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: January 2014

BlackBerry’s next-generation smartphone platform gets big boost with 10.2.1 upgrade

Today, mobile computing pioneer BlackBerry continued to defy the many tech pundits who have called its demise inevitable by releasing a major upgrade to its next generation smartphone platform. Version 10.2.1 of BlackBerry 10 began rolling out across the globe this morning, bringing new features and enhancements to the ultra-modern operating system that powers the company’s newest line of handsets.

The changelog is rather long. It runs the gamut from simple, cool refinements like a virtual on/off flashlight button to a completely redesigned call screen. BlackBerry has highlighted some of the most noteworthy improvements here.

Importantly, for power users, 10.2.1 allows Android applications to be installed and launched directly without needing to be converted to .bar files. Users upgrading from BB10.1, meanwhile, will find that the Android runtime is now based on Jelly Bean instead of Gingerbread. With 10.2.1, running Android applications is no longer just possible, it’s downright easy. Any BlackBerry 10 user can do it.

If you want an application that isn’t in BlackBerry World, you can install a second storefront – like the Amazon Appstore – and start downloading and running Android applications to your heart’s content. The runtime handles most Android apps without a problem, making BlackBerry’s much-discussed “app gap” a nonissue.

Most people have no idea that the newest BlackBerry handsets can run Android apps, or are loaded with cool technologies like the Time Shift camera. That’s in part because the new devices have been very poorly marketed. If most people were asked to think of a BlackBerry, they’d probably visualize a device with a trackball or a wheel running slow-to-boot software originally developed in the late 1990s.

But the new handsets are very, very different.

The BlackBerry 10 platform is based on QNX, which can be found in many cars and in industrial settings. It is a touch and gesture based operating system.

Some features and user interface elements were inspired by the older BlackBerry OS, but in most respects, BB10 is totally different from its predecessor. It is fast, reliable, and comes with true multitasking support.

To date, BlackBerry has produced four handsets that run BB10: the Z10, Q10, Q5, and Z30 (which were introduced last year in that order).

The two “Z” phones are all-touch models with a revolutionary virtual keyboard that looks like the iconic QWERTY keyboard found on the Bold series. The Z10 is closer in dimensions to an iPhone and has a removable battery, while the Z30 is closer in dimensions to a Galaxy Note and has a nonremovable battery.

The Q10 and Q5, meanwhile, serve as direct successors to the Bold and Curve models, sporting the best physical keyboards to be found on a smartphone.

We’ve just about finished migrating over to BlackBerry 10 here at NPI, and we couldn’t be more satisfied with these new handsets. BlackBerry has built on its core strengths and leapfrogged the competition with BB10. Since last year’s launch, they’ve listened to their users and continually polished the new OS, adding in missing features, fixing bugs, and polishing the design.

With the 10.2.1 update, BlackBerry 10 is even more compelling, and we join other BlackBerry enthusiasts in congratulating the company on shipping it. We can’t wait to try out the new capabilities. Thanks, BlackBerry!

More senseless gun violence claims the lives of two young employees of Zumiez

Tragedies like these have seem to have become a weekly occurrence. We are so desensitized to violence now that we are not as shocked as we all should be when more lives are ended by senseless gun violence:

As throngs of patrons strolled and browsed at the Mall in Columbia on a gray, cold Saturday, shotgun blasts rang out and bodies fell as a familiar tragedy — homicidal lunacy in a crowded public place — brought terror to a suburban Maryland shopping complex.

It happened just after 11 a.m., about 25 miles northeast of Washington [D.C.]. A gunman opened fire on the mall’s second level, killing two employees of Zumiez, a clothing store for skateboarders and snowboarders, Howard County police said.

Minutes later, when officers arrived, they found the shooter dead of an apparently self-inflicted wound.

No home, workplace, church, school, mall, or gathering place is safe in a society where people who should not possess a firearm can easily get one and unleash terror on a community like Columbia, Maryland.

Other countries have imposed sensible restrictions, including universal background checks, on gun sales and gun ownership. We haven’t, partly because politically powerful pro-gun organizations like the NRA oppose taking any steps that would make safe firearms ownership a strict norm in our society, as opposed to just best practices that gun manufacturers, gun dealers, and gun owners are free to ignore.

The NRA and their ilk speak about the Second Amendment with such reverence, it makes us wonder if they are at all acquainted with the First. Or the Declaration of Independence, in which our founders talked about the inherent and unalienable rights, chiefly the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Zumiez employees Brianna Benlolo and Tyler Johnson no longer have their lives,  their liberty, or the chance to be happy. They were killed in the blink of an eye by bullets fired from the gun of a deranged individual who ultimately turned his gun on himself after firing on them and others. Both Brianna and Tyler were in their twenties. Both had so much to look forward to, and to do.

Tragically, now they’re gone. Their families will deal with the pain of their slaying for the rest of their lives, like the families of the Aurora and Newtown massacres, or the Oak Creek and Tucson shootings, or the thousands of other victims of gun violence over the last decade. Things are getting worse, not better, as NPR reported a few days ago: there has been a sharp rise in the number of mass shootings in the United States since Barack Obama and Joe Biden were elected.

The President and Vice President are among those who wants to take action, but the very sensible and extremely basic reforms they have proposed at the federal level have been stymied by our current do-nothing Congress, particularly House and Senate Republicans, who refuse to disobey their NRA masters.

This failure to act is unacceptable, and we ought to be vocal in letting our elected leaders know that the status quo is untenable. Here in Washington, we have an opportunity to make change for the better by passing Initiative 594, which would require universal background checks on gun sales. I-594 was certified by the Secretary of State this past week and is now before the Legislature. We urge the House and the Senate to pass it straightaway, and to reject its evil cousin, I-591, which is backed by the uncompromising gun lobby and zealous gun enthusiasts.

We send our deepest condolences to the families of Brianna and Tyler in the wake of today’s tragedy, as well as to longtime NPI supporter Tom Campion, cofounder and chairman of Zumiez, Zumiez CEO Rick Brooks, and all Zumiez employees, particularly those who worked with Brianna and Tyler at the Columbia, Maryland store.

All of them will be in our thoughts and prayers tonight and in the days to come.

Seattle Seahawks advance to Super Bowl, Pacific Northwest celebrates big playoff win

For only the second time in franchise history, the Seattle Seahawks have found their way to the Super Bowl, the most watched sporting event in the world and the annual championship game of the National Football League.

Seattle punched its ticket by beating its division rival, the San Francisco 49ers, for the second time this season in a fiercely contested game at CenturyLink Field in SoDo. The Seahawks got off to an inauspicious start when star quarterback Russell Wilson fumbled the ball, which set up San Francisco’s first field goal. The 49ers later tacked on a touchdown to take a ten to nothing lead.

But Seattle rallied, eventually tying the game in the third quarter with a big touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch that electrified the stadium.

Russell Wilson later found Husky alum Jermaine Kearse on a fourth down play to retake the lead after San Francisco answered with its own touchdown. After allowing Colin Kaepernick to rack up yards in the first half by running the ball himself, the Seahawks’ defense finally got to the 49ers quarterback, first forcing a fumble and then picking off a pass after failing to capitalize on the fumble.

The game ended with yet another interception, as Kaepernick tried to mount an eleventh hour comeback by connecting with Michael Crabtree in the endzone. Unfortunately for Kaepernick, Richard Sherman was there to tip the ball into the hands of Malcom Smith, giving the Seahawks the ball and the NFC title.

Fireworks exploded over Puget Sound and ticker tape flooded CenturyLink Field as the Seahawks began celebrating only their second-ever conference title. Raucous fans in Pioneer Square spilled out into the streets to party.

And the region’s elected leaders and institutions took to Twitter to remind their counterparts in California to make good on their friendly wagers.

Here’s a rundown of some of the wagers:

  • Ed Murray vs. Edwin Lee: The mayors of Seattle and San Francisco wagered sweets and community service on the outcome of the game. Had the 49ers won, Ed Murray would have owed Lee some ice cream from Molly Moon’s and Theo Chocolate. Since the Seahawks won, Lee will have to send Mitchell’s Ice Cream and Poco Dolce Chocolates to Murray. In addition, Lee must now help Murray raise $10,000 for a Seattle food bank.
  • Jay Inslee vs. Jerry Brown: The governors of Washington and California wagered a case of their state’s finest wine on the outcome of the game. Since the Seahawks won, Governor Jerry Brown will need to settle the bet by sending a shipment north to Olympia.
  • The San Francisco Giants vs. the Seattle Mariners: The Seahawks and 49ers’ MLB counterparts wagered a photo of their mascots paying tribute to the other city’s team. In the event of a 49ers victory, the Mariner Moose was to have posed for a photo doing a Kaepernick. But, since the Seahawks won, Lou the Seal had to pose for a photo feasting on Skittles.
  • Caltrain vs. Sound Transit: The two agencies that operate commuter rail services for the Bay Area and Puget Sound, Caltrain and Sound Transit, wagered a photo of their chief executives wearing the other team’s colors, to be posted on Facebook. Since the Seahawks won, Caltrain has conceded they going to have to find some Seahawks team apparel for their CEO to wear.
  • The Evergreen Point Floating Bridge vs. the Bay Bridge: The people behind the unofficial Twitter accounts for the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge wagered some of their favorite local coffee on the game. Since the Seahawks won, the person behind the Bay Bridge account has to pay up. And he or she is being a good sport about it.
  • GeekWire vs. Re/Code: Seattle area technology blog GeekWire and Bay Area technology blog Re/Code wagered a guest post and treats on the outcome of the game. Since the Seahawks won, Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg’s crew owe Team GeekWire a column.
  • Nancy Pelosi vs. the Washington Democratic House delegation: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wagered delicacies and bragging rights on the outcome of the game with Rick Larsen, Jim McDermott, Adam Smith, Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck, and Derek Kilmer. Had the 49ers won, 49ers win, Pelosi would have received Theo’s chocolate from Congressman Jim McDermott, Brown & Haley Almond Roca toffees from Congressman Adam Smith, Fischer fair scones from Congressman Denny Heck, craft gin from Everett’s Bluewater Distilling in Congressman Rick Larsen’s district, Woodinville wine and smoked salmon from Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, and apples from Amy’s Decadent Chocolates courtesy of Congressman Derek Kilmer. Since the Seahawks won, our delegation will get San Francisco sourdough bread from Boudin’s Bakery and chocolate from Ghirardelli and TCHO.

We will be keeping our special NPI Advocate Seahawks nameplate up for a couple more weeks, as Seattle is headed to MetLife Stadium for Super Bowl XXXIII. The Seahawks will be playing the AFC champion Denver Broncos, who happen to be the NFL’s other number one seed. It should be a good game. We’ll be rooting for the Hawks to win their very first Super Bowl title!

Navy veteran Matt Isenhower announces he’s challenging Republican Andy Hill for Senate

The Washington State Democratic Party’s effort to recapture the state Senate got a big boost today with the announcement that the party has found a challenger to take on freshman Republican Andy Hill in the 45th Legislative District. Hill is the Chairman of the Senate’s Ways & Means Committee.

Matt Isenhower, thirty-three, says he’s running because the Eastside’s families and young people need an advocate. Republicans have done nothing but obstruct and obfuscate since they seized control of the state Senate in 2012 with the help of Democrats-in-name-only Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon. Since then, the Senate has turned into a graveyard of progress. It’s where good bills go to die.

Isenhower wants to change that.

“I have always been proud to call the Eastside my home and want to continue to make this a great place to live, work and raise a family,” said Isenhower in a press release announcing the launch of his campaign.

“But I look at the partisan politics in the State Senate and see where it hurts our communities: underfunded schools, [State Route] 520 over budget with stalled negotiations to complete construction, looming Metro cuts, and a refusal to vote on safeguarding women’s health care. Our growing, dynamic region — and the families who live here — simply deserve better.”

One of those families is Isenhower’s. A Redmond High alum and native of the district, Isenhower lives in Redmond’s Education Hill neighborhood with his wife April and two young children. He has a B.S. from the United States Naval Academy and an M.B.A. from Harvard. As a naval officer, he served on board the U.S.S. Winston Churchill before taking a job in the Pentagon, where he coordinated crisis response activities with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and fleet commanders.

Isenhower is backed by State Representatives Ross Hunter and Roger Goodman, as well as U.S. Representatives Suzan DelBene and Adam Smith. Hunter represents the 45th’s neighboring district to the south, the 48th, and is the House’s chief budget writer. He is also seeking the endorsement of the 45th District Democrats.

(Full disclosure: I serve on the executive board of the 45th District Democrats and represent the organization on the Washington State Democratic Central Committee as its state committeeman. NPI does not endorse candidates for office, or participate in any independent expenditure campaigns for or against candidates).

Incumbent Republican Andy Hill won election to the state Senate in 2010, narrowly defeating one-term incumbent Democrat Eric Oemig with the help of favorable electoral headwinds. Oemig had previously been elected himself in a wave election year. Like Claudia Kauffman, he rode into office in 2006 on the Democratic tsunami that drastically altered the makeup of the Legislature.

Republicans have been chipping away at those big gains ever since. They have not won an outright majority in over a decade, but thanks to Tom and Sheldon, they were able to take control of the Senate anyway.

What’s really interesting about the last two contests for Senate in the 45th is that they pitted incumbent officeholders against challengers who started out with little name recognition, but were able to capitalize on their personal networks and build winning campaigns. In 2006, Eric Oemig faced what many party operatives on both sides thought would be a very tough campaign against Republican Toby Nixon.

Oemig had originally planned to run against Republican leader Bill Finkbeiner, but Finkbeiner opted to retire instead. (He ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2012 against Brad Owen). When Finkbeiner bowed out, State Representative Toby Nixon vacated his seat in the House to run. Technically speaking, Nixon wasn’t the incumbent in the race, but he might as well have been since he’d run and won district-wide before. Oemig had not, yet he managed to defeat Nixon.

Four years later, Oemig sought reelection, but lost to Republican Andy Hill, who, like Oemig, was a first time candidate new to politics. Although Republicans were able to knock out Oemig, they were unable to defeat either Larry Springer or Roger Goodman, the district’s two Democratic representatives. Springer and Goodman subsequently each won reelection in 2012 by significant margins.

The 45th may be a swing district, but it leans Democratic. With the exception of Hill, the voters of the 45th have exclusively sent Democrats to the Legislature every cycle since 2004. The district was redrawn in 2011, and it shrunk geographically, but its electoral makeup has not changed very much.

Isenhower’s background is impressive, and will undoubtedly help him as he tries to build a formidable campaign for Senate. As the Legislature is currently in session, Andy Hill is prohibited from doing any fundraising, which will give Isenhower some time to catch up. Hill, however, has already amassed a big war chest. As of the date the fundraising freeze took effect, he had raised over $200,000 for his reelection effort, with many big donations from corporate political action committees.

(Corporations like to give to incumbents, which is one of the reasons why incumbents have such a high reelection rate).

Isenhower’s top priorities as a candidate are fully funding our public schools, addressing our transportation mess and holding extremism in check. Like us, when he looks at what’s happening in the Senate, he doesn’t like what he sees.

The Senate’s Eastside Republican cabal, which now includes Rodney Tom in addition to Andy Hill, Joe Fain, and Steve Litzow, has allowed the party’s Tea Party wing to block bills like the DREAM Act, Reproductive Parity Act, and Voting Rights Act from coming to a vote. Republicans claim to be concerned about jobs, education, and the budget, but their own budget proposal last year was a farce, and they were unable to agree even amongst themselves on a transportation package.

Publicly, the caucus does a very good job of maintaining a united front. But it is a facade. Internal disagreements within the caucus are said to run deep, which helps explain why two special sessions were necessary before Senate Republicans were able to reach agreement with House Democrats and Governor Jay Inslee on a budget. The final budget agreement ended up looking much more like the House’s original proposal than the Senate’s, crafted by none other than Andy Hill.

Move King County Now: Dow Constantine unveils plan to save Metro, fund road repairs

Flanked by over a dozen county and city leaders representing Seattle, the Eastside, and the South Sound, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced this afternoon that voters from Vashon to Snoqualmie will get the opportunity this spring to decide whether to raise revenue to prevent draconian service cuts to Metro and address an increasingly dangerous road maintenance backlog.

Constantine and the King County Council intend to use existing statutory authority to form a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) and place before voters a package that would raise around $130 million a year for Metro Transit and county roads. Voters will be asked in an April special election to approve a $60 vehicle fee and a one tenth of one percent increase in the sales tax.

The cost to the average King County household would be around $11 a month.

Sixty percent of the revenue would go to Metro to prevent existing routes and service from being gutted, and the remaining forty percent would go to the county’s beleaguered and badly underfunded road services division.

County and city leaders have been lobbying the Legislature for years to pass a new transportation package to address the region’s needs, but a first attempt did not come until last year, when the House of Representatives advanced and subsequently approved a roads-friendly package on a mostly party-line vote.

The Senate did not take up the House’s package, nor it did it produce its own legislation during the regular session or the three special sessions that followed. When the House’s Democratic leadership asked Senate Republicans if they would consider a standalone bill to give King County the authority to levy a motor vehicle excise tax to raise money for Metro, Republicans said no.

Instead of producing legislation, the Republicans and Rodney Tom pledged to hold an autumn “listening tour” to gather input from voters. That, at least, they did.

At multiple stops, including in Seattle and Bellevue, they were loudly and unequivocally prodded to act by their constituents. But subsequent negotiations with the House and Governor Inslee went nowhere, because of their ridiculous demands. As a result, it looks like there will be no statewide transportation package at all… at least not until after the midterm elections.

King County leaders say they are done waiting. They’re tired of the dysfunction and dithering in the Senate that has become a hallmark of the Rodney Tom error.

They’ve had enough.

“King County has stepped up to every challenge set before us,” Executive Constantine told a packed conference room at Metro headquarters. “We’ve done everything within our means to keep people moving. We are out of time for a statewide solution that includes a local option. We must move forward on our own.”

Rodney Tom, Curtis King, and other Republican senators have admitted that they oppose simply giving King County new revenue authority because they don’t want the county to act on its own. Their strategy has been (and remains) to hold Metro and its riders hostage to their road warrior agenda because their own constituency is anti-tax. As Constantine noted, “They want to keep us hungry to pass a statewide transportation package.” His patience has run out, and so has ours.

King County leaders would prefer to adopt or put before voters a local motor vehicle excise tax to fund Metro and road repairs. But since it doesn’t look like the Legislature will give them the authority they’ve long been asking for, they’re moving forward with plans to create a Transportation Benefit District. In addition to the vehicle fee and sales tax increase, they’re also planning on raising fares.

Anticipating that an increase in fares, the sales tax, and vehicle fees will most impact those with the least, county leaders have come up with a really smart idea: Create a discounted fare of $1.50 for those who make less than 200% of the federal poverty level. Youth, seniors, and students are already eligible for reduced fares, but there is no discount for low income families.

“Making transit more affordable for working people is both innovative and the right thing to do. A reduced fare will help tens of thousands of our neighbors get to work and school, and I urge the county council to take swift and positive action to enact this proposal,” said Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, who spoke following Constantine’s presentation.

It appears that Constantine already has six of the nine votes he needs to put the Move King County Now proposal on the ballot in April.

Four of the Council’s five Democrats appeared at today’s news conference (Larry Phillips, Larry Gossett, Joe McDermott, and Rod Dembowski). The fifth, Dave Upthegrove, will also be an aye vote. In addition, Republican Jane Hague was at today’s news conference and publicly backed the measure. That’s six aye votes.

There are three other Republican members of the King County Council: Reagan Dunn, Pete von Reichbauer, and Kathy Lambert. Of the three, Lambert is perhaps the most likely to join Hague in voting aye. But regardless of how they vote, this proposal is bound to end up in front of the people of King County.

Leaders from King County’s many cities were also well-represented at today’s event, including the mayors of Redmond (John Marchione, also the new chair of the Sound Cities Association), Bellevue (Claudia Balducci), and Auburn (Nancy Backus).

Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen represented the Emerald City.

“We have done everything possible to convince our state legislature to pass a transportation package and they have failed to act,” Rasmussen said. “We, as local leaders, are united in preventing Metro bus service cuts, and in preventing further deterioration of our roads and bridges. We must act now to have the transit service and transportation system that is critical to our region’s prosperity and livability.

Bring the DREAM Act up for a vote, Senator! An open letter to Majority Leader Rodney Tom

Editor’s note: Earlier today, following the House of Representatives’ lightning fast passage of the DREAM Act, NPI founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve sent this message to Senator Rodney Tom, who represents the 48th District (Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Medina, Clyde Hill) and is – at least in name – the Majority Leader of the Washington State Senate.

Senator Tom:

I’m writing about some comments you made today. From The Seattle Times:

Asked about the Dream Act and the Reproductive Parity Act, another Democrat[ic]-priority bill, Rodney Tom said his caucus intends to stick to jobs, education and the budget.

The DREAM Act has to do with education. So it’s within the purview you outlined to the Seattle Times’ Olympia correspondent, Andrew Garber.

Do you have a fallback excuse to explain why this legislation won’t be coming up for a vote this session, even though the House of Representatives has just voted, giving the Senate ample time for consideration?

If you’re truly the majority leader, as opposed to majority leader in name only, you should be able to bring this bill up for a vote in the Senate.

I mean, besides you, just one other vote from your caucus would be needed, and then together, with the Democrats, there’d be twenty-five votes for this bill.

Surely you could round up one of your fellow caucus members to cross the aisle and vote aye on the DREAM Act? You’re the one supposedly in favor of putting things up for a vote when there is a “philosophical” majority… isn’t that what all that Ninth Order business was all about in 2012?

What does it matter if the House doesn’t operate that way? It didn’t stop you, Senator Kastama, and Senator Sheldon from teaming up with the Republicans to take over the Senate nearly two years ago. So what’s to stop you from teaming up with Democrats to pass the DREAM Act now?

I mean, here’s the ludicrous thing, Senator: You still call yourself a Democrat, but you won’t work with Democrats to pass legislation that you say you support.

Since you’re acting like a Republican, you shouldn’t be surprised when those of us who are actually Democrats – like me! – call you a Republican.

Actions speak louder than words, Senator, and talk is cheap.

Save the Date: NPI’s 2014 Spring Fundraising Gala will be Friday, April 25th, 2014

As longtime supporters know, each year, in the middle of spring, we hold a major event to thank our supporters and raise money to support our work. It takes the combined strength of our board, staff, and contributors to successfully put together, but with each passing year, we’ve gotten more adept at organizing it.

Last year, we resolved to get an even earlier start on planning the event, so we could be ready to post our annual Save the Date notice shortly after the new year. We know that many of you really appreciate having a heads up way in advance. We agree: It makes planning to attend that much easier.

I’m happy to say that we’ve succeeded in firming up our plans. On behalf of the team at NPI, it is my pleasure to ao announce that we will be holding our 2014 Spring Fundraising Gala on Friday, April 25th at the Mercer Island Community and Events Center, which has served admirably as the home of the event for four years running, and has been a great venue for us.

The gala is the biggest event that we put on every year, and it is by far the best opportunity to meet the NPI team in person and learn about our work. Members know we go to great lengths to make this event fun and informative. Our goal is for all of our guests to be able to spend a memorable evening with family, friends, and fellow activists, and support a good cause at the same time.

Tickets will be going on sale within the next few weeks. As in past years, we will offer a discounted early-bird rate prior to announcing who our first speaker will be.

We look forward to sharing more details about our 2014 gala over the course of the next few months. For now, we invite you to save the date of Friday, April 25th on your calendar. When tickets become available, we’ll make an announcement here on the NPI Advocate and in our other publications.

If you’ve been to one of our past galas, then you know that we do our best to put together a great event, with a compelling speaking program.

In recent years, we’ve been honored to have leaders like U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl, U.S. Representatives Adam Smith and Suzan DelBene, former U.S. Deputy Secretary for Housing and Urban Development Ron Sims, and former state Senator Kathleen Drew with us. We’re looking forward to sharing the names and biographies of our distinguished speakers this year.

Here’s what else you can expect:

  • A full dinner buffet with vegetarian and vegan choices
  • Beer and wine selections from our cash bar
  • Opportunities to mingle with fellow activists and elected leaders
  • A chance to win a scrumptious dessert for your table at our second annual Dessert Dash, organized by our Host Committee
  • A family-friendly atmosphere

If you’d like to RSVP for the gala on Facebook, you can do so here.

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

We look forward to seeing you on April 25th!

On January 18th, help organize the return of progressive talk radio with Norman Goldman

Editor’s note: At NPI, we believe strongly in cooperation and collaboration, which is why we’ve been assisting a grassroots group called Progressive Radio Northwest in their effort to bring talkers like Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartmann, Randi Rhodes, and Norman Goldman back to the Seattle radio dial. Read on to learn more about their work and their upcoming event, Party on for Progressive Radio.

On January 2nd, 2013, Seattle became the latest in a string of major cities to lose its only progressive talk station when KPTK was switched to an all-sports format by its East Coast corporate owner. What’s a progressive radio enthusiast to do? Stay silent? Kvetch and complain to CBS? Shrug our shoulders and carry on?

We say: none of the above. As Mother Jones once said, “Don’t mourn, organize!” And that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re Progressive Radio Northwest (PRNW), a group of dedicated volunteers working to develop a well-thought out plan to bring back strong-signal progressive radio to the greater Seattle area.

We support podcasting, streaming, satellite and new means of delivering programming as a way for activists and engaged citizens to stay informed. But that doesn’t mean we should abandon promoting the progressive point of view on the free public airwaves. As citizens, we all ought to be able to hear a diversity of views when we are channel surfing on the AM or FM bands.

Here are some important reasons we believe local, terrestrial progressive radio should have a place on the radio dial here in the heart of the Northwest:

  • Radio stations rooted in the diverse, inherent character of their regions can be invaluable community resources.
  • Listening to a live broadcast can be a uniquely powerful communal experience, and in turn a powerful vehicle to promote community. The newer technologies offer convenience, but so far lack this potential.
  • Just because terrestrial talk radio is dominated by right wing talkers like Rush Limbaugh doesn’t mean we have to cede the free public airwaves to intolerance and misinformation.
  • Even as broadcast technologies continue to evolve in coming years, the most widely listened-to outlets will be the ones that have already established a terrestrial radio audience.

With vision and bold, creative ideas, progressive terrestrial radio can be a valuable, viable endeavor that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the Pacific Northwest and to the national conversation.

The PRNW team has been reviewing a number of possible paths forward, from creating a community owned station to simply taking over an existing frequency. Streaming capabilities and other ways to interface with new technologies are a priority. We believe a new station ought to feature popular national shows as well as community content and local talent.

The challenge is clear. Broadcast content that used to be confined to the traditional AM/FM dial is moving beyond its terrestrial moorings to an exponentially expanding, increasingly decentralized media universe. With the proper leadership and financial support, however, the potential exists to create a new kind of business that will help local terrestrial radio thrive in the digital era.

We invite you to join us in paving the way for the return of progressive talk to the public airwaves. Let’s show potential advertisers and investors that the Greater Puget Sound can support strong-signal progressive programming.

On Saturday, January 18th, at the Impact Hub in Seattle, we’re holding a special event to reunite KPTK listeners and thank past advertisers – Party On for Progressive Radio, with special guest Norman Goldman.

It promises to be a wonderful evening, and we invite you to join us. Tickets are available now from Brown Paper Tickets, starting at $10.90. You can learn more about the event and our mission at our website. You can also like our page on Facebook to get updates from us. We hope to see you in a couple weeks!

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee”: Emails show Chris Christie’s office planned lane closures to punish Democratic mayor

Top aides to Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey ordered the Port Authority to close several lanes on the George Washington Bridge to deliberately cause gridlock in the town of Fort Lee after its Democratic mayor refused to endorse Christie’s reelection bid, a newly released trove of explosive emails and texts show.

Democrats have contended for weeks that the explanation for the lane closings offered by Christie’s office (that the lane closings were part of a “traffic study”) was a farce and a lie, and the messages released today prove it.

On August 13th, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, sent an email from her Yahoo email address to David Wildstein, a confidant of the governor’s who was given a plum job by Christie ally Bill Baroni, the top political appointee at the Port Authority. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote.

“Got it,” Wildstein replied, from his Gmail account.

Less than a few weeks later, traffic in Fort Lee came to a standstill when, on September 13th (the first day of school), commuters found two of three toll lanes normally dedicated to local traffic inexplicably closed.

Just as Christie’s aides had wanted, Fort Lee became a gridlocked city during rush hour, clogged with seemingly unending traffic jams.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich appealed to Baroni for help. In a text message, he wrote, “Presently we have four very busy traffic lanes merging into only one toll booth… The bigger problem is getting kids to school. Help please. It’s maddening.”

In response, Wildstein texted an unknown colleague who was in on the plot to punish Sokolich. “Is it wrong that I am smiling?” Wildstein asked.

“No,” said the other individual.

In another set of texts, Wildstein and another conspirator made light of the traffic jams they had caused. Here is that exchange:

Received, 9/10/2013, 8:05 AM: I feel badly about the kids
Received, 9/10/2013, 8:06 AM: I guess
Sent, 9/10/2013, 8:11 AM: They are the children of Buono voters
Sent, 9/10/2013, 8:13 AM: Bottom line is he didn’t say safety

After officials on the New York side acted to help Fort Lee, Christie’s aides registered their unhappiness that their plot had been foiled.

David Wildstein wrote: “The New York side gave Fort Lee back all three lanes this morning. We are appropriately going nuts. Samson helping us to retaliate.”

Bridget Anne Kelly wrote back, “What??”

Wildstein then replied, “Yes, unreal. Fixed now.”

Christie’s aides must have known that these incriminating messages existed, even if they did not tell their boss (and it seems unlikely he couldn’t have known anything). Yet for weeks, they stupidly tried to explain away the lane closures as having to do with a traffic study… as did Christie himself. They can’t deny now that they tried to fabricate a false rationale for the closures as a cover-up.

“Can you say with certainty that someone else didn’t on your staff or in your administration act on your behalf for the lane closures for political retribution?” Christie was asked last month by a reporter during a press briefing.

“Yeah, I have absolutely no reason to believe that,” Christie responded, adding confidently,  “I’ve made it very clear to everybody on my senior staff that if anyone had any knowledge about this that they needed to come forward to me and tell me about it and they’ve all assured me that they don’t.”

On another occasion in December, Christie told reporters that it was “absolutely, unequivocally, not” true that the lane closings had been ordered as political retaliation against the mayor of Fort Lee. It turns out that the allegations made by Democrats are absolutely, unequivocally true.

Christie has said repeatedly that Democrats have been trying to manufacture a scandal where there isn’t one. But it turns out the scandal was manufactured by his own people. They plotted out the lane closings as a way to punish Mayor Sokolich and then they took delight in the mayhem that they had caused.

It would seem Christie’s only way forward now is to clean house. The magnitude of today’s document dump cannot be overstated.

Democrats are already having a field day.

“The latest news in Chris Christie’s bridge scandal indicates political retribution and raises a host of new questions,” said DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “What is crystal clear is that the Governor’s office ordered lane closures that were intended to make first responders experience delays, kids sit gridlocked on the first day of school, and commuters hit log jams, to punish the Democratic mayor who didn’t endorse Chris Christie’s reelection bid.

“These revelations are troubling for any public official, but they also indicate what we’ve come to expect from Governor Christie – when people oppose him, he exacts retribution. When people question him, he belittles and snidely jokes. And when anyone dares to look into his Administration, he bullies and attacks.

“For 121 days, Chris Christie disparaged the questioners and later lied saying no one in his office was involved. That was clearly untrue given the discovery of emails that came directly from his own top staff. Time’s up, Governor.”

The Star-Ledger of New Jersey reports that Barbara Buono, Christie’s Democratic opponent, is calling for a criminal investigation into the scandal, saying the U.S. Department of Justice should investigate.

“It clearly exposes a web of deceit and subterfuge and political retribution leading straight to Chris Christie,” Buono said in remarks published by the newspaper.

“I said it in the campaign and it fell on deaf ears, but this guy’s a charlatan, he’s the worst kind of bully and boss,” she added.

Referring to Christie’s presidential aspirations, she observed, “This is a guy who wants to be trusted overseeing the most formidable military in the world and he can’t be trusted to handle the busiest bridge in the world.”

Bridgegate, as the scandal is now being called, threatens to destroy Chris Christie’s 2016 hopes in addition to undermining his credibility and popularity in New Jersey. There will surely be further revelations and fallout in the weeks to come.

Operatives employed by Christie’s Republican would-be 2016 rivals are probably as satisfied with today’s developments as Democrats are.

If Christie isn’t a credible candidate for the Republican nomination, then he’s out of the picture and it will be easier for one of them to win.

We’re looking forward to seeing how Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow cover today’s explosive trove of emails and text messages.

UPDATE: Chris Christie’s office has released a statement distancing the governor from the actions of his staff. He claims he didn’t know (just like Nixon!)

What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.

One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.

Not representative of me or my administration? Ha! Sorry, governor, but your credibility is in tatters at this point. You can try to negate the truth, but you can’t bluster your way out of this. You and your staff have been dishonest with the people you claim to proudly represent. Particularly those affected by Bridgegate.

It does sound like heads are going to roll. Baroni and Wildstein have already resigned. Deputy Chief of Staff Kelly will probably be hung out to dry next.

Anguished Machinists narrowly vote to accept Boeing’s most recent offer on 777X work

Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have voted by a narrow margin to accept the terms of The Boeing Company’s most recent contract extension officer, IAM leaders announced tonight in Everett.

By a vote of 51% to 49%, the union agreed to Boeing’s terms, with many members telling reporters and writing on social media sites that they had reluctantly voted yes. Others voted no for a second time, arguing that Boeing hadn’t really improved its offer since its earlier proposal to land the 777X work was rejected by a two-to-one margin. The leadership of Lodge 751 did not feel the revised offer merited consideration, but they were overruled by the leadership at the international level, and a vote on the revised offer was scheduled for today.

“Our members have spoken and this is the course we’ll take,” said Tom Wroblewski, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751. “All along we knew that our members wanted to build the 777X, and that it was in Boeing’s best interest to have them do it.. We recommended that our members reject the offer because we felt that the cost was too high, in terms of our lost pensions and the thousands of dollars in additional health care costs we’ll have to pay each year.

“Now, it’s up to all of us now to pull together to make this airplane program successful. I’m confident we will do that, because as we’ve said all along, this is the most-skilled aerospace workforce in the world.”

Wroblewski reiterated that point in an email to members.

Tonight our members voted to accept Boeing’s proposal of an eight-year contract with an 51% yes vote. Our members have spoken and this is the course we will take.

No member liked this vote or the position we were put in by the Company. Nor was it an easy vote for anyone to cast.

We faced tremendous pressure from every source imaginable in deciding how to vote today. Politicians, the media and others who had no right to get into our business, were aligned against us and did their best to influence your vote.

This decision means Boeing will stop seeking alternate sites for its 777X aircraft program. Our goal in the coming years will be to ensure Boeing lives up to its commitments to its workforce and truly keeps jobs in Washington State.

There has been a lot of frustration and tension over the last two months. But now the vote is over, and we must unite for our future. It is up to all of us now to pull together to make this airplane program successful.

“Tonight, Washington state secured its future as the aerospace capital of the world,” said Governor Jay Inslee in a statement. “To make that happen, the International Association of Machinists District 751 took a hard vote that demands the respect of all Washingtonians who will benefit from having Boeing build the 777X here.”

He went on to say:

The Machinists are our friends, our families, neighbors, the best aerospace workers in the world and people who care deeply about their communities well beyond the walls of the Boeing plant. I want to thank each Machinist, no matter how they voted tonight.

With the work the Legislature did in November and tonight’s vote, Washington State has shown it is the only place to build this next generation jetliner. That legislation has important protections for taxpayers and for Machinists and we will make sure the company keeps its commitment and that these jobs remain in Washington State for the life of the airplane.

We have a history of innovation in our state that has gotten us to this point today and will chart our future for decades to come.

Fabrication of the carbon fiber wing gives us a path to the forefront of the next generation of aerospace manufacturing and the start of a new industry for our state.

Tonight, Washington showed the world we can design our future. We look forward to seeing the jetliner of the future take off and help us build a Washington that works for everyone.

We will not be celebrating the outcome of tonight’s vote, unlike some local political leaders who have essentially been acting as taxpayer-paid lobbyists for Boeing. Our brothers and sisters in the Machinists are giving up a lot of hard-won gains, particularly when it comes to deferred pay, in order to secure the 777x work on Boeing’s terms. The anguished decision they made is not something we rejoice in, or condemn. We respect that it was a tough vote either way, and we stand in solidarity with all the members of Lodge 751, regardless of how they voted.

The Machinists were under a tremendous amount of pressure to cave to Boeing… so much so that in the wake of Boeing’s declaration that it was done negotiating, a serious internal rift developed between Lodge 751 and the International leadership, with the International overruling Lodge 751 and ordering a new vote.

It’s worth noting that the Machinists are a democracy and as such, majority rule prevails. Under Tim Eyman’s rules, Boeing’s supposedly “best and final” offer would have been resoundingly rejected tonight. Boeing purports to be a democracy also, but in reality, its board answers to the company’s well-paid executives, and the shareholders do what the board recommends.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner applauded the vote.

“Thanks to this vote by our employees, the future of Boeing in the Puget Sound region has never looked brighter,” Conner said in a statement. “We’re proud to say that together, we’ll build the world’s next great airplane—the 777X and its new wing – right here. This will put our workforce on the cutting edge of composite technology, while sustaining thousands of local jobs for years to come.”

Banished Words for 2014

Every year since 1976, Michigan’s Lake Superior State University has released a thoughtful and humorous “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness”. Here is the 2014 (and thirty-ninth annual) edition, for your reading enjoyment:

SELFIE — Has the honor of receiving the most nominations this year.

“People have taken pictures of themselves for almost as long as George Eastman’s company made film and cameras. Suddenly, with the advent of smartphones, snapping a ‘pic’ of one’s own image has acquired a vastly overused term that seems to pop up on almost every form of social media available to us….A self-snapped picture need not have a name all its own beyond ‘photograph.’ It may only be a matter of time before photos of one’s self and a friend will become ‘dualies.’ LSSU has an almost self-imposed duty to carry out this banishment now.” – Lawrence, Coventry, Conn. and Ryan, North Andover, Mass.

“Named ‘Word of the Year’ by Oxford Dictionary? Give me a break! Ugh, get rid of it.” – Bruce, Ottawa, Ont.

“Myselfie disparages the word because it’s too selfie-serving. But enough about me, how about yourselfie?” – Lisa, New York, NY

“It’s a lame word. It’s all about me, me, me. Put the smartphone away. Nobody cares about you.” — David, Lake Mills, Wisc.

Dayna of Rochester Hills, Mich., laments how many people observe “Selfie Sunday” in social media, and Josh of Tucson, Ariz., asks, “Why can’t we have more selflessies?”

TWERK / TWERKING — Another word that made the Oxford Dictionaries Online this year.

Cassidy of Manheim, Penn. said, “All evidence of Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance must be deleted,” but it seems that many had just as much fun as Miley did on stage when they submitted their nominations.

“Let’s just keep with ‘shake yer booty’ — no need to ‘twerk’ it! Hi ho, hi ho, it’s away with twerk we must go.” – Michael, Haslett, Mich.

Bob of Tempe, Ariz. says he responds, “T’werk,” when asked where he is headed on Monday mornings.

“I twitch when I hear twerk, for to twerk proves one is a jerk — or is at least twitching like a jerk. Twerking has brought us to a new low in our lexicon.” – Lisa, New York, NY

“Time to dance this one off the stage.” – Jim, Flagstaff, Ariz.

“The fastest over-used word of the 21st century.” – Sean, New London, NH.

“The newest dictionary entry should leave just as quickly.” – Bruce, Edmonton, Alb.

HASHTAG — We used to call it the pound symbol. Now it is seeping from the Twittersphere into everyday expression. Nearly all who nominated it found a way to use it in their entries, so we wonder if they’re really willing to let go. #goodluckwiththat

“A technical term for a useful means of categorizing content in social media, the word is abused as an interjection in verbal conversation and advertising. #annoying!” – Bob, Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Typed on sites that use them, that’s one thing. When verbally spoken, hashtag-itgetsoldquickly. So, hashtag-knockitoff.” – Kuahmel, Gardena, Calif.

“Used when talking about Twitter, but everyone seems to add it to everyday vocabulary. #annoying #stopthat #hashtag #hashtag #hashtag .” – Alex, Rochester, Mich.

“It’s #obnoxious #ridiculous #annoying and I wish it would disappear.” – Jen, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

“#sickoftheword” – Brian, Toronto, Ont.

TWITTERSPHERE — To which we advise, keep all future nominations to fewer than 140 characters.

“There cannot possibly be any oxygen there.” – Matt of Toledo, Ohio

MISTER MOM — The 30-year anniversary of this hilarious 1983 Michael Keaton movie seems to have released some pent-up emotions. It received nearly as many nominations as “selfie” and “twerk” from coast to coast in the U.S. and Canada, mostly from men.

“It was a funny movie in its time, but the phrase should refer only to the film, not to men in the real world. It is an insult to the millions of dads who are the primary caregivers for their children. Would we tolerate calling working women Mrs. Dad?” says Pat, of Chicago, who suggests we peruse the website captaindad.org, the manly blog of stay-at-home parenting.

“I am a stay-at-home dad/parent. And if you call me ‘Mr. Mom,’ I will punch you in the throat. – Zachary, East Providence, RI.

“Society is changing and no longer is it odd for a man to take care of his children. Even the Wall Street Journal has declared, “Mr. Mom is dead” (Jan. 22, 2013). I think it is time to banish it.” – Chad, St. Peters, Mo.

T-BONE — This common way of describing an automobile collision has now made it from conversation into the news reports. While the accident’s layout does, indeed, resemble its namesake cut of beef, we’d prefer to dispense with the collateral imagery and enjoy a great steak.

“As in ‘crashed into another car perpendicularly.’ Making a verb out of a cut of beef?” – Kyle, White Lake, Mich.

_______ ON STEROIDS — New! Improved! Steroidal!

“Please, does the service at my favorite restaurant have to be ‘on steroids’ (even though the meat may be)?” – Betsy, Los Angeles, Calif.

Suffering suffixes

Many in advertising and in the news took two words – Armageddon and Apocalypse – and shortened them into two worn-out suffixes this year.

–AGEDDON
–POCALYPSE

“Come on down, we’re havin’ car-ageddon, wine-ageddon, budget-ageddon, a sale-ageddon, flower-ageddon, and so-on-and-so-forth-ageddon! None of these appear in the Book of Revelations.” – Michael, Haslett, Mich.

“Every passing storm or event is tagged as ice-ageddon or snow-pocalypse. There’s a limited supply of …ageddons and …pocalypses; I believe it’s one, each. When running out of cashews becomes nut-ageddon, it’s time to re-evaluate your metaphors.” – Rob, Sellersville, Penn.

Politics

Politicians never fail to disappoint in providing fodder for the list.

INTELLECTUALLY / MORALLY BANKRUPT — Used by members of each political party when describing members of the other.

Cal of Cherry Hill, NJ wonders, “Are there intellectual creditors?”

OBAMACARE — A wandering prefix (see 2010’s “Obama-“) finally settles down. We thought it might rival “fiscal cliff,” the most-nominated phrase on the 2013 list, but it didn’t come close.

“Because President Obama’s signature healthcare law is actually called the [Patient Protection and] Affordable Care Act. The term has been clearly overused and overblown by the media and by members of Congress.” – Ben of Michigan

“What more can I say?” – Jane, McKinney, Tex.

Sports

ADVERSITY — Heard often in the world of football.

“Facing adversity is working 50 hours a week and still struggling to feed your kids. Facing third and fifteen without your best receiver with tens of millions in the bank, is not.” – Kyle, White Lake, Mich.

FAN BASE — Why use one word when apparently two are twice as better?

“From the world of sports comes the latest example of word inflation. What’s wrong with the word ‘fans’?” – Paul, Canton, Mich.

Lists for previous years are available on Lake Superior’s site.

This year’s list is a superb set. We nominated the “-ageddon” suffix for banishment a year ago, and are very pleased to see it on the list, along with “Obamacare” and “intellectually/morally bankrupt”. It is absolutely fitting that the list begins with “selfie” and “twerk” – easy the most obnoxious phrases of the year.

We’d complete the list by adding several more obnoxious phrases that we’d like to see banished for overuse, misuse and general uselessness:

AMAZEBALLS and BALLS TO THE WALL — Nominated by readers of the NPI Advocate. Amazeballs is the latest silly iteration of amazing (banished for 2012) while balls to the wall is an expression originally used by fighter pilots that means to accelerate at top speed. The “balls” refer to the knobs on the control stick and the “wall” is the panel the knobs rest against when the throttle is pushed all the way forward. Since the phrase full throttle means the same thing and is more widely understood, balls to the wall is banished, except for within fighter pilot circles, since pilots know it’s not a bit of sexual innendo. As for amazeballs, there’s just no good reason why that phrase should exist.

FOMO — Like its cousin YOLO (You Only Live Once, banished by LSSU last year), this abstruse four letter acronym, which stands for “Fear of Missing Out” is becoming too pervasive for our liking, especially considering how it is being used. An example sentence on Urban Dictionary reads, “I can’t decide if I should go out tonight, but I know that if I don’t I know I’ll get chronic fomo.” Need we say more?

PRESH — This sad excuse for a word apparently has multiple meanings. It can be shorthand for precious, or it can be a synonym for awesome (banished several years ago) and cool. But as a piece of slang, what value does it have? Even J.R.R. Tolkien’s Gollum character can manage to utter all of the syllables in precious, which isn’t a long word. Let’s keep precious and banish presh from our vocabulary.

DEBT CEILING — This phrase, one of the biggest misnomers in U.S. politics today, has been waiting for banishment since 2011, when Republicans manufactured a midsummer fiscal crisis. The phrase refers to the artificial limit that only allows the Department of the Treasury to pay the nation’s bills up to a certain point. The debt ceiling is anachronistic and unneeded, since Congress already has the power of the purse. Lawmakers have the authority to adjust revenue and expenditures as they see fit. These days, the debt ceiling serves no purpose except to allow irresponsible Republicans to bring us to the brink of default. Time to get rid of it.

ENTITLEMENTS — Often used by pundits on cable television, right wing media, and sadly even elected Democrats like President Obama to refer to public services like Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. In reality, all of these services are forms of deferred pay that workers have earned through a lifetime of work. The word entitlements evokes a right wing frame that obscures this truth. It needs to go.

What words would you like to see banished that aren’t on this year’s list – or the Master List? Let us know in the comments. And Happy New Year!