the state Senate back in the spring) is on his way out of the Legislature.

    Voters replaced Kastama with a real Republican – Bruce Dammeier.

    The majority the Republicans have engineered is incredibly tenuous. To control the floor, they need every single member of their caucus to be in the Senate chamber and available to vote whenever the Senate is in session – along with de facto Republicans Sheldon and Tom. If just one Republican is missing, it means Republicans do not have the twenty-five votes required to pass legislation.

    In the event of a tie, the Constitution allows the Lieutenant Governor to cast a vote. There may well be times during the upcoming session when there is a tie, and that will mean that Brad Owen will get a vote. Owen has historically worked well with Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, and once helped Brown out of a jam during the 2009 session. (The Senate deadlocked on SB 5433; Owen gave Brown the twenty-fifth vote she needed to get the bill passed). That could give Ed Murray and his caucus opportunities to temporarily take back power.

    Incidentally, one of the Republican senators who signed the power-sharing agreement – Bob Morton – is actually planning to resign just after the new year. Morton’s successor will be a Republican because he is, and presumably that new senator will be duly sent to Olympia prior to the first day of session so that Republicans won’t be a vote short of twenty-five.

    Jim Camden has the details on the process for filling the vacancy and who has expressed interest in being named as the next senator from the 7th District.

    Democrats, meanwhile, have to choose a successor for Derek Kilmer, who is leaving the state Senate to join the U.S. House of Representatives in the Other Washington.

    A point of personal privilege

    As 2012 draws to an end and I head into my second decade as a progressive activist, I want to take a moment to publicly say thanks to a number of people who have helped me and helped NPI get to where it is today.

    First, thanks to everyone who supported and donated to NPI this year.

    Our donors, readers, contributors, and volunteers make our work possible. Projects like Pacific NW Portal, Permanent Defense, In Brief, the Olympia Newsriver, and this blog (The Advocate) cost money to develop, maintain, and host. Effective research and advocacy requires equipment and training.

    One hundred percent of what we raise goes into infrastructure and development. We don’t spend a dime on advertising or consultants.

    Readers, I simply can’t stress this enough: NPI continues to work on raising America’s quality of life because of your kindness and generosity. You believe in the work we’re doing, believe that is critically important, and want to keep it going.

    We deeply appreciate that.

    Second, thanks to everyone who came to NPI’s annual holiday party yesterday afternoon. We at NPI enjoy being able to thank our supporters in person, and we’re glad many of you were able to make it out to the party. We wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year.

    Third, a very heartfelt thanks to my good friend Steve Zemke for all of his service to NPI over the years. This past Saturday, Steve was narrowly defeated in his bid for reelection as the Chair of the King County Democrats by Karl de Jong. After that happened, Steve determined that he needed to take a break from being an activist and recalibrate. Consequently, he has decided to step down from NPI’s board of directors. We wish him the best, and I remain very grateful for all of the advice and counsel he has provided to me and to NPI over the years.

    Steve had invested a lot of time and energy in trying to figure out how to move the King County Democrats forward during the 2014 election cycle, but unfortunately, a majority of the precinct committee officers who showed up at the reorganization were not inclined to give him the opportunity to continue running the organization.

    Steve was actually the only candidate for chair who recruited a slate of people to run with him for all of the other officer positions. With one exception, the whole slate were elected to serve as officers for the next two years, which I think demonstrates that Steve did a very good job lining up qualified people to serve as officers. Steve did not recruit many of the people who were elected with him two years ago – in fact, several of the outgoing officers ran in 2010 with the intention of serving with Karl de Jong (Karl withdrew his candidacy in advance of the December 2010 reorganization meeting for health reasons).

    That leads me to my last thank-you.

    For many years, I’ve been fortunate to have been aided as executive director by my good friend Rick Hegdahl, a U.S. Navy veteran with a great sense of humor and a passion for building community. Rick has been our Outreach & Advocacy Director since 2007, but we decided that the board could really use his talents and energy. I recommended several weeks ago that NPI’s board elect Rick to one of the open positions, and this weekend, the board unanimously adopted that recommendation and elected Rick as a board member. Rick will now be taking Steve’s spot on the board since Steve has resigned, which leaves us in good shape at year’s end.

    I want to thank Rick for his willingness to serve and for his loyalty to the organization. Rick is the third outstanding addition to the board we have made this year, after Martin Chaney and Kathleen Reynolds.

    We are a stronger board today than we were a year ago, and that’s in no small part because of our three new board members.

    I anticipate that 2013 will be a busy year for us. We have a long legislative session in front of us at the state level that is sure to have many twists and turns, and a new Congress convening in the District of Columbia, where comprehensive immigration reform and filibuster reform are likely to be on the table. We also have local elections at the county level, city level, and port level, not to mention a gazillion school board and special district positions.

    In nine months, we will be celebrating NPI’s tenth anniversary, which is a pretty big milestone. We’ll be holding a special event on Thursday, August 22nd to celebrate the occasion. And, prior to that, in April, we will hold our fifth Spring Fundraising Gala, an event we first started doing in 2008, which is very popular with our donors and supporters. We hope to see you at those events and we look forward to working with you to make Washington and the Pacific Northwest a better place to live, start a business, and raise a family.